Lucifer7, September 2003


Short Quote
New on
The Astral Tramp, A biography of Sepharial (review)
Karma in Buddhism, quote from Hans Wolfgang Schuman
Multiculturalism, a Ken Wilber Quote
Ceremonies, Katinka Hesselink
Joke, Jiddu Krishnamurti

Short Quote

The possible truths, hazily perceived in the world of abstraction, like those inferred from observation and experiment in the world of matter, are forced upon the profane multitudes, too busy to think for themselves, under the form of Divine revelation and scientific authority. But the same question stands open from the days of Socrates and Pilate down to our own age of wholesale negation: is there such a thing as absolute truth in the hands of any one party or man? Reason answers, "there cannot be." There is no room for absolute truth upon any subject whatsoever, in a world as finite and conditioned as man is himself. But there are relative truths, and we have to make the best we can of them.

H.P. Blavatsky, Lucifer, February, 1888. See for full article:


This newsletter is conducted on the lines of the three objects of the Theosophical Society (Adyar) - especially the second. These three objects are:
  1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
  2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science.
  3. To investigate unexplained laws of nature and powers latent in man. 

For a magazine it is difficult to practice the first object - though I will try to keep criticism as impersonal as possible, rather criticizing principles than persons. And where persons are criticized - to give them or their adherents the opportunity of responding. In many cases I will present various sides of an issue.

The comparative study of religion, philosophy and science will take up the main part of this newsletter. This will be done by publishing extracts from various religious, spiritual and philosophical sources as well as by publishing articles which actively compare religions, philosophies and science (or aspects of each). The third object is interpreted by me mainly as an encouragement to investigate the hidden powers of love, wisdom and intelligence in ourselves. The discovery of these will automatically, in my opinion, lead automatically to a firmer understanding of nature and the relationship between man and the universe.

Contributions along these lines are invited.

When there are letters from readers, these will get their own section in this newsletter. The editor retains the right to shorten these as she sees fit.

Katinka Hesselink

New on

In English

P. Krishna on Krishnamurti and the Theosophical Society (and more Questions and Answers)
P. Krishna Questions and Answers
The Five Precepts (from Buddhism) - Pancha Sila or Pansil, a modern interpretation, by Katinka Hesselink

In Dutch

De Maha Mangala Soetta - over 38 goede voortekenen:
Neem afstand van datgene wat niet van u is, bhikkhoes ...
Stromingen in het Occultisme, Sastry
De grottempels in het dal van de Boyne en hun bouwers, door E. O. Hornidge

The Astral Tramp, A biography of Sepharial (review)

Katinka Hesselink

Kim Farnell has written a book that pulls one of the early theosophists and co-workers of H.P. Blavatsky out of the shadows. The name Sepharial will hardly ring a bell with many theosophists. This was the name he used in astrological circles, where the use of a pseudonym was accepted practice. In theosophical circles Sepharial was known as Walter Old (which was his birth name).

This review mostly centers on his involvement with theosophy and the Theosophical Society. He started corresponding with H.P. Blavatsky in 1887, joined the Blavatsky Lodge and the Inner Group and became a frequent speaker at lodge meetings in London and Birmingham. It was Blavatsky who gave him the nickname of Astral Tramp, from which the title of the book stems. His list of activities in theosophical circles goes on and on. He was Editor of the Vahan, general secretary of the British Section, leading a study group in White Chapel etc. When H.P. Blavatsky died, he was the one holding her hand. After her death he did not waver in his devotion to theosophy. He founded new lodges, attended meetings where he could and lectured in each of them, aside from continuing many of the activities I mentioned before this.

So why is his name not better known in theosophical circles? The answer is pretty simple. Walter Old was involved in the Judge Case, the row which eventually led to the splitting of the Theosophical Movement into various organizations. It was in fact the material Walter Old brought with him on his trip to Adyar that convinced Colonel Elicit that W.Q. Judge was not sending through messages from the Masters, but was only pretending to do so. For all those interested in this argument, this book gives the side of the person who brought it out into the open. In theosophical circles the side of Judge has generally been taken as the true one, probably to a large extent because he has been defended by his followers a lot more vehemently than Olcott and Annie Besant have been.

After reading this book, it seems to me that Olcott and Annie Besant were in a very tight fix. On the one hand they (and Walter Old) had vowed not to slander anybody who was a member of the Esoteric Section. This made Judge in effect unapproachable. Weirdly enough this aspect of the situation has hardly been stressed, though it was probably the reason Walter Old was expelled from the Esoteric Section. On the other hand, Judge was in a position of leadership, both in the Theosophical Society in the USA, as well as in the Esoteric Section. Besant and Judge were co-heads of this organization. If such a position of authority is misused, other leaders are usually thought to have the responsibility of doing something about it. So they did. In the end Judge got off on a technicality. What would have happened next, if Walter Old hadn't intervened, is something history doesn't say. Walter, clearly unhappy about the result, made the documents public, that had convinced Colonel Olcott, by sending them to a newspaper. Walter Old became very unpopular and eventually resigned from the Theosophical Society.

After this he continued to be an active astrologer and had quite an interesting life, reading about which will help one understand esoteric history in the first half of the twentieth century a lot better.

The Astral Tramp, a biography of Sepharial, by Kim Farnell, Published by Acella Publications, 1998. ISBN 1-898503-88-5
The book is available by ordering it from the author:

Karma in Buddhism

Hans Wolfgang Schuman, Buddhism, an outline of its teachings and schools, p. 52-54

Our present existence is the result of deeds performed by ourselves in previous existences. The body is an 'old deed'(S 12, 37, 3 II p. 65 - [1]), and to suffer means to endure kammic [karmic] effects, that is to lie on the bed one has made. Our future forms of existence are determined by our actions of today; we are now laying the foundations of our future 'fate'. Kamma [karma] in the view of Hinayana is a neutral law that admits no exception or interference, but of which, by acting accordingly, man can avail himself in order to obtain the rebirth wished for. No need to mention that even the happiest rebirth is not yet liberation.
It would be quite wrong to interpret the doctrine of kamma along deterministic lines. Only the quality, that is the social surrounding, the physical appearance and the mental abilities of a person are fixed by the deeds of his previous existences, but in no way his actions. Without cognising free will as a philosophical problem, Gotama takes it for granted that the innate character of each being leaves him the freedom to decide about the actions which determine his future.
Wholesome deeds help man to achieve better rebirth and thus bring him nearer to salvation; they do not, however, lead straight to liberation, to riddance of all rebirth. Deeds are something finite and cannot bear fruit beyond the finite. Even the best obtainable form of existence still lies within the cycle of rebirths. Nevertheless, Gotama does not disapprove of action in general:
I teach action ... as well as non-action ... I teach the non-performance of bad deeds with body ... speech and thought, of the many bad, unwholesome things ... I teach the performance of good deeds with body ... speech and thought, of the many wholesome things.
(A 2,4,3 I p. 62 - [2])
But if wholesome actions entangle man as much in samsara as unwholesome deeds, how should one act? Is it advisable, is it at all possible, to abstain from all action?
The Buddha's answer is a psychological one. It is not the action in itself, he explains, which determines the kammic future, but its motive, the mental attitude preceding it: Not the execution of the action but the action-intention (sankhara or cetana) shapes future existence. Supposing somebody is prevented from executing an intended action by outer circumstances: The bare action-intention suffices to produce the corresponding kammic effect. Only those deeds are free from kammic results which the seeker for liberation performs without greed, hatred and delusion.
Whatever deed, monks, has been performed without greed, without hatred and free from delusion ... after greed, hatred (and) delusion were done away with - this deed is annihilated, cut off at the root, made similar to a rooted-out palm tree, prevented from becoming (i.e. kammic ripening), in future not subject to the law of becoming.
(A 3,33,2 I p. 135 - [2])
This is the Buddhist way to liberation: to act but without greed for success, free from the wish to harm anybody and with reason. If there were no possibility of performing good deeds without becoming bound by kamma, the enchainment of man with samsara would be indissoluble, and he would have no chance of ever escaping from suffering.
The fact that the rebirth-existence is determined more by the mental attitude of the doer than by the actual deed furthermore entails that the same deed may yield different effects with different persons. An action which influences an ethically unstable person for a long time in a negative way may in the case of an ethically sound person be confined to minimal effects. A lump of salt in a cup makes its contents undrinkable, the same amount of salt in the river Ganges leaves the water as it was. (A 3, 99 I p. 249 ff. - [2])


[1] Samyuttanikaya, PTS edition
[2] Anguttaranikaya, PTS edition


Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, p. 206

In the meantime, it seems to be the case that the vast majority of the world's population does not now need ways to get beyond rationality, but ways to get up to it. The great mass of the world's social holons [that is: social units like states, peer groups, religious groups, family etc.-KH]  are still caught in magic and warring tribalisms based on blood and ethnic lineage, or in mythological empire-building: remnants of Marxism as a mythic-rational "world religion"; Christian and Muslim fundamentalists who would "convert" (coerce) the world; mythic-religious missionaries with a global and proselytizing fury; a type of national-economic imperialism bordering on a mythology of the leading developed countries; and - strangest of all - a dissolution of some of the great modern mythic-imperialist States into their tribal subholons, bathed in blood and kinship lineage and tribal warfare on a vicious scale: the retribalization of large portions of the world.


Katinka Hesselink

There is a belief current in the Theosophical Society (Adyar) that ceremonies may do a lot of good. This has its historical roots in the time of C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant, when many such initiatives were started or reactivated. Well known examples are co-freemasonry, the Liberal Catholic Church and Round Table. There are many more, most of them cloaked in silence. There is also in the Theosophical Society Adyar the belief that H.P. Blavatsky would not have condoned these rituals, that she in fact spoke out against them. Well, it isn't as simple as that. H.P. Blavatsky spent much of her time defending the reality of things occult, such as ghosts, pagan rituals when performed by a sorceror, etc. She defended their reality. She also spoke against selfish use of such powers. One example of this is what she said on funeral rites:
A ceremony to furnish the shell “with an armor” against terrestrial attraction need not be repeated “a number of years” to become efficacious, could it but be performed by a person versed in the knowledge of the Magi of old. One such ceremony on the night of death would suffice. But where is the Mobed or priest capable of performing it now? It requires a true occultist—and these are not found at every street corner. Hence it becomes useless to add ruin to the living, since the dead cannot be helped.
(Collected Writings, Volume 5, p. 104; The Theosophist, Vol. IV, No. 11(47), August, 1883, p. 286.)
What she did speak against were dead-letter ceremonies or in other words, ceremonies where the real occult happenings did not occur. For instance in her famous article "The Roots of Ritualism in Church and Masonry" she says:
the Mysteries had become so universal that persons of all ranks and conditions, in every country, men, women, and children, all were initiated! Initiation had become as necessary in his day as baptism has since become with the Christians; and, as the latter is now, so the former had become then — i.e., meaningless, and a purely dead-letter ceremony of mere form. Still later, the fanatics of the new religion laid their heavy hand on the Mysteries.
So I guess, to find out whether the ceremonies performed by many members of the Theosophical Society are meaningless and dead-letter ceremonies - we have to find out two things.
  1. What is the motive for performing these ceremonies?
  2. Is something really occult happening, or is it merely a fancy gathering with people in nice clothes doing strange things?
I feel that it is up to those performing these ceremonies to judge that for themselves. I only want to add that if they don't know for themselves that these ceremonies work, they are not living up to these words of caution, given to Annie Besant in 1900:
The T.S. and its members are slowly manufacturing a creed. Says a Tibetan proverb ‘credulity breeds credulity and ends in hypocrisy’.
Because if one doesn't know for oneself that something works, it is credulity to believe that it does. The letter ends with:
The T.S. was meant to be the corner-stone of the future religions of humanity. To accomplish this object those who lead must leave aside their weak predilections for the forms and ceremonies of any particular creed and show themselves to be true Theosophists both in inner thoughts and outward observance.
This of course implies that though the leaders have the responsibility to leave behind the forms and ceremonies they are used to, each individual member is free to stay in whatever religious format he/she chooses. Still, it seems to me that individual members also need to ask themselves: do I know this is true? Do I know this works?


Both quotes are from:


"It's like the husband whose pregnant wife is about to give birth.
When they arrive at the hospital, the man asks her, are you sure you want to go through with this?"

(meant to show that choice isn't always relevant)

P. 19, The Kitchen Chronicles: 1001 Lunches with J. Krishnamurti.
More of these at:

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