Think of comparative religion as ... a possible interest that might have extraordinary application to the forging of brotherhood on a world scale. Consider the difficult relations of Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, or of Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, or of Theosophy to all of them. I am convinced that if any of those partisans studied the religion of the other deeply enough, they would get beyond resentments over power and land, or the gross stereotypes that so often cloud religious discourse, to find in the other's faith something very interesting, whether or not they agreed with it intellectually, and would come to a new level of respect for the other religion.
Still, this practice of looking into another's religion is something that has been practiced by prominent theosophists of all the major theosophical groups. It has also been practiced by members of each of the groups. For some reason though, it is rather rare to find articles on how Christians experience their faith, in a theosophical magazine. The same can be said for Muslims, Buddhists and Hindu's.
This may be related to the fact that it is
hard for me, even while living in a Christian country, to come in touch
with what I'd like to call the secret myths of Christianity. The secret
myths are those aspects of faith that aren't shared with anyone who
doesn't feel like 'one of us'. I know a few of the ones that are
current in the Theosophical
Society Adyar - but true to the spirit of
them, I won't share them here (nor with most correspondents, so don't
mail me about this). I have my suspicions about a few of the ULT
At least one of the Pasadena
myths has found its way to my doorstep as well (not trying to
here). The few freemason myths I know of are clothed in phrases and
symbols. A Christian recently talked to me about 'the inner church' -
he was of a liberal variety of Christianity and apparently didn't mind
sharing this with me (so I don't mind passing it on). The inner church
is I think - to the extent that it means anything beyond a sectarian
bias - a reflection of the myth that theosophists usually call 'the
white brotherhood', or perhaps a reflection of the fact that spiritual
organisations have their own atmospheres that intuitive students can
tap into. A buddhist myth that has become current is the myth
that one should only be given a Buddha-statue, never buy one yourself.
Though I feel this is superstition, the inner truth is that true wisdom
can only be given, never bought. Readers are invited to share whatever
myths they feel can be shared, from any religious background, with or
without a more universal explanation.
I wrote the above, not aware of the passing of
one of the greats of the Theosophical Movement. Like the present writer
he valued Blavatsky, but unlike her, he wanted the Theosophical Society
to take a stand on what to study. More on his view of the Movement can
be found in the obituary below. See also the Annual ULT-letter for
2004, for another take on the direction the Theosophical Movement
should take (see New on Katinka Hesselink Net)
Another great one has passed recently:
Pir Vilayat Inayat Kahn. As the eldest son of the famous Inayat Kahn,
he followed in his father's footsteps and led the Universal Sufi
Movement. Due to illness he had already given many responsibilities to
his son and successor Pir Zia Inayat Khan. About Pir Zia it is said on
Sufism Website: In addition to the interfaith
mystical training he has received from his father, Pir Zia has studied
Buddhism under the auspices of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Sufism
in the classical Indian tradition of the Chishtiyya. Sounds
like a promising successor.
On a more personal note. I've recently started
RSS, which is a new way of keeping up to date on changes on websites. I
use it mostly for keeping up to date on e-mailgroups. For those of you
who want to know about a few of the groups I keep up with and
contribute to, see my
bloglines public page. The list there is not complete, by the
Find several different ways each day to remind your child that they are Khalifah of Allah.The human being is considered the Khalifah (representative) of Allah on earth according to Allah. (*) This may seem like a heavy responsibility to lay on a child, to represent Allah on earth. On the other hand, it is a way of conveying the divine potential human beings have. It fits in nicely with my theme of 'secret myths' in the different religions (see the editorial).
Marcion, who recognized no other Gospels than a few Epistles of Paul, who rejected totally the anthropomorphism of the Old Testament, and drew a distinct line of demarcation between the old Judaism and Christianity, viewed Jesus neither as a King, Messiah of the Jews, nor the son of David, who was in any way connected with the law or prophets, “but a divine being sent to reveal to man a spiritual religion, wholly new, and a God of goodness and grace hitherto unknown.” The “Lord God” of the Jews in his eyes, the Creator (Demiurgos), was totally different and distinct from the Deity who sent Jesus to reveal the divine truth and preach the glad tidings, to bring reconciliation and salvation to all. The mission of Jesus — according to Marcion — was to abrogate the Jewish “Lord,” who “was opposed to the God and Father of Jesus Christ as matter is to spirit, impurity to purity.”
Was Marcion so far wrong? Was it blasphemy, or was it intuition, divine inspiration in him to express that which every honest heart yearning for truth, more or less feels and acknowledges? If in his sincere desire to establish a purely spiritual religion, a universal faith based on unadulterated truth, he found it necessary to make of Christianity an entirely new and separate system from that of Judaism, did not Marcion have the very words of Christ for his authority? “No man putteth a piece of new cloth into an old garment . . . for the rent is made worse. . . . Neither do men put new wine into old bottles, else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish; but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.” In what particular does the jealous, wrathful, revengeful God of Israel resemble the unknown deity, the God of mercy preached by Jesus; — his Father who is in Heaven, and the Father of all humanity? This Father alone is the God of spirit and purity, and, to compare Him with the subordinate and capricious Sinaitic Deity is an error. Did Jesus ever pronounce the name of Jehovah? Did he ever place his Father in contrast with this severe and cruel Judge; his God of mercy, love, and justice, with the Jewish genius of retaliation? Never! From that memorable day when he preached his Sermon on the Mount, an immeasurable void opened between his God and that other deity who fulminated his commands from that other mount — Sinai. The language of Jesus is unequivocal; it implies not only rebellion but defiance of the Mosaic “Lord God.” “Ye have heard,” he tells us, “that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Ye have heard that it hath been said [by the same “Lord God” on Sinai]: Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you; Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew v.).
And now, open Manu and read:
“Resignation, the action of rendering good for evil, temperance, probity, purity, repression of the senses, the knowledge of the Sastras (the holy books), that of the supreme soul, truthfulness and abstinence from anger, such are the ten virtues in which consists duty. . . . Those who study these ten precepts of duty, and after having studied them conform their lives thereto, will reach to the supreme condition” (Manu, book vi. , sloka 92).
If Manu did not trace these words many thousands of years before the era of Christianity, at least no voice in the whole world will dare deny them a less antiquity than several centuries B. C. The same in the case of the precepts of Buddhism.
If we turn to the Prātimoksha Sūtra and other religious tracts of the Buddhists, we read the ten following commandments:
- Thou shalt not kill any living creature.
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Thou shalt not break thy vow of chastity.
- Thou shalt not lie.
- Thou shalt not betray the secrets of others.
- Thou shalt not wish for the death of thy enemies.
- Thou shalt not desire the wealth of others.
- Thou shalt not pronounce injurious and foul words.
- Thou shalt not indulge in luxury (sleep on soft beds or be lazy).
- Thou shalt not accept gold or silver.*
“Good master, what shall I do that I may have eternal life?” asks a man of Jesus. “Keep the commandments.” “Which?” “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,”† is the answer.
“What shall I do to obtain possession of Bhodi? (knowledge of eternal truth)” asks a disciple of his Buddhist master. “What way is there to become an Upasaka?” “Keep the commandments.” “What are they?” “Thou shalt abstain all thy life from murder, theft, adultery, and lying,” answers the master.‡
Identical injunctions are they not? Divine injunctions, the living up to which would purify and exalt humanity. But are they more divine when uttered through one mouth than another? If it is god-like to return good for evil, does the enunciation of the precept by a Nazarene give it any greater force than its enunciation by an Indian, or Thibetan philosopher? We see that the Golden Rule was not original with Jesus; that its birth-place was India.
* “Prātimoksha Sūtra,” Pali Burmese copy; see also
“Lotus de la Bonne Loi,”
translated by Burnouf, p. 444.
† Matthew xix. 16-18.
‡ “Pittakatayan,” book iii., Pali Version.
Once upon a time the Theosophical Society was a loosely organized grouping of various Theosophical Societies that each had their own rules and regulations, objects and interests. There was for instance a Buddhist Theosophical Society and I suspect others of specific religious interests. Due to various factors this variety and diversity has become less and less. The diversity was clearest under Olcott. Under Besant the Antroposophical Society seceded (or rather – Rudolf Steiner was expelled and most of the German Section went with him), because Steiner refused to admit members of the Order of the Star of the East into his German Section of the Theosophical Society. Opinions differ on whether Besant was right to expel Steiner. Was it her duty to protect the Society from sectarianism, or was it her duty to protect the individual right of each section to determine who was allowed in or not?
Steiner showed a sectarian spirit when expelling those he didn’t agree with, namely those who believed that Krishnamurti was the World Teacher. This is comparable to a Buddhist Theosophical Society not allowing in anybody who didn’t believe that Buddha was enlightened, or something. For a church this is perfectly respectable. I don’t expect to be allowed into a church unless I believe in the basic doctrines of that church. For the Theosophical Society it isn’t respectable, because freedom of thought and the right to change our minds is absolutely necessary in the search for truth. Search for truth has been among the objects of the Theosophical Society from the start. So the question becomes – did the Buddhist Theosophical Society ask of its members that they believe in Buddha, or did they merely have to express their interest in Buddhism? What was the level of commitment to a certain path expected of members of that Theosophical Society? Given that Olcott was a liberally inclined man who stimulated various religious movements (though his work for Buddhism is best remembered), I have to assume that the Buddhist Theosophical Society had that freedom of thought central in its practice and that therefore the only thing members of the Buddhist Theosophical Society had to sign was an agreement of the three objects (or whatever objects the Theosophical Society had at that time). (#) If Steiner had understood this, he would have welcomed members of the Star of the East into his section, if they were willing to work in the same direction the other members were working in.
Personally I would like to get that old diversity back into
Theosophical Society. And why not have groups that study a specific
subsection of the broad spectrum implied in the Three Objects? Still,
the one thing that makes such a group theosophical would be the
fundamental freedom of thought and the attempt to practice brotherhood
(and sisterhood) (*) . No implied or specified belief into anything
specific, for instance. Theosophical groups and organisations ought to
be relatively free to do whatever they please as long as the basics are
in place. And those basics need not imply the study of any particular
set of doctrines, and certainly not the belief in any set of doctrines.
What I see at present is that a theosophical group is defined by what
is studied. I would like this to change to how it
studied. Is Krishnamurti studied in such a way that someone who is
fundamentally interested but sceptical feels welcome? If so, the group
could be called theosophical. If not – even if it’s a lodge of a
theosophical organisation, it isn’t theosophical study. The same could
be said of studying Christ, Zoroaster, Hermes, Plotinus, H.P.Blavatsky,
Barborka, Judge, Besant, De Purucker or Leadbeater or anybody else.
Now I know how difficult it is to study a subject
deeply and have to
contend with people who just don't seem to have 'the feel' for it. It
takes a good chairperson to manage a group process where diverse views
of truth are present. And it takes humbleness on the part of all
present, to realize that their view is not important enough to be
forced on others. And when a group proces goes wrong - it is quite easy
to blame it on that one person who isn't in agreement with the major
premises the others are working under. In practice it is very difficult
to live up to the standards portrayed above. But that doesn't mean we
should stop trying.
(#) This is an assumption of mine on theosophical history. I would much appreciate it if someone could check it out. I may at some point in the next 20 years get to it, but feel the above is worth sharing even if the assumption hasn’t been checked yet.
(*) Without distinction being made about the sex, background, colour of skin etc. of the people being called ‘brother’.
Question: In your talks you speak of death as total annihilation; also you have said that after death there is imortality, a state of timeless existence. Can one live in that state?
I did not use the word annihilation; I have said that death is an ending - like ending attachment. When something ends, like attachment, something totally new begins. When one has been accustomed to anger all one's life, or greed or aggression and one ends it, something totally new happens. One may have followed a guru, with all the gadgets he has give one; one realises the absurdity of it, and one ends it. What happens? There is a sense of freedom from the burden which one has been uselessly carrying. Death is like ending an attachment.
What is it that has continued through life? One puts death in opposition to living. One says death is at the end of life; an end that may be ten or fifty years away - or the day after tomorrow. One hopes it will be ten years or more, but this is one's illusion, one's desire, a kind of momentum. One cannot understand how to face death without understanding or facing living, for death is not the opposite of living.
Much more important than asking the question: how to face death or, what is immortality or, whether that immortality is a state in which one can live, is the question of how to face life, how to understand this terrible thing called living? Because living as one does, is meaningless. One may try to give meaning to life, as most people do, saying life is this, or life must be that, but putting aside all these romantic, illusory, idealistic nonsenses, life is one's daily sorrow, its competition, despair, depression, agony - with the occasional flash of beauty and love. That is one's life; can one face it and understand it so completely that one is left with no conflict in life? To do that is to die to everything that thought has built up. Thought has built one's vanity, thought has said, "I must achieve, become somebody, struggle, compete". That is what thought has put together, which is one's existence. One's gods, churches, gurus, rituals, all that is the activity of thought, a movement of memory, experience, knowledge stored up in the brain, a material process. And when thought dominates one's life, as it does, then thought denies love. Love is not a remembrance. Love is not an experience. Love is not desire or pleasure.
Living that way, dominated by thought, one has separated from life that thing called death, which is an ending, and one is frightened of it. If one denies everything in oneself which thought has created - and this requires tremendous grit - what has one? One is with death; living is dying and so renewal.
An era as ended and the theosophical movement is now poorer. But Geoffrey Farthing's contribution to theosophical literature willThe Blavatsky Trust website gives:
remain as a true legacy of his deep dedication and self-sacrifice to HPB's mandate to the TS: "To assist in showing that such a thing as Theosophy exists."
In recognition of his outstanding contribution to theosophical literature the General Council of the (Adyar) TS, at its meeting in
December 1995, decided to award him with the prestigious Subba Row medal. His book "Deity, Cosmos and Man" will certainly remain as one of the finest overviews of Theosophy published in a long time.
He was very well known for his strong 'Blavatskyan' views regarding the theosophical teaching, but as a true theosophist he never imposed them on others and accepted differing views with utmost cordiality. He was a gentleman in every sense.
I pay my most sincere tribute to this great servant of the Masters that has just left us.
"Geoffrey Farthing was born in England in December 1909. He matriculated London University. He has studied Theosophy for some 60 years and has lectured in many countries around the world. He has held most positions in the Theosophical Society in England including General Secretary (1969-72). He served a term as a member of the Society's General Council at Adyar, India, and was a member of the Executive Committee of the European Federation for a number of years. He founded The Blavatsky Trust, and educational charity, in England in 1974."
Together these two quotes sum up the meaning of Geoffrey Farthing for the Theosophical Movement. I met him last year at the Theosophical History conference in London, where he was surprised to hear that I had the text of one of his articles on my website. He said about it [in my own words]: That article is very unfinished. Really the terminology of Besant/Leadbeater and Blavatsky can't be compared. Besant and Leadbeater made a mess of it. There was a fire in his eyes as he talked about it.
As to his view on where the Theosophical Society (or movement)
should go, I think it is best summed up in these words:
The Society has its own special message to promulgate. This message only exists in the writings of H.P.B. and in the Mahatma Letters. This message in its completeness (as far as it was given out) is unique.
The future direction of the Society must therefore include:
1) The eradication of the 'make-believe' Leadbeater influence - in all departments including literature, and severance from the Society of all other organizations, i.e. the Liberal Catholic Church and Co-Masonry.
2) A thorough examination of all literature purporting to be 'theosophical', and a brave declaration, and no further promotion, of any which is not wholly consonant with the original teachings. This is no proscription but all books purporting to be theosophical which strictly are not should be clearly labeled or marked that they are the author's views on the subject and not necessarily authentic. Members are, of course, free to read what they like but they can be warned, if not guided. The section in any Theosophical Society library purporting to be theosophical literature should be segregated from other material offered, be clearly marked and the books given prominence on book lists, catalogues, etc.
3) The retention and promotion of the three objects of the Society plus an active promotion of Theosophy as given by the Masters
4) At all Theosophical Society Centers, Headquarters, etc., there should be someone qualified to discuss Theosophy, say what it is, and recommend books to enquirers. This service should as far as possible be available at all times or a notice displayed as to where it can be obtained.
5) Commercialism in any form, i.e. book selling or publication as such, without specific reference to the promotion of a knowledge of Theosophy, is not part of the legitimate activities of the Society. 'Fringe' literature can be obtained in ordinary bookshops or from other organizations, e.g. the Arcane School, the Anthroposophical Society, etc. This recommendation is made with our second object specifically in mind. Study of comparative religion is encouraged by the Society but it does not have to publish or supply the books.
6) Professionalism in the society should be examined. Whereas 'goods and services' must obviously be paid for, Theosophy as such cannot be sold. Should exponents be paid? If so, to what extent?
7) Serious study of the 'prime' literature, whatever else is done in Lodges, at Centers, etc., should be encouraged and all facilities provided. Facilities should be provided for meditation - quiet and solitude if possible. Meditation should, however, be 'theosophical', i.e. classical (Patanjali), H.P.B. Diagram, or just silence, not according to local gurus and amateurs with 'special' methods, and never for money.
8) The Society will obviously need a group of students dedicated to the study of the literature and to the dissemination of what they discover both in the writings, and in themselves, as they progress. This can be supplied by some of the existing members of the E.S. At present there are no 'esoteric' leaders or teachers in the Society; it will therefore in this respect have to 'lift itself up by its own boot-laces' as the expression has it.
There is no justification for secrecy within the E.S. or the Society but on occasion private members meetings could be efficacious for discussion, exchange of information, mutual encouragement, etc. There is obviously now no corporate connection with the Masters so that that 'make-believe' can be dispensed with. The E.S. study should be confined to the Master or H.P.B. writings. The Society has no other Initiate-inspired literature.
Where the E.S. members feel they need inspirational literature apart from books like The Voice of the Silence, Light on the Path and some of the classical mystical works like The Bhagavad-Gita, as this is a personal matter they should be free to discover their own. Discrimination as to what is consonant with theosophical teachings will grow. Let students beware of self-styled teachers and of themselves posing as such. They will know when they really are qualified - they will have been 'authorized'. Let none pretend.
9) The Society's relation to 'computerization', the Internet, etc., needs serious examination and Sections given guidelines.
Theosophy World 1997, copied from the May, 1997 The High Country Theosophist
“Death is a bridge which unites friend to friend.” MuhammadMurshid:
”The work of the Sufi is to take away the fear of death. This path is trodden in order to know in life what will be with us after death. As it is said in the Qur'an, 'Mutu kubla anta mutu' or 'Die before death.' To take off this mortal garb, to teach the soul that it is not this mortal but is that immortal being, so that we may escape the great disappointment which death brings, this is what is accomplished in life by a Sufi.”Pir Vilayat:
“There is some indication that life doesn’t stop at the moment of the big jump (death). It’s never to early to pray – to get ready.”Our hearts are full, Devi and Suhrawardi
Know, O brother mine, that where a truly spiritual love seeks to consolidate itself doubly by a pure, permanent union of the two, in its earthly sense, it commits no sin, no crime in the eyes of the great Ain-Soph, for it is but the divine repetition of the Male and Female Principles - the microcosmal reflection of the first condition of Creation. On such a union angels may well smile! But they are rare, Brother mine, and can only be created under the wise and loving supervision of the Lodge, in order that the sons and daughters of clay might not be utterly degenerated, and the Divine Love of the Inhabitants of Higher Spheres (Angels) towards the daughters of Adam be repeated. But even such must suffer, before they are rewarded. Man's Atma may remain pure and as highly spiritual while it is united with its material body; why should not two souls in two bodies remain as pure and uncontaminated notwithstanding the earthly passing union of the latter two ...
I think this is a phony "Mahatma Letter", or at least part of it is. That good marriages or even physical unions can ".....only be created under the wise and loving supervision of the Lodge..." is the depth of absurdity. I can just see now so many theosophists visualizing a master's loving supervision to their conubial groanings. Really! This is more the dugpa and earth-bound elementaries line of BS and entrapment. Well, anyhow, I guess anyone with any common-sense would realize its absurdity.
More power to you in putting out your valuable zine, and I'm really glad you are able to glean some material from that disk I sent you - It makes it feel worthwhile.
On your "Theosophical Forum" piece on the radio-dream, a worthwhile related booklet "The Human Radio" by Joseph Sadony just went online at: http://home.earthlink.net/~grharmon/Radio%20.htm
The publication data is: "The Human Radio," a brief study of certain possibilities of the human mind and the nature of modern prophecy in the light of the opinion and experiences of Joseph A. Sadony ..., Valley of the Pines, Montague, Mich., U.S.A., The Valley Press, 1924.
If 'anyone' with common sense would realize this absurdity - I
wouldn't have published it. Still, I guess a bit closer reading of this
favourite quote of mine was in order. It has been a favourite because I
have always felt true love does
exist, though it is rare. The Mahatma points out that "But
such must suffer, before they are rewarded." suffering
true love. My interpretation of this is that only when people are,
evolutionary speaking, very close to giving up personal attachment
totally - and have suffered a lot at the hands of their personal karma
- thereby cleansing themselves - that they are capable of giving and
receiving true love. "such a union" is rare
because of the strange mixture of selfishness and unselfishness implied
in a true love relationship. On the one hand two people love each other
unconditionally, on the other, they love only that one person in that
way, leaving the rest of humanity deprived of this love. It may be
possible to love humanity a lot, and still love a life-partner a lot,
but I feel it is more likely that one or the other will be deprived.
Esoterically speaking, humanity as a whole comes first. But perhaps -
at that crossroad - where people love personally, but are also growing
in impersonal love (which needs no return or result) True Love is
possible. The romantic in me feels it must be. The sceptic in me, who
hasn't experienced this myth, feels that to stick to that one person,
is perhaps staying put at that crossroads... Not for nothing did
Krishnamurti reach his greatest heights after losing Nitya...
Ultimately I just don't know. I agree that the white lodge is probably
too busy to check
up on mariages. And if a mariage is going to be successful it is surely
because the two people involved take care of each other,
listen to each other, etc. No mahatma can go against karma - as you
probably agree. It is hard to think what actual protection a Mahatma or
the Brotherhood in general could provide, given that going against
karma is not an option. All this isn't to say people should be leaving
their well functioning relationships just because of some theory that
they ought to be loving humanity more. I feel a relationship is a
responsibility and only after careful consideration can one give up
that responsibility. That giving up should have nothing to do with