It is a peculiarity of Therevada Buddhism that everyone has to obtain liberation through his own efforts and that the possibility of assistance from without is denied except for instruction about the Way. Neither prayer nor belief in heavenly beings can hasten deliverance from suffering, for the natural law of kamma [karma] is incorruptible. Nevertheless, faith (saddha), or, more accurately, trusting confidence in the Buddha, also plays a role in the Therevada. Without confidence in the master and the truth of his teaching no beginner would subject himself to the difficulties of the Eightfold Way. Without trusting confidence, therefore, no one could ever reach liberation.
True spirituality is neither an abstract science nor an abstruse speculation; it is a way of life, a deeper outlook upon the world.
What may be the duty of a Theosophist to himself? To control and conquer, through the Higher Self, the lower self; to purify himself inwardly and morally; to fear no one, and nought, save the tribunal of his own conscience; never to do a thing by halves - i.e., if he thinks it is the right thing to do, let him do it openly and boldly; and if wrong, never touch it at all.
This month the series on enlightenment is concluded with a quote from I.K. Taimni and two smaller quotes. Next month the subject of black and white magic will be looked into in the same style.
On a personal note, the editor of this e-zine found a job, and will start teaching mathematics and chemistry to teenagers again, starting March second [i.e. tomorrow].
The limitation of Universal Consciousness when it is centralized and expressed through an individual Centre of Consciousness deprives the individual of the awareness of his Divine nature and it is the delusion caused by this privation which makes him run after all kinds of worldly objects and pursuits in a futile search for happiness. How does the simultaneous limitation of Divine Power and the delusion caused by Maya affect the behavior of such an individual? Aphorism 12 (*) attempts to throw some light on this question. According to it, under this delusion the individual begins to regard the Divine Power flowing through his vehicles as his personal power, which belongs to him and which he is entitled to exercise in any way he likes. It is this attitude which is really responsible for the almost universal misuse of power in the world. Instead of considering himself as a mere trustee of that Power and using it properly, the individual who has no sense of discrimination begins to use it in an irresponsible manner and even misuse it for gaining extremely selfish and sometimes nefarious ends.
The blind pursuit of power and constant effort to seize it whenever and wherever possible is the surest indication of the fact that the individual is grossly involved in the illusions of the world, and the misuse of that power when it is seized in this manner is therefore inevitable. For the individual who has risen above the illusions of the world, even to a small extent, power has no attraction and he does not desire or seek it because it means added responsibility which must be discharged most carefully and scrupulously. But when it comes to him naturally in the performance of his duties he does not reject it but uses it properly as a trustee of the Divine Life which has placed that power in his hands. The right use of power has to be learnt by every aspirant who wants to become a conscious agent of the Divine Life in the fulfillment of the Divine Plan. It is a part of the self-discipline undertaken to attain Self-realization and its technique is generally referred to as Nishkamakarma. (@)
(#) Also available from the TPH in London, Great Britain and
Quest Publishing in Wheaton, Illinois, USA as well as other
theosophical bookshops run by the Theosophical Society Adyar in various
(*) Aphorism 12 of the Pratyabhijna Hridayam of Ksemaraja, of which this book is a commentary and translation.
(@) Nish-kama-karma has been explained to the editor of Lucifer7 to mean: action without desire or action without personal emotion.
It is only “with a mind clear and undarkened by personality, and an assimilation of the merit of manifold existences devoted to being in its collectivity (the whole living and sentient Universe),” that one gets rid of personal existence, merging into, becoming one with, the Absolute...
He gains royal power over himself, he gains lordship of mind, he is lord of voice, he is lord of the eye, he is lord of hearing, lord of knowledge; he becomes the eternal, bodied in shining ether, the real Self who delights in life, who is mind, who is bliss, whose wealth is immortal peace.
Marion Zimmer Bradley is best known for her book 'The Mists of Avalon', in which pagan magic and Christian materialism come into constant conflict. Other books she wrote delve into the occult from a Science Fiction perspective (Darkover). The most recent series she gets a bit closer to home and real life by writing about the occult in the twentieth century. These books have been prepared for publication by Rosemary Edghill. Bradley had help on all the books that were published in her name in the last years of her life. She died in 1999.
The first in this series, though the last to be completed, is the book under review here. I'm a big fan of this type of book and have read all the books by Bradley that I could get my hands on, but as a description of the occult, as I understand it, there are the usual gaps. In Heartlight the main thing I don't think Bradley truly understood was the way black and white magic work. One aspect of this is that ritual plays such an important part in the story, for all types of magic. There is even a ritual in which the higher self of a black magician is called to witness and ends up choosing light again. I can't help but think that this isn't exactly the way in which it happens in real life. Gaining wisdom is a battle, and though changes of direction happen, they are accompanied by a lot of sorrow and karmic consequences. Neither of these factors seem to play a part here. The fight between black and white is the main theme of this book. In the rest of the series there is a gray in between that is quite convincing.
There is also the idea that the Catholic Church is on the white side. This is based on the tradition of exorcism that is still practiced in the church and of course by it's emphasis on ritual. The black magic as presented in this story has the face of Nazi Germany. Colin MacLaren, the main character, was a young white magician in World War II, helping their defeat. Later in life he comes to fight the same force and people, which have now taken their place in the government and institutions of power in the USA.
Another aspect is that some of the teachers in this story who are said to be on the white side seem to pick their students based on their powers, instead of their motivation. Somehow the expectation seems to be that as long as the rules of the game (ethics) are explained, power can be shared. The way I understand the situation, is precisely opposite: there has to already be an inherent dedication to the good of humanity, before the student can even be considered. The first thing done when a student is considered is not to teach them ethics, but to test what temptations they can withstand without the help of the boundaries convention and society place on our actions. Ethics plays a part of course in the occult training, but it has to be fully internalized and natural before 'powers' get developed. Blavatsky forbade her students from using any occult powers they might have had, until she thought they were ready to start trying them. Colin seems to share this philosophy. 'I wish to know in order to serve', is the credo of his order. This credo puts the wish and motivation to serve first and knowledge second.
These were the inaccuracies of the story, from my perspective. Yet Colin also has some wisdom to share, this is an almost random selection:
Colin had been assured that this furniture was only temporary - that better furniture was on order, and that in fact it was rumored that the entire department would be moving to better quarters soon, but Colin placed little credence in these hopeful reports. In his experience, there was little in this world or the next so permanent as a temporary situation.
Compromise was a slippery slope that led step by reasonable step into darkness and damnation.
There, he'd said the word, if only to himself. Evil.
It was not a fashionable word these days. In a world where children where slaughtered in the dozens, the thousands, by gun and bomb and knife, the word "atrocity" came glibly to people's lips, but somehow the recognition of evil had fallen out of fashion. The horrors of the modern world were bad luck, business as usual, "age-old racial tension," political terrorism, crime ... but never evil. It was as if one colour in the palette of human understanding had been exercised, lest ... what?
Lest there be hope?
To accept the existence of Evil was to believe in its opposite - to hope, to believe that evil could be fought.
Caring for the dying makes you poignantly aware not only of their mortality, but also of your own. So many veils and illusions separate us from the stark knowledge that we are dying; when we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings. Sir Thomas More, I heard, wrote these words just before his beheading: "We are all in the same cart, going to execution; how can I hate anyone or wish anyone harm?" To feel the full force of your mortality, and to open your heart entirely to it, is to allow to grow in you that all-encompassing, fearless compassion that fuels the lives of all those who wish truly to be of help to others.
So everything that I have been saying up until now about caring for the dying could perhaps be summed up in two words: love and compassion. What is compassion? It is not simply a sense of sympathy or caring for the person suffering, not simply a warmth of heart toward the person before you, or a sharp clarity of recognition of their needs and pain, it is also a sustained and practical determination to do whatever is possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering.
Compassion is not true compassion unless it is active. Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, is often represented in Tibetan iconography as having a thousand eyes that see the pain in all corners of the universe, and a thousand arms to reach out to all corners of the universe to extend his help.
As a mathematician as well as a theosophist/buddhist/whatever-religious-person, I am happy to report that it turns out to be relatively easy to predict whether couples will stay together or not. Apparently watching the face for signs of contempt is all it takes. In the words of the researcher: Contempt is the sulfuric acid of love. Or in other words - though relationships seem to be so easy to loose - with divorce rates so high - it is still kindness and love that keeps a relationship together.
This is not a tale in which I fable a mythical and impossible monster such as the Head of Rahu, which the common people of India believe swallows the moon at every eclipse. Rahu is but a tale that for the vulgar embodies the fact that the shadow of the earth eats up the white disc, but I tell you of a veritable human eye; a wanderer, a seeker, a pleader; an eye that searched you out and held you, like the fascinated bird by the serpent, while it sought within your nature for what it never found. Such an eye as this is sometimes spoken of now by various people, but they see it on the psychic plane, in the astral light, and it is not to be seen or felt in the light of day moving about like other objects.
This wandering eye I write of was always on the strange and sacred Island where so many things took place long ages ago. Ah! yes, it is still the sacred Island, now obscured and its power overthrown - some think forever. But its real power will be spiritual, and as the minds of men today know not the spirit, caring only for temporal glory, the old virtue of the Island will once again return. What weird and ghostly shapes still flit around her shores; what strange, low, level whisperings sweep across her mountains; how at the evening's edge just parted from the day, her fairies suddenly remembering their human rulers - now sunk to men who partly fear them - gather for a moment about the spots where mystery is buried, and then sighing speed away. It was here the wandering eye was first seen. By day it had simply a gray colour, piercing, steady, and always bent on finding out some certain thing from which it could not be diverted; at night it glowed with a light of its own, and could be seen moving over the Island, now quickly, now slowly as it settled to look for that which it did not find.
The people had a fear of this eye, although they were then accustomed to all sorts of magical occurrences now unknown to most western men. At first those who felt themselves annoyed by it tried to destroy or catch it, but never succeeded, because the moment they made the attempt the eye would disappear. It never manifested resentment, but seemed filled with a definite purpose and bent toward a well settled end. Even those who had essayed to do away with it were surprised to find no threatening in its depth when, in the darkness of the night, it floated up by their bedsides and looked them over again.
If any one else save myself knew of the occasion when this marvelous wander first started, to whom it had belonged, I never heard. I was bound to secrecy and could not reveal it.
In the same old temple and tower to which I have previously referred, there was an old man who had always been on terms of great intimacy with me. He was a disputer and a doubter, yet terribly in earnest and anxious to know the truths of nature, but continually raised the question: "If I could only know the truth; that is all I wish to know."
Then, whenever I suggested solutions received from my teachers, he would wander away to the eternal doubts. The story was whispered about the temple that he had entered life in that state of mind, and was known to the superior as one who, in a preceding life, had raised doubts and impossibilities merely for the sake of hearing solutions without desire to prove anything and had vowed, after many years of such fitless discussion, to seek for truth alone. But the Karma cumulated by the lifelong habit had not been exhausted, and in the incarnation when I met him, although sincere and earnest, he was hampered by the pernicious habit of the previous life. Hence the solutions he sought were always near but ever missed.
But toward the close of the life of which I am speaking he obtained a certainty that by peculiar practices he could concentrate in his eye not only the sight but also all the other forces, and willfully set about the task against my strong protest. Gradually his eyes assumed a most extraordinary and piercing expression which was heightened whenever he indulged in discussion. He was hugging the one certainty to his breast and still suffering from the old Karma of doubt. So he fell sick, and being old came near to death. One night I visited him at his request, and on reaching his side I found him approaching dissolution. We were alone. He spoke freely but very sadly, for, as death drew near, he saw more clearly, and as the hours fled by his eyes grew more extraordinarily piercing than ever, with a pleading, questioning expression.
"Ah," he said, "I have erred again; but it is just Karma. I have succeeded in but one thing, and that ever will delay me."
"What is that?" I asked.
The expression of his eyes seemed to embrace futurity as he told me that his peculiar practice would compel him for a long period to remain chained to his strongest eye - the right one - until the force of the energy expended in learning that one feat was fully exhausted. I saw death slowly creeping over his features, and when I had thought him dead he suddenly gained strength to make me promise not to reveal the secret - and expired.
As he passed away, it was growing dark. After his body had become cold, there in the darkness I saw a human eye glowing and gazing at me. It was his, for I recognized the expression. All his peculiarities and modes of thought seemed fastened into it sweeping out over you from it. Then it turned from me, soon disappearing. His body was buried; none save myself and our superiors knew of these things. But for many years afterwards the wandering eye was seen in every part of the Island, ever seeking, ever asking and never waiting for the answer.