It would seem that Good and Evil are not inherent in things themselves, but in the uses to which those things are put by us. They are conditions of manifestation. Many things commonly called immoral are consequences of the unjust laws of man, of egotistic social institutions: such things are not immoral per se, but relatively so. They are only immoral in point of time. There are others whose evil consists in the base use to which higher forces are put, so that here also evil does not inhere in them, but in ourselves; in our misuse of noble instruments in lower work. Nor does evil inhere in us, but in our ignorance; it is one of the great illusions of Nature. All these illusions cause the soul to experience in matter until it has consciously learned every part: then it must learn to know the whole and all at once, which it can only do by and through reunion with Spirit; or with the Supreme, with the Deity.
Don't be dismayed at goodbyes.This issue of Lucifer7 is a mix of shorter news items and longer articles. Most is from a theosophical background, but the editor hopes the e-zine is still eclectic enough to amuse and inform also people who have no affiliation with a theosophical organization. The article by Leslie Price has a theosophically sounding title but is in some ways the most classical Christian article I've had in this e-zine.
A farewell is necessary before you can meet again.
And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes is certain for those who are friends.
The Foundation for Theosophical Studies is hosting an international conference on theosophical history on the weekend of 2-3 July 2005 at 50 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8EA , England. Previous conferences have been held in London in 1986-9, 1995. 1997, and 2003, and others in San Diego, USA and Edmonton, Canada.
Any person may offer a paper for consideration by the Programme Committee, on any aspect of theosophical history . Summaries not exceeding 500 words should be sent before 1 January 2005 to Colyn Boyce, Information Officer, either by post or electronically to email@example.com. Presentations will normally last thirty minutes with fifteen minutes for discussion. Any audio-visual requirements should be specified.
The conference is non-residential, and only light refreshments will be served. Those presenting papers, and those attending as guests must make their own arrangements for travel, meals and accommodation. There will be a small fee for registration.
When a boy comes to his father and says: "Papa, what is the answer to this?" the father often does not know, and so he replies in substance: "Go about your business: study your lessons: go to your books." Now, I think that this is positively cruel. If the father does not know the proper answers to give, I do not mean that he should say "I don't know," because there is a psychological problem involved here, and there is a certain respect that a parent rightly feels the child should have for him; but he certainly could give his child some kind of an answer, if he is himself sufficiently a man to bring a child into the world, and to take the responsibility of its up-bringing; and the same remark applies to women.
The general sentiment of this quote is perhaps that a parent should try to answer a child's questions to the best of their ability and not dismiss them as unimportant. Still, to me the statement that a child should not hear a parent admit they don't know the answer to a question sounds a bit strange to me. Why can't a parent be honest enough to admit that? I think this is related to the general fear any authority figure may have at admitting the limits of their knowledge. But taken to its logical conclusion this means that a parent will have to make up an answer, and that means lying and that cannot be a right example for a child.
I recently had a conversation with someone on school-tests. He said he had always had trouble with them (psychologically, not practically - he's got a university degree for a few years now), because he usually did not know the precise answer to the questions. He gave the example of a history test where he did not know precisely how a certain conflict had started. He would have studied it and would know something about the conflict, but not enough to answer the question to his own satisfaction. Still the system expected him to fabricate an answer, assume things about the parties that he had forgotten and in general make up as likely an answer as he could. He generally passed his history tests with an A-minus. He felt he was effectually being trained to lie and that most people would have to 'make up' the answer to the test question in the same way he had to. He did concede that his ability to come up with an answer to the question was a measure of his knowledge of the subject tested, but still he could never shake the sense that the test wasn't a good way of testing him.
Seems to me that admitting we "don't know" is almost a brave thing to do.
I am often asked what I think of the L.C.C. [Liberal Catholic Church]. Briefly by analogy I would say that when a scholar leaves High School and enters Varsity he leaves behind him all that appertained to his development so far. He now graduates to the Hall of Learning and conforms accordingly. Again, when a traveller has reached his objective he discards his mode of travel. Thus when a person of any denomination reaches Theosophy he throws aside with his blessing the trappings and ritual that helped along the road. He now serves the Higher Self and nothing of earthly nature is of any use. To commune in the Presence he must as the Christ said "Retire into his closet and pray." That word pray to my mind means commune. There in the sanctity of the heart nothing else matters. It is sacrilegious, to use an ecclesiastical term, to think of ritual or even prayer. A person who has reached this stage communes in spirit and all earthly dross is forgotten. That is my personal opinion, some may not agree, but in the final analysis it is one's own personal approach that matters.
These laws execute themselves. They are out of time, out of space, and not subject to circumstance: Thus, in the soul of man there is a justice whose retributions are instant and entire. He who does a good deed is instantly ennobled. He who does a mean deed is by the action itself contracted. He who puts off impurity thereby puts on purity. If a man is at heart just, then in so far is he God; the safety of God, the immortality of God, the majesty of God, do enter into that man with justice. If a man dissemble, deceive, he deceives himself, and goes out of acquaintance with his own being. Character is always known. Thefts never enrich; alms never impoverish; murder will speak out of stone walls. The least admixture of a lie - for example, the taint of vanity, any attempt to make a good impression, a favourable appearance - will instantly vitiate the effect. But speak the truth, and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the grass underground there do seem to stir and move to bear your witness. For all things proceed out of the same spirit, which is differently named love, justice, temperance, in its different applications, just as the ocean receives different names on the several shores which it washes. In so far as he roves from these ends, a man bereaves himself of power, of auxiliaries. His being shrinks ... he becomes less and less, a mote, a point, until absolute badness is absolute death. The perception of this law awakens in the mind a sentiment which we call the religious sentiment, and which makes our highest happiness. Wonderful in its power to charm and to command. It is a mountain air. It is the embalmer of the world. It makes the sky and the hills sublime, and the silent song of the stars is it. It is the beautitude of man. It makes him illimitable. When he says 'I ought'; when love warns him; when he chooses, warned from on high, the good and great deed; then, deep melodies wander through his soul from supreme wisdom. Then he can worship, and be enlarged by his worship; for he can never go behind this sentiment. All the expressions of this sentiment are sacred and permanent in proportion to their purity. [They] affect us more than any other compositions. The sentences of the olden time, which ejaculate this piety, are still fresh and fragrant. And the unique impression of Jesus upon mankind, whose name is not so much written as ploughed into the history of this world, is proof of the subtle virtue of this infusion.
Theosophy propounds no system of Ethics, as such, but it points to basic principles existing in Man and the Universe by means of which anyone can formulate a code for himself. This code while it may go far beyond, it will probably have much in common with that Ethic universally appreciated by all races in all ages which is included in the words decency an) courtesy.
Ethical systems in the past have been founded upon religious dogmas and supported by religious sanctions. When the dogmas of our Western religions became discredited in the light of scientific knowledge, the foundation of our Ethical system collapsed. The folly of basing an Ethical system upon things which time will change, can never be more evident than it is today. Nothing but the changeless laws of Nature, nothing but the innate nature of Man and the Universe, nothing but these imperishable things which are not affected by time and change of opinion, are good enough to form a basis of a system of Ethics for civilized people.
Theosophy offers the hypothesis that Life in spite of appearances is One, and that consequently no human being can really benefit at the expense of another. We are all, as it were, in the same boat, what is good fortune for one is, in some measure, good fortune for all. We are all isolated fragments of the One Life, and this Life can be poisoned or enriched at any point.
Hand in hand with this hypothesis is another; that this is a Universe of Law where every thought and every action is accounted for; there is constant adjustment and every force tends to be equilibrated. Every energy which man projects is coloured by his personality and, sooner or later, comes back to him for adjustment for good or ill. There is no reward or punishment about it, but simply effects inexorably following upon causes. We get out of this Universe the exact equivalent of what we put into it, nothing is added, nothing is taken away. Harmonious thinking and acting that is living in accord with the innate nature of things, brings as its effect a fuller sense of Life and a deeper contentment; discordant separative energies are adjusted at the centre from which they were projected with a shattering effect; this is the explanation of practically all suffering.
These two hypotheses which can be proved to be true by anyone who will watch and observe and test them out in his own life, and in the lives of others, form a basis for Ethics which will stand the closest examination from any angle and which neither time nor change of belief nor any scientific disclosures can alter. If this were taught as part of our elementary educational system what a marvellous improvement in human life would be observed. It would be seen to be sheer madness to try to beat the game and get ahead by riding rough shod over our fellows.
The obvious evils which everybody recognizes as such are not the real evil's today; the real evils are the imitation goods, refined selfishness masquerading in altruistic and noble sentiments, which often deludes us into giving it our allegiance and support.
The question was asked: What happens Karmically as a result of those rare actions which are really impersonal, where no shadow of a thought of Self enters? Here we have to make a clear distinction between selfless actions on the one hand, and unselfish actions on the other. In the latter class of action though often self-sacrificing and altruistic and performed in the best cases without any conscious thought of self benefit in the way of gratitude, or future return, there is yet deep at the back of the mind the expectation, perhaps of good Karma and the stimulus and warm glow of self approval. There is nothing wrong about this, indeed it is Nature's reward and method of encouraging such actions, but it indicates that the action is still personal ands ego-centric, however refined. Such energies when they come to adjustment bring to the personal self an increased well-being, but because they were projected from a personal centre, the final result is still to build up and strengthen the personal Self, - that which contains the sense of Me and Thee. This is all necessary and inevitable in the growth of the individual toward impersonality, but it is no place at which to stop, and it is important to realize this for it is fatally easy to come too live upon the satisfaction obtained from unselfish actions, - a form of spiritual dram drinking which builds up a refined egoism and disintegrates spiritually.
If we watch our reactions and detect the secret expectation of a future return and the present glow of self approval, and realize that this is not good enough, that we are not yet capable of doing an action for the sake of its own inherent beauty, but still demand a reward, then we are at least on the right track and have but gradually to insure ourselves to cease from wanting even a shadow of a return and to condemn as unworthy any trace of self approval, and then the impersonal element in our best actions will grow.
What then happens as a result of a truly impersonal action? The energy projected although not bound back by any wish for a return, yet is still energy and has to be accounted for. It returns to the centre from which it came and to which it is magnetically linked, awakening there a deepened perception, a finer spiritual insight, and makes it easier for the student to reach that impersonal level again. Consequently it is extremely important for the Theosophical student to true up his perceptions and to know what constitutes a really fine and just action. He should sense it; cultivate the taste, as one would cultivate the taste for fine Art Or Music; study it until he knows it more and more; brood over it; think over it, and try to discriminate at all times the truly fine from the imitation.
The Spiritualists National Union is currently exploring the basis of its beliefs - but how far back in history should they look? Religious Spiritualist bodies commonly express belief in God – one God who is love (Greater World), the fatherhood of God (SNU), the Eternal Spirit who is both Father and Mother (White Eagle Lodge), the Great Spirit of some guides. Sometimes philosophical Spiritualists equate God with Divine law. In general, however, belief in a personal God is widespread in the Movement, though this God is much more tolerant than the one found in some other religions. Even Christian Spiritualism sometimes has only a tenuous link with the God of the Bible.
Some people definitely do not believe in God, and we usually
atheists. If they are humanists and secularists as well, they often
reject all psychical phenomena and the possibility of life after death.
There is however another group of religious believers, more numerous in the East, who can properly be called non-theists. They may well accept the reality of afterdeath states and of some remarkable phenomena, but a personal God plays no part in their outlook. Many Buddhists and yoga practitioners fall into this group.
It is not often realised that Madame Blavatsky and her
also non-theists. In her book “ The Secret Doctrine” (1888) the world
is created by a combination of the natural laws of cause and effect,
and the efforts of various collective groups of spiritual beings. In
question and answer form, she clearly rejects any
personal god in “ The Key to Theosophy”(1890), though a god within is
Later Theosophists found this teaching unpalatable, and C.W. Leadbeater, George Arundale and others even became bishops in the Liberal Catholic Church, in which some of the trappings of religion, ejected by the founders, were restored.
Is theism a good thing? David Reigle, a Sanskrit Buddhist scholar best known to Theosophists for his defence of Madame Blavatsky’s Tibetan connection, challenged this in an important paper in “ Fohat” (Spring and Summer 2003), a theosophical quarterly published in Edmonton, Canada. As this material is not electronically available, I will, without prejudice, summarise part of it here. (Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for subscription details.).
Blavatsky taught that the Wisdom Tradition began in India, and the oldest Indian religions known to us did not believe in God. For the Jains, whose religion is one of harmlessness, karma takes the place of God. Next, the historical Buddha, who awakened to truth and reality, did so without the help of God. Here too, we make our destiny through our actions. Compassion is a dominant theme. Nirvana or enlightenment is reached eventually, but there is no suggestion that God is found there. In Buddhism, individual gods may exist for a time, but when their accumulated merit is extinguished, they will fall again, and, as humans only, have the opportunity of reaching enlightenment.
Even in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, we may find a multitude of deities, but they are all fundamentally empty. This is realised in meditation.
However Buddhism was largely replaced in India by a resurgent Hinduism. Here we certainly find theism, that is belief in God. But Reigle examined each of the traditional schools of thought in Hinduism, and found that they were non-theistic in origin. This is the case even of the Vedas, the oldest Indian scriptures. They speak of many gods – polytheism – but behind this appearance is the universal Brahman, an allpervading principle, who is not however a personal god.
As the present era went on, actual belief in a personal God developed in Hinduism, and began to be expressed in commentaries on older scriptures. Further west, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, three religions descended from Abraham, all strongly believed in a personal God. Religion even came to be defined as belief in some kind of God.
Madame Blavatsky’s teachers in the
nineteenth century denounced this
personal God religion as the major source of evil in the world. Looking
back to the twentieth century, where Bolshevism and Nazism ran amok, we
may wonder if they should be classed as religions.
At present, there is no doubt that what we call traditional religions, believing in a personal God, are involved in some scary confrontations. Islamic Pakistan versus mainly Hindu India; Jewish Israel versus mainly Islamic Palestine; Osama Bin Laden versus the West are notable examples.
True brotherhood, which the Theosophical Society was intended to promote, and which appears as the second principle of National Spiritualism (“ The Brotherhood of Man”) is difficult to reconcile with belief in God, at least in its strong forms. When possessed by such belief, a percentage of believers become violent towards those who do not share the same God idea.
Early Spiritualist ideas about God arose in the same era as
Protestantism. It was the theologian Adolf Von Harnack who summarised
Christianity as the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
National Spiritualism, as a Victorian product, can be seen as one among
many variants of Liberal Protestantism.
We certainly find belief in God among spirit communicators, although interestingly, in Stainton Moses “ Spirit Teachings” even his instructors profess not to know about ultimate reality. But perhaps the God of whom they speak is not personal, but something impersonal, which expresses itself through a vast and benevolent celestial civil service.
Before accepting Reigle’s view, and discarding any belief in the fatherhood of God, Spiritualists would perhaps carefully examine the various spirit communications on the subject, and consider how such practices as prayer would be affected. Perhaps this task is something for what is now called the Philosophical and Ethics Committee of the SNU. For Christians, in contrast, the fatherhood of God is a revealed truth.
Armand the Companion strolled beside the waters to enjoy the waning autumn sun. There he beheld a man sitting, watching the boats go in and out. This man was not ancient, not young; greying. His eyes gazed down the sunset slope into the shadows of the unknown that attend the close of life for those without knowledge.
Armand sat beside him. Shortly, observing friendship in the eyes of the Companion, the man spoke.
“Is there an answer to the riddle of life?” he asked.
“So I have heard,” said Armand. “What is your thought on the matter?”
“So I also have heard,” replied the man. “It is possible that I had my hands on it once.”
“They called it ‘The Wisdom.’ I attended its assembly for a time.”
“And were not satisfied therewith?”
“No. I could grasp nothing tangible and of use to a practical man. Ever the talk was of brotherhood and the need of the upright life. Every school child knows those things.”
“And there was no more than this?”
“Oh, yes. Much of the karma of past lives, and of vast origins and destinies of man and his kindred. It may have been true, it may have been fantasy. But what could I do with all that? I had need of that which would benefit my trade and my household life. In time I went no more, and sought elsewhere.”
“And did you find somewhat?”
“I found one who instructed in observing the colour of the soul, so that one might know the nature of those with whom he dealt in the market place. He taught much solid detail. A man could put his teeth into such knowledge. It required much gold, but seemed worth it.”
“You then saw the colours of many souls?”
“No, I did not see any. The Preceptor said that my evolution was lacking.”
“And returned your gold?”
“Why should he? He had spent his time and wrought patiently upon me. The effort did not turn out well for me. Upon occasion I used the formula in trying to test my wife’s faithfulness. I discovered nothing, but she, learning of it, was vexed, and a trouble arose between us that did never end. Women are not reasonable... I sought some form of knowledge not requiring so much labour and so much gold.”
“What was the nature of your next essay?”
“It was with one who determined the propitious times for love and business by means of charts of the stars. This, too, took money, but not so much. And it required no great labour on my part. But this also did not do well; tasks undertaken by the stars went badly more often than not. Long afterward I met another of that calling, who explained that his competitor, being ignorant, used a zodiac thirty degrees awry.”
“How did the new Zodiac turn out?”
“I did not try. I had become mistrustful of zodiacs. Also I had no more money.”
“Yet, perhaps,” said the Companion, “there is knowledge of both souls and stars that cannot be had for money, only by selflessness? Perhaps knowledge of great power that is unusable in the market-place?”
“You speak precisely as one of those of the Wisdom. This was my great disappointment in them. Ever they spoke of such powers and knowledge, ever raising a barricade of such sacrifices as would render power useless. What good is knowledge to the self when the self exists no longer? Also it was clear that they themselves had no such Powers, for they were plain people with no great wealth.”
“And your man of the souls - he no doubt exhibited the results of wisdom in his life?”
“Oh, yes indeed. Fine raiment, and a shrine most elegant.”
“And he of the thirty degrees awry - his ignorance was no doubt made manifest by poverty?”
“Oh, no! He also was well housed and well decked out. Why, that was a little strange, was it not? This had not occurred to me before.”
“I would not say that it was strange,” murmured the Companion to himself, “in a world full of such as thou.” Aloud - “What was the nature of your further seeking?”
“This and that - nothing much. I had become mistrustful and naught appealed as worth time and gold, although I looked into many things.”
“You said that perhaps you had placed hands on knowledge in the form of the Wisdom. Did you return to that?”
“No. What could there be in that which was given without price, where costly teachings had failed me? And yet... and yet... as my days add to their number and the remainder grows short, that Wisdom somehow clings to my mind, though I have forgotten most of its teachings.”
“Why not essay it once more?”
“It is too late now. I have no interest in life. My wife is dead. My children have their own lives. I am aging, sad and weary, and large thoughts make my head ache. And I have been disappointed so many times. Why risk it again?”
He fell into a sad brooding, becoming oblivious of Armand, who rose quietly and betook himself to the city. At the end of the quay he looked back at the man, the grey man gazing upon the grey waters, and for a time the day was dim to his vision, out of pity. But he reflected that for all there was a “tomorrow” in which, with the moon of folly setting; the sun of wisdom might rise. Thereupon he shook the thing from his mind in attention to the immediate.