Lucifer7, June 2005


Short Quotes
H.P. Blavatsky in the Dictionary of Esotericism
Secret Beauty
Did the Jewish people karmically deserve the Holocaust?, Katinka Hesselink
Jews and Banking, some historical notes, Katinka Hesselink
Of Grave Earnestness and Little Sentimentality
A Monkey's Viewpoint

Short Quotes

H.P. Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence

Beware of this, O candidate!  Beware of fear that spreadeth, like the black and soundless wings of midnight bat, between the moonlight of thy Soul and thy great goal that cometh in the distance for many.
Fear, O Disciple, kills the will and stays all action.  If lacking in the Shila (*) virtue - the pilgrim trips, and karmic pebbles bruise his feet along the rocky path.
Be of sure foot, O Candidate.  In Kshanti's (*) essence bathe thy soul;  for now thou dost approach the portal of that name, the gate of fortitude and patience.
(*) Shila = the key of Harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for Karmic action.
Kshanti = patience sweet, that nought can ruffle. - in the words of H.P. Blavatsky in The Voice of the Silence

Buddhism, the Science of Life, p. 46.

To tell a man that it is wicked to be selfish is useless;  he must be shown that it is both short-sighted and foolish;  and that in his ignorance of the Law, he is shutting himself away in the darkness, refusing the crown which is his birthright.  Here the Buddhist teaching on the power of thought is seen to be of great value.

N. Sri Ram, Thoughts For Aspirants, Second Series

The way to the true inner self is by ceasing to identify oneself with that unreal self, the outer; we reach the higher automatically by withdrawing from the lower.

Paul Brunton, The Quest of the Overself, Chapter V

Attention is the soul of thinking and the root of perception.


The subject of Blavatsky and Judaism has haunted me for some time, since Henk Spierenburg sent me the link to a set of articles on the Edmonton Theosophical Society-website. Having finished an introductory course on Judaism this past month, I feel qualified to put that story into perspective. Two aspects of the articles on that site get addressed in this issue: karma and Jews as bankers. In both cases I don't refer back to what Blavatsky said on Judaism. It is clear from her work that Blavatsky wasn't as obsessed with anti-semitism as some of her contemporaries, but she also didn't avoid the occasional remark that jars on today's ears. It is clear from her writings that she had a great respect for the Kabalistic tradition, so she certainly didn't condemn Judaism as a whole. Also I feel it is necessary to stress, though to most of my readers this would hopefully be self-evident, that she would have never supported Hitler. The first object of the Theosophical Society makes it clear that she was a supporter of brotherly feelings between people of diverse backgrounds. Also, as a Buddhist, killing innocent people would never have appealed to her. As a journalist, the Nazi way with the media would have repulsed her.

H.P. Blavatsky in the Dictionary of Esotericism

The editor can now truthfully state to have read the entries on H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society in the new "Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism". For a dictionary-item it is not all bad. James Santucci, also editor of Theosophical History, goes into Blavatsky's life with impressive detail. Unlike previous dealings with Blavatsky in publications that had the pretension of being scientific, this one is actually accurate. In some cases I am actually used to a more guarded treating of the details. Blavatsky's memory on her own life has a reputation of being a bit faulty. The article also gives Blavatsky her rightful place in history as ''any modern trend setting guru, ... she will most likely remain the most memorable and innovative esotericist of the 19th century."

As mentioned in the previous issue of Lucifer7, the article does mention the SPR report, but refrains from mentioning the withdrawal of that same report by the SPR a century later. Vernon Harrison wrote his 'J'accuse' in 1986 and elaborated on it in the 1996 publication of "H. P. BLAVATSKY and the SPR, An Examination of the Hodgson Report of 1885". The conclusion is that it has not been proven that Blavatsky was a fraud. It is disappointing to not see that mentioned in this otherwise excellent article. As Leslie Price says in a review on Blavatskyarchives (see links) scientists aren't in agreement on this issue. If the scientist don't agree, an article in an encyclopedic dictionary should reflect that fact.


Secret Beauty

Theosophical Notes, May 1952

Because beauty is something that depends as much upon the beholder as the object, there is no rule that can apply completely. Some forms are fairer by comparison than others, just as an average day becomes beautiful to us when  preceded by dull and gloomy skies. But just as goodness is not merely an absence of evil, so beauty is more than the presence of charm.

The comparative beauty of face and form, the attractive painting, dawn or harmonious tune, appeals to all in varying degrees.  But the real beauty that paints warm tones in memory's gray haze is that which comes from rare and fleeting moments, when harmony from within responds to harmony without.  We rise and sink, from time to time, from the dead level of our monotonous existence.  At such times we say we feel more deeply.  What is meant is that at such times our range includes a larger scope and vibrates to a wider scale of human perceptions.  Those who have suffered keenly and enjoyed greatly can, if they will, soothe, those who suffer, and laugh with those who rejoice.

And so with beauty. At those rare times when we can see, the merely pretty face will be transformed to beauty through the permeating quality of a beautiful thought:  or an unselfish, earnest soul will shine through the plain face. The thought does not need words... nor the devotion action in our sight, in that one glimpse we see and know. How much of such beauty is imprisoned behind a face not trained to register, in best of movie styles, the common scale of sorrow, joy or wit? How much of this beauty do we miss because we are not sensitive to others' thoughts and strivings?

If you would know the value of such a transient glow;  of this alleged evanescent beauty, it is this: The one whose face has been transformed for you will never be the same. Once you have been proved worthy to penetrate the exterior and glimpse the hidden beauty which is the heart of every being, your heart will never be the same. A world of words may pass between you; sorrows and angers may come and jar the surface harmonies, but always deep, the vision will remain. And if it comes but once to you, or seldom, humbly bow, and recognize that beauty from without can only answer beauty in your heart.

Did the Jewish people karmically deserve the Holocaust?

Katinka Hesselink

THEOSOPHIST. For the Materialist, who calls the law of periodicity which regulates the marshalling of the several bodies, and all the other laws in nature, blind forces and mechanical laws, no doubt Karma would be a law of chance and no more. For us, no adjective or qualification could describe that which is impersonal and no entity, but a universal operative law. If you question me about the causative intelligence in it, I must answer you I do not know. But if you ask me to define its effects and tell you what these are in our belief, I may say that the experience of thousands of ages has shown us that they are absolute and unerring equity, wisdom, and intelligence. For Karma in its effects is an unfailing redresser of human injustice, and of all the failures of nature; a stern adjuster of wrongs; a retributive law which rewards and punishes with equal impartiality. It is, in the strictest sense, "no respecter of persons," though, on the other hand, it can neither be propitiated, nor turned aside by prayer. This is a belief common to Hindus and Buddhists, who both believe in Karma. (H.P.B. Key, section 11)

There are several ways of looking at the doctrine of karma. The easiest, but also the most superficial, is to see it as an explanation of events that have happened. Instead of giving a God the hand over fate, it gives previous karma as the reason for 'why things are as they are'. Seen in such a light, karma will inevitably be seen to support the powerful and blame the victim for their troubles. Apply this principle to the second world war and the victims of Nazi Germany and the obvious question becomes: how did the Jewish people cause their suffering? Looking for an answer to that question, within a theosophical framework leads automatically to the answer as given in the article: The Heresy of Separatism in Judaism. Honesty forces me to admit that this answer has had its appeal for me too, though I never published it on line because the effect of such a view is so obviously detrimental. With other theosophists having the audacity of publishing this viewpoint I have been forced to think more deeply on the matter. My recent studies on 'World religions' has given me access to information that has dramatically changed my point of view. I now feel that Nazi-Germany simply prosecuted anybody who was different. Homosexuals, gypsies, Freemasons, theosophists, mentally challenged people etc. were all subject to varying levels of persecution.

As said: karma can be used to blame the victim. It is part of the consequence of the karmic doctrine that each person is responsible for their own life. The other side of the coin though, is that each person is indeed responsible for their own life and their own actions. This means that the persecutors are at the very least also responsible for what happens. For a further look at this issue it is necessary to learn the lessons of history. The Edmonton Theosophical Society has seen fit to publish myth and Blavatsky quotation without reference to any historical context at all. Also their article is really not much more than a collection of very good quotes, lined with comments that don't have much relation to those quotes and a title that is even more off-base. On their web site they go further even than the simple statement that the cause of Jewish troubles lies in separatism, they even attribute black magic to Judaism as a whole. Of course, this is a standard accusation in certain occult circles. To denounce something without calling it black magic would be unusually calm for some so called theosophists. To answer the question whether there was a karmic cause 'why' so many Jews died in German Concentration camps, I will first have to describe aspects of (mostly Western-) European, Christian and Jewish history in broad strokes. Of course the flip side coin of the question is equally relevant (if we feel obliged to look for causes or blame): why did German people end up killing so many people that weren't guilty of anything? Secular history has tried to answer this question, so I will leave it alone. I refer my readers to the appropriate history books for an answer.

To start with: religious tolerance is a new thing in the history of Europe. The Greeks did not accept every religion into their midst: they asked an oracle or a city council (depending on the organization of a particular city) whether a new god could be worshiped in their town. There have been, as far as I'm aware, no active persecutions based on religion or religious background, during the Greek empire, but then again it fell apart fairly quickly after it started. Emperor Alexander, the first emperor to unite most of the known world, gave power to natives to govern that portion of his empire that they knew best. He died within a few years after his last conquest. All in all the Greeks were tolerant to their subjected peoples, but on their own turf they did limit newly arriving faiths.

By the time the Romans took over in Jerusalem (63 B.C.), the concept of empire was already a few centuries old. The Roman empire took control over subject nations with far more force than the Greeks had done. They imposed the emperor cult on all their subjects. If the people lived up to those ceremonies, they could otherwise worship and believe as they pleased. When the Jews revolted in 66 C.E., they did so mostly out of economic motives. Roman rule retaliated with fierce suppression. Many Jews died and the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed 70 C.E. Myth has it that the current diaspora started there, but even before the destruction of the temple there were Jewish communities in Northern Africa and Mesopotamia as well as Palestine. At the same time amongst Jewish communities in Palestine Christians were slowly becoming independent. Around 50 C.E. the apostle convent decided that non-Jews could be baptized as Christians without having to live up to Masoretic law. An important detail is that people could be converted to Judaism reasonably easily at this time: sometimes a whole people did so in one stroke.

Christianity grew exponentially over the next centuries and was seen as a threat by the Roman empire and was therefor suppressed. It was a Jewish concept of martyrdom that kept many Christians going. They believed that martyrship meant a one-way trip to heaven. Emperor Constantine finally stopped persecution by legalizing Christianity. Emperor Theodosius made it a state religion in 391 C.E. With that the tables were turned and the whole of the remaining empire was forcibly converted. In the process of converting an entire empire many customs and beliefs were kept, but there was no freedom of religion. As a result the position of the Jews deteriorated. State and Church became intertwined. One of the ways in which it was clear that state and church were intertwined was that ruling houses and bishoprics were both supplied by the same royalty.

In the Middle Ages Jews were living in a strongly stratified society. A man's job was often determined by their father's job (nuances in this picture are not possible in a short article like this). See the article below on Jews an banking for details. This happened in the context of the Reform of the Church, which started roughly in the 12th century. It meant a process of continuous change and observation of custom and doctrine. At first this found expression in new monastic orders and devotional movements. In the 16th century the church itself split apart into a Roman Catholic Church and various protestant groups. This also meant that the spiritual unity of Europe could no longer be assumed. Around 1100 was also the time of the inquisition, crusades and the witch hunts: a new process of cleansing Christianity of heathen practices and beliefs started. Jews were often the victim of this too. For instance they were banished from the region around Paris in 1182 and by the king and queen of a finally reunited Spain in 1492. It is hard to see how the Jews can be made responsible for this. They did refuse to convert to Christianity, but which theosophist can blame them for that? Living in a stratified society it is only natural that they too stayed a separate group within society. They were usually subject to other laws than the rest of the population. This separate existence was strengthened by customs and religion, but it was also a natural consequence of not being Christians within a largely Christian community.

The history of religious tolerance started in Europe after the previously mentioned reformation. When the church split up into various fragments, many countries could no longer maintain that only one religion had a place in society. For the first time the unity of church and state was challenged. England and the Netherlands found that it was more profitable to not persecute people of differing beliefs, but instead to work together. Jews and Huguenots (and Jewish Huguenots) came to the Netherlands to find refuge and booming business. Other countries also took note: taking in persecuted Jews helped the economy.

It was in the 18th century that the United States drew up a constitution in which every human being was equal. The USA declared independence in 1776. France followed with a similar provision of equality in the constitution of 1789. For the first time intellectuals became convinced that limiting rights to those who were born with them, was detrimental to economic success of the nation. This development lead to the differentiation of Church and State and the eventual emancipation of Jews. For the Jews became possible in the 19th century to enter into all kinds of jobs and so they did. They had the same duties as everyone else, and the same rights. This included normal tax-rates (not the higher ones they used to have) and the obligation to enlist in the army. The basis for anti-Semitism (the term hadn't even been coined yet, though) fell away with that. The myth didn't die out though. Unfortunately, at the end of the 19th century anti-Semitism was discovered by politicians as an easy way to get votes. The term anti-Semitism was coined and often combined with Darwinism thought. It was in this atmosphere that the idea of Zionism started to gain popularity.

The rest is history, as the saying goes. Jews were among the groups most persecuted in Nazi-Germany. After World War II, the Jewish people were allowed to create their own nation-state: Israel. It has its own problems, obviously, but those aren't the issue in this paper.

The main conclusion of this historical survey is that to be born a Jew has been a hard lot all through history. The separateness of the Jewish people from the people around them can be attributed to that hard lot. To point the finger at Jews themselves as causing this, is blaming the victim, and therefor risky business that needs to be underpinned with hard facts. Persecution of Jews was often based on their unwillingness to convert to Christianity. But even Jews that did convert were often mistrusted afterwards. This was obviously based on belief in the superiority of Christianity: Jesus had come to save us. Those that didn't believe that were seen as a threat to society. It is ironic that some theosophists feel the need to defend that anti-Semitic attitude, even though they don't believe that belief in Christ will be enough for salvation.

To sum this all up: any tribal religion (that is: any religion not meant for the whole of humanity, that is: most religions) has a separist tendency in it. This is only natural: only those belonging to a certain group or ethnicity can be part of that religion or way of life. Also, as mentioned in the article this is a long commentary on, any religion that is based on a specific belief instead of freedom of consciousness, has a separist tendency. Christians who take the idea seriously that one has to believe in order to be saved, are forced to conclude that the rest of humanity will therefore go to hell. The obvious solution is then to try and convert them. This is another topic, but it does illustrate that most religions include tendencies to damn those who aren't part of the group. This is a pity, but to blame the historic catastrophe of the holocoast on such issues, and supporting anti-semitism in the process, is scandalous, in my opinion.


Jews and Banking, some historical notes

Katinka Hesselink

There is a stereotype of Jews as bankers. At one point in history, in parts of Europe, this stereotype was a reality. Not accepted into the guilds, in the late Middle Ages, they were forced to take up banking, tax-collecting and other middle class occupations. This is the basis of the stereotype of the money gathering Jew. Jews were amongst the first bankers in Europe to ask an interest on loans. In those days interest was high, around 60%, so people accumulated great debts. This was of course highly unpopular and the Jewish people as a whole suffered from it: they got banished from various countries for it. This was partial: other bankers, who asked the same high interest-rates, did not get banished. H.P. Blavatsky says:
Strictly speaking, the Jews are an artificial Aryan race, born in India, and belonging to the Caucasian division.  No one who is familiar with the Armenians and the Parsis can fail to recognize in the three the same Aryan, Caucasian type. No one who is familiar with the Armenians and the Parsis can fail to recognize in the three the same Aryan, Caucasian type. From the seven primitive types of the Fifth Race there now remain on Earth but three.  (S.D. II, p. 472)
Personally I think this has to be read with eyes open to the historical context. How are the Jews artificially Aryan? I feel it is in the sense that they were forced by circumstances into Banking. Christians weren't allowed to ask an interest (not all avoided it, though). From a theosophical standpoint banking is manasic (mind). It is also the fifth principle - hence fifth race. When other profession became open to Jews, they naturally took them on, so that now it is no longer true that Jews are more often bankers than the general population. It is perhaps fair to say that in history talented Jews, more often than the general population, developed manas - because of their training in the Talmud. But that is just the effect of hard work. In general hard work is rewarded. That too is karma.

Blavatsky criticized aspects of all religious traditions she commented on. She had problems with Christianity, Brahmanism and priesthood in general. The Jews too came under attack. This is no reason for theosophists to generalize about the Jewish people as a whole any more than they would Christians or Hindu's.


R.M. Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought; the Jewish Experience in History

Of Grave Earnestness and Little Sentimentality (*)

The Theosophy of the Upanishads (fragment)

Canadian Theosophist, Volume 14, #11

There is so much grave earnestness, so little sentimentality in life, that we shall have much need of this high temper and daring of the immortals, much need of endurance, as our unrealities are torn to shreds, as the great, broad pathway to the real opens out before us.

One opponent we have, whose force outweighs all others, who is far more formidable than the lust of the flesh, far more dangerous than the lust of the eyes, the lust of possession;  this enemy above all enemies is the instinct of preservation of our personal selves.  Every falsehood as to self-annihilation, every pitiful and sentimental consideration as to the old self doomed to destruction, every strategy and artifice and subterfuge will this Proteus personality employ, before we succeed in bursting its bonds, and, as the Upanishads say, with that exquisite skill in words that so heightens their power, - in untying the knot of the heart.

This Proteus personality is the real atheist in us, who combats belief in the divine, because belief in the divine infallibly means that the end of personality is at hand.  This is the real sensualist, using the healthy and blameless instincts of bestial life to batten and draw fat upon, in self-conscious self-indulgence.  This is the real coward, who trembles before every whisper of change and onward progress, knowing well that onward progress must leave him behind, or rather that his dissolution and disappearance are indispensable before onward progress can rein.  Atheism, sensuality, cowardice, are so admirable attributes of our so admirable personality, - our king of all the world.

The supreme effort of will is needed before we can consent to they death within us of this most admirable sovereign and worthy ruler;  and before our effort succeeds, we shall have had to meet and resist every claim of vested rights and constitutional privilege that the fierce, wild instinct, of self-preservation can suggest.

So that, seeing clearly life's earnestness and entire freedom from sentimentality, we shall clearly apprehend and firmly grasp these two facts;  first, that, in the life of the higher Self, the lusts of the flesh will assuredly not have a place;  secondly, that the life of the higher Self, before it can be ours in the fulness of free and flowing power, demands one condition, the death of the lower self, - a death, free, perfect, unconditional, and as willing as formerly was our most willing self-indulgence.  The assent of the will to the dissolution and disappearance of the lower self must be absolute, before the life of the higher Self can be ours.  This is the path to reality;  and, along the path of reality, subterfuges and reservations will not greatly help us.

But of the laws of conduct we have said nothing until we have said this, - the supreme reason for the dissolution and disappearance of our lower selves is not so much in the interest of our own higher selves as in the interest of our other selves, the men and women around us, who are as much a part of the supreme Self as we are.  The instinct of self-preservation in our Proteus-like personality is far more a struggle against our other selves, the men and women who surround our life, than against the higher Self, the divine newcomer who begins to brood over our life.  And this truth can never be too often repeated, too insistently brought forward to the light:  we sin more against the essential truth of things, we more deeply offend the lasting realities, by giving way to this struggle of our personal selves against the lives of others, our other selves, than by indulgence in the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the eyes.  Selfishness is worse than drunkenness and evil-living.  The Self is for unity and completed, rounded totality;  and selfishness is a greater sin against rounded totality than any self-indulgence.

(*) Title by the editor of Lucifer7.

A Monkey's Viewpoint

(Author Unknown), Canadian Theosophist, Volume 23, #9 (1942)

Three monkeys dining once in a coconut tree
Were discussing some things that they heard true to be.
"What do you think? Now, listen you two;
Here monkeys, is something that cannot be true,
"That humans descend from our noble race!
Why, it's shocking - a terrible disgrace.
Whoever heard of a monkey deserting his wife
Leaving a baby to starve and ruin its life?
"And have you ever known of a mother monk
To leave her darling with strangers to bunk?
Their babies are handed from one to another
And some scarcely know the love of a mother.
"And I've never known a monkey so selfish to be
As to build a fence around a coconut tree
So other monkeys can't get a wee taste
But would let all the coconuts there go to waste.
"Why, if I'd put a fence around this coconut tree,
Starvation would force you to steal from me.
And here is another thing a monkey won't do:
Seek a cocktail parlour and get on a stew.
"Carouse and go on a whoopee disgracing his life
Then reel madly home and beat up his wife.
They call this all pleasure and make a big fuss -
They've descended from something, but not from us!"

Previous issues of Lucifer7

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