Strength of purpose has no part in obstinacy. Obstinacy clings to what it sees, denying what it sees not. Strength of purpose, daughter of imagination, can deny what seems to be, because it knows what is. Men speak to one another of protection, but what do they mean by it? I myself have treated many a wound that might have been a mere scratch had its victim not worn armor. And the medicines of many a physician are a deadlier preventive of recovery than a disease itself. If a man's own soul protect him not, where shall he look for safety from the multitudes of dangers that beset him on every side? But if he hide within the glory of his own soul, how shall any dark destroyer find him?"
When there is no gap between the knower and the known, between the subject that perceives and experiences, and its object, there is knowledge by identity, absolute and direct.
It should not surprise us, in this age of business monopolies, that the commercial world, the world of affairs, the only world of which many people have any consciousness, that the general habit of mind should be extended to the world of religion, so that the Christian Church members act as though they had patent rights on Jesus, the Buddhists of some stripes wish to claim the world for Buddha, the Mahometans [Muslims] hold their territory as sole agents for The Prophet, and the Brahmins also claim exclusive privileges. Of course it is little men who assert these rights, which, after all, only become tangible in the collection of royalties.
The ordeal of discriminating Truth from untruth devolves upon those who accept Theosophy, whether as individuals or as a body. It is this ordeal which the T.S. as a body has failed in, together with most of its members as individuals. In order to sustain successfully this ordeal two things are essential. A deep and exacting Sincerity, - an inner honesty so drastic and of such long life that it has become second nature, - and Intelligence. This power of Intelligence implies the ability to bring the impartial critical rationalistic faculty to bear coupled with Intuition, a Spiritual faculty existing as more than a germ in only the very few. It is through the passing of this ordeal that this Spiritual faculty of divining Truth is born.
Theosophical teachings are chiefly of value to the sincere Seeker for Truth, for whom the main objective is Spiritual regeneration. From the application of its principles he may evolve a science of wise living which each individual can apply in his own life at the place in the scale of being at which he finds himself. A wide knowledge of the basic principles of Theosophy and of their practical application in the life of the individual is by far the greatest need in the world today.
"Nobody even dreams how hard is the task of self-conquest, the subjugation of passion and appetite, the liberation of the flesh-prisoned Higher Self, until he has tried. Every such struggle is a tragedy, full of the most painful interest, and provocation of sympathy in the hearts of "good men and angels". That is what Jesus meant when he said there was more joy in heaven over one sinner that repented than over ninety and nine just men that needed no repentance. And yet how bitterly uncharitable is the world- the world of concealed sinners and respectable, undetected hypocrites, usually- over the failure of a poor soul to scale the spiritual mountains in consequence of lack of reserved power of will at a critical moment. How these undetected ones patronizingly condemn the vanquished, who at least have done what many of them have not, made a brave fight for the divine prize. How they strut about in fancied impregnability, like the street-praying Pharisee of Jerusalem, thanking fortune that their private sins are still hidden, and redoubling their prayers, postures, canting moralities, and asceticism in diet, to deceive their neighbour and themselves!
And the devil did grin, for his darling sin
Is pride that apes humility.
Shakespeare made a man like that say:
And thus I clothe my villainy with old odd ends, stol'n out of holy writ, and seem a saint when most I play the devil"
"I got a stinging reproach once in Bombay from a Master, when I hesitated to admit to membership an earnest man who had been persecuted, even sent to prison, by Christian bigots, on a pretext. I was bidden to look through my whole body of colleagues and see how, despite their wealth of good intention, nine-tenths of them were secret sinners through weak moral fibres. It was a life lesson to me, and ever since then I have abstained from thinking the worse of my associates, many no weaker or more imperfect than myself, who if they could not climb the mountain were at least, like myself, earnestly struggling and stumbling onward. Years ago- when we first came to Bombay,- I was told by H.P.B. that several of the Mahatmas, being met together, cause to drift by them in the astral light the psychical reflections of the then Indian members of the Theosophical Society. She asked me to guess which one's image was brightest. I mentioned a young Parsi of Bombay, then a pre-eminently active and devoted member. She said, laughing, that on the contrary he was not bright at all, the morally brightest being a poor Bengali gentleman who had become a drunkard. The Parsi afterwards deserted us and became an active opponent, the Bengali reformed and is now a pious ascetic! She explained then that many vicious habits and sensual gratifications often affect the physical self, without leaving deep permanent scars on the inner-self. In such cases the spiritual nature is so vigorous as to throw off these external blotches after a brief struggle."
"But if encouraged and persisted in, evil habits at last overcome the soul's resisting power, and the whole man becomes corrupted. Some tantrikas, Indian and European, have preached the accursed doctrine that the occult postulant can best kill out desire by gratifying and exhausting it. To deliberately gratify lust, or pride, or avarice, or ambition, or hatred, or anger- all equally perilous to the psychic- is quite another matter from falling now and then, through no pre-arrangement and simply because of moral weakness in a particular crisis, into one of those sins. From the latter, recovery is always possible, and may be comparatively easy where the average moral fibre is strong; but deliberate vicious indulgence leads inevitably to moral degradation and a fall into the depths."
This is one of those months when too much happens. Some of the things I will cover below are so out there, that I have had doubts about whether it should be covered at all. But I guess it has to, since religious intolerance is growing all over the world. Religions represent a lot of what people hold dear: their identities, their dreams, their hopes, their fears.
In Egypt one has to give one's religion when applying for documents like birth certificates and passports. Only three religions are allowed: Muslim, Christian and Jew. Legally, people who aren't one of those religions don't exist. The Dutch newspaper that covered this story, focused mainly on the Baha'i. On the old handwritten documents papers, government workers would sometimes just leave open the 'religion' field. With electronically generated identity cards becoming mandatory, Baha'i's are left with quite a quandary. The default way to fill in the form means being registered as Muslim. But if fundamentalist Muslims find that out, they feel the right to assault people for being untrue to their faith (the Islam). Living without an identity cards leaves kids without education, vaccination and parents without the ability to buy a house.
Over to China. The Chinese Government has once again shown that it isn't interested in freedom of religion by stating that Tibetan monks can only reincarnate with permission of the government. The political aspect of this is clearly that they want a say in who will be seen as the next Dalai Lama.
Then The Netherlands. Given our constitutional freedom of religion, and the general trust with which the Dutch still regard their government (well, relatively speaking that is) - the following story is more like a comic interlude, but a very sad one. The current most vocal proponent of anti-Islam views in the Netherlands is Geert Wilders. He recently made international headlines in a way that made me think he had lost his mind. He wants to ban the Quran. There is only one banned book in the Netherlands: 'Mein Kampf' by Adolf Hitler. According to Wilders the Quran is as bad as that. He also wants to change the constitution, to get rid of the freedom of religion. Banning the Quran would have that effect also. If Mosques can't carry the Quran, Muslims are effectively banned from exercising their weekly prayers. To change the constitution the parliament would have to get a very large majority in favour of this. There isn't a majority at all, so the Dutch news reports today. Most parties believe in freedom of religion and changing the constitution like this would go against all kinds of international and EU laws.
Theosophists have stood for freedom of religion from the time Olcott and Blavatsky landed in India. Olcott in particular fought for freedom of religion for the Buddhists in Ceylon. He made sure they could marry according to their own faiths, have their own Buddhist schools and Buddhist religious holidays. All this when Ceylon (currently Sri Lanka) was still part of the British Empire. The Quran doesn't contain more politically incorrect material than the Bible does, so banning that book would open the door to banning all kinds of things that are dear to some and offensive to others. Religions cannot be forced on people. Conversion is a very personal process that governments should not interfere with unless the general good is at stake. Governments need to make sure that Muslim terrorism doesn't grow, but they should not alienate Muslims in general. Most Muslims are just ordinary people with jobs, kids and mortgages. The same is true for Tibetan Lama's, and Baha'i's, and people of other religions. As long as criminal law isn't broken, governments should stay out of people's right to decide for themselves what to believe and how to live.
I have just returned from the English Summer school of the Theosophical Society Adyar at Leicester University Grounds. The Highpoint of the week was Michael Gomes in the Blavatsky Lecture. There were a hundred people there, which is not at all bad for a theosophical lecturer. Michael Gomes is turning into quite the theosophical celebrity. He's very good on the stage, keeping us awake and entertained. He's also well grounded in theosophical history which is what this lecture was about, as well as in practical theosophy: the subject of his public lecture on Wednesday. It has to be said: he did a superb job in his Blavatsky lecture on Olcott and Healing. It had material on healing in the 19th century that I haven't seen before and on Olcott's earlier interests in the subject. Much of it was the result of looking up the references to books on healing that Olcott referenced in his Old Diary Leaves - something most people would never even dream of doing. The workshops he did in the second half of the week were the best attended with I think 50 people there the time he did a walking meditation. Quite a sight: 50 people walking slowly in a line from the lecture-building snaking their way to the lovely park. I didn't attend that workshop, but didn't hear too many complaints.
The week was very full with lectures that struck me and a few that frankly didn't do much for me. For this review I'll just ignore the latter, because the whole thing was good mainly because of the variety. As for workshops - there were too many to mention (which was great, but I obviously didn't attend all of them). There was (hatha) yoga in the mornings, yoga nidra and pranayama yoga. I did the hatha yoga and the pranayama yoga - which was weird because this week I somehow developed a difficulty in breathing during this sort of exercise. I'm pretty sure it was me, not the exercises. There were workshops on kinesiology, reflexology, shiatsu and Edgar Cayce remedies. I attended the kinesiology and got diagnosed with a B-complex deficiency. Dana Eaton gave me a B-vitamin shot through no physical means. Not being sure she was successful, I decided to make sure I got enough yogurt during the means of the rest of the week. In the reflexology workshop we did a massage of each other's feet and I slept very well that night. Reflexology is to do with massaging the feet and through the meridians there diagnosing and treating problems in the upper body.
During the study groups I chose to attend the 'astrology for the 21st century' workshop with Ted Capstick. He's a very good esoteric astrologer. This means that he's into the astrology that has been developed from the work of Alice Bailey. People were impressed with the accuracy of his reading of their lives from reading their charts. He looked at people's charts for free and even did progressions to look at present and future problems. He hardly had a moment to himself all week. It all looked to me to be very useful to the people who did get their chart done. Being (as I thought at the time) at a relatively calm period in my life myself, I didn't take the opportunity - perhaps I should have...
Professor Ram Gokal lectured on the general theme of spirituality and health. His main point was that our thoughts influence our health and that we have to take responsibility for our health. He went into the law of attraction and is clearly influenced by what is currently referred to as 'the secret'. He drew quite a crowd on Monday morning and his workshop on pranayama yoga was well attended. For me personally his lecture was a stark contrast to the informal talk a few of us heard on Tibetan Healing on Tuesday. In that workshop the power of the mind was also stressed, but the conclusion was mainly that we need to work on ourselves to get rid of anger, desire and closed minds. On Monday evening there was a slide show on the work Dr. Trevor Ford had done in the Grand Canyon researching old stone layers visible there. Robert Woolley did a presentation on Tuesday on Sacred Gardens as Therapy. He showed us his own experiments in the area of creating a sacred garden using symbolism in the design. The result obviously had more to do with getting to know the energies and healing one's spirit, rather than one's body.
One of the highlights for me personally was the lecture Barry Thompson, the librarian of the London headquarters and one of the younger members, gave on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. He contrasted the work by Blavatsky on the after death states with that done by C.W. Leadbeater. Then he went on to look at the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I hope to publish more on that on my website - stay tuned. When most people were attending the workshop by Michael Gomes, I went to the one by Hugh Agnew. He had a whole folder prepared for us and as we discussed various themes we went back and forth reading his prepared quotes - which included material that he wrote himself as well as spiritual stories, Blavatsky quotes and more. We were a small group, but the conversations were very good and some of the material Hugh collected will come back on this website in one form or another.
On Thursday Susan Bayliss gave a talk on 'The Healing Power of Thought'. It was mainly a summing up of some of the healing methods she uses herself, like stones. The best part were the paintings she had made of her own observations of the aura. Most of it was old stuff for people familiar with the work by C.W. Leadbeater, but it was good to see how real it all was to her. I was struck with her picture of the result on the deeper planes of negative thoughts. She showed what she saw when someone a friend of hers had a quarrel with someone else. That someone was outside in the car and Susan saw black and red arrows go to her friend and later found out that they had in fact been quarreling. To me it was a good reminder of the fact that our thoughts, especially when charged with emotion, can have tremendous effect on people - whether present or not.
Thursday night I was part of a play that Alan Hughes had created for the school on The Wonderful Story of the Mahatma Letters. I played Patience Sinnett and had the closing lines. Colyn Price played my husband: A.P. Sinnett. Michael Gomes was A.O. Hume and Cornelia Price was A.P. Blavatsky. It was good fun.
On Friday Chaganti V.K. Maithreya, for whom this was the last lecture in a series, showed us a video on the TOS work after the Tsunami in India. His lecture accompanying that was mainly on the importance of yama and niyama (good behavior mainly) for yoga.
I think all present will agree that we had a great week. The atmosphere was happy, even playful, because Michael Gomes joked with everyone he met. This set the tone of the whole summer school. The program had something for everybody - and because there was also practical work (workshops) our minds didn't come out quite as overloaded as they usually do after a theosophical school. There was not just a good balance between practical and theoretical, but also a good balance between Blavatskyan theosophy and other lines of spirituality. This school showed, in my opinion, how good a theosophical week can be. There is tremendous potential for inspiration and learning in the combination of various perspectives. That potential certainly came out in this school.
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