AUSTRALIAN THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY NEWSLETTER
No. : 80 August 2003
Published by the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) Australasian Section
664 Glenhuntly Rd., South Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria 3162 AUSTRALIA
Tel. : (03) 9528.1011 Fax : (03) 9528.3907
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
WWW homepage : www.theosofie.net/australia/
ISSN : 1447-8188
20th Anniversary Issue
Is there such a thing as Western Occultism?
Poem - The Power of One
Seven Jewels of Wisdom - Atma Vidya : Knowledge of the Supreme - Stefan Carey
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS WESTERN OCCULTISM?
We recently had a meeting in Melbourne on “Is there such a thing as Western Occultism”? We used Chapter 10 entitled ‘Western Occultism’ from Grace Knoche’s new book, To Light a Thousand Lamps, as the basis of our discussions. It is really worth reading this chapter as it addresses itself to many concerns that are regularly mentioned at our meetings, especially different methods of meditation.
Grace implies in the chapter that modern Western occultism flowed from the impact of Indian culture on the West following the establishment of the British imperial government in India in the late 18th century. One thing that really struck home with me from what Grace wrote, is that we have only had access in English language to the great works of Indian philosophy and religion like the Bhagavad Gita for a little over 200 years - but look at the effect they have had on our thinking in the West and particularly on Theosophy!
Though the West clearly owes much to India for the current profusion of interest in mysticism, meditation, yoga, and occultism, it seems to me that we may have ignored indigenous Western mystical orders and methods. This is especially so in the work of the Theosophical Society, which is very much based in Indian culture and language. Ironically, the Masters who founded the Theosophical Society, did so to have an adequate vehicle for the ancient wisdom teachings by which to reach the culturally dominant Western world. In their writings they say they had tried to reform Hinduism in the 19th century through organisations like the Arya-Samaj, but this did not prove possible and therefore they moved on to form the Theosophical Society as a means of reaching out with Wisdom teachings to the world.
Other mystical traditions also recognised the inadequacy of directly transplanting spiritual techniques from the East into the Western consciousness. For example, consider this challenging statement from Max Heindel founder of the Rosicrucian Fellowship, from the chapter ‘Western methods for Western people’ from his book the Rosicrucian Cosmoconception : “In India certain methods under different systems of yoga are used. Yoga means union, and, as in the West, the object of the aspirant is union with the Higher Self. But to be effervacious, the means of seeking that union must differ. The [etheric] vehicles of the Hindu [due to millennia of meditation, vegetarianism, and abstinence from alcohol, etc...] are very differently constituted than they are for the average Caucasian. The Hindus have lived for many thousands of years in an environment and climate totally different from ours. They have persued different methods of thought and their civilisation, though of a very high order, is different from ours in its effects. Therefore it would be useless for us to adopt their methods, which are the outcome of the highest occult knowledge and perfectly suited to them, but as unsuited to the people of the West as a diet of oats would be for a lion!”
A dramatic way perhaps, of making a point that is a major challenge in presenting the teachings of Theosophy today in ways that modern Westerners can understand and empathise with. Perhaps we need to pay equal attention to the richness of the indigenous Western wisdom traditions such as those of ancient Egypt, Alchemy, Rosicruciansim, Freemasonry, Celtic religion, Druidism, Paganism, Wicca etc... and modern trends in psychology, philosophy and science in our spiritual search. In the coming weeks our meetings in Melbourne will feature some of these traditions in addition to the richness of Eastern cultures showing that the light of the Ancient Wisdom shines from every spiritual tradition in the world. Our challenge as students is to see the golden threads of this wisdom in all the worlds religions and try to apply this knowledge to our modern lifestyle and challenges as we face them here and now. Perhaps the future Western Occultism, in evolution at the moment, will be a new synthesis of the world’s spiritual traditions so readily available these days through modern communications technology, with modern science and philosophy applied to Western lifestyle and thinking.
IMPORTANT NEW THEOSOPICAL BOOKS
T. Subba Row was an important figure in the early history of the Theosophical Society and its work. Recently, Dutch researcher Henk Spierenberg, has compiled all of T.Subba Row’s works in two volumes : T.Subba Row Collected Writings Published by Point Loma Publications in 2001 and 2002.The two volumes contain many pages of material not included in earlier compilations. There is a biography and previously unpublished portrait of Subba Row.
Twenty years of our newsletter : with this issue (number 80) we celebrate 20 years of continuous publication of the Australian Theosophical Newsletter. Our first issue back in 1983, mentioned the influence of the ‘tyranny of distance’ in Australian history, Australia being such a large continent with such a small population. Today, 20 years later, with mobile phones, the Internet and a revolution in communications technology, we have ready access to each other no matter where we are in Australia or around the globe. Our newsletter has been published on the Internet for the past 5 years and continues its job of bringing our members and friends up-to-date with our activities and offering thoughts on theosophy from an Australian perspective to our readers. Please help by contributing written material to us so we can ensure another 20 years of service to our members and friends.
New book by Australian members and friends available soon: Roza and Marguritta Raikennan (authors and illustrator), Andrew Rooke (Editor) and several friends in Melbourne have combined efforts over the past several years to write two new books in one volume to be published soon. “The Laws of Life” and “The Return of the Prodigal Son” are based on theosophy, contemporary Russian philosophy (Kalagia), and the personal experiences of the authors. The idea is to provide a new introduction to esoteric philosophy and some actual mechanisms people can put into action in their daily lives to assist their and others progress on the Path. We need advice from anyone who knows how to distribute such a book to people who may be interested. Please contact the editor if you can assist.
Dutch articles from Theosophical Forum : Dutch-speakers will be interested in articles from Theosophical Forum from about 1930 to 1950 which have been translated into Dutch and available at the following website : http://members.lycos.nl/pruyn/ Newly translated articles are being continuously uploaded to this site. Dutch Newsletter : the latest Dutch newsletter Impuls available to us has many interesting articles on the ‘Divinity deep within Man’, ‘Rules of Life’ and particularly interesting is ’Spirituality in Management and Work’ by Jikke Hoekstra which says in part : “....There is a great deal happening in the field of spirituality and management. The bridge between the two is being built from two sides: on the one hand, from the traditional world of management, and on the other from organisations active in the spiritual field...I see this growing interest above all as a positive development that offers opportunities for genuine change. Everyone must use their own inner touchstone to determine the value of what they find in the spiritual sphere. And although the application of spiritual ideas in the work environment is still limited, the seed has taken root....My conclusion is that while we can philosophise about the theme of spirituality in management and work, each of us needs above all to examine how we can contribute to our own work and life. In other words, a better spiritual working environment starts with yourself.”
POEM : THE POWER OF ONE
by an anonymous poet.
One song can spark a moment,
One flower can wake the dream.
One tree can start a forest,
One bird can herald spring.
One smile begins a friendship,
One handclasp lifts a soul.
One star can guide a ship at sea,
One word can frame the goal.
One vote can change a nation,
One sunbeam lights a room.
One candle wipes out darkness,
One laugh will conquer gloom.
One step must start each journey,
One word must start each prayer.
One hope will raise our spirits,
One touch can show you care.
One voice can speak wisdom.
One heart can know what’s true.
One life can make the difference,
You see , it’s up to You!
SEVEN JEWELS OF WISDOM : ‘ATMA VIDYA’ Knowledge of the Self Knowledge of the Supreme
by Stefan Carey
As someone once said, there are three Selves in every person - The Self you think you are, the Person others think you are, and the person you really are!
With the Seventh and final Jewel, the notion of Selfhood as you normally understand it takes on a new dimension. This means you have to expand your definition of Self, perhaps by ‘letting-go’ more than ‘holding on’. This is a great Cosmic paradox as well as a favourite Taoist idea. On commenting on the limitations of Self the Buddha Gautama said : “Veil upon veil shall lift, but still veil upon veil will be found behind.”
I suspect this is because “behind each desire stands another desire, ad infinitum.” This is the reason for the never-ending ‘made to measure’ series of veils! We are experts in the West at desire - look at television advertisements, suggestive means of attachment to more and more. Hardly the answer to our own spiritual emancipation.
Eventually the Self, self-consciously encompasses all reality. But we are already infinite. We’re just not aware of it at this moment in our evolution! ‘Blocking ourselves off’ from the Universe or ‘the Force’ is something we are very good at in the modern world. This is why compassion, ethics and brotherhood (or peoplehood) are seen as fundamentals in Theosophy, because of the underlying premise that there are no unrelated beings in the Universe. Therefore to hurt others is to hurt ourselves eventually by the Law of Karma. So to act or think harmoniously from universal principles is to be a stronger, more self-conscious part of the Universe as it is in reality.
The Doctrine of Self also implies ‘how the One became the Many’ - a most abstruse and difficult concept for us finite beings to grasp. As someone once said : “This is the most difficult problem the human mind has ever tried to solve!” But one of our Theosophical teachers, G de Purucker tries here : “The Higher Self of each one of us is an ever-living Banyan tree, the source of a multitude of human souls which have been sent forth as branches, which themselves take root in the material world; and these human souls in their turn grow through ages of long evolution to become spiritual Banyans, each of them sending out new roots, new branches, but all derivative of the parent tree.”
In conclusion, the Seven Jewels of Wisdom are an attempt to define for the serious questioner the elements of Reality to allow us to self-consciously and harmoniously comprehend the entire universe and its operation. Perhaps an analogy is useful to conclude our series : When we swim we are most aware of what is above the water - for us this is reality - but beneath the water is another reality supporting us - an ocean of ‘other-being’. We can swim on without any awareness until the time when we feel the curiosity to look what lies beneath the surface. Until we make that decision, we are only half awake as to who what we really are above and below the surface of appearances!
The Seven Jewels of Wisdom are :
1. Reincarnation-Reimbodiment-changing forms in distinction from the indestructibility of the human spirit.
2. Karma - the Law of cause and effect.
3. The Doctrine of Hierarchies - Reality has many levels through which we progress as evolving entities.
4. The Doctrine of Swabhava - the essential nature of each essence.
5. The Doctrine of Evolution ; which is actually like a Doctrine of Emanation.
6. The Doctrine of the Two Paths - The Path of Compassion and the Pratyeka path, or the Path of each one for himself.
7. Knowledge of the Self - also known as ‘how the one became the many’.
Our thanks and appreciation to the many friends around Australia and the world, who send their newsletters to us. We encourage you all to read them as they are kept in our library in Melbourne, or photocopies can be sent. They include : Impuls (Netherlands), Contact (South Africa), The Link (USA), Theosophy North-West View (USA), Kali Yuga Rag (USA), San Diego TS Newsletter (USA), Compass (England), Pashupati (Australia), Melbourne TS Lodge Newsletter (Australia). Also, Dutch and German language translations of Sunrise magazine are sent to us regularly.
Australasian TS Newsletter is issued three times per year in April, August, and November and is edited by Andrew Rooke. We can be contacted at the Theosophical Society (Pasadena), Australasian Section, 664 Glenhuntly Rd., South Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria 3162, AUSTRALIA. Tel : (03) 9528.1011 Fax : (03) 9528.3907 Email : email@example.com World Wide Web homepage at www.theosophie.net/australia/ The current issue of this newsletter is also published electronically on our website and copies can be sent via email.
We welcome contributions on theosophy or related subjects. You can be placed on the mailing list by contacting the editor or see our website.