AUSTRALIAN THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY NEWSLETTER

No: 90 December 2006

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: andrewrooke@hotmail.com

WWW homepage : www.theosofie.net/australia/

ISSN : 1447-8188


CONTENTS:

Symbols of the Theosophical Society – Jennifer Pignataro.

Theosophy in Practice.

NEWS

Book Review – Theosophy in the Qabbalah – Grace F. Knoche

Cry of the Damaged Man – Dr. Tony Moore

Wisdom Through Stories: The student and the elephant – Lo Guest

The Sower’s Responsibility – Roza Riaikkenen

A Thorny Story.

Things are not what they seem – Maya

Mantra for the Kali Yuga – the Kalisantarana Upanishad

A Little Love and Affection – Neil Young

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Symbols of the Theosophical Society – Jennifer Pignataro.

As one who is curious of most things, especially in the practice of symbolism in art and religion, it is of interest to consider how the emblem of the Theosophical Society integrates a number of the prominent religions in to a single seal. On the basis of design to convey the multiple messages of the key spiritual movements, the Seal of the Theosophical Society adeptly relays these.

The Seal of the Theosophical Society was adapted from the personal emblem of Madame Blavatsky before the Society was founded in 1875.

The five prominent symbols in the Seal are:

  1. The Star of David

  2. The Ankh

  3. The Swastika

  4. 4. The Ouroboros (Serpent swallowing its tail)

  5. Aum.

Each of the symbols is very, very old. After some research into the origins and significance of them I was stunned to realise that all of them have been prominent throughout the major civilizations and religions of the world. Madame Blavatsky selected wisely from the ancients when designing her personal emblem which ultimately influenced the Seal of the Theosophical Society.

Each of the symbols is representative of “divine, spiritual” principles.

The Star of David

Also known as King Solomon’s seal, in India known as the seal of Vishnu and viewed by Pythagoreans as the symbol of creation. The interlaced triangles signify the polarity of nature and spirit, male and female, light and dark. The six points of the star reach toward the serpent of eternity, changing and evolving through time.

The Ankh

This was an ancient Egyptian symbol of resurrection and immortality. The cross shape represents matter or the world of form, while the circle above it represents spirit. It can denote the embryonic universe, or spiritual egg or germ hovering over the cross of matter. Astronomically it is the sign of Venus, Earth’s sister-planet and guardian of humanity.

The Ankh situated in the centre of the triangles suggests divine immortality.

The Swastika (Crooked Cross)

The Swastika is a holy symbol in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. However, this sacred symbol has been misrepresented in the eyes of most people by reversing it, and now it is widely known and used as a symbol of Nazism and other modern Fascist organisations. The Hindu version is often decorated with a dot in each quadrant. It is one of the 108 symbols of Vishnu and represents the sun’s rays.

The motif was first used in Neolithic Eurasia and was also used in Native American cultures. The symbol has also been found in Greco-Roman and Gothic Art and architecture.

Essentially it represents good luck. The Indian word Shubhtika meaning: good mark, first appears in the classical Sanskrit epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

It was incorporated into the Seal of the Theosophical Society due to its Hindu and Buddhist links.

The Ouroboros (Serpent swallowing its tail) is Greek for the word “tail-devourer”. It is one of the oldest mystical symbols in the world. Plato described the serpent swallowing its tail when describing the first living thing in the universe.

It is represented in Aztec, Chinese, Native American, Norse, Christian, Hindu, and Hermetic culture, mythology and literature.

It symbolised the cyclic nature of life, the eternal unity of all things, the Absolute, un manifested universe containing the potentials of all form, regeneration and reincarnation.

Aum (Om)

It is the most sacred syllable in Hinduism, representing the infinite Brahman and the entire universe. It is considered to be the first sound. In Hindu belief, the world is viewed as vibration or rhythmic waves. It is the sacred symbol of the Trinity of Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Sustainer) and Shiva (the destroyer).

The written form of Aum signifies the triple state of man’s consciousness, the waking state, the unconscious state, and the dream state.

Aum is the source of all existence. We are reminded of the statement in Genesis which says: “In the beginning was the ‘Word and the Word was with God and the Word is God”.

Aum is a word of power and should be uttered with great reverence.

Encircled around the Seal is the Theosophical Society’s motto:

There is no religion higher than truth” which is the quest of every theosophist.

I like the Seal of the Theosophical Society as it succinctly incorporates the validity of all the major religions. Each of the symbols point to the eternal, unity of all major quests, the search for divine truth and divine meaning.

Theosophy in Practice.

We continue our series on putting theosophical principles into practice in daily life and practical techniques for doing this:

An Exercise for Developing Compassion for Others:

Theosophy tells us to constantly be loving and compassionate towards others. But how can we do this when we are surrounded by exploitation and selfishness in the world, which can lead us to easily become disillusioned, about the behaviour of other people?

One technique from Buddhism is to learn to have affection for other people by simply thinking of them as being close to you, like a friend or relative. Particularly, since your mother is the closest person to you, cultivate recognition of all beings as your mothers. This is not so far-fetched as it seems! When you think about it, science tells us that all human beings are related genetically, and that everyone in the past or future was or will be our relative!

The Buddhist teacher further advised us to extend feelings of compassion outwards gradually. First, cultivate such a love and compassion towards friends by thinking of them as relatives/mothers. Then, cultivate love for persons for whom you have neutral feelings. Next, cultivate such feelings toward your enemies. Then, cultivate it gradually toward all beings. Such is the attitude of compassion and desire to help all beings that characterises the “Bodhisattva”, or the ideal to which all Theosophists are urged to aspire.

“Moistened by love, your mind becomes like friable, fertile soil. When you plant the seed of compassion, it grows easily and bountifully. Therefore, after you infuse your mind with love, cultivate compassion”.

(Kamalasila: Stages of Meditation.)

NEWS

USA:

Theosophical University Press Catalogue:

The 2006 catalogue from Theosophical University Press, the publishing organisation of our T.S., is now available from our bookshop in Melbourne. This catalogue features a major new book by our former leader, Grace F. Knoche, Theosophy in the Qabbalah published in July this year, in addition to her other books To Light a Thousand Lamps (2001) and The Mystery Schools (1999). Many other classics, such as the works of H. P. Blavatsky, G. de Purucker, and W.Q. Judge, are featured. Interesting recent books are also available, e.g. Will Thackara’s Evolution and Creation: A Theosophic Synthesis, and Alan Donant’s Colonel Arthur L. Conger; Kenneth Morris’s novel the new and expanded Book of the Three Dragons, and a selected booklist from other publishers.

SUNRISE NOW QUARTERLY: Our international magazine Sunrise will change from bi-monthly to a quarterly with the December 2006 issues. Each issue will be mailed in the month of a solstice or equinox in future giving four issues per year.

TRIBUTE TO GRACE F. KNOCHE: Will Thackara, the manager of the Theosophical University Press in Pasadena, has recently published a moving tribute to our former Leader, Grace F. Knoche, in the journal Theosophical History April 2006. A photocopy can be sent to interested readers by contacting the editor. From the tribute the following will ring true with many of our readers who know Grace:
“Grace often used the metaphor of an Oriental rug to illustrate how we might handle our human imperfections. When a mistake was made, the weaver would not remove it, but work it into the pattern. I believe the metaphor has another application as well. Since Grace’s passing, many have expressed how much they will miss her, and it’s only natural to feel sorrow when such a true friend and mentor leaves us outwardly. Yet the truth is that Grace has woven a portion of herself into the fabric of our lives, and that will remain with us always”.

Book Review – Theosophy in the Qabbalah by Grace F. Knoche

Theosophy in the Qabbalah, by Grace F. Knoche. Theosophical University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-55700-184-9, Price: $.......

What are the essential teachings of Qabbalah, the Jewish esoteric wisdom passed on for millennia from teacher to pupil? In this clear presentation, former Leader of our Society, Grace F. Knoche concentrates on principal Qabbalistic themes, the emanation of the universe, the Sefirothal Tree of Life and its cosmic and human symbology, the Four Worlds of Creation, the Four Adams or Heavenly Archetypes, and the composite structure of our being and its bearing on sleep, death and initiation. To elucidate their meaning, Grace compares Qabbalistic concepts and symbols with equivalents in modern theosophy, particularly the works of H. P. Blavatsky and G. de Purucker, revealing Qabbalah as one stream of the universal wisdom tradition of mankind. This book develops and provides in depth discussion of many themes raised in Grace’s book published in 2001 - To Light a Thousand Lamps also available from our library and bookshop in Melbourne.

Cry of the Damaged Man – Dr. Tony Moore

Strange how painful experiences can sometimes be our best spiritual teachers, depending upon how we react to them. Following his injuries and recovery from a serious road accident, Melbourne surgeon, Dr. Tony Moore, reflected on what spiritual lessons he had learnt from the experience of suffering:

“…As I watched the endless wash of waves over the sand during one of my walks, I realised that one could not kill time without injuring eternity. I needed to be absorbed in the given.

The [serious road] accident also changed my feelings about immortality. I began to believe that it had only one dimension: the echoes of the energy I radiated to the world around me. It was my simple responsibility to try to make most of my energy contribute to a positive harmonic. On balance, the energy I realised should take the larger rhythms just a tiny bit closer to unity. If, on the other hand, my personal contribution increased the combative, negative and damaging disharmonics, my life would have very little calmness or inner strength in itself, and its influence on the lives which come after me would be a legacy of conflict and confusion.”

“…I know it is unusual sentiment, but now I feel that important elements of immortality will exist even if left ‘unrecorded’. The beauty of a ballet dancer remains forever in the whole, even if it was never captured on film; the sounds of a singer remain in the wind even though they were never recorded; all the gentle or cruel human actions leave their impact even if history books have missed them. Not a single grain of emotional sand can sift without affecting the moral universe.

During a moment of intense stillness I understood that human documentation was of small relevance to ultimate influences. So were word-of-mouth, human ritual or custom. I knew three was no profanity in my feeling that Christ did not need the Bible. The purest form of our immortality related simply to the content and direction of the energy which each of us had contributed to the whole. All the rest was simply the result of the efforts of busy advertising managers.

This understanding of immortality now helps me to remember who I am in all the actions I undertake, and not only those filtered for public presentation and observation.

While I had no desire for immortality I did feel the need to accept the challenge of trying to make some meaning out of the matrix of my life.”

Tony Moore: Cry of the damaged man: a personal journey or recovery Sydney: Pan Macmillan Publishers, 1991, pages 94-95.

Wisdom Through Stories: The student and the elephant – Lo Guest

How do you teach a people the ethics, morals, philosophy and wisdom of an ancient culture if they cannot read or write? The answer is quite simple: by the Story Teller’s Art.

The following is a story teaching that we are all part and parcel of this Universe for we all share the same Life force.

A long time ago there lived a young man in one of the villages near the Jungle in India. For many years he had worked in the fields dreaming about life and its secrets.

When he was about 20 years old, he found a wise man, in a village not too far away, who promised to teach him to understand the mysteries of this world.

Day after day, week after week he went to see the Master and listen to his teachings.

One day, suddenly, whilst sitting at the feet of the Mater, he exclaimed:

“Now I understand, now I know what the mystery is all about. “God is within me, and I am within God, therefore I am God.”

Highly elated me made his way home to his village, softly chanting all the time: “God is within me, and I am within God, therefore I am God.”

Walking along the road, he saw in the distance an elephant coming out of the Jungle with a Mahout on top. As they came closer, the Mahout started to yell at the student:

“Get out of the way, let the elephant pass!”

The student took no notice of him but just kept walking in the middle of the road, thinking:

“Why should I get out of the way of an elephant? Surely he knows that God is within me and I am within God and therefore I am God.”

The student’s walking came to an abrupt stop when he found himself standing against the trunk of the elephant. Startled he looked up just in time to see the elephant lift his trunk, wrap it around him, lift him and toss him into the ditch at the side of the road, and then kept on walking in the middle of the road.

Bruised and humiliated the student picked himself up and got out of the ditch. Not understanding what had happened to him, he made his way back to his Master. On his arrival he told his Master what had happened, and surely something was very wrong for the Mahout and the Elephant should have honoured him because:

“God is within me and I am within God and therefore I am God.”

The Master gently smiled at the student and then said to him:

“Yes, my son, I know that God is within you and that you are within God and that you are God, but what you have forgotten is:

“God is also within the Mahout and within the Elephant and they are within God and therefore they too are God for all of us share in the same Life force.”

The Sower’s Responsibility – Roza Riaikkenen

When we find a “seed” of real wisdom, real Truth, in the writings of the real spiritual Messengers, like H.P. Blavatsky, this “seed”, if it appears in the blessed condition of our keen perception, may sprout in the field of our soul. But before sprouting, it will go through a long and difficult process of development inside our soul. This process is like carrying a baby and giving birth. It requires our sacrifice and endless patience in life experiences that allow the “seed” to develop and manifest.

If we are sacrificial and patient enough, then in due time the “seed” will sprout, and we will receive the harvest with other “seeds” that proceeded from the original “seed”, but are already our own creations, fed by our blood and inner fire of our soul. Then we can sow them in the fields of human souls and expect them to develop and sprout there in their time.

This is a working mechanism for any sower, either in the field of nature, or in the field of knowledge: to receive the following generation of seeds, you have to allow the original seed to go through the stages of development and manifestation, and to provide proper conditions for this sacred process with your effort. In the case of knowledge, you have to experience anything in connection with the “seed” and to draw a lesson, which provides you with the new knowledge.

Of course, we can try to quickly “catch” the term, the statement, the quotation, and try to disseminate it as it is, just referring to the source and not bothering ourselves with the lengthy and difficult process of deep understanding and experiencing, the process that inevitably leads us to our spiritual uplifting. But the ‘seed” has no chance of surviving and sprouting without the special conditions of our soul. Such “seeds” of knowledge will not ignite anyone else. No harvest will be received in humanity’s consciousness.

Perhaps, this is why the Masters continuously pass their messages through different messengers, finding in different corners of our planet people who are ready to put themselves at the disposal of the Hierarchy of Light for the purpose of transferring this spiritual Light to humanity.

A Thorny Story.

Two men were travelling along a village road. One man stood on a thorn and, crying out in pain, said he could go no further ‘till the thorn was removed. The other man went ahead regardless, and began shouting: “You fool, it is getting late. If you don’t start running, we shall not reach our destination before nightfall”.

His impatient man said: “Why are you making such fuss? Come on, get up or I’ll leave you here!” He hurried on ahead, leaving his companion in pain by the side of the road. Soon he too trod on a thorn and sat down, writhing in pain. As even touch aggravated the pain, they were not able to remove the thorns themselves. There they were, suffering the same agony, but separated from each other by unkindness. They were unable to help each other ‘til a third traveller came along and removed the thorns from their feet. The third man said to them: “If you had removed the thorn in the other man when he had one in his foot, he would have accompanied you, and when you had the thorn in your foot he would have helped you. Thus would you march rapidly towards your destination. But by ignoring each other’s pain you were both in trouble”.

Similarly, a hard-hearted man, when he finds a fellow-traveller in this thorny and rugged path of life, stricken with pain and penury, turns aside and goes his way. The nature of life itself is such that he too is soon stricken by the same kind of pain and penury. Beyond the reach of all help, this hard-hearted man also suffers.

Eventually there comes into the world a sage of supreme wisdom, who had the consciousness of unity, and relieves them of their misery, and in the hearts of both implants the seed of love. He said: “”O man, pain exists in the other man only in order to give you an opportunity to serve him and relieve him of his misery. Thus, serving each other, will you evolve more rapidly and proceed to your destination. You may laugh at the other man’s misery and say it is his Karma. Soon, however, you might find yourself in the same condition. Understand the nature of the world. Serve all. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Old saying: Curses, like pigeons, come home to roost”.

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Things Are Not What They Seem – Maya.

In Theosophy it is often said that the familiar world is not the complete picture of reality. In Hindu philosophy this concept is called ‘Maya’ or ‘illusion’ [see the detailed definition below], as the material world has its foundation in the invisible world, just as when we speak or write, the reality of the words are in our invisible thoughts.

Nothing, we believe, can be more real than the earth we stand on, the moon, sun and stars in the sky which always seem to remain the same. But is this actually the case? Theosophical teachers reflecting the teachings of the ancient mystery schools, tell us that nothing is as it appears or remains the same for very long. The manifest universe is “maya” (illusion) compared to the spiritual realities that underlie and interpenetrate the material universe with which we are more familiar.

Look around you. A comfortably familiar room meets your eye – but is all as it seems? Whilst you are quietly reading this, you are in fact spinning with the Earth at 1,600 kmph whilst it orbits the Sun at about 100,000 kmph. The Sun in turn is orbiting the centre of the galaxy at about 800,000 kmph. The whole Milky Way galaxy of 400 billion stars including our own Sun, is moving around in the Local Group of about 30 similar galaxies at about 300,000 kmph. The Local Group including our home Milky Way galaxy is hurtling towards the centre of the Local Super Cluster of galaxies at about 1 million kmph. The Local Super Cluster is moving at about 1 million kmph in the general direction of the Hydra Constellation of stars and superimposed on this is the general expansion of the Universe itself by which distant galaxies are receding from each other at near the speed of light! If all the planets and suns, and us!, are moving at such a rapid pace, why does everything look much the same from one moment to another? The planets, stars and galaxies are such immense distances apart, that it takes a very long time from our human perspective for them to move relative to one another. That’s why everything looks to be the same, yet it is moving at an unbelievably rapid pace.

A dizzying yet sobering picture of wheels within wheels in rapid and constant motion though outwardly the world and the night sky look much the same from one day to the next! Worth pondering upon that not even the material universe that we often take to be ‘reality’, is as it seems or remains the same even for one nanosecond. How much then can we rely upon the world of appearances in our search for spiritual realities?

Definition of “Maya”, from the Sanskrit ma, “to measure”, and by extension of meaning, “to effect, to form, to limit”, translated as “illusion”, however, not meaning that things do not exist, but that we are blinded and our mind coloured by our own thoughts, and do not as yet arrive at the real interpretation of the world around us. “Maya or illusion is an element which enters into all finite things, for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute, reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for any observer depends on his powers of cognition”. (H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 1:39).

Mantra for the Kali Yuga:

In one of the sacred books of India, the Kalisantarana Upanishad, advice is given concerning the proper religious observance during the present Kali Yuga period (the Black or Materialistic Age). Lord Brahma recommends simply chanting the following mantra, or sacred sounds:

‘O Hari, O Rama, O Hari, O

Rama, O Rama O Rama, O

Hari, O Hari! O Hari, O Krishna,

O Hari, O Krishna, O Krishna O

Krishna, O Hari, O Hari!

This collection of sixteen names (of Narayana) destroys the evils of the Kali Yuga. I don’t see any other effective means (of liberation) in the Vedas;”

Perhaps what was meant is to keep the mind and heart focussed on spiritual truths by using these sacred names and to thus avoid the many distractions to spiritual growth surrounding us in this modern, Kali, age.

It is interesting to note that the Bhagavata also recommends the chanting of the divine names of Krishna thus echoing the teaching of the Upanishad. This teaching is of course put into practice by millions of Hindus throughout the world every day.

For those interested, the Bhagavata says that the appropriate path for spiritually inclined people of each of the four yugas is as follows:

“The result one obtained in the Krita Yuga by meditating on Vishnu, in the Treta Yuga by performing Yajnas (sacrifice) for the sake of Vishnu, in the Dvapara Yuga by serving Him, is obtained in the Kali Yuga [i.e. the present period] by singing the glories of Hari”.

A Little Love and Affection – Neil Young

“A little love and affection,

In everything you do,

Will make the world a better place,

With or without you”.

(Neil Young, from “Falling from Above, from the album Greendale, published 2003)