AUSTRALASIAN TS NEWSLETTER No. : 72 Dec. 2000
Theosophical Society (Pasadena) Australasian Section
664 Glenhuntly Rd., South Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria 3162 AUSTRALIA
Tel. : (03) 9528.1011 Fax : (03) 9528.3097
Email : email@example.com
WWW homepage : www.circle.net.au/tasnl/tsau
The Imitation of Christ.
What can the Stars teach us?
Golden Stairs 9 : Courage, Principle and Valour.
THE IMITATION OF CHRIST
Christmas is the most widely celebrated Christian festival - a remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is a suitable time to turn our attention to the influence of Christianity on world consciousness these past 2000 years. With the exception of the Bible itself, a little devotional book written 600 years ago has possibly been the most influential book in Christian literature - The Imitation of Christ. Written by German monk, Thomas A’Kempis at some time between 1390 and 1440, it has been the source of inspiration to millions of Christians over the centuries.
This book should be prescribed reading for everyone who is seeking the spiritual Path amid the turmoil and distractions of daily life. It is as fresh and relevant today as it was when the ink dried on the parchment pages in a German monastery those many years ago. Remarkable for its simple language and style, it emphasises the spiritual rather than the materialistic life, it affirms the rewards of being “Christ-centred”, and supports the Holy Communion as a means to strengthen faith. Thomas A’Kempis stresses a common-sense approach to life, encouraging us not to be overly intellectual in a bookish way, and to walk the middle-path of moderate, not extreme, austerity. His final comments in the book show the great comfort and inspiration many people derive from religious rituals, in this case, the Holy Communion of the Christian Church.
From a Theosophical point of view, this wonderful book is an accurate portrayal of the Christian message. According to Theosophical teachers, Jesus Christ was an “Avatara”, or divine spiritual teacher and inspirer of the Piscean Age of approximately 2,000 years duration, just completed. The Gospels, rather than being an accurate historical record, were a type of spiritual instruction manual urging Christian devotees to follow the example of Christ in their own lives. Therefore, Thomas’s title and purpose for his book is completely accurate. As far as Theosophy is concerned, we should all live in The Imitation of Christ attempting to apply his message of revering God and loving our neighbours equally as ourselves. When reading this book, if we simply apply the Theosophic understanding of the “Higher Self” rather than the Christian terminology of “Jesus Christ” and “Thy” and “Thine,” etc.., we could be reading a theosophical book! All the great lessons discussed by Theosophical writers are there, from the importance of the Inner Life, the necessity of prayer and meditation, the need to develop patience, be moderate in our living, to centre our consciousness in the Christ-like aspect of ourselves, the impermanence of material things, the necessity of seeking unity with the Inner God, and the constant temptations and inner battles to be faced on the Path of spiritual development.
What better advice can there be at this sacred time of the year, than this simple prayer from The Imitation of Christ to put our trust in the hands of the Inner God within all of
“Grant me Thy grace, most merciful Jesus, that it may be with me, and work in me, and persevere with me even unto the end. Grant that I may ever desire and wish whatsoever is most pleasing and dear unto Thee. Let Thy will be mine, and let my will follow Thine and entirely accord with it. May I choose and reject whatsoever thou dost, yea, let it be impossible for me to choose or reject except according to Thy will. Grant that I may die to all worldly things, and for Thy sake love to be despised and unknown in this world. Grant unto me, above all things that I can desire, to rest in Thee, and that in Thee my heart may be at peace. Thou art the true peace of the heart, Thou art alone its rest; apart from Thee all things are hard and unquiet. In Thee alone, the supreme and Eternal Good, I will lay me down in peace and take my rest.”
[Thomas A'Kempis The Imitation of Christ Translated by W. Benham Published in London by MacMillan in 1874 pages 175-6, available from any good bookshop in more modern translations.]
Tapes : A wide range of new tapes of Headquarters meetings are now available from our library by contacting Tony Downey at our Centre in Melbourne. Also, we have a new series of lectures on the Bhagavad Gita given recently in Melbourne by a visiting Indian pundit.
Holistic Health Conferences : indicative of the changes in attitudes to alternative medicine are two up-coming conferences in Victoria. The 7th International Holistic Health Conference will be held in March 2001 near Mt Buller, and the Australian College of Holistic Nurses 4th International Conference will be held in November 2000 in Lorne.
The Return of the Prodigal Son : in our last issue, we reviewed a new book written by one of our regular attendees at our Melbourne meetings, Roza (and Margarite) Riaikenen. This book is currently available on the Internet at : www.abacus-es.com/son or contact the authors through the editor for a printed copy to be sent on loan to you.
NIGERIA : we have recently received a letter and a detailed report on recent developments in theosophical work in Nigeria from Paul Agbo, Secretary of a Working Committee of the Nigerian Section. Mr Agbo and Igwe Amakulo, Chairman of the Committee, report on a National Conference held at Nsukka in April where a number of excellent lectures and addresses were given. A highlight of the conference was an address by the most senior member in Nigeria, who will be remembered by our senior members here, Mr A.U. Ogubunka, who recalled the history of the TS in Nigeria since the 1940s. The Working Committee was established to help revivify the work of our Society in Nigeria. You can help by sending us books and old Sunrise magazines which we can send on for the theosophical library in Nigeria. This is your opportunity to help our Companions in Nigeria! Contact the editor if you can assist providing reading materials for the Theosophical library in Nigeria.
HOLLAND : The latest issue of the Dutch newsletter, Impuls, contains several interesting articles. Of particular note is a long article on the fascinating traditional wisdom of the American Indians by Coen Vonk that mentions some recent books on this subject. Bas van Olst has written a wonderful article on karma as a key in daily life which would be of great value to all our readers. I was particularly taken with the story by Laura Vink, of a ninety year old voluntary social worker in a Dutch prison who gave freely of her time and energy to help the prisoners, “lambs” as she calls them, even at her advanced age. Laura Vink writes : ...”When we wake up in the morning, it is good to know that our inner god is always there, always helping us, provided we keep our channel to it open. To achieve this, we must apply the idea of universal brotherhood in our daily lives, so that we can strengthen the forces of light and meet more people like the granny with her “lambs”.
UNITED STATES : Sunrise Magazine’s 50th Volume :With the October/November 2000 issue, Sunrise, our international magazine, commences its 51st volume. Founded in 1951 by James A. Long, leader of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) from 1951-1971, it continues to present, in accessible language, the timeless principles at the core of the world’s spiritual, philosophic, and scientific traditions and their application to daily life. Grace F. Knoche, our present Leader, has edited the magazine since 1971. Congratulations to all those who make Sunrise such a delight to read every two months for 50 years!
Book by Grace Green Knoche available again : The adventures of the Atom : a Cosmic Fantasy inspired by the Stanzas of Dzyan by our present Leader’s mother is now available on the Internet at www.theosociety.org/pasadena/tup-onl.htm. This “story for children of all ages” traces the evolution of worlds and humanity from the perspective of the life-atoms or living centres of consciousness. Dr Knoche was the editor of the Lotus Circle Messenger under G de Purucker and the series originally appeared from 1931-33 and in 1994-5 the current version was published in Sunrise.
Oddspot : Karma at the Olympic Games : More than 3.5 billion people are estimated to have watched the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sydney recently. Australian rock music group, “Savage Garden”, performed their world-wide hit song “Affirmation” at the Closing Ceremony. This song is entirely about the law of Karma, and the necessary qualities required of the human race for future happiness and spiritual development. The main verse of the song says, “I believe in Karma, what you give is what you get returned”. Isn’t it heartening for Theosophists to see this message being broadcast to the world’s largest audience. 125 years of Theosophical effort has not been wasted!
Many thanks to our friends from other Sections around the world who send us their newsletters regularly. These newsletters are available from our library in Melbourne or photocopies can be sent.
WHAT CAN THE STARS TEACH US?
2,000 years ago, the Bible tells us, three wise men followed the light of a special star to find the birthplace of Jesus Christ. What can the stars teach us today in this technological age? In July this year, the results of a survey of 100,000 galaxies [“galaxies” are huge gatherings of millions of stars and their planets that look like gigantic whirlpools in space] conducted at Coonabarabran, here in Australia, revealed the structure of our Universe like never before.* The resulting galaxy map reveals that the cosmos is like a huge spider’s web. Superclusters of galaxies lie bunched in walls or form long filaments. Each of these structures is separated by vast voids. In some areas gravity continues to pull thousands of galaxies into enormous structures - the largest in the known universe. What can all this mean For theosophical students?
We are starting to appreciate the reality of the ancient teachings that the universe is one of an infinite number of vast living organisms extending from the infinitely divisible atom to the supergalactic structures we are now seeing, and beyond, to macrocosmic entities. Theosophical teachings compare our Earth to an electron and our solar system to an atom in the body of a being so vast that we cannot see it. We see only other atoms, galactic molecules, and now, larger molecular swarms surrounding us. A Theosophical teacher comments on this subject : “The Milky Way [our home galaxy], a complete and self-contained universe, is aggregatively, but one cosmic cell in the body of some supercosmic entity, which in turn, is but one of an infinitude of others like itself. The great contains the small; the greater contains the great. Everything lives for and unto everything else. This is the reason why separateness has been called the “great heresy”. It is the great illusion, for separateness is nonexistent. Nothing can live unto itself alone. Every entity lives for all, and the all is incomplete without the one entity, and therefore lives for it.” [G. de Purucker The Fountain-Source of Occultism p.113]
The ancient wisdom further postulates that consciousness is not bounded by physical size. Intelligent entities may quite possibly inhabit the electrons of our bodies, or equally, the macrocosmic structures we see in the recent star surveys. Is it not possible that such beings, like us, might be pondering these wonderful truths of the ancient wisdom right now? As the same theosophical teacher comments about beings living on the electrons of our bodies ...”Their universe is a single organ of our body, and their galaxy is a single molecule of a cell of that organ. This is consciousness, atman, not “name and form”...Consciousness has no magnitude. It will fill space, it will fill an atom, and things incomparably smaller than one of our chemical atoms. It is dimensionless, because it has no shape, no form, no rupa...” [G de Purucker : The Dialogues of G. de Purucker V.3 pages 165-167.] One might fantasise that the larger being of which we form a part could be no further progressed in spiritual evolution than ourselves; conversely, that hierarchies of divinely conscious beings could inhabit the atoms of our bodies whose “worlds and galaxies” live out their life cycles and reimbody in one of our split seconds! A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions befalling the galactic being of which we form a minute part, we infinitesimals might know nothing or little about it, just as the atoms and molecules, our worlds, might peregrinate as do the life-atoms which enter and leave us at every instant.
The fact that modern science is beginning to have some understanding of the ancient truth that we are part of a larger organism has ethical implications for us all. We are encouraged to lift our heads from our transitory worries and seek the broader horizons of the night sky, alive with evidence of our brotherhood with the stars. From infinitesimal being to galactic supercluster, we see the intimate connections and realise that we each have our own role to play. We start to respect our bodies, our environment, and the universe as “temples of life”, and are encouraged to treat ourselves and others with reverence. We realise that our actions today will affect the destiny of the planets and suns of the distant future, when we, as evolving beings, shall inhabit celestial forms - stars and galaxies - to provide the environment for the humanities of tomorrow, the evolved life-atoms of our own constitution.
[* the recent star survey is called the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey, named for the 2 degree fields of view examined with a pair of spectrographs at the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Coonabarabran, Australia. The survey includes about one-twentieth the area of the entire sky. As of July 2000 this survey had mapped more than 100,000 galaxies out to a depth of 4 billion light-years. Astronomers expect the census to encompass 250,000 galaxies by the time researchers complete it in 2001.]
GOLDEN STAIRS Step 9 : Courage, Principle, and Valour
We continue our series on the advice given by our teachers for enlightened living, called by them The Golden Stairs to the Temple of Wisdom. Three steps fall naturally together because they relate to necessary qualities of bravery and fortitude on the spiritual Path - A courageous endurance of personal injustice, a brave declaration of principles, a valiant defence of those unjustly attacked.
Have you ever noticed how often myths and folkstories speak of battles and great adventurous deeds by knights and warriors? It seems at first thought to be a strange way of discussing spiritual matters! This was partly because such stories had an instant appeal in rough and dangerous times when conflict was commonplace. But beyond this, it is true that the warrior’s code of bravery, endurance and self-sacrifice are also qualities which must necessarily be developed and applied by the student climbing the Golden Stairs to the Temple. Consider such stories as The Search for the Holy Grail, Theseus and the Minatour, the Rainbow Warriors of the American Indian tradition and the Path of Horus through Fire and Water of the ancient Egyptians and you see that the idea was widespread. Even the Buddha was from the “Ksatriya” or warrior caste in India. If this was so, you can appreciate that a courageous endurance of personal injustice requires the bravery and self-control of a soldier applied to spiritual pursuits. Consider the story of Jesus who encouraged his disciples “to turn the other cheek” and was himself said to have been crucified though he had the power do defend himself if he had wished. In our own theosophical tradition, think of HP Blavatsky who suffered many injustices in the cause of Theosophy but did not defend herself. Why was this the case? For many reasons, amongst them to demonstrate the power of forgiveness in the long term, and to show a deep understanding of the Law of Karma.
A brave declaration of principles and a valiant defence of those unjustly attacked has ever been expected of soldiers. Discrimination and open-mindedness does not mean you abandon your principles. There will come times when we are all put to the acid test of our principles. Sometimes this happens “en masse” when our country is threatened in war. I am reminded of such an example told me by one of our members whose father was a retired German army officer during the final days of the defence of Berlin in the Second-World War. Boys and old men were the only “cannon-fodder” left to defend a doomed regime. My friend’s father, at enormous risk to himself, simply told his motley crew of boy-soldiers and old men to return home and accept the inevitable changes in Germany. He bravely followed his own principles and saved the lives of the many innocent people under his command.
Next issue : We conclude this series with the tenth and final step to the Temple gates : A constant eye to the ideal of human progression which the Secret Science (Gupta Vidya) depicts.
Australasian TS Newsletter is compiled and edited by Andrew Rooke, published and distributed by Lo Guest and staff. We can be contacted at the Theosophical Society (Pasadena), 664 Glenhuntly Rd., South Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA. Tel : (03) 9528.1011 Fax : (03) 9528.3907 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org World Wide Web homepage at http://www.circle.net/tasnl/tsau
We welcome contributions on theosophy or related subjects. You can be placed on the mailing list by contacting the editor.
May the Blessings of the Sacred Season be with you and sustain your efforts to “Live the Life” in 2001 and Beyond. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All!