AUSTRALASIAN TS NEWSLETTER
No. : 74 June. 2001
Theosophical Society (Pasadena) Australasian Section
664 Glenhuntly Rd., South Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria 3162 AUSTRALIA
Tel. : (03) 9528.1011 Fax : (03) 9528.3097
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
WWW homepage : www.circle.net.au/tasnl/tsau
ISSN : 0814-569
Marcus Aurelius : the real “Gladiator”
Seven Jewels of Wisdom : 1 : Reincarnation
MARCUS AURELIUS : THE REAL ‘GLADIATOR’
In March this year, the film, Gladiator, starring Australian actor Russel Crowe, won the Academy award for the best picture and the best male actor. Most cinema-goers wouln’t realize that the main character in the film, Roman general, Maximus, was modelled on the the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius (121 to 180AD). In the opening scenes of the film Marcus makes a short appearance, and it is clear that he is the dominating influence on Maximus and indeed, Maximus remains loyal to Marcus Aurelius’s philosophy of life with eventually tragic results for himself and his family. Marcus in real life, was a follower of the Stoic school of Greek pholosophy (whence our word in English, “stoicism”). Stoicism in many ways is similar to our theosophical teachings and clearly was an attempt at the time to bring forth some of the same truthes as we discuss in theosophy today. Marcus Aurelius’s book, Meditations, was written in his tent to console himself whilst on incessant military campaigns around the Roman empire. He probably never meant it to be read by anyone else, but to the great benefit of the world it survived the centuries and is now translated into all major languages from the original Greek. The Meditations, give wonderful advice on the conduct of everyday life in the light of spirituality. This little book should be on the bookshelf of every theosopihist and isn’t it amazing to see theosophic ideas inspiring a filn seen by miillions of people around the world!
Marcus’s Mediatations has been compared to the Christian classic The Imitation of Christ written ,1000 years later (reviewed in our December 2000 newsletter). Like the later Christian book, Mediatations gives little snippets of advice on life that can be easily read and absorbed by anybody. These observations reflect Marcus’s incredible life experience as a Roman soldier, statesman and administrator at the highest levels of the government of his day. They also reveal to us a kind, gentle, religious-minded family man, struggling as we all do to come to grips with a tough world. His words have been the inspiration of great poets such as Matthew Arnold, yet are simple enough to provide guidance for ordinary men and women. A couple of examples which serve to show the clibre of the man who inspired the Russel Crowe character in the film :
“Whatever the world may say or do,my part is to keep myself good; just as a gold piece, or an emerald, or a purple robe insists perpetually, “Whatever the world may say or do, my part is to remain an emerald and keep my colour true.” [Book 7:15]
Keep yourself simple, good, pure, serious, and unassuming; the friend of justice and godliness; kindly, affectionate, and resolute in your devotion to duty. Strive your hardest to be always such a mean as Philosophy would have you to be. Reverence the gods, succour your fellow mortals. Life is short, and this earthly existence has but a single fruit to yield - holiness within, and selfless action without.” [Book6:30]
Have you ever noticed how really wise people can get right to the kernel of Truth in very few words? Marcus is very much like this in his discussion of highly philosophical matters which he makes simple, succinct and relevant to daily life. Like theosophists of today, the great questions of Life absorbed him : the transitory nature of life experience, the living universe as a single organism, the necessity of change and growth, happiness and balance, death and after, the importance of living in the Now, self-reliance and self-directed spiritual evolution, the importance of Duty, the rule of Reason in one’s life, prayer and mediatation, and the necessity of spiritual awareness amid the cares of the world. Though he constantly refers to these philosophical questions, he is always very practical and down-to-eath. As we do in theosophy, his concern was to make philosophy a living inspiration for daily life, not a dry academic study unrelated to the world outside. Towards the end of his little book, after discussing many of the great questions of life, he simply leaves us with this potent advice :
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”
[Marcus Aurelius Meditations translated into English by Maxwell Staniforth is published by Penguin Classics (1964) and is available in good bookshops anywhere]
Australia’s Religious Communities on CD : a new CDROM giving details of Australia’s religious communities has just been released. Australia’s Religious Communities : a multimedia exploration has book length materials on 26 major religious groups, 60 biographies, 500 photographs, 230 tables, graphs and maps, and 50 minutes of video. This new reference source is available from the Christian Research Association at Locked Bag 23, Kew, Victoria, 3101at $59.95 for the standard edition and $110 for the professional edition. Check out their website at : www.cra.org.au or email at email@example.com
Index to Theosophical Magazines now available : Gladney Oakley and The Campbell Library in Sydney have recently produced a very useful index of theosophical magazines on CDROM. The index contains approx. 108,000 articles from some 90 theosophical and related periodicals. It also contains material such as The Secret Doctrine Index, The Mahatma Letters in chronological sequence, Collation of Theosophical Glossaries and various other texts and dictionaries. This significant new theosophical research tool is available from our library in Melbourne. If you want your own copy, they are available at $5.00 from The Cambell Library 4th floor 484 Kent St., Sydney, NSW 2000. Website : www.austheos.org.au/campbell.htm or email at : firstname.lastname@example.org The Campbell Library produces a very interesting newsletter which is also available direct from them.
News from Holland : the latest issue of the Dutch
THE SEVEN JEWELS OF WISDOM : 1 : Reincarnation
by Stefan Carey
We continue our series on The Seven Jewels of Wisdom with the first jewel - Reincarnation or Reimbodiment.
Reincarnation is the Anglicised word for ‘reinfleshment’, the coming again into a human body of an excarnate soul. The general idea applies to all ‘centres of consciousness’. From Plotinus (neo-Platonic philosopher, Egyptian, 205-270AD) we have the analogy that the process of reincarnation is like actors on a stage being killed in their play, and then changing their costumes to take on another role. In Egypt, reincarnation was accepted as transformation, and the symbol of this was the Benu Bird, or what we now know as the Phoenix. Plotinus, implying that humanity has more life than just one, speaks of : “the misfortunes that may accompany life, the loss of property, for instance; the loser will see that there was a time when it was not his. that its possession is but a mock boon to the robbers, who will in turn lose it to others, and even that to retain property is a greater loss than to forfeit it.” [Psychic and Physical Treatises : 28]
Joseph Campbell, the great American mythologist who died in 1988, suggests that as well as reincarnation there is a deeper level of our being : “those who have identified themselves with the mortal body and its affections will necessarily find that all is painful, since everything for them must end,” even if subsequently reembodied. “But for all those who have found the still-point of eternity around which all - including themselves, revolves, everything is acceptable as it is; indeed, can even be experienced as gloroius and wonderful.” [Reincarnation : the Phoenix Fire Mystery : 22]
The list of famous people who supported the concept of reincarnation is enormous. Here are just a few : Tennyson, Marcus Aurelius, Gustav Mahler, Henry Moore, Plato, Paracelsus, Edgar Allen Poe, Hermann Melville, HG Wells, Tsong Ka Pa, George Santayana, Benjamin Franklin. Could all these great minds have been deluded? As Benjamin Franklin himself said : “when I see nothing anahilated and not a drop of water wasted, I cannot suspect the anahilation of souls, or believe that God will suffer the daily waste of millions of minds already made that exist, and put Himself to the continual trouble of making new ones...I look upon death to be as necessary to the constition as sleep. We shall rise refreshed in the morning.”
It is also food for thought that you may meet all of your friends and enemies in the next incarnation! Finally, reincarnation necessarily provides for a spirit/consciousness/soul that cannot be destroyed - an idea common to all religions and many philosophies.
If reincarnation is the correct understanding of a phase of the after-death process, then it has a great purpose. It is also consistent with the idea of cause and effect. A general belief in reincarnation would encourage some people towards ethical behaviour if they saw that they would be the people they deserved to be in the next life. It runs counter to the concept of a convenient escape through vicarious atonement.
Next issue : The second jewel : Karma - the Law of Cause and Effect
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 : email@example.com World Wide Web homepage at http://www.circle.net/tasnl/tsau
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