No. : 78 November 2002

Theosophical Society (Pasadena) Australasian Section

664 Glenhuntly Rd., South Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria 3162 AUSTRALIA

Tel. : (03) 9528.1011 Fax : (03) 9528.3907

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ISSN : 0814-569


The Custom of Saying ‘Grace’ - Heathclyff St James-Deville


The Theosophical Box

Seven Jewels of Wisdom : Evolution - Stefan Carey

Obituary : Manuel Oderburg


Heathclyff St. James Deville, Melbourne

One hardly hears anyone saying ‘Grace’ and giving thanks before eating their dinner these days! As we enter the Christmas and holiday season, I wonder sometimes just how many folks still say “Thank you, My Lord” before each meal - whatever they consider God to be.

Did you know that the concept of saying Grace at mealtimes goes back a very long way? In the ancient Indian spiritual classic, the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Lord Krishna says to Arjuna : “The Devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (3:13) This statement, which at the outset may seem rather alarming in view of our restaurant culture here in Australia, intimates the importance of remembering where our food came from before we tuck into a hearty meal. Other living beings have had to sacrifice their lives so that we can continue ours.

In the Christian scriptures we learn that St. Paul himself said Grace : “....he gave thanks in the presence of them all” for the food they had before them. [Acts 27:35] In the Catholic Encyclopedia we read that : “This custom is frequently emphasized as an important family ritual to carry over the spirit of the day’s liturgical prayer, especially at morning and evening, as well as to acknowledge God in a prayer of blessing for His providence in offering sustenance for His creatures. This derives largely from the important Jewish domestic ritual custom of offering special prayers at mealtimes, especially the weekly sabbath meal and the annual seder.” - this being the first night of the Jewish Passover.

It is interesting to note that the word is a relic of the old phrase ‘to do graces’, meaning to render thanks from the French ‘rendre graces’ or the Latin ‘gratias agere’and therefore it can be infererred as not relating necessarily to a shallow religious observance only.

For myself, I strongly believe saying Grace is another opportunity we have for reflecting on Life’s questions. By giving thanks outwardly for our food, we thereby pay homage and connect in a limited way with the One Divine Creative Principle and therefore All Life. Saying Grace can assist in leading us to better dietary habits by making us more thoughtful of what we eat and seeing how our sustenance is connected with this, All Life. In particular it should lead us to be less destructive of other life forms in what we routinely consume and realize the sacrifice of other lives to sustain us. By saying Grace, it gives us the opportunity to reflect deeper on the types of food we eat and to develop heightened spiritual sensitivity. We have occasion to remember and empathize with those who are not so fortunate as ourselves to have a wholesome meal to eat and resolve to help them when we can. Saying Grace is just another little way in which we can connect regularly with spiritual realities and realize that we are all One in Spirit and therfore be more sensitive to our opportunities each day to help other sentient beings. I thoroughly recommend everyone to say Grace not just over the Christmas meal, but everyday and ponder on some of these ideas.

The old saying ‘Food for Thought’ takes on a whole new meaning when we look at our daily meal this way!


NEW WRITINGS BY HPB DISCOVERED : Some notes of meetings that were held by HPB with an inner group of students have finally been edited and published on the Internet for the first time by The Aquarian Theosophist . Parts I and II of the Transactions were edited by HPB and published in Lucifer in 1890/91. The remaining meetings were left unpublished as HPB passed away in May 1891. The new materials are the stenographic notes that HPB was unable to edit and put into literary shape. These are now available on the Internet, or a copy has been placed in our library in Melbourne for those interested, or contact the editor. The discussion covers several interesting points of technical teaching including esoteric astronomy, the incarnation of Manasaputras, numerology and other topics.

AUSTRALIA : The TS is run on a voluntary basis : so donations provide the funds we have to keep us going. Donations of time, effort and money are always welcome. If you can, please send cheques payable to the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) to Lo Guest, Treasurer, Theosophical Society (Pasadena), 664 Glenhuntly Rd., South Caulfield, Vict. 3162.

Help support our library : due to the rapidly rising costs of maintaining our library, we have recently had to cut all our magazine subscriptions except those that are supported by individual members. Can you help us by paying the annual subscription to one or more of our magazines? The average cost of a magazine is approx. $100 per annum. Also, we need donations to help support the purchase of books for our library based on the books reviewed in Sunrise . Can you assist us with this worthy work? Again, please contact Lo Guest at the above address if you can help.

ENGLAND : the latest issue of the English newsletter Compass ephasizes the performance of our natural duties or, Dharma. National Secretary, Renee Hall writes : ...”Our role and situation is karmic and natural opportunities occur which we can meet with sympathetic kindness. Scrupulous fulfilment of even our small, daily duties together with spontaneous reaching out to others will inevitably expand not only our consciousness but the thought life of all. Following the Great Ones, those self-forgetful small steps become the Path of Compassion leading eventually to the Great Renunciation chosen by all saviours and protectors of Humanity.”

USA : the latest issue of Kali Yuga Rag includes several articles on the esoteric ideas of famous American author Edgar Allan Poe. These articles certainly changed my view of this misunderstood genius.


When is it the right time to talk to someone about theosophy? We know that many people would benefit from knowing basic theosophical teachings - but how to introduce them to this line of thought? We might put them off by being too overbearing with our ideas. They might not like another “ism” in a world full of people marketing their ideas. A friend had a unique solution to this eternal dilemma for theosophical students.

I rang on his doorbell one evening to no avail so I proceeded down his driveway to try the back door. As I came closer to the garage I could here the sound of sawing and hammering and could see my friend hard at work through a crack in the garage door. “What are you building” I yelled into the busy workshop? “No peeking, you’ll find out in good time” came back the reply. I wandered off, wondering what engineering miracle my friend was about to produce. A few weeks later I dropped in for a cup of tea and over the edge of my cup I noticed an addition to the lounge room furniture. In the corner of the room stood a shiny new wooden box painted with a single word on the side - “Theosophy”. “What on earth” I asked. “What is this all about?” “This is my ‘Theosophical Box’”, he replied. “When people come to visit me they eventually see this box in the corner with “Theosophy” painted on the side of it. Naturally they ask me what theosophy means and I have had many good theosophical discussions this way!

I don’t know whether you would agree with my friend that this is the best way to introduce the subject of theosophy to people. Opportunities usually arrive in much less spectacular ways in normal conversation and dealing with the problems of life that we all encounter. Then we have the chance to discuss a persons situation from a sympathetic and supportive point of view using theosophical concepts but maybe never even mentioning the word ‘Theosophy”. Sometimes mentioning theosophy can have the opposite affect and be off-putting to some enquirers. For example, it is cold comfort indeed for someone who has lost a loved-one or suffering a serious illness to be told about karma and reincarnation - even though these are perfectly appropriate to the situation from a theosophical viewpoint. What is needed at such a time is practical support and emotional warmth based on our understanding of theosophy rather than a lecture on technical teachings which will probably upset the person we are trying to help. We sometimes tend to lose sight of the fact that theosophy encourages us always to practice common-sense in our approach to its teachings and therefore, to the responsibility of passing them along to other people.

Theosophy is based on Brotherhood and Brotherhood encourages ‘Compassion’. Compassion originally meant a ‘feeling with’ another’s situation. If we are committed enough to Compassion, we will feel the right time to mention theosophical ideas in whatever form is suitable for another person who needs our assistance. We were the person they asked, so it must be that karmically we are the right people to respond to their inner need at that moment.

What do you think on this question?


We continue our series on the seven jewels of wisdom or the basic teachings of the ancient wisdom. Let’s continue with the fifth jewel of wisdom which is the teaching related to evolution.

This doctrine suggests that there is an unending development for every aspect of the universe and every aspect of our nature. In theosophy it is used in the sense that everything is unrealised potential, and the realisation of the highest aspect of ourselves comes from within. The inner learning is not a process of adding but removing barriers to the knowledge already held within. As Lao Tsu took great joy in pointing out : “The more one knows the more one has to get rid of.” As theosophist G. de Purucker says : “Brick is not added to brick, or experience merely topped by another experience, or that variation is super added to other variations. We learn, we grow from within into a greater being, greater understanding. An eternal process of education - the word education meaning “to bring out, to see.”

To cultivate the essential characteristics of the individual or our Swabhava, is to realise them in manifestation. Nature or the world is our “field of action’, on and in which these inherent qualities function, upon which they act and from which they receive corresponding reaction. This action and reaction invariably becomes the stimulus or spur to further manifestations of energy on the part of the evolving entity.”

Theosophists are really emmanationists, rather than evolutionists, in that they believe our inner nature uses outer vehicles to learn with and not the other way around. The entity grows in understanding by gradually evolving self-consciousness and manifesting in greater degree the potentialities within. This process occurs over a vast period of time with the eternal spiritual part of us learning and growing in self-consciousness by using different bodies at different times which are suitable to our stage of spiritual development. At one time in the vast past we manifested as minerals, then in the vegetable kingdom, then in the animal kingdom, now as men, and in the future as what we would consider to be gods. There are many complex teachings associated with this process and those interested are referred to the series of Theosophical Manuals on these subjects available from our Melbourne library or Bookshop.


Nov.30, 1912 - Sept.18, 2002

Our dear friend and long-standing pillar of our Society’s work, Manuel Oderberg passed away at our international Headquarters on September 18th. Manuel was formerly a member of the Australasian Section and one of those who reinvigorated our work in the 1930s until his departure for HQ in 1964. The following tribute was recently issued by Headquarters :

Manuel was born November 30, 1912, in London, England, shortly before his family moved to Melbourne, Australia. Raised in a prosperous Jewish family, he early developed a serious interest in ancient Egypt. Skipping an afterschool activity to play truant at the public library, he discovered HP Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled in his mid-teens, and began corresponding with the theosophical headquarters, then at Point Loma, California. At 18 he joined the Theosophical Society, but resigned at his parents’ insistence, to rejoin when he turned 21. In 1930 he entered the University of Melbourne, studying pharmacy before taking an honours course in philosophy. After college he entered the armed services in the signal corps, serving much of his time in New Guinea.

After the war he entered journalism, working for the Australian Jewish News, and by the early 1950s became its editor, a difficult job in an era of great divisions and bitterness among Jewish communities that had survived the Holocaust. Heavily involved in theosophical work in Australia, he visited the theosophical headquarters in 1962 and was invited to join the staff. Noteworthy amongst his contributions there are many articles and book reviews he wrote for Sunrise on a wide variety of subjects. He donated most of his books to the Society, and when the Theosophical University Library opened to the public in 1972, he was appointed Research Librarian, a post he held until the mid-1990s. Manuel will be remembered not only for his encyclopedic knowledge, but for his warmth of heart, playful sense of humor, love of discussion, boundless curiousity, and youthful spirit.”

Manuel was a bright flower of the Australasian Section. A teacher and mentor to those fortunate enough to have known him. Vale dear friend.

Andrew Rooke

National Secretary

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 : World Wide Web homepage at The current issue of this newsletter is also published electronically on our website and copies can be sent via email.

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