Newsletter of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) Australasian Section
No: 107 August 2012
Questions and Answers on Karma – Andrew Rooke.
Reincarnation in Traditional African Religion: the Igbo of Nigeria – Igwe Amakulo.
Letters to the Editor:
What’s the Purpose of Reincarnation? Why Don’t I Remember Previous Lives? – Charles Reither.
Hanging Out Dirty Washing.
Odd-Spot: How Much Does a Soul Weigh?
Introduction to Hinduism – Tony Downey.
Commentary on Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Texts: Part 1: The Isvarapratyabhijnakarika: a Shaivite text from the 10th century – Don Shepherd.
Life Is: Death Is Not – Sajit Wadva.
Sacred Geography: Deciphering Hidden Codes in the Landscape - Paul Devereux.
Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations - As collected by Alexander Carmichael.
Don’t We Sell Our Reality For Illusion? – Roza and Margarita Riaikkenen
The Train – Don Shepherd.
Hamer Arboretum in the Dandenong Mountains, Melbourne, southern Australia. Photo: Stefan Carey.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON KARMA – Andrew Rooke
What exactly is Karma?
From the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit, the word, ‘kri’ meaning ‘to do’ or ‘to make’. Philosophically meaning ‘consequences’. When and entity acts, he acts from within; he acts through an expenditure in greater or less degree of his own native energy. This expenditure or out flowing of energy, as it acts upon the surrounding environment, brings forth a reaction from universal nature, either instantaneous or delayed. Nature in other words, reacts against the impact; and the combination of these two – of energy acting upon Nature and Nature reacting against the impact of that energy – is what is called Karma. Karma is essentially a chain of causation, stretching back into infinity of the past and therefore necessarily into the infinity of the future. It is inescapable, because it is in universal nature, which is infinite and therefore everywhere and timeless. Sooner or later a reaction will inevitably be felt by the entity which aroused it.
Karma is the universal law of harmony and balance, which ensures that every cause set in motion will, some time in the future, bring about its corresponding effect. It is intimately enmeshed with its companion doctrine of Reincarnation as our environment and choices from previous lives have an impact on our current and future choices and circumstances.
It is a very old doctrine known to all religions and philosophies. Common observation tells us that if you throw a stone into a pool, it causes ripples which spread outwards to the very edges of the pool. Also, modern science tells us that vibrations, such as TV, radio, or light waves, are carried outward into infinity. Every religion has stressed the doctrine of moral responsibility. In Christianity we read in the New Testament: ‘whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”. Islam speaks of Kismet as representing one’s individual portion or lot in life. The ancient Greeks had, Nemesis, or the goddess of retributive justice, and they personified the past, present and future as the three Moirai or Spinners of Destiny. In Judaism there is the injunction from Moses: “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. In Hindu and Buddhist philosophy the term is used to signify action followed by reaction.
There are many aspects to karma, such as world, national and racial karma, family as well as the better known individual karma. We can even say there is business karma, community karma, and so forth. In other words, every avenue of experience, from the individual to the international, men are thinking and acting and hence setting certain causes in motion which are bound to have their effects. So there is no end to the ramifications of actions and reactions. – edited from G de Purucker: Occult Glossary
Is Karma always punishment?
When we think of karma we tend to think of punishment inflicted on us from the outside for evil deeds in this, or previous lifetimes. However, there are different ways of looking at karma as awakener, friend, or certainly an opportunity to restore balance. In reality, karma is an out flowing of our very self, and can provide us with the opportunity to learn new life skills, or settle old debts with others, but it is up to us how we react to these opportunities. We therefore can view outwardly difficult life situations as ‘punishment’, but more accurately as opportunities to restore balance and learn valuable ‘soul’ lessons at the same time; eg. serious illness can be a time when we learn forbearance, patience, and concentrate our attention on spiritual realties rather than our everyday concerns.
If Karma is true, then why do good people suffer?
Picture a good person in their late adulthood stricken down with diseases caused by the dissolute lifestyle of their youth. Equally, we may be paying the price for the ‘sins’ incurred many lifetimes ago, the balancing karma appearing much later when we have learned in the meantime to be a better person. Karma has to find the right combination of environment and people to be able to balance disharmonies, and this may not occur for many lifetimes after an ‘evil’ deed. What about children suffering and dying in wars and natural disasters – were they all evil in the past? It may be that they have chosen to work out difficult karma in one short life with others of similar karmic background. Equally, they may well be very advanced souls who sacrifice themselves to elicit compassion in others. Outwardly difficult circumstances may be impulsed by the Higher Self to bring about an ‘initiation’ of individuals or groups into the finer qualities of human nature that we might normally take many lifetimes to achieve.
What good is suffering if we don’t remember what we did in previous lives?
If we suffer now, we feel it would be a lot fairer if we knew why we were suffering so we could make the necessary changes in our lives. However, according to Theosophy we are our own karma, ie our past actions have determined who we are and our situation of today. The physical brain is newly formed in each life, and therefore cannot remember all details of previous lifetimes. Also there are other factors involved mentioned by Charles Reither in his letter to the editor ‘Why don’t I remember previous lives?’ on page 8 of this issue. However, there is an aspect of ourselves that endures from one life to another – our Higher Self – which does remember, and which directs the circumstances for soul learning and setting the balance aright. According to Theosophy, there will come a day in the future when we have developed spiritually enough to withstand the shock of remembering the details of all our former lives. Until then, in quiet moments we can intuit some of the major lessons we have come into incarnation to learn.
Is Karma fatalism?
People often ask: “Does karma mean that everything in our lives is predetermined?”. Don’t we have some measure at least of free will to direct our lives? Theosophy teaches that we retain the power of free will at all times as this is a necessary precondition for spiritual growth and for us to grow to join the spiritually self-ware forces that administer nature’s operations. However, we exist as part of the whole of the Universe, and we are subject to the results of actions we have done in the past which must eventually be balanced. Just as a single cell is subject to the general health of the body, we are part of larger communities that determine our lives to a greater or lesser degree. Similarly, most people are weighted down with the heavy karma of past lives when they lived unaware of real action of the law of karma in their lives. Once such awareness is attained, it can make a big difference to how we choose to live our lives from thereon.
If Karma is true, then why should we bother helping those doomed to die of disease, poverty and starvation. Isn’t it their karma? Better luck next life?
Such an attitude is reprehensible from the viewpoint of Theosophy. Obviously, it is their karma; but if indeed we are one human family, and we certainly helped create the difficult present circumstances in past lifetimes, how can we isolate our karma from theirs? Surely it is part of our karma that, being incarnated in one of the more fortunate parts of the world, it is our obligation to do what we can to help those millions in less fortunate circumstances elsewhere. As HP Blavatsky said: “Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes action in a deadly sin.” Many people all over the globe are increasingly hearkening to this call and dedicating their energies to practical humanitarian aid to those less fortunate.
How do you reconcile heredity with Karma?
The law of Karma will attract us into the family, culture and nation where we can best fulfil our individual needs for soul learning. This may be into either outwardly comfortable or difficult circumstances, so that we individually have the opportunity to develop patience, tolerance, and other finer human qualities. The power of both love and hate can bind us into a particular group of people for as long as is needed to work out our Karma together, and then go our separate ways. According to Theosophy it is we who determine heredity by our behaviour in each life impressing our ‘life atoms’ with individual patterns of attributes. We merely pick up these bundles of attributes or ‘skandhas’ as they are called in Sanskrit, at each rebirth, and go on from where we left off last life.
What about the fact that all of us are subjected to the will of our families, nations and the global environment. How does individual karma fit with such group karma?
There are many aspects of karma, such as world, national, and racial karma, family as well as individual karma. In every avenue of experience, from the individual to the international, we are thinking and acting and hence setting certain causes in motion which are bound to have their effects. According to Theosophy, we are all part of a living universe and hence connected in a web-work of life over vast periods of time. We have developed strong karmic relationships at family, national, and global levels during this long process of learning, and so we are bound to have to work out our group, as well as our individual karma. The current crisis of global warming could be said to be an ultimate example of group karma for the whole human race.
Does God step in to save us from our Karma?
Just as we are more progressed in self-consciousness than the animals, there are beings, call them ‘God’, ‘Gods’ or whatever, who are more advanced than us humans on the ladder of spiritual evolution. People pray to their vision of them all the time, but it is said in Theosophy that they rarely if ever interfere with our Karma, though the may ‘dam’ it back to stop it overwhelming the human race. Humans, as learning beings, must be free to work out our own destiny, which means that our mistakes will eventually recoil upon ourselves, for it is thus that we learn and may one day grow in self-consciousness to join ‘the Gods’. Men themselves decide their fate by their choice of the various alternatives life presents. The ‘Gods’ however, do guide, protect, and help forward the evolution of their ‘younger brothers’ wherever they can without interfering with our right to learn and grow through our own choices.
Is life fair?
Most people think that it is ‘bad karma’ when we undergo life’s trials such as illness, loss, handicap, and grief. But surely it is a common experience that such events give us the opportunity to learn soul lessons of patience, tolerance, and spiritual understanding in the most meaningful and enduring way – ‘blessings in disguise’ we often call such experiences. ‘Bad Karma’ may actually be ‘Good Karma’ from the viewpoint of soul learning! Theosophy teaches that ‘we are our own karma’ – meaning everything that comes to us is an out flowing of ourselves – our past. Perhaps our souls rejoice at such opportunities to reconcile past imbalances, learn valued lessons, nurture compassion, and possibly be of help to those around us a result of what we’ve learned in the ‘school of hard-knocks’.
All of this sounds good, but how do I know that any of it is true?
We can observe the cycle of ebb and flow, action and reaction everywhere in nature. If you toss a stone into a pool, it causes ripples in the water; and these ripples spread and finally impact on the banks. Modern science tells us that we live in a universe of waves and vibrations extending infinitely outwards into the universe impacting and reacting with atomic particles everywhere. Do you think human beings are any exception? Much of theosophical teaching is based on the learning of the Masters of Wisdom who have ventured self-consciously into the invisible realms which support the physical. Such Masters during their initiatory journeys, see the universe ‘as it is in itself’. They have returned from their initiations to teach us ordinary people what they have observed to be true there, and confirmed by comparison with the experiences of other Initiates.
Want to know more? Then why not check out: Grace F Knoche: To Light a Thousand Lamps. Chapter 7 on Karma; James Long: Expanding Horizons. Chapter on ‘Karma: law of cause and effect.’; Gertrude van Pelt: The Doctrine of Karma: Chance or Justice?; G. de Purucker: Fountain-Source of Occultism pages 410-420 particularly the chapters ‘Man is his own Karma’ and comments on the question, ‘Is Karma ever unmerited?’; Alternative perspectives on the common view of karma as punishment are offered by William Q. Judge in Karma the Compensator [ULT Pamphlet no.20] comprising ‘Is Karma only punishment?’ and ‘Good and Bad karma’.
Why not check out the articles on Karma listed at the Theosophy Downunder website at: www.theosophydownunder.org - Andrew Rooke, Melbourne, Australia.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, and giving birth to evolution.” Albert Einstein.
Meetings in Melbourne August to December 2012: Meetings all held at the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) Centre, 664 Glenhuntly Rd., South Caulfield, Melbourne (Tel: 0400942613) on Saturdays commencing at 2.30pm. The Centre is open by 2pm the day of the meeting.
Sat. August 4th, 2.30pm: The Mysterious Origins of Man: DVD and discussion – Paul Rooke.
Sat. August 18th, 2.30pm: Theosophy: Writings of the Leaders – 7: Grace F. Knoche – Don Shepherd.
Sat. September 1st, 2.30pm: Golden Stairs to the Temple of Wisdom – Andrew Rooke.
Sat. October 6th, 2.30pm: ‘We Are Carried into the Deep’: Wisdom of the I-Ching – Brian Parry.
Sat. November 3rd, 2.30pm: One God or Many? Where Did the Idea of One God Come From? – Jennifer Pignataro.
Sat. December 1st, 2.30pm: Applying Ideals in a Tough World: Panel Discussion – Tony Downey, Paul Rooke and Jennifer Pignataro.
Wednesday Discussion Group in Melbourne: in association with The University of the Third Age (U3A) a series of lectures and discussions concentrating on comparative study of the religions and philosophies of India and Asia and Basic Concepts of the Ancient Wisdom including Universal Brotherhood; After-Death – What?; Dreams and the Astral World; Reincarnation; Karma; etc. These meetings are held each Wednesday from 10.30-12.30 at our Library Centre, 664 Glenhuntly Road, South Caulfield, Melbourne. Further information is available from Andrew Rooke on 0400942613.
Ancient Man in Australia – New Discoveries: In 1974, the discovery of Mungo Man (see opposite) turned the conventional theory of human settlement in Australia upside-down. Mungo Man was a hominid who is estimated to have died 62,000 years ago, and was ritually buried. Anatomically, Mungo Man's bones were distinct from other human skeletons being unearthed in Australia. Unlike the younger skeletons that had big-brows and thick-skulls, Mungo Man's skeleton was finer, and more like modern humans. The ANU's John Curtin School of Medical Research found that Mungo Man's skeleton's contained a small section of mitochondrial DNA. After analysing the DNA, the school found that Mungo Man's DNA bore no similarity to the other ancient skeletons, modern Aborigines, and modern Europeans. Furthermore, his mitochondrial DNA had become extinct. The results called into question the 'Out of Africa' theory of human evolution. If Mungo Man was descended from a person who had left Africa in the past 200,000 years, then his mitochondrial DNA should have looked like all of the other samples. The latest research seems rather to support the concept that there were multiple migrations of humans and near-humans to Australia over at least the last 850,000 years. A really good summary of the evidence for this idea is available at:
“An authentic life is the most personal form of worship. Everyday life has become my prayer.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
REINCARNATION IN TRADITIONAL AFRICAN RELIGION: THE IGBO OF NIGERIA - Igwe Amakulo
[The doctrine of karma referred to in our lead article, is intimately interlinked with an understanding of reincarnation. Many people think of reincarnation as a doctrine only understood in Indian and Eastern religion and philosophy. Reincarnation is a widely understood teaching of the ancient wisdom in lands all over the world. Igwe Amakulo writes of the traditional belief in reincarnation amongst his own people of Igboland, eastern Nigeria in West Africa. – Editor]
Ever before the white men came with the Christian religion and Western civilization, our great grandfathers in Igboland (in Nigeria, West Africa) knew about reincarnation, which they called in local language, “Ịlọ ụwa” (a return to the world). They knew and also believed in life beyond, which they call “Ala-mụọ”. By “Ala-mụọ”, they mean the inner realms not just the fairyland of folkstories. It is at ‘Ala-mụọ’ that they imagine their noble ancestors to be living and interceding for them before “Chi-na-eke” (the God that creates) and “Ofo-na ọgụ” (Gods operating force) that balances things in nature including the yearly climatic conditions vital for their agriculture. It is at the same “Ala-muo” they believe their dead relations to be residing after physical death and from there would reincarnate probably to those that were their kin in their past life.
In Igbo land, our forefathers’ knowledge of life beyond the present one on earth is well understood to be transmigration of human souls through the seven worlds of being. In Igboland, when a good child or wife does quite a good turn to an old father or mother; in many occasions, the elderly ones are heard making such comments as “Ezi Nwam/nwunyem, ịgakwa abụ nwam /nwụnyem, ụwam ụwa asaa” – meaning “my good child/ wife, you will continue to be my child/wife in my seven worlds of being”. This is an indication that our great Igbo ancestors knew and believed in the doctrine of seven rounds and seven races in the evolutionary cycles of mankind, which theosophical teacher, Dr G de Purucker, gave a deep account of in his Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy page 252.
The Igbos conviction on the actual process by which man reincarnates varies. Some hold that man reincarnates with his former body and all its characteristics, of height, strength and complexion, while many are convinced that at death our bodies lies there food for worms; only the deathless spirit of God in the man would reincarnate. The same group holds further that merits and demerits in one’s former life would determine one’s parentage on reincarnation in a new infant body capable of growing and unfolding to adult body. This latter opinion is the one held by the majority of Igbo people.
There are many apparent factors that convince the Igbos in their belief in reincarnation. The reappearance of bodily marks of deceased persons on the body of new born baby is one basis for the Igbos belief in reincarnation. In the circumstance of mentally ill people who were violent in a past life and were constrained wearing handcuffs or ankle restraints for a long time before they died; it is believed that the scar of the wound caused by the handcuffs does appear on the wrists or ankles of some of them upon their reincarnation. It is same with those unfortunate people who perished by fire in a traumatic accident; the scars of burns appear on the body of some such cases upon reincarnation. When marks such as I have pointed out appear on the body of an infant in whose family somebody in the past had such a handcuff or died in a fiery accident; no further proof will be needed to accept that the deceased has come back.
Unexpected fears and phobias do exist in people, especially irrational fears related to fire, water, and sometimes, noise. There are men who dread to associate closely with women and vice-versa. The Igbos believe that such unexpected fears are caused by the pains felt by men who died in a fire, falling from heights, or who died in the hands of a very wicked woman, or an unscrupulous man in their former incarnation. They hold that noise which may recall disaster in previous lives caused by drowning, falls, crashes, or death on the battlefield, can cause such unexplained fears.
The occurrence of a child prodigy is called, “Ebibi-ụwa”, in Igbo language, meaning Nature’s imprint. Those born with their pre-incarnation intellectual and physical abilities are seen as yet another proof for the Igbos belief in reincarnation. In my home town, Umuahia, South Local Government in Abia State, Nigeria, there lived a renowned traditional medicine man called Nna-na-Mgbọrọggụ. Nna-na Mgbọrọgwụ was very famous in the early 1950s. My own father who was his senior in age, told me then that Nna-na-Mgbọrọgwụ was an exceptional human being. At the age of seven, he went to the bush behind their house and collected herbs which he compounded with other things and used the resultant medicine to cure his father’s uncle from the dreaded disease, tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis at that time was considered such a terrible threat to others in the village, that the poor suffers were ostracized from their own homes to a hut in the bush where such an unfortunate sufferer would be left to die. This young medicine man’s cure of his own uncle was like an advertisement for what was to be his mission in his present lifetime. People started approaching his parents with different health problems which this little boy efficiently managed. He did not go to school because he started the work of traditional medicine man at a very early age. Nna-na-Mgbọrọgwụ is an example of a man who points one’s mind to the possibility of his being a reincarnation of a forefather of his family. “Nna-nna” (fore father) “mgbọrọgwụ” (medicinal roots), when put together it gives the understanding, “our forefather who was medicinal root himself”, or knows all about roots for healing.
Traditional Igbo medicine man
Names such as those mentioned below are very common in Igboland. They are a true indication of the Igbos belief in reincarnation. Nna-nna (the father of his father); Nne-nna (the mother of his father); Nne-ji (my brother or sister); Nna-ji (my half brother/half sister); and Nwa-nne Daa (the brother or sister of my mother). None of these names is repeated in the family because they specify the ancestors. Relations in this life pay the child the same high respect they were accustomed to pay to the deceased grandparent or relation of their father. Some people in Igboland are bearing their pre-incarnation names and enjoying the high level of respect due to a grandfather /mother.
Despite the strong influence of Christianity in Igbo cultures and traditions, reincarnation has remained a heart belief of the Igbos which the orthodox religion has found hard to abolish. Before the conveyors of Christian faith, the Igbos already had their own well established and complex religion which was indirectly Theocentric, a sequel to the order of worship. Reincarnation itself is not a virtually conspicuous tradition that attracts outright condemnation or attack from the preachers of Christian faith in Nigeria. Nor does such a belief pose any threat or danger to it, like some barbaric customs of ancient times, e.g. twin killing, human sacrifice, etc. which attracted much concern in Nigeria and thankfully were stopped by the authorities.
The doctrine of reincarnation has been firmly impressed into the psyche of the Igbos despite the acceptance of Christianity by many people because of the persistence of traditional religion amongst the Igbo. Even when there is a measure of adherence to Christian doctrine, certain evidence of reincarnation forces many contemporary Nigerian Christians to think twice about what the Church tells them, and may lead them back to the traditions of their forefathers. . – Igwe Amakulo, Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria, West Africa.
If you would like to read more about reincarnation in African belief please read: ‘Reincarnation in traditional African religion’ published in Sunrise magazine, November 1980 or at: http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/world/africa/af-rook2.htm
“We are outwardly creatures of but a day — within we are eternal. Learn, then, well the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation, and teach, practice, promulgate that system of life and thought which alone can save the coming races.” - H. P. Blavatsky
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Charles Reither has written with comments and explanations following the article published in our last issue of Questions and Answers on Reincarnation:
What is the Purpose of Reincarnation? Prior to our individual existence we were wholly a part of the divine unified consciousness of the creator whom we refer to as ‘God’. When we were spawned forth from this divine unified consciousness; while we were spiritually conscious, we were not spiritually self-conscious.
The sole purpose of reincarnation is to guide and make us into divine spiritually self-consciousness beings to enable us to contribute in a positive fashion to the universal evolutionary purpose which is an integral part of the divine plan, the full comprehension of which is beyond our current understanding.
To do this, we must go through a series of experiences on each and every spiritual plane created for this purpose by the creator 'God'. There are very many different types of planes varying in degrees of materiality and spirituality which we must experience; however, the seven major planes are referred to as the 7 planes of mind.
In the course of this process, we are endowed with both a spiritual and material aspect of our nature. The material aspect is referred to as our Personality, while the spiritual aspect is referred to as our Soul. These two aspects are similarly referred to more accurately, technically, and respectively, as the lower and higher aspect of our reincarnating Ego. The former 'Personality' being mortal and non-reincarnating, while the latter 'Soul' being immortal and the reincarnating component of our being.
Reincarnation is an integral part of the evolutionary process that applies to all forms of life and existence; and its purpose for us is to obtain self-realisation, meaning the spiritual self-conscious aspect of our nature. This entails a major threefold process – being immersed in matter; freeing ourselves from that matter; and the return to from whence we came with our self-conscious aspect fully developed.
Why Don't I Remember Previous Lives? One should appreciate that there is a vast difference between the mind and the brain. The brain, being purely an organ of the mortal physical body, while the mind is an organ of our incarnating immortal Ego. While the cells of the human body each have a memory of their own, which come under the jurisdiction mostly of the brain; only that which is registered by our physical senses is recognised by our physical cells and our brain. To do it justice, Memory really needs to be divided into two components – ‘Exoteric’ and ‘Esoteric’.
The Exoteric component is sub-divided into three psychological perspectives: Sensory, Short term, and Long term. Each of these types of memory can be improved with specific practices. All of these types of memories are confined to our experience in our current physical incarnation. Also, we must not lose sight of the fact that the lower aspect of the Ego governs the personality and its three vehicles of expression.
Esoteric memory, however, is an entirely different issue, and wholly related to the higher aspect of the Ego, the Mind, and our individual spiritual development and Consciousness.
The higher mind, able to be accessed only by the higher aspect of our Ego, contains the principle which is the seat of reason and memory. This is also reflected in our sub-conscious mind that provides a link to our Ego or soul. The Ego extends beyond the 'instinctive' aspect of our mind and embraces the process of our conscious perceptions; such as: discrimination; memory; judgement; and emotions. The Ego represents the conscious state of our mind, and is highly selective; and, unless it acknowledges the presence of an idea; a feeling; a memory, or a perception; it cannot be brought into awareness.
Our Instinctive mind is the first recognition of mind, by those who are physically centred, and primarily polarised and responsive to their lower emotions. It contains, in its memory, all of the experiences of the self (Ego) from the lower forms of animal life right up to the present stage of our evolution and progress.
Carl Jung says it is the Ego that must acknowledge the presence of an idea, a feeling, a memory, or a perception before it can be brought into the awareness of the conscious mind. This is absolutely consistent with esoteric knowledge. The Ego represents the conscious state of our mind, and is highly selective; and, unless it acknowledges the presence of an idea; a feeling; a memory; or a perception; it cannot be brought into awareness. Our Esoteric memory is a principle that will be developed to its fullest degree in the next round, the fifth planetary round. This principle is the true seat of reason and memory. – Charles Reither, Melbourne, Australia.
HANGING OUT DIRTY WASHING
A young couple moved into a new neighbourhood recently. The next morning whilst they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbour hanging out the washing next door.
“That laundry doesn’t look very clean”, she said. “That lady next door doesn’t know very much about washing clothes. Perhaps she needs a new brand of washing powder!”
Her husband looked on silently. Every time her neighbour would hang out her washing to dry, the young woman would make the same harsh comments about her neighbour’s housekeeping abilities.
About a month later, the woman was really surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: “Look, she has finally got the message. She’s learned how to wash her clothes at long last! About time! I wonder who taught her how wash properly!”
The husband said, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our own windows, and now you can see her washing properly!”
And so it is with life too. What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the ‘window’ through which we look at the world. – from the Melbourne Welsh Church circular March 18th, 2012.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom” – Thomas Jefferson.
ODD-SPOT: How Much does a Soul Weigh?: absurd as this question may seem to students of Theosophy, in 1907 Dr. Duncan MacDougall weighed six patients while they were in the process of dying from tuberculosis in an old age home. He determined the soul weighed 21 grams, based on the average loss of mass in the six patients, using an industrial sized scale! 100 years later many scientists still insist that the Soul is somehow completely a function of the physical body, especially the brain. For example, an experiment in 1988 found that the human soul weighs 1/3,000th of an ounce! That’s the astonishing claim of East German researchers who weighed more than 200 terminally ill patients just before, and immediately after, their deaths. “In each case the weight loss was exactly the same–1/3,000th of an ounce.” “The inescapable conclusion,” Dr. Becker Mertens of Dresden wrote in a letter, printed in the German science journal Horizon, “is that we have now confirmed the existence of the human soul and determined its weight.” “The challenge before us now is to figure out exactly what the soul is composed of,” he wrote!
From America: Articles from The Theosophical Forum 1936-1951 have been posted online at: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/forum/forum-hp.htm From Karen Armstrong, we recently received a report on her Charter for Compassion, a world wide organization to promote peace comes a report: “…The Charter for Compassion articulated a compelling vision of compassion and the Golden Rule as precursors for global peace. We motivated 85,000 people to begin the journey of reflection and practice. And we inspired a first generation of deeply committed activists to take up the Charter’s message and lead a multitude of compassion-based initiatives around the world…”
From Turkey: Another ancient city dating back 12,000 years is being excavated in Turkey. Nevalı Çori was a settlement in eastern Turkey. The site is famous for having revealed some of the world's most ancient known temples and monumental sculpture. Together with the site of Gobekli Tepe, mentioned in our last Newsletter, it has revolutionised scientific understanding of ancient civilization in Eurasia.
From Iceland: we have recently been in touch with Gudrun Kristin Magnusdottir from Iceland. Gudrun has made a special study of the wisdom of the ancient Norse peoples and now is bringing this knowledge to public attention through the Internet. You can see her series Heathenry Iceland Chatter which covers many fascinating topics that readers of our own book on the subject, Elsa-Brita Titchenell’s, The Masks of Odin, may well find very interesting.
From Greece: Sotiria Galanopoulou from Athens reports on the discovery of an ancient skull, Petralonian Archanthropus, in Petralona Cave (located in Petralona, approximately 50 km from Thessaloniki). The cave was actually discovered way back in 1959 accidentally by a grazing goat. In the same year, Ioannis Petrocheilos, a Greek speleologist, found numerous bones of animals in the cave, many of them so ancient that they were covered with cave coral. One year later a human skull was discovered. The skull was hanging in the wall about 30cm above ground, where it was imbedded in part of the rocky structure of the cave. During 1965 anthropologist, Dr. Aris N. Poulianos, proved that the skull of Petralonian Archanthropus was: male, Europeoid and not Africanoid, pre-Neanderthalian, and of an age belonging to the Lower-Middle Pleistocene (~ 700.000 years old)! In other words, this skull was of the first known European who developed articulated speech and belonged to his own Palaeolithic culture, demonstrating some advanced skills of civilized life such as using fire. Dr. Aris Poulianos says: “The Community President followed the protocol and gave the skull to the University of Thessaloniki under a written agreement that it should be returned when an Anthropological Museum would be constructed in Petralona. But the finding was strangely hidden and disappeared. So, the proof that the most ancient Europeoid, discovered so far, remains unknown to the public! As for the Anthropological Museum of Petralona lacks the skull and caused by those people who deny the new reality”. When asked, in an interview, about his life’s accomplishment Dr. Poulianos replied: “In order to obtain this knowledge by research and excavations the cost was high but I never regret. I am just an anthropologist who may have found a missing link of human evolution. If I manage to convince every student, every preacher, and monk of any religion, or science that I am right, then, I will have accomplished my duty towards the world”.
Further information is available from:
And a video on You Tube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o8XhZ8sonw&feature=related
From England: The UK website has undergone an extensive overhaul and a new feature is the facility for ordering all TUP titles online directly using the online book ordering functions. The UK website is at: www.theosophical.org.uk
“The most valuable things in life are not measured in monetary terms. The really important things are not houses and lands, stocks and bonds, automobiles and real estate; but friendships, trust, confidence, empathy, mercy, love and faith.” – Bertrand Russell.
INTRODUCTION TO HINDUISM —Tony Downey
The population of India (including Pakistan) now exceeds one billion people and it has been estimated that those following the Hindu philosophy/religion total 85% of the entire population. The word “Hindu” is a relatively recent Persian word meaning “Indian” and was not intended to designate a religion; however, archaeologists have estimated from excavations in the Indus Valley in present Pakistan that ancient relics point to a belief system in the area over five thousand years ago (3000 BCE).
Scholars have a theory that, over the centuries, the Indus Valley civilization was visited by Aryan and Afghan tribes from Central Asia. The Aryans were mainly pastoral nomads and left little behind them in the way of archaeological evidence except for a collection of writings called the Veda—now the oldest and most sacred of the Hindu scriptures. From these scriptures follow the basic concepts of karma and reincarnation (the transmigration of the soul). Karma is the word for “action and its consequences” and from the Hindu view is the principle of justice ensuring that the effects of one’s action return to the source and is what binds the soul to a cycle of endless existence and determines its station in future existences. The ultimate goal of Hinduism is freedom from samsara (the ‘wheel’ of incarnation in the material world) or the continual transmigration or reincarnation of the soul. Moksha means “release” from samsara, a state which all jivas (those seeking spiritual liberation) must eventually achieve. Hinduism maintains there are three ways to live the spiritual life to reach a state of moksha or enlightenment in this life—the way of action, the way of wisdom, and the way of devotion - excerpted from: Mark W. Muesse: Great World Religions: Hinduism.
COMMENTARY on ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL and MODERN TEXTS: PART 1: THE ISVARAPRATYABHIJNAKARIKA — Don Shepherd
The tenth-century medieval Hindu text, Isvarapratyabhijnakarika or Verses on the Recognition of the Supreme Self, paints on an immense canvas the philosophy of the ONE and the MANY, a philosophy delineating the establishment of the primordial substance, the building block of all life, throughout the cosmos by establishing itself in all the objects within the cosmos. While the name of the primordial substance changes as it drops through the ladder of reality—whether known as Paramesvara, Mahesvara, Isvara, buddhi, manas, or differentiated matter—it remains the same, the Supreme Self. Entangled with the Supreme Self the human consciousness can grow into these greater aspects of itself and ultimately identify with the unity in reality. Thus, Utpaladeva’s Isvarapratyabhijnakarika is fundamentally centered on two core themes—monism and enmeshment—both core themes that are at the heart of the Ancient Wisdom.
Monism is the theory that there is unity at the root of reality. There is a basic substance or governing principle within all processes and structures. This basic substance—the primordial substance—is the Supreme Self and it establishes itself throughout the cosmos under different names depending on its degree of external manifestation: Paramesvara as the Great Beyond, Mahesvara as Consciousness, and Isvara as the Reflective Awareness of perceived objects in the empyrean. The concept of enmeshment comes into play in monistic theory because the establishment of all objects in the cosmos is the establishment of the Supreme Self as itself through all its layers of being. The vibratory, luminous, volitional impulse of Mahesvara—Shiva in the Shaivite tradition—propels the evolutionary impulse of Isvara to open outwards flowing into and informing its lower layers of buddhi (wisdom) and manas (mind)—manas being the first mental separation from Isvara and its connecting link to perceived objects or differentiated matter—and subsequently provides the impetus for a reversal in direction through the involutionary impulse of Sadasiva to close inwards away from differentiation. Throughout this spinal column of impulses the Supreme Self, in its triple “vara” form, becomes entangled, enmeshed in the objects that it itself has poured forth.
The human being, looking inwards through all the layers of the Supreme Self through the impulse of Sadasiva and looking away from the jumbled thoughts that link him to differentiated matter, can directly perceive Isvara. In this direct perception, the individual perceives three things. First, he perceives fleeting glimpses of all the words and thoughts that could come into being; this is the realm of “memory, imagination and determination” or the expressible differentations of reality. Second, he sees the source of all these words and thoughts yet the source itself is inexpressible. Like Plato’s Forms or Aristotle’s privation, this is Utpaladeva’s First Word where the inexpressible becomes expressible only as undifferentiated. The First Word is inexpressible in the same way that the external manifestation of the colour “blue” or the emotion “pleasure” also exist internally—permanently within—but in a state without “causal efficiency”—that is, united with the knowing subject or Isvara—and therefore indescribable. Third, he senses something beyond even this inexpressible First Word; he senses a vast awning spreading before him like a black glove of night—pitch-dark in its silence—in which both the expressible and the inexpressible execute their roles. This is Mahesvara, completely devoid of temporal succession and spatial limit—a canvas beyond expression upon which expression appears. Beyond the canvas is Paramesvara, a state only reached in the most unfathomable reaches of our inner recesses.
Text: Rafael Torella, ed. The Isvarapratyabhijnakarika of Utpaladeva with the Author’sVrtti. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2002.
Life Is; Death Is Not – compiled and edited by Satjit Wadva. 2008. Lahore Bookshop: here is an absolutely divine book concerning the topic of death as found in various religions. The first part covers views found within Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sufism, Sikhism, and the religious perspective as viewed by Osho. The second part is a collection of personal perspectives, both prose and poem. My favourite chapter was that covered by Sikhism – not just its view on Death but that of Life itself. Sikhs view Death as a celebration; the Soul rejoining the Source of its Being. The purpose of this collection of teachings on Death is not to frighten us, but allow us to make friends with Death. And the insights offered by a number of writers (the second part) helps us to see that Death makes siblings of us all. – Heathclyff St James Deville, Melbourne, Australia.
Sacred Geography: Deciphering Hidden Codes in the Landscape by Paul Devereux: Gaia, 2012. This book explores the latest scientific research behind the ancient forms and patterns of sacred sites around the world, and the long-lost mystical connection our ancestors had with our planet. Since ancient times humans have honoured places of power in the landscape to gain healing, wisdom and access the world of spirit. In this book, Paul Devereux draws on the evidence from the disciplines of sacred geometry, archaeology, archaeoastronomy and archaeoacoustics to map out the hidden meaning in ancient sites and landforms. This book is a beautifully illustrated, thoroughly-researched and comprehensive key to the ancient patterns of sacred sites and landscapes around the world, describing how our ancestors were intimately connected with the land in mind, body and spirit. The book covers: power places - investigating magnetic and other natural forces at sacred sites; understanding shamanic landscapes - the meaning of the Nazca lines in Peru and other giant ground markings; the new science of archaeoacoustics - echo and 'ringing' stones found at prehistoric sites; and, cognitive archaeology - a new approach to archaeology and its radical findings. Featuring the latest scientific and archaeological research, and containing satellite imagery, maps and diagrams that provide new insights into ancient sites, Sacred Geography allows you to see the landscape through the eyes of our ancestors and reconnect with the natural world as they may have experienced it once more. What this book lacks is an understanding of the esoteric science behind the wonders it describes. For a greater understanding of the ancient esoteric earth-science of geomancy, Melbourne library patrons could borrow Nick Pennick’s, The Ancient Science of Geomancy: Living in Harmony with the Earth (1995), or John Mitchell’s The Earth Spirit: Its Ways, Shrines and Mysteries (1975); and relevant sections of HPB Blavatsky’s theosophical classics, Isis Unveiled, and The Secret Doctrine. – Andrew Rooke, Melbourne, Australia.
CARMINA GADELICA: Hymns and Incantations: As collected by Alexander Carmichael
Edited by C. J. Moore for Floris Books 2006 ISBN: 978-086315-520-8
This is a truly magnificent collection of poems and prayers, sourced from both Pagan and Christian perspectives, as found within the Gaelic oral tradition. They were gathered from both the Highlands and the Islands of Scotland.
These beautiful writings were compiled by Alexander Carmichael between 1855 to 1899 and as recent as 1910, Carmichael was still out collecting these Gaelic offerings – he being then in his late seventies.
Some of the chapters to whet your appetite are: Invocations, Morning Prayers, the Nativity, Blessings, Invocation of the Graces, Moon Worship, Live Creatures and The Speech of Birds. Other selections include Fairy Songs and Charms for Healing, amongst an equally-enthralling chapters and topics. All are a joy to read and meditate upon.
Previously the Carmina was only available as a Bilingual edition, covering six volumes but now we have the complete English edition here before us.
There appears to be some debate amongst some academics as to the authenticity of these poems and prayers: How true are they to the original Gaelic Oral Tradition? Did Carmichael edit them to a vast degree? and similar such questions. But for myself, I simply love Carmina Gadelica for the words found therein, the images these words convey, and of a glimpse into a world that is sadly passing us by as we become more reliant on technology and move away from the things found within the realm of Nature and the tales of the Old Ones; as too, the Creator, Christ, and The Lord and His Lady-Love. – Heathclyff St James Deville, Melbourne, Australia.
“For one to be at Peace with the Earth, One must be at Peace with
Heaven” - Humza Yusuf.
DON’T WE SELL OUR REALITY FOR ILLUSION? - Roza and Margarita Riaikkenen
Life is manifesting itself as a constant interplay of Light and Darkness, of Reality and Illusion (Maya). We are used to participate in this play, whether we are children whose reality is based on intuitive cognition, or adults whose consciousness is conditioned by the developed intellect.
Modern computers and the internet are sketching for us a virtual “reality” which we accept as the real and often most important aspect of our life. While providing us with means of communication, research and distribution of cultural phenomena and much more, they can also compete with realities of life in our mind. Not the least, the numbers on computers which we have collectively agreed to call “money” can dominate our mind and behaviour through our emotions. And what are our emotions?
“E-motion”, according to a book ascribed by some to Saint Germain (Earth’s Birth Changes) is energy in motion. Life is created by energy vibrations. Our spiritual and physical health, creative abilities, ability to love and feel happy, to be passionate and compassionate depend on energy, as well as our safety and security. Energy is the basis of existence and is as real as we are. The most pronounced trait of our time is evaluating our energy with money. But, as long as we replace in our mind real energy with illusory money, we think of money as the real foundation of our safety and security. We appreciate money for its convenience. By this virtue it gives us illusion of freedom, but we will never be really free if we base our decisions on illusion.
Money is nonexistent in real nature, but as people agreed to make it an equivalent to the real energy that they expend and exchange for other types of energy (that of food or warmth, for example), it started to become more and more “real” in their mind. In our times, the ramifications of such an agreement are vast and manifold. The distortions in the illusory area of money created by greed and fraudulent practices of the rich and powerful transfer themselves to the realities of life distorting the initial balance leading to all the crises of late. Illusory crises lead to real crises – health, behaviour, ecology and state of mind crises.
As we people are social beings, the accepted values and state of the society are greatly influencing the values and state of mind of each individual. The first values defining criterion we stumble upon is the constant mantra of our social leaders – productivity. According to the encyclopaedia, productivity is the amount of output per unit of input. It can be as simple as the quantity of product produced per an hour of work. But in our sophisticated and market oriented society everything is counted and compared in money: output counted in dollars produced per hour of capital employed.
The highly desired growth of productivity can be reached either as a result of implementation of new ideas, technologies and designs, or by simply rising the level of exploitation of workers. Where Illusion, devoid of real human values, is in power, it usually prefers the second way because it doesn’t count real things like health, wellbeing, physical or creative abilities or the future for children as worth consideration, and negatively affects them in different ways.
It is most often the case when “money makes money”. Illusion creates illusion, and as the disparity in the society is continuing to grow, the reality for the people becomes increasingly distorted. People often don’t understand from where their problems arise because Illusion is protecting itself “tooth and claw”. It widely applies its resources to manipulate people’s minds, and people start thinking that there is only one way of existence – to serve Illusion.
But the Truth of Reality was always there. As HP Blavatsky is writing in The Secret Doctrine (see footnote on p.147, v2): “The forthcoming 6th Sub Race – which may begin very soon – will be in its Satya (golden) age while we reap the fruit of our iniquity in our Kali Yuga”. And what is producing this iniquity which, according to Blavatsky, is the cause of why we cannot all appear in the Golden Age of the 6th Sub Race immediately, if not our attachment to money? To money which, though artificial and illusory, became our measure of Reality. It appears that we are dooming ourselves to suffer all the hardships, wars and crises of Kali Yuga as long as we are attached to money!
The illusion of our separateness leads many to think that they personally may be better off while other people are suffering because they don’t deserve better. In reality, growing inequality is a sign of degradation for any society and civilization alike, and the source of unhappiness and dissatisfaction for anyone. To turn things around, there is only one way in sight – the way of changing values from illusory to real ones. Humanity and the Earth need care! – Roza and Margarita Riaikkenen, Melbourne, Australia.
Theosophy Downunder is issued three times per year in April, August, and December 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 : 0400942613 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org World Wide Web homepage at: http://theosophydownunder.org/ Our International Leader is Randell C. Grubb
Please feel free to contribute your ideas on Theosophy or related topics direct to the editor at any time.
Melbourne’s famous Flinders Street railway station.
THE TRAIN - Don Shepherd
Cramped, shoulder to shoulder, back to back, each one of us smelling the sweat and scent of the other, the train lurched forward—and I saw the razor’s edge between Theosophy and religion. Only an hour ago I had been winding my way through empty streets towards the train station having attended, enjoyed, and left a New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s home in northern Melbourne. With each block and passing of the minutes the empty streets became half-empty and then, when I could no longer weave in and out of the crowds of people, I realized they were half-full. Now, with each step, the crowds grew and my pace slowed until I was at a crawl, making my way through throngs of people moving in all four directions across the same central square. Having left the party just after midnight, ringing in the New Year with some non-alcoholic wine and the best of intentions but now with second thoughts among the rowdy sea of people, it was 12:45am and I was barely inching towards my goal, the train platform for Pakenham.
Wading through the sea of people heading in the direction of the platform, I could hear the trains come and go in the distance. With each coming and going there was a massive surge from behind sending a shockwave of force rolling through the crowd, almost knocking some of us to the floor as the movement of the masses powered its way nearer the platform. Finally, I found myself at the edge of the platform, standing at the border of the yellow-striped line, helpless to prevent myself from being thrown on to the tracks if the collective unconscious of the masses had caused the body of people behind me to surge forwards out of rhythm. But there was no surge until the train arrived.
And then I saw something very ugly pour out of the collective unconscious near the open doors of the train, a swelling of the lowest in human nature as the crowd crested towards the entrance, each individual manifesting a sheer selfishness that contorted their bodies and disfigured their faces as they struggled to force their way on to the carriage pushing and shoving—and clawing if they could have—driven by the misshapen habit and misbegotten belief that there was some special place reserved and designated specifically for them on the train. With the inhumanity of devils each one drove forwards to that special place only to find it occupied by another, nudging up against him or her sharing both tepid and toxic smells—a modern representation of a Michelangelo painting where the Mammons and Molechs herded the weaknesses of the personalities under their control into a jubilee of chaos and confusion—and settled into a secondary spot, ousted by someone more clever or quicker or perhaps with horns just a bit sharper than their own, ready for the train ride southwards.
The problem with this scene was that the train had not come for any one of us; it had come for all of us. Yet when that train arrived one could see the swarm of individuals acting out the belief that the train had somehow come for them as distinct units. And so it has been with the religions of the world. In Christianity, Christ came to save you or me as individuals; he may have come to save the world but human beings as individuals never seemed to be able to remove themselves from the centre of that thought, thereby continuing the geocentric view for my salvation—a primitive Galilean view that should have died out with the emergence of the scientific heliocentrism of Galileo—and forcing divinity to circle around “me” instead of “me” circling around divinity. In Buddhism, Nirvana was often seen as personal enlightenment, a hoping for an escape through the cessation of the “me” yet driven by the desires of the “me” for power and knowledge in its own dissolution. In Judaism, the Jews, to the exclusion of others, were the ‘Chosen People’, a people at the centre of a world with God, wreaking vengeance on others and sometimes even on themselves, revolving around them. In Islam, a follower of Muhammed had certain rights over a non-Muslim, an idea that permeated the social structure of the dhimmi system that discriminated against those who didn’t assume an accepted place in the caravan of life. With the small self at the centre of these systems, it was only natural that a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe—or religion—had to spring up, the belief system compensating for the inadequacy of the “me” to perceive and experience reality as it actually is.
Using metaphor for what actually is, Theosophy is a train and it doesn’t come for any one of us but all of us. It makes its rounds regardless of whether you or I am on the platform. If no one is on the platform, it will still come because there might be people on the next platform. Obviously, if there are many people on a particular platform and there is a great demand for it at a particular time, the conductor may increase the frequency of its running or he may add a carriage or two. But to think that the train is coming specifically for me or you is completely wrong.
When I do find a place on the train, it is not such a special place and I won’t hold it for long. What is important is how I balance getting on the train and how I behave with my fellow passengers during the journey. And when I have found my place on the train I don’t get to see what is going on three or four carriages ahead of me—I get to see what is going on in my carriage and that is enough.
I can stay on the train as long as I like though certain stops may distract my attention and I may disembark for a while. Or I may stay on till the end of the line. Either way, when it is time for me to depart, the conductor wishes me well and toots the horn before closing the doors. If I cause a problem on the train, he has an alarm for that too.
Each time I ride the train it takes me where I want to go but not because I want to go there. It goes there because it is scheduled to go there on its time, not mine. In seeing this—seeing that the small self is not the centre of the system but, rather, the train is the centre and its operations are the key—there is no need to set up a system of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe because the “me” is no longer hindering the perception of reality—which is the nature of how the train functions. We, as human beings, begin to forget our own timetable and our false conceptions of a special place and instead are content with catching the next express, or the one after that, and gliding down the rails on its path which, in proper perspective, becomes our own. – Don Shepherd, Melbourne, Australia – reproduced with kind permission of the editors of 21st Century Path, and Kali Yuga Rag.
“Ekam sad, vipra bahudha vadanti” – “Truth is one. The wise use many names for It”