Newsletter of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) Australasian Section

No: 110 August 2013




Autumn leaves and the easing weather of an autumn break are good news for Fly Agaricus Toadstool (Amantia Muscaria) at one of the many lawns in the National Rhododendron Gardens in the Dandenong Mountains outside Melbourne. – Photo kindness of Stefan Carey, Melbourne, Australia.




The Importance of Being Happy – Andrew Rooke.

Australian News.

One God or Many? Where Did the Idea of One God Come From? – Jennifer Pignataro.

International News.

From Desire Mind to Compassion Mind: Part 1: What is Desire? – Andrew Rooke.

From our Readers: The Swastika Symbol.

                                 Religious Fundamentalism: What Can Theosophists Do About It?

A Carrot, an Egg, and a Coffee Bean – John Dore.

Book Reviews: Agni Yoga – Helena Roerich.

                          Azlander: Second Nature - Gabriele Brunsdon.

The Relationship Between the Ego and the Mind – Charles Reither.

Did Ancient Indonesian Buddhists Reach Africa? Part 2 – Robert Dick-Read.

Obituary: Tine van der Ven.





How important is it to be happy? Everybody has their own ideas of what it is to be happy and most people direct their life-long efforts towards that end. In Australia, our social, economic, cultural, and political institutions are based on the visions of generations of immigrants seeking greater happiness in a new land. Inspired by the tiny kingdom of Bhutan and their measurement of the country’s worth as, ‘gross national happiness’, the importance of happiness in human life was recognized by the United Nations on March 20, 2013 with the declaration of the very first International Day of Happiness.



Happiness and Health: Over the past 40 years, medical science has done some serious research into the healing power of joy. Author, Norman Cousins, in his famous book, The Anatomy of an Illness, gives his own experience of how his severe bone and joint pain was driven from his body by regularly having a belly laugh from watching old Marx brothers comedy movies. Cousins described his theory of the chemistry of laughter in one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, The New England Journal of Medicine, His article received more positive letters from readers than any other up until that time in the journal’s long history. The famous ‘clown doctor’ Patch Adams started a whole movement in the medical profession encouraging the use of humour in hospital wards in the 1990s after a film on his life starring comedian Robyn Williams was such a huge hit.


One of the best pieces of scientific evidence to support the notion that the body has a chemistry of joy and sorrow, is the chemical analysis of tears which reveals a very different molecular make-up for tears of joy and tears of sorrow. As one researcher comments:


“…Another interesting discovery about the content of tears was made by Dr. William H. Frey II, a biochemist at the St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota. He and his team analyzed two types of tears: the emotional ones (crying when emotionally upset and stressed) and the ones arising from irritants (such as crying from onions). They found that emotional tears contained more of the protein-based hormones, prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and leucine enkephalin (natural painkiller), all of which are produced by our body when under stress. It seems as if the body is getting rid of these chemicals through tears. That explains why we usually feel better after a good cry. So, there you go. Cry as much as you want - it is probably good for you. But no cheating by inducing crying with onions. Your tear glands know the difference!” - Skorucak A. "The Science of Tears." [see also Chip Walter’s article ‘Why do we cry?’ in the Scientific American: Mind 17 (6) page 144 of December 2006].


Happiness and the Soul: If the physical body responds so positively to the healing influence of good humour, how much more important is a feeling for the joy of life to the Inner Man? Our former Leader, Katherine Tingley, tells the story of her meeting with a Master of Wisdom (HP Blavatsky’s teacher) in Darjeeling, India, which has a lot to teach us about coping with the stresses of life through mental balance and good humour. As they spoke together on a hillside overlooking a farmer’s field, one of the Master’s students (in India referred to as a ‘Chela’) was ploughing the field with a team of oxen. The Master used the example of his student to illustrate his ideas about coping with the stresses of life on the Path of understanding – especially for aspirants to spiritual achievement. The Master said that the student/ploughman’s team of unruly oxen were always calm for him because they were immersed in the atmosphere of the student’s concentration and contemplations.


Further, he said one should not live in dread of life’s experiences, but go cheerfully on our way coping with the tasks at hand rather than being overwhelmed by distant goals. He said that a joy in the spiritual life could actually make the very atoms of our body lighter! We should fight the tendency to let the worries and anxieties of our everyday consciousness weigh us down. The Master said that hopelessness and anxiety can bring our body’s atoms…”half way to death; but they can be quickened to a kind of immortality by the fire of the divine life, and attuned to universal harmony. Men everywhere could get rid of all that burden of un-necessities, and carry themselves like that young chela does, if they had the mental balance.” [The story of the Master and his ploughman/chela is recounted in Katherine Tingley’s, The Gods Await.]


Happiness: some perspectives from Theosophy: A sense of humour indicates an understanding of human nature and an ability to draw forth the positive aspects from the difficulties of life.  The world’s great comedians have always played the role of placing ourselves and sometimes our most cherished institutions into humorous and more balanced perspective. Religious teachers throughout history have emphasized the joy awaiting man on his path of inner discovery through the outer sufferings and travails of daily life. They have often demonstrated the practical value of humour and joy with their work in the world. Think of the infectious laughter of the Dalai Lama when he is interviewed on even the most serious subject. Likewise the writings of our theosophical Masters in the, Mahatma Letters, often exhibit a keen sense of humour for the frailties of human nature on its path of learning.


In particular, our former Leader, Katherine Tingley, often spoke of the need to hold sacred a real sense of the joy of living even when besieged by the sorrows which come to everyone in the course of daily life. In her book, The Travail of the Soul, she writes:


“Let us open up our minds to the fact that life is joy: that is, the real spiritual life, and that the disarrangements, the failures, the discouragements, and the heavy, tearing, heart-shadows we must face in life are our own to adjust. We have the opportunity, even in the ordinary lines of daily activity, to think a little more, to let our souls break through to something better, and to find ourselves out under the great blue sky in our aspirations, in touch with nature’s wonderful lessons and its silent and marvellous beauty.” – Andrew Rooke, Melbourne, Australia.


“The pursuit of happiness lies at the core of human endeavours. People around the world aspire to lead happy and fulfilling lives free from fear and want, and in harmony with nature….On this first International Day of Happiness, let us reinforce our commitment to inclusive and sustainable human development and renew our pledge to help others. When we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched. Compassion promotes happiness and will help to build the future we want.” – Ban K. Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on the occasion of the first International Day of Happiness, March 20th, 2013.



Meetings in Melbourne April through July 2013:  all meetings are held at the Theosophical Society Pasadena Library Centre located at 664 Glenhuntly Road, South Caulfield, Melbourne commencing at 2.30pm. The Library is open from 2pm through 6pm on the day of the meeting and there is no entry charge. Subjects coming up:

Sat. August 3rd, 2.30pm: The Garden of Eden: Some Short Stories - George Svenger.

Sat. September 7th, 2.30pm: Journey of the Souls: The After-Death Research of Michael Newton – Tony Downey and Paul Rooke.

Sat. October 5th, 2.30pm: Before the Delusion: Aspects of the Forgotten Ancient History of Humanity – Bill Gleeson.

Sat. November 2nd, 2.30pm: Journey to the Inner God – Andrew Rooke.

Sat. December 7th, 2.30pm: Fiction as a Pathway to Spiritual Understanding: Azlander-Second Nature – Gabrielle Brunsdon.

Wednesday discussion group: at the TS Pasadena Library Centre 664 Glenhuntly Rd South Caulfield 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. Each Wednesday from 10.30am-12.30 throughout the year. Further information is available from Tony Downey on 9459.5067 or Andrew Rooke on 0400942613.

New on our website: our website is at Newly added to the ‘Theosophy Downunder Library’ section of the website are the following articles: One God or Many? Where did the idea of One God come from? The enduring legacy of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaton – Jennifer Pignataro; Co-creation with Nature by Roza and Margarita Riaikkenen ; Paganism, Heathenry, Asatru, and Wicca: Echoes of the Ancient Wisdom of Europe by Heathclyff St James Deville; We are Consciousness: Paganism, Heathenry, and Asatru contain the Purest Ancient Wisdom and Theosophy by Guðrún Kristín Magnúsdóttir, Pilgrimages: the Mystic Journey – Jennifer Pignataro; Did Ancient Indonesian Buddhists Reach Africa? – Robert Dick-Read.

The Melbourne Library: we have a large collection of printed books and magazines at our Melbourne library and online via our website. These are available for loan at our meetings or online books anytime. New books in the library include: Occult America: the secret history of how mysticism shaped our nation- Mitch Horowitz; Why Buddhism: Westerners in search of wisdom – Vicki Mackenzie; Astrology of the Living Universe – H.J. Spierenberg; The Bhagavad Gita – translated by W. Sargant; The Cloud of Unknowing with the Book of Privy Counsel – Anonymous; What is Gnosticism – Karen King; The Skilled Helper: a progam-management and opportunity-development approach to helping – G. Egan.

Thirty Years of the Newsletter: this year we celebrate 30 years of the continuous publication of our newsletter. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to our newsletter over that time. Now for the next 30 years!

Email Addresses: in future years we will be sending this newsletter by email, so if you have not already done so, could you please send your email address to the Editor at:

"Do not be afraid of your difficulties. Do not wish you could be in other circumstances than you are. For when you have made the best of an adversity, it becomes the stepping stone to a splendid opportunity." – HP Blavatsky.


ONE GOD OR MANY? Where did the idea of One God come from? – Jennifer Pignataro.

The concept of a single God is called monotheism. Monotheism originates from the Greek – Monos = single, and Theos =God. Monotheism is a predominant feature of the Abrahamic religions - these being: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Monotheism is also a key feature of Baha’i, Zoroastrianism and Sikhism. While many may consider monotheism as a modern Western concept, it is in fact, a practice which emerged in the ancient East. The scope of this paper will not allow an overview of those religions listed above, but rather to consider a particular moment in ancient Egyptian history when Monotheism existed, albeit for a very brief period during the New Kingdom era (1550–1070 BC : considered by many as the most glorious period of ancient Egyptian history).

This unique time when monotheism was a dominant feature of Ancient Egyptian religion, art and societal custom and tradition is today known as Atenism. This form of monotheism was so named after the Sun. When uttering the name Amunhotep IV, unless one has a sound knowledge of the lineage of Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, it is likely that this name will not raise much interest. However, mention the name Akhenaton and commentary abounds! The much maligned Pharaoh has been described as a deformed heretic, a megalomaniac, and revolutionary. It is also noteworthy that he was the father of the boy King Tutankhamen whose intact tomb found in the early twentieth century is one of the most celebrated finds in archaeology. Regardless of one’s view of him, Akhenaton’s legacy, like his reputation, has endured over the millennia and today we are able to consider his contribution to Ancient Egyptian religion, worship and art.

Statue of the Pharaoh Akhenaton showing his unusual elongated features.

The theological experiment, to which it is sometimes referred, was a revolutionary belief system. It focussed on the notion of a single deity. In this case, the Aten, or Sun-Disk. Indeed, the Pharaoh believed himself to be the Son of the Sun. Within the first few years of his reign, Amenhotep 1V had changed his name to Akhenaton meaning “Radiant Spirit of the Aten”. This radical approach to worship, that is, monotheism, predated the Hebrew’s religion and that of Christianity. Whether this relatively short-lived theological experiment directly influenced later religions such as that of the Israelites is a matter of great, academic speculation. I will present some commentators’ opinions at the conclusion of this presentation, of which you may evaluate for yourselves.

Akhenaton: Pharoah of Egypt: Akhenaton was born Amunhotep 1Vth and reigned a mere 14 years (1352-1338 BCE). It is likely he died in middle age. The cause of his death is unknown but I have found some amusing speculations as to the nature of his demise! Some scholars have offered the possibility that he may have died of skin cancer, or sun stoke on account of his unending “sun worship” at every opportunity. We also have accounts of the many structures built in the capital and especially at the Royal Court which were constructed without a roof. Historical accounts detail petitions made by international emissaries complaining about standing in the sun for long hours wearing heavy regalia without the benefit of being under shade, whilst attending Royal ceremonies for many hours.

The Pharaoh was obsessed with the sun. He decreed that his new city be situated on the eastern shore of the Nile which was essentially, the desert. Fittingly, he named his capital city Akhenaton meaning “Horizon of the Sun-disk”.  The location is now modern El Armarna. Today is it no more than ruins. It appears that Akhenaton was dissatisfied with the worship of Amun at the time. The usual religious rituals involved the deity Amun being revered in a dark, inner part of the sanctum, of a temple and this was only for the select few. Additionally, it is likely that the attendant priesthood was another aspect of the religious practice with which he was not impressed, and so, over a period of time, he began closing down many of the temples across Egypt.

While Akhenaton’s revolutionary approach to everyday worship and devotion of the divine may have been at odds against the previous prevailing orthodoxy, other aspects of the period were indeed fresh and inspiring. Religious representation changed from a stylised, iconographic manner to a more realistic depiction of the Royal Family. However, many have viewed the representation of the Royal Family as odd. Mostly the royal portraiture of Akhenaton displays the pharaoh in unflattering light. Many historians have hinted that the Royal portraiture was ‘realistic’ in that, the family was afflicted with a genetic disorder (Marfan’s Syndrome) brought about by procreating amongst an interrelated gene pool, as close family members often married each other and spawn offspring.

The famous statue of the beautiful Queen Nefertiti, chief consort of Pharaoh Akhetaten.

A revisionist view is that the Royal family were depicted in a less stylised manner to demonstrate the notion that the family was different to mere mortals, and that they were unworldly and extraterrestrial. Depictions of the Royal Family abound and also testify to this idea. The family, though imbued with familial tenderness and devotion, in the many royal scenes, also denote ‘other worldliness’.  For me, there is something, somewhat fascinating but strange about the oddly-shaped face and body of the Pharaoh, with his beautiful Queen Nefertiti and their children with their extraordinary, elongated, shaped heads.

The Aten: So far as the new religion was concerned, the Aten (Sun) was not portrayed with the usual human or animal attributes as had the pantheon of Egyptian deities. The Aten was always depicted as a geometric solar circle - but such representation was beautifully rendered with little hands attached to the sun-rays. There are many depictions of Akhenaton and his family having the loving, gentle rays of the Aten, figuratively toughing via the ‘hand and fingers’ of the Aten’s rays.

What is remarkable about Akhenaton’s Atenism, I feel, is that this religion was accessible for every Egyptian. One did not have to have come from the ruling class, nor of the  elite Priesthood to have contact with this God. The Aten, the Sun, touched everything and everyone without distinction or favour. The beauty of this religion was the brightness of it, for nothing was in the shadows so to speak, as was the worship of Amun. Every worshiper could have immediate, direct, illuminated commune with the Aten. The worshipper could always have his/her “time in the Sun”.

Akhenaton’s Influence: Not only did Pharaoh’s influence extend into the Affairs of state but also how they were conducted. The reign of Akhenaton was a relatively peaceful one as was the social the  structure. Cyril Aldred has said of Akhenaton;

…”there was one aspect in which he was wholly original, and that was his insistence upon a true monotheism, the worship of one god only, whose incarnation he was, to the exclusion of all else. Where this idea came from in the world of the fourteenth century BC, which widely recognised so many different manifestations of godhead , is not known; but his own identification with the Aten probably provides the key’’.p.260. -  Aldred, C. Akhenaton Pharaoh of Egypt a new study, p. 260.

 Another author, Redford, has made the following comments of which I will not evaluate. Instead you may arrive at your own assessment of Akhenaton’s legacy concerning his contribution to the notion of monotheism. Several revisionist historians believe Atenism did not begin as monotheism but as a preference and superiority of one god over others.

As stated by Donald B. Redford:

“There is little or no evidence to support the notion that Akhenaton was a progenitor of the full-blown monotheism that we find in the bible…(it) had its own separate development.”  -Redford, Donald B. The Monotheism of Akhenaton  Princeton University Press. p. 26.

At this juncture it may be timely to consider that Redford here is referring to Henotheism. Wikipedia, defines Henotheism as “…the belief and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities that may also be worshipped.” 

Finally, an analysis of Akhenaton’s legacy which appealed for me is that of Aldred, when he says:

“In the development of religion and thought, Akhenaton stands out as against the momentum of traditional religion as the instigator of ideas which were in advance of his time. As such, he seems the world’s first individual and the world’s first idealist”. Aldred: Page 257. – Jennifer Pignataro, Melbourne, Australia.

…the same question stands open from the days of Socrates and Pilate down to our own age of wholesale negation: is there such a thing as absolute truth in the hands of any one party or man? Reason answers, "there cannot be." There is no room for absolute truth upon any subject whatsoever, in a world as finite and conditioned as man is himself. But there are relative truths, and we have to make the best we can of them.  - H.P. Blavatsky, Lucifer, February, 1888. See for full article: What is Truth? H.P. Blavatsky




Compassion in the business world: we don’t often think of business and compassion in the same breath but an international Conference at Stanford University on April 30 discussed this whole issue. The purpose of this one-day conference was to present and create a dialog around cutting-edge research and best practices on compassion and business by leading research experts in the field, as well as business leaders who have successfully implemented compassion-based programs in their organization. Further information is available at:


News from Germany: friends of the German Section have kindly sent us the first issue of their Newsletter Theosophie for 2013 which features news of the German translation of Elsa Brit-Titchenell’s: Once around the SunEinmal um de Sonne, and G. de Purucker’s: Fountain-Source of Occultism - Quelle des Okultissmus. In English-speaking countries we are apt to forget how difficult it can be for theosophists who do not have English as their first language to translate and make available theosophical books, especially those rare books designed for children like this book. Congratulations to all concerned with this publication.


Sick of hearing bad news on the TV all the time?: it seems that all the media is interested in are spectacular bad news stories and negativity. If you want to know what good news stories are happening for the majority of the people in the world why not check out The Good News Network at If you send them an email, they can send you their top ten good news stories from around the world each week. It makes for inspiring reading to see ordinary people getting on and making the best of what are often very difficult life circumstances that usually adorn our TV screens..


"We are not brought into existence by chance nor thrown up into earth-life like wreckage cast along the shore, but are here for infinitely noble purpose." - Katherine Tingley


FROM DESIRE MIND TO COMPASSION MIND: Part 1: What is Desire?  -  Andrew Rooke.


[With this issue we commence a three-part series on the transformation of Humanity’s current emphasis on ‘personal desire’, to being more ‘other centred’ compassionate people. This is said by most religions to be the core challenge to Humanity at this point of our spiritual evolution - Editor]


There is a tremendous emphasis on Desire in our modern Western society. Fulfilling personal desires is the basis of much of our advertising, entertainment, education, and even our very idea of what constitutes happiness. The extent to which we satisfy our desires is a major measure of socio-economic status and our measure of self-worth. Why are we so caught up in Desire often at the expense of the finer qualities of our Being? According to Theosophy the reason for our love-affair with Desire is because the majority of Mankind’s’ consciousness is centred currently in the ‘Desire Mind’ aspect of our inner constitution rather than the ‘Compassion Mind’ aspect of our multiple and mostly invisible nature.


Desires and how to deal with them have been a real problem for most religions throughout the ages. Desire has usually been seen as the enemy of those wishing to live a good life according to the dictates of many different religions. Repression, Guilt, and even punishment have been inflicted on those seen to be indulging their desires. Whole religious systems have featured the question of temptation and resisting desires and this theme is central to Puritanical and Fundamentalist forms of any religious tradition. But is Desire really the Enemy of the Good?


Theosophical Definition of Desire: Theosophy does not view Desire in itself as inherently evil. Theosophical writer Dr Purucker defines Desire as a colourless force which brings ideas into manifestation made evil or good according to the motivation of the ‘Desirer’:


“…Desire: the fourth substance-principle of which the human constitution is composed: it’s desire or the driving, impelling force. Born from the interaction of Atman (Spirit), Buddhi (Compassion), and Manas (Mind), Kama (Desire) per se is a colourless force, good or bad according to the way the mind and soul use it. It is the seat of living electrical impulses, desires, aspirations, considered in their energetic aspect. When a person follows his lower impulses and centres his consciousness in the body and astral nature, he is directing that force downwards. When he aspires and opens his heart to the influence of his Higher Manas and Buddhi, he is directing that force upwards and thus progressing evolution…” - from G de Purucker, Encyclopedic Glossary.


timelineWhere Did Desire Come From? If Desire is so important in creating our manifest universe – where did it come from? According to Theosophy, we all arose from the One Essence at the beginning of the manifestation of our Universe. We are now on the road back to Self-Conscious reabsorption with that Essence in the far future for most of us. Going back to the dawn of creation (13.7 billion years ago according to modern science but much longer according to Theosophy) in order for the ‘One-Ness’ to manifest itself so we lesser beings can have an environment to learn in this Universe, ‘It’ had to ‘step-down’ its energies from a higher plane to this comparatively low plane of consciousness. To achieve this transformation of energy and thus, the creation of the material universe from the ‘Idea’ of the ‘One’, it had to energize the ‘Idea’ of the Universe, ie. it had to Desire that the Universe exist on the material plane or as Theosophy says: “Desire first arose in It” – utilizing the mysterious force known in Theosophy as ‘Fohat’ to create the material Universe. Thus energized by Desire, the One became the ‘Many’ and we now live in a dualistic universe of spirit and matter where we can chose to apply Desire in positive or negative ways as we progress on our Path of spiritual learning.


What is Fohat? “…the Cosmic ‘Life’ or Vitality by which by which ideas become material reality is known by its ancient Tibetan name in Theosophy – ‘Fohat’. It is the cosmic life or vitality; bipolar cosmic vital electricity, equivalent to the light of the Logos, ‘Daiviprakriti’, Eros, the fiery whirlwind, etc. As the bridge between spirit and matter, Fohat is the collectivity of intelligent forces through which cosmic ideation impresses itself upon substance, thus forming the various worlds of manifestation…” from G de Purucker Encyclopedic Glossary.


Getting Back to the ‘Oneness’: as we progress along the Path of spiritual evolution, Humanity, over vast ages began to lose sight of our inner connection with the Oneness as we became enmeshed in the attractions of the material universe. As Theosophy would say, we became subject to illusion – ‘Maya’ – and the three ‘Gunas’ or three qualities/aspects of all things in the manifest world – ‘Slothefullness (Tamas), Passion (Rajas), and the Spiritual (Sattva) – all of this enmeshes us further in the material world and directs our energies into objects related to the material world instead of recognizing their innate Oneness. We become ‘attached’ to objects of the senses and we are motivated into the ‘Desire’ aspects of our mind catching us up further into materialism, ie human behaviour generally as we see it everywhere today. Our job is to transcend this illusion of separateness from All-being, and self consciously work our way back to the Oness again starting with transferring our centre of consciousness from the ‘Me-Centred’ Desire Mind to the ‘Other-Centred’ Compassion Mind. – Andrew Rooke, Melbourne, Australia.


Next Issue: So what about practical ways to break the cycle of ‘attachment’ to the desires of the senses? – Part 2: Managing Desires.


Learn that there is no cure for desire, no cure for love of reward, no cure for the misery of longing, save in the fixing of the sight and hearing on that which is invisible and soundless. – Mabel Collins - Light on the Path.



FROM OUR READERS: please write with your ideas and comments on theosophy or related subjects to the editor at: anytime.


The Swastika Symbol: one of our readers has kindly written to point out an error in the last (April 2013) newsletter regarding the Nazi Swastika. We have corrected the internet version of the newsletter accordingly:


“In the article it said that the four arms of the Nazi symbol point in a clockwise continuation whereas in fact the four arms were orientated anti-clockwise which is directly against the symbolic meaning of the original spiritual symbol.


Religious Fundamentalism: What Can Theosophists Do About It?:

“The recent bombing of the Boston Marathon in May, and murder of a British soldier on the streets of London in June, both committed by Islamic extremists, point once again to one of the greatest challenges to world peace and progress today - the rise of religious fundamentalism.

Fundamentalism is the declaration that one's own point of view in religious matters is supreme, and those of others are not of much value compared to the revelation, including the sacred books, of the spiritual teacher one follows. It is essentially a uni-dimensional view in an increasingly multidimensional world. The term first arose to describe the American Protestant churches in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when many such churches in the US violently reacted to the impact of modernism on their worldview. Particularly, such churches were aggrieved by the Darwinian theory of evolution, and new discoveries about the history of the Bible which lead to doubts about its status as purely divine revelation. This led these churches to cling to literalism in the Bible and see modernism as a threat to the religious way of life. Such a point of view became widely known as what we now call Fundamentalism.

Modernism, with its emphasis in the supremacy of science, logic, and materialism, has been perceived also as a threat to a religious way of life by many societies in the developing world.
Initially, modernism was quietly accepted by many traditional societies which were either overwhelmed by the apparent success of Western culture in comparison with their own, or they thought that somehow the modernized world would 'go away' after political independence was achieved. However, gradually Western culture began to be seen in some quarters in these countries, as directly opposed to their religious life and a tremendous threat to the future of traditional ways.

After the Iranian revolution in 1979, the backlash against rapid social and economic changes introduced by Western society took the form of an aggressive fundamentalism in Islam that now threatens world peace. Certainly, looking back at history all over the globe, we see endless damaging conflicts in the name of religion. From our theosophical perspective of reincarnation, we accept that we have all been on this earth many times before. We have walked in many lands and worshipped many different gods before incarnating in the here and now. How much sense does it make then to criticize others, as religious fundamentalists do, when we may have shared their beliefs in another life, or, indeed, may grow towards their viewpoint in a future one? Theosophy teaches that all great religions throughout history emanate from one source of being where truth is one. There, various perspectives on reality coexist happily as facets of the single diamond of truth. Through the ages, great spiritual teachers have brought facets of this gem to various cultures, and people have clasped tightly to their little facet of the truth diamond and said, "See, here I have the whole diamond of Truth!" If truth shines like the sun from a single source, how much sense does it make in condemning other brothers and sisters on the Path?

The images of the destruction of the twin-towers in
New York, and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are burned into our consciousness. Theosophists, by the very nature of our endeavour, stand for universal brotherhood, a non-dogmatic approach to religious
truth, and a respect for the many Paths to the One. In short, Theosophy has a multidimensional but holistic approach to life, whereas fundamentalism is uni-dimensional and separatist. So what can Theosophists actually do about fundamentalism and its
disastrous consequences?

We can try to exemplify the spirit of universal brotherhood in what we do in daily life and communicate as and when we can, the great laws of life which we all share in common. In practice this means having tolerance and understanding in a multi-cultural environment, and attempt to increase the level of understanding between various communities and religious traditions. In all of our communities, there are a multitude of opportunities to express such inner attitudes from formal volunteering in community organizations promoting multi-cultural understanding, to simply bringing peace and harmony within our families so our children can develop with more enlightened attitudes to others.

At a national level, Western countries could offer increased opportunities to study other religions at school and university and cultural exchanges for young people to better get to know conditions in troubled parts of the world and vice versa. From a greater level of empathy and understanding between religions and an understanding of the cornerstones of the Ancient Wisdom -- universal brotherhood, karma and reincarnation -- perhaps a better world based on multidimensional understanding will grow for our kids.

When asked what is our work as theosophists now and in the future, theosophical co-founder, William Quan Judge, said: "It is to start up a new force, a new current in the world," so that wise ones from long ago will "incarnate among men here and there, and thus bring back the true life and the true practices.." "We have each one of us, to make ourselves a centre of light; a picture gallery from which shall be projected on the astral light such scenes, such influences, such thoughts, as may influence many for good, shall thus arouse a new current, and then finally result in drawing back the great and good from the other spheres
beyond earth." William Quan Judge - Letters That Have Helped Me II, 8,9.

Great suffering is caused by attachment to views of dogmatism and fundamentalism. And that is why, among the 14 mindfulness trainings of the Order of Interbeing, the training on freedom from views is in the first position. We have to free ourselves from these views -- even the views of non-self, the view of impermanence, of inter-being -- we have to let go of all of these. These are instruments to work with, but they are not to be venerated in themselves. It is like using a raft to cross the river. After you cross the river, you abandon the raft. You don't carry the raft on your head and walk around like that. That is very popular, carrying a raft around on your head. People are doing that all the time.
-- Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn in Parabola Magazine, Winter 2005, page 21.

A CARROT, AN EGG, AND A COFFEE BEAN – kindly sent by John Dore.


A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up.  She was tired of fighting and struggling.  It seemed that as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen.  She filled three pots with water and placed each on a gas burner. Soon the pots came to a boil.  In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and the last she placed ground coffee beans.  She let them sit and boil, without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners.  She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She then pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.  Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, "Tell me, what do you see?" "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied. She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noted that they were soft.  She then asked her to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.  Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee.  The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The granddaughter then asked, "What does it mean, Grandmother?"

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity - boiling water, but each reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting.  However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.  The egg had been fragile.  Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior.  But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.  The ground coffee beans were unique, however.  After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her granddaughter.  "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?  Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

Think of this:  Which am I?  Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity?  Do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat?  Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?  Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? Or am I like the coffee bean?  The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain.  When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavour of your life.  If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.  When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level?

How do you handle adversity?   Are you changed by your surroundings or do you bring life and flavour to them?

Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?  -  
from the internet, and kindly sent along  to us by John Dore, Melbourne Australia.



AGNI YOGA: transcribed by Helena Roerich from 1920 to 1938 – 17 volumes plus 5 volumes of commentary and indexes, available for free download at: or for purchase as books.

Yet again we are turning the pages of the books of Agni Yoga. Like many times before, at the turning moments of our personal life or of the world around us, we are searching in these books for solace, encouragement and wisdom. And we are finding all we searched for and much more.

Agni Yoga, which is known also as the teaching of Living Ethics, is a series of books recorded by Helena Roerich, channeled from her spiritual Teacher. The books were dictated to Helena Roerich starting from 1920 and were recorded for more than a decade, presumably until 1938. Agni Yoga operates with the finest fiery energy of the universe – Agni.

Helena Roerich, the wife and collaborator of a renowned artist Nicolas Roerich, was a remarkable representative of Russian mystics in the line to which Helena Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, belonged. There are other similarities between the two Helenas besides their names. Both of them were Russian women who received some of their esoteric experience and knowledge in the Himalayas area, and Helena Roerich testified to the fact that they both had the same Ascended Master as their spiritual Teacher.


Agni Yoga is a teaching of spiritual philosophy, a teaching of synthesis that embraces science, ethics, arts and culture, as Oriental as Western, from the point of view of esoteric knowledge. It gives a multi-facet view of life, as on Earth as in different places and dimensions of the universe, and lights up many aspects of universal Truth.

The very goal of Agni Yoga is to show us the way of inner transformation and evolution into the higher state of spirituality. You can just open any of the books and find advice on your spiritual path, on health and spiritual practice, on your possible psychological problem with explanation how it is connected with the current world condition, and much more.

Agni Yoga doesn’t feed us with niceties, but we can find there keys to a lot of our questions. It is a rigorous teaching of selflessness, courage, compassion and sacrifice. And also of collaboration and co-creation. Of collective action and personal heroism, of scientific discoveries and self-discovery, of aspiration and achievement. And also of Joy from the participation in this inspirational work, spiritual joy, fiery joy: “Understand the beneficence of fiery joy. It expands the consciousness, and draws all the best accumulations toward itself, as a fiery magnet. The essence of man is transformed and his outworn nature is burned away” (Supermundane IV).

This is a teaching of esoteric science, with its strict laws and mechanisms, with the abundance of treasures of wisdom here and there. And the Heart (the Heart Chalice behind the physical heart), full of Love energy, is proclaimed as the source of everything a human being is able to achieve.

Agni Yoga gives us also some glimpses into the future of humanity, and it is of particular interest because the Master is speaking from the strata of existence where time is different than here in our Solid World. His position therefore allows him to see the future much more clearly than us, though we also have the potential to become conscious observers and co-creators of the future. However, “Only devotion and understanding of the wisdom of the Plan insure the reality of the pictures of the future” (Leaves of Morya’s Garden , Illumination). Understanding of the Plan helps us to become aware of the wholeness and meaningfulness of our life with its past, present and future.

It is impossible to cover in a review all the aspects of Agni Yoga. But there is a possibility for everyone to read and enjoy it in its fullness, either as a hard copy or by downloading it from the webpage of Agni Yoga Society. We highly recommend these books for the spiritual student and also for anyone interested in understanding the working of the world. – reviewed by Roza and Margarita Riaikkenen, Melbourne, Australia.

There are many groups dedicated to, among other things, the study of the Agni Yoga teachings. One of them is TRIUNE OF LIGHT, an Ashram of Synthesis. Please feel free to visit their website at If you feel that your heart resonates with their message and work, you may wish to become a member. Members of TRIUNE also have the opportunity to participate in a monthly online study group with each other, which examines various aspects of the Agni Yoga teachings.



AZLANDER: SECOND NATURE (2012) by Gabriele Brunsdon. ISBN-10: 0987465651



Azlander: Second NatureThis fantasy novel is by our long-standing Melbourne-based member, Gabriele Brunsdon, and is at once an exciting ‘sword and sorcery’ fantasy story, and an introduction to many genuine concepts of the ancient wisdom tradition.


The story: “…Puck was an Elven prince who fell into love with a mortal girl, one Christmas day as she lay dying. He followed her soul into the Heavens and beyond ... King Richard sought the mysteries of the other-worlds. His story is of the demons he antagonised, of ghosts that pursued him into his lifetimes to follow, and of his pious search for the one true Sovereign. An account is given of his friendship with Puck, as it began in the forests of Nottingham. AZLANDER tells of the spiritual worlds - of dark and glorious beings that crowd the spaces, with divinity and reason. The story journeys through myth and obscurity, walking the path sometimes of gloom and often of beauty. There is the vaguest shimmer of true Faerie that lightly touches the pages, whereupon the astute may catch a glimpse as the thoughts become enlivened by its words. Two guys, one an immortal and one a man - and a single girl - are all stalked by a Demonic Master who seeks to own the earthly realm. There are two natures that coexist side by side - the Physical and the Ethereal world - wherefrom the spirits come and go ... Can Puck help save Humanity from the dark being who killed his friends, burnt down his house, slept with his girlfriend and now controls the globe? And who may save Puck? - His dear friend Paracelsus? The Tribunal of Horus? Or the guidance of the Azlan himself? A compelling epic romantic fantasy drama- worthy of reading again and again!”


Yet, following the time-honoured tradition of using stories to communicate cosmic ideas, this story is much more that a rattling good fantasy tale. Using characters from many different historical and mystery traditions – Puck (Shakespeare), Maat (Ancient Egypt), Azlan (from CS Lewis), King Richard, King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham (English history) – and many others, the author bases her story on universal concepts such as Reincarnation, interpenetrating spiritual worlds, spiritual guides and guardians, the nature of spiritual purification versus punishment, Hell as a place of learning and purification, the existence of spiritual masters – both good and bad, and eventual fate of those who pursue the ‘left-hand path’. The story is easy to read being presented in short chapters of one to three pages, and the book is a convenient size for reading on the move so I can imagine seeing train carriages full of Azlander covers when this book becomes better known!


As a fantasy-love-historical story, or as a gentle introduction to universal spiritual concepts, this book deserves the attention readers with imagination and a sense of the mysterious. reviewed by Andrew Rooke, Melbourne, Australia.


With every effort of will toward purification and unity with that `Self-God,' one of the lower rays breaks and the spiritual entity of man is drawn higher and ever higher to the ray that supersedes the first, until, from ray to ray, the inner man is drawn into the one and highest beam of the Parent-Sun. - H.P.Blavatsky, S.D. I-639.





This article is written for those who believe in reincarnation and the purpose of our evolutionary process which is designed for us to become enlightened spiritually conscious beings.


We are, essentially, divine units of consciousness ‘Monads’, undergoing the process of involution and evolution to obtain divine SELF consciousness.  However, because the Monad never leaves its exalted plane of existence, which sits between the plane of the divine and the spiritual plane; it creates the existence of an Ego which is its reflection or progeny to undergo the process of evolution on its behalf.  Psychologist use the term ‘Ego’ to reflect the mortal conscious ‘personality’ aspect of our existence.  However, the term  ‘Ego’ also has an immortal aspect which is synonymous with the term Soul used in its higher ‘spiritual’ perspective.


The Mind may be looked at from two perspectives:

  • The seven planes of mind.
  • The personal perspective each of us has of the mind.

The Seven Planes of Mind are:


Instinctive, Desire, Intellectual, Intuitive/Illuminated, Buddhic, Atmic, and Monadic.  The degree of our consciousness ‘spiritual awareness’ determines which of the levels of mind we are able to access consciously.  And, as our consciousness ‘spiritual awareness’ expands, so does our ability to reach into the next higher level of mind.  In this process, however, the expansion into a higher plane of mind, of necessity, diminishes our conscious control over the plane of mind from which we are emerging.


The Personal Perspective each of us has of the Mind


Firstly, this perception of the mind must be understood to be a subjective and a separate instrument to the brain.  The brain being purely an organ of the physical body; so, its activity is purely related to physical connotations; while the mind’s activity is related to subjective connotations.


We know that our physical body has layers of subjective ‘aura’s surrounding it.  These auras – vital/etheric, astral and mental – reflect our individual strengths and weaknesses, and our state of consciousness.  The mental aura can only consciously accommodate and process the thoughts arising from that particular plane of mind we are primarily polarized in.  The planes of mind lower than that particular plane, function automatically; while those above our conscious recognition are consciously inaccessible.


Our mind is like a photographic plate upon which every thought from both internal and external sources impinge.  Therefore, we have to learn to separate the thoughts that come from within, from those emanating from the thoughts of desire emanating from the mass of humanity.


We must endeavour to use the Will of the higher aspect of our Ego to control our mind and not allow our mind to control our Ego.  This is prerequisite to, and the only way in which we may work towards become the Masters of our destiny instead of its Victim.


Brain, Mind, Ego, Soul and Causal Body Interrelationships


We must keep in mind that our brain only exists for so long as we happen to be in a physical body while we are on earth; while our mind, or rather the non-personality elements of our mind, that encompasses our higher mind – the mind of our reincarnating Ego – is retained throughout our evolutionary journey.

  • The first function of our mind which we use automatically is to transmit information gathered from our senses via the brain to the mind for analysis; and then to transmit that information from the mind to the Ego; that is, the lower aspect of the Ego.  This is what produces the sense of personality.
  • The second function of the mind is to transmit to the brain the thoughts, will and purpose of the higher aspect of the Ego/Soul.
  • The third function of the mind is its use by the higher aspect of the Ego/soul as an organ to see the realm of the Ego or spiritual soul.

When we reincarnate, that higher mind of the immortal aspect of our Ego is confined to our personality, and is subjected to the physical plane consciousness of our personality, until such time as our spiritual awareness transcends the purposes of our personality and conforms to the will and purpose of our reincarnating Ego/Soul. 


While there is only one Ego/Soul, that Ego is best perceived as having two aspects: a higher and lower aspect.  The higher aspect being the reincarnating immortal aspect; and the lower aspect being the mortal, non-reincarnating aspect.  The higher aspect governs our immortal life, while the lower aspect governs our mortal life and its reflection – our personality.


The term ‘Soul’ refers most often to our immortal self, and is often confused with the Ego, particularly, with respect to the immortal aspect of the Ego; but the term ‘soul’ should best be understood as the causal component of our existence.  Firstly, as the repository of all of the karmic issues we have accumulated and have to overcome, in this life or another; and consequently, referred to as the animal component of our soul; and secondly, as the vehicle or medium of expression of the immortal aspect of our Ego or Spiritual soul.



So, the constitution of the Causal consists of two basic components:

·         The lower aspect of which is created by the lower aspect of our Ego (our personality); and constitutes the substance of the Animal aspect of our soul.  It contains the seeds of all our karma and our destiny which impels us to reincarnate until these seeds are eradicated.

·          The higher aspect of our Causal body is created by the higher aspect of our Ego responding to the Buddhic plane of influence, and constituting: firstly, the substance of our human soul; and then, the substance of the spiritual soul devoid of all impurities, reflecting pure reason and knowledge. – Charles Reither, Melbourne, Australia.



[The ancient wisdom traditions of many lands speak of ancient civilizations stretching back into the past beyond the scope of currently accepted archaeological time-scales. In addition, it seems that ancient peoples travelled more widely than has been suspected until recently as is described by Robert Dick-Read’s original research on the ancient seafaring people’s of our northern neighbours from Indonesia - Editor]


Round about 1,000 BCE, when sailors from Southeast Asia were discovering virtually every spec of land in the Pacific Ocean, it seems probable that they also began to explore west into the Indian Ocean.  Borneo-style blowguns in southern India, and outrigger boat designs in India and Srilanka, suggest that Indonesians might have crossed the Bay of Bengal even before today’s Dravidian people migrated into southern India.


IPB ImageFurthermore it is also probable they might have reached Africa, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and sailed up the west African coast, exploring many of the great rivers as early as the 5th C. BCE.   Fossilized seeds of bananas (plants that came to Africa from Southeast Asia along with yams and other edible crops) have been found in the Cameroons and dated to about 450 BCE; and equally ancient sculptures found buried at Nok on Nigeria’s Jos plateau depict elephantiasis, a disease thought to have originated in the coastal swamps of Southeast Asia.


In 2003 to 2004 a replica of an 8th century Indonesian ship sailed across the Indian Ocean from Indonesia to Africa.


By coincidence (or is it?) the Nok sculptures were found close to the village of Taruga, famous for some of the earliest (c.450 BCE) iron smelting sites in sub-Saharan Africa.    Experts will doubtless continue arguing about the origins of iron-smelting in Africa; but because many of the early sites in western Africa have been found near the coast and major rivers, a strong argument can be made that this technology was brought not from the Nile or across the Sahara from the North, but by mariners from the Far East.


As for artworks in bronze, of the 65 Arab chroniclers who wrote about sub-Saharan West Africa between the 9th and 17th centuries, none came within 1000 miles of Igbo Ukwu, near the Niger delta, where the most significant (9th c.) Nigerian bronze castings have been found.   It is virtually inconceivable that the mining and supreme cire perdue technology displayed in some of the incredible works found at Igbo Ukwu were developed locally.   So from where did the technology come?    Was it overland from the North?  or across the oceans from the Far East?


It should not be overlooked that Igbo Ukwu’s dates are contemporaneous with those of the great Buddhist monument of Borobudur in Java, where the magnificent outrigger ships of the Buddhist merchant and craftsman Maitrakanyaka are depicted on the temple walls.  As the lower Niger River would have been far more accessible from the sea than over deserts and forests from the north, the possibility that large Indonesian outriggers rounded the tip of southern Africa must be given serious consideration.


The technology displayed at Igbo Ukwu was the same as that used later at Ife (Yorubaland) and Benin.  Though the hand of African artists in Nigeria’s cire perdue works cannot be questioned, the subject matter of many is of considerable interest. Compare, for instance, statuettes of some Yoruba grandees which bear a striking resemblance to many small Buddhist figurines that have been found in Southeast Asia.   Perhaps of greater significance are the number of important features that crop up in Nigerian art and ceremony that mirror the eight ‘auspicious’ Buddhist symbols – the Umbrella; the Conch shell; the Dharma wheel; the Knot of Eternity; the Treasure Vase: the Lotus flower and bud; and the pairs – always pairs – of fishes.


The last link with Buddhism may be the hugely important Yoruba ‘religion’ – the divination system known as ‘IFA’, wrongly thought to have been introduced by Arabs, but more likely to trace its origins to the I-Ching based system used by the Mahayana Buddhists of India and Southeast Asia, (and closely similar to the system of divination used as far away as the Caroline Islands in the Pacific).   As the Mahayana Buddhist state of Srivijaya was dedicated to spreading its religion far and wide it would indeed be strange if no part of it reached the shores of Africa. Robert Dick-Read, United Kingdom - Author of The Phantom Voyagers – Evidence of Indonesian Settlement in Africa in Ancient Times available from the author at: 


Editor’s note: A different view of the origins of civilisation in West Africa has been expressed by Nigerian members, Igwe Amakulo and E.A. Awa. This view gives the evidence that West African arts and religion developed locally without the influence of foreign cultures. This detailed analysis is available by writing to the editor.




Let the beauty we love be what we do -- Rumi

OBITUARY: Tine Johanna Wilhelmina van der Ven: 1919 – 2013.

We have recently heard of the passing on May21st 2013 of Tine van der Ven, a long-standing member of the Dutch Section known to many members of the Australasian Section. Besides her work for theosophy in Holland over many years, Tine was an accomplished artist and most of our members will know her picture of our Headquarters building ‘Deodars’ by in our Library Centre meeting room in Melbourne. She rests peacefully amongst the stars – ‘Dormit in Astris’ – Editor.

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, Library Centre, 664 Glenhuntly Rd., South Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria 3162, AUSTRALIA. Tel: 0400942613 Email : World Wide Web homepage at: 

Our International Leader is Randell C. Grubb.