THEOSOPHY DOWNUNDER

Newsletter of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) Australasian Section

No: 105 December 2011

 

Bridge over the Waiau River in the South Island of New Zealand. Photo courtesy of Stefan Carey.

 

CONTENTS                                                                                                                  

 

Wheels within Wheels – Andrew Rooke

Australian News.

What is Happiness? – Stefan Carey

Happiness and Giving – Hiliary Brunsdon.                                                                                 

Hidden Gold – Amanda F. Rooke.                                                                                                                                                         

International News.

Book Reviews.

Death with Dignity – Andrew Rooke.

‘Puja’: Spiritual ‘Timeout’ – Koshish Karunga.

Book Reviews: Gifts of the Spirit: living wisdom of the great religious traditions.

                        Light on the Path and Through the Gates of Gold – Mabel Collins.

                       Sanskrit Pronounciation: booklet and audio – Bruce Hall.

Obituaries: Ingrid ‘Binnie’ Van Mater.

                   John Coker.

Seeing the Seals – Stefan Carey.

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WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS - Andrew Rooke

While you are sitting here reading this you are actually – moving at 0.5 km per second with the Earth's rotation; moving forward with the Earth around the Sun at 30kms per second; moving with the solar system around the galaxy at 250kms per second; and moving with the whole Milky Way galaxy within the Local Group of galaxies at 300 kms per second! You are actually many hundreds of kilometres away from where you were in space when you first started reading this article!

Wheels within wheels - in constant and rapid motion. Yet to us tiny beings all appears largely unchanged from one day to the next, just as we were once beguiled by appearances into thinking that the earth was flat. Brave explorers in their sailing ships proved this to be a fallacy and gave us a global consciousness; now questing souls are reaching billions of light-years into the depths of space with radio telescopes and offering us something approaching a galactic awareness. We are starting to appreciate the reality of the ancient teachings that the universe is one of an infinite number of vast living organisms extending from the infinitely divisible atom to the super-galactic structures we are now seeing, and beyond, to macrocosmic entities.

As Saint Paul expressed our being part of Universal Divinity in the Bible, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

Theosophical teachings compare our Earth to an electron and our solar system to an atom in the body of a being so vast that we cannot see it. We see only other atoms, galactic molecules, and now larger molecular swarms surrounding us.

“The Milky Way, a complete and self-contained universe, is, aggregatively, but one cosmic cell in the body of some super-cosmic entity, which in turn is but one of an infinitude of others like itself. The great contains the small; the greater contains the great. Everything lives for and unto everything else. This is the reason why separateness has been called the "great heresy." It is the great illusion, for separateness is nonexistent. Nothing can live unto itself alone. Every entity lives for all, and the all is incomplete without the one entity, and therefore lives for it.” – G. de Purucker, Fountain-Source of Occultism, p. 113

Let us now turn the telescope round the other way and look at the micro-cosmos of billions of cells that compose our bodies. In turn these cells are built of molecules and atoms, electrons and subatomic particles. Letting our minds take flight with the consciousness-expanding images of the ancient wisdom, is it not possible that many of these electrons could be inhabited by beings, who like us are pondering these wonderful thoughts?

“Their universe is a single organ of our body, and their galaxy is a single molecule of a cell of that organ. This is consciousness, atman, not 'name and form' nama-rupa . . . Consciousness has no magnitude. It will fill space, it will fill an atom, and things incomparably smaller than one of our chemical atoms. It is dimensionless, because it has no shape, no form, no rupa.” – G. de Purucker, The Dialogues of G. de Purucker, "Atomic and Galactic Consciousness," 3:165-7

Consciousness unbounded by physical size lends wings to the imagination beyond the dreams of science fiction. One might fantasize that the larger being of which we are a part could be no further progressed in evolution than ourselves; conversely, that hierarchies of divinely conscious beings could inhabit the atoms of our bodies whose "worlds and galaxies" live out their life cycles and reimbody in one of our split seconds! A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions befalling the galactic being of which we form a minute part, we infinitesimals might know nothing or little about it, just as its atoms and molecules, our worlds, might peregrinate as do the life-atoms which enter and leave us at every instant.

In a world beset with wars and economic recession, where the great majority of people struggle to meet the demands of daily existence, what possible significance could these scientific metaphysical speculations have for the man in the street? The fact that modern science is beginning to have some understanding of the ancient truth that we are part of a larger organism has ethical implications for us all. We are encouraged to lift our heads from transitory worries and seek the broader horizons of the night sky, alive with evidence of our brotherhood with the stars.

From infinitesimal beings to galactic super-clusters, we see intricate connections and realize that we each have our own role to play. We start to respect our bodies, our environment, and the universe as temples of life, and to treat ourselves and others with reverence. We realize that our actions today will affect the destiny of planets and suns of the distant future, when we, as evolving beings, shall inhabit celestial forms — stars and galaxies — to provide the environment for humanities of tomorrow, the evolved life-atoms of our own constitution. – Andrew Rooke,  Melbourne, Victoria.

The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically the "playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing," called "the manifesting stars," and the "sparks of Eternity." "The Eternity of the Pilgrim" is like a wink in the Eye of the Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan). "The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb of flux and reflux." — The Secret Doctrine, Second Proposition, 1:16-17.

AUSTRALIAN NEWS
 
New Study Group on Theosophical Teachings: we are happy to announce a new series of seven study group meetings available for those interested in 
theosophical teachings, Theosophy: Writings of the Leaders. These will be held at our Melbourne Library Centre, at 664 Glenhuntly Road South Caulfield Melbourne, at
 2.30pm on the third Saturday of the month starting in February through August 2012. Don Shepherd will be leading these meetings which will focus on the teachings of the 
Leaders of the Theosophical Society Pasadena since the time of HP Blavatsky. All meetings are listed at:
http://theosophydownunder.org/library/meeting-programme/
 

Australian Online Theosophical Bookshop now open: if you wish to order books from our publishing house, Theosophical University Press, you can now do so direct from our website to the huge online bookstore, Amazon.com. Just click on the titles of the books you want which are all listed under the ‘Theosophy Bookstore’ menu and the links will take you to the book you want on Amazon.com which features vastly discounted prices and cheap, rapid delivery by airmail from the US. The Australian Online Theosophical Bookshop can be accessed at: http://theosophydownunder.org/theosophicalbookstore.php

 

Weekly Workshops on Eastern Philosophy at our Melbourne Centre: A series of lectures and discussions concentrating on comparative study of Asian philosophies,
 and some basic concepts of the Ancient Wisdom every Wednesday morning from 10.30am till 1pm throughout the year. This course features lecturers from different Eastern 
 religious traditions and visits to cultural events. Further information is available from Tony Downey on 0400942613. 

 

New DVDs in the Melbourne: Through the Wormhole - narrated by Morgan Freeman; Talmud – narrated by Pierre-Henry Salfatti; The secret of the ‘Secret Doctrine’ : DVD lecture recordings from the European School of Theosophy, Budapest, October 2009  - Michael Gomes; Unlocking intuition: Hermes Trismegistus and the function of Buddhi, The hierarchy of compassion  - DVD lecture recordings from the European School of Theosophy, Venice, October 2008 – Michael Gomes; The Eternal Cycle: birth and fertility in Nature and Human experience – Dr L.Sharashkin; Ancient Roots, Modern Shoots: seeing your natural environment as an extension of yourself – Dr L. Sharashkin.

 

New Books in the Library: Where do we get our characters from? – Nivard Vas; A Search in Secret Egypt – Paul Brunton.

 

New on Theosophy Downunder website: new lectures added to our website in the ‘Theosophy Downunder Library’ section include: What is Theosophy – by Clive Bellgrove; How Natural are Natural Disasters?  - by Paul Rooke with Roza and Margarita Riaikkenen; Happiness: Why does the search for Happiness cause suffering? – Stefan carey.

 

WHAT IS HAPPINESS? - Stefan Carey

 

Happiness: Everybody wants it, and many promise it.

 

An absence of suffering is one way to describe it. My dictionary defines it as feeling or expressing joy, pleased. But is happiness endless laughter, being fabulously rich, having no cares in the world, being a king? Owning Microsoft? Being a supermodel? Owning an island and a plane and never having to work? Chalking up 500 Facebook friends? Being famous, like Mick Jagger or Richard Branson? Being Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world?

 

On reflection these possible definitions seem slightly ridiculous.

 

We spend a lot time thinking and looking for ways to be happier. We can’t simply just be. We tend to try to add happiness to the moment, like adding a layer of icing sugar to a cake that seems to have too little flavour to be eaten on its own. We are well trained to always add and to consume, under pressure all the time to show how well we are doing, but not to slow down and reflect and appreciate.

 

I believe we are easily confused about what will give us a lasting happiness, and we seem to be victims of our own entirely normal human drives and insecurities. So I think happiness is something few of us actually understand or have a workable, dependable definition we can rely on. The fact that we often think others are happier than we, without any real evidence, illustrates how fragile and misleading our definitions can be.

 

It is normal human nature to think of happiness as something we don’t have yet, or will have when we reach our next goal. When we achieve this next goal, whether it's a purchase like a new pair of shoes or the latest digital camera, finding a better job or getting married, we usually tend to start thinking about our next goal just we achieve the goal. So the period of happiness as we expected to experience is really very short-lived.

This cycle of dissatisfaction-satisfaction, drives us to find happiness outside ourselves, because we are always waiting for changes that can only happen in the future, and usually outside of ourselves. After each ‘happiness point’ is reached, as my wife says, the happiness is fleeting, if it were not, we would not evolve. I think she has a point.

 

Here’s an example of how it works with events we look forward to. A young person going through the trials of adolescence says to themselves: “I will be happy when I finish year 12”, then soon after, “I will be happy when I finish my degree,” then “I will be happy when I get a good job,” then “I will be happy when I dump this lousy job for a better one,” then “I will be happy when I find my ideal partner,” then “I will be happy when I buy a good house,” then “I will be happy when I find a better partner”, then “I will be happy when I have children,” then “I will be happy when I have a bigger house,” then “I will be happy when I have a second house,” then “I will be happy when I have paid off my credit card,”, then “I will be happy when the children have left home,” then “I will be happy when I have saved enough to retire in comfort,” then “I will be happy when I retire”, then “I will be happy when I have ten grandchildren”. So “I will be happy when,” etc. is never ending because the ‘when’ can never arrive.

 

Even though this approach can help us achieve a great deal along the way, the risk is that, as you can see, is a formula for constant unease, constant discomfort, because it fuels a sense that the present can never offer us complete happiness, and that happiness is always around the next corner somewhere – which seems right – but at the same time it seems all wrong; because if you look at your life as a whole, the corner is a long way off and we never get around it. But this is how we are trained to think. Add to this that fact that our self esteem – is often left to the control of what others think of us – this means we feel that our happiness and identity depend on making sure our appearances or achievements do not slip below a certain level.

 

So we feel we must always look to the future, less so on the present, so our focus is not here, our focus is on what is around the next corner. So, like the example of the well-camouflaged seals in the story at the end of this newsletter, we cannot see what is in front of us. We are always in a hurry to get around the corner, always under pressure to look good. One survey showed that no matter how much money people had, they all said they wanted more than they had to be ‘really’ happy. Millionaires included. However, they would also accept less to be happy if it meant they had more than others around them!

 

Here are five quotations on happiness from the Forbes Book of Business Quotations. These quotes focus on the elusive nature of looking for happiness directly or externally:

 

C P Snow: “The pursuit of happiness is a ridiculous phrase. If you pursue happiness, you will never find it.”

 

Andrew Carnegie: “The secret of happiness is renunciation.”

 

Edith Wharton: “If only we would stop trying to be happy, we'd have a pretty good time.”

 

John Dewey: “External things and opportunities so abound in American life that, instead of nurturing the true source of happiness, we tend to make it a direct aim. Therefore, we end in looking for happiness in possessions of the external - in money, a good time, somebody to lean on for our ideas, and so on. We are impatient, hurried and fretful because we do not find happiness where we look for it.”

 

Epictetus: “There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the control of our will.”

 

Sebastian Chamfort: “It is with happiness as with watches, the less complicated, the less deranged.”

 

So, this leads us to what I think the main causes of why the search for happiness causes suffering, which are:

 

          Short versus long-term: not being able to distinguish between a short-term hit of happiness and longer lasting authentic happiness.

 

          Listen to yourself: taking someone else’s word too quickly for what might bring happiness.

 

          Faulty assumptions about how happy we should be: We tell ourselves: “I should be happy, I must be happy, others look happier than I do, I could be happier than I am”. There is today a strong happiness entitlement mindset, which I believe is bound to cause either lots of frustration. If we reduce expectations to the point where we expect things to wrong, we will be pleasantly surprised when they do not go wrong. Instead of spending a lot of time recovering from disappointment, we could spend more time rejoicing.

 

          Looking for happiness in the wrong place: i.e. assuming that happiness is found outside ourselves allows others to define happiness for us, and so we lose control of our own thoughts and lives and even identities.

 

          Faulty assumptions about how we can control our life and therefore our happiness: We cannot control life. Sickness is inevitable, death is inevitable, relationships that go wrong are inevitable. Traffic jams are inevitable, and taxes are inevitable. Life entails a huge amount of suffering, and once we accept that, then life becomes easier to bear when things get rough or don’t go our way. As the Buddhist saying goes “Oh joy, there is no happiness in the world”. What seems a rather dark way of looking at life can be a useful tool. What it implies is that to simply be alive means we will suffer. Once we accept this, life gets easier. The logic behind the idea is that to merely function day to day, to make sense of daily experience, we must draw comparisons, e.g., between good and bad experiences, emotions and things, and that we are very attached to seeing and processing the world in this way. As we constantly make judgements, comparisons, we will therefore inevitably always move from happiness to suffering, and back again, and until we let go of the attachment to this way of looking.

 

Each of these causes above, I think, can contribute to further suffering in ourselves, because they stop us finding a lasting, deeper happiness based on a realistic view or a deeper understanding. by Stefan Carey, Melbourne, Victoria.

 

If you wish to read the full version of Stefan’s lecture on ‘Happiness: Why does the search for Happiness cause us more Suffering?’, please go to our website at: http://www.theosophydownunder.org/library/theosophical-lectures/happiness-why-does-the-search-for-happiness-cause-us-more-suffering-by-stefan-carey/

 

HAPPINESS AND GIVING – Hiliary Brunsdon

 

After hearing Stefan Carey’s recent talk on Happiness (see above) Hiliary Brunsdon was moved to write the following:

I recently went to a talk at the Theosophical Society in Melbourne on the topic of ‘Happiness’.  A topic we tend to continually stumble into and all too soon give up on because it tends to become all too hard, like chasing one’s tail. During the talk many ideas came up surrounding the subject of finding happiness in this, our modern world. “Every year turns around, and the souls come in, and souls depart. Fashions change, vanity presumes, age creeps in, progress is all too slow, with quickened enterprise.” The ideas that surrounded the room spanned across the spectrum from taking all, to giving all, which ended in a conflict between complete consumerism, to giving away everything to the point of losing one’s self.

This seems to me to be a problem with which we are continually faced. How much do I have, and how much can I afford to give away? In our world we are constantly overwhelmed with these notions of success, the more we gain, the happier I will become. In a society that is built around endless consumption, and the false promise of happiness; when I eat this, or use that, or own something bigger, better and faster, not to mention how we look, have we not forgotten about the physical vulnerability of decay? That in the physical world, nothing is ever really owned, but all is ‘for rent’.

During the talk the words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”, began to manifest, and I sat there pondering the importance of these words. It is a blessed and privileged position to have something to offer. We say we wish to touch the hearts of men, to awaken their minds, and fire up their imaginations, yet we are quick to forget the mystery of the Biblical ‘fishes and loaves.’ “One donkey can carry three men, one farmer can feed many others, one book can service scores of thousands, the prayers of one many sustain- how many?” We can see that the acts of one, when done for more than that one, have a profound ripple effect that goes on to multiply and flourish. Here we can find the peace, when we look to a call of duty within our own lives and fulfil a need.

When considering our actions, all we need do is ask of ourselves, ‘from my act, will more than I profit?’ Here truly is an investment that will sustain longer than one minute, one hour, one day or one lifetime. And when we feel defeated, in debt, and down, we can remember our spiritual gifts that never empty, “that of kindness, that of appreciation, that of peacefulness, that of congratulation, of forgiveness, of latitude of understanding, of sharing, of higher love, of receiving these heavenly inspirations and passing them through to another.”

The wonderful children’s book, The Happy Prince, put it so gracefully; “I am covered with fine gold,’ said the prince, ‘you must take it off, leaf by leaf, and give it to my poor; the living always think that gold make them happy.’” – Hiliary Brunsdon, Cranbourne, Victoria.

HIDDEN GOLD - Amanda F. Rooke

 

It was a strange gift, a half-round, small, heavy rock, the colour and size of a walnut, or the fossilized seedpod of some ancient plant. The inside of the half-sphere, was hollow, and within its blackness, minute gleams of gold could be picked out, when held up to the light of the setting sun, glancing off slender threads and rods, crystals of mica, lining the inside of the hollow rock, they had the colour and texture of a tawny animal’s coarse fur.

 

The filaments revealed their inner fire, when held to an even brighter light, like the splendour of our inner god-spark, in our innermost heart, in the light of the heart of the universe itself, an inner glimmer of the gold infused into the dross, from which it would be forged, eons in the future, into the pure ore, in Life’s crucible.

 

It brought to mind, that the essence of the plant is sleeping within the stone, and the essence of the animal is sleeping within the plant, and that of man is sleeping in that of the animal, and the essence of the god is sleeping within the Man, by this sublimation process, through the action of the sutratman, the thread-self. Winding through the labyrinth of all the lower selves, on which it relies for its experience of existence, linking back to its origin, the great inner sun itself, which it reflects, shining enlightenment on all the kingdoms below, into which it is bound.

 

The gold is our compassionate nature, which shines forth when we minister caringly to others’ needs, or in acts of brotherhood or selflessness, often awakening the same light within the one being cared for, and in others as well. – Amanda F. Rooke, Melbourne, Victoria.

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

 

News from Britain: the latest issue of the British Section Newsletter Compass has a range of interesting articles such as ‘How can we make a difference’ by Sarah B. Dougherty, Silence its power, and its glory by Dara Maitland and news of meetings in the UK. Their website is: www.theosophical.org.uk

 

News from Holland: For our Dutch-speaking readers, the Netherlands Section’s website has a wide selection of translated, online publications, where articles are collated according to topic at www.theosofie.net for easy referencing. The Impuls newsletter can be viewed at www.theosofie.net/impuls/index.html; the September issue features A Host for Our Life-Atoms by Laura Vink and The Myth of Prometheus by Henry T. Edge. Articles are listed according to authors.

 

News from the USA: Recent Newsletters from the USA include 21st Century Path which includes articles by our own Don Shepherd on Seeing the Universal, The man who could not be photographed and other visual wonders by Robert McNary, and many other interesting articles. There are many branches around the US which conduct meetings and all contacts are available at: www.americansection.us. For all editions of the Theosophy Northwest View, go to www.theosophy-nw.org. Visit this site for the latest (September 2011) issue featuring the articles, Interfaith Ramadan Celebrations and The Interfaith Paradox by Sarah Belle Dougherty. In addition, articles posted on the website are clearly collated according to topic for easy referencing.

 

News from Theosophical University Press, Pasadena: the latest editionof Echoes of the Orient by William Quan Judge is now online as PDF eBooks at: 
http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/wqj-echoes/wqj-echoes-hp.htm
Other PDF eBooks currently available include: The Secret Doctrine Index; Theosophy in the Qabbalah; The Mystery Schools;  To Light a Thousand Lamps;  Colonel Arthur L. Conger … and more are in preparation.

 

News from South Africa: the latest issue of Contact newsletter has an excellent article by Alice Yetman on Happiness in relation to soul learning. A copy of the newsletter is available from our Melbourne library.

 

Scientists claim that faster than light particles have been found: in September this year, researchers in Italy reported measuring subatomic particles, called neutrinos, apparently travelling faster than the speed of light. Neutrinos are mysterious particles. They have a minuscule mass, no electric charge, and pass through almost any material as though it was not there. According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity upon which much of modern physics is based, this is not possible, in our Universe at least!

 

Internet ‘Addiction’: Psychologists in the US are increasingly encountering the effects on children and young people of spending huge amounts of their time on the Internet, playing computer games, and on social networking sites like, Facebook. Recent research indicates American college students are 40% less empathetic than 30 years due to exposure to the instant gratification of the Internet, and to violent ‘shooter’ computer games. Modern brain research is beginning to show that the sophisticated mental processes needed for empathy and compassion require a calm, attentive mind, and take time to unfold. Internet addiction is directly the opposite of what is required to develop these qualities. As one such researcher wrote recently: “The more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctively human forms of empathy, compassion, and other emotions.” – from: Psychotherapy Networker, Sept/Oct 2010.

 

Ancient Indian city of Dwaraka found underwater: what is thought by some to be the fabled city of Dwaraka, said in ancient texts to have been ruled by Lord Krishna himself, has been found underwater off the coast of Western India. This is one of many ancient cities found around the world underwater. Such flooded ruins must date back at least 10-20,000 years ago, when what were then coastal areas, were flooded by the changes in sea level associated with the Ice Ages. At the moment sea levels are rapidly rising due to global warminf, and similarly will threaten major coastal cities in the next 50 years. A video on the latest archaeological discovery of prehistoric underwater cities is available at:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xfmidj_underwater-worlds-3-ancient-aliens-dwaraka_webcam

 

‘PUJA’ : SPIRITUAL ‘TIMEOUT’ - Koshish Karunga

 

In this hectic world, we all need a little ‘timeout’. Lifestyle pressures, conflict situations at work and in the family, and even modern day films and TV often tend to drag our consciousness down into the dregs of human experience. How can we function as sensitive people when life often seems to be pushing us in the opposite direction?

 

There are quite a few simple ways in which we can remember the presence of divinity in our lives even when we are rushing around on our daily business. Certainly regular meditation is one way to achieve some spiritual timeout each day, but many people will say that they are too busy to meditate! Theosophical teachers tell us that we can always have the opportunity to ‘meditate’ upon higher spiritual consciousness by simply tossing around the wonderful ideas of theosophy in our minds as a sort of mental background to our busy day. Following the habit of taking a few moments before we go to sleep to meditate on the spiritual lessons or otherwise we have learnt during the day, is also a very constructive habit for our future ‘self-guided’ spiritual growth. How about taking a little timeout to go for a walk in the local park, or down by the seaside to be surrounded by the sounds and atmosphere of nature to rejuvenate a tired spirit and give us the opportunity to think over spiritual matters.

 

‘Puja’ or reverence for the Hindu goddess Durga held in Wantirna, Melbourne, October 2011.

 

At a more formal level, little rituals such as ‘saying grace’ before we eat, or expressing thankfulness in some way for the experience of every day, helps us to remember the presence of divinity in our lives. Attending church or temple services is certainly a time-honoured way of providing time for us to consider deeper aspects of life amid the many distractions that are a normal part of our daily routine. Such simple habits provide needed ‘shelter’ for the spirit in a hectic world and lead us away from falling into depression and low thinking. They also galvanize spiritual influences in our lives that can act as needed protection from the often low level ‘vibrations’ of worldly life, and from negative influences in the ‘astral’ world’.

 

In Hinduism, it is well-known that everyone needs a little timeout each day to lift the level of their thoughts and realize our relationship with divinity. In India every Hindu has the opportunity each day at home, in the local temple or even outdoors to have such a time of remembrance of the ‘gods’. This spiritual ‘timeout’ is called ‘Puja’.

 

What is Puja?  Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals. An essential part of Puja for the Hindu devotee is making a spiritual connection with the divine. Most often that contact is facilitated through an object: an element of nature, a sculpture, a vessel, a painting, or a print. During Puja an image or other symbol of the god serves as a means of gaining access to the divine.  This icon is not the deity itself; rather, it is believed to be filled with the deity's cosmic energy.  It is a focal point for honouring and communicating with the god. For the devout Hindu, the icon's artistic merit is important, but is secondary to its spiritual content. The objects are created as receptacles for spiritual energy that allow the devotee to experience direct communication with his or her gods.

 

We don’t have to be quite so sophisticated to have formal ‘Puja’ everyday as devout Hindus would do. But we all have the opportunity for our own form of ‘spiritual timeout’ to recognize and remember the reality of divinity in every moment of our lives, to open the door a little wider for the spiritual light within to shine in our everyday world. – Koshish Karunga, Melbourne, Victoria.

 

BOOK REVIEWS

 

Gifts of the spirit: living the Wisdom of the Great Religious Traditions, by Philip Zaleski and Paul Kaufman: This is a ‘jewel-box’ of how many different religious traditions apply their god-wisdom to aspects of daily life, and rights of passage, to centre our consciousness onto and into our ‘dharma’ and learn from our daily experiences – including a wonderful piece on the Shaker craftsmen’s five daily rules for daily life, “a methodology for work-as-prayer”. – Reviewed by Amanda F. Rooke, Melbourne, Victoria.

 

Light on the Path and Through the Gates of Gold by Mabel Collins. Theosophical University Press: Light on the Path comprises a series of occult rules with commentaries and notes, while Through the Gates of Gold leads the aspirant onward along the path of mystical insight. The mysteries of human suffering, and the responsibilities of the individual for his own progress and for the advancement of the race as a whole, are explained.

"The great and difficult victory, the conquering of the desires of the individual soul, is a work of ages; . . . When you have found the beginning of the way the star of your soul will show its light." — pp. 13-14, 21 – from the TUP Catalog.

Sanskrit Pronunciation: Booklet and Audio by Bruce Cameron Hall. Theosophical University Press: Designed to help students pronounce Sanskrit words accurately, this booklet and 45-minute audiocassette, read by the author, consists of four parts: (1) instructions for pronouncing Sanskrit letters and words, (2) over 160 Sanskrit terms from theosophical and Indian philosophical literature pronounced and defined, (3) a short pronunciation summary, and (4) sample verses from the Bhagavad-Gita in devanagari script, roman letters, and in English translation by the author. – from the TUP Catalog.

 

DEATH WITH DIGNITY - Andrew Rooke

 

The idea that suicide is justifiable ‘treatment’ for suffering is gaining ground in Australia and other Western countries. Organizations such as, EXIT International, even provide detailed advice on painless suicide which has been followed by many people. Individuals such as the late American physician, Dr Jack Kevorkian, known colloquially as ‘Dr Death’, even have advocated that the medical profession become actively involved in assisting suffering patients to die in much the same way as veterinary surgeons ‘put down’ suffering animals. Such attitudes and practices, though supported by many in the Australian politics and the media, are condemned by the majority of doctors in this country who hold to their ancient duty to preserve life and ameliorate suffering.

 

Ask the doctors who treat desperately ill people, and they will tell you that most terminally ill patients absolutely cling to life. Severely depressed, and in other ways mentally ill people will often consider, or even attempt, suicide. But if properly treated, such people, in most cases, recover once again to take on the responsibilities of life, and they most often regret the time when they considered ending their lives.

 

In the last 50 years a viable option for terminally ill people to die with peace and dignity has been provided with the relatively new medical concept of ‘Palliative Care’. Patients who have no hope of recovery receive pain relief and sufficient medical treatment without heroic attempts to preserve life beyond a natural span in a supportive atmosphere at home, in hospital, or increasingly in ‘Hospices’.

 

The Hospice movement was pioneered in England by nurse, social worker, and devout Christian, Dame Cicely Saunders. St. Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham, London, which opened as a demonstration and teaching unit in 1967, is now used as a role model for Hospice care throughout the world. Dame Cicely Saunders summed up the compassionate philosophy of Palliative Care as follows:

 

“You matter because you are you,

You matter because to the last moment of your life,

And we will do all we can,

Not only to help you die in peace,

But also to live until you die.”

 

                                                                                                             St Christopher’s Hospice in London, England

 

The Ancient Wisdom, expressed in the modern age as Theosophy, affirms that killing, even for what may outwardly seem humane reasons, helps nobody from the inward perspective of soul learning. Such a decision is based on limited knowledge of what constitutes life and its responsibilities and the new life that follows the transition that we call death. The great religious teachers of history are united in advocating the sanctity of life as an arena of learning, and in condemning killing and suicide. These sages and Theosophy too, point out our responsibility to face bravely the lessons of our own making in this or previous lives, until such time as the natural span of our lives elapses. Premature attempts to escape suffering by suicide yield nothing as the universal harmonious law of Action and Reaction, ‘Karma’, will bring us back to face the same challenges again in a future life when, perhaps, we will be less well prepared to face lessons for the learning today.

 

Modern medical research on the ‘Near-Death-Experience’ of people who have attempted suicide, but have been successfully resuscitated, confirms the Ancient Wisdom in showing that suicide most often precipitates the Soul into non-physical realms of acute suffering but without the physical body for protection and the means to work through the karmic causes of our distress.

 

True ‘Death with Dignity’ is to live as long as we can, giving fully of ourselves to others and learning up to the last second of life. The wisdom traditions of the ancient Greeks put this sacred duty of true human-hood beautifully:

 

“…Antonius prayed: ‘Zeus, take away this bitter cup.’ But he paused a moment and changed his prayer: ‘Zeus, strengthen my manhood, so that I care not whether the draught be bitter or sweet.’ ‘Which wilt thou then?’ said Zeus. ‘The last, for that is the prayer of a man.” – Andrew Rooke,  Melbourne, Victoria.

 

“…Oh the tree of life is growing, where the spirit never dies. And the bright light of salvation shines in dark and empty skies…Just remember that death is not the end…” –Bob Dylan.

OBITUARIES:

Ingrid ‘Binnie’ Van Mater: On July 21, 2011 long-serving HQ staff member, Ingrid “Binnie” Van Mater passed away at 90 years of age. Binnie will be remembered by many Australian members who visited HQ over the past many years, for her friendly conversation usually whilst she was preparing dinner over a hot stove in the kitchen at Deodars. Her love of people, ever-present sense of humor, and exceptionally forgiving nature drew many friends to her, among theosophists and in the community. She loved music, nature writing, flower arranging and gardening. Ingrid was born at the Theosophical Headquarters at Point Loma, California, on October 30,1920, daughter of Swedish residents Axel and Gerda Fick.  Educated at the Raja-Yoga schools, she was trained as a concert pianist. She joined the TS in November of 1938, and attended Theosophical University with additional music studies at the Pomona Colleges. On May 8,1946, she married John P. Van Mater. In 1948 they moved near Washington DC to work at the American Section HQ, returning to the Headquarters in California in 1952. Later that year their son, John Van Vater, Jr., was born. From the 1950s into the 1980s she was in charge of the kitchen at the headquarters in Altadena and took a major role in looking after the older residents. She was active in public meetings and presentations, and from 1982 to 1998 served on the TS Cabinet. For years she coordinated proofreading at Theosophical University Press, headed the Children’s Booklist Committee, and assisted with Sunrise magazine. A life dedicated to theosophy.

John Coker: May 21, 1945August 23, 2011. John died peacefully in his home at the theosophical headquarters in Altadena after an extended illness.  With him were family members Nancy, Jessica, Jeff, and his grandchildren Bella and Jackson.  John was a member of the headquarters staff for over twenty years, serving in various capacities in the press, library, writing articles for Sunrise magazine, lecturing, and corresponding with students in the Theosophical Correspondence Courses. John was born in Battle Creek, Michigan, and served in the U.S. Navy as a radioman first class, mainly on submarine duty.  Married in 1969, John and Nancy first contacted the TS right after their daughter was born in California in 1977, and became members in 1978. While in a local bookstore, Dr G de Purucker’s, Fountain-Source of Occultism, fell off the shelf at his feet and he had second thoughts.  Later, after reading it, he purchased and read every book TUP printed. Ever after, through his love of spontaneous free-wheeling conversation, he promoted theosophy to all who crossed his path.  In 1979, he, Nancy, and a friend started a mail-order cottage industry (Deva Natural Clothes) and moved to Burkittsville, Maryland, where they organized a branch of the TS in the area.  His vision of compassionate action helped steer the business for ten years until he and Nancy returned to California to join the headquarters staff. While John was an omnivorous reader in philosophy and the world’s religions, he also studied and practiced the science and art of homeopathy for over 30 years.  Music and art, too, were mainstays in John’s life, and he was one of the principal organizers of the Theosophical Artists Co-Operative (TACO).  One of his friends described his musicianship this way: “John created a new kind of music. The players, by listening and responding to each other, allow the music to take flight and form itself.  The organizing principal of this approach is rhythm, the fundamental root of everything, which is not stated or pounded out.  It is felt by all the players and holds the music together while the sounds whirl all about, in, and through it.” John will be remembered for his intelligence, wit, love of the paradoxical, wide-ranging passions, as a loving husband, father, and grandfather, and for his unstinting service to humanity.

It is a wonderful tribute to John that his article "Follow Your Heart: The Story of Layla and Majnun" has been the most visited Sunrise article on the TS website this year. John’s article is available at:

 

www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sunrise/49-99-0/mi-jcok.htm

 

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 : andrewrooke@hotmail.com World Wide Web homepage at: http://theosophydownunder.org/  Contributions on Theosophy or related topics are always welcome. Our International Leader is Randell C. Grubb

SEEING THE SEALS - Stefan Carey

 

Just recently I was sitting in a campervan on a rocky beach next to a well known seal colony at Kaikoura in New Zealand.  This rocky point and its seal colony face the Pacific Ocean .It is not too far from the town itself and is overlooked by a large car park.

The seal colony is a major tourist attraction; so tourists, like the seals, are abundant. My wife and I, and many other tourists had come to this car park to see the seals in the wild as they lazed around on the rocks in the mild spring weather. But there was just one small obstacle to seeing seals easily. Seals look like rocks, and can be hard to see, even when they are close to you. Even so, one can usually see at least a handful of seals close to the car park. But you need to let the eye and the mind adjust to a way of looking. It just takes time to find the right way to look for a seal.

 

As I was sitting in the van, I saw something amusing. New people arrived every few minutes, and stood near us. You could tell they were excited. Yet I saw nearly everyone give up after about 30 seconds, their faces fell, they just couldn’t see any seals and walked away disappointed. I remember one guy even shook his head in disgust and walked off in a huff with three seals right in front of him, and dozens on the rocks about 150 metres out!

 

After seeing this again and again, with the seals so obviously near, in the end I could not stand it, and so I pointed out to young a couple, and then to a German tourist that the seals were in fact right in front of us, snoozing lazily on rocks. But most tourists walked away disappointed, and they moved on looking in vain for seals elsewhere.

 

This spectacle proved to me that most often there is nothing wrong with our eyes! Rather, we are in too much of a hurry, and we are often out of harmony with our surroundings; so we can’t see the things we’re looking for, right there in front of us, and we get disappointed, depressed and unhappy. We will not see what we are looking for if we are in too much of a hurry and always keen for quick result. - by Stefan Carey, Melbourne, Victoria.

 

 

 

From all of us at Theosophy Downunder - May the Blessings of the Sacred Season be with you and sustain your efforts to “Live the Life” in 2012 and Beyond. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All!

Christmas in Sydney

 

                                                                        

 

Christmas in Sydney, Australia