Tag Archives: Religion

The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling by Stephen Cope

I enjoyed this book tremendously because it gave me a much better understanding of the Bhagavad Gita. The author centers the book on this ancient Hindu text, and the concept of dharma, one’s true calling in life. He uses the story and characters in the Gita to frame  different biographical chapters about famous people, among them Jane Goodall, Walt Whitman, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman and Mahatma Ghandi, who have followed their dharma and serve as perfect examples of how to find one’s own and why it is important to do so. Cope includes in this book everyday stories about following the path to dharma, his own personal story  and how this all affected his own life and that of his friends.

The Bhagavad Gita is a wonderful teaching on the problems of doing and a guide how we can authentically express who we really are. Cope states the Bhagavad Gita was written precisely to show us how to make the world of action an arena for spiritual development.

Chapter by chapter he explains how we know to what actions we are called in this life. He addresses the issue of doubt, certitude, and fear of closing certain doors when one pursues his/her dharma. He tells us, that the only way to get to certitude is to look more and more deeply into our doubt – “to shine light into the dark corner of our self-division”.

He describes the central pillar of the path of action – to look at your dharma, to do it full out, to let go of the fruits and to turn it over to God.

He quotes Thomas Merton who said, that every man has a vocation to be someone, but he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill this vocation he can only be one person, himself.

Numerous times the author points out, “If you bring forward what is within you it will save you, but if you do not, it will destroy you”. He warns us of leading a life founded on self-betrayal, which we recognize if we feel a growing emptiness inside. Lack of interest, lack of enthusiasm and a lack of soul-connection to work are typical warning signs. He also explains that in the end no one really cares what we are doing with out life so we have to make sure that life is working for us.

At the same token he admits that dharma always involves at some point a leap off a cliff in the dark and that failure at one point is part of all great dharma stories. Careful attunement to dharma will demand that we reinvent ourselves periodically throughout life.

In his words, “Our actions in expression of our dharma – my actions, your actions, everyone’s actions – are infinitely important. They connect us to the soul of the world. They create the world. Small as they may appear, they have the power to uphold the essential inner order of the world.”

 

 

Meister Eckhart

One of the reasons I picked this book is that I find the introduction by Oliver Davies very illuminating. He starts with an overview to Meister Eckhart’s life and explanations of his thoughts about Oneness, Creation, The Ground of the Soul, The Birth of God in the Soul, and Detachment. He further discusses his methods and the European intellectual tradition in regards to Eckhart’s work.

My favorite part is The Talks of Instruction because he explains his thought on true obedience, the most powerful prayer, the undetached people who are full of self-will, the value of renunciation, on detachment and possessing God, and how we should perform our works in the most rational way.  He tells us to make a constant effort in spiritual progress and how temptation to sin always aids our progress; explains the virtue of the will and what to do if we cannot find God. He continues by talking about sin, repentance; true confidence and hope; on the two kinds of certainty of eternal life, how to remain peaceful when confronted with oppression, how to enjoy food and cheerful company and he explains why God sometimes allows good people to be hindered. Meister Eckhart ends this book with thoughts on spiritual endeavor and how to find the right path.

In The Noble Man he explains that we possess in ourselves two natures, one that is body and the other spiritCompare with the concept of personality (body) and individuality (spirit) in Theosophy under Philosophy; he speaks of the nobility of the inner man, that is the spirit, and the worthlessness of the outer man, that is the flesh and that the seed of God is in us; he also points out that “it is in Oneness that God is found, and they who would find God must themselves become One.”  And he emphasizes that we have to know ourselvesCompare with To Know Yourself and Self-Healing, Yoga and Destiny under Spiritual Development in order to know God.

The German and Latin sermons are easy to read and cover different issues and passages from the Bible.

Statements from the German sermons that caught my attention included his recommendation to take note of our weaknesses and overcome them; that all the commandments of God proceed from love; that God is in all things, that he made all things and remained within them; that we should love our neighbors as ourselves; and that we should become free of ourselves and of all things. He tells us that our blessedness does not lie in our active doing, rather in our passive reception of God. His explanation in sermon 15 about Holy Trinity, that distinction within the Trinity comes from its unity, reminded me of the explanation of Elisabeth Haich in Initiation about the triangleSee page 244 in the free online-pdf version of the book or compare with Initiation under Metaphysics.

My favorite Latin sermon is the last one, a very short discourse about what we should bear in mind with respect to the words of prayer.

He repeats more than once that a relationship to the Good comes from within rather than without. He also rejects the importance of forms of worship and insists on an interior acceptance of self-love as a necessary precondition to the love of God and others.

 

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

In the introduction of the book we find out that in December 1945 an Arab peasant made an astonishing archeological discovery in Upper Egypt. Rumors obscured the circumstances of this find–perhaps because the discovery was accidental, and its sale on the black market illegal.

The manuscripts soon attracted the attention of officials of the Egyptian government. They bought one and confiscated ten and a half of the thirteen leather-bound books, called codices, and deposited them in the Coptic Museum in Cairo. But a large part of the thirteenth codex, containing five extraordinary texts, was smuggled out of Egypt and offered for sale in America.

Professor Gilles Quispel, a distinguished historian of religion at Utrecht, in the Netherlands urged the Jung Foundation in Zurich to buy the codex and succeeded. When he discovered that some pages were missing, he flew to Egypt in the spring of 1955 to locate them in the Coptic Museum. He borrowed photographs of some of the texts and when he deciphered them, he realized that it contained the Gospel According to Thomas; yet, unlike the gospels of the New Testament, this text identified itself as a secret gospel. Quispel also discovered that it contained many sayings known from the New Testament; but these sayings, placed in unfamiliar contexts, suggested other dimensions of meaning. Other passages, Quispel found, differed entirely from any known Christian tradition.

The finder later admitted that some of the texts were lost–burned up or thrown away. But what remains is astonishing: some fifty-two texts from the early centuries of the Christian era–including a collection of early Christian gospels, previously unknown. Besides the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip, the find included the Gospel of Truth and the Gospel to the Egyptians Another group of texts consists of writings attributed to Jesus’ followers, such as the Secret Book of James, the Apocalypse of Paul, the Letter of Peter to Philip, and the Apocalypse of Peter.

What was discovered at Nag Hammadi were Coptic translations, made about 1,500 years ago, of still more ancient manuscripts. The originals themselves had been written in Greek, the language of the New Testament. About the dating of the manuscripts themselves there is little debate. They have been placed at ca. A.D. 350-400.

The texts had been buried and their suppression as banned documents were both part of a struggle critical for the formation of early Christianity. The Nag Hammadi texts, and others like them, which circulated at the beginning of the Christian era, were denounced as heresy by orthodox Christians in the middle of the second century.

This campaign against heresy involved an involuntary admission of its persuasive power; yet the bishops prevailed. By the time of the Emperor Constantine’s conversion, when Christianity became an officially approved religion in the fourth century, Christian bishops, previously victimized by the police, now commanded them.

But those who wrote and circulated these texts did not regard themselves as “heretics. These Christians are now called gnostics, from the Greek word gnosis, usually translated as “knowledge.” Those who claim to know nothing about ultimate reality are called agnostic (literally, “not knowing”), the person who does claim to know such things is called gnostic (“knowing”). But gnosis is not primarily rational knowledge. The Greek language distinguishes between scientific or reflective knowledge (“He knows mathematics”) and knowing through observation or experience (“He knows me”), which is gnosis. As the gnostics use the term, we could translate it as “insight,” for gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself.

And to know oneself, they claimed, is to know human nature and human destiny. Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level, is simultaneously to know God; this is the secret of gnosis.

The main ideas in the gnostic gospels are:

1) While Orthodox Jews and Christians insist that a chasm separates humanity from its creator, meaning that God is wholly other, some Gnostics believe that self-knowledge is knowledge of God and that the self and the divine are identicalCompare with Reincarnation & Karma under Metaphysics. By knowing oneself, one might understand human nature and destiny.

2)  The “living Jesus” of these texts speaks of illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance, like the Jesus of the New Testament. Instead of coming to save us from sin, he comes as a guide who opens access to spiritual understanding. But when the disciple attains enlightenment, Jesus no longer serves as his spiritual master: the two have become equal–even identical.

3) Orthodox Christians believe that Jesus is Lord and Son of God in a unique way: he remains forever distinct from the rest of humanity whom he came to save. Yet the gnostic Gospel of Thomas relates that as soon as Thomas recognizes him, Jesus says to Thomas that they have both received their being from the same source:

Jesus said, “I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become drunk from the bubbling stream which I have measured out…. He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him.”

4) Gnostics emphasized spiritual “resurrection” (i.e,. spiritual rebirth) and physical “resurrection” (i.e., reincarnation). Christian Gnostics held the view that if spiritual resurrection was not attained in one lifetime, then the soul would be subjected to as many reincarnationsCompare with Theosophy under Philosophy, The Bhagavad Gita under Religion and Quantum Physics under Science as it takes until spiritual rebirth is attained.

5) The importance of Logos, the part of God that acts in the world. It is the perfect unity of the human and the divine. Everyone has the Logos within them and it is for this reason that Genesis describes humanity as created “in the image and likeness of God.” The Logos is the divine Spirit in humanity.

The identity of the divine and human, the concern with illusion and enlightenment, the founder who is presented not as Lord, but as spiritual guide sounds more Eastern than Western. Some scholars have suggested that if the names were changed, the “living Buddha” appropriately could say what the Gospel of Thomas attributes to the living Jesus and wonder if Hindu or Buddhist traditions have influenced Gnosticism. It is not conclusive but it is possible that what we call Eastern and Western religions, and  regard as separate streams, were not clearly differentiated 2,000 years ago.

The book has six chapters and Pagels does not attempt to summarize or examine in detail the Gnostic Gospels. She focuses instead on how Gnosticism affected the rise of the orthodox church that declared the Gnostics heretics.

We also learn that Gnostics maintained equality amongst individuals and established no fixed orders of clergy and that they allowed all individuals to seek to know God through their own experience and to achieve personal enlightenment through rigorous spiritual discipline and self-discovery.

The Christian church on the other hand developed a religious structure to encourage social interaction amongst individuals and required only that individuals accept the simplest essentials and put emphasis on a variety of church rituals.

The two most interesting chapters for me were “God the Father/God the Mother” in which she elaborates on the fact that instead of a monistic and masculine God, many of the texts speak of God as a “dyad who embraces both masculine and feminine elements”; and “Gnosis: Self-Knowledge as Knowledge of God”, in which we find out more about techniques of spiritual disciplines, such as getting rid of physical desires practicing meditation and praying. The author mentions that much of the gnostic teaching on spiritual discipline remained, on principle, unwritten because Gnostic teachers shared most of it only verbally. Gnostic teachers had to take responsibility and pay individualized attention to each candidate and each candidate had to devote energy and time – often years – to the process.

 

 

Here are some websites that provide additional information on this book and topic:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/pagels.html
http://reluctant-messenger.com/reincarnation-gnostic.htm
http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/?p=10036
http://www.examiner.com/article/do-gnostics-believe-reincarnation

Depth Psychology

Approaches based on depth psychology focus on the psyche, human development, personality formation, and individuation.  Individuation is a process of bringing our unconscious potential into a concrete living reality.  This process helps to secure a bridge between an individual and the unconscious as well as the individual and his/her wider community. By incorporating both an inner and outer exploration, one discovers a more potent sense of meaning and purpose in life.

In my research I found several articles by Dr. David Johnston, that are relevant for this website. Dr. Johnston is a psychologist who has many years of personal experience with Jungian depth psychology along with knowledge that aids in interpreting and understanding the unconscious. He mentions two of the books I have summarized on this website,  Jean Gebser’s Ever Present Origin and Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections in some of his writings.

In his article Meaning and Jungian Depth, in which he discusses the nature of a meaningful life from the point of view of Jungian depth psychology, he writes that according to Jung a life is meaningful if consciousness is increased. Dr. Johnston continues to describe a life where consciousness is increased as one “where work and relational goals are transcended, becoming increasingly reflective of an inner need for more consciousness and, potentially, a vocation or meaningful expression of being.”

He explains that the “Self, that is the God or Godhead” is a “complex of opposites, including what we experience as good and evil” and that a person with a meaningful life is related to the Self and integrates into consciousness experiences of the opposites.  In other words, the process of individuation involves integrating new aspects of the unconscious into awareness and one’s activities in life, developing one’s character and discovering one’s inner essence.

Dr. Johnston provides in this article examples of how people have been able to enhance the meaning of their lives with the help of depth psychology by recognizing certain aspects of themselves and making the necessary changes but emphasizes that in all cases the individuals concerned had “something of a genuine religious and ethical attitude to life, which is of fundamental importance to leading a meaningful existence.”

He adds that even if one’s life is deeply meaningful, it does not mean that there is no suffering, or times when life seems random and senseless but by intuitively understanding “that life will once again make sense, that darkness will give way to light and that meaninglessness will prove to be contained in a greater meaning.”

In his article Jung, the Self and the Jungian Depth Psychological Worldview he elaborates further on the process of individuation and points out that “this process involves not only the transformation of individuals but also of the community” which implies the need of “a creative engagement of the individual in the life of the community.”

He also addresses the individuation process at the beginning of another one of his articles,  Individuation and the Individuation Process, and interprets individuation simply as the “developmental unfolding of the psyche over the course of a lifetime.”  He discusses in more detail how this process involves becoming more conscious of disparate aspects of one’s being including shadow qualities and the four functions of consciousness, thinking, feeling, intuition and sensation, along with the two attitudes, extroversion and introversion and deduces that this process will consequently lead “to a relative degree of wholeness, at which time the Self, that is to say one’s inner center of being, begins to direct one’s life. “

I found even more overlap with my research in his article Jung in Contemporary Context.  At the beginning he points out that we live in an “Age of ConfusionCompare with A New Earth under Spiritual Development” and refers to Hindu mythology and specifically the Bhagavad Gita which explain that the reason we are living in such confusing times is that people are no longer living according to eternal laws and therefore the Divine/God is preparing the way for a new age.

Dr. Johnston explains that in mystical literature and Hindu thought, the transcendent Self is considered to be “Brahman or God” but that Jung hesitated to make such metaphysical assertions and stayed with empirical experience.  Rather “than insisting that these experiences of the transcendent Self are experiences of God, he referred to them as archetypal experiences of the God-image.  Jung preferred to call it the God-image for the sake of a scientific attitude.”

In the same article Dr. Johnston writes that we are in the early stages of a major transformation in consciousnessCompare with The Ever Present Origin under Philosophy and culture and that Jung has stated once, that there is a transformation of the principalities and powers taking place or “in other words, a transformation of the archetypes, of the basic underlying patterns of life, and the way that we understand and relate to life and the world.” He continues to write, “the old ways are being transformed or destroyed, so the new can live” and states his belief that a more divinely oriented world is “already there in its early stages of manifestation”.

In the conclusion of this article he writes that “a New World is laboring to become manifest” and that “understanding Jungian psychology can be very helpful in gaining self-knowledge and consciousness and in encouraging fulfillment of one’s unique destiny.” He adds, that “there is the need to assimilate qualities of the chthonic spirit, which allows for the instinctive expression of the Divine Will in life and the potential to participate consciously in the New World.”

Websites I have used for this article are:

http://www.goodtherapy.org/Jungian_Psychotherapy.html#Depth%20Psychology

http://home.arcor.de/g.mackenthun/lect/keywords/key11.htm

http://www.pacifica.edu/whatisdepth.aspx

http://www.terrapsych.com/depth.html

http://www.cgjungcenter.org/?page_id=97

http://www3.telus.net/gusbear4/articles.shtm

Religion

Each of us connects with the word “religion” very specific ideas. The word religion (“respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods,” “obligation, the bond between man and the gods”) is mentioned as a description of the religious life for the first time in Cicero’s  “De natura deorum”. Some modern scholars favor the derivation from ligare “bind, connect”.

There are two world traditions, which have formed the cultural and ethical basis of the world, as we know it. Both have an unbroken history going back thousands of years.

1) Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths of Middle East origin, recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with Abraham, the founding father of the Israelites.

Judaism is the oldest Abrahamic religion, originating in the people of ancient Israel and Judea.

Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian faith is essentially faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and as Savior and Lord.

Islam is based on the Quran, one of the holy books, considered by Muslims to be revealed by God, and on the teachings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

2) The Vedic tradition, also termed Dharmic tradition, are a family of religions that have originated from the Indian subcontinent. They encompass Hinduism and three other religions that have spawned from it—namely Buddhism, Jainism, an Sikhism.

Hinduism includes Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shrauta among numerous other traditions. Hinduism includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of “daily morality” based on karma, dharma and societal norms.

Buddhism was founded by Siddhattha Gotama who aimed to help sentient beings to end their suffering by understanding the true nature of phenomena, thereby escaping the cycle of suffering and rebirth that is, achieving Nirvana.

Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence for all forms of living beings in this world.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded on the teachings of  Guru Nanak and ten successive Sikh. Sikhs are expected to embody the qualities of a Sant-Sipāhī—a saint-soldier, have control over one’s internal  vices and be able to be constantly immersed in virtues clarified in the Gutu Granth Sahib.

There are other religions that can’t be put into one of these two world traditions, among them Shinto (the indigenous spirituality of  Japan), Zaroastrianism (an ancient Iranian religion and philosophy), Taoism (a religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao meaning “way”, “path” or “principle”), Confucianism (an ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius) and Baha’i Faith (a monotheistic religion emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind).

The development of religion has taken different forms in different cultures.  But we have to remember that the great teachers never founded a religion. It is the followers that established and promoted the different churches, replete with their own beliefs, dogmas, rules, rites, rituals and other governing persuasions.

Each great teacher emphasized different ideals and virtues.   The ideal is the selfless aspiration to help uplift humanity and a virtue is the fulfillment of the ideal.  In other words, an ideal is a virtue we promise to practice. In the end there is a basic unity of the world’s religionCompare with The Universality of Golden Rules in Religion even if they emphasize different ideals because any particular ideal includes all the others for its altruistic completion.

 

RELIGION TEXT IDEAL TEACHING TEACHER TIME
Hinduism Vedas Divine Duty, Wisdom Vyasa and Unknown +2000 – 600 B.C.
Judaism Torah Righteousness Moses ca. 1250 B.C.
Shinto Kojiki & Nihonji Godliness Unknown 660 B.C.
Zoroastrianism Zend Avesta Purity, Truth Zoroaster/Zarathushtra 660 – 583 B.C.
Jainism Siddhantha Angas Harmlessness Mahavira Vardhamana Jnatriputra 599-527 B.C.
Buddhism Tipitakas Compassion Siddharta Gautama Sakyamuni Buddha 580 – 483 B.C.
Taoism Tao Teh Ching Simplicity Lao Tzu 570 – 517 B.C.
Confucianism The 4 Books & The 5 Classics Altruism, Propriety Confucius 551 – 479 B.C.
Christianity Holy Bible Love, Forgiveness Jesus 105 B.C.
Islam Koran Divine Surrender Abulqasim Mohammed ca. 570 – 632 A.D.
Sikhism Adi Granth Devotion Guru Nanak 1469 – 1538
Baha’i Faith Kitab-I-Agdas Peace Mirza Husain Ali Nuri 1817 – 1892

 

Sources for this article:

Escudero, B. (1994). Basic Unity of the World Religions. Summar Sophia Series, Volume 4, Number 9

Jewish Virtual Library. Abraham. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/abraham.html

Renkewitz H. (1980). Religion aus Das Moderne Bildungsbuch.

Vedic and Abrahamic Thoughts. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://veda.wikidot.com/vedic-and-abrahamic-thought

 

 

The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita opens with blind King Dhritarashtra asking his secretary, Sanjaya, to narrate the battle for control of Hastinapura between his sons, the Kauravas, and their cousins, the Pandavas. The Kauravas are not the rightful heirs to the kingdom, but they have assumed control, and Dhritarashtra is trying to preserve it for his son Duryodhana. Sanjaya tells of Arjuna, who has come as leader of the Pandavas to take back his kingdom, with Krishna first as his charioteer until Arjuna surrenders to Lord Krishna and requests the Lord to instruct him.

Arjuna believes that killing is evil and that killing one’s family is the greatest sin of all and therefore puts down his weapons and refuses to fight.  Consequently Lord Krishna starts to explain to Arjuna why it is his dharmicthe moral transformation of human beings or behaviors considered necessary for the maintenance of the natural order of things duty to fight and how he must fight in order to restore his karmadeeds, actions.

Lord Krishna talks about reincarnationCompare with Quantum Physics under Science and The Gnostic Gospels under Religion and explains the eternal cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth. The purpose of this cycle is to allow a person to work off their karmaCompare with Theosophy under Philosophy and Self-Healing, Yoga and Destiny under Spiritual Development, accumulated through lifetimes of action. If a person completes actions selflessly, in service to God, then they can work off their karma, eventually leading to enlightenment. If people act selfishly, then they keep accumulating karmic debtCompare with To Know Yourself under Spiritual Development.

Krishna presents three main concepts for achieving enlightenment– renunciation, selfless service, and meditationCompare with The Yoga Sutras under Spiritual Development. All three are elements for achieving ‘yoga,’ the union with the Divine. Krishna says that the truly divine human does not renounce all worldly possessions or simply give up action, but rather finds peace in completing action in the highest service to God and without being attached to the outcomeCompare with The Four Agreements (the fourth) under Spiritual Development. As a result, a person must be aware of the three qualities of the mind – the three gunas – and avoid their traps: rajas (activity, anger), tamas (ignorance, lethargy), and sattva (existence, reality).

Sattva could be the hardest trap to overcome because it could captivate one with its bliss attained on this stage. It entails qualities such as harmoniousness, calmness of mind, a highly developed consciousness, the ability to control one’s emotions, prevalence of the state of subtle and joyful love, absence of egocentrism and violence. Krishna emphasizes that one has to go higher than sattva, to mergence with God, and this calls for new efforts, new struggle with oneself. It is impossible to bypass the sattva guna. It is impossible to merge with God without mastering the qualities inherent to this guna.

Krishna says that he who achieves divine union with him in meditation will ultimately find freedom from the endless cycle of rebirth and death.

Arjuna suddenly understands enlightenment when Krishna appears to him in his divine state, and now has complete faith in the yogic path. At that point Krishna reveals to him that love comes from a person’s selfless devotion to the divine, in addition to an understanding that the body is subject to endless rebirth until humans let go of their body’s cravings and temptations and aversions to end that cycle.

The Gita ends with Krishna telling Arjuna he must choose the path of good or evil, as it is his duty to fight the Kauravas for his kingdom. That way he is correcting the balance of good and evil, fulfilling his dharma, and offering the deepest form of selfless service. After hearing the instructions of Sri Krishna, Arjuna is ready to fight.

Sanjaya, after narrating this conversation to Dhritarashtra, predicts victory for Arjuna, the supreme archer, for he is surrendered to Krishna, the master of all mystics

There are numerous versions, commentaries and summaries online.  I have purchased the kindle edition of  Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God. The appendix of this edition contains an explanation of the cosmology of the Gita and explains concepts such as Brahman, the three aspects of Ishwara, Prakriti and points out that Hinduism accepts the belief in many divine incarnations, including Krishna, Buddha and Jesus, and foresees that there will be many more. I also have read the interpretation by Swami Chinmayanada which is excellent but very detailed.

You can find a more detailed summary of the Gita here. This review is inspiring and I found this site helpful for my summary.

What The Buddha Taught by Walola Rahula

This book is available free online and this is an article summarizing it and providing links to related articles.

Here are the most important points:

  • Buddha claims no inspiration from any God or external power.
  • Man is his own master and there is no higher being or power that sits in judgement over his destiny.
  • Man has the power to liberate himself from all bondage through his own personal effort and intelligence.
  • Man’s emancipation depends on his own realization of Truth, and not on the benevolent grace of a God or any external power as a reward for his obedient good behavior.
  • The root of all evil is ignorance and false view.
  • This spirit of tolerance and understanding has been from the beginning one of the most cherished ideals of Buddhist culture and civilization (no shedding of blood). What is essential is seeing the thing, understanding it.
  • But in Buddhism emphasis is laid on seeing, knowing, understanding, and not on faith or belief.
  • The moment you see, the question of belief disappears.
  • To be attached to one thing (to a certain view) and to look down upon other things (views) as inferior – this wise men call a fetter.

In Buddhism it is important to understand the question of suffering, how it comes about, and how to get rid of it, and then to work accordingly with patience, intelligence, determination, and energy.

The central tenants of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths.

The First Noble Truth: “The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha)”

Happiness is a part of life, a part of dukkha, but like everything else it has no permanence.

The Five Aggregates of Attachment or Suffering:

  • Aggregate of Matter
  • Aggregate of Sensation
  • Aggregate of Perception
  • Aggregate of Mental Formation
  • Aggregate of Consciousness

The Second Noble Truth: “Arising of Suffering”

This addresses man’s desire or craving. All the evils in the world are produced by selfish desire. This “thirst” or attachment is not only for wealth, power, and sense-pleasures, but can also manifest itself in attachment to ideas, opinions, theories and beliefs. This arises from an organism’s “desire, the will to be, to exist, to re-exist, to become more and more.”

According to the karma theory, the effects of a volitional action may continue to manifest themselves even in a life after death.

The Third Noble Truth: “The Cessation of Dukkha

There is liberation, freedom from suffering, from the continuity of dukkha. It eliminates the root cause of suffering, and leads to liberation which is known as Nirvana.

The author explains that language is too poor to express the real nature of the Absolute Truth or Ultimate Reality which is Nirvana. One could describe it as cessation of the very “thirst”.
Absolute Truth: Extinction of desire, hatred and illusion. Absolute Truth is beyond duality and relativity.

Absolute Freedom is freedom from all evil, craving, hatred, and ignorance; from all terms of duality, relativity, time and space.

Absolute Truth: There is nothing absolute in the world; everything is relative, conditioned and impermanent, there is no Self or Soul (note: this has to be understood as “Self” as an “autonomous entity” because we are not really separate, autonomous beings – this website is somewhat helpful about this topic).

To see things as they are without illusion or ignorance is the extinction of craving “thirst”.

The Fourth Noble Truth: The Way leading to the cessation.

This Truth is the path that leads to Calm, Insight, Enlightenment, Nirvana. By taking the Middle Path we avoid two extremes. The one extreme being the search for happiness through the pleasure of the senses (low, common, unprofitable and the way of the ordinary people) and the other being the search for happiness through self-mortification in different forms of asceticism, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable.

This Middle Path is generally referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path:

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thought (self detachment)
  3. Right Speech (no lies)
  4. Right Action (moral conduct)
  5. Right Livelihood (no harm to others)
  6. Right Effort (preventing evil, bringing good)
  7. Right Mindfulness (awareness of body and feeling, mind and ideas)
  8. Right Concentration

They are to be developed more or less simultaneously, as far as possible according to the capacity of each individual. They are all linked together and each helps the cultivation of the others. The eight factors aim at perfecting the three essentials of Buddhist training and discipline: Ethical Conduct, Mental Discipline and Wisdom

One should develop compassion (love, charity, kindness, tolerance) and wisdom (qualities of the mind) .

The way of life is self-discipline in body, word and mind, self-development and self-purification.

You have to rely on yourself and not on others.

6 Directions:

  • East (parents are sacred to their children)
  • South (a pupil should respect and be obedient to his teacher)
  • West (relationship between husband and wife – respectful, faithful, devoted)
  • North (be hospitable to friends, relatives and neighbors)
  • Nadir (Master should pay adequate wages, medical needs should be provided, occasional bonuses – Servants should be diligent, honest and obedient)
  • Zenith (Lay people should look after the material neeeds of the religios with love and respect).

Minimum moral obligations of a lay Buddhist:

  • Not to destroy life
  • Not to steal
  • Not to commit adultery
  • Not to tell lies
  • Not to take intoxicating drinks

Ten duties of the King:

  • Liberality, generosity, charity
  • High moral character
  • Sacrificing everything of the good of the people
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Kindness and gentleness
  • Austerity in habits (no luxury)
  • Freedom from hatred, ill-will, enmity
  • Non-violence (promoting peace).
  • Patience, forbearance, tolerance, understanding
  • Non-opposition, non-destruction (don’t oppose the will of the people)

The Universality of Golden Rules in Religion

Buddhism Hurt not others in way that you yourself would find hurtful. Udana-Varga 5,1
Christianity All things whatsoever ye would that mean should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets Matthew 7:1
Confucianism Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state Analects 12:1
Hinduism This is the sum of duty; do not onto others what you would not have them d unto you. Mahabharata5,1517
Islam No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. Sunnah
Judaism What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. Talmud
Native American Spirituality All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One. Black Elk
Taoism Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien
Zoroastrianism That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself. Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5

Adapted from “The Christopher Newsletter”

Theosophy by John Algeo

The Theosophical Society

The Theosophical Society is a worldwide association dedicated to practical realization of the oneness of all life and to independent spiritual search. It was founded in New York City in 1875 by Helena P. Blavatsky, Henry S. Olcott, William Q. Judge, and others. Blavatsky (1831-1891) is the primary force behind the modern theosophical movement. Her works and those of her teachers express the principal concepts of its philosophy. A Russian by birth, she traveled for twenty years in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the Near East studying mysticism and occultism. Helena P. Blavatsky also wrote books titled Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine.

What is Theosophy?

Algeo starts out by explaining that we have made a lot of progress in science, technology, and other matters but in our relationship to others, in concern for our own health, on our work and our leisure, we do not apply the same intelligence and realism.

The three objects of the Theosophical Society are:

  • To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.
  • To encourage the comparative study of religion, philosophy and science.
  • To investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in humanity.

The motto of the Society is “There is no religion higher than Truth”.

The word religion comes from a Latin term whose root meaning is “to link back”. Therefore different religions link their followers back in different ways to the ultimate source of life – the Absolute/God/Divine Reality.

Theosophy does not claim to be a complete and final statement of wisdom and truth; it holds that all things, including the human mind, are evolving. It does not bind an individual to any particular belief or creed. Theosophy asks you to live your religion, not to leave it.

Theosophy as Science

Science limits itself to what can be quantified and tested by repeated, controlled, and objective experiments. Every great discovery of science was at first a grand intuition and theosophy reaches into the area of these “grand intuitions”. Theosophy, while pointing out new roads to inner knowledge, also teaches that only those who prepare themselves in action, desire, and thought to hold the welfare of humanity above their personal benefit can safely gain such knowledge.

Theosophy as Philosophy

Theosophy is not a body of beliefs but a way of explaining things (a philosophy). It holds that the universe unified, orderly, and purposeful, that matter is the instrument for the evolution of life, that thought is a creative power which we can learn to use effectively, and that experience of both joy and suffering is the means by which we grow in character and ability and thus attain wisdom, compassion and power.

Religion, science, and philosophy are three ways of viewing the truth of the universe.

Some Fundamental Concepts

  • Ultimate reality is a unified whole – absolute, impersonal, unknowable, and indescribable.
  • The universe is manifold, diverse, constantly changing
  • The ultimate reality is the source of all consciousness, matter and energy
  • The physical universe of which we are normally aware is only one aspect of the total universe. Of the seven planes of our solar system, human beings function primarily on the lower three: physical, emotional and mental.
  • Everything in the universe is orderly, following patterns of regular cycles
  • Evolution is good and follows a plan
  • We are threefold beings: 1) a temporary, single-lifetime personality; 2) a spark or direct emanation of the ultimate reality; 3) an abiding, evolving individuality tat reincarnates.
  • The process of evolution must eventually become a conscious process
  • The evolving human has more intelligence, some may serve as helpers
  • The pain, cruelty, and frustration we experience in life are the result of ignorance, unbalanced actions, or change.
  • It is possible, as a result of individual effort in this life, for human beings to come by intuitive knowledge or mystical experience to a full awareness of their non separateness from the ultimate reality

What is within counts!

The Theosophical Society guarantees full freedom to interpret the teaching and has three prepositions:

      • The universe and all that exists within it are one interrelatedCompare with Dying to Be Me under Metaphysics and interdependent whole.
      • Every existent being is rooted in the same universal, life-creating reality
      • Recognition of the unique value of every living being expresses itself in reverence for life, compassion for all, sympathy with the need of all individuals to find truth for themselves, and respect for all religious traditions.

Central to the concerns of Theosophy is the desire to promote understanding and brotherhood among people of all races, nationalities, philosophies, and religions.

Devotion to truth, love for all living beings, and commitment to a life of active altruism are the marks of the true Theosophist.

The three truths:

      • The human soul is immortal, and its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendor has not limit
      • The principle that gives life dwells in us and around us
      • We are each our own absolute lawgiver; the dispenser of glory or gloom to ourselves, the decreer of our life, our reward, our punishment

The Ancient Wisdom in the Modern World

1) History

The Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875 and the chief founders were Blavatsky (HPB) and Olcott (HSO).  HPB was a Russian woman, married young and left her comfortable life to seek an explanation to life’s mysteries. She came in touch with some teacher in her dreams who sent her to America.

Olcott was a lawyer who served in the civil war. When spiritualism became interesting he went to Vermont to write a story. Publicity rose after the first cremation. HPB and HSO soon moved to the East. HPB focused on the esoteric aspects, HSO on its public aspects.

Annnie Besant became HPB’s successor and also adopted and fostered the Indian philosopher Krishnamurti, who grew up to be an independent teacher.

2) The International and National Societies

TS still has its international headquarters at Adyar and is now represented in about 70 counrties in the world.

3) Universal Brotherhood

The first object it to form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.

Brotherhood is the primary focus of Theosophy because all humans are related. Because we are interrelated, everything each of us does affects everyone else. Brotherhood is spiritual siblinghood/family. In old English it refers not to a group of males, but to people generally. Brotherhood is spiritual family of humanity. It is a goal to form a Center/Core/Nucleus, since the brotherhood already exists.

The universe is an expression of the Divine Reality.

In Theosophy brotherhood means much more than a humanistic ideal of kindness and consideration of others; it is an integral part of our existence as human beings.

Instead of accepting that “the fundamental identity of every soul with the universal over-soul” is a fact, we fight what is in our own best interest.

The humans have not yet wholly freed themselves from the cramping bondage of self-absorption and self-interest. We should not only consider the welfare of ourselves, our family our fellow-believers or communities.
We need to understand that what happens in one country affect all others. We all ultimately reap what we sow and thus learn the lessons of our sowing.

We need to work on ourselves to achieve betterment in the world!

Compassion, a virtue taught by Christ and Buddha, is the last great virtue that must be fully attained by every aspirant. We cannot judge one another. We have to recognize our oneness with all life, in whatever form it manifests.

4) Human Beings and our Bodies

The physical body is not the real personSee also Heal Thyself by E. Bach under spiritual development. Theosophy teaches that we are really the “Monad” or inner unity, a fragment of unity, a spark of the divine flame (which lives in many houses). In addition to the dense physical environment, we have environments of vital energy, feelings, thoughts and intuitions. Our interface with each environment performs two functions. On the one hand, it is the channel through which we experience and influence that environment. On the other hand, the kind of interface we have with an environment also limits how much of that environment we can experience and respond to (House-windows-how many we have determines what we see). Limitations protect us and limit us. Too much would lead to be overcome by sensations, energies, emotions, concepts etc.

Theosophy teaches us that our solar system includes seven interpenetrating planes of matter or fields of energy. Three are directly involved in our personal evolution – the physical , the emotional, and the mental. The physical consists of the dense and etheric level. The mental has a lower and higher subdivision (lower = mental; higher = causal). Bodies are not fixed and static. All bodies are really localized fields of force of concentrations, individual foci, of the energies of the larger fields in which they operate. Each of the bodies ha around it a radiating energy field (auras). The “bodies” are not really separate. They are interdependent and function as a whole.

We know we never feel emotion without thought, nor do we think without feeling emotion. And thoughts and emotions affect our physical bodies and vice versa. The connection between our various bodies is the chakras. They are seven major energy centers over our body, where channels of energy converge, each having the appearance of a wheel or lotus flower.

The causal body is more permanent than the others (incorruptible body) – composed of the higher-frequency energies. Our consciousness functioning on that plane is the real “us”; the aspect of ourselves that incarnated in lower bodies to gain experience through them. It is the body of our permanent individuality. Here are the causes stored that sooner or later become effects in the outer, visible world.

One part of the physical body is the dense part composed of solids, liquids, and gases. The etheric double is largely invisible and gives the pattern by which the dense physical body is built – every cell of the dense body! It is the carrier of physical sensation. The etheric double absorbs energy from the sun and transmits is as vitality. The etheric double can be separated from the dense physical body by shock, anesthetics etc. but remains attached by the “silver cord”. When it breaks, death follows.

The emotional body, extending beyond both the physical form and the etheric double, is the vehicle of feeling and desire, ranging all the way from earthy passions to inspiring emotions (radiant – therefore sometimes called astral).

When the physical body sleeps, the consciousness continues to function in the emotional body sometimes remembered through dreams. Clairvoyants describe the emotional body of an evolved person as filled with vibrant and luminous color. Less evolved persons are darker.

Theosophy describes each of the planes or fields of the universe as having seven subdivisions of matter or frequency, The “lower” mental body is composed of the four denser subdivisions of the mental plane the causal body is the vehicle of consciousness in the three subtler or “higher” subdivisions.

When the mental body is in use, it vibrates rapidly and temporarily increases in size. Prolonged thought makes the increase permanent, so the mental body is built day by day through the right use of thought power.

Because emotions and thoughts are interrelated, each affecting the other, these two bodies are closely linked. The mental together with the emotional is called kama manas, which means “desire mind”. The causal body is the vehicle through which the human individuality or soul expresses itself as a series of personalities in the world. It does so by functioning through temporary bodies – mental, emotional, and physical –on the denser planes. Only the good, the true, and the beautiful enter into the causal body, because its vibrations are so subtle that they do not respond to that which is coarse, false or ugly.

It is small at the beginning, as we evolve, and the effects of our good thoughts, feelings, and actions gradually are registered there; it takes on greater color and grows in size, but very slowly until we reach the stage of unselfish or impersonal views of the world.

The causal body continues life after life – is our permanent embodiment.

After our body dies we interact with our subtler-plane environment for a while through our emotional and mental bodies. But eventually they too die; then the beneficial experiences of the previous incarnation are incorporated in the form of increased capacities.

When the experiences of the previous incarnation have been so absorbed and transmuted into increased powers and capacities, the desire for more experiences draws us into incarnation again. We then attract about ourselves first a mental and next an emotional body of the same general characteristics as those we sloughed off at the close of our last incarnation. Thereafter, we come to birth in a new physical body built according to the sort of pattern we have established in past lives, although not necessarily of the same sex.

We need to manage control of our lower bodies!

5) Life after Death

We have actually many reports about what happens after dying. Survival of consciousness after dying is a logical conclusion. Life after death is unique for each person. Life after death is a subjective state said to be largely determined by the individual’s attitudes, thoughts, and actions – that is, by the level of consciousness attained during the life just completed.

There are two patterns of the after-death state. As a person approaches death, the etheric double withdraws, only the silver cord left. At the end the events of the ending incarnation pass swiftly in review, then when dying the cord is broken and the person (etheric double) seams to float above the dense physical body in a state of peaceful unconsciousness (sleep-body stays attached to the etheric double). You help the dying by staying calm and without emotional resistance.

After hours the inner person disengages from the etheric double and releases itself entirely from the physical world. The double “dies” and disintegrates, while the person’s consciousness remains in the emotional body. After dying, the person is attracted to that level most characteristic of the habitual emotions during life. The denser, coarser vibrations form the outer most shell. A person who has lived a life governed by strong, coarse desires (materialistic), awake to the vibrations of that type in a sort of purgatory (the desire can’t be fulfilled because the physical vehicle no longer exists). It is a result of natural law.

Individuals of less coarse tastes and more controlled appetites will experience no such intense emotional stress.

One view: Individual sleeps through the entire post mortem experience in the emotional world awakening only on the mental plane Devachan.

Other view: Individual sleeps only through the coarser levels; when the higher levels are reached they find life similar to that which they left (pleasant earth life – less material). Thoughts are now visible, so deception is impossible. The dead communicate with the living, while the latter are asleep. Loving thoughts from living friends and prayers – free of sadness – often help. Excessive grief is not good.

Every person is eventually cleansed of emotional desires (20 – 40 years). Then the individual awakens to more favorable and pleasant surroundings – entrance into heavenly life.

The special characteristic of the heaven world (Devachan), which exists from the four lower sub planes of the mental body through the highest causal sub planes, is said to be an intensity of bliss. In Devachan we create the world that best suits us. The experience of Devachan (a term that means “the land of Gods”) is a consolation for every pain and disappointment of earthly life. Devachan is a state of consciousness in which energies have been stepped up to an immensely high level. The individual has the power to grasp every situation in its entirety.

We spend time there as long as we need. Experiences from past life will be stored for future use in the form of conscience and ideals.
After a stay on the causal plane the individual grows hungry for more experience which leads to a vision of the next incarnation.

6) Reincarnation

ReincarnationSee also Initiation by E. Haich under Spiritual Development is a fundamental concept of Theosophy. Many people don’t accept the unfairness and inequalities with a God of justice and love. Each of us is an evolving part of the divine life (heavenly father who inexplicably plays cruel games while demanding unquestioning love!). Why does a soul have a future but no past? Since we have an earthly life, it must serve a purpose in the evolutionary process.

ReincarnationCompare also with The Gnostic Gospels and the Bhagavad Gita under Religion and with Quantum Physics under Science is the most logical and most in harmony with an orderly system (like school). Reincarnation is repeated entering into a fleshly body. Through each of our recurring lives in a body of flesh, we gather experience thatCompare with Your Soul's Plan under Metaphysics, during the period between incarnations, we work into faculties and powers needed for further growth in spiritual statue. Some incarnations seem to be a failure but failure too is educative (humans enter after/at the end of a stream of animal incarnations).

We can start “schoolCompare with The Heart of the Soul under Spiritual Development” in different years and vary in the progress we make. Some are more/less advanced. We all have equal possibilities for development. The order varies. All learning follows a spiral pattern. Some things we have to relearn.

Reincarnation explains the differences we see all around us that neither environment nor heredity account for.

Each soul comes into a physical body bringing along the fruit of past lives. Talent is no gift; it is the result of lives of work in a particular endeavor. Conscience is the fruit of the past, the indelible record of lessons learned in other lives.

Reincarnation also offers an explanation for homosexuals. The inner self has no sex, but wears in one a male body, in another a female. If you pick the same sex for several lives and then switch, the other traits will remain.  It forces you to develop the other sexes’ response to experience.

It is believed by Hindus, old Egyptians, Buddha, Greek Pythagoreans, Kabbalah and it was believed among the early Christians.

Ian Stevenson wrote about past incarnations and the intersection of biology and reincarnation. We are affected by the “likes and dislikes” of past lives. Detailed memories are connected with the physical brain and when the body dies that brain consciousness is lost; detailed echoes of our past life are no longer active. When people remember it’s usually because the former life ended sudden and too early and the previous life was incomplete and the reincarnation took place quickly (close in place).

The past is eternally available but we do not know how to access it. Some people have achieved the necessary sensitiveness to recapture some memories of past lives.

Three main factors determine the circumstances of our next birth.

      • Law of evolution: The purpose of reincarnation is to further our intellectual and spiritual development.
      • Law of cause and effect: The law of justice determines if we either earned opportunities or if we will be limited.
      • Sympathy or connectedness: We have to meet those with whom we formed ties of love of hate; helpfulness or injury.

Everything works for the growth of the spirit!

7) Karma

Our universe is lawful and orderly, a place where nothing happens by chance. The energy put forth in thoughts and desires will sooner or later produce results. Even death does not cancel what we owe.

KarmaCompare with Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire under Spiritual Development is the law of cause and effect. Every action we do affects our relationship with our families, our friends, our business associates and others. Karma is the world of constant change; nirvana is the world of permanence. Karma is always educative; Karma is the law of growth. Karma is un-personal; it has no concern with us individually. Some karma is from present life; some from past. Some Karma is related to our family and some of it relates to humanity as a whole.

Every human being is constantly generating physical, emotional, and mental forces and the effects of those forces determine the kind of life we lead here. Reincarnation is part of the plan of evolution. We can continually modify the effects of any law. If any condition inconveniences, blocks or causes pain and discomfort to others, and ourselves we have a right, in some instances an obligation, to do what we can to change it. We grow and develop our powers through Karma, which helps us learn through dealing with problems. If in spite of our best efforts, the block or conditions remain, it may have other purpose – perhaps a lesson in renunciation, patience or sacrifice (first make sure it is inevitable).

You can counteract the effects of Karma. When we begin to find the right answers, we will realize that they come from within ourselves, where the problems also came from – for the answer is always in the problem. Each person’s life is intertwined with the life of all humanity.

We need to control what we think and feel! Whatever one of us does affects all others because at the deepest level of reality we are all one. Every time we think or feel or act unselfishly, we are helping. We can act for ourselves, but we have to act for others as well.  We also must act now!

8) The Power of Thought

We generate three karmic forces every day of our lives; thought, emotion and action. And the most powerful of these three is thought. Thought is an energy that consciousness produces to modify the subtle matter of the mental plane. Our thoughts vibrate. When we think the same thought, the resulting thought form is produced quickly and accurately. The effects of thought are of two kinds: those that react on the thinker and those that affect others.

Any repeated thought establishes a vibratory habit in our mental body and thoughts have side effects on the astral and causal bodies. We make ourselves by the way we think. When we think of others, radiating vibrations create a thought form that floats through the mental plane.

No external thought can impinge on us unless we are already attuned to its kind. If our thoughts are clear they will be resistant to being replaced by other thoughts.

Concentration and meditation are two important aspects of the power of thoughts.

Only a mind trained to stay on one subject, to concentrate on one task to the exclusion of all others, can succeed in meditation. Meditation is especially important if we are to undertake the inner work needed for treading the Path. It aims at quieting the personality to reach our individuality.

Devote 5 minutes each morning to quiet, positive thought, focusing on qualities to develop. We need to think about the opposites of our weaknesses. Close your eyes and see yourself acting with the quality you want to acquire. For this concentration is essential.

If you are easily irritated, practice seeing yourself as serene, calm, kind. But be aware that a test will come. And you will get irritated and think you failed but it passed more quickly and eventually you will not react with irritation, no matter what the situation. Then you can begin on another aspect you want to foster. Eventually 5 minutes is not enough. Regularity is more important than duration though.

Worry is one of the most difficult habits to overcome. You need to work in a new direction. When somebody is ill, don’t think about their illness but send them healing thoughts. We do not help “sinners” by dwelling on their faults. It is better to send them love and peace and progress. Send the dead ones only the most loving thoughts.

Ultimately, however, the purpose of meditation is not just to improve our personality, but also rather to put us in touch with our inner core. It helps us to discover who we really are. Spend 5 minutes every day just being quiet and becoming aware of your surroundings.

Goethe: Do not worry about your past. Do not be angry. Do not hate. Enjoy the present. Leave your future to Providence!

9) The Question of Evil

Why is there evil and pain in the world? There is no absolute, just relative evil in the world. Selfishness – no concern for the welfare of others – exists. Infants are selfish but not evil. It may help to substitute “incompleteness” or “imperfection” for “evil”. In this Universe nothing happens except in relation to something else. Evil, like good, exists only in relation to its opposite.

      • Stage: evolution towards ever-greater materiality, unconsciousness, and separation.
      • Stage of evolution: progression from materiality, unconsciousness, and separation to spirituality, awareness and unity; and from unselfishness, ignorance, coercion, and discord to altruism, knowledge, freedom, and harmony.

Evolution is a dynamic, onward-going process, with purposefulness at its core. Good is whatever is in harmony with the evolutionary purpose by aiding the journey onward, and evil is whatever works against it. Evil is the exaggeration of good, the progeny of human selfishness and greediness.

Good is all that works in harmony with the development of the universe; evil is what works against it.

Recognizing and opposing evil develops our moral sense. Pain results when we do a wrong action.

Struggle is not to be avoided, but to be acknowledged as the very root of existence in an evolving world.

We should lift our consciousness toward a level where evil cannot express itself.

Peace comes when we accept the nature of the world, with a selfless sense of detachment.

10) The Plan and Purpose of Life

What is the purpose of life? Science believes there is an orderly process in the universe; but it is concerned with natural causes and their effects, not with nature’s purposes and plans to achieve them. Theosophy believes there is intention and consciousness.

Three hypothesis:
1) Everything is chance.
2) The Universe is the product of inexorable natural law with no options and free will.
3) The Universe is a precisely ordered organization.

Theosophy takes the view that the purpose of existence is the development of latent possibilities into active powers.

Evolution is not only physically but also the evolution of consciousness from the restricted to the expanded and spirit to the consciously unified.

Earlier kingdoms – animal, vegetable, mineral – are more connected with each other than humans but they lack conscious awareness.

During the involution, life “descends” from a state of pure consciousness and becomes immersed in denser matters.

Each solar system is pervaded, energized, and controlled by a mighty collective consciousness, a divine Mind called LOGOS (or Word of God), which emerges from the Absolute. The divine Mind has called our solar systems into being and we are evolving fragments of the life of that Mind. The divine Mind lives through us.

According to the Theosophical hypothesis, three stupendous life impulses are needed to bring a world into being. The Trinity symbolizes them. When a world is formed, first that living matter has to be brought into existence, then it has to be molded into forms through which life becomes increasingly conscious, and finally that consciousness has to realize its identity and spiritual unity. The three steps are three Life Waves.

The first wave of creative energy corresponds to the Holy spirit and comes forth from the LOGOS. The first Life Wave passes “downward” or “outward” through seven stages, bringing into existence matter. During the “outward” breath or involution, matter reaches increasingly dense states. The process of creating matter takes eons. The densest matter in our universe is in the center of black holes.

While the first Life Wave is in the process of making matter, the second Life Wave – corresponding to the Son, or second person of the Trinity, also becomes active. The LOGOS sends out constant succession of these Second Life Waves. It brings characteristics that will enable matter to respond to stimuli through intuition, thought, desire, sensation and so on.

The first Life Wave develops and vivifies matter; the second builds from that matter the various kingdoms of life – canyons and mountains, worms and whales etc. which have the ability to respond to their environment. The Third Life Wave, corresponding to the Father, brings the most highly developed forms produced by the Second Life Wave into contact with the imperishable sparks of the divine life that are evolutionary units of consciousness called individual “monads” (units). In Theosophy this is the immortal spiritual Self, which becomes a separate evolving entity through the third Life Wave and which, by repeated incarnations, gradually unfolds its full potential.

The monad is consciousness plus the film of matter, but at the beginning it is not conscious of anything.

The monad is the ultimate spiritual identity or self-awareness.
The mineral kingdom has a single ensouling monad. In the vegetable kingdom, it is “divided” into separate functional units. In the animal kingdom, the monad becomes yet more “divided”. In the human kingdom, the monad reaches its nadir with a process called “individualization”, as a result of which the monad’s self-awareness linked with a single re-incarnating individual.

When we become human, we begin the process of evolving back to a realization of unity by linking up with our fellow creatures. The individuality is an extension of the monad, just as the personality is an extension of the individuality.

In the animal kingdom we have group souls. In lower forms of animal life (such as worms), a group soul is incarnated in a great many animal bodies. In higher forms (elephants) the same group soul incarnates simultaneously in only a few animal bodies.

Entry into the human kingdom is a great step forward in responsibility on the evolutionary journey. Gradually, we learn that we live in a world of natural laws, experiencing pleasure when those laws are obeyed and pain when they are disregarded. Great Teachers come and help us in our evolution. Humans evolve by gathering experiences in various cultures and genetic variations of our species. Such varying groups are called “root races”. Even the minor genetic and cultural variations of our species are useful for our schooling. We take birth in many “races” to learn specific lessons. Each culture/nation has a special lesson (Greece – beauty; Rome – organization; China – harmony etc.) Experience in many cultures is needed before the goal of the wholeness can be reached. To understand life, we must experience it in all of its variety.

One of the ways in which the variety of life manifests is called the Seven Rays – primordial cosmic energies. Those seven wavelengths make up the “white” that radiates from the sun.

Ray 1 – Atma – sense of Self

Ray 2 – Buddhi – relating to one another

Ray 3 – Higher Mind – discovering how to use knowledge to improve our world, ourselves and the purpose of living

Ray 4 – Vital Energy – balancing and harmonizing apparent opposites – life is our inner mediating power

Ray 5 – Lower Mind – discovering the world around us; understanding how things work and learning how to control our environment

Ray 6 – Emotional Self – relating to one another on a level; recognizing the underlying unity and equality of all beings

Ray 7 – Etheric Double – energy of acting formally, with discipline and habit, following a double

Every person and every thing has all seven of these energies in at least potential form, but various of the energies are dominant. The end of evolution is to have all seven of the energies fully developed and mutually integrated.

The purpose of life is the development of countless numbers of spiritually self-conscious and fully developed individuals who recognize their own individuality and unity – to discover who we are, to know ourselves and to know ourselves as integrated expressions of the oneness.

11) The Rise and Fall of Civilizations

The rise and fall of civilizations is part of the great plan. Cultures come and go, each supplying a particular field of development for the individuals incarnating in them and each contributing its own special gift.

The plan of evolution is sevenfold in nature. There are seven great evolutionary phases in which seven human types or “root races” appear and furnish vehicles for the process.  All types have their contribution to make . Each root race represents a school in which a major group of lessons must be learned; the sub-races represent grades within the school. Attendance is mandatory. Each school concentrates on learning/developing particular aspects of consciousness. We must recapitulate previous training. Root races exist as long as necessary.

The first two root races left no historical or geological records (no dense physical bodies). The first race – 55 million years ago – had sensations/perceptions at the most primary and basic level – sexless; they reproduced by budding. The second race – 35 million years ago – was luxuriant vegetation followed by violent terrestrial changes – the concentration was on activity, beginning to organize its bodies into vehicles of active expression by which to influence its environment. They sweated to reproduce.

The third root race – 18 million years ago – became physical. These were the Lemurians. The sexes were separated and emotion was developed. The mind was activated but relatively quiescent.

The fourth root race – 3 to 1 million years ago – was the actual development of the analytical mind and language (Atlentean). In Atlantis was a highly materialistic civilization, using magic evil in high places and endangered progress.

The fifth root race began 7500 years ago and started with refugees from Atlantis – Aryan (noble people). The present root race is still imbued with much of the Atlantean consciousness.  Problems are pride of intellect and indifference to moral and human values.
The fifth root race is now the dominant on this earth. We have to develop our social sense through the higher mind. Currently we are in the 5th subrace and hone this quality of mind and foreshadowing the next faculty – the intuition – which will begin to illumine the minds of the sixth subrace.

The sixth root race will recapitulate previous experience before bringing into full play the faculty of intuition (buddhi) and foreshadow the quality of spiritual will (7th root race).

Evolution does not leap but it happens gradually with much overlapping.

12) The Ancient Wisdom in Daily Life

Theosophy is practice as well as principle. Fellows can belong to any religion. Theosophy is non-dogmatic. It does not dictate any position. As Theosophists we are obligated by the principle of brotherhood to respect the right of others to differ from the position we hold.

All fellows are recommended to spend regularly some time in study to widen the mind by opening it to new truths, some time in meditation to internalize the truths learned.

Study, meditation, and service are the three aspects of “doing Theosophy” that Blavatsky alluded to.  Meditation can be 10 or 15 minutes of quietness first thing in the morning a review of the day’s activities before sleep at night. Service can be to the homeless, the dying, the disadvantages, to the society or its groups, or to the world by sending out thoughts of peace and harmony to all beings.

Other lifestyle considerations are vegetarian; no furs; no smoking, and no alcohol.

Thy truly Theosophy-life is one dedicated to learning by study, self-discovery by meditation, service to othersCompare with The Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita under Religion; promotion of harmony among humans and respect.

The Theosophical Society has a website with lots of information and online rosources: https://www.theosophical.org/

You can find a lot of information about Annie Besant, a  prominent theosophist, on this site: http://www.kurtleland.com/annie-besant-shrine

And there is Wiki specifically about Theosophy in four languages:  http://www.theosophy.wiki/