Tag Archives: Spiritual-development

Rosicrucianism

According to the author Manly P. Hall, there are four distinct theories about Rosicrucianism:

1) There is an assumption that the Rosicrucian Order existed historically in accordance with the description in Fama Fraternitatis which appeared in print in 1614. This pamphlet reminds the reader of God’s goodness, warns the intelligentsia of following false prophets and ignoring the true knowledge, and makes clear that a reformation is necessary.

2) Some Masonic brethren accept the historical existence of the “Brotherhood of the Rose Cross” and believe that it originated in mediaeval Europe as an outgrowth of alchemical speculation and that Johann Valentin Andrea, a German theologian, was the founder and might have reformed an existing society established by Sir Henry Cornelius Agrippa; some believe that Rosicrucians represented the first European invasion of Buddhist and Brahmin culture; and still others believe it was founded in Egypt during the philosophic supremacy of that empire.

3) The third theory takes the form of a sweeping denial of Rosicrucianism claiming that it was entirely a product of imagination.

4) The fourth theory asserts that the Rosicrucians actually possessed all the supernatural powers with which they were credited. According to this theory, the true Rosicrucian Brotherhood consisted of a limited number of highly developed adepts who possessed the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone and knew the process of transmuting the base metals into gold but taught that these were only allegorical terms concealing the true mystery of human regeneration through the transmutation of the “base elements” of man’s lower nature into the “gold” of intellectual and spiritual realization.
There are quite a few books and articles about Rosicrucianism in print and online. Online can be found two works by the German Theosophist, Dr. Franz Hartmann:

  1. With the Adepts, an Adventure among the Rosicrucians
  2. Cosmology, or Universal Science, Containing the Mysteries of the Universe regarding God, Nature, Man, the Macrocosm and the Microcosm; Eternity and Time, by means of the Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians.

The founder of Anthropology, Dr. Rudolf Steiner, has given numerous lectures, titled “Theosophy of the Rosicrucian”.

The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucianspublished in 1918 can be found online as well. In this book the reader learns that the Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians is believed to have been built up gradually and carefully, by the old occult masters and adepts, from the scattered fragments of the esoteric teachings which were treasured by the wise men of all races. The legend runs that these fragments of the Secret Doctrine were the scattered portions of the old esoteric teaching of ancient Atlantis—the bits of the great mass of the Atlantean occult teachings which were scattered in all directions by the great cataclysm which had destroyed that great continent. The few survivors of the Atlantean civilization carefully preserved these Fragments of Truth, and passed them on to their chosen students and capable descendants.

The old Masters who made it the object of their lives to gather together these scattered fragments, and to reconstruct the Occult Doctrine of the Atlanteans, found a portion of their material in Egypt, in India, in Persia, in Chaldea, in Medea, in China, in Assyria, and in Ancient Greece, and also in the mystic records of the Hebrews, such as the Kabballah and the Zohar. The common source, however, may be regarded as distinctly Oriental. The great philosophies of the East, in fact, may be said to have been built upon the base of these still more ancient teachings. Moreover, the great Grecian Secret Teachings are believed to have been based upon knowledge obtained from this same common source. So, at the last, the Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians may be said to be the Secret Doctrine of Atlantis, transmitted through the descendants of the people of that great center of occult knowledge.
The Rosicrucians teach that that there are Seven Cosmic Principles present and operating throughout the Cosmos, and extending even to its smallest activities. These Seven Cosmic Principles are as follows:

1) The Principle of Correspondence (manifests in a certain correspondence or analogy between manifestations of the various planes of activity in the Cosmos and is indicated by the old Hermetic aphorism: “As above, so below; as below, so above,” and by the Arcane axiom: “Ex Uno disce Omnes,” or “From One know All.”)

2) The Principle of Law and Order (manifests in the presence and manifestation of a regular sequence, and orderly procession of phenomena in the universe of things. It is voiced by the celebrated axiom of a leading scientist that “The Universe is governed by laws.” The spirit of this principle of truth is embodied in the very term “The Cosmos,” which term is derived from the Greek term “Kosmos,” meaning: “The world or universe considered in connection with perfect order and arrangement, as opposed to Chaos.” In the occult teachings of the Rosicrucians it is impressed upon the student that “there is no such thing as Chance,” in so far as Chance is used in the sense of “uncaused happening.”)

3) The Principle of Vibration (manifests in the manifestation of a state of vibration in everything in the Manifested Cosmos. It is voiced by the old occult axiom: “Everything vibrates.” Science now tells us that not only is every particle of matter, or every mass of matter, in a state of continual vibration, but also that light, heat, magnetism, electricity and every other form of natural force results from a state of vibration. The occultists go further than this, and assert that even on the mental and spiritual planes there is ever manifest a condition of vibration.

4) The Principle of Rhythm (manifests in that universal regular swing or time-beat which is apparent in all the manifested world, from its highest to its lowest manifestation. The ancient occult axiom “Everything beats time” expresses this fundamental fact of the Cosmos. Rhythm means: “Regularly recurring motion, change or impulse proceeding in time-measured, alternating sequence.”)

5) The Principle of Cycles (manifests that universal circular direction of process or progress which is apparent in all the manifested world, from its highest to its lowest manifestation. The spirit of this principle was expressed in the ancient occult axiom: “Everything proceeds in circles.”)

6) The Principle of Polarity (manifests that universal fact of “the pairs of opposites,” or “the antinomies,” which is apparent in all the manifested world, from its highest to its lowest manifestation. The spirit of this principle was expressed in the ancient occult axiom: “Everything has its Opposite, which is the other pole of its manifestation.” One of the most surprising features of this discovery is that we have to understand that the two contrasting sets of qualities are really but two aspects or phases of the whole thing—the real thing, or thing in itself—the unity of the two, instead of being two separated and distinct things. Or, stating it in other words, we discover that the two opposing sets of characteristics are merely relative to each other, and together form a correlated unity and balanced whole.)

7) The Principle of Sex (manifests in the universal presence of sex distinction and activity which is apparent in all the manifested world, from its highest to its lowest manifestations. The spirit of this principle was expressed in the ancient occult axiom: “Sex is omnipresent and all-pervasive in the universe. All creation is generation, and all generation proceeds from Sex.

Promised by Heaven by Dr. Mary H. Hensley

Dr. Henley writes this book with honesty and humor and the reader can find helpful advice.  One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so tremendously is that Mary Helen Hensley  explained heaven similarly to the subjects that described their experiences to Dr. Michael Newton when under hypnosisCompare with Journey of Souls by Michael Newton.

The author was involved in a car accident in 1991 that changed her life forever. Upon impact she felt time stall and temporarily left her body. At that moment, Mary Helen was consumed with a sudden clarity. She realized she had the choice to either remain in her body or exit from the earth, allowing the remainder of the scene to unfold without feeling any pain. She chose to depart from her body—and enter heaven.

In heaven, Mary Helen was welcomed by two angels who walked her through the place of light and encouraged her to go back to earth and help others. When she returned to earth, Mary Helen was suddenly struck with a desire to live a life of service and quickly set out on a journey into metaphysical healing. Her adventures took her to Ireland, where she went on to become a chiropractor, find love and new friendships, become a mother, and help numerous people with her gifts of communicating with the dead and seeing into the future.

Exactly like the subjects hypnotized  by Dr. Newton,  we read about the Beings of Light, the Council and the bliss and peaceful feelings on the other side.  Dr. Henley also explains the importance of dreams and points out more than once that we are responsible for our actions.  She learned from her father that it is useless to feel guilty over things that are in the past, because it doesn’t make our life any better, but that we should instead learn from them, avoid repeating them and live in the NOW. She shares how important it is to listen to our inner voice and that we all are following the path we have chosen before we were born.  In this context she refers to the book Your Soul’s Plan by Robert Schwartz which I have also summarized on this site. The main reason she mentions it is that it can be a challenge for people to grasp the concept that we have set up an illness in order to create learning opportunities for or own souls and for those around us. She points out when she is meeting one of her soul mates and explains that we interact very often with the same souls who accompany us on our journeysCompare with Journey of Souls by Michael Newton.

For her God is one of the many names given to the Divine loving force behind all of our lives and her faith, trust, and her heart-felt gratitude belongs to every Divine Being who has every graced this planet or lovingly watched over our growth and evolution from another realm.

 

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

Despite the fact that I have heard about allegations of misconduct about Sogyal Rinpoche I decided to read the book.  I wanted to focus on the message and not the messenger.   And if you find The Tibetan Book of the Dead extremely challenging and complicated but are interested in the topic you might like it.  It is clear, informative and insightful and very accessible because Ringpoche made complex concepts understandable and useable. Compassion and mindfulness are emphasized numerous times and we as readers can find tools that will help us face the inevitable truth that we are all going to die, at some point. The author skillfully shares his own wisdom, that of  other masters, and anecdotal evidence of what may happen when we physically die, and the stages we may go through during the process.

Topics discussed include the Bardo states, reincarnation, the concept of karma, and fear of the unknown. The Eastern way of looking at death as only a ‘transition’ is explained in a simple manner. The book helps one to understand the true meaning of the phenomena called death and this understanding could help one to reduce the irrational fear of death.

There is quite a substantial amount of Tibetan ritual encased in this book though and not everything might be useful for those who are not interested to delve too deeply into Tibetan Buddhism or trying to find a Guru.  Dalai Lama cautioned against rushing into commitment to a lama. “In Tibet”, he says, “it could take 12 years before a lama-disciple relationship was established.”

But what the readers learn in the book may be deeply meaningful. I personally liked that he reminded us to be loving an compassionate, no matter what others do to us; that we are responsible for everything we do, say or think; that true spirituality is to be aware that if we are interdependent with everything and everyone else, even our smallest, least significant thoughts, words, and actions have real consequences throughout the universe.

He further points out that it is extremely important to realize the nature of our mind because that way we realize the nature of all things and that we in the West are terrified to look inward, because our culture has given us no idea of what we will find. In his opinion spiritual truth is not something elaborate and esoteric but common sense.

As in so many other spiritual books we read of the importance of meditation and that the gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. But we need to create the right inner environment of the mind for our meditation. We should sit quietly, the body still, the spine straight and allow thoughts and emotions to rise, to come and to go, without clinging to anything or making any judgments. The point is not how long we meditate; the point is whether the practice actually brings us to a state of mindfulness and presence; but we do need to practice regularly.

In the chapter about Karma and Rebirth he reminds us that the effect of our actions depends entirely upon the intention or motivation behind them, and not upon their scale. In addition he points out that we can use every situation, however seemingly hopeless and terrible, to evolve.  He recommends that we examine our actions, and become really mindful of them, so we can detect that there is a pattern that repeats itself in our actions.

In the edition from 1993, which I have read, we can read anecdotal evidence from people with near-death experiences and the author answers a few questions about death in Appendix Two, which I personally found very useful.  The readers can also find different mantras and practices to prepare for death.

Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani

Ms. Moorjani reveals in the first part of the book details about her early life experiences.  She recalls her memory of overhearing an adult conversation expressing the disappointment in having a female child.  She shares with us that she had been the object of rejection and bullying in the private schools in Hong Kong she attended because of her Indian looks and Hindu religion and that she suffered feelings of rejection and fear. We learn that after many attempts by her parents to match her up with an acceptable husband, she finally found her true love,  a man who accepted her independent thinking.  She describes her fear of cancer because a closed friend and a relative succumbed to this disease after agonizing treatments.

In part two, titled “My Journey to Death and Back” she tells us about her battle with cancer.  We learn that these four years were a living hell of fear and anxiety except for a brief respite in India at an Ayurveda retreat, from where she returned in a improved state of health.  But the benefit was short lived when she encountered the negativity of her friends and family.  Within a few months she was rushed to the hospital unable to breathe or even lift her own head and soon lapsed into a coma.  In chapter 8 she talks in detail about her near-death experience and the feelings and revelationsCompare with Proof of Heaven associated with it. In this state she understood that her body was only a reflection of her internal state and that her inner self was aware of its greatness and connection with All-that-is.  She realized that all she had to do was to be herself without judgment or feeling that she was flawed.  She understood that at the core, our essence is made of pure love and that everything is perfect, just as it is.

She continues to describe how she healed quickly after coming back from the coma.  After the experience she felt a deep love and connection with everyoneCompare with Theosophy under Philosophy and felt that she had completely overcome her fear of everything.

She felt that she had come back for some greater purpose that was going to help others and it became clear that she had to share her experience with talks and eventually writing this book. At the same token she describes that she could not relate to many people or maybe that others could not relate to her, that she lost interest in news and politics and what her friends were doing.  But she was able to enjoy other things, lke a sunset and that she saw divinity in everything. She felt strongly that she did nor have to do or pursue anything for it to happen. She just had to be herself, fearlessly. That way she was allowing herself to be an instrument of love.  People were taking life to seriously, which is what she used to do. She felt incredible compassion, and the love was unconditional and she no longer viewed death in the same way as others did and it was hard for her to mourn anyone.

She found her path by listening to her inner voice and trusted her inner guidance.

She started to sit with herself, walked in nature, listened to music until she got to a centered place where she felt calm and collected.  Because of her experience she strongly believes that we all have the capacity to heal ourselves as well as facilitate the healing of others.

In part three of the book she explains what she has come to understand.  The main ides are that the reasons for people’s illness lie in their personal journey and are probably related to their individual purpose; that fear was the cause of her illness; that we already are what we spend our lives trying to attain, but don’t realize it, that many people do things just to get other people’s approval, that she did not know what was important to her. She realized that she was on the other side not in a state of thinking, but of being.  It was pure consciousness. She explains that awareness means realizing what exists and what’s possible without judgment and that awareness does not need defending. Her near-death experience was a state of pure awareness, which is a state of complete suspension of all previously held doctrine and dogma. In addition, the very act of needing certainty is a hindrance of experiencing greater levels of awareness.  In contrast, the process of letting go and releasing all attachment to any belief or outcome is cathartic and healing. She emphasizes numerous times the importance of self-love.

She believes that we incarnate to experience and evolve this physical universe and our own lives within it. All the answers lie inside of us. She felt strongly during her near-death-experience that we are all connected to the Universal energy and that we are all One with it. She always looks at the emotions behind her everyday decision to determine whether her actions stem from “doing” or “being”. Is it fear or passion? If everything she does is driven by passion and a zest for living, then she is “being”.  Despite her vision she does not feel the need to change anyone else, let alone the world.

She does not worry anymore about trying to get things right or complying with rules or doctrines. Whichever path we choose is the right one for us, and none of these options are any more or less spiritual than others. By following our internal guidance, we find what’s right for us. She finds meditation very helpful but one should do what resonates on a personal level. The feelings about ourselves are the most important barometer for determining the condition of our lives. It’s important how we feel about ourselves while facing difficult times. It’s about trusting the process when we face difficulties and not being afraid to feel anxiety, sadness or fear, rather than suppressing everything until those emotions pass. It’s about allowing myself to be true to who I am. Because of this, the feelings will dissipate and occur less and less frequently. It is important to allow yourself to be in your own truth. It’s important to do what is uplifting to us.

She ends the book with a chapter of questions and answers.

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 Undiscovered Self by C.G. Jung

Even though Jung is a psychologist I decided to place this book under philosophy because Jung shares in these seven chapters his philosophical view about the dilemma of the individual in modern society.

Jung starts by addressing the plight of the individual in chapter one. He explains that most people confuse “self-knowledge” with knowledge of their conscious ego personalities, but that the ego knows only its own contents not the unconscious and it contents, the real psychic facts that are for the most part hidden from them. That causes problems because we are defenselessly open to all kinds of influences. In Jung’s opinion there can be no self-knowledge based on theoretical assumptions, for the object of self-knowledge is an individual – a relative exception and an irregular phenomenon. If we want to understand an individual human being, we must lay aside all scientific knowledge and discard all theories and understand him as a human being because the individual is the true and authentic carrier of reality, the concrete man as opposed to the unreal ideal to whom the scientific statements refer. He warns of the psychological effects of the statistical world picture because it displaces the individual in favor of anonymous units that pile up to mass information.

Instead of moral and mental differentiation of the individual, you have public welfare and the raising of the living standard. The goal and meaning of individual life, which is the only real life, no longer lie in individual development but in the policy of the State. The individual is increasingly deprived of the moral decision as to how he should live his own life, and instead is ruled, fed, clothed and educated as a social unit, accommodated in the appropriate housing unit, and amused in accordance with the standards that give pleasure and satisfaction to the masses. Under these circumstancesCompare with Your Own Identity an Laws of Destiny under Psychology it is small wonder that individual judgment grows increasingly uncertain of itself and that responsibility is collectivized as much as possible.

He addresses the issue of religion in the next two chapters and predicts – correctly – that Communism will collapse from within. He points out that the West has considerable industrial power and defense potential, but that the biggest guns and the heaviest industry with its relatively high living standard are not enough to check the psychic infection spread by religious fanaticism.  The Churches stand in Jung’s opinion for traditional and collective convictions, which are no longer based on inner experiences but on unreflecting belief, which can disappear with time and under certain circumstances. Therefore belief is no adequate substitute for inner experience.

He ends chapter 3 with the conclusion, that common to the materialistic and the collectivist system is, that both lack the very thing that expresses and grips the whole man, namely, an idea which puts the individual human being in the center as the measure of all things. That is because both systems are comprised of hierarchical structures where the individual counts for nothing. Indeed, the self-knowledge or individualization that would produce true men and women capable of standing up to the hierarchy is actively discouraged.

In chapter four he explains that there would be no world without consciousness because the world exists as such only in so far as it is consciously reflected and consciously expressed by a psyche.  Consciousness is a precondition of beingCompare with Quantumphysics under Science. Thus the psyche is endowed with the dignity of a cosmic principle, which philosophically and in fact gives it a position coequal with the principle of physical being. The carrier of this consciousness is the individual, who does not produce the psyche on his own volition but is preformed by it and nourished by the gradual awakening of consciousness. He reiterates that the individual psyche is always an exception to the statistical rule.

Jung points out that the psychic situation of the individual is menaced by advertisement, propaganda and other influences; and that for the individual it is often difficult to act on his own insight instead of simply copying convention that agrees with the collective opinion.  He explains that people go on blithely organizing and believing in the sovereign remedy of mass action, without the least consciousness of the fact that the most powerful organizations can be maintained only by the greatest ruthlessness of their leaders and the cheapest of slogans. In this context he reminds us that Christ never called his disciples to him at a mass meeting and that Jesus and Paul are prototypes of those, who trusting their inner experience, have gone their own individual ways, disregarding public opinion.  The infantile dream state of the mass is so unrealistic that people never think to ask who is paying for everything.  The balancing of accounts is left to a higher political and social authority, which welcomes the task, for its power is thereby increased.

At the same token Jung warns that only the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself can affect resistance to the organized mass.

He further points out that it is not Christianity, but our conception and interpretation of it, that has become antiquated in the face of the present world situation.

In chapter five he addresses the rupture between faith and knowledge and explains that it is a symptom of the split consciousness, which is so characteristic of the mental disorder of our day. It is as if two persons were making statements about the same thing, each from his own point of view, or as if one person in two different frames of mind were sketching a picture of his experience. If for “person” we substitute “modern society”, it is evident that the latter is suffering from a mental dissociation, e.g. a neurotic disturbance. In view of this, it does not help matter at all if one party pulls obstinately to the right and the other to the left.  A relationship with both sides has to be established instead.

In this chapter he also addresses the specific achievement of the Christian epoch: the supremacy of the word, of the Logos, which stands for the central figure of our Christian faith. No one seems to notice the veneration of the word has a perilous shadow side. The moment the word, as a result of centuries of education, attains universal validity; it severs its original link with the divine person. Thus the word, originally announcing the unity of all men and their union in the figure of the one great Man, has in our day become the source of suspicion and distrust of all against all. In this context he also points out that people think they have only to “tell” a person that he “ought” to do something in order to put him on the right track. But whether he can or will do it is another matter.

Separation from his instinctual nature inevitably plunges civilized man into the conflict between conscious and unconscious, spirit and nature, knowledge and faith, a split that becomes pathological the moment his consciousness is no longer able to neglect or suppress his instinctual side. The forlornness of consciousness in our world is due primarily to the loss of instinct, and the reason for this lies in the development of the human mind over the past aeon. The more power man had over nature, the more his knowledge and skill went to his head,  the deeper became his contempt for the merely natural and accidental.

He starts chapter six about self-knowledge by stating that in order to answer the question if we have an immediate relation to God which will keep us from dissolving into the crowd we have to fulfill the demands of rigorous self-examination and self-knowledgeCompare with To Know Yourself under Spiritual Development. He reminds us of all the atrocities that have happened over the last decades and explains that men don’t deny that terrible things have happened and still go on happening, but it is always “the others” who do them.  But none of us stand outside humanity’s black collective shadow and we have to possess some “imagination in evil”, for only the fool can permanently neglect the conditions of his own nature and that this negligence is the best means of making us an instrument of evil. What is even worse, our lack of insight deprives us of the capacity to deal with evil. In Jung’s opinion people are largely unconscious of the fact that every individual is a cell in the structure of various international organisms and is therefore causally implicated in their conflicts.

In the last chapter Jung explains that the very fact that through self-knowledge, i.e. by exploring our own souls, we come upon the instincts and their world of imagery should throw some light on the powers slumbering in the psyche, of which we are seldom aware so long as all goes well. He tells us that the spiritual transformation of mankind follows the slow tread of the centuries and cannot be hurried or held up by any rational process of reflection, let alone brought to fruition by one generation. What does lie in our reach, however, is the change in individuals who have, or create an opportunity to influence others of like mind in their circle of acquaintance. Jung does not meant by persuading or preaching –he is thinking of the well-known fact that anyone who has insight into his own action, and has thus found access to the unconscious, involuntarily exercises an influence on this environment.

He concludes with stating that happiness and contentment, equitability of soul and meaningful of life – these can be experienced only by the individual and not by a State.

 

How to Know Higher Worlds by Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner has written many books and most of them can be downloaded for free. This website focuses on highlighting the multi-faceted genius of Rudolf Steiner and you can find the most comprehensive index to his work in English or German through this link. On this particular site you can also find many titles by Rudolf Steiner and you can sort the listing by popularity, original publication year, title, average ratings and number of pages.

I picked “How to Know Higher Worlds” for this site for several reasons. It is (so far) my favorite book by Rudolf Steiner and it easier to read than some of his other works. In addition I agree with the statement in the preface of the third addition that “the more open-mindedly we compare spiritual science with the positive accomplishments of science, the more we recognize the complete agreement between the two to be.” I also find the foreword as well as the afterword by Arthur Zajonc excellent. You can find the book for free on the web.

In the foreword Arthur Zajonic states that “we live and act within a world whose deeper aspects are hidden from our physical senses” and points out that we “possess other faculties which, when cultivated, can lift the veil that separates us from spiritual knowledge.” The book charts a meditative path that leads both to inner peace and to enhanced powers of soul, and finally to the lifting of that veil. It offers an introduction to the inner life and to an inner discipline that can heal and transform us profoundly.

The teaching of humility and compassion frames the whole book. We learn that every sound spiritual practice begins with moral and that esoteric schooling never has as its goal the accumulation of spiritual treasures for personal gain; on the contrary the goal has to be placed at the service of others if we want to achieve anything. We find out that we will not find the inner strength to evolve to a higher level until we accept that there is something higher than ourselves. In addition we can never forget that higher knowledge has to do with revering truth and insight. A soul that learns feelings of devotion and reverence changes its aura.

Once the context of self-less love is established, meditative practice can unfold within it. We learn that one’s inner life no longer swings from one extreme to another when we meditate and we can begin to sense the dawning of a “higher self.”

The reader can find many exercises to prepare the soul for challenges that are different from those that arise during the course of our sense life. Perhaps the most important are those aimed at developing the six soul qualities essential for a healthy and balanced life within the super-sensible: 1) clarity of thought, 2) mastery of the will, 3) equanimity of feeling, 4) positivity, 5) openness, and 6) the establishment of harmony among these five.

As we faithfully execute exercises described in the book, soul capacities are cultivated which lead to the first experiences of a super-sensible kind. What is the character of these initial experiences? Although the path for every individual is unique, certain characterizations can be helpful, especially as false expectations often allow the real promptings of the spirit to pass by unnoticed.

Here is the book in more detail:

  • Self-contemplation: Create moments of inner peace for yourself, and in these moments learn to distinguish the essential from the non-essential. The practice has to be sincere, rigorous and simple. Focus on things during that contemplation which are different from the objects of our daily life. Such moments will give us the full strength to complete our daily tasks. We have to tear ourselves really completely from daily life during those moments. We should allow ourselves to have joys, sorrows, worries, experiences and actions to pass before our soul and look at them from a higher point of view, as if they belonged to another person, view ourselves as strangers, with an inner tranquility of a judge. Eventually we include things that have happened in the past. This way the Higher Self reveals itself. This way our whole life may become more peaceful and we might act with more self-confidence and start to be able to guide ourselves (examples: anger, patience).
  • Life speaks in the world of thought: This Higher Self then becomes the inner ruler directing our life outside. If other people can make me angry I haven’t found my inner ruler yet. Outer things have to reach me how I have chosen. Eventually our view is directed to those that are higher than ourselves. Removed from our daily round we become deaf to its noise. Dialogue with the spiritual world will fill our soul. This quiet contemplation is very important and we must develop a living feeling for this silent thinking activity and we will love to hear what streams to us from the spirit. Then we will start to work with these thoughts like objects! And we will understand that what is revealed to us is more real than what is around us. We experience that life speaks in this world of thought and that hidden beings speak to us! That way the outer world is suffused with an inner light.
  • Gnosis or Spiritual Science Meditation (Contemplative Reflection): Our thoughts should be clear, sharp and precise. We should fill ourselves with high thoughts. We should read writings that came from meditative revelations. Then we start to form new ideas about reality. Trivial experiences are woven with great cosmic beings. Meditation produces that way strength for life, not indifference. Meditation is the way to knowing the essential and indestructible center of our being. This way we can learn to know about past lives.
  • Three Stages:
    1. Preparation to develop spiritual senses:

Direct the soul’s attention towards certain processes in the world around us (growth, fading, buds, withering away etc.). If we see a blossoming, we need to focus on it alone and listen what is has to tell us. We must look at things actively and precisely; afterwards watch the feelings and the thoughts associated with it in inner equilibrium. Eventually this might lead to new thoughts and feelings. And then do it also with something withering. That way we discover the different thoughts and feelings with each one. They might be compared with sunrise and rise of the moon. That way the astral plane begins to dawn. It conjures different lines/spiritual forms before our souls. That way we might learn to see things that have no physical existence.  That leads to “orientation” –  understanding that feelings and thoughts are actual and furthermore how these can have an effect. Therefore, we should not daydream or muse. This approach will lead to important feelings that will help us to orient ourselves in the spiritual world.  We also must direct our attention to sounds distinguishing between the sound of animate and inanimate objects, distinguishing between pleasant ones (bells) and bad ones (screams of animals).  Sounds communicate something that’s outside of our soul which we must immerse into. But we must disregard what the sound is for us and focus on what is happening from whom the sound comes. That way we learn a new language from the soul and begin to hear with our souls. We also have to learn how to listen when people speak. On the path to higher knowledge listening skills are extremely important and we have to quiet our inner life when we do it and stay silent, even if we disagree. We have to silence any judgement.  We need to exclude our personality and opinions. That way we learn to unite with the being of the other person and enter into it. This way sound becomes the medium through which we hear and perceive soul and spirit. That way one also learns to hear sounds from the spiritual world.

We also need to absorb the teachings of esoteric researchers.

  1. Illumination to kindle the spiritual light:

During this process we also develop to awaken certain feelings and thoughts. We begin by examining different physical objects in a certain way. We could compare a stone with an animal and watch the feelings that come into our soul from them and they will be different from the stone and the animal. That’s how organs of clairvoyance are formed. We should do the same thing with plants and will observe that the feelings from plant are in the middle between stone and mineral in intensity and nature. The organs built up that way are spiritual eyes. The gradually let us see souls and spiritual colors. The range of colors in the spiritual world is much greater than in the physical world. After illumination the soul unites with the spiritual world under all circumstances and so it leads to initiation.  But we should not forget our daily responsibilities over these exercises.

We need patience, courage and self-confidence on our path for Higher Knowledge. We should not give up if we don’t see success right away.  Sometimes we are further than we think. If we have the feeling that we are on the right path, it should be cultivated and nurtured because it can become a reliable guide. The esoteric student must become conscious of soul and spirit as the ordinary person of his body. You must give your feelings and thoughts the right direction.

We place before us a small seed from a plant. We must think intensely. First we must establish what we see with our eyes by describing the seed in detail. Then we ponder what will happen if we plant the seed and visualize it and realize that nothing would happen with an artificial seed. Within the seed is the force of the whole plant. The real seed contains something invisible that’s not in the copy. The invisible will become visible. And whatever we think we must feel! Eventually we will discover a new force within us which creates a new perception. The plant is herewith revealed to us in a spiritual manner. We must remain clear-headed and make sure we have not lost our balance and that we still remain the same in our daily relationships. Steady inner calm and a clear mind must be preserved.

Further we can place in front of us the mature plant and meditate on it decaying but it has produced seeds that will produce something we don’t see yet. So there is something in the plant we can’t see. Again this will grow a new perception.

Then we might be able to see the spirit everywhere.

When we have discovered spiritual perceptions in ourselves through these exercises we can go and contemplate on other human beings. But we have to work on the integrity of our moral character as well. We can’t use the knowledge gained for our self-interest or evil ends. Adhere to the occult rule: “For every single step that you seek in knowledge of hidden truth, you must take three steps in perfecting your character toward the good.” When we that do we can practice following: Focus your attention to a person who had a strong desire for something and dedicate ourselves to observing this memory. What feelings does that mental image awaken in our soul? Let those feelings rise up. After many attempts we might be able to have the same feelings as the corresponding soul. This feeling produces a force in the soul. This force then becomes the spiritual perception of the other person’s soul state (astral embodiment). And: “Know to be silent about your spiritual perceptions.” Give yourself fully to the perception but don’t ponder too much. Always remember that thoughts are realities and value the other person! We must be filled with profound awe for every other person.

Candidates for initiation have to bring two additional characteristics: Courage and fearlessness. We need to find situations to cultivate this. Think: “All fear is useless. I must not let it take hold of me.  I must think of only what has to be done.” We need good nerves and strength. Our individual, like the world, contains destructive and constructive forces. As initiates our own souls will be revealed to us. Students must not lose strength in face of such self-knowledge. We must learn not to be discouraged by failure. We also need to learn the true name of things.

  1. nitiation initiating the relationship with higher spiritual beings:

Initiation is the highest kind of training.  We have to be mature enough for the training. Candidates have to pass through trials.

  • Fire trial – things burning away and learning to read occult sign writing: The first trial is to achieve a truer level of perception of the physical properties of inanimate objects, plants, animals and human beings. How do they reveal themselves to our spiritual ears and eyes? Many have already learned to bear disappointment and suffering with calm, magnanimously and without losing strength. The object of the fire trial is to gain more self-confidence, greater courage and quite a different kind of magnanimity and endurance. During that phase initiates are still able to return back to normal life. If we decide to continue, a particular kind of writing, customarily used in occult writing, is revealed to us. The writings actually reveal the actual secret teaching. This occult script is inscribed forever in the spiritual world. A soul force develops to help us decipher events. Through the signs of the occult writing we learn the language of things. For the first time we experience complete certainty in the observation of the Higher World. Through this language we learn of certain duties we have not known before. Some people have gifts bestowed upon them and act unconsciously as helpers of the world.
  • Water Trial – acting in higher realms without the support of outer circumstances – losing ground like when we swim in deep water: “All prejudices must fall from you.” In the second trial we have to show that we can act according to these standards. We must act based on perceptions we made based on our orientation and illumination. If we can recognize our duty and are able to execute it correctly we pass our trial. We can see that from the changes in colors, sounds and figures that our spiritual ears and eyes can perceive because we are told ahead of time what these figures are supposed to look like. We have to act according to our spiritual perceptions and our readings of spiritual scripture. It will provide us with the opportunity of self-control, to take care of duties even though inclinations go into another direction. We have to understand that our wishes do not take change the realities of the world. We have to have complete power over ourselves.We also need sound judgement. We need to distinguish true reality from illusion. We can’t be attached to our own opinion. We are about to lose all doubts concerning the Higher World. The worst enemies are dreaming, fantasizing and superstition.
  • Air trial – the third trial is without a tangible distinct goal. But we have to develop absolute presence of mind and rely on ourselves. Everything is up to us. Nothing can give us the strength but us. Here we have to act promptly and decisively. We must discover the “Higher Self”. We need to listen to the spirit. We can’t lose ourselves. We learn to act decisively and without hesitation.Temple of Higher Cognition (Wisdom). Here we have to swear an oath never to betray the secret teachings. We learn how to apply the secret teachings, how to place them at the service of humanity. We don’t need to conceal them but to present them tactfully and in the right way. We need to discover ourselves what needs to be done in each situation. That’s when we receive symbolically the “potion of oblivion”.  We are initiated into the secret of action uninterrupted by the lower memory. We have to judge every experience by its own merits. But the memory of the old can be useful. The second is the “potion of memory”. This enables one to keep higher mysteries always in mind.

Practical Considerations:

We are creating order with this training to gradually see and breathe with the soul and to hear and speak with the spirit.

In this chapter Rudolf Steiner looks at some practical approaches of esoteric development. We need to train our capacity to be patient. Impatience is extremely paralyzing for the higher faculties latent in us. We need to realize that we can’t achieve insights overnight. But we should be content with even the smallest achievement and be calm and detached. We can’t fight impatience the usual way, we have to surrender to a thought repeatedly: “I must do everything I can for the education of my soul and spirit, but I will wait calmly until the higher powers feel me worth of illumination.” That way our gaze becomes calm and our movement steady and our decisions become definite. We don’t get bothered by people who insult us. Growth does not happen through great outer events but through steady inner growing. Longings and cravings must be silenced. And we can’t never wish it for our own ends.

That requires that we need to be honest with ourselves in the depth of our soul. We really must look at our weaknesses and mistakes honestly. We must let curiosity vanish from us and stop asking questions. We should ask questions only to help us perfect our being. We should not aspire to something until we know what is right in the given domain. We must learn to learn without ulterior motive.

Anger hides a lot from us because it builds a wall. Once we don’t feel anger the inner eye in the soul can open. We also must overcome fear, superstition, prejudice, vanity, curiosity, the urge to gossip. We need to learn the differences between race, gender etc. but always without prejudice. We should speak after we have refined and purified our thought. We must learn to listen even if the other person has prejudices. We have to be careful when to voice our opinion.

Abide in calm single-mindedness and solitude.

“One day when I am ready for it I will receive what I am to receive.”

If possible we should do the training in nature.

Requirements for Esoteric Training

The spiritual path is not an easy one and requires work. Esoteric has to do with the development of our inner life.

The requirements are:

  1. To improve physical, mental and spiritual health. Pleasure should only be a means to health and life. Clear calm thinking and reliable sensations are essential. We should avoid exaggeration and one-sidedness in our judgements and feelings.
  2. We feel ourselves as part of the whole of life. E.g. if a teacher has issues with a student he should first check if he is the problem. We should even look at criminals differently. Social or political demands are fruitless. Political activists ask things of others but not of themselves.
  3. To understand that thoughts and feelings are as important as actions.
  4. We must acquire the conviction that our true nature does not lie without but within.
  5. Steadfastness on following through on a resolution. In the higher world love is the only motivation for action. To be esoteric students, we must be prepared for this life of sacrifice and service.
  6. To develop a feeling of gratitude for all we receive.
  7. Always to understand life as these conditions demand. Everything in our inner life must develop through something in the outer world. There must be an outward expression. To believe in and love humanity is the basis for all striving for the truth. To combat wickedness is to create good. Love for the work not the results move us forward.
  8. Esoteric training depends on learning. Remember to listen to others!

Some Effects of Initiation

Authentic spiritual training forbids any groping in the dark. Those who do practices will experience changes in their so-called “soul-organism”. A spiritual seer can see the chakras. In more developed souls the colors of the chakras are vibrant and the chakras in motion. The seer can get quite a bit of information. Specific soul activities are connected with the development of these sense organs.

To develop the throat chakra, we proceed as follows: We direct our attention to 8 soul processes we usually don’t pay attention to.

  • The first soul process concerns the way in which we acquire ideas or mental images. We need to pay attention to our ideas or mental representations and begin to see a specific idea in the outer world. Each one must become meaningful to us. We must eliminate false ideas from the soul.
  • The second soul process is how we make decisions – after well-reasoned deliberation.
  • The third soul process concerns speech – every word should have substance and meaning.
  • The fourth soul process concerns the ordering of our outer actions. Our affairs should fit other and events around us. We should not disturb others. Our activities should integrate harmoniously into our surrounding.
  • The fifth one has to do with the organization of our life as a whole. We need to live in harmony with nature and spirit.
  • The sixth soul process has to do with human striving or effort. We need to know our abilities and act in accordance to our self-knowledge. We should always try to perfect the performance of our duties.
  • The seventh soul process involves the effort to learn as much as possible from life. We can also learn from watching others.
  • In the eight soul process as esoteric students we should periodically turn and look inward, take counsel with ourselves, shape and test our principles, mentally reviewing what we know, pondering about the meaning of life, weighing our obligations. Don’t think or say something untrue, because it destroys a bud in the throat chakra.

On the esoteric path, we must be aware that what matters is not “good intention”, but what we actually do. When living in this way has become second nature to us, then the first signs of seeing or clairvoyance will appear. We shouldn’t talk about our practices or experiences too much.

We can develop the twelve-petal heart chakra similarly.

We have to realize that the perceptions provided by the various spiritual or soul senses differ in character. The throat chakra perceives as a form both another soul’s way of thinking and the laws according to which a natural phenomenon unfold (a vengeful thought looks like an arrow, a nice one maybe like a flower). The heart chakra perceives warmth and coldness of soul.

In esoteric schooling sense organs are developed together. Everything growing and maturing radiates soul warmth, everything undergoing death has soul coldness.

This is how the twelve-petal heart-chakra is formed:

  • Practice of the control of our thoughts: We pay attention to directing the sequence of our thoughts. The thoughts have to follow logically. Give thoughts a meaningful and logical direction.
  • Practice of the control of action: Act logically and based on principles.
  • Cultivate perseverance
  • Develop forbearance (or tolerance) toward other people, beings and events. We must suppress all unnecessary criticism of imperfection and evil but seek to understand. We have to try and put ourselves into other people’s shoes.
  • We must develop openness and impartiality toward all the phenomena of life. We must learn to approach every being with trust. We must be willing to revise our opinion if necessary. We have to have faith in our goal.
  • We must achieve a certain balance/serenity in life. We should strive for inner harmony. We should be as prepared to deal with misfortune as with joy.

In the end these are the six attributes a person seeking initiation has to develop. We also have to be very patient.

The development of the ten-petal solar plexus chakra requires cultivating soul care of a particularly subtle and delicate kind. We have to control and master the sense impressions themselves. We have to become conscious of the reasons we start to remember things, see the unconscious relationships. This lotus flower allows us to perceive deeply hidden soul qualities. We should only focus on those things we want to focus on. We can practice by focusing on only one thought. Or if we feel antipathy to something we combat that feeling.

For all of this we need strict self-discipline and practice meditation.

The development of the six-petal 2nd chakra is even more difficult. We have to become conscious of our Self in such a way that, within this consciousness, body, soul, and spirit are in perfect harmony. We need to purify ourselves so that we don’t do anything that does not serve our soul and spirit. Our passion should follow the right course on their own. But we can’t deny anything if we are not ready for it. We have to have patience and renounce and that might be a much greater accomplishment.

The development of the six-petal lotus flower brings us into relation with beings of the higher worlds, but only with those whose existence is also revealed in the soul world.

We also have to develop the higher organs. The development of the “soul body” enables us to perceive supersensible phenomena. We must be able to hear what is called the “inner world.” For that we also have to develop the ether body, the subtle body that is seen by clairvoyants as a kind of double of the physical body, an intermediate stage between the physical body and the soul body.

To study the ether body, we have to “remove” from sight the physical and soul body as clairvoyants. The tiny currents of the human ether body are in constant movement and without esoteric training these currents and movements are completely independent of our will and consciousness.

The goal of our development is now to form a kind of central point (organ) near the physical heart from which currents and movements spread in manifold spiritual colors and shapes.

Students should set aside time for these practices so they can become filled with them. But we must always keep our feet firmly on the ground.

This way we will enter the world of spirits and will be able to better understand the words from great teachers.

Spiritual Science speaks of four faculties that have to be developed before going on to higher knowledge.

  1. To distinguish between truth and appearance in our thinking
  2. To value truth and reality in relation to appearances
  3. To develop the six qualities:
    1. Control of thought
    2. Control of actions
    3. Perseverance
    4. Tolerance
    5. Faith
    6. Equanimity
  4. To develop the love for inner freedom

But mere intellectual understanding of these faculties is quite useless. They have to be integrated into the soul and good habits have to be established. Even the smallest acts and the least chores have a significance and we need to be conscious of it.

To attain higher knowledge, we must become free of looking at things in a personal and limited way. In order to serve humanity, we have to perfect ourselves.

At one point the sixteen-petal lotus (throat chakra) enables us to see spiritually the beings and forms of the higher world. That’s when we can see how our thoughts and feelings could influence those forms. Passions are directed at the outside world but in the mirror image it appears like an assault on the person harboring the passion.

To proceed further we have to see our own soul spiritually. And we need to really understand that the path to higher worlds has to lead through careful self-knowledge.

The two-petal flower (6th chakra) in the eye region helps us to get a connection between the higher I and higher spiritual beings.

Students of the inner path receive insight into the higher self and into the doctrine of incarnation of this higher self into a lower self. Religious ceremonies give us outwardly visible images of spiritual processes.

An indication that we have reached the stage of development is our dream life.  Instead of containing only echoes of our daily life the images start arise from a world unknown to us before. At the beginning, they still express themselves symbolically. They begin to mix with images and events from another world. We need to understand that in addition to our ordinary, conscious life, we also lead a second other unconscious life in the dream world. But only the development of the chakras, the lotus flowers, makes it possible to inscribe manifestation that don’t belong to the physical world.

We need to become conscious of what we perceive in the dream world and carry this into our waking life.  And we must grow into our higher self and consider it a real being and understand that the body is only an instrument for our higher self. We need to be careful not to become fanatics though. Those who have developed spiritual organs of perception can see and perceive things that others can’t.

Human life unfolds in three alternating states – wakeful state, dream state, dreamless sleep. In occult science, the dream state has significance; we open the sense organs of the soul. What happens in dream sleep is a kind of seeing. In deep sleep impressions are received by the ears. And deep sleep experiences might become clear and vivid to us. Eventually we can transform previously unconscious states of sleep into full consciousness and it’s a new revelation to us. At that point consciousness is unbroken.

In spiritual development, we must accept what we are given and never force anything.

The soul lives and acts uninterruptedly in the higher worlds and draws inspiration from there. This higher life remains unconscious in most human beings.  As esoteric students, we outgrow the need to be led and need to lead ourselves. But we do become liable to errors. That’s connected with dangers which we can avoid by following necessary precautions.  And we have to remember that forces hostile to life exist.

Our task is the transformation of the earth.

The dangers are:

  1. Willful violence
  2. Sentimental luxuriating in feeling
  3. Cold, loveless striving for wisdom

 As we develop the threads connecting the three basic powers – thinking, willing, feeling – are disconnected and function separately and are not functioning on inherent law but by the individual’s awakened higher consciousness. That way we can confront events dispassionately. We can attain complete mastery over thinking, feeling, and willing. At the same time, we have full responsibility for them. But this separation can lead us to deviate from the path. One reason is that the three powers might not be developed equally which is not as important when they act together and are regulated by the higher laws of cosmos. This way a will may run rampant; feelings could fall into raptures of religious self-gratification, thinking could lead to coldness and avoiding contact with ordinary things.

We should make sure that our daily life is not overly exhausting and seek out situations for which our strength is adequate. We should avoid anything that should bring this kind of disharmony into our life. We need to ensure complete self-mastery.

There are two” guardians of the threshold”, the lesser and the greater. The first one we meet, when the connections between willing, feeling and thinking begin to loosen in the etheric and astral body.  The second one we meet when this happens on the level of the physical body, especially the brain.

Then dying becomes a conscious experience and is experienced differently than before – like taking off a garment.

We are also part of a family and nation and when we encounter the guardian of the threshold we also understand that work we have to do for our group souls.

We will have the task from then on to illuminate the darkness in front of ourselves. After crossing this threshold our being begins to become transparent to us. We will understand invisible causes.

After that we are met by the greater guardian of the threshold. At this point the organs of feeling, thinking and willing have become instruments under the control of the soul.

 

Journey of Souls by Dr. Michael Newton

In this book the author shares the discourses with 29 subjects who, while in deep hypnosis describe what has happened to them between their former reincarnations on earth. We can read detailed descriptions of an afterlife experience that go far beyond “seeing a light” or a “tunnel.” The patients reveal graphic details about how it feels to die, what we see and feel right after death, who meets us right after death, spiritual guidesCompare with Your Souls Plan, what happens to disturbed souls, what the spirit world is really like, where we go and what we do as souls, why we are assigned to certain soul groups in the spirit world and what we do there, and why we choose to come back in certain bodies, and how we interact with the souls Compare with Promised by Heaven by Dr. Henleywho accompany us on our journeys. We read accounts of conversations and the consistencies that the author has found between individual accounts.

He also shares his insight into different levels of souls – beginning, intermediate and advanced souls, and when and where we first learn to recognize soul mates on earth. He also writes about the purpose of life and manifestations of a “creator” but there is no mention of religion or dogma.

In this book we get a better understanding of the immortality of the human soul and it could help us meet day-to-day personal challenges with a greater sense of purpose.  For some readers the information might come as a shock to their preconceptions about death.

On this website you can read a more detailed summary of several chapters: http://www.near-death.com/newton.html

I also have read ”Memories of the Afterlife“.  Edited by Dr. Newton, we can read true accounts from around the world and presented by Life Between Lives hypnotherapists certified by the Newton Institute.

 

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.