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Release Into Light

Release Into Light—Meditations For Those Mourn

 

Birth is not the beginning, Death is not the end.

Chuang - Tsu

 

Let life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves.

Tagore

 

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide into the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

Kahlil Gibran

 

It is clear to me as daylight that life and death are but phases of the same thing, the reverse and obverse of the same coin. In fact tribulation and death seem to me to present a phase far richer than happiness or life... Death is as necessary for a mans growth as life itself.

Mahatma Gandhi

 

Men who have seen life and death...an unbroken continuum, the swinging pendulum, have been able to move as freely into death as they walked through life. Socrates went to the grave almost perplexed by his companions' tears.

Voltaire

 

The thought of death leaves me in perfect peace, for I have a firm conviction that our spirit is a being of indestructible nature; it works on from eternity to eternity, it is like the sun, which though it seems to set to our mortal eyes, does not really set, but shines on perpetually.

Goethe

 

Awareness of approach to death can be a beautiful thing, a frame into which we can put the work of art that is our life, our personal masterpiece.

June Singer

 

Wether it is seen in personal terms or trans-personal terms, wether it is heaven or nirvana or Happy Hunting Ground or the Garden of Paradise, the weight and authority of tradition maintains that death is just an alteration in our state of consciousness , and that the quality of our continued existence in the afterlife depends on the quality of our living here and now.

John Smith

 

We are not only given the body but we are given the ability to see beyond the body and to realise that we are not tied to it forever.

Anonymous

 

The reality of my life cannot die for I am indestructible consciousness.

Paramahansa Yogananda

 

Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not ; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birth-less and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit forever.
Death hath not touched it all, dead though the house of it seems!

Sir Edwin Arnold

 

There are many levels of life which we cannot see and know, yet which certainly exist . There is a larger world, vast enough to include immortality.... Our spiritual natures belong to this larger world ... If death is apparently an outward fact, immortality is an inner certainty.

Manly P. Hall

 

The disembodied soul does not part with Nature when it leaves the earth-life but, rather, it rises to a plane of Nature which is fuller, richer and sweeter in everyway than the best of which the earth dwelling soul dreams. The dross of materiality burned away by the astral vibrations, the soul blossoms and bears spiritual fruit in the new life.

Yogi Ramacharaka

 

The breaking of forms which we call death releases the consciousness within for the for the new adventure of building other forms for further growth.

Joy Mills

 

These bodies of the embodied One, who is eternal, indestructible and boundless, are known as finite... (The embodied One) is not born, nor doth he die, nor having been, ceaseth he any more to be; unborn, perpetual, eternal and ancient, he is not slain when the body is slaughtered... As a man, casting worn-out garments, taketh new ones, so the dweller in the body, casting off worn-out bodies, entereth into others that are new... For certain is death for the born, and certain is birth for the dead; therefore over the inevitable thou shouldst not grieve.

Bhagavad Gita

 

It is not this trivial self which remains, It is the higher self that is much more aware of the understanding of what we have experienced... How sad it would be to bring back this (small self) When we could bring back the best of our traits, a cleaner slate and a better situation.

Anonymous

 

In the great wisdom traditions we are told of a period of evaluation following the transition beyond life in physical form. It is told that as we cross into other levels of being, what we have to offer is the result of the choices of action we have taken throughout the time on earth. This is looked upon kindly by the guardians, allowing us to see the effects of our choosing and how in certain instances, we might have chosen better. It is without harsh judgement but simply seeing clearly and with perception.

Anonymous

 

Thou causest the wind to blow and the rain to fall. Thou sustainest the living with loving kindness, and in great mercy callest the departed to everlasting life .

Jewish Prayer

 

The more we know, the more fully we trust, for we shall feel with utter certainty that we and our dead are alike in the hands of perfect Love.

C. W. Leadbeater

 

Death is our sister, we praise Thee for Death
Who releases the soul to the light of Thy gaze;
And dying we cry with the last of our breath
Our thanks and our praise.

St Francis of Assisi

 

What is perhaps the most incredible common element in the accounts of near death experiences...is the encounter with a very bright light... The love and warmth that emanates from this Being to the dying person are utterly beyond words , and he feels completely at ease and accepted in the presence of this Being...He is ineluctably drawn to it.

Raymond Moody

 

Or even the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it .

Ecclesiastes

 

My beloved soul, having awakened at last into My Peace, you can return consciously and completely to your own Original Source. As this homecoming fills you with in expressible joy it pervades Allah Most High with profound delight as well (You will) experience the perfect union with Love that is My highest Paradise.

Lex Hixon

 

I have got my leave Bid me farewell, my brothers! I bow to you all and take my departure. Here I give back the keys of my door and give up all claims to my house. I ask only for the last kind words from you .We were neighbours for long but I received more than I could give . Now the day has dawned and the lamp that lit my dark corner is out A summons has come and I am ready for my journey.

Tagore

 

I often think that people we have loved and who have loved us... become a part of us and we carry them around all the time - whether we see them or not . And in some ways we are a sum total of those who have loved us and those who have given ourselves to.

Anonymous

 

In the old way, when it was time to die, old ones would go off by themselves feeling that the moment of death was as intimate between them and the Earth Mother as the moment of birth is between human mother and child. They would find a quiet place and there make prayers to the Great Spirit, thanking him for life they enjoyed. They would sing their song, and they would die.

Sun Bear and Wabun

 

Great Spirit when we come singing.
When we face the sunset
the last song, may it be,
without shame, singing
"it is finished in beauty
it is finished in beauty!"

Evelyn Eaton

 

I wished there were a place for gracious dying,
A high place with a distant view.
Where we could gather for a celebration of life
and death and friendship, old and new.
I'd like a place where there would be good music,
Good food and wine - and laughter, games and fun-
And quiet talk with friends and good discussion
Of what will happen when this life is done.

Helen Ansley

 

Letting the last breath come. Letting the last breath go. Dissolving , dissolving into vast space, the light body released from its heavier form. A sense of connectedness with all that is, all sense of separation dissolved in the vastness of being. Each breath melting into space as though it were the last.

Stephen Levine

 

There are only two faces to existence - birth and death - and life survives them both. Just so sunrise and sunset are not essentially different: it all depends on whether one is facing east or west.

Joy Mills

 

In the face of such a mystery, we need to tread gently and respectfully... As far as is humanly possible, it is the business of the living to help the dying a natural death in a way that is in keeping with death's beauty and grandeur.

Catherine Roberts

 

Words and tears are nature's most basic ways of helping us release our feelings of suffering.

Hospice of Du Page

 

Let us not cling to mourning,
Do not stand on my grave and weep.
I am not there
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight opened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in a circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand on my grave and cry.
I am not there
I did not die.

Anonymous

Christianity and Theosophy

“Theosophy is an Eastern religion, isn’t it—sort of like Hinduism or Buddhism?” That question is wrong in two important ways. First, Theosophy is not a religion at all, but a way of viewing human nature and the world that is compatible with the nondogmatic aspects of any religion. Second, Theosophy is no more Eastern than it is Western—it seeks for what is in common to all cultures and religions and attempts to complement East and West with each other.

Theosophists belong to many different religions: among them, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity; and within Christianity to churches such as the Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and many others. Theosophy presents the wisdom of the West to the East and the wisdom of the East to the West.

Theosophy Within Christanity

The word Theosophy, meaning “divine wisdom,” designates an ancient outlook that recognizes within the many outward forms of religion an inner core shared by all of them. Theosophy and Christianity agree in their essence. Christianity provides a unique way of expressing the Wisdom Tradition of Theosophy, and Theosophy can enrich an understanding of the inner side of the Christian Way.

The New Testament itself frequently alludes to profound religious truths lying underneath the outer words of the biblical text. Frequently we come across such passages as “I speak God’s hidden wisdom.” We read that some things are beyond human comprehension, but “these it is that God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:7-10).

The Apostle Paul goes on to tell recently converted Christians that he is unable to impart such wisdom because “indeed, you are still not ready for it, for you are still on the merely natural plane” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Paul possessed a knowledge his followers could not yet receive or understand, which was therefore “hidden” from them.

Jesus himself said to his disciples, “To you the secret of the Kingdom of God has been given; but to those who are outside, everything comes by way of parables” (Mark 4:11-12). Jesus made a clear distinction between the disciples whom he taught directly and “those who are outside.”

St. Mark also relates that “when he was alone,” Jesus told his disciples certain truths that were not given to the multitude. On another occasion Jesus said, “There is still much that I could say to you, but the burden would be too great for you now” (John 16:12). These unspoken truths are not recorded in scripture, but perhaps they are alluded to when Jesus appeared to his apostles after the Resurrection “and taught them about the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

Theosophy and Scripure

Theosophical interpretations of the Bible are in fact those in common use among biblical scholars today and have been in such use among learned Christians throughout the ages. To read the Bible literally is to deprive it of its deeper sense. For example, when Jesus calls himself “the Door,” he is obviously using a figure of speech. Religious truths, especially the most important ones, require the use of figurative language such as metaphor, parable, and allegory.

Theosophists try to explore the ways in which great truths are expressed in the various religions of the world and to recognize the inner or hidden meaning in all religions. This does not mean that Theosophists have a direct insight into or an infallible understanding of the various religions; like anyone on any subject, they can be mistaken. But Theosophy does provide a special way of looking at and appreciating scriptural and other texts.

The two major works of H. P. Blavatsky (one of the founders of the Theosophical Society), Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, contain many ideas that can help to elucidate scriptures. For example, the Eastern idea of karma is evident in the Bible. The concept of reincarnation is implicit as an underlying assumption, which helps an understanding of some otherwise perplexing passages. Christ’s life story can be seen as representing the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of the spirit in all of us as we make the spiritual journey described in Theosophical literature.

The Bible

For educated Christians the Bible is indeed a special literature, but it is a literature It is not a single book but a collection of works representing a variety of literary forms, some containing more profound religious truths than others. Some Christians do not esteem, for example, Esther or Leviticus as highly as the Psalms or the Gospels. Yet Esther and Leviticus belong to what Christians call the “canon” (that is, the officially recognized books) of the Bible. And all books of the canon reveal how people in the Judeo-Christian tradition have understood themselves, their place in the world, and their relationship to the greater Reality within and beyond the world.

Some biblical books are richer in Theosophical truths than others, but Theosophical methods and insights can throw light on any book of the Bible. Every word in the Bible is not infallibly true in its literal meaning—the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life (2 Corinthians 3:6)—but every word says something from which we can learn.

A Theosophical attitude toward the Bible is that it contains the divine Wisdom which Christianity calls the word of God. But it would also hold that not every sentence in it is of equal richness and value.

Evolution

Evolution, far from being opposed to religion, is at its heart. Evolution is implied in the first chapter of Genesis, for it took a whole “day” for God to create “the birds of the air,” another for “the beasts of the earth,” and so forth. Were not evolution God’s way of producing life and everything else, he would have created everything instantly. The word “day” is merely a way of denoting a period of time; it has nothing to do with the units of time that happen to be in use now. Indeed, Genesis describes days and nights passing before the sun itself came into existence.

We human beings are a process within the evolutionary development of the universe. Christians believe that humanity has a special role to play in the process of the world, and Theosophy agrees. From a Darwinian standpoint, evolution is the adaptation of living forms to their environment, by which species survive or die out. Theosophy does not deny that process, but holds that evolution is a threefold process also involving the development of intellect and of spiritual realization.

Theosophy also holds that evolution is purposeful and directed toward greater sensitivity of forms, greater responsiveness of intellect, and greater awareness of spiritual unity. In Christian terms, evolution is God’s method of creating, perfecting, and redeeming the world. Contemporary science, notably quantum physics, has more kinship with biblical Christianity than did the mechanistic physics of Newton, great as he was in his time. The universe as we know it today looks “more like a thought than a machine.”

New Finds

Recent manuscript discoveries have shed new light on the Bible and on early Christian thought and practice. Among the famous twentieth-century discoveries are the Qumran or Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library. These documents do not radically alter what biblical scholars already knew; they do, however, provide additional evidence and details.

These manuscripts especially corroborate the influences of a theosophical Wisdom Tradition upon Palestinian Judaism around the time of Jesus. Those influences were also expressed in one of the most important of the early Christian schools, that of Alexandria, the luminaries of which included Clement and Origen, and in a variety of other early Gnostic and hermetic groups within Christianity, which later disappeared or went underground. The Qumran documents also show that brotherhoods and communities, in some ways similar to monastic orders, had developed by the time of Jesus, which were unknown in earlier Hebrew times.

The Theosophical Perspective

Theosophy, far from being inconsistent or incompatible with the Christian Way, is in fact its other side. Theosophy merits consideration by all who wish to make their Christian faith both more intelligible to their minds and more alive in their hearts. It agrees with St. Paul that Christ is within us. It teaches people not to leave the religion in which they have heard God speak but, rather, to live it more fully and perceive it more clearly.

The emphasis in Christ’s teachings on the love of God and of one’s neighbor is also echoed by Theosophy. That love is not an emotion or a sentimental affection. It is rather what is called in Greek “agape,” a recognition of a greater Reality in human experience and a concern for the welfare of others. In Theosophy it is called “altruism,” a recognition that, as we and others are ultimately one, their good is also ultimately ours.

Those who take their stand in the eternal verities, on the inner or hidden aspect of Christianity, are like the man in the parable who “had the sense to build his house on rock” (Matthew 7:24). Such people can view without alarm the shifting sands of criticism and doubt that arise in each new age. Storms may come, winds may blow, but the house stands, for its occupants are no longer in bondage to the letter of the law. They hold to that hidden spiritual foundation of which external facts are but the sign and symbol. In possession of the Divine Wisdom, they know the truth that makes us free.


Continue exploring...

 

1- Articles

Theosophy in Christianity by Arthur M. Coon

Reincarnation and Christianity by Geoffrey Hodson

The Christmas of the Angels by Dora Kunz

Christian Meditation by Edith Schlosser

Christian Ritual in Theosophical Perspective by Robert Ellwood

The Future of Esoteric Christianity by Richard Smoley

Hesychasm: A Christian Path of Transcendence by Mitchell B. Liester

 

2- Books

Esoteric Christianity by Annie Besant

The Christening of Karma by Geddes MacGregor

Reincarnation in Christianity (excerpts) by Geddes MacGregor


3- Audios

The Dead Sea Scrolls by G. Nevin Drinkwater

Hidden Wisdom in Christian Scriptures – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 by Geoffrey Hodson

The Bible as a Source of Secret Knowledge, by Geoffrey Hodson

Joyful Gnosis: Gnosticism and Blavatsky’s Wisdom by Stephan Hoeller 

Jung and the Wisdom of the Gnostic Gospels by Stephan Hoeller


4- Videos

The Future of Esoteric Christianity by Richard Smoley


FOR FURTHER READING

The Cross and the Grail: Esoteric Christianity for the 21st Century , by Robert Ellwood.

Esoteric Christianity, by Annie Besant.

The Hidden Gospel , by Neil Douglas-Klotz.

Hidden Wisdom in the Holy Bible , 2 volumes, by Geoffrey Hodson.

Jesus Christ, Sun of God , by David Fideler.

Jung and the Lost Gospels , by Stephan Hoeller.

Mary’s Vineyard: Daily Meditations, Readings, and Revelations , by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut.

Death and Life Beyond

We fear death, said Francis Bacon, as children fear to go into the dark. Death is the unknown that breaks the continuity of our lives. Its threat is great because we do not know what lies beyond it. But death, after all, is as natural as birth, just as the falling of leaves in autumn is as natural as their unfolding in spring. Every form of life perishes and yields place to the new.

We can minimize death's threatening aspect if we know how to prepare for it, what the process is like, and what may come after it. A great deal of information and guidance, both ancient and modern, is available for us to learn about coping with death, if we will only take advantage of it.

Preparing for Death

When an infant is to be born into the world, we make preparations for it. We do not let a birth happen without looking ahead on behalf of the infant, who cannot help itself. Similarly, all of us are going to die, so we should make preparations for that too, but in this case we can help ourselves.

The best preparation for a good death is a life well lived. So the sooner we start preparing to die well, the better we will live in the meanwhile. We can do various things that not only are good for our present life but will also help when death finally comes. Among them are the following:

  1. Find out what to expect. Many books are available on events before, during, and after the death experience. Some are based on commonsense observations of the dying process. Others are accounts of those who have started to die, but then returned to life—who have thus had “near-death experiences.” Still others are the records of ancient teachings about death and the afterworld, preserved in that Wisdom Tradition which in its modern form is called Theosophy. Study some of these books to learn what they say the event will be like.

  • Learn to adapt—to “go with the flow.” There is no question that death is a major change in the conditions of our existence, just as birth was. Expect differences. One way to prepare for them is through meditation, by which you make contact with altered states of consciousness that are in some ways like those you will experience after death. Learn some techniques of meditation from reliable books or teachers.

  • Discover who you are. One of the important consequences of death is that we have to adjust our sense of who and what we are. Ordinarily during life, we identify with our bodies, sensory perceptions, instincts, emotions, and brain-thoughts. But at or soon after death, we lose all of those, so we must readjust our sense of self-identity. That can be a shock, unless we are prepared for it. Meditation will help with the readjustment by letting you make contact with the deeper Self within, which is the real you.

  • Take daily stock of yourself. It is said that at the moment of death we review the life just past, as the events of our lives flash before us. You can prepare for that experience by going over the day's activities each night at bedtime. It is a good idea to keep a diary for recording your impressions and evaluating what you have done that day. This evaluation is not a judgment of what was good and bad, but a simple awareness of one's actions and responses. Such little reviews along the way make the big final review run smoother.

  • Establish a frame of mind transcending everyday experiences. You may find it helpful to use certain affirmations or mantras. Some Christians use the “Jesus prayer” or the rosary in this way. Hindus use a mantra meaning “I am That [the Absolute].” Some people repeat:

    O hidden life, vibrant in every atom,

    O hidden light, shining in every creature,

    O hidden love, embracing all in oneness,

    May all who feel themselves as one with thee

    Know they are therefore one with every other.



  • Think about life in a larger context. Be aware that your present life is only one phase in the great cycle of your existence, one life or incarnation out of many, all governed by the law of karma. Remember that what you are now is the result of your past actions and thoughts and that how you act and think today is determining what you will be tomorrow.

  • Visualize yourself as you would become. Imagine yourself bathed in a glorious clear light, which circulates through the whole universe, flowing through you and joining you to all life.

    1. There are many other ways, general and particular, described in Theosophical writings to help you prepare for the experience of death.

      The Process of Dying

      When we observe another die, death seems to be a closing down and withdrawal from life—a negative process. But those who have gone through the early stages and then returned to earthly life have reported it quite differently. Many persons who have had a near-death experience describe a deep sense of peace and well-being, with an awareness that they are out of the body. Unconfined by the body, they have found that their consciousness can move freely, observe without obstruction, and travel where it wishes.

      Early in the postmortem state, there is a review of the past life, like a rapid motion picture. Then the dying person passes through a tunnel or great darkness into a bright light on the other side, where a world of surpassing beauty awaits. The dying person is met by friends or a protective guide, “helpers” who explain the future and orient the newcomer to this new world.

      With some variation, the foregoing details are common to the experiences of those who have nearly died but were revived. They also accord both with ancient traditions from Egypt and Greece about what the after-death state is like and with modern Theosophy. There is every reason to believe that they represent accurately the typical experience of dying. They show that there is nothing to fear. Indeed, for those who have had a near-death experience, death holds no terror because they know what it is---comforting, joyous experience, the natural end of life.

      The process of dying turns out to be as Walt Whitman described it in Song of Myself:

      All goes onward and outward,

           nothing collapses,

      And to die is different

           from what anyone supposed, and luckier.

      We can help others who are in the process of dying by allowing the transition to take place in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. We cannot always share our convictions about life after death with them. But our calm acceptance of death can help them toward a more peaceful attitude.

      Life after Death

      According to the Theosophical tradition, when the process of bodily dying is completed, our personality undergoes a transformation. The impulses, tendencies, emotions, habitual thoughts, and automatic reactions, which we ordinarily identify as our “self,” are sorted out and ordered. All those products of our past life are divided into two major parts. One consists of the entirely personal and selfish, the transitory aspect of the past life, which forms a shell or cocoon around our inner core. That core, the other part of us, consists of our generous, unselfish nature, transcending the merely personal. It includes everything from our life that is worth preserving.

      The development of the spiritual core within our personal shell is like the gestation of a butterfly's chrysalis within its cocoon. While that development is going on, according to The Tibetan Book of the Dead and also to ancient and modern investigations, we may slumber unconsciously, or we may have various experiences—some idyllic and heaven-like, others distressing and hellish. Those experiences are not rewards or punishments, but merely the projections of our own inner states and potentials. We do not suddenly become perfect after death; our fears, longings, joys, and sorrows remain and are played out in the afterlife.

      Finally, the inner spiritual core of the past life, the good fruit, is absorbed into our enduring individual Self, the real in us. One purpose of meditation during life is to help us identify with that inner Self and so to prepare for the easy transition of consciousness to it after death. When the transition is complete, the shell dissipates and we awake to a completely happy, heaven-like state of comfort and consolation, in which there is no pain or sorrow, only joy and fulfillment.

      The length of our stay in that heaven world cannot be measured by earthly time, for it is a subjective state to which terrestrial time is irrelevant. But after we have been fully rested and renewed, we feel once again the urge for experience in the world. We hear the call of life. And then we begin the process of being born anew in a fresh body to start the cycle over again.

      As death always follows birth, so rebirth inevitably follows death. Being born and dying are not singular events but boundaries between two alternating phases of our existence—life and death. Our whole existence, like that of all nature around us, is one of cycles. The annual cycle of summer and winter, the monthly cycle of the waxing and waning moon, the diurnal cycle of day and night, the systolic cycle of the heart's contraction and relaxation, and many other such cycles mark the periods of our lives. Life and death, seen from this perspective, are just stages in an ongoing process. And dying is not an end, but a turning point from one stage to the next—different from what anyone supposed, and luckier.

      The Wisdom Tradition holds that life and death, being born and dying, are only temporary events in our vast cycle of existence. We go on repeating them on earth until we have learned all this world has to teach us. Then we move on to other forms of activity and rest, in an endless pilgrimage through all the worlds of the cosmos. What we think of as death is only a temporary pause, a minor turning point in an adventure that is grounded in Divine Reality and therefore has no beginning and no end.

      For Further Reading

      The following Quest Books are available from book stores and the Theosophical Publishing House (1-800-669-9425).

      Cults, the Occult, and Theosophy

      Cults and the occult are much in the news these days. We see reports of religious groups that are planning for some Armageddon or are brainwashing young people. Occasionally such stories refer to Theosophy as a cult. The occult, which Theosophical literature often refers to, is mistakenly reported as devil worship, animal sacrifice, and the desecration of churches or graveyards. What connection is there really between cults, the occult, and Theosophy?

      The words cult and occult are often confused because they sound alike, but they have no more to do with each other than do cur and occur or pine and opine. And in the senses in which these two words are often used today, neither has anything to do with Theosophy.

       

      CULTS

      The word cult comes from the Latin colere, meaning “to cultivate” or “to worship.” At first it meant quite innocently “a particular system of religious worship.” Then it came to mean “excessive and unreasoning devotion to a person or cause.” Nowadays it is often used for a religious group that demands the complete subservience of its members.

      Cults, in this new sense, are religious groups that tell people what to think and how to act. The cult leader demands unquestioning obedience and loyalty. Cult members may be expected to leave their families behind, to give their money to the cult leader, and to dedicate themselves exclusively to the service of the cult. They are often subjected to a form of brainwashing that is intended to make them willing and docile followers.

      Cult behavior, however, is not limited to fringe organizations. Any religious group that claims the right to interpret its scriptures dogmatically and infallibly, imposing its authority on all its members and allowing no other interpretation, is acting like a cult. Cults demand uniformity of belief and action. They stifle freedom of conscience.

      Theosophists find that their view of life is expressed in some basic writings, but the official policy of the Theosophical Society is that all its writings and teachings are open to individual interpretation and that no one has the right to dictate what others believe or do. Thus Theosophy teaches that cult-behavior and cult-mentality are the opposite of true spirituality.

      According to the Theosophical tradition, we each have within ourselves a spark of the divine life, the One Life that expresses itself in every being of the universe. All human beings are therefore fellow pilgrims on a great journey of self-discovery. Although Theosophists respect and benefit from the wisdom of the Theosophical tradition, they recognize that we must each discover our own way for ourselves. And we should honor the right of others to do likewise.

      It is only by the exercise of our minds and consciences that we can grow and progress. Our only sure guide to right action is the Voice within, which teaches us to love and respect and honor one another. Theosophy says that altruism, or a concern for the welfare of others, is the key to right living. If we are concerned for the welfare of others, we try to convince them, not by dominating them or imposing our beliefs on them, but by living our altruistic principles in daily life.

       

      THE OCCULT

      The word occult comes from the Latin occulere, meaning “to cover, to hide, to conceal.” Originally it meant simply “hidden.” Later it was used to refer to something that is not available to the ordinary senses or reasoning, being too deep or too great for words, something transcendental. Theosophists sometimes use the word in that latter sense.

      Theosophy teaches that the world is a marvelously complex place where there are (as Hamlet told his friend Horatio) “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Today we know that the atmosphere all around us is full of radio and television waves that we cannot see or hear directly, as well as many other sorts of energy that escape our eyes and ears. All such waves and energy are “occult”—that is, hidden from our ordinary senses—but they nevertheless affect us, and we can learn to use them.

      To say that something is “occult” is merely to say that it is beyond our range of perception or understanding—not that it is supernatural (outside of nature) or even abnormal. It is only a part of nature that is not obvious to us, such as the way one person’s thoughts can influence another, or the ability some people have to anticipate the future. Occultism is the study of such hidden aspects of nature.

      In recent times, however, the words occult and occultism have been given new, debased, and even sinister meanings. They are often connected with such phenomena as devil worship, animal sacrifice, drugs, ghosts, fortune telling, and a variety of other things. For this reason, the “occult” section in a bookstore is likely to include books dealing with a hodgepodge of subjects—some respectable, some foolish, and some trashy, if not actually wicked.

      With this new meaning of occult, which has sprung up only during the past few years like an overnight mushroom, Theosophy has nothing to do. The Theosophical view is that the devil of popular lore is a myth and a misunderstanding of a symbol. Theosophy also teaches that the first step to spiritual progress is a clean life.

      Many Theosophists are vegetarians and do not wear furs because they believe that killing animals needlessly is morally wrong. Theosophy teaches that we should be very careful not to alter our consciousness by artificial means, so many Theosophists shun the use of drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, except under a doctor’s orders.

       

      THEOSOPHY

      Theosophy acknowledges and respects the hidden side of life—energy fields surrounding all living beings, the power of thought, intuitive understanding, and so on—and expects that one day human beings will learn to deal with those things more directly than we can now. At that future time, what was once “occult” will cease to be hidden, having become instead a part of our conscious knowledge.

      Theosophy teaches that we can evolve and develop toward future knowledge only through our own actions and that no one should interfere with our right and responsibility to make our own decisions and discover truth for ourselves. This attitude is expressed in the motto of the Theosophical Society:

      There is no religion higher than truth.

      The “religion” spoken of in that motto is not just the creeds and dogmas of churches. It is instead any system of belief that limits and confines the human mind. We can make a religion out of science, politics, our own prejudices, or even Theosophy itself.

      Theosophy teaches the unity of all life, the fundamental order of the universe, and the purposefulness of existence. It teaches that human beings have an unlimited potential within themselves, that we have the ability to realize our potential, and that the way to that realization is available to all of us. The basic ideas of Theosophy can be summarized in several ways, one of which is called “The Three Truths of the White Lotus”:

      1. The human soul is immortal, and its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendor has no limit.

      2. The principle which gives life dwells in us and around us, is undying and eternally beneficent, is not heard or seen or smelt, but is perceived by the one who desires perception.

      3. We are each our own absolute lawgiver, the dispenser of glory or gloom to ourselves, the decreer of our life, our reward, our punishment

        .

      Theosophists are Christians and Jews, Muslims and Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhists, agnostics and free-thinkers. They acknowledge the goodness of the universe, honor the potential within each human being, and respect the diversity and responsibility of every person. They believe that the words spoken by the great Indic teacher Gautama Buddha to his followers when he was on his deathbed can inspire all human beings, of every culture: Work out your own salvation with diligence.

      The Emblem of the Theosophical Society

      The emblem or seal of the Theosophical Society consists of seven elements that represent a unity of meaning. It combines symbols drawn from various religious traditions around the world to express the order of the universe and the spiritual unity of all life.

      At the top of the emblem is the Sanskrit word Om, a very sacred word in India, being used by Hindus, Buddhists, and others. It cannot be translated into English because it has symbolic rather than ordinary meaning. It is pronounced as a single syllable, “om,” but is written with three letters in Sanskrit: a, u, and m—au being the way Sanskrit writes the sound o. It is thus the ultimate Unity manifesting itself in a threefold way. It is the trinity, which is found not only in Christianity, but in Hinduism, Buddhism, and indeed all over the globe in many religions.

      As a Sacred Word, Om is like the Greek term Logos, adopted by the early Christians to symbolize the divine order manifested in the universe: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It is the word that creates, sustains, and transforms the whole cosmos: the word eternally spoken by God.

      Even the shape of the Sanskrit letters is interesting symbolically. What looks like a “3” connected to what looks like the Greek letter pi ( ? ) is the Sanskrit letter a, which is thus written in two dimensions. The small curved line over the pi-like part of the letter a is the letter u, which is one dimensional. And the small dot is the letter m, having no dimensions. As the letters of the word Om progress from one to the next, they become smaller in dimensions, finally ending with the primal point, the singularity from which the whole universe expands at the time of the Big Bang.

      The Om is at the top of the seal because it symbolizes the Absolute expressing itself as the three-in-one divine intelligence or Logos from which the universe emanates and to which, at the end of time, it returns. The great Hindu devotional work, the Bhagavad Gita, says that the word Om should begin everything, because it symbolizes the divine origin of all things.

      Whirling Cross


      Below the word Om is a whirling cross within a circle. It is a very ancient symbol, found all over the world—in India, among American Indians, and in many other cultures around the globe. In Sanskrit it is called a swastika, meaning “good.” It comes from the word swasti “welfare,” in turn from su “well” and asti “it is.” In popular use in India, it is thought to be a sign of good luck. In medieval Europe it was used by Christians and called a gammadion (because it is made of four Greek gamma letters) or in England a fylfot because it was used as a design to fill (fyl) the foot (fot) of stained glass windows.

      The Nazis adopted this ancient holy symbol (which they called Hakenkreuz or “bent cross”) and perverted its meaning, much as the Ku Klux Klan in the United States adopted the cross and perverted its meaning as a sign of hate and intimidation. But the swastika is still used as a holy symbol all over the world, for example by the Jains of India, whose religion is devoted to harmlessness.

      All crosses symbolize some aspect of manifestation. The swastika is a whirling cross, its clockwise (righthanded, sunwise, or deasil) motion suggesting the dynamic forces of creation. So the swastika represents the great process of becoming, which produces the world in which we live. It symbolizes what astrophysicists call the expansion of the universe. When the swastika is represented as turning in the opposite direction (that of the Nazi Hakenkreuz), it symbolizes the forces of contraction or destruction that bring about the end of a world when it has completed its evolution. The reverse turning swastika is not evil, but merely a symbol of the winding up of creative energies and of the process of coming to an end.

      The circle that encloses the swastika is what is called the “ring-pass-not,” that is, the boundary around our universe and within which the creative forces constantly swirl and evolve life. The center of the whirling swastika, however, is still. When we are there, we are, as T. S. Eliot said in Burnt Norton, “at the still point of the turning world.” It is the point of calmness and peace in the midst of the constantly changing world all around us.

      The encircled swastika, symbolizing the world in its dynamic aspect of becoming, is just below the Om symbol, which represents the eternal and absolute from which the world emanates. Their arrangement in the seal is therefore meaningful. This changing world depends on or hangs from the unchanging absolute. Moreover, the rest of the seal, which represents particular aspects of this evolving world, expands from the encircled swastika. The rest of the seal gives us, as it were, a closer look at the process symbolized by the whirling cross, the process going on within it.

      Ouroboros


      Immediately connected with the whirling cross is a serpent swallowing its own tail. This symbol was called by the ancient Greek Gnostics and alchemists ouroboros. The circle it forms is a restatement of the circle around the swastika, representing the boundary of the universe, and the fact that it passes through the encircled swastika suggests that the serpent and everything it encircles are part of the creative energy of the whirling cross.

      The serpent swallowing its tail also represents the cycles of nature, the bounded eternity of the world, and the infinite order of life. One of the ideas it suggests is that which T. S. Eliot expressed in his poem East Coker: “In my beginning is my end,” that is, law and orderliness are to be found everywhere in the universe and in human life, so the end of everything is implicit in its beginning.

      In the West, the serpent or the dragon is sometimes interpreted as a symbol of evil or temptation, but in the East, it is generally a symbol of wisdom, longevity, and happiness. In China, the dragon or winged serpent is a very favorable figure. In the Hindu tradition, the nagas or serpents are guardians of the good, and holy men are called “nagas.” Even in the West, the serpent is associated with wisdom; Christ advised his followers to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

      The serpent is also a symbol of healing, that is, of wholeness. Moses cured the sick among the Children of Israel in the desert by having them gaze upon a fiery serpent set upon a pole. Christian Church fathers interpreted that serpent as a type or anticipatory symbol of Christ on the cross. And one or two serpents intertwining a staff are even today a symbol of the healing professions. The fact that the serpent sheds its skin each year makes it an emblem of the cyclical process of the world and of the renewal of life, that is, of resurrection. And so in that way again the serpent is an analog of Christ and of the transformative process we will all pass through.

      Two Triangles


      The area inside the serpent’s circle represents the whole universe and everything in it. In colored versions of the seal, it is usually blue, passing from a light sky or baby blue at the top to a dark, almost navy blue at the bottom. That blue represents the cosmic sky, not just the physical sky we see, but the whole range of material substance in the universe, from rarefied, subtle matter at the “top” of the universe to gross, dense matter at the “bottom.” This colored background is not really a part of the seal, but it lends its own meaning to the whole symbol, as do the various other colors used in some versions of the seal.

      Upon that background of the universe are two interlaced triangles, another worldwide symbol. The hexagram or six-pointed star that they form is universal and has many meanings. It is found in Judaism as the Seal of Solomon or the Shield of David (magen david), but the symbol is also found in India, among the Gnostics and alchemists, and elsewhere around the world.

      The upward-pointing triangle, which is light in color, symbolizes spirit or consciousness. The downward-pointing triangle, which is dark in color, symbolizes matter or substance. The fact that the two triangles are interlaced is a statement of the interdependence of spirit and matter. It is a basic Theosophical concept that every particle of matter has consciousness in it and that every spark of consciousness functions through a material form. Matter and spirit are mutually dependent. Neither can exist without the other.

      The idea that matter and spirit are the two sides of one coin is reflected also in traditional Christian theology. It holds that at the end of time there will be a “general resurrection,” when all dead bodies will be brought to life and united with the souls from which they were separated at the moment of death. So in eternity, Christian theology says, our souls and bodies will again be conjoined, just as they now are. The inner meaning of the Christian doctrine of the last, general resurrection is the same as the Theosophical teaching of the mutual coexistence of matter and spirit. Reality is a whole, a unity expressing itself as both spirit and matter while remaining essentially One. That fact is expressed by the interlaced triangles, which, although two, form an interrelated whole just as spirit and matter or consciousness and substance do.

      It is significant that triangles rather than some other geometrical shape are used to symbolize spirit and matter. Spirit and matter are both threefold in their natures. Spirit or consciousness has three aspects: the reality of being, awareness of others, and joyful activity. In Hinduism those are called sat (being), chit (awareness), and ananda (bliss), three terms often run together as sat-chit-ananda  to symbolize the unity of these three aspects. In Platonic philosophy they are called the Good, the Beautiful, and the True. In Freemasonry they are called Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty. In Christianity they correspond to the three divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and to the three supernatural virtues: faith, hope, and love.

      Matter likewise has three aspects: stability, activity, and regularity. In Hinduism they are spoken of as three “strands” (gunas) out of which matter is woven: tamas or inertia, rajas or activity, and sattva or harmony. They correspond to the three alchemical elements of salt, mercury, and sulfur, and are represented by the three colors black, red, and white (or dark, bright, and light), which are the basic colors found all over the world.

      So it is not accidental that triangles are used to represent both spirit and matter. The three sides and three points of the two triangles total twelve, the number of the signs of the Zodiac, the Tribes of Israel, the apostles of Christ, the labors of Hercules, and a lot of other mythological and symbolic dozens. They all refer to the experiences we go through in this world.

      Ankh


      At the center of the six-pointed star of spirit and matter is the Egyptian cross or ankh, symbolic of life. The six points of the triangles and the ankh at the center represent the seven principles of the universe. Or, if we think of the hexagram as having twelve sides or twelve points (six outward and six inward), the center is the thirteenth element, corresponding to Christ among the apostles, Hercules in his labors, and so on. The ankh also represents the idea that life results from the interaction of spirit or consciousness (the upward triangle) and matter or substance (the downward triangle).

      The ankh is also called an “ansate” cross, that is, a cross “with a handle.” Human or divine figures in Egyptian art are often depicted as carrying the ankh by its loop or “handle.” When we are functioning in a fully human mode, with spirit and matter balanced, we have, as it were, a “handle” on life.

      Since the ankh consists of a tau (or T) cross topped by a circle, it combines the meanings of the T-square and the circle. The T-square is an instrument used by draftsmen and architects to draw parallel lines (symbolically, to recognize parallelisms and analogies) and as a support for triangles in drawing angles (symbolically, for serving as the basis for all the triplicities of spirit and matter). Like all square forms, it also represents matter. The circle represents spirit. The T-square and circle combined are thus another representation of spirit and matter interacting and producing life by their interaction.

      Thus the ankh repeats on a lower register the symbolism already expressed by the interlaced triangles, the serpent, and the encircled swastika. All of those elements speak of the mutual connections between spirit and matter as expressions of the divine source, symbolized by the crowning Om. The repetition, with variation in details, of the same symbolic meanings by these different elements is a statement of the correspondences that exist throughout the universe. The world finally is one and whole, it is coherent, and it is meaningful in all its parts. That is what the seal is also saying in its entirety.

      The Motto

      Around the bottom of the serpent is a motto: “There is no religion higher than truth.” It is an English translation of a Sanskrit motto, one word of which has special meanings that shed light on the whole motto. The original Sanskrit is Satyan nasti paro dharmah, which might also be translated as “Nothing is greater than truth.” The first three words can be literally translated thus: satyan “than truth,” nasti “is not,” paro “further, greater, higher.” Dharmah is difficult to translate because it means so many things. Its root meaning is “what is established or firm.” And from that basic root sense radiate such other meanings as “law,” “customs,” “duty,” “morality,” “justice,” “religion,” “teachings or doctrine,” “good works,” and “essential nature.”

      The motto is not specifically about what we think of as religion. Instead it is saying that none of our commitments or social conventions or ideas can measure up to the reality of what truly is. Reality is greater than any of its parts and is beyond all our notions about it. In saying that, the motto at the bottom of the seal directs our attention back to the word Om at the top. That word is a symbol of what truly is, of Truth. And so the whole seal, just like the serpent, ends where it began—affirming the supreme Truth that unites all things.

      For Further Reading
      The Theosophical Seal [pdf], by Arthur M. Coon.

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