August 2010 Newsletter
The following articles are reproduced from the August 2010 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
An extract from The
Purpose of Theosophy by Mrs. Patience Sinnett
THEOSOPHY is not a religion with a creed or code of doctrines to which its followers must subscribe before they enter the fold. An erroneous belief that it is in this way a specific faith has, perhaps, taken hold of the public mind in the Western world, — so far as the subject has obtained attention at all during the last few years, — and the aim of the present explanation is to show what the general character and tendencies of theosophic thought really are; to point out in a concise and simple manner what it is that the study of Theosophy teaches and embraces, as well as what effect the reception of the knowledge to which it leads should have on the lives, work, and intercourse with their neighbours, and humanity at large, of those who try to benefit by and conform to it. Few will deny that for many years past the tendency of intellectual thought and scientific inquiry has been towards Materialism and Agnosticism. Theology has become discredited by reason of having had for its supporters and preachers men who, instead of devoting themselves to the study or science of spirituality, have contented themselves with repeating, parrot-like in many cases, the phrases of those who have gone before; these phrases having been oftener than not originally formulated in order to make their acceptation by so-called heretics at the same time more difficult and more binding and not for any real value or spiritual truth to be discovered in them. In other words, they have clung to the dogmas of their creeds instead of to the spirit of the teaching contained in the words of their various leaders. In spite, however, of this intellectual bias in favour of Materialism, there still remains in human nature the desire for belief in a future life; and the following pages aim at pointing out how the study of Theosophy, or, as it may be equally well called, the Esoteric Doctrine, among other things, shows the reason of this instinctive longing, and what it will necessarily and surely lead to in the future races of mankind.
As Theosophy is not in itself a religion in the common acceptation of the word, hardly even a philosophy, it may and does include among its followers representatives of almost every form of religious belief in the world, as well as many who have no belief at all. It teaches people to search for the fundamental truth that is the basis equally of every creed, philosophy, and science, to discover and put aside the superstructure raised by the superstition, persecution, love of power, ignorance of science, and bigotry of humanity, and thus to lay bare the fact that one truth supports every religion, no matter how divergent they may now appear; that truth being the Divine wisdom of the ancients, discoverable alike in the symbolical writings of the Kabbala, the Books of Hermes, the Vedas, and other sacred books of the East, in the Talmud, the Koran, our own Bible, as well as the teachings of Pythagoras, Socrates, and many of the more recent philosophers. This Wisdom Religion, which is the germ of truth to be found in every form of belief worthy of the name, existed on this planet thousands of years before any of the creeds of Christendom were heard of, before the still more ancient religions of the East were recorded. In support of this last statement it may be explained that the Vedas, said to constitute the oldest book extant, were for centuries before they were committed to writing, handed down orally from priest to priest, the real knowledge which was to be found in the teaching, being considered of too sacred a character to entrust to any but those who have devoted their lives to the pursuit of this mystical wisdom. And to this day the real meaning of these books cannot be understood from the mere reading of them, even by the best Hindu Sanskrit scholars, inasmuch as by the intonation and variation of the voice an entirely different interpretation is given to the written words. Consequently a student of occultism, desiring to acquire the hidden knowledge that these books undoubtedly contain, must have them recited to him by his Guru (master), who by degrees, as the pupil advances, explains the true interpretation of the symbology.
The searcher for truth will find that Theosophy holds within its grasp an inexhaustible source of knowledge in every groove of thought, whether on the spiritual or physical plane. There is no science, no art, no intellectual pursuit, in whatever direction it may incline, that Theosophy, as now understood, does not embrace and pervade: its study cannot but render wiser and more elevated every human creature.
One of the first truths for a student to realise is that of reincarnation, or spirit-evolution. A belief in this doctrine may be found to permeate nearly all ancient philosophies; and it recommends itself to the thoughtful mind by accounting satisfactorily for the inequalities in life to be observed everywhere around us, both in the animal and human kingdoms. How is it possible, otherwise, to reconcile the apparent injustice of one man being born in absolute misery and want, in a position where improvement, or even the desire for improvement, is impossible; while another, no more deserving, as far as can be seen, is surrounded by friends, luxuries, and everything that can make life desirable? How account for the condition of the crippled, blind, constitutionally unhealthy, and morally wicked, compared with those who possess beauty of form, vigorous health, honesty of purpose, and the use of all their senses, except by the theory that all are by degrees working upwards — progressing, not only materially, but also morally and spiritually ? Why are we to accept the theory of evolution up to a certain point, and then cast it off abruptly, saying this is the end, here all progress ceases? Is it more reasonable to suppose, arguing from analogy, that Nature, having by a long course of evolution through the many and various forms of the inferior kingdoms, developed the humanity of which we now have cognizance, proceeds from this point onward with an infinite hope of spiritual and psychical advancement, which is now only beginning to be dimly perceived as possible, but which, in the course of time, will become an accepted fact; accepted because, instead of, as now, the psychical faculties being of rare and most exceptional occurrence, they may then be the appanage of the majority? When spiritual evolution has reached this point there may be a much greater difference between those races of mankind who possess such powers and those still without them, than there is now between the North American Indian and the most highly civilised people of the present day. The entities or egos occupying now the bodies of the savage and barbarous races will, in due course, reincarnate in, the bodies of men a little higher in the scale of civilization, gathering thus, by slow degrees, the experience necessary for a more advanced development — ever improving and progressing.
But it is not necessary here to argue in favour of or against this doctrine; it is enough to show, very briefly, that it has to come into the scheme of theosophic teaching. [Vide, Old Diary Leaves Volume I, Chap XVII Reincarnation.] The reader, however, must not imagine that by reincarnation is meant the transmigration of human souls into the bodies of animals, or even back into the lower forms of human existence, for this could hardly be called spiritual progress. It is no more possible for a follower of this philosophy to believe that the human ego can retrograde by now incarnating, as a European of culture and then as an Esquimaux or savage, than it could be for a disciple of Darwin’s theory of evolution to think that a man could degenerate into a monkey or an elephant into a caterpillar. What has ever to be kept in mind is the gradual but sure ascent of every thing upon this globe, from the mineral and vegetable up to man, and from man up to god. But it must not be thought that by this word is meant the Anthropomorphic, or personal God of orthodox Christianity. It is used here as the only available term adapted to express what is variously described as the “Absolute Power”, “Supreme Unity”, “Ultimate Reality”, “Divine Spirit”, etc., which pervades all space, and of which the manifestation may be found in every thing around us, both animate and inanimate.
It is the awakening of this Divine Spirit within us that gives rise, in some cases, to a feeling of certainty of a future state, in others to an indescribable longing that it should be so; it is this something belonging to, but independent of the body, that endows earnest Christians, or followers of any other religion, no matter of what age or country, with the hope and assurance of heavenly happiness after death.
On this doctrine of reincarnation depends that no less important one of Karma — the law of cause and effect operating through the merit and demerit of a person's deeds in each life.
Every individual is making Karma either good or bad in each action and thought of his daily round, and is at the same time working out in this life the Karma brought about by the acts and desires of the last. When we see people afflicted by congenital ailments, it may be safely assumed that these ailments are the inevitable results of causes started by themselves in a previous birth. It may be argued that, as these afflictions are hereditary, they can have nothing to do with a past incarnation; but it must be remembered that the ego, the real man, the individuality, has no spiritual origin in the parentage by which it is re-embodied, but is drawn by the affinities which its previous mode of life attracted round it, into the current that carries it, when the time comes for re-birth, to the home best fitted for the development of those tendencies. Thus, to give a rough illustration, a child blind from birth is not a victim of accident or misfortune, any more than a person who eats or drinks what must produce disagreeable effects, because for the moment it pleases his palate. But in consequence of particular vices or qualities pertaining to his previous incarnation, or perhaps from a general and unchecked tendency in the direction of wrong doing, his ego has surrounded itself by affinities which sweep it into and along those channels that plant it eventually and inevitably in the body of a blind child, there to work out the old Karma, while at the same time making new, to be again and again exhausted, ever improving and purifying, until, as said above, the human race becomes more and more perfect and Godlike. And here it may be remarked, that the human race en gros, is improving and evolving to a much higher state of development than we at present — in consequence of our great materiality — can realize; but there are individual exceptions to this steady advance, and although these exceptions, as compared with the mass, are an infinitesimal percentage, they still form a class by themselves, and their eventual disintegration takes place on the astral plane, after the spiritual part of their nature has been, through successive incarnations, repressed and crushed until the ego has at last divorced itself from what alone can give it immortality. A future chapter will put this part of the doctrine more clearly before the reader, when treating of the constitution of man.
This doctrine of Karma when properly understood is well calculated to guide and assist those who realize its truth, to a higher and better mode of life, for it must not be forgotten that not only our actions but our thoughts also are most assuredly followed by a crowd of circumstances that will influence for good or for evil our own future and, what is still more important, the future of many of our fellow-creatures. If sins of omission and commission could in any case be only self-regarding, the effect on the sinner’s Karma would be a matter of minor consequence. The fact that every thought and act through life carries with it for good or evil a corresponding influence on other members of the human family, renders a strict sense of justice, morality, and unselfishness so necessary to future happiness and progress. A crime once committed, an evil thought sent out from the mind, are past recall — no amount of repentance can wipe out their results in the future. “Can the results of a crime be obliterated even though the crime itself should be pardoned? The effects of a cause are never limited to the boundaries of the cause, nor can the results of crime be confined to the offender and his victim. Every good as well as evil action has its effects, as palpably as the stone flung into a calm water”. [Isis Unveiled Volume II, P 542.] Repentance, if sincere, will deter a man from repeating errors; it cannot save him or others from the effects of those already produced, which will most unerringly overtake him either in this life or in the next rebirth.
If men and women kept the law of Karma well in minds shaping their lives in conformity with it, they would not have so much to answer for in regard to harm done to their neighbours. But the ethics of this teaching show that active good is required of its followers as well as abstention from evil; and one of the grandest lessons taught by Theosophy is that of universal brotherhood, which rightly interpreted means a large hearted desire to benefit humanity. Almost every person, no matter how humble, can in one way or another help to comfort by words or deeds some of his fellow-creatures. How much more, therefore, lies in the power of the educated classes? — and it is to the latter that these words are addressed. Philanthropy is open to them on two planes — the physical and spiritual, for they are able both to act and to think; and this philosophy teaches that thoughts may even in some cases be of more importance than actions, inasmuch as the latter, being on the material plane, affect only physical lives in future incarnations while the former, belonging to the higher plane, have consequences even more far reaching, that affect the spiritual and therefore real existence.
The Karma made by our actions and general tendencies decides our future incarnations on this planet; that due to intellectual work and thoughts affects more directly our spiritual condition hereafter, determining the duration and character of heavenly bliss, previous to re-birth on the material plane. Thus, as we pass along our earthly lives, we leave behind us a train of events which no after-repentance can obliterate, which must with absolute certainty bring about their inevitable results in the next re-birth, these being poverty, riches, station, ill-health, deformity, deprivation of one or more of the senses, happiness, misery, a wish to do good without the means, the power of doing good without the desire. All these and every other affliction or blessing to which mankind is subject, all the varying states of happiness and the reverse, are due, not to the caprice of a single birth and life, but are the direct consequences of previous tendencies or actions committed by the individual.
This in bare outline is the great law of Karma. There are of course, details and
side-issues innumerable, which it would be out of place to enter upon in an
elementary work of this nature. The reader once interested in the philosophy can
gather for himself fuller information from the many books now obtainable that
deal with these subjects.
The Theosophical Society does not have any dogma and does not impose on its members any restrictions with respect to personal preferences, be it religion, method of meditation or diet. It may be therefore curious to the uninitiated why most of the leaders of the Society are vegetarians. Is there something they know that makes them so? On the other hand, it is also true that vegetarianism is one of the prerequisites when a member joins the Esoteric School of Theosophy. Then again, why? Another case in point are the Theravada Buddhist monks. Although this particular Buddhist tradition does not require their bhikhus to be vegetarians, you will find that the elders in the Sangha are mostly vegetarians.
As a matter of fact, there is a growing population of vegetarians world-wide—a greater awareness, perhaps, of the benefits of being a vegetarian. Consequently, these days, when one travels around the world, it is not uncommon to find a vegetarian section in the menu of a regular restaurant to cater for those who observe a strict vegetarian diet. So what motivates more and more people to become vegetarians voluntarily? And why do some schools of occultism, such as our EST, make vegetarianism mandatory for its members?
When asked, some would say they are vegetarian either because of religious or health reasons. Broadly speaking, other than those who were born in a vegetarian family and raised as one, a person becomes a vegetarian for one or both of the following reasons. Firstly, it has to do with pursuit of good health or occult development. Most, if not all, true occultists and earnest students of occultism are vegetarians. In reply to the question “Is it necessary to be a vegetarian in order to be an occultist and does vegetarianism help one on the path of occultism?”, Mr. Geoffrey Hodson, a devoted theosophist and a renowned clairvoyant answered “Yes!” on both counts. We are what we eat. Students of theosophy know that in addition to the physical body, we have several other subtle bodies, each of which is affected greatly by what we eat. Secondly, there are many who became vegetarian simply because they do not wish to take life, out of compassion, love of animals and respect for other living creatures. Hence, while the first reason might be termed selfish the second is purely altruistic.
Chong will give a comprehensive talk on 14 August 2010 at
on her research into vegetarianism, using copious
illustrations to take us through various facets of the subject. In the talk she
will debunk the myth on the lack of nutrition of a vegetarian diet. She will
also show us the consequences of the demand and supply of animal products,
including a video show on animal farming. Come to the talk and delight in the
merits of vegetarianism. You may bring your friends along for this talk.
Changi Museum & NEWater
We are proposing a tour of the Changi Museum and the NEWater Visitor Centre on Saturday, 4 September 2010 from 1 pm to 6 pm.
In honouring the spirit and commitment of those who rose from the depths of adversity, the Changi Museum inspires future generations to come and deepen their appreciation of the heroic and inspirational stories that unfolded in Changi during the war.
The Singapore Water Reclamation Study (NEWater Study) was initiated in 1998 as a joint initiative between the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR). The primary objective of the joint initiative was to determine the suitability of using NEWater as a source of raw water to supplement Singapore's water supply.
After the tour, we shall go for a 8-course vegetarian dinner. We will be chartering a bus which can only take 40 passengers. So we are limited to 40 participants at $15 per person inclusive of dinner and transportation. If you are interested to join us please register and pay to our Treasurer, Sis. Nancy Teo, or one of the committee members in her absence, by 7 August 2010. Avoid disappointment, first come, first served!