June 2010 Newsletter
The following articles are reproduced from the June 2010 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
The Story of the Writing of The Astral Plane
By C. Jinarājadāsa
In the extensive literature of Theosophy this little work stands out for certain specially marked characteristics. It records an attempt to describe the Invisible World in the same manner that a botanist would describe some new territory on this globe not explored by any previous botanist.
Most works dealing with Mysticism and Occultism are characterised by the lack of a scientific presentation, such as is exacted in every department of science. They give us far more the significance of things, rather than descriptions of the things themselves. In this little book the author approaches the Invisible World from the modern standpoint of science.
As I have a connection with this book, as the amanuensis who copied the manuscript for the printer, I can describe how the work came to be written. At the period of its writing in 1894, C. W. Leadbeater was the secretary of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society; Mr. A. P. Sinnett was president of the Lodge. The Lodge did no public propaganda, and had no open meetings; but three or four times a year a meeting was held at the house of Mr. Sinnett, and cards of invitation were sent out to the Lodge members and to those few of the “upper classes” whom Mr. Sinnett thought were likely to be interested in Theosophy. Mr. Sinnett desired that Mr. Leadbeater should deliver an address to the Lodge.
Our author selected as his topic “The Astral Plane”. Here I can well quote the description which he himself has given of his training in Clairvoyance, which enabled him to make a scientific investigation of the phenomena of the Astral Plane. In his book How Theosophy Came to Me he describes his training.
At the time that the lecture for the London Lodge was being prepared, I was residing with Mr. Leadbeater, and attending classes for examinations. It was a habit of Bishop Leadbeater never to throw away the envelopes in which he received letters. He cut them open at the sides, and used their insides for writing memoranda. This habit remained with him even to the last year of his life. After delivering the lecture from notes on November 21, 1894, his next task was to write it out for publication as Transaction No. 24 of the London Lodge. He began writing a little at a time, on scraps of paper which were the opened envelopes. It was my task then to write from these scraps into the unwritten pages of an old foolscap-size diary. The manuscript therefore was in my handwriting. The writing took three or four weeks, as he was occupied in various kinds of work for his livelihood, and so could write only when time was available for writing.
When the printer’s proofs of the London Lodge Transaction came to Bishop Leadbeater, the manuscript (which was in my handwriting) was of course returned also. As happens when a manuscript is returned by the printer, this manuscript showed the thumb marks of the compositor and proofreader, and the clean whiteness of the pages had disappeared in the process of handling. This would not have mattered, as once a manuscript is in print it is thrown into the waste-paper basket.
But now happened an unusual and unexpected incident which distinctly flustered Bishop Leadbeater. One morning he informed me that the Master K. H. had asked for the manuscript, as He desired to deposit it in the Museum of Records of the Great White Brotherhood. The Master explained that The Astral Plane was an unusual production and a landmark in the intellectual history of humanity. The Master explained that hitherto, even in such a great civilization as that of Atlantis, the sages of the occult schools had approached the facts of Nature not from the modern scientific standpoint, but from a different angle. The occult teachers of the past had sought more the inner significance of facts, what might be termed the “life side” of Nature, and less the “form side” of Nature, such as characterizes the scientific method of today. While a great body of knowledge concerning Nature’s mysteries had been gathered by the Adepts of past civilizations, that knowledge had hitherto been synthesized not after a detailed scientific analysis, but from the reactions of consciousness to the “life side”. On the other hand, for the first time among occultists, a detailed investigation had been made of the Astral Plane as a whole, in a manner similar to that in which a botanist in an Amazonian jungle would set to work in order to classify its trees, plants and shrubs, and so write a botanical history of the jungle.
For this reason the little book, The Astral Plane, was definitely a landmark, and the Master as Keeper of the Records desired to place its manuscript in the great Museum. This Museum contains a careful selection of various objects of historical importance to the Masters and Their pupils in connection with their higher studies, and it is especially a record of the progress of humanity in various fields of activity. It contains, for instance, globes modelled to show the configuration of the Earth at various epochs of time; it was from these globes that Bishop Leadbeater drew the maps which were published in another transaction of the London Lodge, that on Atlantis by W. Scott-Elliot. The Museum contains among other significant objects a piece of solid Mercury, which is an isotope. It contains various old texts relating to extinct and present religions, and other material useful for an understanding of the work of the “Life Wave” on this globe, our Earth.
About the only occasion that I can recall when one could describe Bishop Leadbeater as being “flustered” was on receiving this request of the Master for the manuscript of his little book, for the manuscript was soiled—it could well be described as “grubby”—after the handling by the printer. Nevertheless, the Master’s request had to be carried out. The question then arose how the manuscript was to be transported to Tibet. This, however, did not bother him because Bishop Leadbeater had certain occult powers which he did not reveal to others, though I have observed them on certain occasions.
The manuscript was to be transported by dematerialization, and to be rematerialized in Tibet.
I happened to have a piece of a yellow silk ribbon three inches broad, and folding the manuscript into four I put the ribbon round it, and stitched it to make a band. I was excited, as here was a remarkable opportunity to get proof of a “phenomenon”. If the manuscript were locked in some box and the key was with me all the time, and the manuscript were found to have disappeared, I should have a splendid phenomenon to narrate.
But strangely as it happened, among Bishop Leadbeater’s possessions and mine at the time we had nothing that would lock properly. There was an old cowhide trunk but its lock was broken. We had very few bags at the time, but all had defective locks, and absolutely there was nothing with a serviceable lock. There was a small wooden box with inlaid tortoise shell, which was the work-box of his mother; but its key had been lost long ago.
There remained nothing to be done except to put the manuscript inside this box and pile a heap of books on it faute de mieux. Next morning on waking, and on removing the pile of books and looking inside the work-box, the manuscript was not there. My chagrin at losing the opportunity to prove a phenomenon was not consoled by being told that I myself had taken astrally the manuscript to the Master.
Bishop Leadbeater first met Dr. Annie Besant in 1894. The next year she invited him and myself to live at the London Theosophical Headquarters at 19 Avenue Road, Regents Park, where H. P. B. passed away in 1891. This house was hers and hence her invitation to us. From this period began a very close collaboration between Dr. Besant and Bishop Leadbeater which continued right to the end of their lives. In 1892 she had begun a series called “Theosophical Manuals”, consisting of small books summarizing in brief the Theosophical teaching on various subjects. The first four respectively, Seven Principles of Man, Reincarnation, Karma, Death—And After? had been issued when she asked Bishop Leadbeater’s permission to issue the London Lodge Transaction as a manual in the series. It duly appeared as Manual No. 5.
It was in 1895 that the two made a joint investigation into the structure of Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen (and a fourth element christened by us “Occultum” hitherto not yet discovered). That same year both made extensive investigations into the structure, conditions and inhabitants of the lower and higher Mental Planes. On the model of the work done by Bishop Leadbeater when investigating the Astral Plane, Dr. Besant and he examined instance after instance of egos in “Devachan”, in that period of their existence after death in the state of happiness called the Heaven World. As before, it was Bishop Leadbeater who wrote out the investigations, for Dr. Besant had many engagements; this was the origin of Theosophical Manual No. 6, The Devachanic Plane.
These two works, The Astral Plane and The Devachanic Plane, embody a careful research, in as objective and scientific a manner as Dr. Besant and Bishop Leadbeater were capable of, and the result is a very precious body of facts concerning the invisible world. A close analysis and study of these facts by any eager student who has an unprejudiced and impartial mind, cannot but give him the feeling that, though he may be unable to believe in the statements recorded, yet nevertheless there is one characteristic about them, that they appear to be descriptions of objects and events seen objectively, as through a microscope or telescope, and not subjectively, as is the case of a novelist spinning out the incidents of a vivid story.
This, in brief, is the story of the writing of this small but precious manual, The Astral Plane.
C. Jinarājadāsa served as the fourth International President of The Theosophical Society from 1945 to 1953.
Glimpses of the Occult World
One of the most significant early books that introduces theosophy to the West is “The Occult World” by A. P. Sinnett, which was first published in June 1881. Indeed, many of the best minds during the last quarter of the 19th Century joined the Society as a direct result of the influence of Mr. Sinnett and his writings. Amongst those so influenced was C. W. Leadbeater who went on to become not only one of the most illustrious leaders of the Theosophical Society but also one of the greatest occultists of the 20th century.
Mr. Sinnett began “The Occult World” with the following statement:
“There is a school of philosophy still in existence of which modern culture has lost sight. Glimpses of it are discernible in the ancient philosophies with which all educated men are familiar, but these are hardly more intelligible than fragments of forgotten sculpture—less so, for we comprehend the human form, and can give imaginary limbs to a torso; but we can give no imaginary meaning to the hints coming down to us from Plato or Pythagoras, pointing, for those who hold the clue to their significance, to the secret knowledge of the ancient world. Sidelights, nevertheless, may enable us to decipher such language, and a very rich intellectual reward offers itself to persons who are willing to attempt the investigation.
For, strange as the statement will appear at first sight, modern metaphysics, and to a large extent modern physical science, have been groping for centuries blindly after knowledge which occult philosophy has enjoyed in full measure all the while. Owing to a train of fortunate circumstances, I have come to know that this is the case; I have come into some contact with persons who are heirs of a greater knowledge concerning the mysteries of Nature and humanity than modern culture has yet evolved; and my present wish is to sketch the outlines of this knowledge, to record with exactitude the experimental proofs I have obtained that occult science invests its adepts with a control of natural forces superior to that enjoyed by physicists of the ordinary type, and the grounds there are for bestowing the most respectful consideration on the theories entertained by occult science concerning the constitution and destinies of the human soul.”
An alluring revelation found in Mr. Sinnett’s writings is the existence of the Adepts, variously referred to as the Brothers, Mahatmas or Masters of the Wisdom. For the earnest students and devoted members of the Theosophical Society, the existence of the Masters of the Wisdom is an undeniable fact and also an immense source of inspiration. Not only do they know that such Perfected Men exist, the earnest students also hold Them as the highest authority on theosophical teachings. Indeed, the Theosophical Society would not be founded if not for the Great Ones! Substantial evidence is available for the benefit of those who need convincing.
Starting this month we shall have a series of talks under the title of “Glimpses of the Occult World” so as to know a little more of the Great Ones. We shall attempt to know a little of the whereabouts, the lives and the work of the Adepts. We shall follow some of the events leading to the appearance of the lofty beings in the outer world and the communications They had with some members of the Theosophical Society. In the process we will inevitably be awed by some of the wonderful phenomena that invariably accompany Their appearance or communications. Above all, we will be inspired by Their great compassion and the wonderful teachings They have given out to the world. And, we may ask, are They still around?
We have a special treat for members on 12 June 2010 at 5 p.m. when we start with the first in this series of talks. We shall let Bishop C. W. Leadbeater introduce “The Great White Lodge” to us, in his own voice. This is a rare recording of CWL done in 1932, two years before he left the physical plane. Having read many of his books, I am sure you would like to hear what he sounds like. Consider this a rare privilege as few still living have ever heard his voice.