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Archive for February, 2009

First Session

First Session

It is actually already Day 3 of the invitational, and I’m finding it hard to do anything but talk and talk.  I’ll try to catch up on what we’ve done so far though: (more…)

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Undoubtedly, each one of us brings to our study of Theosophy our own unique viewpoints, and our own particular emphases. To ask several different people what drew them into the study is to hear several different answers. One person may be particularly interested in studying the common, esoteric threads uniting the multiplicity of world religions. Another may devote the vast majority of their study to The Secret Doctrine, coming to the fullest possible understanding of the Three Fundamental Propositions. Still others are drawn more to texts such as The Voice of the Silence or At the Feet of the Master, small but powerfully transformative tomes that illustrate the practical application of high Theosophical ideals to one’s own life. Some find expositions of psychic phenomena fascinating, opening one as they do to a world entirely beyond our everyday sense perceptions.

The Secret Doctrine teaches us that everything in existence stems ultimately from the ineffable, incomprehensible ground of being described as the Absolute. Anything below this level of being is “maya,” illusion. The Society’s motto, “There is no religion higher than truth,” points to the over-arching search that brings most of us to the study of Theosophy: The search for truth. From this it follows that to be bogged down in the illusory nature of anything less than Truth itself is to lose sight of the Path. If the highest Truth is to be found beyond all form, in this boundless Absolute, then anything containing the characteristics of form, limitation and definition falls short of Truth in some way. The logic in this line of thought is sound, but can lead to the development of a value system that looks down upon an interest in phenomena. How often is this word, “phenomena,” used in a condescending manner to describe interests deemed by the speaker to be inferior? What effect does this have?

Which aspect of Theosophical study is most suitable? Most advisable? Most fruitful? What is the yardstick by which we measure the relevance of a given set of Theosophical ideas? Whose is the task of deciding which texts are more or less relevant? What memes are propagated throughout the Society as a result of the exercising of discrimination to this end?

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The group facilitators met with Joy Mills this evening to prepare for the coming week.  Joy will be giving a 45 minute talk each morning, but most of the time during the invitational is given to the participants to closely examine a given topic at great depth and from a variety of angles, both individually and with a small group.

With the stated theme ‘The Relevance of Theosophy and Theosophical Literature in the Contemporary World’, Joy is actually providing a context, a loose framework, in which any number of issues can be explored.

For those of you who don’t know, Joy is more than four times my age and has been continuously active in the T.S. for six decades now.  She never fails to astonish me.  Few people within the T.S. are in a more natural position to have an ossified perception of theosophy, yet even fewer are as forward thinking.  Joy offered up a few questions that intrigue her as possible areas of inquiry for us to discuss within our groups:

What does Theosophy have to contribute to the discourse on evolutionary theory?  How should the 2nd Volume of the Secret Doctrine be treated in light of current findings?  If the lost continents, such as Atlantis, are treated as actual in theosophical writings, how do we deal with the lack of evidence for them?  What is the place of western esotericism within theosophy?  What is the relationship between hermeticism and gnosticism?  How should we approach the issues of the Masters, of the Theosophical Society’s own past, the life of HPB, the variations between the different generations’ iterations of the teachings, the schisms, etc.?

Yes, those are just a few of the ideas Joy shared with us.  You know, just to get us started.

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I am now at the Krotona Institute of Theosophy in Ojai, CA for an invitational: “The Relevance of Theosophy and Theosophical Literature in the Contemporary World” (more information below).  The actual program begins Monday morning, hence this is day Minus 2.

I will be blogging every day while here and adding pictures and video from the event.

First impression of Ojai is one of overwhelming beauty.  The institute rests up on the hill of a lush valley running east-west below.  Director Nelda Samarel affirmed to me this morning that after nine years here, she still never ceases to be amazed by the view.  Upon arrival after midnight, I went for a walk and was delighted to be reminded of how profoundly a truly starry sky touches the soul.

It is wonderful to see old friends.  A hug and smile from Maria Parisen is worth the trip, as is a laugh with Nelda. Betty Bland, Marina Maestas and Dan Noga are here from Olcott.   I have had several differences of opinion with Betty and have been an occasionally harsh critic, but my immediate reaction to seeing her is always respect and affection.  I suppose we’re all like family in that respect. There is something special about theosophists, and indeed it is this community above all else the continues to keep me involved.

This morning I went for a long walk and eventually found a great little cafe with WiFi.  Nice view, huh?!

in the Ojai Valley

in the Ojai Valley

Stay tuned for more!

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In another post, I posed some questions about how artificial intelligence and Theosophy might fit together. The ensuing discussion was riveting, but the question is still burning in my mind. Much was brought into the discussion, including the overall progress of research in artificial intelligence, along with some insights that can be gleaned from the way humanity has evolved.  I’d like to reframe the question, beginning with a quote from The Secret Doctrine:

“Apart from Cosmic Substance, Cosmic Ideation could not manifest as individual consciousness, since it is only through a vehicle of matter that consciousness wells up as ‘I am I,’ a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain stage of complexity. Again, apart from Cosmic Ideation, Cosmic Substance would remain an empty abstraction, and no
emergence of consciousness could ensue.”

(more…)

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