Theme for February: The Book of Dzyan

The Primeval Revelation
Sacred Lore The Secret Doctrine book i p.xxii-xxxlv
Senzar SD i xxxiv-xxxvii
Proem SD i 1-7
Occult Catechism SD i 11-13
The Abstract Formula SD i 20-24
Cosmic Evolution SD i 27-34
Archaic Records SD Book ii  1-8
Anthropogenesis SD Book ii  15-21
The Ascending Cycle SD Book ii  443-446
Past and Future SD Book ii  794-797
The Mystery Language La Revue Theosophique  The Beacon Light
Mahat, Nidana and Maya Transactions  page 27-34

 

Here are the reading assignments for the month of February.  We shall be posting quotations regularly from these passages listed above.  Feel free to refer to the text for the full selection.  All comments and questions are welcome.

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The Sacred Lore  page xxii-xxiii

   One of the greatest, and, withal, the most serious objection to the correctness and reliability of the whole work will be the preliminary STANZAS: “How can the statements contained in them be verified?” True, if a great portion of the Sanskrit, Chinese, and Mongolian works quoted in the present volumes are known to some Orientalists, the chief work—that one from which the Stanzas are given—is not in the possession of European Libraries. The Book of Dzyan (or “Dzan”) is utterly unknown to our Philologists, or at any rate was never heard of by them under its present name. This is, of course, a great drawback to those who follow the methods of research prescribed by official Science; but to the students of Occultism, and to every genuine Occultist, this will be of little moment. The main body of the Doctrines given is found scattered throughout hundreds and thousands of Sanskrit MSS., some already translated—disfigured in their interpretations, as usual,—others still awaiting their turn. Every scholar, therefore, has an opportunity of verifying the statements herein made, and of checking most of the quotations. A few new facts (new to the profane Orientalist, only) and passages quoted from the Commentaries will be found difficult to trace. Several of the teachings, also, have hitherto been transmitted orally: yet even those are in every instance hinted at in the almost countless volumes of Brahminical, Chinese and Tibetan temple-literature.

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What do people in the academic community, outside of theosophical circles, think of HPB's claims concerning the Book of Dzyan?

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Perhaps David could weigh in on this but I would assume the academic community is not very accepting of something like this without empirical evidence.

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You are right, Gerry. Without a manuscript of the Book of Dzyan in some source language, the academic community is obliged to regard it as imaginary. Blavatsky speaks of the Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan translations of the original Senzar texts of the Book of Dzyan. Any of these would work fine as a source language document.

In the existing Buddhist texts, we have unmistakeable evidence of an older dialect that preceded the Classical Sanskrit of these texts. This dialect was studied by Franklin Edgerton and dubbed "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit." He produced a dictionary and a grammar of it, both published in 1953. It is clear that Buddhist texts were "updated" from this dialect into Classical Sanskrit. This points to a Senzar source, further back. I have written about this in a post titled, "Senzar: A Lost Sacred Language," on the Book of Dzyan blog (dzyan.net).

Then the Sanskrit Buddhist texts were translated into Chinese starting in the first centuries of the Common Era. Toward the end of the first millennium C.E., the Sanskrit Buddhist texts were translated into Tibetan. All this goes to show when, why, and how we might have Chinese and Tibetan translations of the Book of Dzyan texts, translated from the Sanskrit, itself translated or evolved from an older dialect.

We do not need the original Senzar texts. All we need are translations of them. Until then, the Book of Dzyan cannot be taken seriously by the academic community. Since the academic community largely conditions the thought of the public, it will also not be taken seriously by the public until then. In the meantime, Blavatsky and Theosophy have only been studied academically in the context of the history of modern religious cults.

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Have you run into scholastic studies or papers outside of the Theosophical community where analysis is given?  Is anyone given the Book of Dzyan a consideration in the academic community?

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No, I do not know of any scholastic studies or analysis of the Book of Dzyan outside of the Theosophical community. I have not seen anyone in the academic community give it consideration. I suppose that would be something like a biology professor writing about the physiology of a unicorn, on the basis of what we know about the physiology of a horse.

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Who is Gershom Scholem and from what university does he hail from?  Also do  you know when this was written?

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Thank you Nicholas.  Reading a little bit about him here it does not take much imagination to see why he would reject the concept of a Parent Doctrine that precedes the Kabbala.

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First off I think HPB is urging us to withold judgement on the statements in the SD temporarily.  It will require a serious effort to simply understand the propositions of the Secret Doctrine as a first step.  Once we understand them and don't distort them to conform or contrast with a given theology or cosmogony then and only then are we in a position to weigh their veracity.  We are invited to take the propositions stated in the SD concerning the Esoteric Science as working hypotheses.  At least at first. This stands in contract to accepting them on faith alone.

Secondly is she pointing to an internal consistency and harmony within the work itself to help establish its veracity?

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SD Book 1 xxiii    The Sacred Lore selection from our list above

    It has been claimed in all ages that ever since the destruction of the Alexandrian Library (see Isis Unveiled, Vol. II., p. 27), every work of a character that might have led the profane to the ultimate discovery and comprehension of some of the mysteries of the Secret Science, was, owing to the combined efforts of the members of the Brotherhoods, diligently searched for. It is added, moreover, by those who know, that once found, save three copies left and stored safely away, such works were all destroyed. In India, the last of the precious manuscripts were secured and hidden during the reign of the Emperor Akbar.*

* Prof. Max Müller shows that no bribes or threats of Akbar could extort from the Brahmans the original text of the Veda; and boasts that European Orientalists have it (Lecture on the “Science of Religion,” p. 23), Whether Europe has the complete text is very doubtful, and the future may have very disagreeable surprises in store for the Orientalists.

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What is the historical context and reasons behind the hiding of esoteric works during the reign of Emperor Akbar?

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We do not have any information on the reasons behind the hiding of esoteric works during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Akbar lived 1542-1605 C.E. We do, however, have good evidence that esoteric works were withdrawn as Blavatsky reports, probably around that time period. The oldest texts that have remained continuously in use are the Vedas. They are often dated around 1000 B.C.E., and according to Indian tradition are much older than that. Yet, for long the only available commentaries on them were those of Sayana, who lived in the 1300s C.E. All the older commentaries have disappeared. In the 1900s some fragmentary commentaries have been found, and one complete but brief one, on the Rig-veda. These preceded Sayana, but not by very much. All the ancient commentaries are still lost. 

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Permalink Reply by barbaram on February 8, 2014 at 3:56pm
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I am reading something on Pratyabhijna Hridayam by Taimini.  Did HPB ever mention this work and its origin?

Thank you.

 

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on February 8, 2014 at 8:40pm
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As far as I know, the Pratyabhijna Hridayam was unknown and unavailable in HPB's time. The Sanskrit text was first published in 1911, as vol. 3 of the Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies. This series really inaugurated the study of Kashmir Shaivism outside of a small circle by making its texts available.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 3, 2014 at 7:53pm
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Sacred Lore Section Book 1 page xxix

 Here again the mysterious hieroglyphic documents remain, but the keys by which alone they become intelligible have disappeared.

    Nevertheless, having found that “there is a natural connection between language and religion”; and, secondly, that there was a common Aryan religion before the separation of the Aryan race; a common Semitic religion before the separation of the Semitic race; and a common Turanian religion before the separation of the Chinese and the other tribes belonging to the Turanian class; having, in fact, only discovered “three ancient centres of religion” and “three centres of language,” and though as entirely ignorant of those primitive religions and languages, as of their origin, the professor does not hesitate to declare “that a truly historical basis for a scientific treatment of those principal religions of the world has been gained!”

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 13, 2014 at 11:32am
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Broadly speaking what is the natural connection between language and religion?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 4, 2014 at 9:41pm
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From the Sensar selection book 1 page xliii

  The “very old Book” is the original work from which the many volumes of Kiu-ti were compiled. Not only this latter and the Siphrah Dzeniouta but even the Sepher Jezirah,* the work attributed by the Hebrew Kabalists to their Patriarch Abraham (!), the book of Shu-king, China’s primitive Bible, the sacred volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes, the Purânas in India, and the Chaldean Book of Numbers and the Pentateuch itself, are all derived from that one small parent volume. Tradition says, that it was taken down in Senzar, the secret sacerdotal tongue, from the words of the Divine Beings, who dictated it to the sons of Light, in Central Asia, at the very beginning of the 5th (our) race; for there was a time when its language (the Sen-zar) was known to the Initiates of every nation, when the forefathers of the Toltec understood it as easily as the inhabitants of the lost Atlantis, who inherited it, in their turn, from the sages of the 3rd Race, the Manushis, who learnt it direct from the Devas of the 2nd and 1st Races. The “illustration” spoken of in “Isis” relates to the evolution of these Races and of our 4th and 5th Race Humanity in the Vaivasvata Manvantara or “Round;” each Round being composed of the Yugas of the seven periods of Humanity; four of which are now passed in our life cycle, the middle point of the 5th being nearly reached. The illustration is symbolical, as every one can well understand, and covers the ground from the beginning. The old book, having described Cosmic Evolution and explained the origin of everything on earth, including physical man, after giving the true history of the races from the First down to the Fifth (our) race, goes no further. It stops short at the beginning of the Kali Yuga just 4989 years ago at the death of Krishna, the bright “Sun-god,” the once living hero and reformer.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 13, 2014 at 11:34am
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What is the relationship if any between the Senzar language and Sanskrit (the language of the Gods)?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 9, 2014 at 3:53pm
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From the Proem  Book 1. page 1

  AN Archaic Manuscript — a collection of palm leaves made impermeable to water, fire, and air, by some specific unknown process — is before the writer's eye. On the first page is an immaculate white disk within a dull black ground. On the following page, the same disk, but with a central point. The first, the student knows to represent Kosmos in Eternity, before the re-awakening of still slumbering Energy, the emanation of the Word in later systems. The point in the hitherto immaculate Disk, Space and Eternity in Pralaya, denotes the dawn of differentiation. It is the Point in the Mundane Egg (see Part II., "The Mundane Egg"), the germ within the latter which will become the Universe, the ALL, the boundless, periodical Kosmos, this germ being latent and active, periodically and by turns. The one circle is divine Unity, from which all proceeds, whither all returns. Its circumference — a forcibly limited symbol, in view of the limitation of the human mind — indicates the abstract, ever incognisable PRESENCE, and its plane, the Universal Soul, although the two are one. Only the face of the Disk being white and the ground all around black, shows clearly that its plane is the only knowledge, dim and hazy though it still is, that is attainable by man. It is on this plane that the Manvantaric manifestations begin; for it is in this SOUL that slumbers, during the Pralaya, the Divine Thought,* wherein lies concealed the plan of every future Cosmogony and Theogony.

* It is hardly necessary to remind the reader once more that the term "Divine Thought," like that of "Universal Mind," must not be regarded as even vaguely shadowing forth an intellectual process akin to that exhibited by man. The "Unconscious," according to von Hartmann, arrived at the vast creative, or rather Evolutionary Plan, "by a clairvoyant wisdom superior to all consciousness," which in the Vedantic language would mean absolute Wisdom. Only those who realize how far Intuition soars above the tardy processes of ratiocinative thought can form the faintest conception of that absolute Wisdom which transcends the ideas of Time and Space. Mind, as we know it, is resolvable into states of consciousness, of varying duration, intensity, complexity, etc. — all, in the ultimate, resting on sensation, which is again Maya. Sensation, again, necessarily postulates limitation. The personal God of orthodox Theism perceives, thinks, and is affected by emotion; he repents and feels "fierce anger." But the notion of such mental states clearly involves the unthinkable postulate of the externality of the exciting stimuli, to say nothing of the impossibility of ascribing changelessness to a Being whose emotions fluctuate with events in the worlds he presides over. The conceptions of a Personal God as changeless and infinite are thus unpsychological and, what is worse, unphilosophical.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 13, 2014 at 11:37am
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The Book of Dzyan and with many sacred texts seems to be a work filled with symbology. From an esoteric standpoint how might we define the idea of a symbol?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 12, 2014 at 7:29pm
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From the Occult Catechism book 1 page 11-12

    The Occult Catechism contains the following questions and answers:

    "What is it that ever is?" "Space, the eternal Anupadaka."* "What is it that ever was?" "The Germ in the Root." "What is it that is ever coming and going?" "The Great Breath." "Then, there are three Eternals?" "No, the three are one. That which ever is is one, that which ever was is one, that which is ever being and becoming is also one: and this is Space."

    "Explain, oh Lanoo (disciple)." — "The One is an unbroken Circle (ring) with no circumference, for it is nowhere and everywhere; the One is the boundless plane of the Circle, manifesting a diameter only during the manvantaric periods; the One is the indivisible point found nowhere, perceived everywhere during those periods; it is the Vertical and the Horizontal, the Father and the Mother, the summit and base of the Father, the two extremities of the Mother, reaching in reality nowhere, for the One is the Ring as also the rings that are within that Ring. Light in darkness and darkness in light: the 'Breath which is eternal.' It proceeds from without inwardly, when it is everywhere, and from within outwardly, when it is nowhere — (i.e., maya,one of the centres  ). It expands and contracts (exhalation and inhalation). When it expands the mother diffuses and scatters; when it contracts, the mother draws back and ingathers. This produces the periods of Evolution and Dissolution, Manwantara and Pralaya. The Germ is invisible and fiery; the Root (the plane of the circle) is cool; but during Evolution and Manwantara her garment is cold and radiant. Hot Breath is the Father who devours the progeny of the many-faced Element (heterogeneous); and leaves the single-faced ones (homogeneous). Cool Breath is the Mother, who conceives, forms, brings forth, and receives them back into her bosom, to reform them at the Dawn (of the Day of Brahmâ, or Manvantara). . . . "

* Meaning "parentless" 
 Esoteric philosophy, regarding as Maya (or the illusion of ignorance) every finite thing, must necessarily view in the same light every intra-Cosmic planet and body, as being something organized, hence finite. The expression, therefore, "it proceeds from without inwardly, etc." refers in the first portion of the sentence to the dawn of the Mahamanvantaric period, or the great re-evolution after one of the complete periodical dissolutions of every compound form in Nature (from planet to molecule) into its ultimate essence or element; and in its second portion, to the partial or local manvantara, which may be a solar or even a planetary one.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on February 14, 2014 at 10:25am
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I would like to make a correlation.

This mysterious subject of One and oneness got me to thinking of a correlation that I found intriguing.    There is a passage in the voice that speaks to this process of becoming One.

"Of teachers there are many, the Master Soul is one, Alaya, the Universal Soul. Live in that Master as Its ray in thee. Live in thy fellows as they live in It."

How does the occult catechism posted above throw light on this process?

What does it mean to students to "Live in that Master as Its ray in thee"?  Can this idea be correlated with: The One is an unbroken Circle (ring) with no circumference, for it is nowhere and everywhere; the One is the boundless plane of the Circle,"

"Live in thy fellows as they live in It."   Does it throw light on this statement too?

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on February 14, 2014 at 3:22pm
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Great observation and correlation Grace. Indeed, "the One" that is the boundless plane of the Circle is the Universal Soul (see Proem, p. 1)

"The one circle is divine Unity, from which all proceeds, whither all returns. Its circumference — a forcibly limited symbol, in view of the limitation of the human mind — indicates the abstract, ever incognisable PRESENCE, and its plane, the Universal Soul, although the two are one."

Later in the SD (p.50), HPB tells us that Alaya has a dual meaning with the Esoteric Buddhists:

"Alaya is both the Universal Soul (Anima Mundi) and the Self of a progressed adept."

So I think we begin to see the correlation you point out. To be one with the Universal Soul is also to be one with the Master's Self. The "Master within" is, ultimately, none other than the Oversoul (third fundamental proposition, Proem, p.17).

It is, I think, a mark of having taken a step or two on the Path that one may begin totruly recognize the Oversoul within each other self we encounter: every human being we interact with (heck, every being we interact with, across all kingdoms) is that Master Soul, but in our usual personality-driven daily lives we have a hard time seeing this, in the moment. To "live in thy fellows" means, to me, to begin to consciously recognize, in the moment, the divinity in one another, even if it is buried beneath layers of personal self. So, to me, the Path means not only coming to know the Master within, but to know the Master in every other.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on February 14, 2014 at 3:30pm
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Another theosophist wrote very well on this topic. Here's a quote that comes to mind:

"A part of the work is this, that a man shall find that deeper self within him, the light of the infinite Self; and that, finding it, he shall know himself to be the infinite Self, the fearless, the immortal. And a second part of his work is, that he should know that Self in him to be lord over the world, and lord over nature . . . And the third part of his task shall be, to find the Self in all beings, and first of all in these his other selves, who beset his life on every side. And that part of his task is the greatest of all, and its reward is greatest. For the reward of the first task is knowledge, and the reward of the second is power, but the reward of the third is joy."—C. Johnston, "The Indian Renaissance".

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Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 14, 2014 at 11:44pm
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The Abstract Formujla  SD Book 1  pages 20-21

Stanza I. The history of cosmic evolution, as traced in the Stanzas, is, so to say, the abstract algebraical formula of that Evolution. Hence the student must not expect to find there an account of all the stages and transformations which intervene between the first beginnings of "Universal" evolution and our present state. To give such an account would be as impossible as it would be incomprehensible to men who cannot even grasp the nature of the plane of existence next to that to which, for the moment, their consciousness is limited.

The Stanzas, therefore, give an abstract formula which can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to all evolution: to that of our tiny earth, to that of the chain of planets of which that earth forms one, to the solar Universe to which that chain belongs, and so on, in an ascending scale, till the mind reels and is exhausted in the effort.

The seven Stanzas given in this volume represent the seven terms of this abstract formula. They refer to, and describe the seven great stages of the evolutionary process, which are spoken of in the Purânas as the "Seven Creations," and in the Bible as the "Days" of Creation.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on February 15, 2014 at 6:57pm
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Gerry, these posts that you have been putting up in this series are among the most profound statements in The Secret Doctrine. One can never read them enough times. Thanks for posting them.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on February 17, 2014 at 5:36pm
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Many thanks Gerry.  I wish I had more time to contemplate them.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on March 24, 2014 at 5:49pm
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In the course of three short paragraphs HPB insists upon an abstract formula of which algebra is a part.

It seems that this algebraical formula (two to the power of n minus one) has been discussed by Subba Row in Five Years of Theosophy on p.160 in his article "Brahmanism on the Sevenfold Principle in Man".

HPB refers to this algebraical formula a few more times in the SD. The algebraical formula indicates proof that the triad contains the potentiality of seven that pre-exists within that triad. Part of the abstract formula as indicated by some examples in SD I:20-21 undoubtedly also include the principles of correspondence and analogy. There is probably a lot more that can find its home within the context of that abstract formula but it seems that the student has to figure that out for him/herself.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 17, 2014 at 5:44pm
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The Abstract Formula    continued  book 1 page 22-24

The Stanzas which form the thesis of every section are given throughout in their modern translated version, as it would be worse than useless to make the subject still more difficult by introducing the archaic phraseology of the original, with its puzzling style and words. Extracts are given from the Chinese Thibetan and Sanskrit translations of the original Senzar Commentaries and Glosses on the Book of DZYAN — these being now rendered for the first time into a European language. It is almost unnecessary to state that only portions of the seven Stanzas are here given. Were they published complete they would remain incomprehensible to all save the few higher occultists. Nor is there any need to assure the reader that, no more than most of the profane, does the writer, or rather the humble recorder, understand those forbidden passages. To facilitate the reading, and to avoid the too frequent reference to foot-notes, it was thought best to blend together texts and glosses, using the Sanskrit and Tibetan proper names whenever those cannot be avoided, in preference to giving the originals. The more so as the said terms are all accepted synonyms, the former only being used between a Master and his chelas (or disciples).

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 18, 2014 at 10:16pm
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From the Stanzas of Dzyan  book 1 page 34

7. THIS IS THY PRESENT WHEEL, SAID THE FLAME TO THE SPARK. THOU ART MYSELF, MY IMAGE, AND MY SHADOW. I HAVE CLOTHED MYSELF IN THEE, AND THOU ART MY VAHAN TO THE DAY, "BE WITH US," WHEN THOU SHALT RE-BECOME MYSELF AND OTHERS, THYSELF AND ME. THEN THE BUILDERS, HAVING DONNED THEIR FIRST CLOTHING, DESCEND ON RADIANT EARTH AND REIGN OVER MEN — WHO ARE THEMSELVES. . . .

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on February 20, 2014 at 11:04am
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While the academic community in general has stayed away from the Book of Dzyan, one professor took it upon himself to address Blavatsky's claims of a Tibetan connection. This was Agehananda Bharati, the ordination name of Leopold Fischer, late professor of anthropology at Syracuse University. He did this in his article, "Fictitious Tibet: The Origin and Persistence of Rampaism," published in the Tibet Society Bulletin, vol. 7, 1974 (now widely available on the web). He there wrote:

"Mme. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine, a multivolume work, is such a melee of horrendous hogwash and of fertile inventions of inane esoterica, that any Buddhist and Tibetan scholar is justified to avoid mentioning it in any context. But it is precisely because serious scholars haven't mentioned this opus that it should be dealt with in a serious publication and in one whose readers are deeply concerned with the true representation of Tibetan lore. In other words, since Blavatsky's work has had signal importance in the genesis and perpetuation of a widespread, weird, fake, and fakish pseudo-Tibetica and pseudo-Buddhica, and since no Tibetologist or Buddhologist would touch her writings with a long pole (no pun intended, Blavatsky is a Russian name, the Polish spelling would be Blavatski), it behooves an anthropologist who works in the Buddhist and Tibetan field to do this job."

Perhaps the single biggest complaint made by scholars about writers such as Blavatsky, is that they wrote about Buddhism and Hinduism without knowledge of any of the primary languages:

"I do not doubt that in her earlier years, Blavatsky must have been a highly eclectic, voracious reader. But as with all nonscholars in the field of religious systems, she did not unmix the genuine from the phony; she obviously regarded all sources as equally valid. Not knowing any of the primary languages of the Buddhist-Hindu tradition, she had to rely on whatever had been translated."

He had made the same complaint about Leadbeater (which he consistently misspells Leadbetter):

"He never learned any of the primary languages — Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan; neither did Besant, Olcott, and Blavatsky."

For about a century now, no-one who does not know Eastern languages has been taken seriously when writing about Eastern subjects. This is to say nothing of the fact that we have no primary language text of the Book of Dzyan. It is, then, only to be expected that the Book of Dzyan has not formed a subject of academic research.

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 20, 2014 at 12:03pm
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It's a shame and also understandable from a traditional academic point of view.  What about your own works, David?  What kind of reception have they received within the academic world?

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on February 21, 2014 at 8:50am
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There are many kind people in the academic world. My few non-Theosophical articles have been received fine. My Theosophical writings, like most Theosophical writings, have simply not been reviewed or commented on. Thus, I have not seen any feedback on Blavatsky's Secret Books. My earlier book, The Books of Kiu-te, or the Tibetan Buddhist Tantras, was reviewed in the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. The reviewer, Roger Jackson, is among the many kind scholars. He gave the non-Theosophical portion of it a favorable review, and politely said he could not comment on the Theosophical portion of it. Theosophy at present is a subject of scholarly interest only in the field of the history of alternative religious movements. The Book of Dzyan will not be a subject of scholarly interest until we have an original language text of it.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 21, 2014 at 10:46am
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David, I for one appreciate what you are doing.  And I am anxious to explore your work further.  Maybe in the end it is a good thing that the academic world is not interested in such matters. My sense is they tend to sully and under appreciate what they investigate.  In theosophical circles at least you get the encouragement to keep the ego in check.  In the academic world it runs rampant without restraint.

With the exception of three instructors at UCSB in the 70's I would characterize the lot of professors in the political science and religious studies departments as self-centered cynics who fancied themselves as superior to people like Plato, Buddha, Gandhi, Lincoln, King etc. in intellectual brilliance.  They viewed them as above ordinary men in extraordinary times.  I just use this as an example.  And I am aware that this is extrapolating limited experience to stand for a much larger group of people.  But from what we read and what we hear from others the pattern recurs.  And it leaves one with this impression.

In theosophy we are encouraged to search for the stars, to allow our imagination to soar, to think big and look for excellence.

A healthy skepticism is a good thing, a bitter cynicism is another.

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 22, 2014 at 4:48am
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David, I've not read your other works or articles but 'Blavatsky's Secret Books' would certainly count as a good and very well researched academic piece of work, in my view.  You don't need me to tell you that, of course.  I'm glad you've at least not had a hostile response from the academic world and it may just be that works such as yours have an effect on people's private views even if these are not debated publicly in academic circles.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 22, 2014 at 3:27pm
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From the Archaic records section  ii page 1

THE Stanzas, with the Commentaries thereon, in this Book, the second, are drawn from the same Archaic Records as the Stanzas on Cosmogony in Book I. As far as possible a verbatim translation is given; but some of the Stanzas were too obscure to be understood without explanation. Hence, as was done in Book I., while they are first given in full as they stand, when taken verse by verse with their Commentaries an attempt is made to make them clearer, by words added in brackets, in anticipation of the fuller explanation of the Commentary.

As regards the evolution of mankind, the Secret Doctrine postulates three new propositions, which stand in direct antagonism to modern science as well as to current religious dogmas: it teaches (a) the simultaneous evolution of seven human groups on seven different portions of our globe; (b) the birth of the astral, before the physical body: the former being a model for the latter; and (c) that man, in this Round, preceded every mammalian — the anthropoids included — in the animal kingdom.

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Permalink Reply by David Reigle on February 23, 2014 at 5:37pm
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"As far as possible a verbatim translation is given;" This is one of the statements by HPB clearly showing that she translated the stanzas of the Book of Dzyan from a written book, not a picture book. It seems to me that regarding the Book of Dzyan as a picture book has hindered investigation of it. This view was put forth in a post of mine on the Book of Dzyan blog (prajnaquest.fr/blog or dzyan.net) dated Sep. 15, 2013, on Senzar. A follow-up post gathered the many references showing that the particular Book of Dzyan that HPB translated the stanzas from that are found in The Secret Doctrine was written in words, not pictures. This post is titled, "On the Book of Dzyan," and is dated Sep. 18, 2013. This is important to me, because I do not think the Book of Dzyan will get a hearing in the world until we have a primary language text of it, and we are not likely to find a primary language text of it if we are looking for a picture book.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 24, 2014 at 11:20am
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Perhaps playing the devil's advocate here:  I wonder if she really did not care if the SD would stand up to scholarly criticism.  She seems to anticipate their antagonism. She seems to feel that the Esoteric Philosophy's explanations for various scholarly theories (origin of man, morphology, evolutionary theories) were more logical than their academic counterparts.

Could it be that SD provides the philosophical framework needed to justify to the student the life of discipleship necessary to develop the cognitive capacities to "see" the truth through intuitive powers? Could it be that the Book of Dzyan, because of our disconnection from its written source, is intended to be transmitted by an oral tradition.  That is from Teacher to Student, and no further. And that HPB gives us only as much as is needed to establish the existence of a Esoteric Tradition (mysteries) that has long been forgotten or falsely discredited.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on February 27, 2014 at 1:07pm
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Playing the role of devil’s advocate is very helpful, and I much value it. It causes one to re-examine one’s assumptions. My assumptions are that the Theosophical Mahatmas have always been able to reach their prospective students on an individual basis, but that with the Theosophical Society they wanted “an institution which would make itself known throughout the world and arrest the attention of the highest minds” (Mahatma letter #6). This has not been achieved, as far as I can see. It seems unlikely to me that they have given up this goal, but only had to postpone it.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 23, 2014 at 6:32pm
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from the Section Anthropogenesis  Book ii page 16

 

17. THE BREATH NEEDED A FORM; THE FATHERS GAVE IT. THE BREATH NEEDED A GROSS BODY; THE EARTH MOULDED IT. THE BREATH NEEDED THE SPIRIT OF LIFE; THE SOLAR LHAS BREATHED IT INTO ITS FORM. THE BREATH NEEDED A MIRROR OF ITS BODY; "WE GAVE IT OUR OWN," SAID THE DHYANIS. THE BREATH NEEDED A VEHICLE OF DESIRES; "IT HAS IT," SAID THE DRAINER OF WATERS. BUT BREATH NEEDS A MIND TO EMBRACE THE UNIVERSE; "WE CANNOT GIVE THAT," SAID THE FATHERS. "I NEVER HAD IT," SAID THE SPIRIT OF THE EARTH. "THE FORM WOULD BE CONSUMED WERE I TO GIVE IT MINE," SAID THE GREAT FIRE . . . . MAN REMAINED AN EMPTY SENSELESS BHUTA . . . . THUS HAVE THE BONELESS GIVEN LIFE TO THOSE WHO BECAME MEN WITH BONES IN THE THIRD.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 24, 2014 at 10:29am
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From the Ascending Cycle section book ii page 444

Nevertheless our general proposition will not be accepted. It will be said that whatever forms man has passed through in the long pre-historic Past there are no more changes for him (save certain variations, as at present) in the future. Hence that our Sixth and Seventh Root Races are fictions.

To this it is again answered: How do you know? Your experience is limited to a few thousand years, to less than a day in the whole age of Humanity and to the present types of the actual continents and isles of our Fifth Race. How can you tell what will or will not be? Meanwhile, such is the prophecy of the Secret Books and their no uncertain statements.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 25, 2014 at 10:03am
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From the Past and Future section:  SD book ii page 794-5

The Secret Doctrine is the common property of the countless millions of men born under various climates, in times with which History refuses to deal, and to which esoteric teachings assign dates incompatible with the theories of Geology and Anthropology. The birth and evolution of the Sacred Science of the Past are lost in the very night of Time; and that, even, which is historic — i.e., that which is found scattered hither and thither throughout ancient classical literature — is, in almost every case, attributed by modern criticism to lack of observation in the ancient writers, or to superstition born out of the ignorance of antiquity. It is, therefore, impossible to treat this subject as one would the ordinary evolution of an art or science in some well-known historical nation. It is only by bringing before the reader an abundance of proofs all tending to show that in every age, under every condition of civilization and knowledge, the educated classes of every nation made themselves the more or less faithful echoes of one identical system and its fundamental traditions — that he can be made to see that so many streams of the same water must have had a common source from which they started. What was this source? If coming events are said to cast their shadows before, past events cannot fall to leave their impress behind them. It is, then, by those shadows of the hoary Past and their fantastic silhouettes on the external screen of every religion and philosophy, that we can, by checking them as we go along, and comparing them, trace out finally the body that produced them. There must be truth and fact in that which every people of antiquity accepted and made the foundation of its religions and its faith. Moreover, as Haliburton said, "Hear one side, and you will be in the dark; hear both sides, and all will be clear." The public has hitherto had access to, and heard but one side — or rather the two one-sided views of two diametrically opposed classes of men, whose prima facie propositions or respective premises differ widely, but whose final conclusions are the same — Science and Theology. And now our readers have an opportunity to hear the other — the defendants' — justification on and learn the nature of our arguments.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 25, 2014 at 10:05am
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More from the section Past and Future  SD book ii page 795

Were the public to be left to its old opinions: namely, on one side, that Occultism, Magic, the legends of old, etc., were all the outcome of ignorance and superstition; and on the other, that everything outside the orthodox groove was the work of the devil, what would be the result? In other words, had no theosophical and mystic literature obtained a hearing for the few last years, the present work would have had a poor chance of impartial consideration. It would have been proclaimed — and by many will still be so proclaimed — a fairy tale woven out of abstruse problems, poised in, and based on the air; built of soap bubbles, bursting at the slightest touch of serious reflection, with no foundation, as it would be alleged, to stand upon. Even "the ancient superstitious and credulous classics" have no word of reference to it in clear and unmistakable terms, and the symbols themselves fail to yield a hint at the existence of such a system. Such would be the verdict of all. But when it becomes undeniably proven that the claim of the modern Asiatic nations to a Secret Science and an esoteric history of the world, is based on fact; that, though hitherto unknown to the masses and a veiled mystery even to the learned, (because they never had the key to a right understanding of the abundant hints thrown out by the ancient classics), it is still no fairy tale, but an actuality — then the present work will become but the pioneer of many more such books. The statement that hitherto even the keys discovered by some great scholars have proved too rusty for use, and that they were but the silent witnesses that there do exist mysteries behind the veil which are unreachable without a new key — is borne out by too many proofs to be easily dismissed.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 26, 2014 at 12:05pm
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From The Mystery Language  HPB's Beacon Light of the Unknown

Theosophy is synonymous with Gnanâ-Vidya, and with the Brahmâ-Vidya13 of the Hindus, and again with the Dzyan of the trans-Himalayan adepts, the science of the true Raj-Yogas, who are much more accessible than one thinks. This science has many schools in the East. But its offshoots are still more numerous, each one having ended by separating itself from the parent stem,—the true Archaic Wisdom,—and varying in its form.

But, while these forms varied, departing further with each generation from the light of truth, the basis of initiatory truths remained always the same. The symbols used to express the same idea may differ, but in their hidden sense they always do express the same idea. Ragon, the most erudite mason of all the “Widow’s sons,” has said the same. There exists a sacerdotal language, the “mystery language,” and unless one knows it well, he cannot go far in the occult sciences. According to Ragon “to build or found a town” meant the same thing as to “found a religion”; therefore, that phrase when it occurs in Homer is equivalent to the expression in the Brahmins, to distribute the “Soma juice.” It means, “to found an esoteric school,” not “a religion” as Ragon pretends. Was he mistaken? We do not think so. But as a Theosophist belonging to the esoteric section dare not tell to an ordinary member of the Theosophical Society the things about which he has promised to keep silent, so Ragon found himself obliged to divulge merely relative truths to his pupils. Still, it is certain that he had made at least an elementary study of “THE MYSTERY LANGUAGE.”

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 27, 2014 at 10:32am
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Mahat, Nidana and  Maya section   From the Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge page 29

Q. Are Nidana and Maya (the great causes of misery) aspects of the Absolute?

A. Nidana means the concatenation of cause and effect; the twelve Nidânas are the enumeration of the chief causes which produce the severest reaction or effects under the Karmic law. Although there is no connection between the terms Nidana and Maya in themselves, Maya being simply illusion, yet if we consider the universe as Maya or illusion, then certainly the Nidânas, as being moral agents in the universe, are included in Maya. It is Maya, illusion or ignorance, which awakens Nidânas; and the cause or causes having been produced, the effects follow according to Karmic law. To take an instance: we all regard ourselves as Units, although essentially we are one indivisible Unit, drops in the ocean of Being, not to be distinguished from other drops. Having then produced this cause, the whole discord of life follows immediately as an effect; in reality it is the endeavor of nature to restore harmony and maintain equilibrium. It is this sense of separateness which is the root of all evil.