We continue with the next section from Chapter 14 of Ocean of Theosophy:

 

Reincarnation being the great law of life and progress, it is interwoven with that of the cycles and karma. These three work together, and in practice it is almost impossible to disentangle reincarnation from cyclic law. Individuals and nations in definite streams return in regularly recurring periods to the earth, and thus bring back to the globe the arts, the civilization, the very persons who once were on it at work. And as the units in nation and race are connected together by invisible strong threads, large bodies of such units moving slowly but surely all together reunite at different times and emerge again and again together into new race and new civilization as the cycles roll their appointed rounds. Therefore the souls who made the most ancient civilizations will come back and bring the old civilization with them in idea and essence, which being added to what others have done for the development of the human race in its character and knowledge will produce a new and higher state of civilization. This newer and better development will not be due to books, to records, to arts or mechanics, because all those are periodically destroyed so far as physical evidence goes, but the soul ever retaining in Manas the knowledge it once gained and always pushing to completer development the higher principles and powers, the essence of progress remains and will as surely come out as the sun shines. And along this road are the points when the small and large cycles of Avatars bring out for man's benefit the great characters who mold the race from time to time.

The Cycle of Avatars includes several smaller ones. The greater are those marked by the appearance of Rama and Krishna among the Hindus, of Menes among the Egyptians, of Zoroaster among the Persians, and of Buddha to the Hindus and other nations of the East. Buddha is the last of the great Avatars and is in a larger cycle than is Jesus of the Jews, for the teachings of the latter are the same as those of Buddha and tinctured with what Buddha had taught to those who instructed Jesus. Another great Avatar is yet to come, corresponding to Buddha and Krishna combined. Krishna and Rama were of the military, civil, religious, and occult order; Buddha of the ethical, religious, and mystical, in which be was followed by Jesus; Mohammed was a minor intermediate one for a certain part of the race, and was civil, military, and religious. In these cycles we can include mixed characters who have had great influence on nations, such as King Arthur, Pharaoh, Moses, Charlemagne reincarnated as Napoleon Bonaparte, Clovis of France reborn as Emperor Frederic III of Germany, and Washington the first President of the United States of America where the root for the new race is being formed.

At the intersection of the great cycles dynamic effects follow and alter the surface of the planet by reason of the shifting of the poles of the globe or other convulsion. This is not a theory generally acceptable, but we hold it to be true. Man is a great dynamo, making, storing, and throwing out energy, and when masses of men composing a race thus make and distribute energy, there is a resulting dynamic effect on the material of the globe which will be powerful enough to be distinct and cataclysmic. That there have been vast and awful disturbances in the strata of the world is admitted on every hand and now needs no proof; these have been due to earthquakes and ice formation so far as concerns geology; but in respect to animal forms the cyclic law is that certain animal forms now extinct and also certain human ones not known but sometimes suspected will return again in their own cycle; and certain human languages now known as dead will be in use once more at their appointed cyclic hour.

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In this excerpt, we are presented with a picture of cycles as ongoing, continuous processes punctuated periodically by phases of rest ushered in materially by way of the dissolution of existing forms. While the soul lives on, the body dies and while civilizations come and go, Civilization endures.

Why is this process of clearing out accumulated forms important to the overall progress of cycles?

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Your question made me think of gardening.  For a fruit tree to bare the most abundant and tasteful fruit you must cut off all the weak and dead branches so that the energy of the tree can go towards the production of everything that is new rather than labor with trying to restore what is dieing.

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It is said that we have not something to add to us, but something to take away. Our true self is the Budhic principle to start with, that is the Real. So what do we let go? our separateness, our personal desires?  

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Just a quick comment here.  After reading these three paragraphs alone I would love to go back and redo all my high school and college history classes.  Everything that happened is connected to something that happened before!

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The "Cycle of Avatars" spoken of here is probably one of the more visible instances of the law of periodicity as it manifests among humanity. At least, it is for those who accept a series of avatars rather than a single spiritual teacher who has brought the one and only truth to earth. Those for whom there is only one true teacher would object to the following statement:

"Buddha is the last of the great Avatars and is in a larger cycle than is Jesus of the Jews, for the teachings of the latter are the same as those of Buddha and tinctured with what Buddha had taught to those who instructed Jesus."

They, whether Christian or Buddhist, would point out that the teachings of Jesus are not at all the same as those of the Buddha. In fact, two religions could hardly be farther apart on some of the most fundamental questions of religion. Does God exist? Yes, says the Christian. No, says the Buddhist. What is the role of faith in religion? What is the role of reason in religion?

There is more common ground when we come to ethics. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Buddha taught us to be compassionate toward all living beings. A fruitful area of dialogue and interchange between Christians and Buddhists has developed on these themes. Yet I think that only a very small minority of Christians or Buddhists would be prepared to regard both of their teachers as avatars, manifesting cyclically.

Hinduism is the source of the teaching or doctrine of avatars. The ten avatars of Vishnu have long been recognized in Hinduism. The Buddha is one of these ten. In later times, the great Hindu teacher Shankaracharya was recognized by many Hindus as an avatar. His life has many similarities with the life of Jesus. He lived only 32 years, and was teaching even as a child.

It is generally believed in India that Shankaracharya drove Buddhism out of India. He is credited with restoring pure Hinduism by countering the threat posed to it by the false teachings of the Buddha. So we have one alleged avatar countering and driving out the teachings of another alleged avatar.

According to Theosophical teachings, the Buddha and Shankaracharya are two of the greatest teachers in the known history of humanity. In fact, Shankaracharya is supposed to have incarnated using the middle principles left behind by the Buddha, and to have come back partially to rectify some of the teachings of the Buddha. Whether this was a little twist in the cycle of avatars, or whether these two teachers came so close together in accordance with the law of periodicity, we do not know.

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Hi David:

It is very interesting to read your message on the avatars, how Shankaracharya drove Buddhism out of India to restore Hinduism and how one great teacher was against another.   On the surface, the teachings seem to describe different approaches and perspectives of Truth, supporting each another (at least what we would like to believe because this is how it is supposed to be) but looking at the historical dimension, it paints a different picture.   

Sadly, we may never know the reasons behind these contradictions.  I guess the only thing to do is to know the inconsistencies but continue to focus and live the teachings that resonate with us. 

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An important aspect of Periodicity that often goes unnoticed during the consideration of the "dead letter" of the law, is that of constant renewal of forces through cyclic activity. This aspect of the Law ensures a perpetual refreshment, and newness to every moment.
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A cycle implies motion and a change of state.

The Secret Doctrine provides us with an evocative image for the underlying perpetual motion of the universe and the ultimate source of cycles, namely the "Great Breath".

'The appearance and disappearance of the Universe are pictured as an outbreathing and inbreathing of "the Great Breath," which is eternal, and which, being Motion, is one of the three aspects of the Absolute.' (SD I:43)

The Great Breath is "absolute Abstract Motion, representing Unconditioned Consciousness." (I:14) As one aspect of the metaphysical root of all manifestation the Great Breath is the origin of all force and of all individual consciousness. For example, "Breath" is a term used for the human Monad (II 105) Importantly, the Great Breath is also the ultimate source of "the guiding intelligence in the vast scheme of cosmic Evolution." (I:15)  This 'guiding intelligence' is collectively the Dhyan Chohans, themselves referred to as 'Breaths'.

STANZA V. Sloka 1. THE PRIMORDIAL SEVEN, THE FIRST SEVEN BREATHS OF THE DRAGON OF WISDOM, PRODUCE IN THEIR TURN FROM THEIR HOLY CIRCUMGYRATING BREATHS THE FIERY WHIRLWIND (SD I 106)

The 'breaths' mentioned above are described as the 'root of spiritual man'.

The Secret Doctrine refers to primary and secondary breaths, namely those Dhyanis (which would include Avatars) that are connected with the 'spiritual man' and those with the development of form. (See, for example, II 492 and I 453) Whatever the type, the Dhyanis are intimately connected to cycles of activity and rest. They oversee and regulate the coming into being and the dissolution of all manifestation from atoms to Suns. Like in the stanza above, the following description includes the interplay of intelligent guidance (consciousness), motion and cycles:

'…the invisible sparks of primordial atoms differentiate into molecules, and become Suns -- passing gradually into objectivity gaseous, radiant, cosmic, the one "Whirlwind" (or motion) finally giving the impulse to the form, and the initial motion, regulated and sustained by the never-resting Breaths -- the Dhyan Chohans.' SD I 103

Not only do the Dhyanis regulate the cycles of activity and rest, it is likely that they both contain and limit the range of 'normal' evolutionary development achievable within any cycle. They may well be the source, the alpha and omega, of the cycle itself - whether that cycle be a root race, a round, a planetary chain, or the life of a solar system. They certainly set the key note for the cycle as illustrated by this explanation given by a Master:

'The mission of the planetary Spirit is but to strike the KEY NOTE OF TRUTH. Once he has directed the vibration of the latter to run its course uninterruptedly along the catenation of that race and to the end of the cycle -- the denizen of the highest inhabited sphere disappears from the surface of our planet -- till the following "resurrection of flesh." The vibrations of the Primitive Truth are what your philosophers name "innate ideas."' (Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett: Letter 18, p59, Chronological Edition. Letter 9, Barker Edition).

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Great study material, Peter! Thanks for posting this for us.

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Thanks Peter, great food for thought here and your post really ties together the themes that this thread has been dealing with so far. Very well-woven!

Not only do the Dhyanis regulate the cycles of activity and rest, it is likely that they both contain and limit the range of 'normal' evolutionary development achievable within any cycle.

This makes me ponder whether Dhyanis are then also involved in the process of initiation?

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Great quotes, much to ponder.

Thank you.

 

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Concerning this passage:  "and certain human languages now known as dead will be in use once more at their appointed cyclic hour."

Will Sanscrit return as a spoken language sometime in the unforeseeable future?

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Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 24, 2012 at 12:18pm
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I don't have chapter and verse to quote, but in the case of reincarnation, it is my understanding that the fruits we bring with us from one lifetime to the next (apart from the skandhas) are the highest spiritual qualities we managed to develop. I don't remember what language I spoke in a previous lifetime--I had to learn language again after I was born. The form of Sanskrit has suffered through the ages from disuse and I doubt anyone will be born carrying the knowledge of it back into this world with them.

But the Sanskrit that one writes upon a page is only a form. The written form is not what made languages like Sanskrit and Hebrew sacred. If Sanskrit does return, it may do so in essence, while taking on a new "body." It may very well "reincarnate."

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on October 24, 2012 at 12:42pm
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Gerry, there are movements occurring at this time to restore Sanskrit as a spoken everyday language in India. The organization Samskrta Bharati, for example, is promoting this widely. The idea is to make it not only a sacred language but also a vernacular.

One village in south India, Mattur (Mathoor), has already adopted Sanskrit as its spoken language or vernacular. New Sanskrit words are being coined for modern inventions such as telephone, etc. People visit there to more quickly learn Sanskrit.

The learned pandits of India have always spoken Sanskrit. It never died out as a spoken language for religious and philosophical purposes. You can find talks being given in Sanskrit on YouTube.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 24, 2012 at 1:12pm
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But is it really the same Sanskrit? I have read that what we are left with today is more of a reconstruction than a truly surviving remnant. You would know better than me, David but I just want to be clear that I wrote what I did based on things I've read and heard, and was not simply blowing hot air. I had thought that while we have fragments, the language in its original form is no longer completely intact.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on October 24, 2012 at 1:48pm
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It does appear that languages, as civilizations, go through their manvantaras and pralayas, and as we know from the general outline of cycles, the pralaya is a withdrawl, but not one in which the essence is lost. So, it would seem that sanskrit was withdrawn (to only the highest caste), awaiting the time when it'll be brought out again (and I agree with David that we can see this happening even in our time).

About whether this Sanskrit is the same, HPB's entry in the Theosophical Glossary gives one perspective:

Sanskrit (Sk.). The classical language of the Brahmans, never known
nor spoken in its true systematized form (given later approximately by
Pânini), except by the initiated Brahmans, as it was pre-eminently “a
mystery language”. It has now degenerated into the so-called Prâkrita.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on October 24, 2012 at 2:17pm
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Daniel, you no doubt did read this. It is widely assumed outside of India, and often written, that Sanskrit is a dead language. Nonetheless, pandits in India vigorously object to this characterization. They speak Sanskrit among themselves, they speak it in pandit assemblies (as are held in cities such as Varanasi), they speak it to their students, and teach in it, and they even speak it within their families, so that their wives and children also speak it. Spoken Sanskrit was not hard to find in India, even before the recent movements to spread it as a vernacular.

Like all languages, Sanskrit evolves (or devolves) and changes. But changes in Sanskrit have been much less than in any other known language. The language of the Vedas, the oldest Sanskrit, has features that have fallen out of use. But other than some obscure vocabulary and little-used verb-forms, it is still recognizable to pandits versed in Classical Sanskrit. We cannot say that about even the old English of Beowulf, which is hardly recognizable to a modern English speaker.

The transition between Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit was marked by the famous grammar written by Panini. Panini codified Sanskrit, the Sanskrit we now call Classical Sanskrit. He did this in such an extraordinarily complete way that it has been pretty much fixed since his time. It has changed comparatively little in well over two thousand years.

Each system of thought, of course, appropriates technical terms and uses them in a way specific to that system. These specialized meanings must always be learned. But their meanings are almost always traceable to the meaning of the Sanskrit verb-root that they are built from, whose meanings have been fixed at least since the time of Panini. Sanskrit remains the sacred language, and with good reason.

The question now is whether the current movements to make it a vernacular will unduly dilute it. Interestingly, the Samskrta Bharati is promoting the use of finite verb-forms rather than participles. Sanskrit has such a complex grammar, with so many verb-forms to learn, that Classical Sanskrit largely replaced the many finite verb-forms found in Vedic Sanskrit with the simpler-to-use participles. The Samskrita Bharati, in promoting Sanskrit as a vernacular, wants to go back to the fuller and more complex verb-forms. In this particular sense, this would be a return to Vedic Sanskrit usage.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on October 24, 2012 at 3:01pm
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"Sanskrit remains the sacred language, and with good reason."

David;

Obviously this is a subject close to your heart. I think many theosophists have a vague almost intuitional respect and devotion for Sanskrit.  It seems like it speaks to the very soul in us..  When we hear the Gayatri Mantram, for example, it feels like a song we memorized in our childhood being sung for us again in our adulthood.

Without belaboring it too much for your sake and for the sake of getting too far off the path of the cycles discussion, would you mind saying a thing or two about  why Sanskrit is a sacred language?

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on October 24, 2012 at 4:20pm
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I would like to hear a bit on that as well. I'd suggest we start a discussion in the open forum to this end. If you're willing to do that David, I'm sure many of us would benefit from your expertise in exploring Sanskrit as a sacred language.

As far as relating Sanskrit to cycles, my brief introduction to Sanskrit (attempting to learn it little by little lately) it strikes me that the language itself has a continual rise and fall, particularly in the sacred texts, so that the verses seem to 'cycle', rising and falling like a wave.

One can get a sense of the majesty of the language by listening to something like the Gita when it is sung in Sanskrit.

http://www.gitainternational.com/hindi-audio.htm

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on October 24, 2012 at 6:07pm
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I can here briefly give a few reasons why Sanskrit is regarded as a sacred language. Perhaps this will be sufficient. If there is any wish to take this farther, we could move the discussion as suggested and proceed as time permits.

In India, Sanskrit has traditionally always been regarded as the language of the gods (deva-vani), not as a humanly developed language. The Vedas are supposed to have been heard by the Vedic Rishis, not composed by them. The Vedic Rishis, with their attuned minds and hearts, are thought to have actually heard the language of the gods.

The core of Sanskrit is the verb-roots, one or two thousand. Virtually all Sanskrit words, both verbs and nouns, are built from these, through regular processes. These sounds, usually one syllable, are considered to be the actual names of what they represent, not arbitrary appellations that humans came up with. The idea is that if you name something with its true name, you call it into existence. This is what makes Sanskrit a sacred language.

Vedic Sanskrit is a grammatically more complex language than the Classical Sanskrit that developed from it. So Sanskrit went from more complex to less complex, contrary to what would be expected if it evolved from primitive speech. This very much supports the idea of its divine origins. We find it in the very earliest texts to display a complete and complex grammatical structure. Sanskrit is a sacred language because it was not invented by humans.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 24, 2012 at 7:42pm
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Thank you David, for better explaining the nature of Sanskrit. I am glad to have learned what you've taught us here.

There are parallels to be drawn between Sanskrit and Hebrew, considered the sacred language of the West. Many of the same things are said about it: That it was a language given to humans, not developed by us; that a thing named in Hebrew is not simply labeled, but is "truly named," as you have put it etc.  Traditionally speaking, the predominant mystical system of the West, qabalah, has always been said to have been taught to humans by angels and it is inextricably linked with the Hebrew tongue in the same way that the mystical systems of the East are linked with Sanskrit.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on October 25, 2012 at 2:45pm
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The idea is that if you name something with its true name, you call it into existence. This is what makes Sanskrit a sacred language.

This certainly seems to go to the heart of the matter. As we see in the SD and elsewhere, the power of sound and vibration is fundamental to the organization of matter (and thus the upadhis we use). And as HPB says, the proper pronunciation of certain words carries with it immense occult power.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on October 24, 2012 at 5:27pm
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Even solely based on the inadequacy of the English language to handle metaphysics, it certainly seems that we'll be in need of something more refined as common human understanding develops. It seems natural/logical to me that Sanskrit would once again fill that role, as the upward arc is said to 'pass again over ground once trodden'.

It'll certainly require us westerners to let go of a little arrogance and admit that for millenia the easterners have had words to describe things we haven't even thought of yet. ;)

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 24, 2012 at 7:47pm
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Although, as I mentioned above, Hebrew plays much the same role as Sanskrit again, in this capacity of describing concepts that our vernacular tongues have no room for. There are many one-to-one examples, in fact, of words that Sanskrit describes most adequately that Hebrew renders just as well. I say this for the sake of fairness to the mystical traditions of the West, which, while not primarily leaned upon by the likes of Blavatsky and Judge, nevertheless have the same richness and depth of meaning although it is both expressed in different ways and reached by different paths than those that are practiced in the East.

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Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 24, 2012 at 8:44pm
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Just a few cases of the above Hebrew to Sanskrit correspondences by way of example, with Sanskrit to the left and its Hebrew equivalent to the right:

AUM ---->  YHVH

Prana ----> Ruach

Deva (is devi plural? If so that would be better) -----> Elohim

Parabrahm -----> En Sof Aur

I know HPB explored the qabalah to a degree in the SD, but generally speaking, my experience has been that those drawn to what is often called "modern Theosophy" seem to prefer Sanskrit and even in a complete sense, prefer teachings, practices and modalities attributed to the East--to such a degree that many seem either totally unaware or at least indifferent to the fact that the West does have its own tradition. This is understandable, as the West's tradition is irredeemably connected with Judeo-Christian sacred texts and many of us have found our way to Theosophy when typical church teachings failed to satisfy our spiritual hunger. As a result, the baby is thrown out with the bathwater.

There is actually a reason I am moving in this direction in this particular discussion, however, as this phenomenon also has its causes in the nature of cycles and periodicity. While the Western mystery tradition plays much the same role as the traditions of the East, it does so in a fundamentally different way and has a fundamentally different function. Other authors have put it better than I could (text in full can be found here):

Thus, we can see, the major differences in Eastern and Western practices can be summarized in function and reference point of origin. The East seeks liberation through progressive untying of the knots of ignorance that bind humanity to incarnation. The West seeks to perfect the material world making material reality a reflection of spiritual reality. One accomplished, the adept can then proceed to dis-incarnate at will. The Western approach seeks to be more active in the world and to transform it, while the Eastern approach is to see the world as an illusion that is impermanent, and as such, is more passive. Such philosophies, like all beliefs and cultures, reflect the physical environment of their earliest origin. In tropical and sub-tropical zones the concern with time is less important that in the Northern hemisphere where a winter without food stores means death for the community. The cold, harsh realities of arctic zones produce a different theory and technique, and as such, different ideal (gods) than agricultural areas. Whether one is a hunter nomad or an established agrarian society is reflective of the physical landscape they live in, and as such effects values, needs, and spiritual philosophy and technique.

Applying this to cycles, it could be said that based on the above perspective, the Western traditions are a bit more concerned with the out-breathing phase of manifestation, or of involution, whereas the Eastern tradition emphasizes the in-breathing phase, or evolution.

It is likely that this one reason that there is such a conspicuous lack of representation of Western ideas in Theosophical circles, as it is part of The Secret Doctrine that in humanity's current phase of evolution, we "should" be withdrawing from matter and not moving into it. However, this reflects a misunderstanding of the purpose behind the Western tradition's modality. Thus many Western practices are branded by Theosophists as "black magic," which to my mind is somewhat of a shame and reflects a misunderstanding of the ultimate purpose behind Western occultism in its proper practical context.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 24, 2012 at 9:44pm
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Nicholas,

I would love to oblige, but unfortunately I cannot do this, as in this case (like many others) I speak from personal experience and not out of a book. Much of this comes from conversations and other interactions I have had with people inside Theosophical circles. Do note that when I wrote, "Thus many Western practices are branded by Theosophists as 'black magic,' " I was speaking of some Theosophists, not of Theosophy. Nonetheless, in my few years of involvement in Theosophical circles I have seen this kind of thing happen too many times to simply write it off as chance. Fortunately many Theosophists do understand Western esotericism, but there are very many also to whom esotericism and HPB's brand of Theosophy are practically synonymous--those for whom Theosophy is the first taste of occultism. For my part, I did not get to know Theosophy until I had been studying esotericism for 7 or 8 years.

While I cannot provide direct quotes, here are a few examples for which you will simply have to take my word:

  • Back when I worked in Member Services at the National Center for the TSA in Wheaton, I received a telephone call from a member on some Lodge business who wound up veering into a tirade against the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This was, in the main, a criticism of Aleister Crowley but in their ignorance, this person leveled the criticism at an entire system of development with which he was associated, not realizing that many within the Golden Dawn also maintain the same criticisms of Crowley.
  • I have taken part in forum discussions in which rituals that involve phallic/sexual symbolism were literally called by one Theosophist "black magic," for reasons that remain unclear to me. The ritual was only vaguely described as involving the dipping of a dagger into a chalice and it was on this basis alone that the ritual was derided in this way. Literally, the Theosophist criticizing the ritual wrote, "Dipping a dagger into a chalice? Sounds awfully like black magic to me." Another case, I believe, of misunderstanding owing to the fact that the one making the accusation of black magic just comes from a totally different perspective. Again, this is (sort of) understandable, but from the viewpoint of a person who has utilized ritual as a means of spiritual practice since a very young age, this is just silly. I want to be kind but given my own perspective on the matter I see no reason that I should. HPB was just as harsh if not harsher concerning such superstition and fundamental misconception. She would understand. It is one of the reasons I appreciate her so much and it is one reason that it is so baffling to me that things like this can even come out of the mind of a person who knows her teachings far better than I ever will.

I could come up with more examples but there would be no point belaboring them. The several years I've spent involved in Theosophy have made it very clear to me.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 24, 2012 at 9:45pm
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P.S. The link should now work.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 25, 2012 at 9:31pm
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Now, as to ways in which our side discussion on ceremonial magick can be brought to bear on the main focus of our discussion:

There is great relevance to the above passage from Ocean of Theosophy in the discussion about one's lower principles, for it is those principles which are shed at the end of our incarnations, and we originally sought to explore the meaning of this kind of process.

Even without the introduction of ceremonial techniques, the "stickiness" or inertia of our lower principles is something with which we must contend as we begin to consciously walk the path of spiritual development. The ego wants to remain static and resists change.

Like the weak and dead branches that Gerry described in his analogy near the beginning of this discussion, can our lower principles become an overwhelming burden for the incarnated monad to bear?

We can see in the course of a person's life that the general tendency is for one to become all the more set in one's ways as one ages. If we never died and did not periodically shed these "dead branches," we would likely fail to progress past a certain point.

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on October 25, 2012 at 10:39pm
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This reminds me of a saying of Jesus, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit." John 15:2. Like all sacred text, this lends itself to many interpretations. In the first part, this may be talking about soul death, referring to those who are so incorrigible that the reincarnating monad is unable to make any use of that personality. And in the second part, this may refer to the fact that the reincarnating monad only takes those aspects that are worthy of the Spirit. Either way, this Saying adds a dimension of seriousness about what we are here to accomplish in incarnation.
Permalink Reply by Peter on October 25, 2012 at 7:15am
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Gerry asks: Will Sanscrit return as a spoken language sometime in the unforeseeable future?

From the Collected Writings of HPB.

"Every one sees—cannot fail to see and to know—that for a language so old and so perfect as the Sanskrit to have survived alone, among all languages, it must have had its cycles of perfection and its cycles of degeneration. And, if one had any intuition, he might have seen that what they call a “dead language” being an anomaly, a useless thing in nature, it would not have survived, even as a “dead” tongue, had it not its special purpose in the Reign of immutable Cyclic Laws; and that Sanskrit which came to be nearly lost to the world is now slowly spreading in Europe, and will one day have the extension it had thousand upon thousand of years back—that of a universal language."

CW 5 302-303  “Was writing known before Panini?”

 

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 24, 2012 at 10:33pm
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In one more ironic twist, I would conversely say (with a wink) that you are too generous in accepting members of certain ritual orders as Western esotericists! Myself being a member of the Co-Masonic Order founded by Besant and Leadbeater, I would not with any haste jump to the conclusion that this constitutes Western esotericism. A Neophyte in an Order such as the Golden Dawn or AMORC has more practical experience in occultism than is required to advance in the orders you have mentioned. This is not to say that the potential for Western practice is not there, or that the symbolism isn't, either, nor even that there aren't members of these orders who do practice genuine occultism--but many are those who simply go through the motions of memorizing words and ceremonial actions, without necessarily doing anything on the inner side, and that in itself does not make one a practitioner of Western esotericism any more than laboring for decades to write a book for the good of humanity, in and of itself, qualifies Blavatsky as a Theosophist.

But it is heartening to see that you, for one, do understand what truly matters in all such cases, whether Eastern or Western: What is happening on the inside--what drives one--what motivates one--that is what matters, far more than any outer form or shell.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 25, 2012 at 8:17am
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Very good points, Nicholas.

If you accept Theosophy as HPB outlined it, then there cannot be any 'fundamental' differences in 'function' or 'way'.

I have never claimed to accept Theosophy as HPB outlined it. In order to do that, I would first have to understand it and I am a long way from doing so. Since I am moderating here and it is an easy assumption to make that I accept Theosophy in the whole, I think it's good to get that out of the way before we go any farther. I am a student, plain and simple, and not even a student exclusively of HPB. I have not spent one quarter of the time with her work as most of the people posting here and I don't know that I would change that. I don't actually feel all that compelled to immerse myself so deeply in one person's viewpoint regardless of who that person is. "Beware the man of one book."

The advice HPB gave that I follow is not to hold anything as true unless it rings true in my heart. As for Theosophy, I remain agnostic for the most part. I'll never know if there's any truth to the idea of root races, rounds, etc. but the deeper, more abstract and universal truths that can be gleaned by earnestly exploring such ideas is a worthy thing to aim for.

As evidence, her article Occultism vs the Occult Arts mentions the varied shades of 'Western' magic - and they are all found in Eastern practices or vidyas.  HPB recommends only the Atma-Vidya, because it includes the magical practices, but is much safer.

This is also good to bring up. You're right, and many of the generalizations thrown about in occult literature dividing "East" and "West" are not necessarily so absolute. So perhaps it is best not to generalize in those particular terms. There are tantras that bear far more than a surface resemblance to ceremonial techniques used in the West. I have often heard them decried as black magick in Theosophical settings as well. Bön is one of them. This may or may not be valid, as I don't practice it, but at any rate there it is. So even if we do away with the East/West paradigm in discussing these things, the overall point remains a valid one in my mind.

Yet when she began to teach and write she emphasized the Divine Wisdom path, not magic or ceremonial.

This, too, is characteristic of the "Theosophical" thinking I see surrounding ceremonial in general. Given that you are quoting HPB, I should not be surprised. This is one of my bones of contention with Theosophy and is one reason that part of me utterly refuses to study it past a certain point, lest this happen to me too. I prefer to keep a certain open-mindedness about things. At any rate, I don't understand why there should necessarily be a difference between the so-called "Divine Wisdom" path and the "magic or ceremonial" path. They are not mutually exclusive. When we talk about magick and ceremonial we are talking simply about a set of techniques, which can be applied toward any number of ends. One of those ends is black magick. One of those ends is the pursuit of Divine Wisdom.

The notion of perfecting matter & this world is not even a mainly Western notion, Sri Aurobindo, the Indian sage, made it primary in his teachings.  But his approach was based in traditional, non-magical paths, like the Gita & Patanjali.

Sri Aurobindo is one of the Eastern teachers most often respected and quoted by authors who write and practice primarily in the Western traditions. As I understand it, he himself was an eager student of Hegel's philosophy, so there is a decided Western influence upon his teachings. This is interesting and is all the more reason that we should probably drop the East/West paradigm as you have so aptly suggested.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 25, 2012 at 10:28am
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Nicholas,

I hear you.

Dan,  By 'accepting Theosophy'  I mean a keynote like all Paths have one Source, so if all Paths are rooted in the same Source, then 'fundamental' differences cannot exist.

Okay, that can be lived with. So we can throw out the word "fundamental" if that makes my meaning easier to understand. Yes, of course there is only one Source and that is true by definition of the word as we students of the esoteric use it. By "fundamental" difference, I was driving at the difference of approach. It cannot be denied that such a bifurcation exists when it comes to spiritual practices, otherwise no practices would be discouraged and all would be held as totally equal. Can we agree on that much? If I am fumbling in my attempts to communicate what I'm trying to say, I apologize.

These 'techniques' are using forces that right now make up, or correspond to, parts of our lower principles.

Yes, in part--and this is openly acknowledged by those Orders and teachers who promote such techniques. But what of it? We seem to be getting closer and closer to the heart of the matter here. I understand HPB's position on this. I have actually spent the better part of the last five years trying to force myself to come to agree with it, thinking that it must simply be a matter of wrestling those lower principles into submission and getting past them. But it does not work like that, as I learned, and I wound up coming full circle, to the realization that this is exactly why ceremonial does utilize the activity of those lower centers. You cannot triumph over them by way of denial. However--

Since the emphasis is there, not on the Atma-Buddhi Monad, then naturally, over time, the danger of losing contact with our Higher Self increases.

I must respectfully disagree with you. Acknowledging the activity of the lower centers and utilizing their inherent properties is not the same thing as "emphasizing" them.

Truth is absolute, but the vast majority of us have not developed the capacity to truly appreciate it or commune with it on its own level. We must instead work with relative truths, gradually working our way up to the light of Truth itself. To my way of thinking and of experiencing the world, HPB's view on this is very noble and high-minded, but what I have never been able to get my head around is this: Divine Wisdom is what one seeks, as is union with what Theosophists call Atma-Buddhi-Manas. If I already had that, why on earth would I be seeking it? The truth of Theosophy appeals to me because I know better than many people what it means to suffer at the mercy of one's own lower nature, but that is where I am and I cannot pretend otherwise.


I quote again your statement so the point can be revisited:

Since the emphasis is there, not on the Atma-Buddhi Monad, then naturally, over time, the danger of losing contact with our Higher Self increases.


How did we arrive at the presupposition that one has achieved contact with one's Higher Self? One of the major initial goals of white magick is, as it has come to be known by most, attainment of "The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel," which is the same as saying The Higher Self, or Atma-Buddhi-Manas in Theosophical parlance. So once again: By even setting foot upon the path of ceremonial, we are admitting that we have not yet attained that. So of course we begin by working in a modality that incorporates the faculties of our "lower principles!" That's where we are! If I were free from my lower principles I wouldn't be wasting my time with ceremonial magick either. But the key word is beginning. We have to start where we are. Anyone who would make of this fact an indictment against the system betrays a definite misunderstanding of ceremonial magick, and anyone who would discourage learning and working the basics of a system before having reached its heights should ask the likes of Michael Jordan how they got to be so good at sports.

I suppose HPB would have seen error in this most typical of attitudes regarding magick, since it involves a certain level of self-interest and is thus not absolutely pure in its altruism--aw, shoot, so you mean I'm not an Arhat?


Well, you should have seen what I was up to in high school! Ha!

I'll take it.

Now, as far afield as we have managed to stray from the original topic here, let us look for ways to render this blunder of indulgence in our lower principles (otherwise known as a forum debate) unto the service of our original, higher mission.

What lessons are there in all of this with regards to cycles?

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 25, 2012 at 9:10pm
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Au contraire, Nicholas. I must admit to full agreement that the techniques of ceremonial magick do present the risk of getting "stuck" in the lower principles which it works with in the beginning. This is why I tried so hard to follow HPB's advice--because it does ring true in theory and I recognize that no person, truly motivated by altruism, would be so reckless as to recommend a path to their students if it meant that they might become a casualty of this risk as a result. It is wise to play it safe.

That being said, you brought up earlier the issue of motive and what drives one to take the path up--and to that I can only say that while I am not in full realization of my Higher Self, I have been the beneficiary of many "glancing" contacts with what I have come to understand as buddhi--brief flashes that lit the way, telling me in a voice that vibrated from deep within my heart that it was the path for me, so that while intellectually there may have been risk involved, I simply knew otherwise in my own case. Having tasted, even if ever so briefly, what contact with the Higher Self means, I knew what I was aiming for and had a yardstick by which to measure the efficacy of my various efforts. And when I look back at where I was compared with where I am now, I know I made the right choice. Before one moves fully from a place of self-interest to a place of pure altruism, there is a gray area characterized by self-interest in making oneself a more fit vessel for higher things. Perhaps I will spend several incarnations at this stage, who is to know? But it's not a race and I for one am bringing far more harmony and wholeness into the world than I was 10 years ago. Good enough.

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on October 25, 2012 at 10:15pm
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Really interesting discussion. My interest in things "esoteric" also began at a young age and centered in the western mystery tradition. I've always held to the concept of "theory before practice", and consequently never progressed beyond that stage. I don't think I know enough to stir those Forces beyond the veil. But that's just me; different strokes for different folks I guess. The eastern approach of meditation and self-inquiry feels safer. Either way, the supreme goal for neophytes of either tradition is to realize the Self, or the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. With that said, bringing this around to our main topic, I think a knowledge of Cosmic Cycles is indispensable for anyone wishing to practice in the western tradition, especially as it relates to ceremonial magick. As I understand it, theurgic ceremony is efficacious only so far as it mimics cosmic processes.
Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 25, 2012 at 10:35pm
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Theory before practice is definitely the way to go. One weakness I have seen in the path of ceremonial magick is a conspicuous lack of theory, which is a gap that Theosophy has been indispensible in filling. As magick takes a practical approach, the attitude is often that of diving in and not really concerning oneself with the details of exactly what is going on. Are the forces that are stirred up by the work actual spirits external to the magician or psychological factors, for instance? Many magicians simply don't care one way or the other--they are concerned with the result, period. That is one way of dealing with the world and no, it is not for everyone.

It is interesting to stand back and look at it: On the one hand are people concerned with theory, who are aware of risks of which more practically-oriented people can be quite oblivious to; meanwhile the practitioners think it is funny that people with no practical experience would dare to make any authoritative statements when there is a certain extent to which they really can't know what they are talking about. And both would benefit from partaking of the experiences and insights of the opposite camp.

That is what The Middle Way is about, to me. Theory is all well and good but practice is a whole different thing.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on October 25, 2012 at 9:29am
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One of those ends is black magick. One of those ends is the pursuit of Divine Wisdom.

We should all be clear, right up front that the only fundamental difference between what is called "black magic" and what is called "white magic" isMOTIVE. Black magic is that which is used for selfish purposes, white magic is that which is used beneficently, for the benefit of all. The exact same act can be either black or white depending on the use to which it is put and the underlying motive of the user. If we remember that "magic", from "magi" was originally synonymous with "wisdom", then we can see what magic truly is. It is wisdom, knowledge - black if used selfishly, white if used unselfishly.

"Theurgy being essentially the art of applying the divine powers of man to the subordination of the blind forces of nature, its votaries were first termed magicians--a corruption of the word "Magh," signifying a wise, or learned man..." (source)

... it is the intention that decides primarily whether white or black magic is exercised (source)

"The exercise of magical power is the exercise of powers natural, but superior to the ordinary functions of Nature. A miracle is not a violation of the laws of Nature, except for ignorant people. Magic is but a science,a profound knowledge of the Occult forces in Nature, and of the laws governing the visible or the invisible world." (source)

It is all in how we use that knowledge, which is why the first step for thetrue theosophist is Dana, charity and love for ALL.

Permalink Reply by Peter on October 25, 2012 at 3:42am
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Daniel asks:   This makes me ponder whether Dhyanis are then also involved in the process of initiation?

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Daniel,

Yes, the Dhyan Chohans concerned with the spiritual welfare of humanity are referred to as the Divine Instructors hence they are intimately connected with Initiation, if not the means through which divine wisdom is revealed to the Adept. Remember, Theosophy means “Divine Wisdom such as that possessed by the Gods” - see The Key to Theosophy, first few pages.*   The primordial wisdom (revelation) communicated to humanity in the early races would have originated with these Dhyanis.

The Secret Doctrine states that the “Sons of Wisdom” (those Dhyanis known as the Agnishwatta Pitris) incarnated in the Third Root Race of humanity and created a progeny called the “Initiator” to instruct early mankind. The abbreviated passages below explain more and are from SD I 207-208.

‘It was at first a wondrous Being, called the "Initiator," and after him a group of semi-divine and semi-human beings. .. they are those in whom are said to have incarnated the highest Dhyanis, "Munis and Rishis from previous Manvantaras" -- to form the nursery for future human adepts, on this earth and during the present cycle.’ 

‘The "BEING" just referred to, which has to remain nameless, is the Tree from which, in subsequent ages, all the great historically known Sages and Hierophants, such as the Rishi Kapila, Hermes, Enoch, Orpheus, etc., etc., have branched off. . . It is he who changes form, yet remains ever the same. And it is he again who holds spiritual sway over the initiated Adepts throughout the whole world. 

‘It is under the direct, silent guidance of this MAHA (great) GURU that all the other less divine Teachers and instructors of mankind became, from the first awakening of human consciousness, the guides of early Humanity. It is through these "Sons of God" that infant humanity got its first notions of all the arts and sciences, as well as of spiritual knowledge; and it is they who have laid the first foundation-stone of those ancient civilizations that puzzle so sorely our modern generation of students and scholars.’

(SD I 207-208)

The above are fragments from the two pages referenced. I recommend the student to read the whole thing, especially that passage on p208 explaining why this Being is called “The Great Sacrifice.”

*Note: See also the footnote on page 3 of The Key to Theosophy which may be relevant to the current discussion on ceremonial magic.

 

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on October 25, 2012 at 9:38pm
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Thanks Peter.

The above all reminds me of what is described in the Book of Enoch, in which some number of angels were said to have descended to earth, teaching humans all manner of arts and sciences and also taking human mates. Allegory for the process you've described, perhaps?

Is this an example of beings, perhaps having gone through the cycles humanity is currently experiencing, deigning to help us do the same?

And were they themselves helped through a similar point in their own development?

Perhaps without such interventions, we would not be able to make certain kinds of progress.

P.S. I am not sure if I can find the footnote to which you refer. I don't own a physical copy of the book and have looked for the footnote in an online version found here:

http://theosophytrust.org/Online_Books/Theosophical_Glossary_V1.2.pdf

However, the pagination seems like it might be different, as each "page" of this file is actually two pages side-by-side. I'm not sure if the footnote I found on page 3 of this file is the one you referenced.

Permalink Reply by Peter on October 26, 2012 at 6:23am
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Daniel and all,

Yes - just so.  The story in the book of Enoch of angels descending on earth to teach humanity the arts and sciences refers to that same epoch in humanity's history on this globe.  Similar stories can be found throughout the various spiritual traditions. All these stories would be seen as an example of how the truths of a once universal wisdom religion (The Secret Doctrine) are still retained in a variety of veiled and often fragmentary forms in different traditions.

Have the Angels/Dhyanis previously gone through cycles such as humanity are now experiencing? 

Again, yes - the Secret Doctrine teaches that ALL those spiritual intelligences superior to Man - Angels, Dhyanis, Amshaspends,  or by whatever name - are all Monads(Breaths) that have passed through the pre-human and human stages of evolution in previous Manvantaras.  Hence, the Kabbalistic saying:

" The Breath becomes a stone; the stone, a plant; the plant, an animal; the animal, a man; the man, a spirit; and the spirit, a god."

In the triple scheme of evolution (Spiritual, Intellectual and Physical) the Secret Doctrine also refers to the monadic streams of the three elemental kingdoms that are yet to reach the mineral kingdom (symbolised by 'stone' above).

If we were to conceive of all the intelligences and forces on all the planes of Cosmos, from highest to lowest, from most subtle to gross, from elementals up to Gods, the Occult doctrine makes one central claim about them all.  They have either passed through ‘the human stage’ at some point or have yet to pass through that stage.

People often wonder what is the relevance of the teachings on Cosmogenesis, Rounds and Races to the student of Theosophy. One reason is that it provides many a clue to the occult constitution of Sevenfold Man and Nature.  What we learn is that our sevenfold nature is constituted by the ‘intelligences’ outlined in that grand evolutionary process. What we discover is that our lower fourfold nature (and associated skandhas) is largely constituted of those ‘lives’ (elementals) whose major evolutionary impulse is yet still ‘downward’ into matter, form and separateness, while our higher nature is constituted of those divine intelligences whose inherent nature is ever more towards the Universal, the expressions of Divine Wisdom and Spirit.  Thus, our occult constitution reflects the Cosmos itself and is the basis of the occult truth ‘As above, so below.’

We might glean from this just what kind of impact our motives, our ethical and moral nature have upon our occult constitution and the skandhas we create for ourselves.  Likewise, through the sympathetic law of like attracts like, our occult constitution and ethical nature in turn influences the forces and powers in nature (whether higher or lower) that we evoke through our thoughts, desires and actions.  This is, in part, why HPB and her Masters teach that study, meditation and practical theosophy (altruism) come before practical occultism.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on October 26, 2012 at 9:44am
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Thank you,  Peter,  beautifully put.  How our lives would be very different if we only remember your last paragraph -

We might glean from this just what kind of impact our motives, our ethical and moral nature have upon our occult constitution and the skandhas we create for ourselves.  Likewise, through the sympathetic law of like attracts like, our occult constitution and ethical nature in turn influences the forces and powers in nature (whether higher or lower) that we evoke through our thoughts, desires and actions.  This is, in part, why HPB and her Masters teach that study, meditation and practical theosophy (altruism) come before practical occultism

 

Permalink Reply by Peter on October 26, 2012 at 6:33am
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The on-line "Key to Theosophy" can be found here:

http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/key/key-hp.htm

The footnote I felt might be relevant is in Section 1, footnote 2.

To add a footnote to my previous post and the notion that all evolution passes through the human stage in one manvantara or another see:

The Doctrine teaches that, in order to become a divine, fully conscious god,-aye, even the highest-the Spiritual primeval INTELLIGENCES must pass through the human stage. And when we say human, this does not apply merely to our terrestrial humanity, but to the mortals that inhabit any world, i.e., to those Intelligences that have reached the appropriate equilibrium between matter and spirit, as we have now, since the middle point of the Fourth Root Race of the Fourth Round was passed.
SD I 106

Permalink Reply by Peter on October 28, 2012 at 2:29am
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Daniel writes: We can see in the course of a person's life that the general tendency is for one to become all the more set in one's ways as one ages. If we never died and did not periodically shed these "dead branches," we would likely fail to progress past a certain point.
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Growing into old age can also bring with it a sense of freedom and a larger perspective on life. Each stage of our life, even the youngest, has the potential for both freedom and rigidity as any parent knows who has had to deal with the stubborn child who won't give way or refuses to be happy unless she gets what she wants.

The length of the cycle of our individual life is more likely determined by the karma that is destined to be played out in that particular existence. There are different types (aspects) of Karma. The Advaitins, for example, discuss three types of which Prarabdha Karma is intimately connected to the length of one's life.

Sanchita is the accumulated unexpended karma resulting from our many previous births. Only a portion of this karma is destined to be worked through in any one lifetime.

Prarabdha is that portion of our accumulated karma (sanchita) that ripens - positively and negatively - in the current lifetime.

Kriyamana is the new karma that we create in this current lifetime and which goes to form a part of our accumulated karma (sanchita). This will bear fruit in lives to come.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 9, 2012 at 11:26am
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Is it the role of individuation to slowly and gradually establish the cycles and rhythms of the universe into our own individual lives?  How is this process blocked by the lower  personal desires?

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on November 9, 2012 at 6:20pm
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What do you mean by 'individuation'?
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 11, 2012 at 1:17pm
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Good question.  I believe it has to do in part with the process each one of us must go through to elevate our consciousness from the plane of separative selfish consciousness to a more inclusive unifying consciousness.  Put another way it has to do with shifting identification from a personality separate from others to an Individuality (in=not dividual= divided) at one with others.  HPB says that one's true "Individuality" is practically omniscient.    See Key to Theosophy 32-35.  Exceedingly important part of the theosophical philosophy in my humble opinion.

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on November 15, 2012 at 9:34am
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I believe it is the role, or effect, of the cycles and rhythms of the universe, to move and finally establish our illusory separate individualities into the One all-inclusive Individual. It is the lower personal desires that keep us anchored in the illusion of separateness.