Key Concepts Study Group

Theosophical Tenets: Universal Brotherhood and Sisterhood

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    Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
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    Universal Brotherhood and Sisterhood, Human Solidarity

     “. . . we insist that universal brotherhood is a fact in nature. It is a fact for the lowest part of nature; for the animal kingdom, for the vegetable kingdom, and the mineral kingdom. We are all atoms, obeying the law together. Our denying it does not disprove it. It simply puts off the day of reward and keeps us miserable, poor, and selfish. Why, just think of it! if all in Chicago, in the United States, would act as Jesus has said, as Buddha has said, as Confucius said, as all the great ethical teachers of the world have said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” would there be any necessity for legal measures and policemen with clubs in this park as you had them the other day? No, I think there would be no necessity, and that is what one of this great Brotherhood has said. He said all the troubles of the world would disappear in a moment if men would only do one-quarter of what they could and what they ought. It is not God who is to damn you to death, to misery. It is yourself. . . . . Live with each other as brothers; for the misery and the trouble of the world are of more importance than all the scientific progress that may be imagined. I conclude by calling upon you by all that humanity holds dear to remember what I say, and whether Christians, Atheists, Jews, Pagans, Heathen, or Theosophists, try to practice universal brotherhood, which is the universal duty of all men.”

    — William Quan Judge, from an address given during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 (The Theosophical Society participated in the first World’s Parliament of Religions).

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Theosophical Tenets: Universal Brotherhood and Sisterhood

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    “The term “Universal Brotherhood” is no idle phrase. . . . It is the only secure foundation for universal morality. If it be a dream, it is at least a noble one for mankind and it is the aspiration of the true adept.”—Mahatma K.H. in a letter to A.P. Sinnet

  • Profile photo of Grace Cunningham
    Grace Cunningham
    Participant
    Profile photo of Grace CunninghamGrace Cunningham

    We are taught that no matter how strong and large our idea of universal brotherhood might be it can be enlarged. Mr. Judge talks about seeking to enlarge his sense of Brotherhood in one of his Letters That Have Helped Me. How do we determine where the boundaries of our own sense of brotherhood lie and how do we enlarge it?

    • Profile photo of Laura
      Laura
      Participant
      Profile photo of LauraLaura

      This is difficult as the work must be done on all planes.

      I like to consider that our lower nature is one as well. That we are all struggling to overcome or lift up the matter that surrounds us. We are all overcome by the lower iddhi at some point so it is well to give compassion to all who struggle. This helps to expand our understanding of Universal Brotherhood. In the opposite way we can celebrate and recognize the many ways in which people struggle with and overcome the lower forces every day.

      Whenever someone does something we do not like , look for the cause. Remember when we did some error similar and remembering our own struggle we feel compassion and understanding towards others.

    • Profile photo of Tamiko Yamada
      Tamiko Yamada
      Participant
      Profile photo of Tamiko YamadaTamiko Yamada

      I think what we are taught blocks brotherhood and sisterhood is a false separative sense of self. Every effort must be made to dissolve the separate self idea. This is very difficult. The lower mind is dependent upon an architecture of false attachments to name and form and history. When we try to deconstruct it through meditation and self study it pushes back, it asserts itself, it clings harder. This is my experience. Theosophy, if we would pursue universal brotherhood, requires us to struggle (fight in the words of the Gita) with the false self conception.

      • Profile photo of Ramprakash ML
        Ramprakash ML
        Participant
        Profile photo of Ramprakash MLRamprakash ML

        Lower self, therefore, is symbolized as Ass. When you push it, it pushes
        against you with equal force.

      • Profile photo of Samantha Province
        Samantha Province
        Participant
        Profile photo of Samantha ProvinceSamantha Province

        Thanks Tamiko for this post which really got the gears of my brain-mind turning.

        The reality of the emptiness of our conceptions of the self as a doer and enjoyer is the basis of Shantideva’s famous argument for compassion. Since pains are ultimately without an owner, we realize that everyone else’s pain is the same as our own; there is no distinction. Since pain ought to be prevented or made easier, we should attempt to alleviate everyone else’s pain just as we do our own.

        This got me thinking of another subject, free will, that ties into this. Most people have a false conception of free will, that our “selves” may do anything at all whatsoever without regard to causes and conditions. In reality, we could never have done otherwise than we did. But on the level of the Absolute, the noumenon, there is no causality and everything is entirely free. Since we are an aspect of the Absolute, ultimately we are completely free. As H.P.B. writes in Isis Unveiled, V1 pg. 184:

        “While man is free to act as he pleases, the manner in which he will act was foreknown from all time; not on the ground of fatalism or destiny, but simply on the principle of universal, unchangeable harmony; and, as it may be foreknown that, when a musical note is struck, its vibrations will not, and cannot change into those of another note. Besides, eternity can have neither past nor future, but only the present; as boundless space, in its strictly literal sense, can have neither distant nor proximate places. Our conceptions, limited to the narrow area of our experience, attempt to fit if not an end, at least a beginning of time and space; but neither of these exist in reality; for in such case time would not be eternal, nor space boundless. The past no more exists than the future, as we have said, only our memories survive; and our memories are but the glimpses that we catch of the reflections of this past in the currents of the astral light, as the psychometer catches them from the astral emanations of the object held by him.”

        Another name for “universal, unchangeable harmony” is karma.

        Gottfried de Purucker develops these thoughts in a very helpful and illuminating manner in his Dialogues, which can be read here.

        There are few philosophers who have developed this theme more extensively than Spinoza. This notion that we can act apart from causes and conditions makes us feel separate from other people. In reality, anyone who is in our lives is not there by accident; it could not be any other way. This is simply an aspect of the absolute unity and harmony that exists in the “Attribute of Thought” or mind of God. Neal Grossman, explicating Spinoza’s thought, writes:

        “We can speak of a force operating in the Attribute of Thought that attracts various souls together for a common purpose, and this force can be thought of as “spiritual” love. We can thus conclude that any personality with whom we are in close relationship-and this includes adversarial relationships-is in our lives as a consequence of the spiritual love that exists at the soul level. But just as two actors can be good friends and yet play adversarial roles on the stage, so also can souls be good friends, so to speak, and yet play adversarial roles in the theater of life.” (Spirit of Spinoza 144).

        The more we come to understand our identity with the Absolute the more we can appropriate this spiritual love into our conventional lives and make universal brotherhood and sisterhood a reality in our hearts.

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    From HPB’s Key to Theosophy

    THEOSOPHIST. We may divide each of the three objects into as many explanatory clauses as may be found necessary.

    ENQUIRER. Then let us begin with the first. What means would you resort to, in order to promote such a feeling of brotherhood among races that are known to be of the most diversified religions, customs, beliefs, and modes of thought?

    THEOSOPHIST. Allow me to add that which you seem unwilling to express. Of course we know that with the exception of two remnants of races — the Parsees and the Jews — every nation is divided, not merely against all other nations, but even against itself. This is found most prominently among the so-called civilized Christian nations. Hence your wonder, and the reason why our first object appears to you a Utopia. Is it not so?

    ENQUIRER. Well, yes; but what have you to say against it?

    THEOSOPHIST. Nothing against the fact; but much about the necessity of removing the causes which make Universal Brotherhood a Utopia at present.

    ENQUIRER. What are, in your view, these causes?

    THEOSOPHIST. First and foremost, the natural selfishness of human nature. This selfishness, instead of being eradicated, is daily strengthened and stimulated into a ferocious and irresistible feeling by the present religious education, which tends not only to encourage, but positively to justify it. People’s ideas about right and wrong have been entirely perverted by the literal acceptance of the Jewish Bible. All the unselfishness of the altruistic teachings of Jesus has become merely a theoretical subject for pulpit oratory; while the precepts of practical selfishness taught in the Mosaic Bible, against which Christ so vainly preached, have become ingrained into the innermost life of the Western nations. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” has come to be the first maxim of your law. Now, I state openly and fearlessly, that the perversity of this doctrine and of so many others Theosophy alone can eradicate.

    • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
      Pavel Axentiev
      Participant
      Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

      This, and other, similar quotes from the Key that I remember, show quite clearly what the First Object was about. It is not mere “do-good-ing,” as the modern theosophists seem to be inclined to believe. The object is much loftier than that. Of course, every true spiritual seeker is obliged to “see the Supersoul in every living being” (Isopanishad, 6, 7) and exercise compassion whenever one can, but reducing the first object to such small acts of kindness is dwarfing the original vision of HPB. Theosophy is much more than preaching morality in the kind of barren fashion that I see everywhere from online groups to the Adyar Conventions.

      One is expected to rise above the subjective morality of priests and preachers, as well as above personal “guilt-complexes” and morals instilled in us by our upbringing and not by the Higher Self. The acts of kindness on the personal level should be a “non-issue,” something that one doesn’t talk about – less so from the pulpits.

      Of course, some people need to be reminded, and a certain moral education may have its place. But, really, if we consider ourselves adults, this should be so ingrained in our soft tissues, that talking or, God forbid, bragging about it may, perhaps, be considered corny, trite, and platitudinous.

      Perhaps, the First Object of Theosophy had in view work on a much higher, and subtler level – something to do with “Collective Unconscious,” perhaps; something that will have an effect on a global scale, but will have nothing to do with cheap moralizing or political activity.

  • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
    Gerry Kiffe
    Moderator
    Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

    These are good points Laura. It seems to me that our Spiritual Teachers, whether they be HPB and WQJ, the Mahatmas that stand behind them, or any of the great Teachers of the past like Jesus, Buddha or Plato, in every case a premium has been set on human beings treating each other as family. Yet this has been extremely hard to achieve even in the most rudimentary way. The modern theosophical movement has been plagued with dissension. This week we honor WQJ and his treatment by the very Society he helped build is suspect at best.

    In my forty years of being connected to the theosophical movement I have witnessed intense antipathy and hard feelings between theosophical students often for the most personal and trite of reasons. In other cases the cracks between us were for profound reasons to which the brotherhood principle was not strong enough in us to span the distance. In both cases we failed.

    We have been asked to try and form a “nucleus” of universal brotherhood which I understand to mean a sense of family within the boundaries of our own limited circles. In other words with those immediately around us. But look how hard that has proven to be.

    When HPB made the point in the SD that further volumes would be made available based on the reception of the first two I believe one of the measures of this reception was how we treated each other. How far are we willing to sand away the personal imperative to make room for universal brotherhood? How much do we understand from the SD that leads us to see a larger sense of Self? It is no mystery to me why the next two volumes she promised were not delivered. Frankly we have not earned them yet.

    We simply have to do better. We have to make the first object of the society an imperative and make it supersede all other concerns. I welcome any contrary opinions.

    • This reply was modified 3 days, 19 hours ago by Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe Gerry Kiffe.
    • This reply was modified 3 days, 19 hours ago by Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe Gerry Kiffe.
    • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
      Pavel Axentiev
      Participant
      Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

      I think you’ve plucked some very deep chords here, Gerry.

      In Gurdjieff’s work, bringing different people together was said to almost inevitably create interpersonal “frictions.” This was to be used as part of the Work. Other people are, perhaps, the best indicators of our own inconsistencies and faults. However, there has to be an intention to work in this manner, because automatically good rarely happens.

      The “nucleus” may be there, with us not being aware of it. It is said that true Unity, Love, Consciousness, Will, Friendship are possible mainly for the Inner Circle of humanity.

  • Profile photo of Laura
    Laura
    Participant
    Profile photo of LauraLaura

    The personalities we encounter in our work for Theosophy are very important. We must love those who are antagonistic towards us, knowing that such energies or forces are from our past. It is good to remember we are dealing with forces and if we are going to be the better able to help others we must Conquer those forces, in the only place they should be challenged. Within. Unseen by others we beg I. The work. It is good if someone annoys us. It is an opportunity to work out on the inner . The mistake we make is if we blame our annoyance on others, or thinking we should leave the situation for a better one. I too have witness such conflicts, but I always saw my older student friends smile and continue with the work. I always visualized water around a rock as the best way to work. I like what one student said The lower nature is an ASS . When pushed it pushes back. Another student said if we make friends with the Higher Self we cannot be an enemy with the lower. We need to reach the point in the life as a student where we never allow the actions of others determine our course.

    • This reply was modified 3 days, 17 hours ago by Profile photo of Laura Laura.
  • Profile photo of barbara
    barbara
    Participant
    Profile photo of barbarabarbara

    “How do we determine where the boundaries of our own sense of brotherhood lie and how do we enlarge it?” – Grace

    For some, it is by study, by contemplation, and by observation, our consciousness and attitude gradually enlarge and we wake up to the essential “Unity” between us and the Kosmos. The more we are in tune with this consciousness of Unity, the more we express Universal Brotherhood and Sisterhood, outflowing from within to without.

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 16 hours ago by Profile photo of barbara barbara.
    • Profile photo of Ramprakash ML
      Ramprakash ML
      Participant
      Profile photo of Ramprakash MLRamprakash ML

      “Realization comes from dwelling upon the thing to be realized.” — Judge

      The process is slow but sure and steady.

  • Profile photo of barbara
    barbara
    Participant
    Profile photo of barbarabarbara

    “In my forty years of being connected to the theosophical movement I have witnessed intense antipathy and hard feelings between theosophical students often for the most personal and trite of reasons. In other cases the cracks between us were for profound reasons to which the brotherhood principle was not strong enough in us to span the distance. In both cases we failed.” – Gerry

    I am NO expert in the history of the Theosophical movement, but one thing comes to mind, that is, I believe somewhere in the TS literature, we are taught to defend the teachings and the teachers. This makes it very complicated because, as individuals, our psychological, karmic, cultural, family background, point of evolution, and personality types, vary; hence our ability to grasp the truths and understanding inevitably are different. These hard feelings leading to opposing conflicts may stem from a sense of loyalty to our own interpretation of the teachings. If we look at other traditions, we usually witness the same pattern of controversies, multiple splinter groups and dissension grow from the original source. Theosophy is no exception in this regard.

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 16 hours ago by Profile photo of barbara barbara.
    • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
      Pierre Wouters
      Moderator
      Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

      Very accurate point there Barbara!

    • Profile photo of Ramprakash ML
      Ramprakash ML
      Participant
      Profile photo of Ramprakash MLRamprakash ML

      Yet, in all these conflicts and confusions a few, very few, who attend to the Heart Doctirne, remain loyal to the Cause and to the lines of work traced out by the Masters. It is in this sishta (morally fit)which survive the crash of organizations that lie the promise of regeneration and growth along the right lines.

      “Great sifter is the name of the Heart Dictrine, Disciple.”

  • Profile photo of barbara
    barbara
    Participant
    Profile photo of barbarabarbara

    “In Gurdjieff’s work, bringing different people together was said to almost inevitably create interpersonal “frictions.” This was to be used as part of the Work. Other people are, perhaps, the best indicators of our own inconsistencies and faults. However, there has to be an intention to work in this manner, because automatically good rarely happens.” -Pavel

    Gurdjieff liked to create friction by including different personalities, especially discordant ones, in the group. His philosophy was to build an uncomfortable psychological situation so people can wake up and do not fall asleep. As it is, the world today is rampant with discords and strife.

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 16 hours ago by Profile photo of barbara barbara.

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