This group discusses the practical applications of the theosophical philosophy and the therapeutics of the wisdom of the ages.
The art of living study group intends to discuss the relevance and connection of theosophical ideas to the challenges and hurdles of daily life. This group will focus on the ethical issues, psychological challenges and artistic applications of theosophy to the daily round and the common task. While the other three groups freely move back and forth between the universal and the particular, the theoretical and the practical, this group will make an attempt to stay focused on the practical side of the art of living equation.
Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Dana and Dhyana
December 16, 2017 at 6:09 pm #6664
Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Dana and Dhyana
“The immortal soul abides in Silence, and when the restless mind ceases from thoughts, it may be merged into the inmost shrine of the Heart.” — Aquarian Almanac
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Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Dana and Dhyana
Garo KetchianParticipantGaro Ketchian December 19, 2017 at 9:27 pm #6673
We may want to consider some analogies. A biophysicist may describe love as resonance. A quantum physicist may describe simultaneous cause and effect as quantum entanglement. A musician may find a note plucked on a violin will cause a different violin in the same room to echo the same note.
Meditation requires devotion. The mind is difficult to control. A loving heart is required to bring the required resonance to the mind.
barbara December 22, 2017 at 2:47 am #6689
Perfection in meditation comes from perserving devotion to the Supreme Soul. — Patanjali
Would anyone be willing to elaborate on Patanjali’s connection between Love and Meditation?
In my view, devotion is not equivalent to love even though there are similarities between them. Devotion denote persistence which
involve the will along with the heart energy. There will be no success without persistence in our undertakings.
Jon Fergus December 22, 2017 at 9:45 am #6691
The difficulty here is that the topic is “Dana and Dhyana”, but you won’t find the term Dana in the Yoga Sutras, so we need to dive in a bit deeper. The verse quoted (2:45) is:
Theosophists will no doubt recognize certain terms: samādhi, siddhi, īśvara. praṇidhāna = pra + ni + dhā + na, where dhā is the root, the same root as the term dhāraṇa, and dhā means something like “hold/fix/place”.
It is WQJ’s translation given above:
“Perfection (siddhi) in meditation (samādhi) comes from persevering devotion (praṇidhāna) to the Supreme Soul (īśvara).”
“Soul-vision (samādhi) is perfected (siddhi) through perfect obedience (praṇidhāna) to the Master (īśvara).” (Johnston)
So if the question is about a connection between Love or “Dana” (dāna, from the root dā, which is different than dhā) and Dhyana, then the actual question becomes: what, if anything, is the relation between dā and dhā? dā means something like “give/grant/provide”. So… holding/fixing/placing and give/grant/provide.
It is interesting if we ponder on this in relation to the way we use the term “love” in modern society. I’d say we do use it in a way that encompasses both of these ideas: if you love someone, you are holding to them, fixing a place for them in your heart; there is a kind of sustained meditation on the object or subject of your love. There is also an obvious aspect of giving/providing involved in loving someone. We hold them and give to them simultaneously, which might be a good way to think about what marriage is all about: mutually fixing each other together into an insoluble bond and then mutually giving and providing for one another.
There’s an interesting idea in Christianity about being “married” to Christ or God (see here, for instance), and perhaps there is some overlap between the meaning there and the meaning in Patanjali’s sutra. Patanjali seems to indicate that holding/fixing yourself to īśvara is a key to perfecting samādhi, and the Christian idea is something like: to be married to Christ is a key to knowing God.
So… this may be one possible way to approach the question.
Kirk Marzulo December 27, 2017 at 1:03 am #6704
Judge surely chose the term ‘persevering devotion’ in his translation of this sutra for good reason. Devotion and love, at least within the Hindu tradition, are closely aligned.
According to the Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary, the word bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit root bhaj, whose primary meaning is “to serve, honor, revere, love and adore.” In the venerated Bhakti Sutras of Narada, bhakti is defined as “the religion of Divine Love”, “innate in every human being” and as “the easiest and best” of all paths to spiritual awakening (see Narada Bhakti Sutras, as translated by Swami Tyagisananda). Narada also points to bhakti as the highest of the three ‘margas’ or paths, for it requires the synthesis of the highest love and devotion with karma yoga—“the path of works” and jnana yoga—“the path of knowledge.” If “Perfection in meditation” as described in the Yoga Sutras, is undertaken on the path of renunciation as outlined in the Gita or the Voice, it would undoubtedly also involve the realization of the highest form of universal love, called “Compassion Absolute” in the final pages of the VOS.
“He who serves Me with the unswerving yoga of devotion transcending the gunas, gains the fitness to become like unto brahman.”
-The Bhagavad Gita, XIV, 26
Jon Fergus December 27, 2017 at 6:51 pm #6706
This is an interesting approach also, Kirk, as we also won’t find the specific term “bhakti” in the Yoga Sutras (so we have a similar situation as with dāna), but Judge is drawing us in the direction of that idea it seems. While Judge (in the Gita) always translated “bhakti” as “devotion”, he uses the idea of devotion here also when dealing with the term praṇidhāna, which as I noted above is directly related to the term “dhārana” (concentration). So what interests me here is if Judge is trying to draw our attention to a connection between devotion and the kind of focus/holding/concentrating that we associate with the root “dhā” and terms like “dhārana” (which, of course, is a key idea in Yoga). And then, as Gerry seems to be asking, can we take that connection and relate it to love? And then… what is the connection between those related ideas and dhyana, as this week’s theme asks us to ponder?
Personally, I think devotion might be akin to concentration/fixing/holding/etc. in a very fundamental and deep way. Do we devote ourselves to that which we fix our minds on? Following that idea my question would be: does that imply love also, or is it possible to devote ourselves without love? Or is love an intrinsic part of the “bond” aspect of devotion (i.e. connecting aspects of ourselves (the “heart”?) to that which we fix our minds on)?
Then….. how does this fixing/holding/devotion/love relate to dhyana or meditation? Are they aspects of dhyana from a certain point of view?
ModeratorTN December 21, 2017 at 5:54 pm #6678
December 20, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: Dana and Dhyana
He lets his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of Love, and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, and everywhere, does he continue to pervade with heart of Love far-reaching, grown great and beyond measure. — Buddha
Remember, thou that fightest for man’s liberation, each failure is success, and each sincere attempt wins its reward in time.
—The Voice of the Silence
ModeratorTN December 21, 2017 at 5:55 pm #6679
December 21, 2017 Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Dana and Dhyana
By setting a particular time for meditation a habit is formed, and as the time comes around the mind will, after a while, become trained, so that meditation at that particular time will become natural. — W.Q. Judge
Kirk Marzulo December 28, 2017 at 8:32 am #6707
Thanks Jon. These seem like fruiful questions and an intriquing line of thought.
In The Science of Yoga, I. K. Taimini translates the sutra in this way:
“45. Accomplishment of Samādhi (arises) from resignation to God.”
Taimini points out that the term Iśvara-praṇidhānāt, is first used in the Sutras in Book II, verse 32. There Tamini translates the word as “self-surrender” and Judge (again) as “persevering devotion to the Supreme Soul.” Taimini has an instructive and extensive commentary on both verses (p 220-230 and 250-252). I will just quote a few small exerts here:
“The practice of Iśvara-praṇidhānāt therefore begins with the mental assertion “Not my will but Thy Will be done’ but it does not end there. There is a steady effort to bring about a continuous recession of consciousness from the level of the personality which is the seat of ‘I’ consciousness into the consciousness of the Supreme whose will is working out in the manifested world. This effort may take many forms…(but) if the Sādhaka pursues his ideal with persevereance he succeeds in becoming a conscious agent of the Divine. His false lower ‘I’ disappears and the Divine Will can work freely through the ‘I’-less center of his consciousness. This is real Karma-Yoga.
“The practice of Iśvara-praṇidhānāt takes a different form if the Sādhaka…is treading the path of Bhakti. Here the emphasis is not on the merging of the individual will in the Divine Will but on the union with the Beloved through love…Here it is love which is the driving force and which brings about the destruction of egoism and fusion of consciousness and Samādhi is the result.
“The careful student will be able to see in Iśvara-praṇidhānāt the essence of Bhakti-Yoga…” p 230
- This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Kirk Marzulo.
Jon Fergus December 28, 2017 at 9:44 am #6709
Thanks Kirk. That commentary really brings together the ideas well, especially in connecting them to love.
Taimini mentions both Karma-Yoga and Bhakti-Yoga. If we turn to sutra 2:1, we’ll find Kriya-Yoga mentioned in direct relation to this “Iśvara-praṇidhānāt” as well:
Here we have these three: tapas, svādhyāya [self-knowledge] and iśvarapraṇidhāna, as that which constitutes Kriya-Yoga.
I just looked at Charles Johnston’s commentary to sutra 2:45, and his approach is much the same as Taimini’s (with a focus on Will):
“Soul-vision is perfected through perfect obedience to the Master.
“The sorrow and darkness of life come of the erring personal will which sets itself against the will of the Soul, the one great Life. The error of the personal will is inevitable, since each will must be free to choose, to try and fail, and so to find the path. And sorrow and darkness are inevitable, until the path be found, and the personal will made once more one with the greater Will, wherein it finds rest and power, without losing freedom. In His will is our peace. And with that peace comes light. Soul-vision is perfected through obedience.”
The famous Yogabhashya has this to say:
“One whose whole nature is surrendered to Isvara has perfection (siddhi) of meditation (samadhi). By which he knows directly all that he desires to know, in other places and in other bodies and in other times. Thereafter his Prajna sees into things as they are.”
So one of the key ideas seems to be that of an impersonalizing of the Will. The question on my mind now is this: is true devotion always impersonal? is true love always impersonal? Meaning… is the element of impersonality key to both of those things? And so… are both love and devotion things that must be learned through practice? This would, I think, be a different approach than the common ways that love is represented in our culture as something natural and sponteneous, i.e. something that happens to you as opposed to something you learn to do.
Do we need to learn to love like we need to learn to meditate?
Peter December 28, 2017 at 3:21 pm #6710
Judge’s renditions of the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita were based on the very few english translations of those texts available at the time. He didn’t translate them himself, as far as we know.
The term devotion is also used to mean dedication or loyalty in addition to all the other good suggestions made in previous posts. The term dedication is sometimes interchangeable with the term love. For example, dedication might have a relevance to the philosophers of Plato’s times, known as lovers of truth. Interestingly, it’s very difficult to love something (in the usual sense of that word) when you do not yet know what that something is, but we can be dedicated to the discovery of it.
In terms of Patanjali’s Sutras and phrases such as ‘devotion to Isvara therein – would it be useful to look into what is meant by the term Isvara? Some commentators render it as the Self; some as God. They may be other ways to interpret it, at least as suggested by verse 1:24 in Patanjali:
Isvara is a particular purusha, who is untouched by the afflictions of life,
actions and the results and impressions produced by these actions.
(I:24; trans. Taimni)
The key phrase in the above verse is ‘a particular purusha’. Various translations give this as ‘a particular soul’, ‘a special soul’ , ‘a distinct purusha’ & so on. So, this verse doesn’t appear to point to Isvara as ‘the Self’, God, or Atman.
Does the Secret Doctrine offer any clues as to what a ‘particular purusha’ could refer to? The following passages might:
‘The Endowers of man with his conscious, immortal ego, are the “ Solar Angels ” — whether so regarded metaphorically or literally. The mysteries of the Conscious ego or human Soul are great. The esoteric name of these “ Solar Angels ” is, literally, the “ Lords ” ( Nath ) of “persevering ceaseless devotion” ( pranidhâna ). Therefore they of the fifth principle ( Manas ) seem to be connected with, or to have originated the system of the Yogis who make of pranidhâna their fifth observance (see Yoga Shastra, II., 32.) It has already been explained why the trans-Himalayan Occultists regard them as evidently identical with those who in India are termed Kumâras, Agnishwattas, and the Barhishads.
‘How precise and true is Plato’s expression, how profound and philosophical his remark on the (human) soul or ego, when he defined it as “ a compound of the same and the other.” And yet how little this hint has been understood, since the world took it to mean that the soul was the breath of God, of Jehovah. It is “ the same and the other,” as the great Initiate-Philosopher said ; for the ego (the “ Higher Self ” when merged with and in the Divine Monad) is Man, and yet the same as the “ other,” the Angel in him incarnated, as the same with the universal Mahat.’
SD II 88
‘When, moved by the law of Evolution, the Lords of Wisdom infused into him the spark of consciousness, the first feeling it awoke to life and activity was a sense of solidarity, of one-ness with his spiritual creators. As the child’s first feeling is for its mother and nurse, so the first aspirations of the awakening consciousness in primitive man were for those whose element he felt within himself, and who yet were outside, and independent of him. DEVOTION arose out of that feeling, and became the first and foremost motor in his nature ; for it is the only one which is natural in our heart, which is innate in us, and which we find alike in human babe and the young of the animal. This feeling of irrepressible, instinctive aspiration in primitive man is beautifully, and one may say intuitionally, described by Carlyle. “ The great antique heart,” he exclaims, “ how like a child’s in its simplicity, like a man’s in its earnest solemnity and depth ! heaven lies over him wheresoever he goes or stands on the earth ; making all the earth a mystic temple to him, the earth’s business all a kind of worship…”’
SD II 210
Peter December 29, 2017 at 11:25 am #6713
Apologies for all the italics in the previous post. The software keep added more italics than I had selected when formatting the text. The online version is correct. The email version gets sent before there is time to edit the post.
Below is a passage from Plato’s Republic, which may be relevant to our topic.
Socrates: One trait in the philosopher’s character we can assume is his love of any branch of learning that reveals eternal reality, the realm unaffected by the vicissitudes of change and decay… He is in love with the whole of that reality, and will not willingly be deprived even of the most insignificant fragment of it… He will never willingly tolerate an untruth, but will hate it, just as he loves truth – just like lovers and men of ambition we described earlier on… it is an absolute necessary characteristic of the lover that he should be devoted to everything closely connected with the object of his love. (The Republic 485a-c)
Kirk Marzulo December 29, 2017 at 4:52 pm #6714
In Plato’s Symposium, in the discourse of Diotima, it is Eros, which interprets and makes possible a communication between the divine and the human. Through love “the science of sacred things” is made known to man.
And in discussing the impersonality of true love, we should include the well-known passage from the Rig Veda:
“Desire (Kama) which first arose in It, which was the primal germ of Mind and which Sages, searching with their intellect, have discovered in their heart to be the bond which connects Entity with non-Entity.”
In the S.D., H. P. B. explains that Kamadeva or Kama as a cosmic principle, though degraded by its later popular attributions, is among the most profound and mysterious of metaphysical subjects. Among his many names she says, Kama is Aja “Unborn”, and Atmabhu “Self-Existent.” She also connects Kama with ‘Divine Love,’ with the Greek Eros and also with the Tibetan term Fohat, as “the electric Power of affinity and sympathy…shown allegorically as trying to bring the pure Spirit, the Ray inseparable from the ONE absolute, into union with the Soul, the two constituting in Man the MONAD…” (i, 119) Love (then it seems) as a divine, universal principle may be thought of not only as that mysterious impulse which propels unity to differentiate into multiplicity, but once discovered as the spiritual Will within us, allows for (powers? propels?) the self-conscious return of the ray back to its source, of the Many back to the One.
Similarly, as we saw in the quote for Wednesday, Dec. 27th and from Jon’s links, for Christian mystics such as Jacob Boehme and Thomas à Kempis, the idea of love as expressed in many parts of the New Testament was not only the equivalent of God, but as a human virtue, the primal fount from which all other virtues flowed.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love…If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? -I John 4:7-21, 3:14
“Love is a mighty power, a great and complete good…Love gives all for all, resting in One who is highest above all things, from whom every good flows and proceeds…Love is watchful, and whilst resting never sleeps; weary, it is never exhausted; imprisoned, it is never in bonds; alarmed, it is never afraid; like a living flame and a burning torch, it surges upward and surely surmounts every obstacle.” -Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, chap 42
Jon Fergus January 12, 2018 at 9:16 am #6772
Here’s another quote from the SD (just shared on another discussion) which gives an occult approach to the meaning of Isvara (italics added for emphasis):
“Atma is not-Spirit in its final Parabrahmic state, Iswara or Logos is Spirit; or, as Occultism explains, it is a compound unity of manifested living Spirits, the parent-source and nursery of all the mundane and terrestrial monads, plus their divine reflection, which emanate from, and return into, the Logos, each in the culmination of its time.” -S.D., Vol 1, p 573.
So above we have Isvara as a “particular purusha”, and here we have Isvara as “a compound unity of manifested living spirits”, and it would seem to me that Isvara is both, depending on our point of view. Taimni’s commentary on the following verse in the Yoga Sutras (1:25) sheds light on that. I would suggest that we’re dealing with something like this: the connection to Isvara that each individual has is through his “particular purusha”, and thus Isvara is to him one and the same as that purusha. Isvara presents itself to the aspirant as a particular purusha, but as Taimni points out, Isvara itself is the “particular purusha” of the solar system. That is to say: it is a compound unity: as a compound it is a multiplicity of particular purushas, as a unity it is the presiding deity of the system in which those purushas are active; and from a higher perspective it is likely but one particular purusha of a larger Isvara, and so on and on “upwards”).
Perhaps, at a certain stage or state of samadhi, there can be a shift from identification with Isvara as a particular purusha (“Isvara is me”) to Isvara as the presiding deity (“I am Isvara”)…
Peter January 2, 2018 at 7:41 pm #6732
Here are just a few thoughts on Eros (Love) in Plato’s Symposium. Something interesting is going on there, particularly in the section where Socrates recalls the time when the woman Diotima treated him to the kind of dialectical exchange that Socrates is well known for in his dialogues with his own interlocutors. Diotima means ‘honoured by Zeus.’ There are only a few occasions throughout Plato’s dialogues when Socrates is taught something by a woman and this is a woman who goes on to outline to Socrates the steps in the Mysteries which leads to the apprehension of the Beauty. So, she is clearly an important figure, whether or not she is historically real.
It is normal to think of Eros as a God. The early Greek tradition as in the Theogany of Hesiod has him coming into being at the origin of the Universe. Later traditions during Plato’s time viewed Eros as the son of Aphrodite. Plato takes a different course as Diomita gets Socrates to agree that Eros (Love) is neither a god nor human. She explains that Love is an intermediary guiding spirit (a daemon) of which there are many. The daemons are the intermediary spirits that interpret and carry things to the gods from human beings and likewise interpret and carry things from the gods to humans. Love is the intermediary between the two, par excellence, hence connected with all kinds of divination.
Diomita explains that Love was born on Aphrodite’s birthday, hence his affinity to Beauty; that his mother was Penia (Poverty) and his father was Poros (Resource). Born of Poverty, homeless and having nothing of its own, Love is yet tough and seeks in a resourceful way for that in which it is deficient. For love is always a ‘love of’ – a love or desire for that which it lacks or is in need. Love is not good nor beautiful, which is why it seeks beauty and the good.
Love is neither immortal nor mortal, she goes on to say. Love comes into being at one moment and may die the very same day. Yet being his father’s son, he keeps coming back to life. But what ever he finds slips away which is why Love is never without resources but also never rich (203c). Likewise, Love is between Wisdom and Ignorance. The gods do not love wisdom for they are already wise. Nor do the ignorant who are happy with their ignorance love wisdom, for they do not recognise their lack or feel in no need of it.
At this point Socrates asks Diotima, ‘who exactly are the people who love wisdom, if they are neither wise nor ignorant?’ To which she replies:
‘Those who love wisdom fall between the two extremes. And Love is one of them, because he is in love with what is beautiful, and wisdom is extremely beautiful. It follows that Love must be a lover of Wisdom.’ (204b)
In the above passage, Diomita appears to be describing Love as the Philosopher. Her fuller description of Love in the text would certainly fit Socrates himself.
There’s also an interesting link around this part of the dialogue to ‘true opinion’, the intermediary between wisdom and ignorance. Some students of theosophy scoff at the notion of opinion, perhaps without realising that Plato distinguishes between true and false opinion. Plato stresses in a number of places that true opinion is an essential stepping stone towards knowledge proper (noesis). The ignorant who are happy with their ignorance and have no need of wisdom would be among those who suffer from false opinion.
(To be continued…)
Peter January 4, 2018 at 12:44 pm #6735
Continued from post #6732
A recurring theme in Plato’s dialogues is the idea that all people seek the good and happiness. No one deliberately seeks that which is bad and that which brings them unhappiness and misery. People only seek that which eventually brings them unhappiness and misery out of the ignorance. (A good example of this argument can be found in the Meno, around the stephanus numbering 77-78). This is something the Dalai Lama often repeats, and so do Advaitin sages such as Ramana Maharshi. So, it’s no surprise that we find this theme arises in the Symposium. When the question is raised, ‘what is the point of loving beautiful things?’ the answer comes from Diotima that Love takes many forms and through it people seek happiness. Essentially what people love is ‘the good’ and they seek to possess the good forever. Wanting to possess the good forever is desire for a certain kind of immortality. In fact, Love desires immortality and seeks that through reproduction and birth in beauty, says Diomita. (206e)
Diotima goes on to explain that sexual reproduction is what mortals have in place of immortality. She also gives quite a long discussion as to how the same thing remains the same over time throughout many different changes, which is too long to put here. Essentially just as poet seeks to give birth in beauty through producing a work of poetry, so the Lover, seeking immortality, also seeks to bring the beautiful to birth. We each find different ways of leaving something of ourselves behind after death: a loving couple leave children; the heroes leave honour and fame; the poet leaves her poems; the great lawmaker leave laws, order and justice behind & so on.
Importantly, we are all pregnant in body and soul, says Diotima. Those more pregnant in body pursue love with the opposite sex and reproduce through childbirth. Those more pregnant in soul bring into being that which is fitting for a soul to bear, namely Wisdom and virtue. In keeping with her earlier assertion that Love (Eros) desires Beauty and the Good most of all, Diotima goes on to outline the steps in the Ladder of Love (see 210a-211d).
The lover begins by devoting himself to one beautiful body ‘begetting beautiful ideas there.’ Then he should realise that the beauty of any one body is akin to the beauty of any other, so it would be foolish to pursue the one rather than recognise and love the beauty that is in them all. Then the lover must realise that the soul’s beauty is more valuable than that of bodies; that someone may be beautiful of soul even though not of body. Then the lover learns to look upon the beauty that is within laws and activities that are akin to his own soul and further realise that the beauty of bodies is a trivial thing of no significance. Then the lover comes to realise the beauty of the various sciences and types of knowledge, and having turned toward that great sea of beauty the lover gives birth to beautiful and wonderful ideas and speeches. Eventually, strengthened there by an unfailing love of Wisdom he perceives at last a certain special Wisdom and Knowledge of BEAUTY, which is the goal of all Love.
This BEAUTY always IS. It does not come to be, nor pass away; it neither waxes nor wanes. It is not beautiful in one way, ugly in another; nor beautiful at one time and ugly at another. It is not beautiful by comparison to any other thing. It does not appear in the guise of anything that belongs to the body. Nor does it appear as one idea or one kind of knowledge. It is not anywhere in some one or another thing whether on earth or in heaven. It IS, alone and by itself and within itself. It is always one in form. All other beautiful things that share in it do so in such a way that it neither becomes more nor less. Nor is it in any way affected by them when they come to perish.
The above two posts are a mere summary of Diotima’s exchange with Socrates. Any one interested should read the proper text rather than my summary.
More thoughts to come, but please feel free to comment and share any thoughts of your own – anybody. There may well be plenty of value in the passages from Symposion in these two posts relating to Gerry’s original question as to the relationship between love and meditation.
barbara January 5, 2018 at 12:46 am #6739
“More thoughts to come, but please feel free to comment and share any thoughts of your own – anybody. ”
Thank you for the summary of Diotima’s exchange with Socrates. There is a lot to digest … The one impression I have from the reading is that it seems to be describing an idealized version of love because this is not what I see around me. People are propelled and motivated by selfish desires (kama); they seek personal happiness through different means. But I am not sure we can think of the object of their desire as “the good” or beauty because often times, it is not.
Peter January 10, 2018 at 3:05 pm #6764
Hi Barbara – yes, good point. What we see around us are people, including ourselves, largely propelled and motivated by selfishness. It’s clear from the dialogues he wrote that Plato also saw the same kind of thing around him in ancient Athens and further afield. So what was he getting at?
Plato appears to seriously believe that even when people desire ‘the bad’ – those things that will sooner or later bring them harm and misery – they do so believing those things will bring them benefit (the good) and happiness. Is Plato saying anything different here that we don’t find in, say, buddhism, I wonder. Buddhism tells us that out of ignorance we crave and grasp after things we believe will bring us happiness but it just leads to suffering and rebirth? In the Symposium, Plato seems to suggest that beneath all our longings is a desire or love for that which is truly Beauty, but mostly (perhaps even always), due to ignorance we look for it in the wrong place, namely in the every changing and impermanent empirical realm of the senses. Plato wants us to realise the ‘good’ qualities the empirical realm appears to possess are simply reflections of the Forms in the Ideal Realm. He is clearly an Idealist from that point of view.
To put it slightly differently Plato appears to say that the objects of our desire are merely symbols of something deeper or higher belonging the Soul’s yearning. The notion in the Symposium that Poverty is the mother of Love and Love is therefore alway poor suggests, perhaps, that we need to become lovers, not possessors. For example, we need to love learning rather than desire to acquire knowledge. That Resource is the father of Love suggests, perhaps, that we have the resources within us to take up Love’s search for that which is true and everlasting.
In the Symposium Plato draws our attention away from our rather romanticised ideas of love as a universal force that will save us and pull us out of the hole we are in. We have to give birth to Love within ourselves for ourselves before we can place even one foot on the Ladder leading to the highest mysteries.
James January 4, 2018 at 9:06 am #6733
Some ideas that may help students understand Mythology, Theosophy, and its link to Astrology, could be to add their current names as most of the Gods are the personified energy of the planets, both sacred and non-sacred, thus helping make their energy’s and meaning become clearer.
‘Love was born on Aphrodite’s (Venus) birthday’; The 3rd root race born under Venus when the Solar Angels brought the spark of the mind to animal man allowing him to eventually understand love and start climbing Plato’s “Ladder of Love” on how sexual desire leads to philosophical insight given by Diotima.
Venus is/rules both the Higher and Lower mind, from HPB’s work. Therefore love potentially only came to animal man on the birth-day of Venus in each of us.
Venus’s adulterous weekends with Mars, the “God of War”, and the symbol of the generative and creative power, is symbolic of our Kama-manas/desire mind with Venus desiring a “powerful, virile man”
Eros is also known as Cupid, whose arrows enflame the heart.
Both views would be correct, he came in at the origin of the Universe, but for man only as the result (son) of Venus the mind.
- This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by James.
Peter January 10, 2018 at 1:19 pm #6762
A bit of a late response, James – apologies. Your link between the birth of Love on Aphrodite’s birthday (in Plato’s Symposium) and the birth of 3rd root race born under Venus, when the Solar angels awakened the spark of mind in animal man is interesting. For we find in the Secret Doctrine the suggestion that both Manas and Kama were brought into being in the human constitution by the Solar Angels. As HPB writes:
‘For, to complete the septenary man, to add to his three lower principles and cement them with the spiritual Monad which could never dwell in such a form otherwise than in an absolutely latent state – two connecting principles are needed: Manas and Kama, This requires a living spiritual Fire of the middle principle from the fifth and third states of Pleroma. But this fire is the possession of the Triangles, not of the (perfect) Cubes, which symbolize the Angelic Beings..’ (SD II 79)
Later on in the work we find it stated again that Kama, the vehicle of desire evolved only in the 3rd Root Race (SD II 116) What was the first manifestation of that desire, presumable still yet pure as the 3rd root race humanity were at that time still ‘free from sin’? Perhaps one answer is in the passage I already quoted in my earlier post, one worth giving again, at least in part:
‘When, moved by the law of Evolution, the Lords of Wisdom infused into him the spark of consciousness, the first feeling it awoke to life and activity was a sense of solidarity, of one-ness with his spiritual creators. As the child’s first feeling is for its mother and nurse, so the first aspirations of the awakening consciousness in primitive man were for those whose element he felt within himself, and who yet were outside, and independent of him. DEVOTION arose out of that feeling, and became the first and foremost motor in his nature..’ (SD II 210)
The other passage from the SD I quoted earlier made a connection between the Solar Angels, pranidhana (devotion) and the Yoga Sutras attributed to Patanjali:
‘The esoteric name of these “ Solar Angels ” is, literally, the “ Lords ” ( Nath ) of “persevering ceaseless devotion” ( pranidhâna ). Therefore they of the fifth principle ( Manas ) seem to be connected with, or to have originated the system of the Yogis who make of pranidhâna their fifth observance (see Yoga Shastra, II., 32.)’ (SD II 88)
The initial question I raised is how might we understand the notion of ‘Devotion to Iswara’ in Patanjali’s Sutras. Does it simply refer to God as many commentators suggest or might there be another meaning? One of the traditional views as to the origin of the Yoga Sutras of Patantajali is that they were meant as a systemisation of the teaching within the Samkhya Philosophy. The Samkhya Philosophy of Kapila does not appear to speculate upon the existence of God or of no God. The two-fold ultimate reality in Samkhya consists of Purusha and Prakriti. Even Purusha appears to be a multiplicity of individual purushas, similar to our multiplicity of individual monads in Theosophy. The Theistic element was added to the Samkhya philosophy much later, just as it was added later in Advaita Vedanta. So, keeping the original teachings of Samkhya philosophy in mind, when Patanjali says that Isvara is a special or particular kind of purusha, what might that mean?
‘Isvara is a particular purusha, who is untouched by the afflictions of life,
actions and the results and impressions produced by these actions.’
(I:24; trans. Taimni)
Might we see a link here with the passages above from the Secret Doctrine? And how might it link with the daimon on tutelary spirit (Love) of which Diotima says there are many in Plato’s Symposium? These are just a few of the questions on devotion, love and desire that come to mind as I reflect on this topic of love and contemplation.
James January 13, 2018 at 6:19 am #6776
All helpful. HPB says somewhere that there can be ‘no Kama (individual?) without Manas’ which is understandable as the mind is needed to understand why we desire this instead of that leading to Kama if an incorrect choice is made, with this individual Kama being stored in the causal body to be worked out later, presumably under the direction of the Solar Angels.
With regards to Love and Devotion it might be helpful to look at the three separate evolutions of Spirit, Soul, Body (worlds of form) as from memory they have their own laws therefore understanding Soul Love and Devotion can be difficult using human form benchmarks for the formless worlds .
Lastly; Venus was married to Vulcan, God of Fire, indicating her direct connection/bonding to Spirit and the Fire of the Triangles.
Peter January 13, 2018 at 2:41 pm #6782
(Apologies to members if you receive this twice. I had trouble getting this message to post, and I also didn’t receive a copy myself, so I thought it best to repost.)
That’s a useful direction to begin reflecting upon this. My own view is that with regards to the Iswara conceived as the unity of the collective consciousnesses of the Host of Dhyan Chohans we need to be a bit cautious should we find ourselves conceiving of Iswara as a spiritual entity in its own right, independent of those ‘manifested living Spirits’ (the Dhyan Chohans) in the passage you’ve given from the SD.
Taimni presents the view that Iswara is an independent Spirit in its own right that holds ‘the Office’ of Lord and Supreme Ruler of the Solar System. He writes: ‘It is in His Consciousness that the Solar System lives, moves and has its being. The different planes of the Solar System are His bodies and the powers working the machinery of the Solar System are His powers. In short, He is the Reality whom we generally refer to as God.’ (Commentary on 1:24 Yoga Sutras.)
Contrast Taimni’s view above with the words of the Mahatma KH:
‘Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of all in one whose pronoun necessitates a capital H. . . . You were told that our knowledge was limited to this our solar system: ergo as philosophers who desired to remain worthy of the name we could not either deny or affirm the existence of what you termed a supreme, omnipotent, intelligent being of some sort beyond the limits of that solar system. But if such an existence is not absolutely impossible, yet unless the uniformity of nature’s law breaks at those limits we maintain that it is highly improbable. Nevertheless we deny most emphatically the position of agnosticism in this direction, and as regards the solar system. Our doctrine knows no compromises. It either affirms or denies, for it never teaches but that which it knows to be the truth. Therefore, we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists. We know there are planetary and other spiritual lives, and we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal. Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law, and Iswar is the effect of Avidya and Maya, ignorance based upon the great delusion. . . . The idea of God is not an innate but an acquired notion.’
(Mahamatma Letters to Sinnett, no 10; Barker ed. bold emphasis added)
In HPB’s writings and in the Mahatma Letters to Sinnett, Iswara is more often than not treated as the creative power of the collective dhyan chohans when explained from the perspective of Occultism or Theosophy. It is not portrayed as the Self, a God or God, nor a Being of any kind as the following two quoted passages indicate.
‘It is on the right comprehension of this tenet in the Brâhmanas and Purânas that hangs, we believe, the apple of discord between the three Vedantin Sects : the Advaita, Dwaita, and the Visishtadvaitas. The first arguing rightly that Parabrahman, having no relation, as the absolute all, to the manifested world — the Infinite having no connection with the finite — can neither will nor create ; that, therefore, Brahmâ, Mahat, Iswara, or whatever name the creative power may be known by, creative gods and all, are simply an illusive aspect of Parabrahmam in the conception of the conceivers ; while the other sects identify the impersonal Cause with the Creator, or Iswara.’ (SD I 451)
It’s worth noting in passing that HPB presents of the view of Vedantins in her works without always clarifying which one of the three sects above she is referring to. So, the above passage is a good one to keep in mind in general. The difference between those Vedantin sects along with the views of Occultism or Theosophy can be seen in the following passage, which comes just before the quote you have already given, Jon. For ease of reading I’ve quoted the whole passage:
‘The Logos, or both the unmanifested and the manifested Word, is called by the Hindus, Iswara, “the Lord,” though the Occultists give it another name. Iswara, say the Vedantins, is the highest consciousness in nature. “ This highest consciousness,” answer the Occultists, “is only a synthetic unit in the world of the manifested Logos — or on the plane of illusion; for it is the sum total of Dhyan-Chohanic consciousnesses.” “Oh, wise man, remove the conception that not-Spirit is Spirit,” says Sankarâchârya. Atma is not-Spirit in its final Parabrahmic state, Iswara or Logos is Spirit ; or, as Occultism explains, it is a compound unity of manifested living Spirits, the parent-source and nursery of all the mundane and terrestrial monads, plus their divine reflection, which emanate from, and return into, the Logos, each in the culmination of its time. (SD I 573)
The definition of Iswara is expressed clearly and succinctly in ‘The Key..’:
‘Iswara is the collective consciousness of the manifested deity, Brahma, i. e., the collective consciousness of the Host of Dhyan Chohans . . . and Pragna is their individual wisdom.’ (Key to Theosophy, 189, original edition)
Jon Fergus January 13, 2018 at 8:43 pm #6788
Thanks Peter. Really good info there, and I think an incredibly important point made in the ML quote there.
I want to suggest that something being a “collective consciousness” doesn’t imply that it isn’t also an individual consciousness at the same time. This is from the Secret Doctrine Dialogues (p. 478):
“Mr. B. Keightley: Question 8. Has a planet an individuality as a man has an Ego?
Mme. Blavatsky: It has. Its ruling spirit, or governor, as it is called in Pimander, is self-conscious. Any questions to that?
Mr. Kingsland: That has been partially answered before.”
The idea that the ruling spirit here is “self-conscious” is very intriguing. I suggest that every self-conscious being is not only a self-conscious individuality but also a collective, and that every collective is also an individual self-consciousness. I am self-conscious, and my body is a collective of individual consciousnesses; they are all acting in their own way with their own will and consciousness of their own type, but we can’t say that I am only that collective; I also have a self-consciousness of my own, an ego or sense of individual “I”. Same for a planet, it would seem, or a solar system, etc. So I would view Isvara as an individual consciousness, “self-conscious” in its own way, while also being a collective consciousness (of dhyan chohans).
This isn’t the same as saying that there is a “God” in the typical sense of the term, because it’s not claiming absoluteness of any kind to such a being. Isvara is limited; “his” omniscience only applies to the system over which he rules, so to speak, as Taimni points out in his comments on the sutra 1:25:
“Since each Solar system is the manifestation of the consciousness of its Isvara and each Isvara represents a definite stage in the infinite unfoldment of consciousness in the world of the Relative, it follows that His knowledge though almost unlimited in relation to the other Purusas in the Solar system must be considered to be limited in relation to the Ultimate Reality of which He is a partial manifestation. We should not forget that manifestation always implies limitation and even an Isvara is in the realm of Maya however thin may be the veil of Illusion which separates His consciousness from that of the Nirguna Brahman who alone can be considered unlimited in the real sense of the term. So the Omniscience of an Isvara is a relative thing and has a limit and it is this limit which is referred to in this Sutra.”
The issue with the idea of God that is dealt with in the ML quote above is that “He” is claimed to be absolutely omniscient, etc. instead of only relatively so. So each “particular purusha” is, to my mind, an individual spirit; as a collective they are an isvara; but that isvara is also an individual spirit (thus also a “particular purusha” from that higher point of view). As far as I can tell, there’s no reason not to think that the isvara of any system is not a self-conscious being in and of itself, while also being a collective.
Just my 2 cents, anyway.
Kirk Marzulo January 15, 2018 at 4:32 pm #6799
Jon and Peter–
You both make key points. Thanks for a very interesting discussion!
As additional notes, H.P.B. also addresses these fundamental issues in the Proem, starting on page 6:
“It is wrong and unjust to regard the Buddhists and Advaitee Occultists as atheists. If not all of them philosophers, they are, at any rate, all logicians, their objections and arguments being based on strict reasoning. Indeed, if the Parabrahmam of the Hindus may be taken as a representative of the hidden and nameless deities of other nations, this absolute Principle will be found to be the prototype from which all the others were copied. Parabrahm is not “God,” because It is not a God. “It is that which is supreme, and not supreme (paravara),” explains Mandukya Upanishad (2.28). IT is “Supreme” as CAUSE, not supreme as effect. Parabrahm is simply, as a “Secondless Reality,” the all-inclusive Kosmos — or, rather, the infinite Cosmic Space — in the highest spiritual sense, of course. Brahma (neuter) being the unchanging, pure, free, undecaying supreme Root, “the ONE true Existence, Paramarthika,” and the absolute Chit and Chaitanya (intelligence, consciousness) cannot be a cogniser, “for THAT can have no subject of cognition.” …“The knowledge of the absolute Spirit, like the effulgence of the sun, or like heat in fire, is naught else than the absolute Essence itself,” says Sankaracharya. IT — is “the Spirit of the Fire,” not fire itself; therefore, “the attributes of the latter, heat or flame, are not the attributes of the Spirit, but of that of which that Spirit is the unconscious cause.”
“… Parabrahm is, in short, the collective aggregate of Kosmos in its infinity and eternity, the “THAT” and “THIS” to which distributive aggregates cannot be applied.* “In the beginning THIS was the Self, one only” (Aitareya Upanishad); the great Sankaracharya, explains that “THIS” referred to the Universe (Jagat); the sense of the words, “In the beginning,” meaning before the reproduction of the phenomenal Universe.
“…Therefore, when the Pantheists echo the Upanishads, which state, as in the Secret Doctrine, that “this” cannot create, they do not deny a Creator, or rather a collective aggregate of creators, but only refuse, very logically, to attribute “creation” and especially formation, something finite, to an Infinite Principle. With them, Parabrahmam is a passive because an Absolute Cause, the unconditioned Mukta. It is only limited Omniscience and Omnipotence that are refused to the latter, because these are still attributes (as reflected in man’s perceptions); and because Parabrahm, being the “Supreme ALL,” the ever invisible spirit and Soul of Nature, changeless and eternal, can have no attributes; absoluteness very naturally precluding any idea of the finite or conditioned from being connected with it. And if the Vedantin postulates attributes as belonging simply to its emanation, calling it “Iswara plus Maya,” and Avidya (Agnosticism and Nescience rather than ignorance), it is difficult to find any Atheism in this conception. Since there can be neither two INFINITES nor two ABSOLUTES in a Universe supposed to be Boundless, this Self-Existence can hardly be conceived of as creating personally. In the sense and perceptions of finite “Beings,” THAT is Non-“being,” in the sense that it is the one BE-NESS; for, in this ALL lies concealed its coeternal and coeval emanation or inherent radiation, which, upon becoming periodically Brahma (the male-female Potency) becomes or expands itself into the manifested Universe. Narayana moving on the (abstract) waters of Space, is transformed into the Waters of concrete substance moved by him, who now becomes the manifested WORD or Logos.”