The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
March 2006 -- Vol. 9 Issue 1
On February 18, Grace Frances Knoche, the leader of the Theosophical Society since 1971, died peacefully at her home in Altadena, California at the age of 97.
Miss Knoche was born on February 15, 1909 at the International Headquarters of the Theosophical Society (TS) when it was located at Point Loma, California. Educated at the Raja-Yoga School and Academy under Katherine Tingley, she attended Theosophical University, earning a Ph.D (1944) with a thesis on Theosophy in the Qabbalah. Under G. de Purucker and Colonel Arthur L. Conger (1929-1951) she also worked in the Press and in secretarial and editorial positions at the Headquarters, as well as teaching art, violin, Sanskrit, and Hebrew, among other subjects, at the schools and university. From 1951 to 1971 she was secretary and editorial assistant to James A. Long, head of the TS and founder of Sunrise.
Since 1971 she was Leader of the TS and principal editor of Sunrise. As leader, she encouraged members of various theosophical organizations to work together, yet respected each group as an independent entity. She emphasized the publication of printed and online materials, making the full text of virtually all Theosophical University Press publications freely available on the internet. She has written many articles and three books: The Mystery Schools, To Light a Thousand Lamps, and the forthcoming Theosophy in the Qabbalah.
Miss Knoche will be missed by friends and colleagues around the world for her free spirit, kindness, and quick sense of humor. – Sally Dougherty
There are ways and ways to meditate, and ways and ways to attain a higher awareness. When we become inwardly still, our inner voice may be heard in those quiet yet clear intimations that move the soul. Every night upon retiring we can open the way for the intuition by stripping the nature of all resentments and irritations, ridding the heart of all arrogant and unkind thoughts and feelings about others. If we have slipped a little during the day, let us acknowledge it with the will to do better. We then enter into harmony with our real self, and the consciousness is freed to go where it will. This is a mystery which we do not really understand, but the wonder is that in the morning we wake up refreshed in spirit, with a new and warmer feeling for others, and often with answers to perplexing questions.
To follow this simple practice is restorative on all planes, and we will be adding to rather than detracting from the harmony of our surroundings. Prayer, aspiration, meditation are effective in that they set up a vibratory response through-out all nature; the more ardent the aspirant, the greater power do they have to activate noble (or ignoble) energies both within the individual and in the auric envelope surrounding earth.
True meditation is true aspiration, a "breathing toward" the divine, an elevating of the mind and heart toward the highest and, as such, is as essential for the soul as food is for the body. If we would orient our lives toward the light emanating from our inner god, we must aspire; but let us be careful in our intensity not to be led into blind alleys of a self-seeking nature which tend to focus attention on our own advancement, our own stature and achievements. After all, where we stand – spiritually or otherwise – is of small moment compared to the quality of our contribution to the whole. The real issue is: Are we giving the best of ourselves to this world so that we bring warmth and courage instead of chill and gloom to our surroundings?
The finest type of meditation is a turning of the soul toward the light within in aspiration to be of greater service, without exaggerated longing for some special revelation. Any method of meditation that helps us to lessen our self-centeredness is beneficial; if it increases egocentricity, it is harmful.
The most fruitful meditation, therefore, is an absorption of thought and aspiration in the noblest ideal we can envision. We will not need to worry about specific postures, techniques, or gurus; there will be a natural inflow of light into the nature, for our inner master, our real guru, is our Self. – Grace F. Knoche, from To Light a Thousand Lamps
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Prayer should be understood, not as a mere mechanical recitation of formulas, but as a mystical elevation, an absorption of consciousness in the contemplation of a principle both permeating and transcending our world. – Alexis Carrel
This month "Prayer and Meditation" is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What are different methods of prayer? Why do we pray, and to whom? Is Deity outside or within us? Why did Jesus say: "when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret"? How are prayer and meditation alike and different? How do meditation and prayer relate to our state of mind, health, spiritual development, and daily life? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
Upcoming TopicsApril 20: Mysteries of Memory
The topics for the monthly discussions are chosen by members of the Northwest Branch. If there is a subject that particularly interests you, or if you have ideas or suggestions about the meetings, please do not hesitate to email or mail them to the Branch or to mention them after the meetings.
Pray not to the gods, for hearing they may not act; for the gods themselves are held within the bonds of cosmic law from which they may not vary. Our prayers spring from our ignorance and weakness: ignorance of our own most real needs, and weakness because we want others to do things for us that we lack courage or will to begin to do for ourselves.
I pity those poor hearts who in their simplicity think that by praying to Almighty God their prayers will be answered. What is the reason that so many people like to pray? They really know by experience that their prayers are unanswered. But they like to pray because it brings peace, because it brings a sense of throwing their burdens upon some other; likewise because it strengthens the ineradicable feeling of the human heart that there are spiritual powers of enormous constant activity in the world, and that by thinking towards these beings, we come in touch with them.
Yes, it is thus far true. And were every prayer a yearning to come into closer contact with these spiritual powers, it would be beautiful. But change the picture: Two armies meet for mutual slaughter, destruction, each side sending petitions to Almighty God for victory for its own army. Don't you see something horribly blasphemous in this, an utter lack of understanding of the divine character of the governance of the universe?
It is the petitionary prayer that Theosophists disbelieve in: the asking God Almighty for physical and other benefits which the petitioner is either too lazy or too indifferent to his duties to endeavor to secure for himself. Such prayers are often downright immoral, as when one prays to God for selfish advantages over one's fellows.
But oh, how the human heart longs for compassion, for sympathy, for beauty, for the understanding handclasp of someone else; and we realize from our studies and intuitions the living reality of great spiritual powers in the universe, surrounding us constantly, and our infinitely faithful allies and helpers when we strive to raise ourselves spiritually and intellectually towards them. Thus we have something so much more beautiful and noble than prayers to non-hearing divinities, something incomparably closer to our human hearts and souls, something wondrously beautiful, gentle, compassionate, always listening, always helping, which we may call the brotherhood or hierarchy of compassion and wisdom. This brotherhood of spiritual beings extends up-wards from us humans in an unbroken chain to the very heights of the ethery spaces. These helpers of humanity extend to us constantly the help of their always merciful hearts, their strength given to us freely. And they are very wise in their giving, for the help they give is rarely known, even by the recipients: lives saved or disasters prevented in many a way; and those disasters which cannot be prevented, because invoked by our own egoism and evil-doing, softened so that their asperities and harshnesses hurt mankind less. Things like these are done constantly, and we know little or naught of it. We simply see the results. This is why this hierarchy of compassion is sometimes called the guardian wall around humanity.
Paradoxically, it is those asking the most who as a rule give the least. People today are distracted because of their own weaknesses; they have not willpower even to pursue a single path for a week at a time, or a month, still less a year. Their wills are asleep, their minds are weakened from lack of exercise and from depending upon help from without, their spirit within them has no chance to spread its wings and soar.
Most prayer, unfortunately, is petitionary, disguised or open, and prayer in this sense weakens the character. The most beautiful prayer is aspiration transmuted into action: the transmuting of the will towards self-regeneration to spiritual things into positive action on earth. Where you have this prayer-in-action then the whole life becomes filled with the prayer of the Avatara Jesus: "Not my will, but thine be done!"