The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
June 2002 Vol. 5 Issue 4
Everyone admires a Persian carpet, even if old and worn. In the old days children were taught the ancient craft, tiny fingers guided in the choice of color, selection of wool and, most essential, how to follow the sacred motifs. When an error was made, they were told not to pull it out, but to carry right on and compensate for whatever slip they may have made. Working on the underside, they knew little how the finished product would look. Not till the carpet was completed was the pattern revealed.
An appealing parable: we cannot erase the errors we have made; we must carry on and try as best we may to unfold the inner pattern of our lives. Most of us are slow learners, but once the lesson sinks in, the knowledge is stored in our character. Nothing is lost, nothing wasted; all becomes tuition, learning experiences for the soul. In truth, we are each the weaver on the loom of our own making, weaving the weft of our affections and aspirations, antipathies and desires on the warp of character that we have built through many lives, and which will be the foundation for incarnations to come. Though we but faintly realize it, we are -- instinctively for the most part, and at times intuitively -- following an ancient pattern traced by our greater self. "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, /Rough-hew them how we will" (Hamlet).
We are not puppets to be pulled and pushed by whim or caprice -- divine or demonic. "Know ye not that ye are gods?" asked Jesus of his people, and that "the Most High dwelleth within you"? Words so profound we cannot comprehend the full wonder of their power to regenerate the soul. We are gods-in-the-making, fashioning our own design: essentially solar beings whose cycle of experience stretches over many aeons; periodically planetary beings, returning to earth in cycle after cycle, until the pattern is completed for this wheel of life.
Every life is a chapter in its own history, the fruitage of past sowings and the promise of future reapings, which in turn become the sowings of new cycles of experience still to unfold. Could we see ourselves from within or above, we would marvel at the possibilities that lie latent, awaiting the magic moment of soul awakening. The struggle to make gods out of the clay of our humanhood is by no means a losing cause; errors and slips of weaving we will doubtless make but, if we persevere, one day we may discover we have made a carpet of such beauty and harmony it may be taken for an ancient Persian prayer rug fashioned of purest silk. -- Grace F. Knoche
We resemble those who enter into or depart from a foreign region, not only because we are banished from our intimate associates, but in consequence of dwelling in a foreign land, we are filled with barbaric passions and manners, and to all these have a great propensity. Hence, he who wishes to return to his proper kindred and associates should not only with alacrity begin the journey, but, in order that he may be properly received, should meditate how he may divest himself of everything of a foreign nature which he has assumed, and should recall to his memory such things as he has forgotten, and without which he cannot be admitted by his kindred and friends. After the same manner, also, it is necessary, if we intend to return to things which are truly our own, that we should divest ourselves of everything of a mortal nature which we have assumed, together with an adhering affection towards it, and which is the cause of our descent; and that we should excite our recollection of that blessed and eternal essence, and should hasten our return to the nature which is without color and without quality, earnestly endeavoring to accomplish two things: one, that we may cast aside everything material and mortal; but the other, that we may properly return, and be again conversant with our true kindred, ascending to them in a way contrary to that in which we descended hither. -- Porphyry
It may seem far away to realize that by trying to live the best kind of life we know how, we strengthen the whole world, if only by a little, but this is nonetheless true. The power of each one's goodness is like a lighted candle that makes the shadows recede. If every person were a candle, there would be no darkness. -- Kirby Van Mater
"Self-Transformation: Our Hardest Task" is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What guidelines can we follow in choosing our goal and our path? Why is change so often difficult? What are some of the approaches and techniques, ancient and modern, used to bring about self-transformation? Is it more important to improve ourselves or to help others? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
The topics for the monthly discussion group for the next few months are:
July 18: Beyond Materialism
August: Old Age, Disease, and Death
September: Mind: The Slayer of the Real
October: How Powerful Are Our Genes?
November: Exploring the Theosophic Tradition
December: Is Taking Life Ever Justified?
For most ancient peoples, the sky was compass, calendar, and clock. Throughout history, religious celebrations and sacred rites have been connected with one or another of the solstices and equinoxes. Midsummer ceremonies and festivals were held at henges and sacred sites throughout Britain and northern Europe, and the Medicine Wheel and Sun Dance rite of the North American Plains are also connected with the summer solstice.
While each religious system and culture usually celebrates only one or two of the solstices or equinoxes, modern theosophical tradition links the four and shows their relationship to one another as major junction points in our evolutionary cycle. The writings of H. P. Blavatsky contain a few hints about the seasons (cf. The Secret Doctrine 1:639), but G. de Purucker gives a fuller development of this theme, most notably in The Four Sacred Seasons, relating it to the goals of life and the initiatory program of the Mystery schools.
Our English word initiation comes from the Latin root initiare, meaning "to begin." Initiation is also the word most frequently used to translate the equivalent Greek term, telete, which means "a finishing," a "making perfect." The sacred seasons accordingly mark beginnings and endings, each representing the close of an old and the opening of a new chapter in the larger continuum of our individual and collective evolutionary experience. The basic purpose of the initiatory Mysteries -- which find their analog in the sacraments and liturgical practices of the Christian churches -- is progressively to align oneself more closely with the god within. All real initiations are preceded by instruction, training, discipline, and purification. Taken together these are said to comprise the lesser Mysteries -- the necessary foundation and rehearsal of the greater Mysteries, which lead to the mystic union with our divine source.
The greatest of the initiations, as the world's religious traditions suggest, occur at the solstices and equinoxes.
Coming back to the summer solstice -- when the sun stands stronger, higher, and longer than at any other period of the year -- the Great Renunciation, or what could be called the "bodhisattva" initiation, takes place. In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is a person on the path to buddhahood who has awakened a degree of wisdom -- bodhisattva means "one whose essence is wisdom." In this sense anyone who strives for enlightenment, who acts from his innermost essence, or wisdom and compassion, is to some extent a bodhisattva. The highest example is one who has earned the right to the eons-long bliss of nirvana but, choosing from the very law of his being, renounces it for a more noble objective: the eons-long task of working for the enlightenment and happiness of all.
The summer turning point in this sense represents a pivotal decision about evolutionary progress and fulfillment, in which all of us may participate. Do we "stand still" and stay awhile to help? Or have we become so energized by our aspirations that we cannot help but jump orbit into a more distant realm, more isolated from the needs of the world? As I see it, renunciation is a paradox. We turn away from personal spiritual progress, but in so doing we actually identify more closely with spirit. Everything hangs on motive: if our decision is made with a view to deferred benefit -- a loftier nirvana, rank in heaven, or some other lordship -- we instantly nullify the act because we have personalized it.
Our daily life presents us with innumerable opportunities to act from compassion and self-forgetfulness, and hopefully we do this wisely. To the degree we succeed, we discover the meaning of renouncing the fruit of action, and perhaps something of the quality of experience undergone by the great ones at this summer solstice period. Surely they have no aspiration to be world saviors, but are so precisely because of the simplicity of their decision and what naturally flows from it. Similarly, by detaching ourselves from personal motive as far as possible, our highest wisdom and love can exert themselves -- and the world around us will be benefited accordingly.
Simply put, summer symbolizes maturity and ripening judgment, when our natural interest turns to the needs of others. This solstice period is perhaps the sacred season to which we can most easily relate, because altruism and service is something all of us understand.