The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
December 2006 -- Vol. 9 Issue 10
Christmas is that time of the year when most of us manifest to a greater degree than at any other time that spirit of thoughtfulness for others or forgetfulness of self, which in a very limited sense might be termed our annual initiation or communion with our own spiritual self, that inner holy spiritual thing that links us intimately with the gods.
Christmas is the season when we may well take a first step, with new courage to begin treading the pathway of spiritual self, our goal being to become great souls.
It is the winter solstice, the first of the four sacred seasons; a beginning season, when the hearts of men pour forth gifts of love and kindness. What does it matter whether it is or is not the exact birthday of Jesus the Christ, the Avatara? It is the birthday of the Christ-spirit within our hearts. Lo! the Christ in Man is born. In this season of the year we all make a start. May we develop the strength of will and courage to proceed and follow the path to the second great initiation!
We shall fail many times; but we shall try again and again to ally ourselves with our own inner divinity, the real spiritual and intellectual essence of ourselves, that manifests more clearly in this joyous Christmas Season.
As G. de Purucker has said, "The pathway of beauty, the pathway of peace and strength, the pathway of the great quiet, is within us -- not within the material body, but within the inmost focus of our consciousness." This is the pathway that the great sages and seers of all ages have taught, as did Jesus the Christ, that great soul of simple words and great truths, so understandable in the first telling, so complicated later by creeds and dogmas; whose birth we truly celebrate at this season of the year by trying to emulate his predominate characteristic of selflessness. -- Lester A. Todd
We would that all who have a voice in the education of the mass of people should first know and then teach that the safest guides to human happiness and enlightenment are those writings which have descended to us from the remotest antiquity; and that nobler spiritual aspirations and a higher average morality prevail in the countries where the people take their precepts as the rule of their lives. We would have all to realize that magical, i. e., spiritual powers exist in every person, and those few to practice them who feel called to teach, and are ready to pay the price of discipline and self-conquest which their development exacts.
Many have arisen who had glimpses of the truth, and fancied they had it all. Such have failed to achieve the good they might have done and sought to do, because vanity has made them thrust their personality into such undue prominence as to interpose it between their believers and the whole truth that lay behind. The world needs no sectarian church whether of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Swedenborg, Calvin, or any other. There being but ONE Truth, humankind requires but one church -- the Temple of God within us, walled in by matter but penetrable by anyone who can find the way; the pure in heart see God. --H. P. Blavatsky
This month "Religion and Theosophy" is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What is the source, basis, and function of religion? How are religions related to the perennial philosophy or theosophy? What is the relation between the religious and the spiritual? Do the world's faiths have esoteric (hidden or gnostic) as well as exoteric (public or orthodox) aspects? How can we decide what tenets and practices are true or beneficial? Is any religion better than the others, or right for everyone? Is religion itself necessary, and does it play a positive role in human life? Can a study of different traditions bring about better understanding and mutual respect among people? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
These subjects are currently being considered for the Monthly Discussion group. As always, those who have a particular topic they would like to have featured are encouraged to contact us.
January 11, 2007: Living Well and the Paramitas
February: Who Are We?
March: Health and Healing
There have been many sages and great teachers throughout history whose followers have left mankind a legacy of sacred texts and scriptures. A study of these scriptures shows that the world's religions are remarkably similar. H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine discusses these similarities in depth and states that the great philosophies and religions are similar because they share a common origin, which she called theosophy or the wisdom religion. She says that the truth is never lost, but is preserved and passed down to humanity throughout the ages, in different forms and languages, by different great sages, initiates, teachers, and "saviors."
Christianity, like many of the great religions, changed from the time of its inception, becoming bogged down in materialistic dogma and ritual, and drifting away from the pure wisdom-religion. So it is interesting to read some early Christian gospels that were excluded from the Christian Bible. One example of such sacred texts are the documents of the Nag Hammadi Library. These are 13 papyrus codices discovered in a cave in upper Egypt in 1945. These manuscripts were written in Coptic, the language of the Egyptian Christians, sometime around 200-400 years ce. They are believed to be written by early Christians known as Gnostics, who were considered heretics by the later church fathers. These texts include some of the secret teachings of Jesus and often reveal a more esoteric side of his teachings than currently found in the New Testament.
The Gnostics who wrote the Nag Hammadi codices believed that there existed a gnosis or spiritual and sacred knowledge, the source of all truth known to mankind. They believed that the truth is readily accessible to humankind, and that it should be our primary goal to find and attain this truth.
Many of the Nag Hammadi texts deal with the importance of finding this Gnosis or eternal truth. One example comes from the Gospel of Thomas, written about 200 ce and attributed to the apostle Thomas. The prelude and the first three sayings follows:
These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.
(1) And he said, "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death."
(2) Jesus said, "Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All."
(3) Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the Kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty."
The first saying enjoins us to try to understand the secret teachings of Jesus. By a complete understanding of these teachings, we leave our world of limitations, and find and live in the spiritual or immortal part of ourselves. The second saying implies that the road to truth first involves diligent searching, then a difficult transition period, during which we wage the ultimate battle with our lower nature. Then we emerge triumphant, with mastery of our lower selves and full union with the Christ within. We then "rule over the All."
The third saying reflects the gnostic (and theosophical) belief that we are truly divine beings, the offspring of the "Father", the one source of all, the ultimate progenitor and source of truth. But as we become mired in the illusions of material life, we tend to look outside of our natural selves for redemption or "salvation.," and thus lose sight of our divinity. This leads us to spiritual poverty. The birds and the fish do not look outside of their natural selves, and thus find the "kingdom" before we do. But by diligent self-searching, we can reconnect with the "kingdom inside" of us, our innate spirituality, and become "rich" in our union with our divine self. This means that we have the power to bring about our own salvation, which is in contrast to the orthodox Christian belief that salvation can only be obtained by accepting Christ as our savior.
The Nag Hammadi library is just one example of the wealth of wondrous, ancient knowledge available to us in the present day. With the discovery of other ancient texts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the treasure of knowledge in The Secret Doctrine and other theosophical books, more and more of the secret teachings of Christ and other great teachers are revealed to us, helping us in our search for truth.