The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
April 1998 Vol. 1 Issue 2
"Be what you love; strive after what you find beautiful and high, and let the rest go. Harmony, sacrifice, devotion -- take these as keynotes; express them everywhere and in the highest possible way." -- W. Q. Judge
The Northwest Branch logo is the raven totem. We chose this symbol, using a picture by Don Yeoman, because of its mystical significance in Northwest Coast myths. Raven, who brought light to the world and created the sexes, is full of mischief, gluttony, and licentiousness. As both a cunning trickster, creating havoc and chaos, and a benefactor to mankind, he parallels the coyote of the Plains Indians -- the "gentle trickster" who makes us learn and grow in spite of ourselves. The ancient Norse viewed Loki in a similar way. What Elsa-Brita Titchenell writes about Loki in The Masks of Odin (pp. 67-8) applies to raven and other tricksters as well:
"The awakening of the capacity to reason, the power of self-knowledge and judgment, was the most crucial event in humanity's evolution. It brought our human river of life to the point where deliberate choices could be made, where reasoning supplants instinct, and where the knowledge of good and evil will be a deciding factor in the further development of the species. The unthinking kingdoms are guided by the built-in monitoring of instinct, which permits only limited freedom, but once the mind becomes active, aware of itself as a separate being, there comes into play a corresponding responsibility and the doer is accountable for everything he does, thinks, feels, and for his responses to the stimuli of the surrounding universe. Thereafter the godmaker cannot turn back. Each moment brings a choice, and every choice produces an endless stream of consequences, each stemming from its predecessor. Through many wrong choices Loki has become the mischief-maker, the instigator of wrongs in many tales, for he represents too often the lower, ratiocinative brain without inspiritment-inspiration. . . . Perhaps his mischievous nature has been somewhat overemphasized for its naughty appeal to the Viking temperament. It is well to bear in mind too that, while he is often the cause of trouble in Asgard, he is also the agent for solving the problems that arise from his own doings."
Our longer article this month recounts one of the tales about raven told by the Pacific Coast tribes.
This month our subject is "What Happens After Death?" We will be discussing such questions as: What is a human being? Do we continue to exist after our body dies? How can we know anything about what happens after death? Does what we do in life affect what happens to us after death? What about suicide, euthanasia, near-death experiences, reincarnation?
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
Our next meetings will be on Thursday, May 14, and Thursday, June 11.
Theosophical University Press Online has added five more books at www.theosociety.org/pasadena/tup-onl.htm. These include:
The Northwest website (www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/world/christ/xt-selec.htm) has added two longer articles to its Christianity section: The Story of Jesus by G. de Purucker and Theosophic Light on the Christian Bible by H. T. Edge. Purucker's work brings together material on the life and message of Jesus from a theosophical viewpoint, while Edge concentrates on interpreting various Christian rites, dogmas, and ideas.
Raven came to the world, which was filled with cold and darkness. The people living there knew nothing but blackness and cold. Raven took pity on the people and told them he would search for the light. He flew far and wide over the earth, but everywhere he saw only darkness. One day he caught sight of a flicker of light in the distance. He flew quickly, following the dim glow. The light became brighter and brighter until he saw it shining forth from the door of a house by a large lake: the home of Sky Chief and his young daughter. This chief had a great treasure: a box "which contained an infinite number of boxes each nestled in a box slightly larger than itself until finally there was a box so small all it could contain was all the light in the universe."
Raven alighted in a large hemlock tree nearby, and waited and watched. One day Sky Chief's daughter walked down to the edge of the water for a drink. Raven changed himself into a hemlock needle and floated into the water near the girl's feet. When she drank again, she swallowed the needle.
A few months later she gave birth to a baby boy, with dark black hair and small black eyes. Raven had been reborn. Sky Chief was entranced by the child. He would often invite the village elders to watch the child play and crawl around his house. But Raven wasn't just playing: he was looking for the source of the light.
One day the baby found a large, colorfully painted box in a corner. When he cried for it, his grandfather gave it to him. When he still cried, his grandfather removed its lid. Day after day he kept removing lids until finally light flooded the room. The source of the light was a small, blazing ball. After much begging, Sky Chief finally let the boy hold the ball. To his amazement, the boy changed into a raven, took the shining ball in his beak, and flew out of the smoke hole at the top of the lodge. Raven was overjoyed! But Eagle saw him in the light and gave chase. In a panic Raven "swerved to escape the savage outstretched claws, and in doing so he dropped a good half of the light he was carrying. It fell to the rocky ground below and there broke into pieces -- one large piece and too many small ones to count. They bounced back into the sky and remain there even today as the moon and the stars that glorify the night.
"The Eagle pursued the Raven beyond the rim of the world, and there, exhausted by the long chase, the Raven finally let go of his last piece of light. Out beyond the rim of the world, it floated gently on the clouds and started up over the mountains lying to the east." This was the sun. Thus it is that the Raven brought light to all people.
(Adapted from Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott and The Raven Steals the Light by Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst)
The great religions all teach the priority of spiritual over material riches. They all teach the worth of the individual and his capacity to grow nearer to God. And they all agree on the principle of unity, the unity of the universe, the unity of the human family. To this unity all men are taught that they belong. To help make progress toward it is a personal contribution that must come from each of us. -- Edward R. Murrow
Theosophy Northwest Homepage