The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
August 1998 Vol. 1 Issue 6
Men are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them. -- Epictetus
This month our subject is "Why Are There So Many Religions?" We will be discussing such questions as: What is the relationship between religion and truth? What is the role and purpose of religion in human life? How have the various faiths originated? Are they compatible or mutually exclusive? How does religion relate to science, philosophy, mythology, and mysticism? Overall, are organized religions a positive force in the world? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
September 17 : "Why Do We Dream?"
The Theosophical Society was established in 1875 in New York City. The principal founders were Helena P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) and Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907). Blavatsky, a Russian with remarkable psychic powers, had traveled widely undergoing training and studying occult and mystical subjects. Olcott, an American lawyer and agricultural expert, acted as a Special Commissioner uncovering fraud, corruption, and graft during the Civil War. In 1874, while investigating spiritualistic phenomena for a New York newspaper, Olcott met Blavatsky. One of the teachers who were the main force behind founding The Theosophical Society, wrote of their meeting:
"So casting about we found in America the man to stand as leader -- a man of great moral courage, unselfish, and having other good qualities. He was far from being the best, but . . . he was the best one available. With him we associated a woman of most exceptional and wonderful endowments. Combined with them she had strong personal defects, but just as she was, there was no second to her living fit for this work. We sent her to America, brought them together -- and the trial began." -- The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett
Blavatsky was the principal elucidator of theosophic philosophy, and Olcott was the main force behind the organizational side of the Society. They spent the rest of their lives challenging prejudice, cant, materialism, and dogmatism -- particularly in science and religion -- and engaging in humanitarian activities associated with the Society and its objectives: promoting universal brotherhood; encouraging the study of ancient and modern religion, philosophy, and science; and investigating the powers innate in man. Working in both the Orient and Occident, they advocated independent thought and encouraged people to discover and live the inner meaning behind their particular religions. Despite offending many powerful interests and suffering personal attacks, their effort prevailed and continues its work worldwide today.
Blavatsky and Olcott, London, 1888
Theosophical University Press has several additions to its online publications at http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/tup-onl.htm, including:
During the course of evolution, animals have played various roles in relationship to man: predator, food, beast of burden, and companion. What is the ultimate destiny of the beasts and where do they fit into human evolution? In fact, animals have within all the human characteristics such as self-reflective mind and conscience, which are destined to be expressed at some future point.
Every human cell is a "child" of our being and has locked up in it innumerable possibilities. Each cell is a focus of vital energy, a channel through which creative forces pour forth into manifestation. We now strongly control the development of our cells and their growth follows only the human pattern. But millions of years ago the cells of our distant ancestors were freer to follow their own direction. When early mankind shed vital cells, some differentiated into various animal stocks, following their drive to develop their own unique potentials. Thus, in essence, the animals were developed through man.
Like all monads or centers of consciousness, animals have souls. Within each monad, be it a rock, animal, or man, there exists a cosmic divine spark. As a being evolves, the potentials within that divine spark come forth. Each is at a stage of evolution corresponding to how much of these potentialities have been unfolded. Thus, though animals have yet to attain self-awareness, they are the expressions of a soul and spirit.
The life of animals seems so cruel -- preying on each other, enduring starvation and illness -- that we often wonder why innocent creatures suffer so much. It is some comfort that they do not suffer in the self-conscious, grinding way humans do -- but they do suffer. There are a several reasons why. First, they suffer because of karmic consequences from previous life-times of our planet. Compared to man, animals are not self-aware and so are not held morally responsible for their acts, though these acts certainly have karmic results. In the course of evolution, how-ever, all beings have been involved in many types of experience in order to reach their present stage. At one point the beings now manifesting as animals took part in actions and states of consciousness which caused their current conditions.
Secondly, animals suffer because their karma is tied to that of the earth's kingdoms, particularly man. All life is closely connected, and since animals are offshoots of early humans, they share our destiny closely. Mankind is largely responsible for suffering in the animal kingdom. We have cultivated violent, malevolent tendencies which the animals display in their natures because of their intimate inner connection with us. In this sense they are victims; but we, rather than they, must take responsibility for this karma.
Animals also suffer directly at human hands. Though one might justify scientific experiments as benefiting mankind, these are truly selfish acts of cruelty. No end justifies the suffering inflicted, and such acts debase us. Animals are not soulless creatures created for our use and exploitation. Rather, they are evolving beings deserving our love and compassion.
Animals, like humans, return to a body on earth after they die. We always reimbody as humans, and they generally reincarnate at the same level in the animal kingdom. In other words, a dog tends to be reborn as a dog, not as an insect. Because they lack an awakened mind and developed ego, animals do not need a rest state between births, but quickly reincarnate. Their time between death and rebirth is said to vary from a few days to a year.
Since animals have a divine spark, they have the potential to develop into fully intellectual, spiritually aware beings. It is their future to become human. We have undergone a similar evolutionary process and gained awareness thanks to highly evolved beings who awakened our mind. The time will come when, through evolutionary development, further mental and spiritual aspects of the beasts will also be awakened, and they will become thinking entities with conscience and will. It will then be our destiny to bring the light of mind to the beings currently manifesting as animals, far in the future when they are ready to become human.