Theosophy Northwest View

The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society

July 2013 – Vol. 16 Issue 5

News and Views

Poverty and Mindset

On April 17, 2013, Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and advocate of microfinance as a means of lifting people out of poverty, received the Congressional Gold Medal. His acceptance speech emphasized the innate equality of all human beings and our responsibility to build a future where all people can live with dignity and express their potentials more fully. He ended with these words: “People are poor, not because something is wrong with them. Poverty is not created by poor people. Poverty is created by the system we have built. Here [the US Congress] is a place where this system is built. We have to look back where we went wrong. If we fix our system, nobody in the world will be a poor person. Each human being is packed with unlim-ited creative capacity. And I give the example of the bonsai tree. I say take the seed of the tallest tree in the forest. Put the seed in the flower pot. It will grow into a cute little tree. … Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong in their seed. They could be as tall as anybody in the world; simply society did not allow them the space. Give them the space so that they can grow.

“We created all the businesses in the world to make money. As a result we created money-centric world.… We can change the world like we can change the banking system. We admire the power of micro-credit, but even 37 years after micro-credit was born the banking system has not changed. Why not? That puzzles me. I hope it puzzles you too. … We can change the world to make sure that nobody remains a poor person.… Poverty doesn’t belong to civilized human society. And similarly, we should create a world where nobody will be an unemployed person.… Why is a person unemployed? Because we create a system which makes it happen. The system is making people suffer, for no fault in them. If we know that the fault is in the system, it’s our responsibility to fix it. Then everybody can be productive, creative human beings as they are supposed to be.…

“With the great, great honor that you give me today on this thrilling occasion, you re-enforce my firm belief that we can create a world much better than what we have done so far. Let's believe in our capacity and make it happen.”

Professor Yunus spoke more fully on these ideas in his lecture accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2006. There he said in part: “The creation of opportunities for the majority of people − the poor − is at the heart of the work that we have dedicated ourselves to during the past 30 years…. We get what we want, or what we don't refuse. We accept the fact that we will always have poor people around us, and that poverty is part of human destiny. This is precisely why we continue to have poor people around us. If we firmly believe that poverty is unacceptable to us, and that it should not belong to a civilized society, we would have built appropriate institutions and policies to create a poverty-free world.

“We wanted to go to the moon, so we went there. We achieve what we want to achieve. If we are not achieving something, it is because we have not put our minds to it. We create what we want. What we want and how we get to it depends on our mindsets. It is extremely difficult to change mindsets once they are formed. We create the world in accordance with our mindset. We need to invent ways to change our perspective continually and reconfigure our mind-set quickly as new knowledge emerges. We can reconfigure our world if we can reconfigure our mindset….

“A human being is born into this world fully equipped not only to take care of him or herself, but also to contribute to enlarging the well being of the world as a whole. Some get the chance to explore their potential to some degree, but many others never get any opportunity, during their lifetime, to unwrap the wonderful gift they were born with. They die unexplored and the world remains deprived of their creativity, and their contribution…. Once the poor can unleash their energy and creativity, poverty will disappear very quickly. Let us join hands to give every human being a fair chance to unleash their energy and creativity.”

For millennia societies have been organized to benefit the powerful few at the expense of the many. To be sanctioned in such societies, religion reinforces the status quo. It justifies the unequal distribution of wealth as a matter of karma or divine will or favor. It focuses people’s attention and hopes on metaphysical goals, providing rites and rules to bring these about. Still, currents within the various religions emphasize ending inequities, including poverty, in the here and now. These contrasting mindsets are found in secular thinking and theosophy also. They shape people’s imagination of what is important, what is right and what is possible.

The capacities of poor people have been demonstrated again and again by those who, like Professor Yunus, have given them a chance. Global contact and wider education make people more aware of a variety of mindsets and choices. Do we see poverty as an inevitable part of human life and so address only its collateral damage? Or do we envision a world where all people have the opportunity to achieve the kind of life we would wish for those dearest to us? And do we want such a world enough to make it a reality? What we reject, accept or don’t refuse is up to us.

Theosophical Views

Universal Life in Ancient Persia - I

By Eloise Hart

The story of the cosmos as told in the scriptures of the Zoroastrians is of the renovation of what has ever existed and is repeatedly refashioned in manifested appearances. According to the ancient Persian scriptures, these appearances are accomplished in Grand Periods of 12,000-year duration. During the first quarter, the "original" creations of both the Spirit of Light, Ahura Mazda, and of the Spirit of Darkness, Ahriman, are on such a high level of spirituality they are utterly beyond our comprehension. The second stage, which passes entirely according to the will of Ahura, sees the emergence of the manifest worlds with the commencement of self-impelled evolutionary development. The third 3,000 year period is a "mingled state" of contests between the forces or "instruments" of Goodness and of Darkness, while in the final period all finite "destructive and evil" spirits are vanquished and absorbed in Infinite Being, in Ahura Mazda.

This original creation unfolded out of the infinite Circle of unknowable Time and Space (Zervan Akarana). At the first dawning of finite time Ahura Mazda emanated from the Void where Darkness mingled with Light Everlasting. Lord of Light and Spirit, he held enfolded in his being the spiritual souls, fravashis, of all to be manifest. Himself without begin-ning or end, past or position, Ahura fashioned by his thought the first invisible, intangible, uncompounded primal matter into the conceptual form of the worlds that were to be born – this form of himself and his creatures remaining for 3,000 years in a spiritual state, unthinking, unmoving, intangible.

Although worshipped as one and supreme, Ahura Mazda is considered to be of two natures: of Light-Good-ness-Truth, and of Darkness, the shadow-reflection, unreal and nonliving, of true Being. It was during the first 3,000 year cycle that this Spirit of Darkness, Ahriman, blinded by his own backward thinking, refused absolutely to join or ever assist the righteous. This refusal thereupon inaugurated ages of conflicts that shattered the stability of the visible and invisible worlds. Meanwhile Ahura produced from himself, as aspects of his effulgence, six glorious Immortals -- Amesha-Spentas – who with him arranged, supported, and protected the spiritual, stellar, and terrestrial worlds and all of their innumerable inhabitants – each of which was provided with a divine Intelligence, an intelligent spirit-soul, and a body, and was invigorated with a flame of the Fire of Ahura Mazda.

In seven creations these Amesha-Spentas, with the fravashis involved, brought forth: (1) the great crystalline sky whose spirit is an Intelligence which thinks, acts, and pro-duces sons and flocks: the sun, moon, stars, and twelve zodiacal constellations which form, under the surveillance of their chiefs in the four directions and the great one in the center of the sky, a vast united army that overcomes the Destroyer and safeguards their regions from harm. The Amesha-Spentas laid down also the paths of the stars and of the winds and clouds, all of which formerly stood in the same place unmoving, but now hastened onward.

They fashioned next (2) the bright waters upon which all beings depend for their well-being, which formerly stood unmoving but now flowed forth freely. Out of the midst of these waters they formed (3) the earth with its rivers and oceans, continents and abundance of minerals, and (4) sweet vegetation which nourishes, (5) the beneficent animals, which contained so many species that should one kind perish, others would remain. Then they fashioned (6) mankind, the "small world" reflecting the Greater. For each of these myriad individuals, families, and species they provided chieftains, guides, and protectors. And finally they produced (7) fire – a ray from the everlasting Light of Ahura.

Mazdean teachings regarding the earth are suggestive to those familiar with mystical traditions of invisible worlds and of the forces and lives that circulate through spiritual, celestial, and terrestrial realms. Earth, they tell us, is composed of seven disconnected karshvars (regions, earths, or worlds), each separated from the other by oceans so that "it is not possible to go from region to region, save by the guidance and radiance of the Yazats [celestial spirits]" (Zand-akasih). Further, they place the other karshvars around Hvaniratha, the only karshvar presently inhabited by humans. H. P. Blavatsky interprets this last karshvar as being centered as the lowest in a chain with the other six grouped above it, citing the Vendidad's description of our earth as imat "this" and the six other karshvars as avat "that." Although the six upper earths evidently pertain to different states of consciousness and are imperceptible to our senses, to their inhabitants they are solid globes and the Mazdeans believe that each has continents, seas, mountains, and races of evolving beings.

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