Theosophy Northwest View

The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society

August 2011 – Vol. 14 Issue 6

Tradition of the Sun God

In ancient times, reverence to the sun was universally accorded: hymns, prayers and invocations to the solar deity in its various phases of morning, noonday, and evening sun being found in every religious system the world over. This was not worship of the physical body of the sun; rather was it a spontaneous lifting of the heart in thanks, not alone for life-giving warmth, but in reverent homage to a divinity believed to animate the physical orb and have a benevolent influence on the human soul. The early Christians recognized the value of this ancient tradition. Witness an early hymn to the Christ-Sun used as late as the seventh century CE: “O Thou, Real Sun, infill us, shining with perpetual light! Splendor of the holy Spirit, pervade our minds!”

The most ancient hymn to the sun is said to be the Gayatri, found in the Rig-Veda of Hinduism: “Om! Earth, Midworld, Heaven! That excellent splendor of the Divine Sun we meditate upon, may it illumine our hearts. Om!” For thousands of years this simple Sanskrit prayer, so striking in similarity to the early Christian hymn, has been a spiritual bulwark to millions. The Upanishads also lay particular stress on the sun as the father and source of our essential Self and on the need to invoke that divinity in our aspiration: “From darkness lead me to the Light, from the unreal lead me to the Real, from death lead me to Life.”

In the writings of the Persian Prophets called the Desatir are several invocations to the sun as supporter and strengthener of all that is beneficent: “Head of the World, King of the Stars! . . . I ask of thee, O father and Lord of Grandeur, . . . Light of Lights! Worthy of the adoration of every intelligence, soul and body, whether celestial or material, compounded or simple . . . that he would illuminate my soul with pure lights, benevolent knowledge, and lofty excellence: and make me one of those nigh unto Him, who are filled with His love …”

All peoples of the Mideast venerated the sun in one form or another, personifying it as either a masculine or feminine power. In the Persian religious system Mithras, as the "undying, shining, swift-horsed Sun," was soon adapted by the Zoroastrians as a god of light, truth, and loyalty, and therefore the intermediary between Ahura-Mazda, embodiment of the light-side of nature, and Angra-Mainyu, adversary and challenger of the Light. Always the emphasis was on aspiration towards the god of light, as in this Zoroastrian Oracle: “I invoke the excellent peoples of the stars. I love nothing but light. Let thy soul lift thy faculties upwards.”

 To list all the names of the sun gods of ancient Egypt would be impossible, Horus, Ra and Osiris being but a few given to the manifold powers and functions of the sun in the Pert Em Hru or "Coming Forth into Day or Light," called the Book of the Dead: “Thou disk of the Sun, thou living God! There is none other beside thee. . . . Creator of all! Thou goest up on the eastern horizon of heaven to dispense life to all thou hast created…” The close relationship between mankind and the sun was emphasized: from whence we come, and to which we shall return in the solar bark. The kings themselves placed after their names the title "son of Ra" or "son of the Sun": “Homage to thee, O Ra, at thy tremendous rising! Thou risest! Thou shinest! the heavens are rolled aside! Thou art the King of Gods, thou art the All-comprising, from thee we come, in thee are deified!”

Sun myths go hand in hand with recognition of the absolute dependence of humanity upon solar activities. Usually these center about the death, rebirth and resurrection of a sun god. The Scandinavian Baldur, son of the All-father Odin, is an instance in point, as is the Mexican Quetzalcoatl, at whose death "the Sun was darkened, and withheld her light"; the resurrection of both Baldur and Quetzalcoatl being celebrated in the spring to symbolize the return of the solar divinity to earth. Significantly enough, there is an old hymn attributed to John of Damascus which Christians today use, one verse of which retells the ancient story: “Tis the spring of souls today; Christ has burst his prison, and from three days' sleep in death as a sun has risen.” – Grace F. Knoche

Final Great Ideas Discussion

Since Bellevue Library is closing its meeting rooms for a year due to construction, we have decided to have this be our final meeting. This month our topic is Nonviolence: Ends and Means. We will be discussing such questions as: Is non-violence a pragmatic stand? What are its philosophical and practical bases? How can conflict – personal, national, international – be resolved without violence? When is violence justified? What are the alternatives for a party that can’t get its way through nonviolent means? How can we deal nonviolently with those who want their way at any cost or who feel their aim is so essential that it justifies using any means to achieve it? Does the end justify the means? How do the means we choose influence the ends we achieve? Why do most societies glorify war and violence? How can people expand their sense of “we”? How can individuals bring more peace, justice and compassion into the world? (Quotes on this topic)

  • When: Tuesday, August 2, 7:30 to 8:45 pm
  • Where: Bellevue Library, 1111 - 110th Ave NE, Bellevue

  • Theosophical Views

    Making Peace a Reality

    By Sally Dougherty

    How can ordinary people help bring about the end of war? In Living Beyond War Winslow Myers argues that individuals living nonviolence is the most practical and effective way to bring about change on national and international levels: “A seamless web of connection ties together the personal and the international. The collective psyche of a nation is the aggregate of millions of individual minds. Nations cannot ‘think’ in a new way about violence or move beyond ‘us-and-them’ conceptions of global security unless individuals commit to new thinking and action in their personal lives.” (p. 121)

    Myers’ three premises are, first, that war is obsolete both because it is ineffective and, with nuclear weapons, potentially catastrophic for humanity and nature. Second, that "we are one on this planet." He holds that the interdependence of humanity and all of nature is an established fact: “Scientists and theologians may disagree on the ultimate meaning of this unity principle, but they can agree on some basic premises. The universe preceded our religious texts and beliefs. It elicits awe and wonder, confounding inquiry by posing new questions for every one that we answer. It is dynamic, in process, always changing. We emerged from it, and we are subject to its laws: we are one with it. Nothing is isolated.” (p. 82) To act on this oneness, it is vital for people to open their minds in a sincere and far-reaching search for truth, in the process expanding their identification with others ever more widely. Each person's beliefs are important because each and every one affects the world through his or her attitudes, decisions, and actions.

    The third premise is that we need to align our means with the ends we're trying to reach. The author expresses it as "the means are the ends in the making" – the end will inevitably reflect whatever means were used to reach it. “We cannot advocate for peace between countries yet be at war with our families, our neighbors, our colleagues, or our own government. What are the behavioral implications of expanding our identification to encompass all humanity and the whole Earth? What means can we choose that are aligned with our ultimate goals? Three core practices will allow us to live our individual lives consistently with the overarching principles necessary to build a world beyond war: (1) resolving conflict; (2) maintaining goodwill; and (3) working together.”

    In this individual quest to bring about a nonviolent world, these principles involve deciding never to use violence in resolving conflict; maintaining an attitude that takes in the larger picture rather than becoming consumed with an opponent or our own agenda; and focusing on solving the problem rather than on defeating someone else. Fundamentally, these all require a change of outlook: “No matter how many conflict-resolution techniques we acquire, the primary issue is our motivation, our attitude. We must be courageous enough to face conflict, dedicated enough to stay with it until it is resolved, and open-minded enough to allow that to happen.... Because conflict is challenging and uncomfortable, it is almost always perceived negatively. But if we see conflict as an opportunity to walk in another's shoes, its meaning changes. True resolution of conflict results in understanding on a new level, a deeper connection between spouses, colleagues, or nations. With practice, we can choose to see conflict as an opportunity for mutual caring, sharing, and learning.” (p. 95)

    Eventual success means working together with others to build a world beyond war even if the goal may not be achieved in the foreseeable future. The author points to goals that seemed unrealistic and unachievable right up to the point when they were achieved. “Our current crisis is the result of individuals making the wrong kind of difference: either doing nothing or acting on the basis of obsolete ways of thinking. In all societal changes – abolishing slavery, instituting women's suffrage, advancing civil rights – it has been individual people who have made the crucial difference. That is the only way it works. It works because individuals do not ask, ‘Can I really make a difference?’ They ask, ‘What must I do?’ Upon finding the answer, they do it. . . . We each must be living proof that a world beyond war is possible. Individuals are the units of social change. Without individuals making a decision to change, societal change cannot occur. It is only through grounding ourselves in principles that work in our own lives that we can create a grassroots precedent from which large-scale collective change will follow.” (pp. 134-5)

    As citizens, we can encourage our government to employ diplomatic conflict resolution, use humanitarian aid to improve world conditions, show respect for international law, and practice compassion at home. As individuals we can recommit to applying in our own lives the principles we hold dearest.

    Quotes to get the conversation started:

    One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends by peaceful means. – Martin Luther King, Jr.


    No matter how many conflict-resolution techniques we acquire, the primary issue is our motivation, our attitude. We must be courageous enough to face conflict, dedicated enough to stay with it until it is resolved, and open-minded enough to allow that to happen. Violence can never resolve the underlying source of conflict; … our means must be consistent with the peaceful result we want. Until we decide to reject violence as a means of “resolution,” we will not discover and practice the alternatives to violence that are available. Because conflict is challenging and uncomfortable, it is almost always perceived negatively. But if we see conflict as an opportunity to walk in another’s shoes, its meaning changes. – Winslow Myers


    You never change things by fighting existing reality … To change something, build a new model that makes the existing models obsolete. – Buckminster Fuller


    You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. … You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. – Jesus, Matthew 5:43-45


    He who dwells in the body can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any living being. Considering your specific duty as a kṣatriya [warrior caste], you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation. Happy are the kṣatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets. If, however, you do not perform your religious duty of fighting, then you will certainly incur sins for neglecting your duties and thus lose your reputation as a fighter…. [Fight and] either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore, get up with determination and fight. Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat – and by so doing you shall never incur sin. – Bhagavad Gita


    Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits: for Allah loveth not transgresssors. … But if they cease, then Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression. – Qur’an


    To put an end to outward war, you must begin to put an end to war in yourself. Some of you will nod your heads and say, “I agree,” and go outside and do exactly the same as you have been doing for the last ten or twenty years. Your agreement is merely verbal and has no significance, for the world’s miseries and wars are not going to be stopped by your casual assent. They will be stopped only when you realize the danger, when you realize your responsibility, when you do not leave it to somebody else. If you realize the suffering, if you see the urgency of immediate action and do not postpone, then you will transform yourself; peace will come only when you yourself are peaceful, when you yourself are at peace with your neighbor. – J. Krishnamurti


    Although the abolition of war has been the dream of man for centuries, every proposition to that end has been promptly discarded as impossible and fantastic. … But now the tremendous evolution of nuclear and other potentials of destruction has suddenly taken the problem away from its primary consideration as a moral and spiritual question and brought it abreast of scientific realism. It is no longer an ethical question to be pondered solely by learned philosophers and ecclesiastics, but a hard-core one for the decision of the masses whose survival is the issue. – Gen. Douglas MacArthur


    One thing is certain also: war and conquests in the twenty-first century suddenly look distressingly primitive as instruments for conducting the affairs of the world, no matter how advanced the weapons of war. We need a new value system for resolving world conflicts. In that value system the mechanisms for the resolution of conflicts and disputes would be founded on the principle that it is possible and even desirable to achieve mutually affirming solutions: to have mutually respectful victors and no losers. The value system based on the single predetermined solution, often one that is imposed by force of arms, will not result in mutually affirming outcomes, but can generate powerful human emotions that lead to perpetual global dissonance, anxiety, fear, and despair. – Njabulo Ndebele


    Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger. – Hermann Goering


    Most of us don’t even think about what it means to send Predators or Reapers (what a name!) – unmanned aerial vehicles – over various places to shoot off their Hellfire missiles at what’s below. And even when the story comes out that it’s some peasant you’ve hit, not the “terrorist” you theoretically aimed at, well that’s “just collateral damage.” And we always “regret” that. When you reverse that scenario and imagine it happening to us, Iranian pilotless drones over Southern California towns, you can see it’s a night mare and people are horrified. The US would declare war if such a thing happened to us. Unfortunately, in our world, that reversal just doesn’t work most of the time. It seems too unimaginable…. And that’s the degree to which our imperial view of how the world works is embedded in our national consciousness. – Leslie Thatcher


    A human being is part of the whole, called by us the universe. A part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures. – Albert Einstein


    You look down there [on the earth from space], and you can’t imagine how many borders and boundaries you cross, again and again and again, and you don’t even see them. There you are – hundreds of people killing each other over some imaginary line that you’re not even aware of, that you can’t see. From where you see it, the thing is so beautiful. You wish you could take one person in each hand and say, “Look at it from this perspective. What’s important?” – Rusty Schweickart, Apollo IX astronaut


    Our goals are those of the UN’s founders who sought to replace a world at war with one where the rule of law would prevail … where conflict would give way to freedom from violence. – Ronald Reagan


    But it is only in our own day that astronomers, physicists, geologists, chemists, biologists anthropologists, ethnologists, and archeologists have all combined in a single witness of advanced science to tell us that, in every alphabet of our being, we do indeed belong to a single system, powered by a single energy, manifesting a fundamental unity under all its variations, depending for its survival on the balance and health of the total system. If this vision of unity – which is not a vision only but a hard and inescapable scientific fact – can become part of the common insight of all the inhabitants of planet Earth, then we may find that, beyond all our inevitable pluralisms, we can achieve just enough unity of purpose to build a human world. – Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos

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