Theosophy Northwest View

The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society

December 2009 – Vol. 12 Issue 10

Final Monthly Discussion Meeting

After a run of 14 years, we are holding the last of our Theosophical Discussions. "Service to Humanity" is our subject and we will be discussing such questions as: How are human beings connected with each other? What are the root causes of suffering and how best can these be relieved? Should we focus more on ameliorating effects or on addressing fundamental causes; on people near us or more generally? How important is motive? How important are results? How can we avoid being merely well intentioned? Is the Christ or Bodhisattva a practical example for ordinary people? What are the differences among compassion, sympathy, empathy, and kindness? How much good can one person do? Come and share your ideas!

  • When: Thursday, December 10, 7:30 to 8:45 pm
  • Where: Bellevue Library, 1111 - 110th Ave NE, Bellevue

Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge

lights, Bellevue Botanical Gardens
             Holiday lights at Bellevue Botanical Gardens

Celebrating “The Charter for Compassion”

“Compassion does not mean pity; it means to ‘experience with’ the other. . . . It requires a principled, ethical and imaginative effort to put self-interest to one side and stand in somebody else's shoes. The golden rule does not advocate naive bonhomie but impels us to examine our presuppositions, change our minds if necessary, and submit our assessment of a dilemma to stringent criticism.” – Karen Armstrong

November 12th marked the launching of the Charter for Compassion, a movement spearheaded by author Karen Armstrong. As she and Desmond Tutu explained in The Guardian: “We have a choice. We can either choose the aggressive and exclusive tendencies that have developed in practically all religious and secular traditions or we can cultivate those that speak of compassion, empathy, respect and an impartial ‘concern for everybody.’ . . . It is above all a summons to creative, practical and sustained action to meet the political, moral, religious, social and cultural problems of our time.”

The Charter was a collaborative process. Over 150,000 people from more than 180 countries submitted ideas and text online. These expressions were then crafted into the final document by a multi-faith, multi-national group of religious thinkers and leaders. The Charter reads:

…Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. . . .

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion; to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate; to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures; to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity; to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings – even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”

Groups in Seattle and around the world commemorated this event in many ways. In Malaysia, former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badaw said: "All I can ask of you today, my friends, is let us not fail humanity; let us not fail ourselves. Let us live with compassion and love for our fellow human beings. . . . We seem to lack the ability to see through the eyes of the poor, hungry, oppressed, discriminated and those of whom life has not given a break. And in being unable to see through the eyes of the less fortunate, we are unable to empathize, thus further propelling the world into a deeper abyss of suffering and gloom. . . . Too often we under-estimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn the world around."

Learn more or sign the Charter at:

International Human Rights Day

A central objective of the Theosophical Society is to promote universal brotherhood based on the fundamental oneness of all. An important step toward wider acceptance of this goal was ratification over sixty years ago by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. Its first two articles state: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. . . . Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

International Human Rights Day is celebrated each December 10th to mark this anniversary, and “Embrace diversity, end discrimination” is this year’s theme. Everyone has something they can contribute, for as Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

Theosophical Views

Mankind Is Our Business

By Ingrid Van Mater

“Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” These words in Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol stand as eloquent expression of our grand human purpose, suggesting that it is our inner thoughts and feelings, our motives, our priorities, which contribute to making our lives an emptiness or a fullness. What we are in our whole being is so much grander than anything we can measure by surface values. In Goethe's words, "We are shaped and fashioned by what we love."

How easy it is to be caught in a narrow circle of thought, magnify its importance, and through such preoccupation become blinded to matters that need our full attention; or, through a mental block of prejudice or hostility, prevent a mutually happy exchange that might otherwise be possible. In the case of Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge, it was as if they had closed off all sunlight from the small, cold island of isolation each had created. Scrooge receives his first awakening when he learns from Marley's Ghost that the steel chain encumbering the ghost is wrought from his material and covetous thoughts. We do indeed forge of our own free will every link in the chain of effects that binds us to this earth, and only we can lessen the burden as we awaken to the needs of others with greater sensitivity and understanding. This is part of the evolutionary process we are continuously undergoing.

Dickens dramatizes Scrooge's gradual inner transformation through exchanges with Marley's Ghost and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and To Come. He is reminded often of lost opportunities to show charity and love. He visits everywhere: in almshouses, hospitals, jails, "in misery's every refuge," learning as he goes. The crowning point is Scrooge's triumph: he makes good his promises, helps the Cratchit family and others in need, and he and Tiny Tim become the best of friends. From this moment he sees everything with new eyes for his heart is filled with joy, and wherever he goes on the familiar streets he derives particular pleasure.

A Christmas Carol arouses our sympathies and gives hope for humankind. It belongs to this sacred birthtime of the year, a time of beginnings and opportunities, when all things – and people too – are touched by the tide of renewal. As Scrooge's nephew said when his uncle dismissed Christmas with Bah! Humbug!: “I have always thought of Christmas time . . . as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely . . .” Although commercialized, this holiday with its mounting spirit of goodwill and open-hearted sharing is bound to have its effect in the world and on individual lives.

A global family of evolving souls, we are linked together on an endless journey toward an ever broader awareness of our responsibilities to life and to one another. Perhaps the greatest appeal of this masterpiece lies in the intuitive perception it awakens that compassionate involvement with all humankind has been and will always be our "business."

Current Issue