At times I will share passages from literature, philosophy, poetry, lyrics, etc that have both moved and sustained me. While many of the authors may not be from the recognized theosophical literature I believe they are theosophical in nature none-the-less. I also believe that the authors I bring here do their best work when I stay out of there way as much as possible. Other readers are encouraged to share as well.


--bill

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Comment by Bill Meredith on May 1, 2009 at 6:42am
[...]
Socrates: I understand the point you would make, Meno. Do you see what a captious argument you are introducing--that, forsooth, a man cannot inquire either about what he knows or about what he does not know? For he cannot inquire about what he knows, because he knows it, and in that case is in no need of inquiry; nor again can he inquire about what he does not know, since he does not know about what he is to inquire.
Meno: Now does it seem to you to be a good argument, Socrates?
Socrates: It does not.
Meno: Can you explain how not?
Socrates: I can; for I have heard from wise men and women who told of things divine that--
Meno: What was it they said?
Socrates: Something true, as I thought, and admirable.
Meno: What was it? And who were the speakers?
Socrates: They were certain priests and priestesses who have studied so as to be able to give a reasoned account of their ministry; and Pindar also and many another poet of heavenly gifts. As to their words, they are these: mark now, if you judge them to be true. They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time comes to an end, which is called dying, and at another is born again, but never perishes. Consequently one ought to live all one's life in the utmost holiness.

For from whomsoever Persephone shall accept
requital for ancient wrong, the souls of these she
restores in the ninth year to the upper sun again;
from them arise glorious kings and men of splendid
might and surpassing wisdom, and for all remaining
time are they called holy heroes amongst mankind.

Seeing then that the soul is immortal and has been born many times, and has beheld all things both in this world and in the nether realms, she has acquired knowledge of all and everything; so that it is no wonder that she would be able to recollect all that she knew before about virtue and other things. For as all nature is akin, and the soul has learned all things, there is no reason why we should not, by remembering but one single thing--an act which men call learning--discover everything else, if we have courage and faint not in the search; since it would seem, research and learning are wholly recollection. So we must not hearken to that captious argument: it would make us idle, and is pleasing only to the indolent ear, whereas the other makes us energetic and inquiring. [...]

from MENO by PLATO; THE PHILOSOPHER'S HANDBOOK, Edited by Stanley Rosen, Random House, 2000; pp416-417
Comment by Bill Meredith on April 30, 2009 at 8:49am
We are the hand that strikes us

"In the world of Reality, the demand of justice for the individual is almost repulsive, it is so utterly impossible and incompatible with things as they are. In the blindness and illusion of our world-image we may fancy ourselves to be separate and distinct, yet, all the time, the fact remains that we never are separate, but are fundamentally and essentially one in being and reality. In that reality we not ony share, we are the life of all creatures in a fullness of utter unity which is incomprehensible to our consciousness in daily life. The demand for justice is therefore meaningless in that world; it does not matter whether a thing happens to that part of reality which I call myself or to the part which I call someone else, all are one in utter unity; what happens to someone else happens to ourselves, there is but one Reality in which and through which all happens."

--Van der Leeuw, J.J. THE CONQUEST OF ILLUSION; Alfred A. Knopf: London and New York; 1928, p193
Comment by Bill Meredith on April 29, 2009 at 1:58pm
"I would like to beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

--Ranier Maria Rilke, quoted in THE ESSENCE OF WISDOM, edited by Stephen Mitchell, Broadway Books, 1998, p14
Comment by Bill Meredith on April 28, 2009 at 8:03am
When we read the sutras, we see that the Buddha was also a very strong person. (...) His reaction to the corruption among Vedic priests, for example, was thorough-going. The notion of Atman, Self, which was at the center of the Vedic beliefs, was the cause of much of the social injustice of the day--the caste system, the terrible treatment of the untouchables, and the monopolization of spiritual teachings by those who enjoyed the best material conditions and yet were hardly spiritual at all. In reaction, The Buddha emphasized the teachings of non-Atman (non-self). He said, "Things are empty of a separate, independent self, If you look for the self of a flower, you will see that it is empty." But when Buddhists began worshiping the idea of emptiness, he said, "It is worse if you get caught in the non-self of a flower than if you believe in the self of the flower."
The Buddha did not present an absolute doctrine. His teaching of non-self was offered in the context of his time. It was an instrument for meditation. But many Buddhists since then have gotten caught by the idea of non-self. They confuse the means and the end, the raft and the shore, the finger pointing to the moon and the moon. There is something more important than non-self. It is the freedom from the notions of both self and non-self. For a Buddhist to be attached to any doctrine, even a Buddhist one, is to betray the Buddha. It is not words or concepts that are important. What is important is our insight into the nature of reality and our way of responding to reality.>>

from LIVING BUDDHA, LIVING CHRIST, Thich Nhat Hanh, Berkley Publishing Group, 2005,2007, pp54-55
Comment by Bill Meredith on April 27, 2009 at 8:21am
communion in the source

"We have spoken of an analogy between the history of philosophy and the authority of religious tradition. True, philosophy has no canonical books such as those possessed by the religions, no authority which need simply be followed, no definitive truth which simply exists. But the historical tradition of philosophy as a whole, this deposit of inexhaustible truth, shows us the roads to our present philosophical endeavour. The tradition is the profound truth of past thought, toward which we look with never-ending expectancy; it is something unfathomable in the few great works; it is the reality of the great thinkers, received with reverence.
The tradition is an authority that cannot be obeyed with certainty. It is incumbent upon us to come to ourselves through it by our own experience, to find our own source in its source.
Only in the seriousness of present philosophical thinking can we gain contact with eternal philosophy in its historical manifestation. It is through the historical manifestation that we gain the profound ties that can unite us in a common present.
Thus historical research is conducted on various levels. In his approach to the texts the conscientious student of philosophy knows on which plane he is moving. He must gain intelligent mastery of the "facts." But the end and summit of historical study lies in the moments of communion in the source. It is then that the light dawns which gives meaning and unity to all factual research. Without this centre, this philosophical source, the history of philosophy would be a mere record of fallacies and curiosities.
Once it has awakened me, history becomes the mirror of what is my own: in its image I see what I myself think.
The history of philosophy--a space in which I think and breathe--reveals in inimitable perfection prototypes for my own searching. By its attempts, its successes and failures, philosophy raises the question. It encourages me through the example of those men who have unswervingly followed its arduous path.
To take a past philosophy as our own is no more possible than to produce an old work of art for a second time. At best we can produce a deceptive copy. We have no text, like pious Bible readers, in which we may hope to find absolute truth. We love the old texts as we love old works of art, our hearts go out to them, we immerse ourselves in their truth, but there remains in them something remote and unattainable, unfathomable, though it is something with which we always live, something which starts us on the way to our present philosophizing.
For philosophy is essentially concerned with the present. We have only one reality, and that is here and now. What we miss by our evasions will never return, but if we squander ourselves, then too we lose being. Each day is precious: a moment can be everything.
We are remiss in our task if we lose ourselves in the past or future. Only through present reality can we gain access to the timeless; only in apprehending time can we attain to that sphere where all time is extinguished."

--Jaspers, Karl; WAY TO WISDOM, translated by Ralph Manheim, Yale University Press, 1954, p142-144
Comment by Bill Meredith on April 26, 2009 at 8:09am
A number of disciples went to the Buddha and said, "Sir, there are living here in Savatthi many wandering hermits and scholars who indulge in constant dispute, some saying that the world is infinite and eternal and others that it is finite and not eternal, some saying that the soul dies with the body and others that it lives on forever, and so forth. What, Sir, would you say concerning them?"
The Buddha answered, "Once upon a time there was a certain raja who called to his servant and said, 'Come, good fellow, go and gather together in one place all the men of Savatthi who were born blind... and show them an elephant.' 'Very good, sire,' replied the servant, and he did as he was told. He said to the blind men assembled there, 'Here is an elephant,' and to one man he presented the head of the elephant, to another its ears, to another a tusk, to another the trunk, the foot, back, tail, and tuft of the tail, saying to each one that that was the elephant.

"When the blind men had felt the elephant, the raja went to each of them and said to each, 'Well, blind man, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what sort of thing is an elephant?'

"Thereupon the men who were presented with the head answered, 'Sire, an elephant is like a pot.' And the men who had observed the ear replied, 'An elephant is like a winnowing basket.' Those who had been presented with a tusk said it was a ploughshare. Those who knew only the trunk said it was a plough; others said the body was a grainery; the foot, a pillar; the back, a mortar; the tail, a pestle, the tuft of the tail, a brush.

"Then they began to quarrel, shouting, 'Yes it is!' 'No, it is not!' 'An elephant is not that!' 'Yes, it's like that!' and so on, till they came to blows over the matter.

"Brethren, the raja was delighted with the scene.

"Just so are these preachers and scholars holding various views blind and unseeing.... In their ignorance they are by nature quarrelsome, wrangling, and disputatious, each maintaining reality is thus and thus."

Then the Exalted One rendered this meaning by uttering this verse of uplift,

O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim
For preacher and monk the honored name!
For, quarreling, each to his view they cling.
Such folk see only one side of a thing.

Jainism and Buddhism. Udana 68-69: Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant

--We give a version of this well-known Indian tale from the Buddhist canon, but some assert it is of Jain origin. It does illustrate well the Jain doctrine of Anekanta, the manysidedness of things.

http://www.unification.net/ws/theme00b.htm
Comment by Bill Meredith on April 25, 2009 at 8:03am
T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). Prufrock and Other Observations. 1917.

1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.


LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats 5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question … 10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, 15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, 20
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; 25
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate; 30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go 35
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair— 40
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare 45
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, 50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all— 55
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? 60
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress 65
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets 70
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! 75
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis? 80
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, 85
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while, 90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”— 95
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while, 100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen: 105
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
. . . . . 110
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use, 115
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old … 120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me. 125

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown 130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
Comment by Bill Meredith on April 24, 2009 at 7:07am
In a Dark Time

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.


A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.


Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.


Theodore Roethke, 1964
Comment by Bill Meredith on April 23, 2009 at 5:21pm
1 Corinthians 13 (New King James Version)

1 Corinthians 13
The Greatest Gift
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


Footnotes:
1 Corinthians 13:3 NU-Text reads so I may boast.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2013;&version=50;
Comment by Bill Meredith on April 22, 2009 at 7:15am
HAMLET


A monologue from the play by William Shakespeare

HAMLET: To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action. -- Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! -- Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.

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