'Theosophy for a new generation of inquirers / enquirers' ;)

I don't often laugh when opening The Theosophist. In fact, I had not looked at the issues of various theosophical magazines lying around my house for months. But the spirit of boredom made me open them one by one. Most didn't help me overcome my boredom. So I did not read much. But the table of contents of the October Issue of The Theosophist (2009) had me laughing out loud.

Why? Well, first off - the variety of spellings used. Colin Price (from the UK) had as his title 'Theosophy for a New Generation of Inquirers'. Surendra Narayan had the same title, but with a different spelling 'Theosophy for a New Generation of Enquirers' My English isn't good enough to know which spelling is best. I do know though that my spell check is not protesting at either. Perhaps Enquirer is something different from Inquirer?

Dara Tatray's article is the only one that discusses the main challenge facing the TS today: how to appeal to a wider set of people so we can GROW. Then again, she had a slightly different title (emphasis mine) 'The Theosophical Society for a New Generation of Enquirers'. She goes with Narayan's spelling.

Whatever the mysteries of the spelling issue, Tatray is, as usual, closer to my sentiments about the future of the TS.

I had to keep laughing at that table of contents because how many representatives of a 'new generation' were there in this issue? I counted none: while I can't vouch for each one of them being over 50 - I do suspect they all were.

I mean - not even that one young theosophist that has had articles appear in The Theosophist, Pablo Sender, was represented.

A great contrast with the call for papers on the same subject by Quest magazine on facebook earlier this week :)

Unintentional funnies aside, there are some positive themes to be found in the latest issues of The Theosophist. There's a theosophical diary coming out. One can order it for any year one wants (which I assume means they're dated) and it includes inspiring quotes on each page. Now that's the sort of PR I like. Also there are postcards for sale with images from Hodson's work. Very pretty.

The October (130th anniversary issue) issue closes with a very appropriate though diplomatic quote from Blavatsky (her 5th message to the American Conventions):

Orthodoxy in Theosophy is a thing neither possible nor desirable. It is diversity of opinion, within certain limits, that keeps the Theosophical Society a living and healthy body, its many other ugly features not withstanding

I call that diplomatic, because one can take it in all kinds of ways. 'diversity of opinion, within certain limits'. Since each of us can decide what those limits are, we're really no further off than we were. But the quote as a whole does imply that diversity of opinion is necessary to the life of the TS. Amen to that.

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Comment by Martin Euser on February 20, 2010 at 6:58am
joe said>"To say that something is irreproducibly complex doesn't seem to add anything, it's just claiming what "is not" vs. making any positive statement."

Joe: I'm not so sure it is a merely negative statement.
A better phrasing in use is "DNA is a (comparatively) information-rich molecule". Which complexity immensely puzzles scientists. They have found out that about 50% of the human DNA consists of virus-like material. How about that?
Imagine constructive forces bringing smaller molecules together? But how can viruses arise in the first place, taking into account that they need a cell (with DNA) to reproduce?

"In Buddhism, creationism is considered a non-starter, as all things are the result of prior causes and in turn, the causes of subsequent effects (co-dependent origination, as taught by Nagarjuna). Therefore we must consider all which we observe to be as transient states. and the "trick", so to speak lies in working out the chains of causation."

What type of causes? Efficient, formal, final, or material?
Does Nagarjuna acknowledge a beginning cause? What type of cause would that be?
And is there an end to this chain of causation?

"The chemical bases are quite simple. The part that's puzzling for us laypeople is how do we get all of the variety of life out of the combination of these four chemicals and what is the underlying basis for this order?"

This puzzles biologists as well. I have never seen an adequate answer to this question. Again, is there a biologist on this forum? Questions such as these are not free from belief and perception, as you will know. Implied here, it seems, is a belief that the combination of the chemicals causes variety of life.

"Why does a certain pattern cause human beings and other patterns plankton?"

Again, implied belief that that the pattern (where does it come from anyway? just as a result of combination?) causes human beings, etc. Which cause (efficient? formal? final? material?) are you talking about?


"Do I believe that some kind of medieval layer cake cosmology is at work here? No. "

Which cosmology are you talking about?

"Are there deeper realities that take much more imagination to understand? Yes, emphatically."
And the nature of such deeper realities is what?
Comment by Mikhayl Von Riebon on February 19, 2010 at 6:31pm
Thanks Martin, i will have to take a look!

Joe you mention interdependent origination. ive come across Derrida's idea of how any identity, any body of definition, like a person for example, always has a 'history' (a perceived one). in other words any thing cannot be defined unless it has history or a 'timeline'. you cant take a slice of time and present it before oneself because you invariably associate a history to that slice, or where there is none, you identify its constituent parts.

but to your real point. how do we want to look at theosophy? what of its timeline? once upon a time in theosophy, blavatsky and olcott didnt plaster pictures of themselves everywhere and they didnt stop once the secret doctrine had been written as though espousing it as the one-stop-shop for all your spiritual needs. instead they worked towards illustrating key issues which were prevailent at the time (such as mediums and other occult fascinations) in the world around them, they contributed towards the introduction of eastern ideas in the western world (which at the time was a pioneering example), and they sought to establish a body, in an academic sense, which would comparatively study religion and philosophy unbiasedly.

today, it could be argued that only one of these things is still relevant in an academic sense, but even then the academic methods to go about it have changed. however identifying key issues in the world, bridging the gaps in communication between religious and philosophical bodies, and pioneering new frontiers, whether that is in science, ethnography, history or the like, are still practical things for theosophy to contribute towards today.

are blavatsky's works still applicable to today? are newton's or descartes'? yes and no. they are no longer pioneering the edge of human thought but does that mean they should be laughed at? or maybe instead we should continually go back to their ideas and posit them as still cutting edge science? of course not.

instead what they do for us is serve as a reminder for us to constantly question and to continue moving forward. should the theosophical society be concerned with history? or should it be concerned with the future? personally i think both. we have people who study history in general, so why not the history of the society? but also we have those concerned with new ideas and their application to the world today, which is equally important in order to keep the spirit of the society alive.

what we dont need though are those who worship blavatsky, olcott, besant and the like. those who are happy to rest on their ideas alone; to not question them or test them. that would be called a religion.

Mikhayl
Comment by Martin Euser on February 19, 2010 at 7:23am
Mark: thanks for your supporting words. It is always nice to see some empathy at work.

"language or paradigm used to describe it would be the only difference"

And maybe the different parties involved don't speak each other's languages..
Quite possible. That often happens, even within academic disciplines, let alone between..
There may also be fundamental differences, impossible to bridge.

Joe: DNA is irreducibly complex according to Michael Behe. Nobody understands how it has arisen in evolution in the first place. Is there a biologist in this forum? Could be useful to introduce here.

Mikhayl: if I am right, you are interested in "the pattern that connects", the meta-pattern, so to speak. You may very well be interested in Gregory Bateson's work "Mind and Nature", which deals with these things. The first two chapters are online at www.scribd.com. The second chapter has a very important overview of natural principles of perception, stochastic processes, logical types, and much more. Things every student and academic (and layman) should know when engaging in science, and studying philosophy and science.
Comment by Mikhayl Von Riebon on February 18, 2010 at 6:43pm
Hi Mark, if my point of view were materialist i think i would side with martin also! :D..

to clarify though, its not. i personally dont see any reason why we need such dualistic notions such as material and spiritual or objective and subjective. i think the two just reinforce one another and as katinka puts so succinctly, this reflects the interdependent origination of things.

we speak so much on how "everything is composed of energy" yet those who seem to preach that particular position to me rarely know what energy is when i press them with the hard questions. from a physics point of view (from what i understand) energy is just a word we use to describe the momentum or potential momentum of a thing. in other words we need that same matter which is composed of energy to identify, measure and explain energy. the two being interdependent.

and i agree with you katinka when you say: DNA as the be all and end all answer to things seems hardly an adequate response. instead ive focused my attention on the need we seem to have to want to structure and explain our reality through these various devices or beliefs. so 'physics', 'biology', 'post-modernism', 'spirituality', etc. although i dont deny their effectiveness over believing in animism or some other belief system, i simply am interested in looking at the whole process a little more closely. to see if there is some unified process that ties all beliefs no matter what it is one believes in.
Comment by Mark R. Jaqua on February 18, 2010 at 10:55am
What is this - "Dinner with Andre"? Ha. I side with Martin, as he acknowledges a "source within" and based from a non-material perspective, while Mikhayl is only a complex chemical reaction that ceases at death of the body. Maybe all the intellection, however, will produce its Zen result, and he'll see the world as the epiphenomenom and non-existent as it is. Like Martin said or inferred, the Truth is the Truth, whether from Eastern sources, or western, and of whatever age. If there is a non-material, super-logical essential Truth to be realized, it is the same one experienced by Plato, or Shankara, or a modern brain-scientist, physicist, or punk-rocker, but the language or paradigm used to describe it would be the only difference, since time is an illusion after all.
Comment by Martin Euser on February 16, 2010 at 3:50pm
Mikhayl,

You are just projecting your image of "people holding on to the old, worn out ideas" on me, thereby misrepresenting my position.
You are not alone in doing this, as there is more than one on this forum who seem to be of the opinion that the old ideas have had their time. Now, I don't have time to go into all this, I just refer you and others to my ebook and related work, where I summarize the ancient wisdom for a new age. It is based on rock solid , inter-subjectively validated experiences of many highly developed people.
There is something as timeless wisdom, you know. Based on experience many people don't have access to, because they have cut themselves off from the source within.

"firstly the very foundations of the dialectic and numerous other beliefs have not been ignorantly rejected. they have been assimilated."

No, they (Greek and Hindu ideas, a.o.) have not been assimilated. Our Western philosophers have tried to understand a couple of things, but could never reach the heights of the Eastern philosophers. Hence the current mess we're in.
I do see the value of empiricism, but it needs to be combined with a firm grasp of Reality.
This statement will probably mean little to you, but others may be able to connect to the intended meaning. They will find much to ponder about in my analysis of the human mind.

"those who are willing to put those books to the flame and see which ones actually produce gold"

Nice soundbite. I am dying to see you produce gold.
More seriously, that's what I have been doing and doing. One has to realize, however, that one must have certain first principles and I have formulated some of these. Scientism is based on materialism, and that won't do. It provides no firm basis for ethics. Again see my book.
Up to now I have not seen you formulating anything constructively, i.e., based on first principles.
What vision do you adhere to anyway? Agnosticism won't do. I am not aware of any first principles of agnosticists - at least not something secure to build on.

"archaic absolutist mentality".
You are not aware of modern developments of the ancient Gnosis. Again, I sketched this a bit in my articles on Vitvan. Besides that, De Purucker has clearly incorporated a healthy relativism in the theosophical teachings, something few theosophers seem to be aware of. So, you're fighting windmills here. I don't adhere to old views of the Absolute. So don't put all the old stuff on my back. I have long discarded what I cannot find a use for.

"sadly the only way you and i can know that we have both had a similar insight is through use of logic."

You mean language, I suppose. Logic won't do. Language on itself won't do either. It is only the resonance of one's experience with another person's formulation of it that will make sense. If you don't get it, you don't get it, so to speak.

"that which makes you question everything and through sweat and blood, to come to some item of truth; to find something which may actually pioneer the way for the rest of mankind. then please stay. that is what i want to be apart of."

Well, my way probably is not your way. I don't see a good reason to throw everything proven away with the bathwater. But you can try to start from scratch. Good luck with that. I will observe your attempts, but most likely not participate much.

Some loose ends:

"would you argue Newton's theory of physics has been rejected?"

Not exactly. You know very well that it has been superseded by Einstein;s theory of relativity, but is still useful as a first approximation. It is a crude similitude to the idea that the ancient notions can be replaced or rather enhanced/refined. Of course they can be refined. That's what experience and development of principles of consciousness is all about.

About sacrifice: your example of the father saving his son by sacrificing his life is a bit cunning.
A more illustrative example is someone who takes a great risk in giving shelter to the persecuted, like the Jews in the second world-war. If they were caught then they risked to be put to death.
Altruistic behavior! Evolution-biologists have great difficulty in understanding this (as with artistic ability, etc.). Wallace saw that and changed his vision on evolution. Darwin didn't see it, or chose to ignore this problem.
Comment by Mikhayl Von Riebon on February 13, 2010 at 7:19pm
Wow, not that you'll probably read this Martin, as its sounds as though your moving on but should you, i would like to address some of the points you've made. firstly youve quite obviously scanned over some of my key words, matched them to some of the things 'academics' have said to you in the past, got all hot and bothered and have retaliated. if you'd even listened to what i was saying you'd see there is a far greater dimension to all this. instead you cling to presocratic philosophers and ancient hindus as though they were handed the supreme knowledge itself by god and should be simply accepted, no questions asked. and that somehow the world rejects them and that we should 'return' to the old ways. and to demonstrate these words:

"All these people blindly reject or ignore thousands of years of civilization which brought forth great philosophers and great insights, like those of the ancient Greeks and Hindus. What an arrogance and stupidity."

firstly the very foundations of the dialectic and numerous other beliefs have not been ignorantly rejected. they have been assimilalated. and with that information we have moved onto other things. if one were keenly observant you could find traces of these cultures in our own today. so i fail to see how you say they have been rejected. would you argue Newton's theory of physics has been rejected?

you speak of arrogant academics, yet how arrogant are you to assume you know the minds of all the academics in the world. as ive tried to stress one can only work with the perceptions that they are exposed too. if youd even stopped for a second to think maybe the world as it appears to you is not the 'entire' world, you would probably have found all those past heated discussions youd had before with academics may not have come to that.

on the subject of buddhi and theosophy, i am actually well versed in theosophical literature. but you convey it as though, if one does not agree with it, then they must be wrong or not understand it. it is this kind of mentality that hinders further development. "why learn about anything else when we've got everything we need in the A, B, Cs of theosophy." and you suggest it is i who doesnt want to learn on these forums. this is the very mental divide in theosophy i am talking about. those who want to take up all the old dusty books and bat heads over where blavatsky ate lunch at so and so a date. or those who are willing to put those books to the flame and see which ones actually produce gold.

Now, nihilism is something i am keenly observant of. my background is zen in nature and i have a great deal of interest in how nihilism can arise in this kind of thinking. i agree with you that relativism will only bring about nihilism. but i dont see that to be any reason why we should return to some archaic absolutist mentality. relativism changed all that, and if there is anything me and my generation Y'ers can do about it, that absolutist mentality will be put to the grave. but i would imagine relativism too is seeing its last days, the question is what next? and it has fallen on the hands of people such as yourself and myself to find away around nihilism; to understand it completely. however this may mean we take steps way from the past rather than returning to it. the things of the past didnt, work thats why the present state of things arose.

now you said: "Logic is not the same as meaning, let alone insight." dont think of me as actually holding this belief as i dont. what i was trying to say is that the only means we have of communicating with each other is through logic. sadly the only way you and i can know that we have both had a similar insight is through use of logic. so for all the good your insights do you, if you cant convey it to the world then you'll just have to employ logic.

Also you suggest i evade important issues such as: "How is it possible to discriminate between right and wrong"? How do we know that something is wrong? Is it possible to have certainty about the nature of things? What is the basis for moral behaviour? Is it only a social convention or is there something deeper to it?
Or, questions such as: can science be founded upon a secure, strong, basis? Which ontology do we need? What can we know?

what on earth do you think ive been talking about? ive been trying to scratch at the answers to these questions yet all ive had from you are that we should turn to theosophical or ancient texts for the answers. and when i reject these sources as the be all and end all you claim i am evading them? wow thats a very interesting way of narrating all of this to support your own views which in turn supports your sense of self. very fascinating how powerful this process can be eh?

if you and i both agree that these are imperative questions then why do we argue on our different approaches to them? i would like this to be productive, but i warn you i am not in the least bit interested in simply making the Secret Doctrine 'gospel.' at present i see nihilism as a real challenge for us to deal with here but before we can get to that, there is the challenge of actually letting go to all our preconceived ideas of how things should be and plunging into the realms of uncertainty. sure its scary. its not nearly as safe as depending on the bhagavad Gita or mathematics. but i also accept that these are the foundations and tools for which we can stand on to move forward. the buddha himself said that the dharma was just a vessel. so why get so hang up on it?

so to summarise, it really comes down to your definition of constructive discussion. if your perception of constructive discussion is a self-supporting reaffirming belief in how things should be seen. if you want people who take up new age or ancient texts just for the sheer fact that they have something to identify with; if you want these people to read your works and say "yes, yes, this is so true. you are so right,' if you want these people to accept what you say and thus reaffirm your own beliefs then please do take that somewhere else. if however your definition of constructive discussion is that which challenges you; is that which makes you question everything and through sweat and blood, to come to some item of truth; to find something which may actually pioneer the way for the rest of mankind. then please stay. that is what i want to be apart of.
Comment by Martin Euser on February 13, 2010 at 4:34pm
Mikhayl,

Your ideas regarding spiritual matters is typical for many current academics. Their arrogance, born out of total ignorance, is well known. I have seen scores of these. I know that milieu very well, for I have studied and worked for over fourteen years therein. Most academics have no clue whatsoever as to the higher faculties of mind. They got stuck in the brain-mind, prodding in matters, hoping to gain enough data to extract some meaning. There was one, only one guy, who understood something of my remarks at that time on qualia and intuition, in relation to articial intelligence I was concerned with then. He knew what a category error meant. Today many technically oriented people seem to believe that machines will take over from humanity in the not too far off future. I'm rather skeptical about such claims.
In the sixties this kind of guys believed that soon machines would be able to translate conversations. Even today there is no software that can seamlessly translate books, let alone conversations. Contextual information, knowledge of the world and diverse cultures is not easily encoded, if that is possible at all in a satisfactory fashion.
Logic is not the same as meaning, let alone insight. To think that is to make a category error. Science has no real ontology and a less-than-satisfactory epistemology. Yet it uses terms that are metaphysical like Force, Field, Potential, Time, and so on, that are abstractions, but taken as "quasi-entities". What a mess! Good education on these areas is next to absent.

Many of these people hold to a post-modern view of the relativity of all knowledge. While there is value in realizing the contextual nature of knowledge, there also is a danger of extreme relativism. It is easy to see that such a view cannot hold: if all is but relative, one belief or another belief, then this applies equally well to the extreme relativism: it negates itself. It is but a belief, like thousands of other beliefs. And I find it laughable.
All these people blindly reject or ignore thousands of years of civilization which brought forth great philosophers and great insights, like those of the ancient Greeks and Hindus. What an arrogance and stupidity.

The A,B,C of theosophy includes a view on the septenary constitution of being. Besides the more visible aspects, as body, emotion, brain-intellect, there are higher faculties (and entities) posited, such as intuition and inspiration.
What is buddhi? It is an essence, manifesting as spiritual light through the manas, or thinking faculty.
Many seers and philosophies testify of these higher faculties. I personally have some experience with it. So could you, if you open your mind. Instead you evade the important issues, that are implied, such as "How is it possible to discriminate between right and wrong"? How do we know that something is wrong? Is it possible to have certainty about the nature of things? What is the basis for moral behaviour? Is it only a social convention or is there something deeper to it?
Or, questions such as: can science be founded upon a secure, strong, basis? Which ontology do we need? What can we know?
The unity of perceiver and perceived is of course not absolute, and it is temporary, as far as we earthlings are concerned, i.e., while incarnate.

You tend to resort to cheap semantic tricks, like labeling words as "just a belief". That kills discussion.
But I suppose you don't want to learn on this forum, just stating that "all is belief", as your highest wisdom.
This comes very close to nihilism, and this is not a fruitful venue for me to walk in, so I say goodbye to you for the moment. Others on this forum also are evading my questions, so, I have to re-evaluate my participation in this forum.
I fully realize that all these discussions are indexed by Google and perhaps other search-engines as well. So, for those wishing to study things with an open mind, including what the Ancients have told us, I refer them to my scribd account: www.scribd.com/meuser
Interested people can comment on my articles and the books I have posted there and have an constructive discussion as far as time permits.

Martin Euser
Comment by Mikhayl Von Riebon on February 12, 2010 at 6:33pm
Really martin? is there such a difference? do you merely believe in this difference (being past reflective of it) or are you actually perceiving it right now through intuitive experience? im glad that its central to 'theosophy' but thats no reason why i should merely 'accept it' or why i should somehow 'guide' my studies to identifying it. tell me, in true understanding does the observer and the observed fall away? or are they there in some higher platonic sense? if they fall away are you talking about some higher essence or soul that exists separate from a thing? please elaborate.

and why not man become a machine? man already is a biological machine. if we had metal parts and a de lorean power source time and space would ultimately change. if we were still hung up on maintaining our individual sense of selves and not some collective like the borg, we could live forever and expand our minds (ironically expanding our identity). space travel would be readily available. energy consumption could be refined, directly using solar power perhaps? why not?

with sacrifice im afraid to inform you that semantically speaking there is no such thing. i.e. if i sacrifice myself for the greater good or for a child say. then i believe that that reason outweighs my own life. so for me that choice is better than the other; it is in my best interest to protect my child at all costs.. if instead i care more about myself then my child, then its in my best interest to protect myself at all costs.. you see what i mean? sacrifice or no, i will only choose whats in my best interest.

am i an extreme post-modern relativist? ooh another title to add to my CV! call it what one may. i see myself as reacting like all chemical substances to their Ph opposite. im reacting to the world around me and in it i see people defining themselves through beliefs, however subtle, and then encountering resistance from identities that are bigger or smaller than themselves and from this either compromising their identitiy and beliefs or bashing others over the head with them. and then if it is not resistance, i see them encountering those who support their views, and this reaffirms their identity, making them even more powerful and well rooted. i witness this whole game take place even in myself, and for me it becomes rather confusing that so many should be blinded by their beliefs even to the point of fighting others for them, when their underlying processes are exactly the same. and then i think that these thoughts of my own also, this confusion is the very subtle nature of the whole process that leads others to war. is that post-modernist? probably, but why such a bad thing? do you believe in a thing called spiritual progress? do you believe that the infinite has anything to 'gain' from you progressing? i suppose whether it does or not makes no difference for us as we are here now and finite, and because of this we will seek to simply narrate this reality to the best of our ability. so really what im trying to get down to is are our beliefs a product of our finite nature? and if we were to lose them what would happen? would we dissolve and once more realise our true infinite nature? or is there such a place as hell? a reason why we should grip so tightly to our beliefs?

yes i would agree that our environment influences our chemistry. but that doesn't detract from my point. the point being that we perceive reality in this way right now. and we actually fool our selves into thinking 'this is it!!' when, if it were, how poor we must be that it could change with the slightest wind, and how rare it would be for another person to have our exact chemical makeup to see what we see.

overall i agree though that it is hard to see any value in these discussions. its much easier and safer to protect what we already have. to add to our being rather than to undermine it. and that question of value also is rather quite closely tied to belief. if we dont believe in a thing how can we derive value from it? perhaps we can instead measure the value of a thing through its ability to help and refine action, like how hydraulics helped construction. how can understanding the processes of belief help us? it certainly helps win elections, or rally nations to war. so maybe there is something in it? maybe by its dismantling we may no longer be easily manipulated as we once were?
Comment by Martin Euser on February 12, 2010 at 8:07am
Mikhayl,

There is a big difference between mere belief and the deep, direct, intuitive experience of the esssence of things. You will know about the principle of understanding, buddhi. This is central to theosophy. Mere belief can be wrong, true understanding never, because on that level there is a unity between perceiver and that which is perceived.

Man becoming a machine? Do you want that?

"could you choose A?" Rather not, but there is something as a sacrifice, you know.

Are you an extreme post-modern relativist? I miss the notion of Insight or Understanding in these discussions.

"the very way you perceive reality from moment to moment is dependent on the slightest variation in neural chemistry".

Again, this is true, in some degree, for the personality. It certainly is true the other way around: our perceptions influence our chemistry.

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