'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 Mikhayl Von Riebon on February 12, 2010 at 7:08am
good ol' star trek eh? if you were an infinite being what else could you possibly do but to manifest an infinite number of possibilities and explore them from an infinite number of relative positions.

martin it would appear you illustrate our point perfectly. everything youve just stated here of experience being better than belief, of the human race becoming slaves to technology, of the power of community. all of this is belief. why hold any one belief over another? why do good? are we forced to? are these the limitations of mankind? to helplessly follow one belief after another?

if i were to give you a choice between a. doing something which would not be in your best interest and B. doing something which would be in your best interest. could you choose A.?

what would be so wrong about losing humanity and becoming machines? are any of us aware of the fact that one way or another the human race will die? even if not through extinction we will most likely evolve to a point so as not to be recognisable as human. what does this mean for us? for our beliefs? did you know the very way you perceive reality from moment to moment is dependent on the slightest variation in neural chemistry? that all it takes is for one generation to be born with the slightest of differences and the whole perception of reality we take for granted right now, will change, possibly losing insights which we believe to be important now. infact this may have already happened more than once.

some food for thought perhaps

Comment by Martin Euser on February 12, 2010 at 6:10am
Mikhayl, Joe,

Mystery and magic have always fascinated a large public. Themes like the Hero figure on a Quest, battle with evil forces, courage, The Force, help from the Invisible World, victory and defeat, Transformation, etc., appeal to the collective unconscious part within us.

I think that the idea of us becoming slaves of our own technology could be stressed more.
The mirror side of this is the idea that technology will solve all our problems. Does it? Will it?
What about the hypnotic effect of television/media/constant bombardment with advertisements?
Is virtual reality a poor substitute for real life, dealing with what lies before us?
An escape from our boredom with ordinary life?

I would like to emphasize the power of community, in a world of fragmented souls.
The community of souls.. what a moving and powerful idea! The Green movement/sustainable world meme has gained in power considerably and rightly so.

Beliefs are nice .. experience is better.

Dawkins is rather superficial in his analysis. I talked about Alister McGrath, who wrote a booklet to deal with some of D.'s ideas.

Are we becoming robots, instead of true human beings? i.e. what makes us truly human?

Personally I am very interested to research/getting to know the pattern that connects, instead of those patterns that divide us. Bateson.

The power of imagination plays a role in all the above themes. It truly IS the pattern that connects.
We ourselves give value to what we perceive. Value that stems from our beliefs and experiences.

Is one belief as good as another? I doubt it. There are false beliefs and beliefs that are more in resonance with the worlds within.

These are all themes we can explore and I have done that a little in my book already.
This is a never ending quest..
Comment by Mikhayl Von Riebon on February 12, 2010 at 4:09am
haha! Augmented reality! i was wondering when someone would mention that to me.

ok, so we work with the idea that beliefs are survival mechanisms used for structuring our reality; to make sense out of all this empirical data we are receiving (without here mentioning that this too is a belief). at one stage in history the universe revolved around the earth. now even though nothing empirically has changed, our beliefs have and we perceive the earth revolving around the sun (even though both are actually in a state of motion and could be said to have an equal force on each other.).

So does this make our beliefs redundant? for this there can be no answer, as to answer it would be to establish another belief (nor can i state this as an adequate answer. and around we go in a zen paradox.). instead we try to observe and map out this process to the best of our abilities, neither 'objectively' or 'subjectively.'

now Joe, you mention "Beliefs, if I understand them correctly are acquired notions, standing in, for the observer, at a given point of time, as truth." & "People really wierd out when faced with uncertainty."

i was actually having a word game with myself earlier and i was thinking about how whenever i think "i am", it carries with it this certain chemical response, but there is no reason why this chemical response should mean anything. when we look out through our fleshy parts we call eyes onto the world around us, we have somehow accepted that this world, this meat sack, this gravity, this wind, these beliefs and daily routines etc. that these are all somehow 'normal' as if we even knew what 'normal' meant. and we are content with this. infact what is being increasingly evident in the social sciences is that what is considered 'normal' vs 'taboo' is so drastically different.

we actually have some how tricked ourselves into thinking that others think and perceive reality like us. but instead what is being argued is that we are only perceiving the cultural rules of how we should act externally. in other words so long as people act ok externally to social rules, what happens behind those eyes or closed doors so to speak, can be something entirely different.

i digress.. so if our beliefs define us; contribute to our identities. then to question others beliefs is to shake who they are as an 'individual'. and no doubt must be like threatening them physically. so what happens if we let it all go? to plunge into uncertainty? this is what i want to know.

i must clarify myself. for me, when people say, the universe came into existence at 13.7billion yrs ago, i think this to be nonsensical. for me, time is dependent on an observer. to argue that there was something around, when there wasnt anything/anyone around to perceive it is like arguing the existence of alternate universes. i.e. they most likely exist, but what we are doing is really only narrating our reality in such a way; structuring it in such a way; that our perception of reality appears cohesive. that we become comfortable for the time being until our beliefs of the birth of the universe no longer serve our present goals well enough that we have to change it.

im even willing to take it as far and argue against my own memory. that to say i was born at this date, and was this person and likes these things; that these are mere thoughts in the present that consume my mind and provide for me a feeling of security and stability.

for me this is because much as zhuang zi (i think it was) asked whether i am a butterfly dreaming i am a man, or a man dreaming i am a butterfly , ive found that when i dream, i somehow accept the dream to the extent of feeling every sense and emotion. i accept the premises unwaveringly and i forget that i am dreaming. and like wise when i wake up i have found that i cannot assume that i have somehow 'woken up', but am instead also dreaming now, and accepting these bizarre premises in my waking life. i am still following the narrative process. i am still justifying, and structuring all these sense perceptions and arguing against others beliefs and reaffirming my own.

so is there some way around this narrative process? what happens if my sense of self becomes destabilised? can one plunge into utter uncertainty? what would happen? i have a working hypothesis for this: just as my sense of self and identity was brought forward initially from such a state of non existence, what should keep it from coming back again?

if this universe were to dissappear in the blink of an eye, what would stop it from coming back? god? some other structure which biasedly decides what should exist and what should not? if so what keeps this structure from dissappearing? or how does an infinite being take up a relative position? an opinion? how does it decide which opinion to choose?

again i digress.. what we are here for is purpose. but can we come to some idea of what purpose we should hold before we clarify the nature and process of our beliefs?

Comment by Mikhayl Von Riebon on February 12, 2010 at 1:00am
Also Joe, i think you and i are very like minded on this "open slather" on beliefs. so what of the the very process of forming belief itself? what is it we are taking for granted? why have beliefs? why not have beliefs? why and why not question it? what are they? what of this very questioning we are employing when considering beliefs themselves. it seems when we come to some conclusion about something we are only falling prey again and again to this belief/identity structuring process.
Comment by Mikhayl Von Riebon on February 12, 2010 at 12:36am
well lets define what we mean when we say that there is something powerful in the ancient. are we talking about a set of beliefs? rituals? personally i think we are talking about a process which these things a mere symptoms of. a process which seems to be identifiable in everything, not just religion. for me i think this process is the process of identity itself. i think the laws which govern the creation and sustaining of identity is the very same that governs the laws of the universe. and i think we are entering an age where 'identity' itself is becoming a tool rather than the be all and end all of identity. anybody just has to see these schema in World of warcraft or second life. we are told to be a certain way in order to succeed at work. we are no longer a singular person but different people according to the situation. it may be then that the self sustaining narrative is realising the workings of its own process and is now utilising that to its own ends (nietzsche's 'ubermensch' perhaps?).

does anyone else have any thoughts on this? on social action, the techonological singularity, and what this could mean for some of the supposed ancient teachings? i.e. the monad? or soul?
Comment by Mikhayl Von Riebon on February 11, 2010 at 5:07pm
I agree. the problem for us then is that we are trying to 'wield' this impulse which has never been the product of one person's thought, but instead arises due to the conditions present at the time. we are wielded by this impulse; moved by the zeitgeist. and one of the most recurrent themes that seems to come up is this idea that we can just take up the old ways again; make the TS like it was in its hay day; somehow 'needed'. is this really something we can just choose to do? instead id argue that until the nature of the TS is compatible with the movements that are taking place, it wont go anywhere. and sadly its not as though the TS is defined by its meeting rooms or pictures but by the people that make it up. are we prepared for a radically different TS? should we be seeking to attract a different kind of people? or are we comfortable taking up the same empty rituals we have for the last 150yrs? id imagine the majority are quite comfortable but id like to be proven wrong on this.

Comment by Martin Euser on February 11, 2010 at 5:20am

One aspect of the history of the TS movement is that the spiritual impulse behind it has effected a diversity of organizations and opinions, all claiming to work for the benefit of humanity.
And who knows, many probable do some good work. The impulse has become distributed through the various minds of the human race. That's quite ok. How else could the impulse work?

As to unity of purpose: I see little of that around me, here, on this forum, or elsewhere.
At least not a coherent vision. Some old style organizations probably do have some unity of purpose: spreading the ideas of Blavatsky. Fine with me. Is it relevant? Who knows? One has to realize that before anything large-scale changes, there must first be the power of ideas at work. It is at that level that the TS works and was conceived to work. Ideas rule the world, still do.
Example? Economic systems, Law, Religious life and morality, technological innovations, etc.

TSs and individuals can add value to the mental sphere (noosphere), but it takes time, insight, study, work and some cooperation.
Comment by Mikhayl Von Riebon on February 11, 2010 at 12:42am
Hi Martin and all,

Martin when you say:
One additional thought: Buddhism and Hindu philosophy has gained a considerable influence on the Western mindset. Theosophers could use many ideas from these philosophies (as this is natural to theosophy) and add quality to these philosophies by bringing more light to the ideas involved, as Dr. de Purucker has done. Plus correlate these ideas with Greek philosophy as this is historically more embedded in our society (Plato, Aristoteles, etc.). A daunting task!

i can see what your saying here. a problem i have often thought is that of 'Purpose.'

often we confuse a great deal of what has taken place in history such as the theosophical society with some grand intent that was first conceived at some initial moment and was then thoroughly brought to fruition through intent and a hand full of people.

instead what i often find is that 'purpose' is often past reflective. sure, we might have a goal we work towards, but often what takes place in the end is rarely what we intended and instead people draw up fantastical images of a small group of people in the distant past who knew what was happening now, in the present, and worked towards bringing about some desired goal to 'help us'.

the theosophical society that blavatsky envisioned, escaped her the moment others began influencing it. and once she passed away it became something entirely different. this is inevitable. we all have some idea of a great purpose we believe we should be working towards, but once we join a group, our purpose and our views have to be compromised and negotiated.

one of the hardest problems i see for the TS is that we dont really have any unified purpose, or atleast if we do, its neither well marketed or well argued why we should have it in the first place, and even then people disagree on it. how can the TS make a difference without some unified purpose? if it has one has it thought about how this purpose aligns with the world of today. i.e. if we are trying to rekindle blavatsky's ideas, are they still relevant?

is there a need for a change and if so what should this change be and why?

this is the biggest issue i see for the TS and it cant hope to make a change in the world if it cant even realise this in itself.

Comment by Martin Euser on February 10, 2010 at 6:17am
Joe> The other thing, Martin, is that we have to be versed in the world around us well enough to communicate our understanding in ways that are relevant.

There is not a monolithic world around us, Joe. There is a variety of worldviews, which are clashing sometimes violently. Not only fundamental Muslim vs the rest of the world, but other fundamentalisms, like the Christian one against the scientific fundamentalism (creation vs evolution, a much misused word, BTW). Intelligent design is an interesting POV in this respect.
This could be an area where theosophers could have some influence.

Again, which world are you talking about. The technological world? The Green movement? It is diverse.

Joe> There are many fields that the wisdom can be applied to in new and sometimes unexpected ways.


Joe>We need not limit ourselves to methods and approaches suitable to the late 19th and early 20th century, nor should the subject matter be confined to those eras either.

True. This is, however, a very generic statement, and not very useful unless further specified.
I indicated some subject matter above. In the past I also indicated other methods by which organizations and individuals could operate. It all depends on the vision one develops.
What vision do you have?

Joe>Rather, it is the ability to influence the culture that is the true touchstone of our effectiveness. Do we do that well?

That is quite a proposition, influencing the culture!

Joe>If not, then what needs to be done to effect a change?

One cannot do such a thing without developing a vision on such matters.

Joe> and demonstrating that a true diversity exists, not within certain limits (as opposed to what is stated above), then we can spread the spirit of inquiry and creativity so that no corner is left unlit.

That would be a good start. The spirit of inquiry, yes. Creativity, yes. Note that these are not specifically "theosophical" terms. They should apply to any real scientist or artist!
The spirit of inquiry has been smothered in many directions, not the least in organised religion and contemporary scientism. These have become bulwarks of conservatism, a matter of wrongly understood "political correctness". Some opposition should be organised! Why not by the TS movement?
Comment by Martin Euser on February 9, 2010 at 7:02pm
Correction: "narrow and steep path".
One additional thought: Buddhism and Hindu philosophy has gained a considerable influence on the Western mindset. Theosophers could use many ideas from these philosophies (as this is natural to theosophy) and add quality to these philosophies by bringing more light to the ideas involved, as Dr. de Purucker has done. Plus correlate these ideas with Greek philosophy as this is historically more embedded in our society (Plato, Aristoteles, etc.). A daunting task!

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