Question: "What practical, day-to-day value does Theosophy offer?"
One Answer: “Using Theosophy to clean-up your house or apartment—‘magically’”
Most people do not need magic to do this, of course; however, some people might: “Bill Beresky,” for example.
This happened a long time ago. Since the Theosophical Society was not supporting me as the Future World Teacher, I was instead forced to start a conventional public school teaching career in Merced, California. Surprisingly, at the same exact time, Gary Burt, both a high school and college classmate of mine from Bemidji, Minnesota, also began his first year of teaching there as well. Fresh from Paul Bunyan’s North Country, Gary and I took up side-by-side English classrooms in a hot high school in the middle of Yosemite Sam’s San Joaquin Valley. (The explanation for this coincidence is that, because of a teacher shortage in California, a recruiter from the Merced Union School District had traveled all the way up to Bemidji State University to get some promising bottom-of-the-salary-schedule teaching prospects.)
Sometime in this first year, Gary decided to cut expenses by sharing a two-bedroom apartment with "Bill Beresky," another English teacher, also in his middle twenties. Unfortunately, these two were fundamentally different in the stereotypically “Odd-Couple” way: while Gary was a very tidy guy who knew how to make hospital corners on his bed, Bill was a slob who had in college become so infatuated with the existentialist philosophers, Sartre and Camus, that he continued to more or less regard not only life, but also its trash, as “absurd” and not worth disturbing himself about.
One day in the teachers’ lounge, I saw Gary, obviously sullen and sitting all by himself in the furthest corner.
“Not feeling up to par today, Gary?” I asked him.
“Beresky is getting to me.”
“What’d he do now?”
“It’s not what he did, it’s more of what he said this morning. He’s so damn lazy! You know that except for his room I have to do almost all the cleaning around the apartment. What I haven’t told anybody is that Beresky hardly ever does his laundry, either. You wouldn’t believe the huge pile of dirty underwear on his floor right now. You can actually smell it even when his door is closed.”
“Hmm. . . .”
“Yeah. . . . This morning I thought I would try a little humor so that maybe he would get the hint. I said, ‘Bill, haven’t you saved enough money on laundry detergent by this time?’ He knew right away that I was talking about his stinking underwear pile.”
“What’d he say?”
“Real indifferently, Beresky goes, ‘Actually, I myself was thinking that I should probably do some laundry pretty soon. The underwear, of course.’
“I still kept trying to be jokey. ‘The underwear? So soon? It really doesn’t smell that bad yet, does it?’” I said, thinking that Beresky would find this at least a little funny because we both had to know that it really did smell that bad—putrefying and weird.
“Then, still not catching either any joke or the actual seriousness in what I was trying to say, Beresky just matter-of-factly goes, ‘No, it’s nothing like that. It’s just that it’s getting too difficult to pick out the cleanest underwear to put on for school each day.’”
“Hmm. . . .”
“Yeah. . . .”
On second thought, perhaps Bill Beresky may not be the best example of someone who could have used Theosophy for household clean-up. After all, it is not apparent that he would have even wanted his life to be less cluttered and germ-ridden. No, a better example may be some individual who clearly wants to get his or her abode in shape but cannot generate the active energy and motivation to do so. Such a person might jump at the chance to “put Theosophy to work,” so to speak, in order to get a few useful things done.
Theosophy, useful or not, is the "knowledge or wisdom that is philosophically allowed, or is at least being seriously considered, which is not based on empirical science, sensory experience, or mental operation." Theosophy, used in this epistemological sense, should probably always have a capital T because it is associated with “Divine” or “Undifferentiated” Consciousness (Self, “I,” Atman, Purusa, etc.), the increasing human experience and/or awareness of Which (Degree of Self-awareness) is thought to improve personal intuition, the fundamental generator of Theosophy (and the “screener” of established doctrines and teachings purporting to be valid Theosophy).
Unfortunately, Theo-sectarians over the years have succeeded in making “the writings of H.P.Blavatsky” perhaps an even more famous second dictionary definition for the term Theosophy. This has not been so good for its first and more inclusive definition. Indeed, the “T=HPB Party” within the Theosophical Society may have just diverted important attention away from everyone’s Basic Potential for cultivating a very special variety of knowledge and wisdom. This is regrettable, particularly since no Masters, Mahatmas, or even Blavatskyan Motherlodes/Mother’s-loads-and-loads are needed for this personally rewarding enterprise.
Epistemologically speaking, Theosophy can be of two types: Macrocosmic and Microcosmic. The former deals with very large, often abstract, overarching, distant things like the nature of the Soul/soul, occult evolution of the cosmos and humanity, reincarnation, karma, etc.—subjects which usually do not lend themselves to being proven or disproven by material science or validated by personal experience (i.e., most would not pass Karl Popper’s “Falsifiability Test” and therefore not be considered as proper subjects for “scientific” investigation).
Whereas many Theosophists consider at least some Macrocosmic Theosophy to be 100% reliable (especially if they believe that it has been “received” from preternatural Authorities like HPB’s "Masters," for example), there is perhaps an increasing number of Theosophers who are comfortable with the possibility that much of the “Quest” may just produce “ever-stronger attractions” toward certain translifetime and other “recondite realities”. . . rather than result in old-time-religious certainties—complete with minute details—about subjects so far off in space, time, and dimension.
While there may be a fair number of Theosophists who experience an oxymoronic “slightly nervous 100% leap-of-faith confidence” in something like HPB’s assertion that the average “rest interval” between re-births is 1,000 to 1,500 years, many Theosophers might prefer to “withhold judgment” about such detailed esoteric information. They may simply continue their studies and investigations without any nervousness, but rather in a style of “peaceful, pleasant curiosity” . . . especially, of course, if they have somewhere along the line become, perhaps as the result of meditative practice, 51% intuitively persuaded or “at least very suspicious” that there may actually be such a thing as reincarnation—whatever it might be like—after all.
Thus, for many Theosophers, as it was for the Apostle Paul, it is not cock-sure understanding and articulation of everything from Alpha to Omega which is most important; rather, it is the “[intuitive] peace which [sur]passeth [mere] understanding” which is most important. As the writer Eric Weiner once described some impressive Icelanders, quite a few Theosophers may also occupy the “valuable real estate between not believing and not not believing.”
Microcosmic Theosophy, on the other hand, can sometimes be “believable” because it is at least “semi-verifiable” and often very useful in daily life. For example, if you can frequently accurately intuit and adjust to someone else’s mood, energy level, interest, comprehension, etc., even without any visual or other clues, you may be semi-verifying and using the most common variety of practical Microcosmic Theosophy. If you can magically clean-up your house or apartment, of course, you may be semi-verifying and using a less common variety. In either case, you could be considered—at least by the tiny but perhaps growing Liberal Legion within the Theosophical Movement—as an “Adept” of some “grade” or attainment. Here again, the word Adept should also probably always have a capital A if it is thought that the person is utilizing developed intuition resulting from his or her advancement in Self-awareness in order to accomplish one thing or another.
However, to accomplish full objective verification of Microcosmic Theosophy might not be so easy. Indeed, its “experiments” could be especially vulnerable to the syllogistic error which can sometimes compromise even conventional science:
[A] If Tennessee Williams wrote HAMLET, it is likely to be a good play; [B] It is determined that HAMLET is a good play; [C] Therefore, Tennessee Williams wrote HAMLET. [A] If my hypothesis/understanding is valid, my experiment is likely to have a certain outcome; [B] It is determined that there is a certain outcome; [C] Therefore, my hypothesis/understanding is valid.
Ironically, then, Theosophers frequently need new intuitions in order to try to verify the objective semi-verifications of their older intuitions. . . .
Not surprisingly, mention of this “circle-game” can be annoying to those who prefer to crawl on worshipful hands and knees toward well-established Theosophical writings. It suggests that—unless the teaching or “doctrine” involves some untouchable, super-abstract, tautological pronouncement like “All is an interrelated, interdependent whole”—not only Microcosmic but also Macrocosmic Theosophy may have a very difficult time ever escaping from the not-quite-so-glorious “Land of Working Hypotheses.” For many Theosophers, however, this might not be such a great concern, provided, of course, that their working hypotheses continue to become more polished, explanatory, and/or practically useful.
H.P.Blavatsky mentions an important tool for perfecting both practical and philosophical usefulness right on page one of THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY: “Ammonius Saccas and his disciples” [continued in the note] “also called Analogeticists [. . . .] because of their practice of interpreting all sacred legends and narratives myths and mysteries by a rule or principle of analogy or correspondence.”
Or again: “Analogy is the guiding law in Nature, the only true Ariadne’s thread that can lead us, through the inextricable paths of her domain, toward her primal and final mysteries.” [S.D. Vol. II, p.162]
In this regard, it is not so hard to speculate how Ammonius and other Theosophers might have come up with certain analogies. Consider the following two paragraphs:
 One morning a certain man wakes up well-rested and refreshed. Since he likes to overeat, his breakfast includes a couple extra sweet rolls. Since he also has a tendency to lose his temper, he gets angry with his wife when she reminds him that he is on a low-carb diet. While driving to work, the man thinks about his weight and his wife, but then he starts replaying yesterday’s big blow-up he had with a fellow worker. When he arrives at his office building, he notices that this fellow worker has maliciously taken the parking spot which was supposed to be reserved for him. The man vows to deal with this offense sometime in the future. However, there is much work to do in the office today; therefore, he throws himself into his duties. By the time he gets home at the end of the day he is physically exhausted and mentally embrangled. He hardly notices that his wife is giving him “the silent treatment.” He goes to bed. The next morning he wakes up well-rested and refreshed, begins thinking about how he might get revenge against his fellow worker, and generally feels ready to take on the world again . . . once he has his sweet rolls, of course. . . .
 After 1,500 years a “soul” is re-born by “taking on” another physical body. Fresh and renewed after its rest in the heaven-like Devachan, this soul starts to utilize its slightly improved Mindfulness and the natural attributes of its new incarnation to further “perfect” or eliminate tendencies and subconscious impressions (samskaras, “scars”) which have been carried along from other lifetimes. In addition to re-occurring situations involving appetite, anger, insensitivity to others, etc., there are also experiences relating to the consequences (karma), both good and bad, of thoughts and actions not only from the present incarnation, but from previous incarnations as well. At some point the new “(wo)man-sheath” becomes physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. At some point there is death, and the soul is again “released.” Since there are still unlearned lessons and imperfections remaining, there must be another re-birth. After a rest of the next 1,500 years, the soul again becomes associated with a new physical body . . . which, in its crib one day, first experiences its attention being totally taken away by the delightful smell of something baking. . . .
Would it actually be so difficult for a perceptive observer of the details of paragraph #1 to intuit, abstract, and analogize it into paragraph #2?
Would it actually take—especially if the observer had already been impressed by seeing plants and trees “dying” in the winter but miraculously being “reborn” in the spring—a Supernatural Dispensation of knowledge from an angel or semi-off-planet Master to come up with the idea of human reincarnation?
Indeed, I sometimes think that at least half of the modern computer-geek game developers might be able to do it—and perhaps embellish it with so many creative, enticing, justice-serving, and structurally coherent features that hardly any “willing suspensions of disbelief” would even be necessary.
However, would the discovery that it had been merely full-fledged human beings who developed and refined the doctrine—especially if the particular version was thousands of years old—invalidate such an “analogically assisted” product?
Probably not. At least my own intuition has 51% persuaded me that the saints, sages, yogis, and other Theosophers who contributed their “Best Inspired Guesses” concerning the doctrine of reincarnation (especially as presented in THE SECRET DOCTRINE) were biologically limited as human beings; however, in terms of their Degrees of Self-awareness, I am persuaded that they were very likely fuller-fledged human beings. They may have been so psychologically Adept at maintaining the psycho-crap-dissolving “Once-Removed Vantage” that they could focus more powerfully, See more clearly, and intuit more accurately than ordinary philosophers and writers.
Therefore, while there is no good evidence that any of these Seers ever “precipitated” teacups or made bossy/bitchy notes fall from ceilings, I would not argue with anyone, including myself, who wants to call them Seers.
M. C. Escher’s artwork called “Metamorphosis” [Google] may help illustrate the psychological advantage that such Seers could have in creating not only grand cosmos- and humanity-evolving formulations, but also in possibly cultivating some “extra-ordinary” Adept-management approaches to daily life as well. Escher’s woodcut has no background; rather, it only has images of humans, animals, and fantasy creatures so tightly bordering one another that it is at first difficult to identify any one particular thing. Artistically, it may aptly represent the non-stop, attention-grabbing, “soul-snatching” jumble of random feelings, visual replays/projections, “monkey-mind” purposeless internal talking/thinking, etc. which some non-Seers occasionally even extol as their “rich inner life.”
Rich in a bad way, unfortunately. Indeed, these internal “obfuscators” are likely not only to interfere with the single, pure focus required for “clairvoyance,” but they may also despoil the uncluttered “Background” usually associated with “spontaneous instances” of intuition.
Improved focus, developed intuition, analogizing skill: all could have aided Seers in formulating and/or refining the doctrine of reincarnation. So far so good; however, it might be more challenging to guess what might have helped produce something like H.P. Blavatsky’s teachings regarding “Rounds, Root-Races, Sub-Races, etc.” For starters, where “on earth” are their analogies?
One very possible answer is that they are to be found in self-observed psychological states: 1) the sequentially unfolding “tainted” conditions of differentiated consciousness (“ego-formations,” “semi-Selves”) repeatedly experienced during meditation sessions and 2) the longer-term, age-related pattern of unfolding potentials for egoic delusion (“Psychomaturation”) outlined in the doctrine known as the “Seven-Year Cycles.”
"As Above, so below,” as the Hermeticists said.
“The Breath becomes a stone; the stone, a plant; the plant, an animal; the animal, a man; the man, a spirit; and the spirit, a god [sic God],” as the Cabbalists said.
Macrocosmically, this last metaphorical sentence could refer to the monumental, translifetime overview called “Anthropogenesis.” Microcosmically, it could refer to the potential types of “semi-deluded” human consciousnesses which perhaps came into being just as “accidental psychological by-products” of conventionally scientific Darwin-type physical, emotional, and mental evolution.
Animating, physical, desire-feeling, desire-mental, mental, Spirit-mental, Spiritual (prana, sthula, kama, kama-manas, manas, Buddhi-manas, Buddhi.): this is a list of the analogically important types of differentiated consciousnesses—i.e., the psychological “belows.”
However, this list may be a deal-breaker for many traditional Theosophists. The reason is that, upon first glance at least, it might not seem close enough to H.P. Blavatsky’s “Seven Principles of Man” as found, for example, in THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY. Nevertheless, there may simply be times when a modern Theosopher must hold his or her own (Back)ground, even in disputes with honored old Bibles. In any case, the majority (not all) of the various Levels of differentiated consciousness can be corroborated by almost anyone’s personal observations during meditation sessions. Furthermore, a little intuitive heterodoxy here or there might not even be the result of a problem with Blavatsky the Seer; rather, with Blavatsky the writer.
“A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people,” as Thomas Mann once said.
“Hard writing produces easy reading; easy writing produces hard reading,” as Gary Burt more than once told his students.
“How easy it must have been for H.P. Blavatsky to write some parts of THE SECRET DOCTRINE!” as I have much more than once frustratingly exclaimed to myself.
Fortunately, Blavatsky the spectacular Seer regularly comes through with enough super-edifying clarity and insight to more than offset any complaints one might have about her possible lax-built, leap-frogging literary labyrinths. After all, she was the one who “refined” the famous Cabbalistic axiom above to begin its evolutionary sequence with “Breath” rather than the more conventional “stone” [in “Commentary on Stanza V,” THE SECRET DOCTRINE].
After all—and more importantly if you want to generate the active energy and motivation to magically clean-up your house or apartment—she was the one who, although inconsistently, referred to the word Buddhi as “Spiritual Soul or vehicle of Atman.” With just a little simplification of the definition of Buddhi to mean “Spirit” (and keeping Atman as “Undifferentiated Consciousness,” “Self,” “’I,’” etc.), you too can start using this slightly improved Theosophical understanding to get a little help from the Microcosmic maid-service. . . .
“Incidentally,” as old J.W. von Goethe at least once said, “I despise everything which merely instructs me without increasing or immediately enlivening my activity.”
How to Do It: 1) Just bend over and grab your toes/ankles/shins. 2) Then just tell yourself to clean-up your house.
It is very interesting that the original issue of the THEOSOPHIST MAGAZINE had a subtitle which in part read “A MONTHLY JOURNAL DEVOTED TO [. . .] AND EMBRACING MESMERISM, SPIRITUALISM, AND OTHER SECRET SCIENCES.”
Even in my earlier days in California I had become convinced that improved “self-direction” was at least one component of Adeptship. Consequently, somewhere along the line I learned how to hypnotize others and self-hypnotize myself. While these more modern “upgrades” of Mesmerism were quite amusing for a while, I gradually left them behind for a of couple reasons: 1) my techniques for implanting suggestions and post-hypnotic suggestions were a little on the laborious side, and 2) my results were a lot on the neapish, temporary side.
Thus, I moved along by adding some experimentation with “self-affirmations.” Unfortunately, these proclamations (lies) about my own confidence, energy, purpose, etc. just gave me the same minor, amusement-grade results as hypnosis. Furthermore, a possible Theosophical misunderstanding about the nature of Buddhi perhaps compromised my prowess with both techniques: my mistake could have been that I started trying to direct and/or assert some fiction about myself while meditating or falling asleep.
“Higher mind,” “awakening,” “intuition,” “discrimination,” “compassion,” “illumination,” “understanding,” “wisdom,” “universal love,” “super-rarefied ‘material’ (the highest gradient of ‘Substance’ [Prakriti]),” “Creative Potentiality,” “Archetypal Repository,” etc.: all these take-your-pick definitions for Buddhi somehow more or less conflated to give me the general idea that the closer I drew to the Buddhic or Spiritual Realm in consciousness, the more powerful my suggestions and affirmations were bound to become. In other words, all the good psychological stuff I wanted for myself seemed to be Up there somewhere, and I just needed to coax it down to where I was.
The problem, of course, is that even if pure Spirit can be considered the “most rarefied matter” (as in Sankya philosophy), it would nevertheless still be Undifferentiated matter. Microcosmically and psychologically, Buddhi may simply be what remains after every animating, physical, emotional, mental obfuscator has been transcended or “dissolved”—leaving, in other words, Nothing . . . or Everything-(except Consciousness)and-Nothing . . . or Perfect Background/Matrix. Therefore, all of the awakening, intuition, discrimination, compassion etc. associated with Buddhi may more or less just naturally emerge from a person’s now less-embrangled incarnated nature—rather than be purloined from Elsewhere—once the person has established, at least temporarily, a pacific psychological “Playground” for himself or herself.
Because this beatific condition can show up not only in meditation but also in common sleep, perhaps everyone experiences Spirit-mental (Buddhi-manas) or even Spiritual (Buddhic) consciousness from time to time; however, not everyone may be able to psychologically “stick around” in these states or even remain Self-aware in the several types of consciousnesses which often sequentially precede them.
At least theoretically, one’s Degree of Self-awareness must be high enough to maintain a Once-Removed Vantage vis-a-vis the Level of consciousness one is “in,” “is utilizing,” or “has become.” For example, an individual needs to have progressed—and this may have a translifetime analog expressed as Root-Races/Sub-Races—to at least Fourth Degree Self-awareness in order not to “slip away” while in ordinary, Third Level Desire-Feeling, image-based dreaming or day-dreaming consciousness. If one suddenly “reawakens” to realize that a certain amount of “drifting” time has passed in meditation or that simple sitting has turned into cat-napping, that may be at least semi-verification that one’s Self-awareness has been temporarily AWOL.
“. . . But all this psychological Theosophy . . . and my house is still dirty. . . .”
Eventually, this is what I also concluded after a long stretch of trying to Mesmerize a vacuum cleaner into my hand during deepening meditative or sleep sessions. Looking back, I probably should have stuck with the more conventional “focused attention” approaches to hypnotism and affirmations. While enough repetition in the “emerging Void” might have paid-off sooner or later, it started to become obvious that any results would not be justified by the considerable silent-verbal efforts I was making. The pursuit of this variety of Adeptship started to look a little too much like the old Tibetan monks who practiced for many long years in order to be able to sit outside in the snow with no clothes on. Eventually, I decided that the monks should just buy coats. . . .
Fortunately, though, before I completely gave up, I remembered an even more basic Theosophical understanding: namely, that motivation is not associated with Spiritual (Buddhic) consciousness, but rather with desire-feeling or desire-mental (kama or kama-manas) consciousness. Assuming that an individual has enough energy (prana) and the necessary physical wherewithal to begin with, getting off the dime is basically a matter of wanting to get off the dime. Not just abstractly thinking about or vaguely wanting to; actually being compelled to—by some potent like/dislike, attraction/repulsion, motivating-type psychological state of consciousness.
Try this experiment: As you are falling asleep sometime, say to yourself, “Stick out your tongue.” If you are truly drifting off into sleep—i.e., “dissipating” toward Buddhic consciousness—your tongue will probably stay right where it is.
Next, get out of bed, bend over, and touch your toes/ankles/shins. After about thirty seconds, again direct yourself, “Stick out your tongue.” Unless you are an exception, your tongue will most likely “magically” obey you.
In the second instance, did you consciously want to stick out your tongue? Most likely, you were indifferent to the direction. Still, the tongue “automatically” did as requested. The explanation could be that you were either/both in a conventional hypnotically effective condition of strongly focused attention (on your body’s posture) or/and in a powerful desire-related condition of wanting relief from the discomfort of bending over. The second possibility is the most interesting. It might mean that you were able to utilize the motivational power of desire-feeling, attraction/avoidance consciousness which had been generated in response to one thing in order to accomplish another thing which was not even remotely related to it.
Whatever the explanation, here is the complete procedure for a clean house or apartment: 1) Bend over and grab your toes/ankles/shins. 2) Direct yourself with this specific sentence: “Upon recovery, feel great and begin cleaning your house more easily and better than ever.” 3) Recover by lying flat on your back (in yoga’s “dead man’s posture”), and do not move until your eyes open and your body starts fidgeting on its own. 4) Get up and do anything you want.
The anything you want will almost always, usually sooner rather than later, be to clean-up your house or apartment. If you do not just find yourself pleasantly and automatically cleaning, please do not try to “assist” the experiment by heroically willing yourself into action. As General Theosophy said, “Willpower is just magic without any entertainment value.”
Back in the day, one in three of those who left the Midwest for California probably used willpower to move back to the Midwest within five years. I was among this third which eventually gave up on West Coast magic. Gary Burt, on the other hand, afterwards just ricocheted to Oregon or Washington where he continued his career as a highly popular high school English teacher. Recently, I heard that he had died from some heart trouble at a relatively early age. I never learned anything further about Bill Beresky. He could be lying asphyxiated under a small mountain of underwear, for all I know.
It is sometimes said that the Gate of the Occult is guarded by two monsters: Confusion and Paradox. This definitely applies to the house-cleaning tip. What makes the technique both confusing and paradoxical is that it only seems to work for self-directions (hypnotic type suggestions) and possibly “self-fabrications” (affirmations). Its immediate (yet still temporary) power and effectiveness cannot be denied; however, in my view it is not even close to the value of a different approach. This involves “truth-tellings” and “Self-appeals” which surprisingly seem to produce more beneficial and longer-term results when one is “relaxing” in the direction of at least partial Spiritual (Buddhic) consciousness. This is presented in my writing called “Chief Bemidji Syndrome.”
In that work, too, a broader, epistemological definition of Theosophy is emphasized. There should be no confusion or paradox that I regard personal, useful psycho-Spiritual development as far more important for people in the twenty-first century than their unlikely scholarly mastership of all H.P. Blavatsky’s nineteenth-century teachings and terminology.
Bill Beresky might have put it like this: “It may be getting too difficult to pick out the least time-worn to use each day.”
“Hmm. . . .”
“Yeah. . . .”