Compass Newsletter Spring 2006 No.4
Extract from the Rectorial Address at St. Andrews University in Scotland by Jan Christian Smuts, 17 October 1934
This is a good world. We need not approve of all the items in it, nor of all the individuals in it; but the world itself, which is more than its parts or individuals, which has a soul, a spirit, a pull, a fundamental relation to each of us deeper than all other relations, is a friendly world. It has borne us; it has carried us onward; it has humanised us and guided our faltering footsteps throughout the long and slow advance; it has endowed us with strength and courage; it has proved a real vale of soul-making for us humans, and created for us visions, dreams, ideals which are still further moulding us on eternal lines. It is full of tangles, of ups and downs. There is always enough to bite on, to sharpen wits on, to test our courage and manhood. It is indeed a world built for heroism, but also for beauty, tenderness, mercy. I have passed through pretty rough passages.
I have sampled the world and human nature at many points, and I have learned that it takes all sorts to make a world. But through it all my conviction has only deepened that there is nothing in the nature of things which is alien to what is best in us. There is no malign fatalism which makes fools of us in our dark striving towards the good. On the contrary, what is highest in us is deepest in the nature of things, and as virtue is its own reward, so life carries its own sanctions and the guarantee of its own highest fulfilments and perfections. That is my ultimate Credo; and it is not founded on hearsay, but on my first-hand experience in that cross-section of the world which I have lived through…I remain at heart an optimist.
Smuts: South African soldier, statesman and philosopher. A lawyer by training. Prime Minister of SA in 1919-24 and 1939 -48 SA representative in the British War Cabinet he played a crucial role in the formation of the Royal Air Force. As a statesman Smuts was respected internationally; he helped to found the League of Nations, drafted the preamble to the UN charter, and put forward the idea that the British Empire should evolve into a commonwealth of equal nations – O.E.D.
An eight-year old boy’s response to a school task:
One of God’s jobs is making people. He makes them to replace the ones that die so there will be enough people to take care of things here on earth. He doesn’t make grown-ups, only babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way he doesn’t have to take up his valuable time teaching them to walk and talk. He can just leave that to Mothers and Fathers.
God’s second most important job is lisening to prayers. An awful lot of this goes on, since some people, like preachers and things, pray at times besides bed times. God doesn’t have time to listen to the radio or TV on account of this. Since he hears everything, not only prayers, there must be a terrible lot of noise in his ears unless he has thought of some way to turn it off. God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere, which keeps him pretty busy. So you shouldn’t go wasting his time by going over your parents head and asking for something they said you couldn’t have.
Atheists are people who don’t believe in God. I don’t think there are any in our town, at least there aren’t any who come to our Church.
Jesus is God’s son. He used to do all the hard work like walking on water and performing miracles and trying to teach the people who didn’t want to learn about God. They finally got tired of him preaching to them and they crucified him, but he was good and kind like his Father and he told his Father they didn’t know what they were doing and to forgive them and God said….OK. His Dad (God) appreciated everything he had done and all his hard work on earth so he told him he didn’t have to go on the road anymore. He could stay in heaven. So he did. And now he helps his Dad by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones he can take care of himself without having to bother God, like a secretary, only more important, of course. You can pray any time you want and they are sure to hear you because they got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the time.
All lives come from and remain linked with the one unmanifest, unnameable because truly infinite, Source.
– Alan Donant, Sunrise, April/May 1989
From a talk to the London Blavatsky Branch, Easter 2004
The days are becoming lighter and longer after the dark and cold of winter. It’s good to see a brighter sun again. Daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses have bravely struggled through the hard frosted ground to herald the beginning of spring. In our English countryside one can see new-born lambs frolicking in meadows; migratory birds are returning and washing can once more be hung out to dry! We sense a surge of energy and well being, and on another level we may also experience a renewal of hope and aspiration – a sort of reaching beyond ourselves.
As ever, Nature provides a template for a deeper awareness and understanding of what we call Easter time. In Christian terms this is, to quote the Oxford dictionary: “the Resurrection of Christ – the greatest and oldest festival of the church celebrated on the first Sunday after the 1st full moon after the vernal equinox 21 March. The derivative of the name is uncertain. According to Bede, it was connected with an Anglo Saxon goddess Eostre whose festival was in Spring. At any rate it seems clear that the Christian feast superseded an old Pagan festival …. the tradition of the Easter egg is a symbol of the renewal of life.”
The story of Easter is indeed very ancient and ubiquitous. Over millenniums, many lands have had their particular Saviour or Messiah, Avatar or Buddha who at cyclic times came to enlighten the people of that place and period – “to revive in the consciousness of man a recognition of his divine potential and to restate the spiritual values embedded in the sacred traditions of antiquity.” (Expanding Horizons) Examining other older traditions reveals that these great or divine teachers appear to all share a common mythical and mystical pattern. For example, The Hindus had both Krishna and Rama crucified and then glorified as risen divinities. In the Scandinavian Edda, Odin, father of the gods, creator of men, and the personification of wisdom, was a “suffering and dying God,” who through his crucifixion, became the saviour of men. In his Rune song, Odin says:
I know that I hung on a wind-rocked tree, nine whole nights,
With spear wounded and to Odin offered – myself to myself –
On that tree of which no one knows from what root it springs.
In the Egyptian Book of the Dead or Ritual of the Coming Forth by Day we also find “a suffering and dying God “ whose heart is weighed against the feather of truth and if found to contain no untruth, he becomes “one with Osiris,” a “son of the sun.”
The evidence strongly suggests that Easter and Christmas may also be interpreted as a festival of universal and cosmic significance. The four sacred seasons of the year, as the pagan philosopher Plato pointed out, make a cross, the two solstices opposite each other, the equinoxes opposite each other hence the so called Greek cross. Coinciding with what Theosophy calls Sacred Seasons, initiations occurred and may still happen.
The supreme goal of initiation is the virgin birth of the soul which each must achieve himself : “except a man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” The success of this rebirth or resurrection depends on a mystical death, a conquest or crucifixion of all earthly passions and a descent into the underworld. The candidate’s own soul must meet and triumph over all the powers of darkness within himself and, as Dionysus, as Christ, as Odin, become one with his God; his higher Self.
Theosophy interprets the symbol of crucifixion as the duality of spirit and matter in everyman; the age long effort by which the baser habits and inertia of our lower nature are gradually purified and elevated towards the higher life, and eventually transformed to spiritual ascendancy.
In The Esoteric Character of the Gospels originally published in Lucifer November 1887, H.P. Blavatsky wrote:
“We may learn from the Gospel according to St Luke, that the “worthy” were those who had been initiated into the mysteries of the Gnosis, and who were “accounted worthy “ to attain that resurrection from the dead ” in this life,….. and the words apply to all those who without being Initiates, strive and succeed, through personal efforts to live the life and to attain the naturally ensuing spiritual illumination in blending their personality – the “Son” with the “father’ their individual divine Spirit, the God within them.”
She’s referring here to ordinary people, you and I. Her words “naturally ensuing” seems to me to suggest a gentle penetration of matter into spirit to elevate the former through refinement of its qualities rather than the premature and drastic forcing which some spiritual regimes demand. Manuel Oderberg writes about this aspect of our human duality of matter and spirit in Sunrise 1982 p.135:
“They are actually the positive and negative poles of one life giving energy. The material world is not evil per se; it is the mirror-image of the divine world. Would it not be better to regard what takes place as a transmutation rather than a conquest or, perhaps, as a ‘sea change,’ so that the characteristics of the soul, like the garments of the players in Shakespeare’s Tempest, emerge pure and made fresh as new? Obviously, an individual must need more than one lifetime to achieve perfection….”
The effort to reach at-one-ment starts in the here and the now and requires perpetual vigilance and will power to overcome life times accumulation of dross. Think of the heavy, hard soil from which those daffodils and crocuses grow to emerge triumphantly in the light of spring.
– Renée Hall
From a letter dated 18 February 2006 by the Secretary General William Dougherty
Grace F.Knoche, Leader of The Theosophical Society for the last 35 years, died early this morning, following a brief illness. She led the Society with a gentle hand, preferring to encourage rather than command. In so doing she helped us to seek a like quality of quiet strength and confidence in ourselves and others. ….. Those who knew Grace personally will miss her warmth and generous spirit, for she was truly a kind, loyal, and patient friend. Yet the beautiful song that was Grace’s life still continues. It lives on, not only in our heart’s memory, but also with undiminished vibrancy within the spiritual realms that inform and sustain our everyday world………….Grace showed us that we need not doubt ourselves. We should not wait until we know more, or grow more. For the world of today needs us as we are now, not as we may be at some future time. If we simply put into practice the wisdom of our spiritual hearts, without seeking advantage for ourselves, we will be able to meet the needs of the present, and be a true friend to those who need what we have to offer.
Like every moment, this moment is the fruit of eternity, and the seed of wonderful possibilities. Now we pause briefly to say goodbye and “thank you” to a great soul, and then go forward with hope and optimism. So Grace would want it, and so it is.
A Theosophical Weekend of talks and discussion has been arranged from the evening of Friday June 23 to mid-day on Sunday June 25 2006.
Tim Harte and his wife Marion will be our hosts. Tim would like to hear from you to confirm that you are coming. Should you require accommodation he may be able to help you. He would also need to know the date and time of your arrival at the airport or the ferry terminal if you would like to be met.
To contact Tim or his wife Marion, please use the following address, telephone number or email.
40 Wolfetone Street
Republic of Ireland
Tel: 00 353 21 2391048
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
– Paul’s Letter to the Galatians Ch.5 vv 22 & 23