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Echoes of the Silence

Nov 05, 1994 09:16 AM

This is from Murray Stentiford.

Arthur Patterson writes:-

> Anyone interested in responding adding their feedback on list or off
> is more than appreciated. I am just learning about Theosophy and
> would like all the info I can get. ....
>      The earthly nature of the soul is revealed by our
>      affects, our emotions, either postive or negatively
>      hued. To be caught up in the emotions is to severe the
>      tie to the Divine.
> I am a little afraid of this emphasis because I would like to
> incorporate passion and love in my understanding of spirituality.

Yes, I'd like to incorporate passion and love in my understanding
of spirituality too! Having been a member of the T.S.  in New
Zealand for a good number of years seems to have only intensified
my quest and deepened my interest in finding/applying the
insights of theo-sophia in everyday life.  You find a lot of
answers with the T.S, and a lot of questions as well.  That's how
it should be, I reckon.  Beginner's mind, as buddhists call it,
is the way to go - all the way.  A bit hard to manage sometimes,
but it feels right.  I see you, Arthur, as a person bringing a
wealth of knowledge and experience to your present quest at the
same time as feeling like a beginner with regard to the T.S.

"Detachment", "passion", "desire" are words used a lot in English
for aspects of the spiritual way.  I am acutely aware that they
are symbols subject to interpretation (yes, I was grateful for
that explanation of "hermeneutic" too!), covering multiple
meanings.  The problem is aggravated by translation, where it has
occurred.  It helps to be in the originating culture and know the

But even in English-originated speech and writing, we have
ambiguity built in to words like these.  I feel there's a
tendency for people to think "detachment is good" or "passion is
bad" without discerning adequately what exactly is good or bad.
A lot of emotional self- mutilation or at least unhealthy
repression has been done in the name of trying to do the best
thing, with words and concepts like these.

There are often many untrue or inappropriate ways to take
thoughts like these (and this goes for scripture, too), and only
a small number of true and appropriate ways.

On desire, passion and detachment, I think that what happens is
that our inner consciousness becomes temporarily incarnated in
each of its many states.  This is fine, as long as we can let go
and move on at the right time.  But we get stuck in some of them
and, using an energy-flow model, can set up channels which make
it easier and easier to repeat them, and harder to take an
alternative.  This insight links extremes like addiction and
greed with less-obnoxious things, right through on a spectrum to
creativity in a given arena.  There's a cosmic extension here,
with Divinity experiencing limitation and entrapment from above,
and creativity from below, as I imagine it.

It's interesting that a lot of people are waking up to the fact
that we can be addicted to all sorts or things, eg love
relationships etc, as the books say.  So the right way (and I'm
not being dogmatic here, but rather illustrative) to take
"detachment is bad" is, that being stuck in something and losing
our inner perspective is anti-life in that it prevents us from
being or becoming what we could be.

Daily consciousness itself is often a small and dimly-lighted
thing, compared to some of the other states we can experience.  I
read somehere that in the ancient Egyptian mystery schools,
resurrection was considered to be rising from the death of daily
physical life, not what it is usually taken to mean today.  Could
somebody please confirm this about the mystery schools? We can
harmonise this with the buddhist idea that all life is suffering,
by considering that it is suffering compared with what our
consciousness is CAPABLE of knowing/being.  But this doesn't mean
the earth doesn't have its beauty, life and light.

Some of the wider moments of consciousness that have come my way
recently, have made all this stuff seem more real, and the
limitations of some states of daily life more onerous.  One still
seems to have to cycle in and out of relative enlightnment and
relative darkness for a long time, along the way.  Perhaps this
bears on your

     > ""Spiritual hedonism" where a person goes from spiritual or
     > intellectual high quickly is indeed dangerous. I have experienced
     > this many times." .

I have had periods of intense reading, almost verging on an
addiction, followed by periods of having had enough of reading
and just trying to work out the meanings and applications to

As for emotion, I see it as being a part of our total makeup, and
an important ingredient in being a whole person.  Here again,
there are darker and more limiting forms of emotion, and others
that are part of the path of light, an essential part of our
onward unfoldment.  Harmony within is necessary before harmony in
the wider body of humanity can be established.

I am working with an idea at the moment that seems to show how we
can direct the energy of love to the components of our individual
field of consciousness, to help harmonise the many conflicting
impulses and make detachment come about naturally in its most
positive sense.  It has to do with the theosophical idea of the
monadic essence ie the outpoured divine Life, sweeping through a
great arc of manifestation in kingdom after kingdom of nature.
On its "downward" path, it ensouls the elemental essence of the
mental, astral and physical planes successively, then on its
upward path it goes through the vegetable, animal and human
kingdoms, with suitably vast amounts of time for each stage.

Within ourselves, we then have elemental essences of several
levels.  Now this is the interesting bit.  We are told that the
downward-travelling life waves are basically seeking more
material and individualised expressions.  For example the
elemental essence of the mental plane is ready at an instant to
take on the form that contains the energy of a thought.  The
emotional or astral essence is said to enjoy participating in
strong or violent emotion.  However, the impulse towards deeper
immersion in form and matter is in the opposite direction to the
impulse of the human core, heading as it is on the homeward path.
It is having these two life streams within ourselves that
accounts for the experiences of temptation and conflict that
become sharper as we become more aware of spiritual categories
and issues.

We can apply love to this complex field within, not in the common
sense of self-love, but through identifying with all currents
within ourselves, seeing them all as expressions of the universal
Life, and bringing understanding to their situation.  I believe
this then invokes a higher love energy, call it grace if you
like, that can bring about healing and calm.  This doesn't mean
that we have to give way to the descending life wave all the time
- just to realise that it wants a certain kind of experience, and
our inner nature wants others.  The two streams converge in
creativity of every conceivable kind, whether it's thinking,
making something, building a relationship, art, music, poetry.
Even doing the dishes.  (I'm still working on that one.) That's
how harmony and peace can be realised.

The upward-moving life stream, our inner self, has the ultimate
say, through its vastly longer evolutionary experience, so it can
take the reins in a harmonious and non-violent way.  That's
what's wrong with some of the interpretations of texts like "Kill
out desire"; it's the violence which people think is being
requested.  I believe there's a truth, if not several levels of
truth, in that saying, and that intuition can save us from a
too-literal interpretation.

There's an excellent portrayal of the many forms of love, and the
way they can be brought to bear, or allowed to act, on the
multitude of "little lives" within ourselves, as well as in our
dealings with life around us, in H.K.  Challoner's book "The Path
of Healing", especially in chapters 7, 8 and 9.  It manages to
avoid most of the pitfalls in this whole area.

Then, of course, the meaning of the words I and YOU ie the human
self, is rich in ambiguities too, a frequent cause of
misunderstanding.  What I've said above contains the idea that
many elements within are what they call not-self, but are
nevertheless part of the field of self, inseparably joined by
being expressions of the one Life within "me" and without.  The
one substance, in a continuous fabric with the rest of life,
embraces and constitutes all beings.  Paradoxically, as the
extent of one's perceived self widens, there is more that we
perceive as not-self, and yet the two are bound together as the
One Self.  The hard boundaries that are conditioned into western
cultural thinking, begin to soften.  It's no longer just MY life
I'm living.  Reminds me of how St Paul said somewhere that we are
not our own; we were bought for a price.  (An old memory; I hope
it's correct.) That's the cosmic sacrifice, I guess.

One of the great contributions of many indigenous spiritual
traditions is that they hold a mirror up to the western way, the
so-called dominant culture, showing how far down the track of
individualism and personal isolation it has gone.  This is so
deeply embedded in the thought, language and customs that even
when alerted to it, we can often miss it.

As for absorption, I guess we're absorbed all the time.  The
thing is just to realise it within the field of our
running-around, jumping-up-and-down consciousness as it grows in
richness and scope.  My consciousness is not just mine, me
doesn't mean me in the old shut-off way any more.

I'm very conscious of limitations in expressing, let alone
conceiving, these thoughts.  I wish you well.

Murray Stentiford

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