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Echoes of the Silence (2nd transmission)

Nov 05, 1994 09:30 AM

By Murray Stentiford.

NB: As my first transmission of this piece didn't reach me from
the net, I am sending it again, with some editing.  Please
discard the first version if you happened to get it.

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! Being a member of the T.S.  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 get a lot of answers within
the T.S, and a lot of questions as well.  That's how it should
be, I reckon.  Beginner's mind, in the buddhist phrase, is the
way to go - all the way.  A bit hard to achieve sometimes, but it
feels right.  You seem to me, Arthur, to be somebody who brings a
wealth of knowledge and experience to your present quest
notwithstanding 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 of finding the "right" meaning or a right
meaning is aggravated when translation is involved.  There's no
doubt it helps to be in the originating culture and to know the

But even in English-originated speech and writing, we have
ambiguity built in to words like these.  I feel that people
sometimes 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 or 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 itself.  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 it is anti-life to be stuck in
something and losing our inner perspective, ie 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, DURING physical life, not its meaning of today.
Could somebody please check this for me? There's a correspondence
with the buddhist idea that all life is suffering, in that life
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 enlightenment 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
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.

The thought that comes to me in response to Arthur's musings on
relationship with the Divine, is that we have separation,
relationship and connectedness all at once, with the Divine and
with everything in the web of manifestation.  Manifestation in
turn, has appearance or the way things look to each localised
being, and "appearance" is an alternative to "delusion" as a
translation of Maya.  Maybe this is a key to > "relationship ...
being part of the web of delusion".  It's the negative
connotations of "delusion" that have to be put in their right

So, in a structural sense we have separation, relationship and
connectedness but, more fundamentally, there's a unity of cosmic
substance and the unity of the field of consciousness of the

Arthur quotes from the Silence and from Calvin:

     > In order to become the Knower of ALL SELF thou hast
     > first of Self to be the knower.
     > The first part of knowledge of God is the knowledge
     > of the self.

I reckon the word "self" is one of the most overworked words in
theosophical and mystical literature, loaded with multiple
meanings, in archeological layers! But what else can we do in
English? Invent new words, I suppose is one answer.  Another is
to invest old ones with new insights and let them all co-exist,
to be savoured and filtered by intuition guided by the
conventions of the context.  Like Sanskrit ...  .

I'm going to unashamedly use the word "self" in many different
ways, without any special elucidation, so here goes.  It is
sometimes said that as we unfold spiritually, we come to see more
and more of ourselves as not-self.  Yet at the same time, the
extent of our self widens as we move towards yogic unification in
consciousness with the field of life around us and its living
heart.  It's a process of increasing objectivisation of the
elements within ourselves that I believe is what Vipassana is all
about, and the realisation that what's within is not just within,
but is deeply connected to the without.  In fact, "within" starts
to be a very inadequate word.  It's more like discovering a
universe in the consciousness that we're used to calling our own.
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.  The cosmic sacrifice.

There are deeply ingrained misconceptions and rigidities in
western cultural thinking in this whole area.  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.

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, then, we have elemental essences or
life-energies 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 directions of the life
stream within us 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 which is a paltry and rather negative thing,
but by identifying with all the elements 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 clarity.  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.  You can invoke such healing for other
selves too, of course.

One of the major ways the opposing currents can be brought
together and harmonised is in creativity of every conceivable
kind, whether it's thinking, making something, building a
relationship, art, music, poetry.  Even mowing the lawn.  (I'm
still working on that one.) This is a way the upward stream and
the down-flowing form-building stream can synchronise and work

The upward-moving life stream, our inner self, has the right to
make decisions through its vastly longer evolutionary experience,
and will do so as it comes into its natural rulership, in a
harmonious and non-violent way.  In states of addiction etc, the
downward stream seems to have the say, for the time being, while
the upward stream is temporarily sunk in the situation.

What's wrong with some of the interpretations of texts like "Kill
out desire", I feel, is the violence which people think is being
requested.  Intuition can save us from too-literal
interpretations, and lead us to a healthy, joyful and natural

There's an excellent portrayal of the many expressions of love,
and the way they can be brought to bear on the multitude of
voices and impulses within ourselves, and our dealings with the
life around us, in H.K.  Challoner's book "The Path of Healing",
especially in chapters 8 and 9.  I think it manages to avoid most
of the pitfalls in this whole area.

As for absorption, I guess we're absorbed all the time.  The
thing is to realise it within the field of our running-around,
jumping-up-and-down consciousness as it grows in richness and

I'm rather conscious of limitations in expressing, let alone
conceiving, these thoughts, but I'm encouraged by HPB's example
in saying of the ultimate reality that all speculation [on it] is
impossible, and then proceeding to write several hundred pages
about it!

May it be well with you.

Murray Stentiford

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