Symbols and bridges
Oct 04, 1995 08:38 PM
by Murray Stentiford, Scientific Software and Systems Ltd
A few thoughts prompted by recent discussions on "Sources" and the
I think it's important to remind ourselves that theosophical, as well as
other spiritual/religious/philosophical writing, is language and
therefore a system of symbols. Small symbols (words & phrases) are used
to construct, or refer to, larger symbols such as the concepts of Globes,
"psychic", "spiritual", intuition, the Path, the Masters, etc etc. All
the hot topics on the list plus a host of others.
So we have grand symbols, small ones, deep ones, rich ones, shallow ones,
crabbed ones, clear-windows-on-truth symbols and cloudy symbols. Symbols
we're just discovering with excitement, and symbols we're outgrowing -
all to our own timetables, tho' also in a shared process. The theosophies
of different times and cultures have great breadths and depths of
Now for some bridge-building (I hope) based on this idea:
Even the best "Source" writer is offering us a set of symbols we can try
and reconstruct their thought around, tho' it's more than intellectual
knowledge, in theosophy. It's insight and experience in realms that may
yet be far beyond us that we are being encapsulated. Perhaps we are being
offered stakes to grow up as young plants until our own stems have grown
So, like Rich, we can treasure the clarity and inspiration of the
top-quality symbols while, like JRC, we can see them as necessarily
limited compared with what they're trying to express. (I'm not trying to
put you guys in little boxes, here, because I actually see you both as
having something of both qualities, as well as heaps of others.)
Then Eldon has frequently distinguished "psychic" and "psychism" from
"spiritual" and "intuition", using adjectives like lower and higher.
(Again, I'm not boxing-in, but rather picking highlights.) He wonders if
there can be much further coming-together between him and JRC, and JRC
wonders if it could take years to realise the potential of the dichotomy.
Well, for what it's worth, I have personally walked the bridge between a
position similar to Eldon's in this regard to one similar enough to JRC's
to support the distinction I'm making.
When I joined the TS, the contrast between "psychic" methods of perception
and "spiritual" faculties like intuition was made very clear, and I went
along with it.
Some of my life experiences, like going through the terminal illnes of my
first wife, taught me in a vivid way just how much of the knowledge we
theosophists hold is second-hand, perhaps third-hand. When the
searchlight shines into the basement window, you soon see what you're
entitled to by way of understanding and experience, and what is framework
adopted from someone else.
Some people in that particular test, lose faith in their religious
concept set, never to regain it. Well, I lost the WAY I held theosophy
but gained something far more valuable in its place, though still centred
As the years went by, I was privileged to have extended contact with
Geoffrey Hodson and some others with inner perception. That tapped hard
on the shell of some of my ideas as well, letting in a bit more light and
The net result is that, today, I am very conscious of the symbolic nature
of much of our theosophical knowledge. It really is a collection of
MODELS of reality. Wonderful models, and by the magic of all good
symbols, partaking in the life and essence of what they portray, but
So, when I speak or write about theosophy, I often draw on the concepts
to hand, but am deeply reluctant to make certain sorts of definitive
statements, for the simple reason that I've come to sense that reality is
much deeper and richer than the set of symbols we have. I can't easily
describe this awareness, but it's a change that won't go away.
To complete this little bridge-building attempt, let's take the word
"psychic". IMO, there are modes of perception that are non-physical,
centred on relatively small concerns including a limited concept of the
seer's self, involving shifting and rather dense energy currents and
information pathways, that are the "lower" psychism that we are so often
warned about. It corresponds to small, self-centred modes of
consciousness. Our "pigmy self", as Kahlil Gibran put it.
On the other hand, there are modes of perception that are non-physical,
centred on larger concerns, involving subtler, clearer energy currents
etc etc that may be called intuition. Yet as I write, the very idea of
perception seems too separative, for this realm of knowing is much more a
resonance phenomenon, a blending of knower and known in a consciousness
space. Yes, I'm at the edge of my knowledge here but, like all of us,
reaching to express an insight.
The problem arises when a person like Eldon (and Eldon, I say this in a
context of much admiration and respect for all that you do) takes the
ready-made word "psychism", with a set of associations that link it
firmly with the lower of the two examples I gave above, then applies it
to certain others who demonstrate non-physical perception.
But that may not be doing justice, and could miss much of the truth. It
could be that the experiential inputs of the other person include, but
also go well beyond, the lower perception modes. There are so many
possibilities that who can fully tell, without a superb sensory apparatus
able to encompass the whole field?
I have come to see that it is terribly easy to box somebody in, in our
language and thoughts, with the best intentions, and quite unconsciously,
by applying ready-made terminology and concepts. And if that somebody is
feeling their way, building understanding in a new world, they could
quite understandably be unwilling to open to others they perceive as too
ready to categorize.
Maybe we need to use other words than the terribly-overworked "psychic".
I've used "non-physical" above, and there are others like
"superphysical". What about direct cognition? Experiential resonance?
Mind-space frequency-lock? Energy pseudopodia sampling? I'm brainstorming
now; what can you come up with?
To close, a big thanks to you guys who are the direct participants in
these on-going discussions. They certainly give the rest of us a great
deal to think about, in many ways.
[Back to Top]
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application