Re: Symbols and bridges
Oct 08, 1995 06:03 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker
>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.
True. Language describes things, it is not the things in themselves. But
a clear idea is closer to the truth than a fixed set of words in a book.
And a clear, flexible, growing, adapting idea is the best prism or lens
with which to view the living reality of things with the mind.
>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.
It's easy to get caught in a tower of Babel, and have everyone speaking
with no one understanding the other. The basic truths, though, are simple.
Purucker spoke of them as the Seven Jewels of Wisdom. They include things
like Atma-vidya, self-knowledge. About the basic or essential truths, the
rest can be build.
Some of the discussion, though, is not arbirary. If we were discussing
geography, for instance, we could have our opinions of the layout of the
world, but the coastlines won't change to suit everyone's opinions. The
map of the world is a particular way, and we can talk about it without
getting involved in subjective opinions.
With worlds of causes, things take on this "objectivity", where the
rules of the game are laid out for us, and we have little influence over
them. We play the game of life by the rules if we want to exist. In the
worlds of effects, though, things take on an subjectivity, where the
appearance and behavior of things is subject to the contents of our
consciousness, like in devachan, where we populate the world about us
>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
We have ideas of all types. Some are beliefs that we've chosen to give
ourselves confort and meaning in life. Some are actual understandings of
the outer or inner workings of the universe. There's brilliant insights
mixed with confusion and lack of understanding. And we have a language
barrier at times. But amidst all this, we're learning from each other and
growing from the interchange. We have a place to sound out our ideas with
our peers, and shouldn't be too concerned if every idea we try out won't
stand up as orthodox theosophy.
>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
The literal words and initial concepts we're trained in are these stakes.
And what we are offered is more than intellectual knowledge, that is just
>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.
The materials we are offered allow us to articulate the inner nature of
life and experiences we have that go beyond the external physical world.
This is just like a study of psychology allows us to be aware of the
functioning of our personality and of the personalities of those about us.
Knowledge is power, and without it personal experience is far less valuable.
>Then Eldon has frequently distinguished "psychic" and "psychism" from
>"spiritual" and "intuition", using adjectives like lower and higher.
Yes. Lower in the same sense that jogging is a "lower" form of activity
than reading the book.
>(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.
It's possible at a certain point in life to change our views, and *for us*
the change will be viewed as an improvement. I'm not sure that this can
be generalized, though, to say that the change is generically good or bad,
and should be emulated by others.
>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.
This sounds like the general idea that is promoted. As we see when we go
into more detail, like in my discussions with JRC, there's a lot more to
it than meets the eye.
>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.
Unfortunately, that's true. Many stop at book learning, get some awareness
of the ideas that are being taught, and don't take the next step to make
those ideas a living reality in their lives. Without taking this step, the
ideas are second-hand or third-hand, and don't provide much insight into the
significant events in our lives.
>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.
Yes. Significant events in our lives shake us up, take us out of our comfort
zones, and get us moving again. Perhaps our thinking was too settled, too
pat, too smug, and life needs to stir it up. We need a healthy dose of
turbulence in our thoughtlife, so that a newer, fresher order can arise.
>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
And that unsettling can happen again and again. And when we approach
chelaship, and enter probation, perhaps it becomes a continual fact of
life for us.
>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
People with paranormal powers make good gurus, since they can see or do
things that make a strong psychological impression on us. Sai Baba, for
instance, with daily materializations, is able to inspire a sense of
spiritual enthusiasm in thousands of people.
>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
Yes. They are models. But the models can have a degree of objectivity to
them, when they deal with the manifest worlds (the spheres of causes).
The uncertainity only enters when we talk about the spheres of effects,
which is what we experience out-of-the-body when in our Globe D personalities.
>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.
You bring up an important point -- that of humility. It requires a good
deal of assimilation and integration into our lives before an idea is ready
to be taught to the world. Purucker mentions (and I've seem some confirmation
in "The Mahatma Letters") of the first three initiations as dealing with our
personal approach to the Teachings. The first initiation involves the
commencement of our intellectual study of the Teachings. The second involves
our "going beyond the words" and having direct insight, a dialog with an
"inner teacher". And the third involves our ability to start teaching what
we've learned. (These three involve the personality, after which the following
four involve the individuality, leaving the personality behind in trance, and
are held at the solstices and equinoxes.)
>To complete this little bridge-building attempt, let's take the word
>"psychic". IMO, there are modes of perception that are non-physical,
Yes, I'd call psychic the extension of the physical senses (Linga-Shirira)
into the sphere of effects or subjective world that surrounds our earth.
>centred on relatively small concerns including a limited concept of the
>seer's self, involving shifting and rather dense energy currents and
But I wouldn't involve a sense of self nor one's understanding of things
with psychic. We can compare thought to energy, and there's an analogy,
but thought is like the flame, not the wax (or energy) that fuels it.
Cousciousness is independent of its vehicle of expression. Our mind uses
the brain, but is not the brain. Our manasic principle uses "mental energies"
but is not those energies.
>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.
The sense of personal self is a lower function of manas. It is the sense
of separate self, and if it becomes the predominate keynote of our awareness,
we become selfish and self-centered. The sense of self, though, is unrelated
to that of sense perception and manipulation of physical objects of this
or the astral plane.
>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.
I would not call intuition as a wider or more universal functioning of
thought, but rather a qualitatively different manner of arriving at
understandings. A scientist may have a flash of intuition that solves a
difficult problem, then take months or years to "prove" it and demonstrate
it scientifically. He did not arrive at it by the rational, step-by-step
thought of step a, then step b, then step c, etc. And an author may in a
flash get the entire story for a book that takes half a year to write.
This is a different faculty than rational thought, and both are different
faculties than psychical or physical sense perception.
>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.
We relate to others on all levels at once. Not just physically, psychically,
intellectually, or spiritually. The entire spectrum of consciousness is
engaged. So it does not matter a lot if we call the psychic lower than the
intellectual or not. It's just one of many ingredients that go into the
>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.
"Lower" is not necessarily bad or inferior. And I distinguish between the
dangers of forced development as opposed to natural faculties. There is
the aspect of the unreliable nature of information gathered in the subjective
worlds. There is much value in the writings of the great sages and seers of
the past. And *there are* faculties of consciousness that we can tap into,
just as solidly rooted in reality as the psychical, even thought they may
be equally far from our being able to physically demonstrate them.
>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?
We cannot tell what is experienced by another. Perhaps a Mahatma could?
But we can seek to understand life and apply our understanding to what we
see and hear. And that includes our interpretation of the stated experiences
of others. Also, I'd still suggest that there is a way of knowing things
without "being there and doing it", a faculty of knowing that we are able
>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.
That "boxing in" is only if our ideas appear to be a put down, or are
harshly critical and judgemental, or fail to understand and appreciate
someone's personal experiences. In that case, it would be natural for
people to clam up and say nothing. But while we listen with shared
appreciation to someone's descriptions of their psychical or mystical
experiences, we are not required to accept their personal explanations
of what happened. In the 1960's, someone may tell us "I talked to God
when I dropped acid." We may listen to the person's experience, but think
that the person did not really talk to God, and offer alternate explanations
to that person's mystical experience.
Since we're in a tradition that promotes the motto "there is no religion
higher than truth," we should be seeking it in many ways. One way is by
the sharing of personal experiences. Another is by learning and sharing
our insights into the Teachings. The two approaches should coexist and
be in some form of harmory.
>Maybe we need to use other words than the terribly-overworked "psychic".
>I've used "non-physical" above, and there are others like
Agreed that the term "psychic" includes too much, and we need more
specialized language. With more terms, we might be able to narrow down
our focus on what is good and bad, harmful and beneficial, pro and anti
spiritual development, etc.
>What about direct cognition? Experiential resonance?
>Mind-space frequency-lock? Energy pseudopodia sampling? I'm brainstorming
>now; what can you come up with?
Those terms don't appeal to me, but we'll come up with some. The only
danger we should avoid is the approach where we say this is good when I
do it, and we'll use this term for it, but it's bad when you do it, and
so we'll use this other term for it. If something is not good, coining
another term does not make it good.
>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.
JRC and I still have a lot to work out. Hopefully there will be some
further good out of our discussions. The comments of others, like yours,
are helpful too, so that JRC and I don't get locked into a too-predictable
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