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Re: Symbols and Bridges

Oct 15, 1995 09:31 PM
by Murray Stentiford, Scientific Software and Systems Ltd


This is a reply to your lengthy post of 9th October, somewhat later than
I would like it to be, but hopefully better late than never.

>>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.

A danger that list-dwellers often dice with, but, while some of us seem
to aspire to complete incomprehensibility at times, no-one has ever
quite attained that lofty goal! :-)

>The basic truths, though, are simple.
>Purucker spoke of them as the Seven Jewels of Wisdom. They include things
>like Atma-vidya, self-knowledge.

Indeed. It is the distinction between levels or ways of comprehending
that I was concerned with, from purely intellectual through to intuitive
and experientially-grounded ways.

>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.

True of course, but to continue the analogy, a purely intellectual
understanding is a bit like knowing a lot about the map without having
been to the seashore, while an experiential understanding is like knowing
the feel of sand under your feet and the smell of sea air in your nose.
Then there's the matter of getting to know what's under the surface.

I accept the need for maps, as well as for experience. While there
has been a relative difference of approach between yourself and JRC that
is somewhere on the metaphorical spectrum from maps to experience, I
think that maps can be helpful in obtaining and understanding experience,
and experience is helpful in understanding and reconstructing the
information encoded in maps. I note that you agree with this concept in
another part of your post, put in other words.

Part of the trouble with theosophy is the limitation of language, where
we have so few words to identify the countries in this global map, and
some of them describe overlapping territory. Look at atma, mayavi-rupa,
plane, principle, body - all terms that we have significant differences
of understanding of, and that we wrestle to gain greater clarity with.
The word "psychic" suffers badly from this affliction, hence much of the
need for discussion.

>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.

I quite agree. I think that bridges nicely to JRC's approach.

>>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.

Yes, but when the later view encompasses AND goes beyond the earlier
view, it is hard to escape a sense of forward progression. Not trying to
sound judgemental or superior here - it's an experience that we all have
many times in our lives, and is the basis of natural heirarchies, whether
of knowledge or ability.

>>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.

Yes. Something for us all to bear in mind - all the time.

>>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
>>on theosophy.
>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.

Very likely.

>>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 strong impressions came in several ways for me, some of them best
described as being near and absorbing through the skin. The classical
thing about being in the guru's aura, I guess.

>>centred on relatively small concerns including a limited concept of the
>>seer's self, involving shifting and rather dense energy currents and
>>information pathways,
>But I wouldn't involve a sense of self nor one's understanding of things
>with psychic.

See my next comment

>>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.

I agree that a sense of personal self is a lower function of manas,
and believe it manifests as a person's belief system and self concept in
relation to the world.

The point I am making here is that modes of consciousness that can be
called our pigmy self, where the motivations centre around a perceived
small concept of separated self, seem to characterise "lower" psychic
manifestations when they occur. This is a generalisation, of course, but
as I see it, the self-believed nature of self has a profound effect on
what a person thinks, feels, does and perceives. I was not talking about
the sense of self in itself, but rather the quality and scope of
self-concept and concerns.

Just to stir the pot, I suspect this is closely related to one of the
meanings of mayavi-rupa.

>>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

A "functioning of thought" is not what I had in mind. Intuition is
certainly qualitatively different, but IMO can only appear in a person
who has cleared away certain limiting parts of their belief and feeling
systems. Its concerns are definitely wider, often to the point of being

>>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.

True, but in most minds I would say it has these associations all the
same. And this, I believe, is a key element in the off-putting attitudes
that JRC was trying to articulate. I have seen for myself the presence of
unacknowledged negative emotional attitudes alongside what appeared to be
friendly warnings, and seen the discouraging effect they can have on

>And I distinguish between the
>dangers of forced development as opposed to natural faculties.

Good. It's a matter of being responsible, in passing on the reasonable
warnings that HPB, GH and others (including JRC - I remember a few weeks
back) have issued, while being more willing to listen before we talk,
when confronted with someone who is a "natural". I definitely think
theosophists in general have more thinking to do in this area.

>>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?

That's exactly what I had in mind. You mentioned a rightful humility
above, and if it takes a Mahatma to know for sure, lesser mortals should
have an appropriate humility in the face of those whose inner worlds are
very different from their own. In my experience, not all theosophists
have shown this humility, and I include myself.

>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
>to develop.

Absolutely, but I wouldn't separate them as much as you seem to. In fact,
at these levels, the distinction dissolves, as the faculty of knowing is
itself an experience going to the core, while experiencing is an intimate
way of knowing. I see this as a major connecting point between your
position and JRC's, as they appeared at the beginning of the latest cycle
of discussion on this topic.

>>I have come to see that it is terribly easy to box some body in, in our
>>language and thoughts, with the best intentions, and quite unconsciously,
>>by applying ready-made terminology and concepts.
>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.

Well, that is what JRC was trying to portray, as I see it, and what
I've seen myself in a few cases. Not as strongly as you put it, but still
with the elements of being judgemental and significant failure to
understand another's personal experiences. As you say, it is natural to
then feel a tendency to clam up.

>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.

Of course. We need every bit of wariness as well as openness we can

>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.

I think that's well put, Eldon.

>>Maybe we need to use other words than the terribly-overworked "psychic".
>>I've used "non-physical" above, and there are others like
>>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.

Fair enough. I was verging on having a bit of fun here, along with a
serious desire to stimulate some other contributions.

Hey, but I noticed on a post of yours not long ago, that you talk about
phase lock, citing the example of two grandfather clocks. That's closely
related to the idea of frequency lock, but just a bit tighter, to
somebody with a background of electronics, signal processing etc like
myself. I certainly felt in sync. with you when you wrote that.

I thought that energy pseudopodia sampling was destined to a very short
life, but the idea was sparked by descriptions of Therapeutic Touch etc
where at a certain level, energy streamers go out and connect people, or
are extruded to pick up information about something.

Just another corner of the large piece of map covered by the word

>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

Thanks. I have high hopes that good will come out of it all.


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