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high-brow chats

Oct 23, 1995 05:56 AM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins


I hope you don't mind my chiming in on your discussion with Rich.
But it appears that your message already set the ground work for
a more practical general discussion, drawing from personal
experience, so I'm throwing in my two cents worth.

>I am interested in all Theosophy on a level that I can respond
>to. As I mentioned to Liesel, I would be interested to know how
>theosophy is 'done' in Russia, Finland etc. These people have
>popped in and left again.

Yes. Too bad that our Russian correspondent disappeared so fast.
But he is probably listening in on the side, and may be back when
the conversations come around to his interest.

>Here in Wanganui we are doing our best to keep up with the
>teachings and not letting them disintergrate into meaningless
>warm fuzzies.

"Warm fuzzies" eh. I haven't heard that term in about twenty
years. Is Transactional Analysis still current in New Zealand?
What are your doing to keep the discussions at a high level?
What kind of problems have you been having with your group? I'm
asking because many of us who have had experience with Lodge
dynamics have a lot to share in this area--perhaps some possible
solutions too.

>What does lemniscate mean? It is on page 274 and we couldn't
>find it in the dictionary.

A lemniscate is a figure 8--sort of an infinity symbol when
laying on its side. Another, and older meaning concerns a ribbon
that is hanging down. Both images in context to the passage on
page 274 refers to the idea of evolution proceeding on a downward
course from spirit to matter. HPB is using the lemniscate as a
geometrical model which is more familiar to us, but fulfills the
same function as the older caduceus symbol (illustrated on the
preceding page). HPB is saying that the caduceus symbol would
have been recognized by the Greeks as representing the same idea
as the lemniscate figure does to us in this context of evolution.
Notice that the intertwining snakes on the caduceus symbol are
forming a repetitive lemniscate as it twines down the staff. HPB
is playing off of Sir William Crook's point (pp. 273-74) that
three conditions (symbolized by the two snakes and the staff) are
needed for the evolution of matter to occur: time; cyclic
activity; and space. From these three conditions, matter evolved
from a simple protyle element into many elements (A course in
high school or basic college chemistry would help to follow this,
but is not necessary). In reference to Crook's three conditions,
look back to the beginning of the SD where HPB talks about the
"Absolute" which is unknowable but is the common source of
Abstract Motion, Duration (unbounded time) and Abstract Space.
>From these three conditions, according to HPB, the universe came
into being.

Apparently you are using the six volume Adyar edition (originally
published in 1938). I recommend that you use the original (1888)
edition instead. IMHO the editing done in the 1893 and the 1938
editions did much more harm than good. Editions true to the
original are available from Theosophy Company and Theosophical
University Press. The Adyar Society also has an edition
annotated by Boris de Zirkoff, which is also OK.

How is your study group organized? I have taught a dozen or so
SD classes over the last twenty years, experimenting with
different organizational models, and have a couple of
suggestions: Before starting an SD class, I recommend studying
Robert Bowen's pamphlet: "How to Study the ~Secret Doctrine~."
Also, I have found that students have an easier time with the SD
if the read the abridgement of the SD (available from Quest
books) before trying the full size version. The abridged version
is only 20% the size of the full version, and reading the
abridgement seems to help give the student a better grasp on the
larger book when they get to it, because they now have a sense of
where it is going. Another thing I found that works well, is to
rotate the leadership of the class, so that each person in tern
is responsible to lead the study of the next section. That
person, then must take some time read the material before the
class, try to come to an understanding of the material, and
prepare questions and perhaps comments. One class we began in
1980 in Los Angeles just finished reading the SD from cover to
cover and have started over. So it took them fifteen years to
get through the book, meeting on a twice a month schedule for
most of it.

>Did HPB make up words to suit herself? Sometimes
>we wonder as we can't find them explained anywhere.

No, but she used a lot of foreign words that might not be in a
regular dictionary. Another problem is that she was writing for
an educated audience; but education has changed since her times.
An education person in 1880 had what we call a "classical
education." To be educated back then meant that one was able to
translate for Latin and Greek and spoke French. Such a person
was also well read in the classics of literature and philosophy,
including an education in moral philosophy. Now a days, Greek
and Latin are not offered at all in most universities, and most
students try to get out of taking a modern language altogether.
In the California universities, two years of a language is
required for a masters degree in the non sciences, and only one
semester for a BA. That is not enough time to really learn a
language. The philosophy requirement has been reduced to a one
semester introductory course, and classical moral philosophy is
no longer discussed. The theory of education during HPB's time
was to give a person an awareness of our own culture and of
others. From the time of the Renaissance, classical learning was
the bases of civilization. In this century, the goals of
education in the industrialized countries have changed. Now the
goal is to gain skills in order to get a job. I was teaching
writing to freshman students last year, and assigned Plato's cave
allegory as their first reading. Most of the class was unable to
follow what Plato was talking about, and I had to draw it out of
them during class discussion. Remember, these are university
students. Most of them are business or accounting majors, so
outside of my English class, they probably never would have been
exposed to any literature or philosophy.

For us students of theosophy, we are getting an education that is
broader than anything that is offered in the universities today.
But our education does not prepare us for it, so the study of
HPB's writings are more difficult now then they were 100 years

Jerry HE

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