THEOSOPHY, Vol. 88, Issue 1
November-December, 1999
(Pages 11-15; Size: 11K)


[7th article in this series]

As the last days of the millennium approach, the roller coaster-like events of the twentieth century may be given added perspective.


(Investigating the Latent Powers in Man)

HPB, in her article "The Esoteric Character of the Gospels," called attention to the coming together of several cycles near the close of the last century and what their culmination had in store for mankind. Commenting on the movement of our solar system through the phases of the Zodiac she wrote:

When it [the sun] enters, in a few years, the sign of Aquarius psychologists will have some extra work to do, and the psychic idiosyncrasies of humanity will enter on a great change (HPB Articles III, p. 169 fn.). [Note: A link to "The Esoteric Character of the Gospels" has been placed at the end of this article. --Compiler.]
And in the Third Message to the American Theosophists HPB wrote:
As the preparations for the new cycle proceeds, as the forerunners of the new sub-race make their appearance on the American continent, the latent and occult powers in man are beginning to germinate and grow... [Note: A link to the "Third Message" has been placed at the end of this article. --Compiler.]
She warns of the many movements purporting to be spiritual which have sprung into life that, in reality, are but further manifestations of materialism and ignorance as to the true nature of Man. Hence, her statement "beware lest the psychic outruns the manasic and spiritual development."

There is no doubt that psychology, as presently practiced, has undergone a great change during the just closing century, endeavoring to meet the many needs of the developing "psychic idiosyncrasies." Self-help groups, group therapy sessions, counselors for every psychological ill of the personal man have sprung up overnight like mushrooms. Few will deny that the problems of humanity are in many cases horrendous. And, of course, the modern media keeps us well informed as to every ill and aberration. The overwhelming task of today's psychologist is to bring some degree of psychic stability into this arena of chaotic conditions -- an arena whose ills physical, psychic, mental, and spiritual are legion. One might ask, "what is a spiritual ill"? It occurs when we lose faith in ourselves as captains of our own souls. And, it is here that we move into the higher aspects of psychology, which is the real message of theosophy, and will awaken to the idea that life is an eternal odyssey --a journey of the soul, in search of truth and realization as to its meaning and purpose. It is solely through meaning and purpose we can make sense out of our experiences and gain an understanding of others and ourselves. Theosophy teaches unity -- that no one experiences anything that is not shared by others. The message is that men are immortal souls, self-actuated, with the capacities of the gods albeit latent. Nevertheless, the human soul is quite capable of bursting the bonds of its material prison and consciously becoming spiritual, through effort and many lifetimes. This is why the teachings of the ancient East have such value for the West, as they deal with humanity's spiritual origin and divine destiny.

The practice of psychology was once thought of as merely dealing with "mental" illness -- a malady not spoken of nor respected as a science by the medical profession. Today Psychology is not only respected but also recognized as a necessity to ameliorate the frequently bizarre effects of a variety of psychic afflictions. The many offerings of "help," however, are like a cafeteria with a staggering menu from which to choose. Discrimination, then, becomes a key factor in those choices -- a discernment founded in a basic understanding of the true origin of the human being. This is where theosophy enters the arena and provides the basics.

Among the more perceptive psychologists of the West, a new view of the human being is beginning to emerge, i.e., that at heart we are compassionate beings whose sense of fulfillment derives from the opportunities to serve the needs of others as well as our own. It is called altruism and recognized as a vital factor in any healing process. In a book entitled The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, author Irvin D. Yalom, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Stanford Medical School, points to the healing power of the practice of Altruism on the part of patients. Now in its fourth printing, the book's contents are summarized on its jacket thus: "This new edition is the most up-to-date, incisive, and comprehensive text on group therapy available today."

As an example, Dr. Yalom includes the following parable in his book:

There is an old Hasidic story of a rabbi who had a conversation with the Lord about Heaven and Hell. "I will show you Hell," said the Lord, and led the rabbi into a room containing a group of famished, desperate people sitting around a large, circular table. In the center of the table rested an enormous pot of stew, more than enough for everyone. The smell of the stew was delicious and made the rabbi's mouth water. Yet no one ate. Each diner at the table held a spoonful of stew, but too long to get the food into one's mouth. The rabbi saw that their suffering was indeed terrible and bowed his head in compassion. "Now I will show you Heaven," said the Lord, and they entered another room, identical to the first -- same large, round table, same enormous pot of stew, same long-handled spoons. Yet there was gaiety in the air: everyone appeared well nourished, plump, and exuberant. The rabbi could not understand and looked to the Lord. "It is simple," said the Lord, "but it requires a certain skill. You see, the people in this room have learned to feed each other!"
A footnote to this parable appears as follows:
In 1973, in what must have been the first group ever offered for advanced cancer patients, a patient, Katy Weers (who had been involved with me from the beginning in conceptualizing and organizing this group), opened the first meeting by passing out copies of this parable. It turned out to be prescient since many of the members were to benefit from the therapeutic factor of altruism.
Dr. Yalom comments:
There is another, more subtle benefit inherent in the altruistic act. Many patients who complain of meaninglessness are immersed in a morbid self-absorption, which takes the form of obsessive introspection for a teeth-grinding effort to actualize oneself. I agree with Victor Frankl that a sense of life meaning ensues but cannot be deliberately, self-consciously pursued: it is always a derivative phenomenon that materializes when we have transcended ourselves, when we have forgotten ourselves and become absorbed in someone (or something) outside ourselves. The therapy group implicitly teaches its members that lesson and provides a new counter-solipsistic perspective.
As shown in the parable, "it takes a certain skill." Theosophy is a road map for the journey of the immortal soul. It points, among other things, to "self-induced and self-devised efforts" as being indispensable.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

The whole infinite series of individualizations is in fact an eternal and everlasting manifestation which never repeats itself. 

--Ibn Al-Arabi

[Note: Here is the link to HPB's article, entitled "The Esoteric Character of the Gospels", that was quoted from and pointed to by the Editors in the above article. (The indented quote was taken from the 5th footnote.) And here is the link to her "Third Message to the American Theosophists", which was also quoted from, and which indented quote is found in the 9th of the 12 paragraphs. --Compiler.]

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