Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

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Silvaeon
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Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

Postby Silvaeon » Mon May 13, 2019 6:00 am

Lodge Phanes is hosting a reading group on The Secret Doctrine open to all members of the brotherhood. Any non-member forum readers are welcome to participate as well.

We begin by taking the next couple weeks to read any of the introductory texts from our various versions of the book, and begin with commentary focusing on the Proem of Cosmogenesis.
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Re: Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

Postby Polyhymnia » Mon May 13, 2019 6:51 pm

I don't know how much the intros vary from version to version, but I have the one that is abridged and annotated by Michael Gomes. Fra Silvaeon and I did a quick comparison of our books and it seems mine is lacking the hefty intro from Blavatsky herself, and in its place is an editor's introduction, and a short note on the text. I don't think there's much in the introduction of the book I have that others won't also have. It's mainly just a loose summary of what the doctrine contains, as well as a brief history of how it came to be.
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Re: Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

Postby Cerastes » Mon May 13, 2019 7:10 pm

Polyhymnia wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:51 pm
I don't know how much the intros vary from version to version, but I have the one that is abridged and annotated by Michael Gomes. Fra Silvaeon and I did a quick comparison of our books and it seems mine is lacking the hefty intro from Blavatsky herself, and in its place is an editor's introduction, and a short note on the text. I don't think there's much in the introduction of the book I have that others won't also have. It's mainly just a loose summary of what the doctrine contains, as well as a brief history of how it came to be.
My version has like 50 pages of introduction and I skiped it the last time I read the book because it was not that interesting anyway. Unfortunately I don't have the English version and I hope the chapters don't differ too much.
I will start at Cosmogenesis, Proem like fra Silvaeon mentioned in the members forum.
“Granny Weatherwax was not lost. She wasn't the kind of person who ever became lost. It was just that, at the moment, while she knew exactly where SHE was, she didn't know the position of anywhere else.”
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Re: Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

Postby Silvaeon » Thu May 16, 2019 4:55 am

I decided to go ahead with reading my introduction. I'm working off of a facsimile of the original edition, so this introduction from Blavatsky felt more interesting than one coming from an editor or something I probably would have skipped otherwise.

In the preface, Blavatsky states what she has attempted in The Secret Doctrine: "These truths are in no sense put forward as revelation: nor does the author claim the position of a revealer of mystic lore, now made public for the first time in the world's history. For what is contained in this work is to be found scattered throughout thousands of volumes embodying the scriptures of the great Asiatic and early European religions, hidden under glyph and symbol, and hitherto left unnoticed because of this veil. What is now attempted is to gather the oldest tenets together and to make of them one harmonious and unbroken whole."

She also goes on to state the aim of the work: "to show that Nature is not 'a fortuitous concurrence of atoms,' and to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the Universe; to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of all religions; and to uncover, to some extent, the fundamental unity from which they all spring; finally, to show the occult side of Nature has never been approached by modern science."

I think these points will be good to keep in mind as our reading group progresses.

In the first part of the introduction, Blavatsky talks about AP Sinnet's book "Esoteric Buddhism", one of the first theosophical books, and some of the misconceptions that arrived from it's publication, namely the error in its title which should have been spelled "budhism" - from Budha (wisdom) and the Sanskrit root Budh (to know) rather than after the teachings of Buddha.These misconceptions as well as the popularity of literature that began popping up and focusing on "rude outward form in place of the inner meaning" are some of the reasons Blavatsky felt compelled to reveal The Secret Doctrine when she did.

She goes on to discuss at length "lost" manuscripts, many of which were undoubtedly destroyed by Christianity, but some also preserved in secret in subterranean crypts etc. These manuscripts offered the keys to all the various great religious texts. I won't attempt to go into all the details given, but the idea she's trying to present is that these texts, lost but not forgotten, are verifiable through history, and are the source of the occult doctrine: "The Secret Doctrine was the universally diffused religion of the ancient and prehistoric world. Proofs of its diffusion, authentic records of its history, a complete chain of documents, showing its character and presence in every land, together with the teaching of all its great adepts, exist to this day in secret crypts of libraries belonging to the Occult Fraternity."

The other thing I found interesting in the introduction regards the pronunciation of Dzyan. "Dan, now become in modern Chinese and Tibetan phonetics ch’an, is the general term for the esoteric schools, and their literature. In the old books, the word Janna is defined as “to reform one’s self by meditation and knowledge,” a second inner birth. Hence Dzan, Djan phonetically, the “Book of Dzyan”.

And now onwards to the Proem for me...
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Re: Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

Postby Polyhymnia » Fri May 17, 2019 5:15 pm

Thanks for the summary of your intro, Silvaeon! Very good points to keep in mind while reading. I've finished the proem and will jot down some thoughts here. Terminology is one thing I'd like to try and understand a bit before delving deeper, so I took down a few of the words that I didn't understand to varying degrees while reading that I had to look up.

Mandukya Upanishad
Manvantara
Manas
Dhyani-Buddha
Sensor
Chelas

Now if I'm not mistaken there's a thread with SoA terminology with at least one (I want to say manas) of these words in there, if not more. I'm trying to find the thread again, so I can use it as a reference. Anyone else come across foundational terms they don't quite get yet?
"Limited love asks for possession of the beloved, but the unlimited asks only for itself." -Kahlil Gibran
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Re: Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

Postby Polyhymnia » Fri May 17, 2019 5:22 pm

Forgive me, friends. My entire occult life up until a few months ago has been exclusively in the Hermetic sphere. I'm probably quite a bit behind you in regards to Eastern terms and texts.
"Limited love asks for possession of the beloved, but the unlimited asks only for itself." -Kahlil Gibran
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Re: Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

Postby Cerastes » Fri May 17, 2019 7:29 pm

Polyhymnia wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 5:15 pm
Now if I'm not mistaken there's a thread with SoA terminology with at least one (I want to say manas) of these words in there, if not more. I'm trying to find the thread again, so I can use it as a reference. Anyone else come across foundational terms they don't quite get yet?
https://www.azazel.fi/en/article/termin ... of-azazel/

This is the terminology.
I just started reading but if I remember it correctly, there is a whole shitload full of words I don't understand. :lol: This was one of the things that frustrated me in this book. It requires a lot of research, but maybe we can help each other in this case
“Granny Weatherwax was not lost. She wasn't the kind of person who ever became lost. It was just that, at the moment, while she knew exactly where SHE was, she didn't know the position of anywhere else.”
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Re: Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

Postby Nefastos » Fri May 17, 2019 8:41 pm

Polyhymnia wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 5:15 pm
Terminology is one thing I'd like to try and understand a bit before delving deeper, so I took down a few of the words that I didn't understand to varying degrees while reading that I had to look up.

I remember so vividly the twenty percent frustrating, eighty percent exhilarating feeling when first reading The Secret Doctrine, and doing the same, writing down all the unfamiliar terms like you... plus also the terms of hermetic tradition, which weren't more familiar to me than the Eastern terminology. It was pre-internet era, and the geezer in me thinks that part of the usefulness of the process is lost now when the answers are always at hand. Especially since it is easy to imagine that an explanation found online instantly is the right one & the only one, as many people do.

I am unsure if you wanted some opinions of these words' meanings here, but I guess it doesn't hurt to give some aspectual answers:

Polyhymnia wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 5:15 pm
Mandukya Upanishad

Upanishads are the esoteric philosophy books of Hindu religion. Their ideas predate the written form (I claim, academics often disagree), but from them we first know the now familiar concepts such as atman as the individual monadic soul in human beings, which is of the same essence with God (Brahman). Mandukya Upanishad is a short text that mostly discusses the holy word AUM.

Polyhymnia wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 5:15 pm
Manvantara

Manu-antara, manvantara is "a Manu-time", time for one (!) humankind. Theosophy often uses this word for the entire planetary lifespan, although there are lesser manvantaras for separate human races. (Theosophy is very fond of the idea of human races, like thinking at the turning of the 19th & the 20th century was, so these nowadays often problematic terms will turn up very often.) And since theosophy understands the word "human" loosely, there are manvantaras also for other planets, the solar systems, and so on, ad infinitum.

Polyhymnia wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 5:15 pm
Manas

Higher reasoning ability, not unlike Platonic intellect as the mediator between soul and divinity. Our truest mind beyond sophistry and memorized logic.

Polyhymnia wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 5:15 pm
Dhyani-Buddha

A class of high deities in the Tibetan Buddhism in whose tantric sect Blavatsky had been initiated.

Polyhymnia wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 5:15 pm
Chelas

In theosophy, chelas are students of the master-adepts, occultists of a high grade. Much of the magical side of occult theosophy is about aspiring to become a chela, i.e. to come in contact and under the tutelage of the superhuman adept masters.
Faust: "Lo contempla. / Ei muove in tortuosa spire / e s'avvicina lento alla nostra volta. / Oh! se non erro, / orme di foco imprime al suol!"
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Re: Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

Postby Polyhymnia » Fri May 17, 2019 10:40 pm

Cerastes wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 7:29 pm

https://www.azazel.fi/en/article/termin ... of-azazel/

This is the terminology.
I just started reading but if I remember it correctly, there is a whole shitload full of words I don't understand. :lol: This was one of the things that frustrated me in this book. It requires a lot of research, but maybe we can help each other in this case
Aha! It was an article, not a thread! That explains my trouble in finding it again. Many thanks!! Alot of research, yes, but gratifying! It's nice to be able to help each other out, which brings me to:
Nefastos wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:41 pm

I remember so vividly the twenty percent frustrating, eighty percent exhilarating feeling when first reading The Secret Doctrine, and doing the same, writing down all the unfamiliar terms like you... plus also the terms of hermetic tradition, which weren't more familiar to me than the Eastern terminology. It was pre-internet era, and the geezer in me thinks that part of the usefulness of the process is lost now when the answers are always at hand. Especially since it is easy to imagine that an explanation found online instantly is the right one & the only one, as many people do.

I am unsure if you wanted some opinions of these words' meanings here, but I guess it doesn't hurt to give some aspectual answers:

Thank you so much, Fra Nefastos! This helps immensely. It really is mostly exhilarating to read through with virgin eyes, and finding where all this new information fits in the microcosm of my spiritual path, and in relation to the macrocosm as a whole. I agree that when answers are so quickly at hand we lose often helpful techniques to help us remember them. I really appreciate you shedding light on this terminology!
"Limited love asks for possession of the beloved, but the unlimited asks only for itself." -Kahlil Gibran
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Re: Reading Circle (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine)

Postby Smaragd » Mon May 20, 2019 9:22 pm

I'm reading a Finnish translation made of the sixth English pressing. In the forewords given by the translators and republishers it is said this version has been proven to be inaccurate in places. A bit discouraging but I've been thinking of aquiring an English version of the original press to have it next to this one or just make use of the pdf-version. My plan is to mount my wandering mind and try to steer it to the other version when it runs wildly in to the woods, which happens alot when I'm reading Blavatsky. I would suggest we make page number references, if such are needed, from this version of the book, which is "a character-for-character, line-for-line reproduction of the two-volume 1888 first edition", but do as you will: https://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sd ... _eBook.pdf

The first pages introduce the book as combination of science, religion and philosophy. What I love about theosophy is the open view of the possible viewpoints to the 19th century science that hides behind all this criticism. While nowadays in the face of repressed spiritual side of things people easily reacts to the cold grip of science by jumping to the other end without giving any attention what's between, Blavatskys theosophy with somewhat grounded feet points what is between and thus also above the polarities. (Sometimes her middleground seems almost arbitary, like in the last paragraphs of the introduction. Or maybe that's just her making fun of the Western science self-righteously taking an upper hand of matters well outside its' reach.) An example of this came from one of the prefaces where the Finnish Book Society of the Rose Cross, who pressed my version of the book, boasted how The Secret Doctrine could be read to prophetice scientific discoveries. Such cases were pointed from the second part of the first book, for example the atomic bomb. Forgive me already making jumps further to the book, but there Blavatsky points towards Mr. Kelleys research which touches the ethers, 'vril' and the atomic bomb. I see some interesting tools there to make interpretations of the atomic level animations of Bob in the 'Twin Peaks: The Return'.


Introductory

Blavatskys labyrinthine writing is alot easier to read when you know some of the background. Last time I think I was baffled what she was going on about Sinnett and masters, but now having read Mahatma Letters it's a lot easier to make sense of it and there's even some beauty behind these defensive declarations. In addition to the chelahood things, Mahatma Letters (written 8 to 4 years prior to the publication of Secret Doctrine) had number of parts dealing with the manvantras Blavatsky is preparing us with here also. Not sure if a peek at one of the letters would increase or decrease confusions, but one of them dealing with manvantaras and races is looked into here. The letters are a bit confusing anyway as we only see one side of the correspondence.

The first volume of the Secret Doctrine is titled 'Cosmogenesis' while the latter is titled 'Anthropogenesis' and Blavatsky says she has to jump every now and then to the latter volumes themes to make the first volume understandable. Reading of the races of the wheel and the jugas it spins through, I somewhat mixed these two titles. Micro- and macrocosm comes to mind from these, but I guess Anthropogenesis deals the cultural progression of humans while the individual levels are already perceived from the first volume through affinity of the micro & macro. It's funny how culture is kind of below the individual as it flows from individuals, but it might be thought also higher or middleground in it's collective status that rounds the individual errors. But then again making things round is often about cutting corners which is the lie of a compromise.

The term divine conscience caught my eye. Learning what conscience means from my mother it was based on a law mom had set for me regarding the time I had to get back home. That law and the love towards my mom and her worry created the situation where I felt the conscience "knocking" as we say here. I'd say that's already divine conscience in a simple world of a child, where as a conscience awaken by manipulation or other perverse acts we do to each other conditions us to false reality - false law. I can still see the Austrian stone pines of the yard we were playing in, knowing I should have gone home already.

Blavatsky points towards the past of their century when symbologists made wildly imaginative interpretations of religious symbolism which led in to a house of cards the book is trying to set on unshakeable ground. I see playing with the imagination a necessary step in training imagination to get it working with the rational mind and the higher triad. Sort of meeting in the half way. I've seen myself often gone in the too imaginative strolls, which might be problematic when it comes to speaking the truth, but one may always go fishing and then stop and gut the catch before bringing it to the family. Been trying to improve my gutting skills lately.

I'm about to start proceeding in to the Proem. We'll see if I manage to go through it during this week.

Polyhymnia wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 5:15 pm
Manas
Some of these words are easier to wrap ones head around when we see them as a part of some larger structure. Manas for example is part of the Theosophical principles. Fra Nefastos has written an article series including these principles in a composition of human and presenting them in a bit different order. I'm hoping we could soon get it visible to the English article page.

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