The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
January 2005 Vol. 7 Issue 11
Jean Crabbendam, a founding member of our Branch, died suddenly and painlessly from a cerebral hemorrhage on December 4th, her 83rd birthday. Born in Portland, Oregon, she grew up loving music, skiing and, above all, piloting small airplanes -- an activity cut short by the outbreak of WW II. A secretary for lumber and steel companies and the FBI before entering Theosophical University in 1945, she worked at the international headquarters of the Theosophical Society in California for over twenty years before moving to Holland in 1970. Returning to California after six years, she later moved to Bellevue, Washington, to be near her daughter and grandchildren. A strong believer in reincarnation from childhood, she had absolutely no fear of death and looked forward to whatever adventures lay beyond.
Over the last twelve years Jean was instrumental in preparing material for the theosophical websites. She scanned the majority of the books, helped proofread them all, and entered corrections. She finished work on her latest project, the second volume of The Theosophist, four days before she died. An avid reader, she contributed book reviews and articles to Sunrise magazine, evaluated books for The Children's Booklist, and participated in Branch activities. She loved studying theosophical teachings, and the goal closest to her heart was promoting brotherhood and a more expansive view of life. Her enthusiasm, cheerfulness, and kindness will be missed by all of us at the Northwest Branch.
Karma is that majestic operation of nature, that so-called 'law of nature' if you will, which is set forth in the saying of Paul: "For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." It is the doctrine of consequences, of results following action, inevitably, ineluctably, whether such consequences or results be immediately forthcoming, or be postponed to a later time. -- G. de Purucker
The word itself is Sanskrit and literally means: to do, to make -- in other words, action. From a moral, ethical, and philosophical standpoint it means that no matter what we think, or what we feel, or what we do, we have released certain energies, set up certain actions that will someday have a consequence. It will some time change things in our lives, either spiritual, mental, or physical. Somewhere, at some time, a reaction will come.
Our actions are preceded by thoughts and by will and, therefore, we shall become involved in the results. Our lives are built up of minor events, daily habits and thoughts. Through a long chain of such causes, followed by results, the pattern of our lives is woven. It is the sum-total of these minor events that makes or mars our lives; they form a web around us, from which we cannot escape. If we think, feel and, act in accordance with nature's harmonious laws, the consequence will be beneficent. If the contrary is the case, the result will bring suffering. It will come, not only to the individual who originated the disharmony, but it will also bring suffering to those who, through the interrelation of the human family, are also woven into the web. Daily we have the power to choose and direct our thoughts and actions. It is done through our spiritual will. Through this action of free will and choice, man becomes an entity totally responsible, not only to himself, but to his family, city, state, and nation. -- From a leaflet
Thursday, January 6th, our Tao Teh Ching meetings return permanently to the Newport Way Library. We will continue discussing this Chinese classic starting with verse 32. Feel free to drop in at any meeting!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
Following meetings (at Newport Way Library):
Thursdays, February 3, March 3, and April 7, 2005
"Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?" is our topic this month. We will be discussing such questions as: What reason is there behind the events in our lives? Is life random, or is there a divine Providence, karma, or fate? How far are we responsible? What are some positive approaches we can take to misfortunes and tragedies? To inequities and unfairness? To success? Are we in a position to judge what are good and what are bad things? Come share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
February 17: Is There Truth in All Religions?
March: How Free Is Our Will?
The topics for the monthly discussions are chosen by members of the Northwest Branch. If there is a subject that particularly interests you, or if you have ideas or suggestions about the meetings, please do not hesitate to email or mail them to the Branch or to mention them after the meetings.
Our attitudes largely determine our way of life. We are governed by the universal law of attraction and repulsion, but the Delphic oracle's advice -- Know thyself -- implies the need to analyze what attracts us and why. Humans are called the crown of evolution because we have greater free will, know right from wrong, and can choose consciously. We have developed a physical brain capable of expressing self-conscious mind. This advantage is coupled with grave responsibilities because mind is dual: it can be swayed by passions, or by selfless universal impulses. The rational mind seeks knowledge, but can be sterile and self-centered unless influenced by the spiritual aspects of our being whose silent voice we hear as conscience, inspiration, and intuition.
Many do not believe in the existence of a higher self. How, they ask, can we believe in the unseen? Simply by admitting the obvious limitations of our senses. For example, we are surrounded by magnetism and electricity, invisible and unknown for centuries. Today, due to science and technology, we accept them as a commonplace. Exploration into human conscious-ness, however, has been much slower because these internal, immaterial realms are not well suited to the material, sensory investigations that characterize science.
It has been said that a successful scientist has to be curious and entirely free of prejudice and preconceptions. I think this applies to all successful men and women. Unceasing curiosity leads to investigation, and a mind crammed with prejudice or preconceptions has no room for new ideas or approaches. We see these limitations even in science, because they are rooted in human nature. While a few scientists are willing to suggest fresh possibilities -- that the universe is an undivided whole, that consciousness is basic to the universe, that the human past is more ancient and complex than hitherto thought -- the vast majority will only entertain orthodox positions which carry no risk of professional disapproval.
Nonetheless, we have been passing through centuries of uncommon openness of thought, which predictably is causing a violent reaction. Globally groups of "fundamentalists" in various traditions reject change and seek to enforce old beliefs and practices on all. If we can withstand these intense efforts, worn-out ideas will be superceded: this is the unalterable pattern of life.
What causes a mind to close? For one thing, a belief in separateness so firmly based that unity has no appeal; for another, an abhorrence of change. This last is strange since we begin changing from the moment of conception and continue to do so until death. Nothing remains exactly the same from one minute to the next. Therefore a mind comfortable only with the status quo limits the process of its own natural growth.
Photographs from the Hubble telescope show billions upon billions of galaxies, our beautiful Milky Way being just one and not the largest by any means. Out along one arm spins our solar system and we realize that humans, one species of earth's children, are also offspring of the cosmos. Teilhard de Chardin sensed that we are atoms lost in the universe -- but we are not lost because we and all other forms of life compose the universe. We are not apart from it, but a part of it. Those who open-mindedly search for truth -- gradually mastering themselves, not others -- will prove to be the antidote to the poisons of close-mindedness. Kant's pessimistic statement that "from the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing can be made" will not hold because, just as there are ways to straighten crooked lumber, so imperfect personalities become luminous through evolution. This is our perennial challenge, the goal of our lives-long journey.