Re: Theos-World RE: Our discussion.
Nov 16, 2004 05:32 PM
by Regina St Clare
Jerry, excellent discourse...equates my favorite sanskrit mantra..."word and meaning united, for right understanding..."and my seven language links of conscious communication.
MOST relevant to explore.
-- Jerry Hejka-Ekins <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
In continuing our discussion on communicating Theosophy to this
post-modern generation, I now realize that I have been remiss by not
taking the time to properly frame and define terms "meditation" and
"post modernism." Consequently, we seem to to have been going back and
forth on points of Theosophical teaching, which we largely agree upon
already, and never getting to the issues we have been trying to discuss.
As you point out, "there are a number of definitions" of meditation. I
don't claim any special knowledge about it and don't propose to add to
the definitions that are already out there. Rather, I just want to
speak to what I have observed and learned over the years.
>DTB Agreed - I would say that meditation is very deep thinking on an
>abstract plane where there are no special conditions or positions other than
>a seeking for universal and impersonal truth.
"Thinking" is not the word that I would choose. Rather, meditation
itself is more of a process of observing, experiencing, realizing and
being in the present. There are, of course, little exercises that
meditators do that involve what we ordinarily call "thinking." For
instance there is something called "a loving kindness meditation" where
one "sends good thoughts" to people--particularly those whom we might
dislike for some reason. Such exercises are designed to "soften the
heart" so to speak. But even here, these are very focused exercises.
>>DTB: I think that PATANJALI
>>offers some of the best definitions. In any case it is a use and
>>development of our "Will." -- But you may disagree on this as there a
>>number of definitions for both mediation and will. I would add that our
>>moral intent (desire ?) gives a "tint" to the nature of meditation and the
Perhaps, it does. However, sometimes definitions get in the way of
understanding. We can learn definitions and become confortable in
repeating them until they automatically arise and fill in a void with
verbage, yet nothing is really understood or communicated. There are a
lot of little sayings in Zen about the difference between looking at
something and seeing it. In post modernism, there is the distinction
between the word, its "official" denotation, and the meaning it has for
the person who utters it, which may be completely different to the
hearer's. But I will get into that more below. At this point, let's
just say that reading a book about meditation is not the same as the
practice of meditation.
>>DTB: I think he uses the word "concentration" and implies also the use of the
>>will as a specific kind of desire of a high moral quality (dare I say :
Concentration is the first step to meditation. One has to first learn
how to focus before they can meditate. For me, somedays are easier than
others. Sometimes I wakup with my mind full of things I have to do that
day. So, when I go in and sit for meditation, I find that my mind
wants to think about what I need to do. I call it, "my planning mind."
Sometimes it is very powerful, and I don't have a lot of success
meditating on those days. Other days, I'll sit and within a couple of
minutes I find myself getting into the proper zone. Perhaps you are
thinking of the word "contemplation" which is the third step according
to Patanjali. There are numberless levels of contemplation, and yes,
some of them can be more or less touch into the "Buddhic."
>>>DTB: There are many techniques advocated, and some work for some people and
>>>others for others. The main point is that the individual EGO can control the
In my case, I can sit in meditation in a Zen group, or a Tibetian
Buddhist group or a Theravada group and be quite comfortable in each.
The differences are superficial to me. Theosophical meditation
techniques are different, and I don't even believe that "meditation" is
the right word for them. After the first five minutes of the leader
talking on with "know that you are not your body" and "know that you are
not your mind" etc, I find myself wishing that he/she would just shut up
so that I can meditate. I refuse to participate in those kind of
>>DTB Agreed. No rites, rituals or skimming will get anyone very far.
>>Study is a kind of meditation.
Yes: in a manner of speaking study is a kind of meditation. However, I
would like to focus upon the meditation that developes the heart, so to
speak. Students of Theosophy seem to be already quite expert at
developing the head :-)
You mentioned Patanjali is a good book for definitions. I would add
that I have found HPB's Voice of the Silence to be an excellent
lmeditation tool. But one must learn meditation first, before it is
useful in that way. As for a manuel that teaches meditation, I would
recommend "Path With Heart" by Jack Kornfield. It is a manuel on a form
called "Insight Meditation." However, I also recommend going to a day
long retreat or two for personal instruction from someone qualified to
teach the subject.
Regarding what I mean by the Post-Modern generation:
To begin with, I don't mean to refer to any group of people who might be
defined as under such and such an age. What I have in mind is a
paradigm shift in how people view the world. This shift occurred
sometime in the 1960s, and is more or less held by about fifty percent
of today's population. While there are a lot of influential
philosophical works I could refer to, some of which go back to the
ninteenth century, but this is very dry material read mostly by graduate
and post graduate students, and not generally known or of interest to
the general to the population. So, they are not the source of the
paradigm shift, but their influence does continue to drive and bring it
into general awareness. A lot of this influencing is very subtile and
is done through the arts, movies and television, but few people have any
idea that it is going on. I remember once when taking a class in this
subject, a television series called "Deep Space Nine" came out. The
pilot was a perfect example for post-modern applications to script
writing and camera techniques. I did a presentation on it. Abnother
member of the class did a presentation on a series called "Northern
Exposure" which was really a great study in post-modern writing.
The shift itself was actually a social phenomon, the cause of which
stimmed from numerous things including the civil rights movement,
dissilusionment over the Vietnam war, doubts about the Kennedy's
assination etc. The effects of these and other events created a general
distrust of authority in general and government in particular. Since
then, its continuation has been propelled by a shift as to how subjects
are taught in the public school system--a change which occurred around
1968. The reason why I brought this up was because, that half of the
population which I call "post-modern" experience the modernist methods
of teaching Theosophy, which are used by the Theosophical Organizations,
to be very unappealing, and the method, and unexpressed agenda serves to
drive away people who would have otherwise been perspective students.
Below, I have described some of the changes which the modernist methods
have been insensitive to:
1. Hierarchial Authority: The world war II and earlier generations had
a prevailing attidude in the home that the children were expected to
obey their mother. Mother was expected to obey her husband, and the
husband was expected to obey God. In today's society where less that
1/3 of the children live with both parents, about 48% of adults do not
regularly attend church, this system is no longer workable. Parents and
children have learned that authority is not infallible and should be
Application: In my experience, the quickest way to empty a room of
prospective students of Theosophy is to present Theosophy as a list of
tenets emenating from an authority. To say something like: "examine for
yourself" is really missing the point, which goes much deeper than
merely reminding people that they have the right to accept and reject
information as they choose.
2.Authoritative credibility and loyalty: You might remember when it
became public that President Eisenhauer lied about the U2 incident;
President Johnson lied about the Bay of Tonkin incident in the Vietnam
War. For completeness, I might add President Clinton's carefully
phrased satement, "did did not have sexual relations with that woman"
which was devised to hide prescisely what it revealed. Under Johnson
the phrase "credibility gap" came into our language (not to be confused
with Nixon's 18 minute gap). All of these incidents demonstrated that
what is said, though emanating from a respected public trustee is not
necessarily the truth. Except for those who operate from loyalty as the
highest ethic, one can no longer judge a person's veracity by who they
are, or who they claim they are, or by what institution they represent.
Application: Unless one is already pre-disposed to believe in such
things, any statements of Theosophy's veracity based upon the Mahatmas,
Initiates, miracles etc. No longer carries weight. Theosophical notions
must be tied into normal reality and have a function there. The rest
become fodder for adaption into computer games.
3. The Signifier and the Signified: A lot of research and discussion
have been done on this over the years, and the results of which has been
filtering more and more into the general population. Part of this came
from the pioneering work of Charles Peirce (a friend of Ralph Waldo
Emerson and William James) who defined the relationship between signs
and meanings, with a new science called "semiotics." A written word is
a sign, or a signifier of something, or of many things. So are things
like traffic signals, happy faces, mathematical equations etc. A later
stage to this came in the 1970s when it was shown that in written
communication, there is a slippage of meaning between the signifier (the
word) and the signified (its intended meaning). A text can be
understood upon an unspecified number of different levels, many of
which can be contradictory to each other, and very different from the
apparent intention of the writer. In the 1980's it was further shown
that there is a gap between the intentions of the author and the text,
and therefore the intentions of the author can never be precisely
known--not even to the author!
Application: While all of this has had profound implications in
academia, institutions of public administration, how government
institutions are organized,our legal system, etc. Public implications
for these changes is still in a state of evolution. However, one of the
more obvious implications that applies to Theosophy is that the modern
reader of a hundred-year-old text is living by a very different set of
signifiers than the author had when writing it. The slippage of meaning
is far more than one suspects. Changes in word meanings is only one
small aspect of this. There are also cultural changes that throw things
into a different light. In HPB's case, she discusses philosophies,
sciences and religions from another time and from cultures very
different than ours. It would have been difficult enough to have been
familiar with all of the cultures of her time. Now, even those
references have changed.
Well, that is probably more than enough for now. There are volumes of
books on these and other related subjects, which would take another book
just to summerize. Let's see if there is any interest in exploring
these ideas before I raise any others.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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