‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.’ 1 Corinthians 13 [New King James version]
There are questions to be asked. What is brotherhood? How do we achieve it? How does it feel? Is it a concept isolated from scientific enquiry?
In this article I aim to examine some of the esoteric underpinnings of the theosophical concept of brotherhood, with its basis in unity, and, in line with theosophy’s intention to synthesise science, religion and philosophy, to look at the key influence of Enlightenment thought, which has constricted western thinking and science, then at the psychodynamic clinical literature, and finally at today’s neuroscience and the changing paradigms arising out of it.
The evidence – accumulating in clinical and neuropsychological fields - shows correspondences to the underlying reality of our unity of existence at both physiological and socio-emotional levels and testifies to the importance of brotherhood as a human endeavour, of brotherly relations founded on agape love.
Finally there is the question, if we can achieve true brotherhood, what will it mean for us when we do?
In his letter, the Maha Chohan emphasises the importance of brotherhood in the theosophical movement, not merely to alleviate practical suffering but by providing the teachings which might enable people to move forward spiritually. H.P. Blavatsky [HPB] explains that the welfare of humanity and a ‘kingdom of peace and love’ can be achieved only by: ‘the close brotherly union of men’s inner selves, of soul solidarity, of the growth and development of that feeling which makes one suffer when one thinks of the suffering of others’. This tells us that brotherhood is more than a network of individuals with common aims; its essence is the very character of those connections. The teachings, and the practical actions which must follow, are underpinned by this esoteric, inner, soul-change which is not cold but is connected to the feelings of others and which entails a ‘weakening [of] the feeling of separateness ... by a process of inner enlightenment’. [HPB: Appendix II to The Great Master’s Letter link]. This contrast with the sense of separateness is an important one and one which is applicable not in a restricted sense to the spiritual level alone but to every level of our being.
Relevant also is the evolutionary process which proceeds via the 49 fires, that is, the seven principles, each with its seven sub-principles (but possibly each with seven sub-sub-principles and so on ad infinitum). We must not lose sight of the integrated and interpenetrating nature of these principles which are not in separate layers; the whole is in reality a unity which cannot be chopped up, each aspect developing its own essential character/ nature/ state of beingness whilst being integrated with the whole and each principle containing its subprinciples as a part of it. As the first fundamental proposition states, matter and spirit are different states of what is essentially one.
In this evolutionary process, we first coalesce (or ‘descend’, so to speak) into matter, moving away from homogenous spiritual unity with others towards individualising ourselves but on the return to the spiritual state we retain that individuality so that we become a fully self-conscious being, paradoxically, both one with unity and individualised at the same time which, crucially, is in contrast to the hive mentality which latter represents an earlier stage of development in the kingdoms. Through this journey we develop each of the 49 fires and move from unconscious unity to full awareness of unity. The importance of the sixth principle, Buddhi (spiritual soul/universal soul) in this is made clear:
‘blend the three (fourth, fifth and seventh) into one – the sixth [buddhi].’ [Masters Letters XIII; The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett]
That is: blend kama, manas and atma into buddhi.
An otherwise passive and universal vehicle, Buddhi when reflected through Manas appears as wisdom, but Buddhi reflected in the emotions or feelings has the quality of spiritual love [Theosophy World Encycl. online]. In the Voice of the Silence HPB contrasts the Eye Doctrine, which is of ‘head-learning,’ with the Heart Doctrine with its compassion and soul wisdom, which is said to have emanated from Buddha’s heart. Here, in Buddhi, lies the wellspring of unity with others, of brotherhood, and though its full incarnation in us may seem far off, it is reflected throughout our principles (through the subprinciples) so it is closer to us than we may think.
All this contrasts with the Enlightenment paradigm which has dominated western thinking and been the springboard of science. It is hard to escape its influence as we are all embedded in our culture and its educational training, so we need to unpick it lest it bias our understanding of ourselves and of the theosophical teachings.
In the Enlightenment paradigm, man split himself in two with dualism and then proceeded to divide himself and his world into compartments: he reified his rational thinking and saw himself as entitled to mastery over nature, both nature in the sense of environment and nature in terms of his own nature, that is, his feelings, sensations, longings; all was relegated to a rag-bag of ‘undesirable’ except for his [now] vaunted up capacity to reason, a capacity of lower manas. Feelings became confused with either the animal passions/desires or with the childish or greedy ‘emotions’. With lack of clarity in English terms this was easy to do.
Puffed up with pride and an almost narcissistic self-reference, man’s capacity to be rational – crippled though it was by lack of emotional intelligence – now took the kingly place, indeed the only place in man’s faculties, in learning and decision making, becoming the ruler of the world at not only personal but national and cultural levels. In this one sided way he struggled along, lurching toward inhumanitarian behaviours socially and globally, and internally, as he became his own enemy, a stranger to his own self and feelings, crushing them out, his empathy and creativity with them, not knowing why he had become depressed, why he had lost quality of life, why meaning in life had lost its zest, why his relationships were failing and why mental ill health and countless social ills were rising. Did he ever think to look at himself in a culture where man had lost half his perceptual faculties and focused always only outside himself? If he did, would he perceive the cause, so rigidly was his mind focused on the god of the enlightenment while all the time Nature resplendent lay behind him, like William Blake’s Newton  so busy with his measuring instrument. The mental health services have seen the fallout with people lost to their own selves.
Humans are complex beings with a range of perceptual faculties - feelings, sensations, intuitions, a sense of the sacred, spiritual apperception or appreciation - and we need them all, to survive, to grow, to mature, to be creative and self-determining, to build up a fulfilling and spiritual life - and to relate to others and form meaningful bonds. As we would expect from the intertwining of the principles and their subprinciples, our faculties are interconnected. Thus we need access to our feelings on several counts and as part of self-awareness. If you do not know or understand your own feelings how could you understand those of others? Only once we have empathy, can we find compassion, then we care about how others are and how they feel and we want to live in a more equitable world, one which values all life, not just a privileged few or solely ‘me and mine’. It is all this which enables us to sift out our values and ethics. Feelings tell us what really matters, they tell us when we have been poorly treated and why, and conversely when we are well treated and respected. We know what we want to speak out for and what we don’t want to become enmeshed in, how we want to live and how to treat others and we become people of integrity and compassion. Then we enter the Heart Path. As William Q. Judge [WQJ] says in his Allegory: ‘the Truth is not of the intellect, but of the heart’ [ WQJ Articles Vol.II, p383].
To enter the Path, entails awareness of ourselves as a totality. In general terms we need our many faculties not only for full experience and participation in life but in order to connect them to the higher aspects of ourselves and thus raise and transform them, in line with the development of the 49 fires. For this, intellectual grasp is not enough; to reiterate, we need the power of the living expression:
‘The fundamental doctrines of Theosophy are of no value unless they are applied to daily life. To the extent to which this application goes they become living truths, quite different from intellectual expressions of doctrine. The mere intellectual grasp may result in spiritual pride, while the living doctrine becomes an entity through the mystic power of the human soul.’ [WQJ, Articles. Vol.I, p192, Friends or Enemies in the Future].
As regards feelings, we are talking about: empathy, brotherly love, affection, acceptance, tolerance, consideration, compassion, pleasure in others’ joys, openness, trust, appreciation, reverence, awe, sense of peace, patience, state of presence, inspiration, aliveness, sharing, mutuality, and so on. You may recognise in here the paramitas (transcendental virtues) [HPB: Voice of the Silence] or their source. Indeed, without feelings, man would become a machine, a sociopath whose decisions rely solely on expediency and the furtherance of ego enhancements and we are seeing the consequences of this in the modern era of our Kali Yuga.
Why I have been writing in terms of men here is because women were not included in the thought of the time nor included in the history. The advancements of education and science were for the exclusive use of men. ‘Emotions’ having taken on the connotation of the childish and the sentimentalised were, in the typical patriarchal projections of the times, along with feelings, relegated to women. Men not only oppressed and infantilized women [in the personal, social, cultural and political spheres] but fell victim to their own inflation as their supposed rational ego usurped all other faculties, suppressing all vivifying and life-affirming feeling in themselves – thus preventing their feelings from maturing beyond the infantile – and cutting off the capacity for realistic self-awareness [and hence any development], leaving themselves psychologically crippled and devoid of all emotionally nourishing connections with others. As WQJ expresses it:
‘…the feelings are an integral part of the constitution of man, for in the principle called Kama - the desires and feelings - we have the basis of all our emotions, and if it is prematurely cut out of any being, death or worse must result’ [WQJ Articles. Vol.II, pps.233-4, Hypocrisy or Ignorance]
This basis, Kama, was originally the first conscious desire for love, goodness, compassion [Theosophical Glossary: see Kamadeva], and given its subprinciples, contains therein its Buddhic aspect/potential which as a basis, is the jump off point to those higher aspects in Buddhi. Of Krishna’s recommendations in the Bhagavad Gita, WQJ [ibid p.234] again notes:
‘In no place does he say that we are to attempt the impossible task of cutting out of the inner man an integral part of himself.’
Without Kama, as without Manas, we would not be human, but ‘an idiot’, suffering the misery of a ‘semi-passive’ state [HPB: The Secter Doctrine vol.II, p242, p246].
Indeed, the special place of Kama is given by the Master Morya thus: ‘the volition of man, his intelligence and consciousness will awake but when his fourth principle Kama is matured’ [The Mahatma Letters, Chronological V. Hao Chin Ed., p123]. This maturation of Kama is our task in this fourth round.
The enlightenment paradigm, in cyclic fashion, repeated the earlier intellectualisations in Greek thinking. It may be that this emphasis arose at that time in reaction to the decadence of imperial Rome and was a necessary step in collective development at that time, but by swinging from one extreme to another (as humans tend to) it, of course, became a one-sided constriction on development in turn and posed a further problem for future resolution.
The Jungian analyst and classical scholar, Marie Louise von Franz, discusses Socratic intellectualisation which brings about a suppression of those human characteristics which make us humane [von Franz 1970]. In ‘the Golden Ass of Apuleius’, the hero is turned into an ass because he is, in common with his society, out of touch with his feelings (which cannot then develop) and therefore in poor relations with both himself and women. Until he humanizes himself he is also out of touch with the Self [Atman] and is forced to live as an ass. An archetypal tale and a warning. [Compare HPB’s Five Messages [p9] which also emphasize the qualities of being human].
The analytical psychologist James Hillman makes another point. In the archetypal hero myth, typified by Hercules, the hero kills the animals and separates himself from nature, but as Blavatsky also notes, we are in Nature, in the Soul of the World and this separative hubris can only harm us - as it is today through the environmental destruction we see all around us.
The animal nature calls our attention if it is to serve a higher purpose rather than rule us. WQJ explains how in his commentary on The Gates of Gold:
‘Instead of crushing out the animal nature, we have here the high and wise teaching that we must learn to fully understand the animal and subordinate it to the spiritual.
“... The animal in man, elevated, is a thing unimaginable in its great powers of service and of strength,” and we are told that our animal self is a great force, the secret of the old-world magicians and of the coming race.’ [W.Q.J. : Through the Gates of Gold, Mar 1887 Path].
Alongside the historic downgrading of feelings to the level of the unwanted animal instincts, is another confusion, the distinction between desires and behaviour, that is, how something is acted on. First we have to recognise a desire; then only can we reflect on it, its meaning and origin, and decide on, if and how, we might appropriately act. Without this inner reflection we are at risk of impulsive and unsocial behaviour (sinking to the animal level). Awareness is a sine qua non of appropriate responsible behaviour. We might need to indeed control our behaviour, but we can only do this if we have first the awareness and the reflection. Alternatively, we might not suppress all responses, but instead find a more adaptive response, as when we talk to someone about a problem, rather than lash out in some way.
It is this fear of behavioural mishaps that constricts, that lies behind denial and suppression and which leads to a cycle of repeating, a tendency as known to psychoanalysts as it to those familiar with the teaching of karma. Denial can only block learning and growth whereas a realisation of cause and effect enables us to move on to new and consciously determined ways of being - as when aggression is transformed into healthy self- assertion - and indeed, to new ways of perceiving and understanding others.
In the dominion-over-Nature scheme of things, humans were not seen as social beings but rather, each person was regarded as an isolated unit. Science embraced this trend by largely studying human beings in isolation, at least in health and medicine. But with the advent of improved neuroimaging techniques in the 1990s and following decades, this approach has been called into question. In doing so, it has lent weight to the earlier clinical observations of depth psychology on this point. Before examining the neuroscience, I shall introduce this, and other, key clinical findings of interest to theosophists.
The interconnectedness of human psyches, and its importance, has been known clinically in the psychoanalytic psychotherapies, especially with the advent and discoveries of the relational schools which arose independently in both America and the U.K. (Psyche here refers to mind/ soul/ inner being). As early as the 1920s Ferenzci [Rentoul 2010] found that it is love - in the sense of tenderness - that is the most important factor for our inner growth and wellbeing, not the drives toward sexuality and aggression that Freud had earlier posited. This tenderness and responsiveness is first, and most essentially, demonstrated by the mother (or other primary caregiver) toward the infant. With love as key, (love in its agape/platonic sense), this shifts centrality toward the buddhic/kama-buddhic principle and away from the cerebrations of lower manas.
It is also the case that, in the clinical process itself, the experience of countertransference by the analyst demonstrates the oneness/interpenetration of the psyche. Countertransference is when the analyst receives - without words - direct impressions, whether feelings, images, thoughts or sensations, from a patient or client with whom she is in rapport. After many years of training and personal analysis, the analyst is able to sufficiently empty the mind and enter a state of Alpha brain waves ( commonly associated with light meditation), a state characterized clinically by active listening and heightened receptivity to every aspect of the patient’s state of being. The impressions received are checked with the patient. This means that every hour of every day that an analyst works, the veracity of these mind-to-mind communications is being confirmed. In theosophical terms we might call this thought transference or the seedlings of the future 6th sense of which Blavatsky speaks [HPB: S.D.1, 251].
Whilst the clinical encounter takes place in a specially bounded situation, rather akin to laboratory conditions - in which I may be able to separate out what properly originates with myself and what originates with another - in the everyday context we are bombarded by impressions from all directions so it is more difficult to separate out sources, although clearly they will be impinging on us all the time. This is in line with the Master K.H’s comments on the ensouling of thoughts such that ‘man is continually peopling his current in space with a world of his own ... a current which reacts upon any sensitive or nervous organisation which comes in contact with it’. [First Letter to Hume in The Mahatma Letters Chronological Edition, V. Hao Chin Ed. 469-476]. The psychoanalytic therapist knows this as a fact of everyday life.
If the Enlightenment led to ever more separate streams of endeavour in the sciences and academia, Theosophy distinguishes itself in its intent to synthesize science, religion and philosophy as a whole. So for theosophists it is worth noting where coherence is occurring between theosophic and scientific understanding, and in the context here, in terms of unity and the value of brotherhood.
Significantly today, modern neuroimaging techniques, such as fMRI, mean it is now possible to see brain processes in action and these new methods have led to discoveries which are in line with theosophical expectations. They show that humans are interconnected, humans need other humans, not just for survival, but for maturation and for emotional and physical health. The brain is hard wired to seek social interaction and it needs it for its development. [Schore 2017; Gerhardt 2015].
In ‘Why Love Matters’ Sue Gerhardt outlines the mother-infant research which shows the infant brain seeks interaction with the mother and that the loving responsiveness of the mother to the infant’s feelings and emotional needs is critical in determining the healthy development of the infant’s brain, stress system and immune system and thus for its subsequent development both psychologically and in terms of adult health. In the absence of a responsive mother the brain perceives its existence as threatened – which indeed it could be, given the human infant is completely dependent in the first few years of its life – and this threat triggers the brain’s stress system which signals to the baby the risk of death.
So if you’ve ever wondered why you felt quite so distressed and frightened, or even felt like you were dying (without cause), it’s probably because your brain was relaying alarm signals, - not that you were actually dying but that your brain was perceiving you as at the kind of risk you would have been in as a child in the absence of a caring other.
These findings apply equally for infants whose parents love their children but are simply too stressed or too tired to give them adequate attention; it is not necessarily about abuse or neglect, but about ability to respond, to express love. Frequent triggering of the brain’s stress mechanism not only impairs the immune system [ which has long range consequences ] but the prefrontal cortex and areas of the midbrain, such as the amygdala and anterior cingulate, may not fully develop. As these latter are involved in emotional processing this impairs the capacity for empathy and thus for social relatedness. Such brain impairments are found in sociopaths. On the other hand, a child who has loving and supportive parenting develops a more robust immune system and is thus buffered against stress. Just being touched and held lovingly releases oxytocin in the lymph system, which protects against inflammation [all in Gerhardt 2015].
This evidence emphasizes the importance of those inner qualities on which subsequent brotherhood is built. At fundamental levels, we need loving human connections, thrive on them, love humans and our human contact. Without it we are no longer human. Without it we are dying. It is old news that loneliness is a killer [by stimulating the stress chemicals which in turn impair the organs] and is as bad, or worse, than smoking, alcohol or obesity.
Whilst receiving caring responsiveness is the most important behaviour for the development of the brain, it is not only others’ behaviour which impacts the brain but also the brain itself which impacts other brains, as I shall outline below. In fact, American neuropsychologist Allan Schore has specified three paradigm shifts in the way we understand the workings of the brain. Each is in line with Theosophy’s more holistic, connected metapsychology. The first was discovering that the brain works as an integrated whole and not in a piecemeal fashion. The second ties in with the discoveries above on the impact of tender care and was the discovery that emotions precede thought and not the other way around. Not only do the emotional centres of the brain develop before cognitive processing centres, but they operate as the determinants of mental health and development (rather than thinking processes which cognitive psychologists had long supposed the determinants). Not surprisingly, because significantly, the emotional centres respond directly to the environment/others; they are primary rather than consequent on thought. [Schore 2017]. You may notice that if you try to put feelings into words, you may struggle initially and the rationalisation comes after the feeling. In the field of clinical psychology, Schore observes that cognitive approaches to therapy, which had replaced earlier behavioural approaches, are now themselves in process of being replaced by emotionally-informed techniques. This mirrors the approach of depth (psychoanalytic) psychotherapists, discussed earlier, who have long known the advantage of feeling intelligence over cognitive intelligence for therapeutic success and for increasing self-awareness.
The third paradigm shift outlined by Schore  was discovering the interconnectivity between brains themselves. Techniques such as fMRI and EEG-based hyperscanning allow us to study the neural activity of two or more brains simultaneously. We find that brains directly impact other brains. Brains are social . When a mother and child interact, there is not only a connected behavioural pattern but the child’s brain synchronises to the mother’s brain so that the same areas and brain states are engaged. Similarly, when a therapist and her patient interact – and even irrespective of what may be said or understood - the patient’s brain synchronises with the healthy activity of the therapist’s brain, with beneficial results [Schore 2019].
As an example, during adult social interaction and reciprocal imitation of even simple non-verbal communications, inter-brain synchronisations occur and reflect an entanglement which cannot be explained by the action [gesture] or perceptions alone. They reflect the synchronisations to be found within one brain as if the two brains are acting as one [Dumas 2011]. Such research has implications for methodology. Whilst the one-brain, stand-alone, approach was in line with the early cognitive sciences, (based on the computer metaphor), the social nature of brains suggests that for research to be meaningful, brains need to be studied alongside other brains and not in isolation.
In terms of theosophical formulae [ SD I, 20-21] we should expect these correlates of unity to occur in the physical vehicle and indeed this is what hard science is beginning to show.
One of the factors in brain synchrony, found in research with mice is dominance; the brain of a dominant mouse entrains that of a subordinate mouse. Another differential is the neurons themselves. fMRI research at the Carnegie Mellon university shows that the brain has two types of cells, one focused on our own behaviour and a second on other people. Individual variation in these factors could underlie the differences between narcissistic, exploitative associations and those in healthy equitable [brotherly] relationships [Darlene Lancer 2019].
As startling as the discovery of brain synchronization is the discovery of interconnectedness even at the level of neurons. This occurs between certain neurons known as mirror neurons, first discovered by Rizzolatti and Gallese in the 1990s in the brains of monkeys, and made popular by neuroscientist Ramachandran, they provide a substrate for empathy. As a subset of neurons [between maybe 10 to 20% ], notably in the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate, they mirror either sensory- motor impressions or empathy to touch and pain. For instance, if I see you in pain, the same neurons will fire in my brain and I will empathise. My skin sensors tell me the pain isn't really happening to me but If my connection to my skin is anaesthetised then I will literally feel the pain. So, as Ramachandran puts it, all that separates us is the skin. Related to this is phantom limb research. If you have a missing limb and you watch someone else being touched you will feel it in your phantom limb. If you have pain in a phantom hand and you massage another person’s hand that relieves the pain in your phantom hand.
As Rizzolatti observes: thanks to the mirror mechanism, actions done by one individual become messages that are understood by an observer without any cognitive mediation. In other words, direct mind-to-mind communication. Thus: the observation of an individual grasping an apple is immediately understood because it evokes the same motor representation in the parieto-frontal mirror system of the observer. This mirror mechanism has been postulated as the possible basis by which rapid intra-species learning occurs, a possibility which would also make it correlate with the state of unity.
Not only the brain but the heart and indeed the whole autonomic system may potentially synchronize and can be indicative of empathy and attachment. Research findings have been sufficient to lead to the emergence of Interpersonal Physiology as a discipline in its own right, studying the relationships between Individuals’ physiology during social interactions. For instance, heart rate and skin conductance may synchronize when a couple (in a relationship) just sit silently opposite each other for about 15 minutes. In other cases synchrony may occur where there is matched activity or dialogue [Richard Palumbo 2015]. Not surprisingly cardiac and respiratory patterns have been found to synchronize between people during choir singing [Muller and Lindenberger]. If you've ever sung in a choir, or played a musical instrument in a group, you will know how close and harmonized this can make you feel to others in the group. Apart from this, the synchronisation of breathing and heartbeats is twice as much during light and deep sleep than when people are awake [Kantelhardt 2007], presumably reflecting the decreased separation we would expect to feel as we move toward deeper states.
Moving to social and cultural levels we observe that the majority of our activities and accomplishments are achieved together and that we are creatures of our collective context, its impact and conditioning. This to the extent that, as Dr Gabor Mate suggests, to understand health trends in a population, we need to look at the interconnectedness in the whole psychosocial picture because factors of social positioning such as socioeconomic status, gender and race – with their differentials impacting stress for instance - can be significant determinants. At whatever level we look, humans are interconnected and interdependent, a situation which invites a response in brotherhood.
When HPB Introduced Theosophy to the west in the late nineteenth century, she presented a paradigmatic challenge, that of non-separation - from each other, and from the environment, even down to the level of atoms [HPB 1883 Transmigration of Atoms]. In this worldview, everything operates as a whole with humans embedded in Nature at all levels, (and ‘Nature’ refers to the entire manifestation, spiritual and material). Now western science is beginning to catch up a little, recognising inter-relatedness and the holistic nature of systems in such fields as Ecology and in the understanding that the natural world impacts our well-being (physically, cognitively and emotionally) [Kahn 2013]; in Bacteriology [compare SD I, p. 260 where HPB suggests the amount of bacteria which constitutes us means we are in a world of organisms], and in Genetics where we recognise commonality of genes even with trees, and so on.
In Theosophy, the realisation of unity underlies the whole of the theosophical metaphysics, from the physical level to the atmic. Everything exists within everything.
The greatest challenge we face as theosophists is to form that nucleus of what ultimately is to become a universal brotherhood. It often seems the closer we are to each other in our ideals, the more glaring our differences appear and schisms arise, groups split apart, only to split again. Given the difficulties of human nature at our present stage of evolution and the numerous defence mechanisms currently employed (or over-employed) to barricade the lower ego, it is perhaps not surprising the Masters were unsure about bringing Theosophy to the world at such a time period. Nevertheless, difficult though the task may be, that is the direction we are pointed toward, if we are to move forward. For those not rushing headlong toward the escapist nirvana of the Eye Doctrine Path but willing to put in the work on the ground – on oneself and in engaging with others - this is where our work must lie. Only greater self-awareness and reflection can lead to the heart skills – communication and empathy - that we need for real connectivity.
In working thus we will be preparing for the development of the next sense [SD 1, 251,258] and its incoming phase, that of the 6th sub-root race. As HPB has said:
“The time is not distant when the World of Science will be forced to acknowledge that there exists as much interaction between one mind and another, no matter at what distance, as between one body and another in closest contact. When two minds are sympathetically related, and the instruments through which they function are tuned to respond magnetically and electrically to one another, there is nothing which will prevent the transmission of thoughts…” [HPB 1987 The Key to Theosophy 291].
This next sense Blavatsky describes as a kind of clairvoyance but not that which we currently understand as clairvoyance. It will not be the fortune-telling or mediumship we are familiar with today, nor the new age channellings of fancy. ‘ The faculty of seeing with the inner eye or spiritual sight ... Real clairvoyance means the faculty of seeing through the densest matter (the latter disappearing at the will and before the spiritual eye of the Seer,) and irrespective of time (past present and future) or distance’ [Theosophical Glossary. P.85].
In The Islands of the Mind-Readers, the author Edward Bellamy depicts a future world in which the inhabitants have no speech but have developed this next sense, a world in which our thoughts, feelings, motivations are routinely transparent to each other. We may wonder what it would be like to live in such a world, one in which we could no longer dissimulate. Carlos Aveline highlights the openness and truthfulness we will need to acquire for this future development. It will certainly inaugur a great change and is due to commence in the next root race, but previsioned, of course, in the next sub-root race, so for some of us, even now there may be early signs of what is to come. The receiving of impressions of the feelings of others is already experienced by psychoanalytic psychotherapists of the relational schools routinely in their work with their clients as outlined above. Also this may be experienced in close relationships between friends, lovers or family members where the bond is especially close and the individuals exceptionally open and accepting of each other so that they become en rapport almost telepathically. Perhaps sometimes there may be a karmic link involved.
So if we could indeed immediately perceive the thoughts and feelings of others and they of ours, how would we find it? Immediately we would understand where they were coming from; so empathy would, or could, be immediate too. They, in turn, would be able to understand us so there would be none of the misunderstandings that so commonly blight our interactions. Rapport could be readily achieved with all the soul-enhancing effects that that has. Instead of anxieties and insecurities that come from mental isolation, we could find ourselves more relaxed with others because of the meeting of minds. Following from this, co-operation in work and projects would be smoother and compatible companionships easier to find. If brotherhood is a challenge, it is also a prospective blessing.
I was once asked, ‘ Where then is our bliss to be found?’ Indeed, it is common to look for fulfilment outside oneself, to some otherworldly place or to a different state, as if somehow life was not meant for living, as if we were here for no other reason but to escape being here. In the way of those eastern mystics of the past, some may seek a samadhi-like experience, attainable only on another plane, hence apart from this life. But as theosophists we know that such a path, following the 'Doctrine of the Eye' [that of the Pratyeka Buddha] is a selfish path and avoids development which, together with unexpended karma, will have to be made good at a later point in the aeons [Osterhage: Collation of Theosophical Glossaries - online]. We are here precisely in order to be here, to experience this life, this world and this body, with a duty to spiritualize matter by bringing our spiritual nature into incarnation and thus, and because, only here in this earthly existence can we elaborate our potential levels of consciousness to self-aware, self-realised states. We cannot do this on another plane, nor by leaping over stages.
Theosophical metaphysics expresses a holistic and entangled system in which evolution proceeds synchronously across all kingdoms, evolving all the lesser lives that make us up from the cells and atoms of our body to the higher Dhyan Chohanic forms of which we are a part. We cooperate with this evolution in Nature by expressing our higher qualities through this physical vehicle. On the one hand we give embodiment to spirit, a vehicle through which spirit can gain experience - and thus self-aware consciousness - but also by which it can express itself. By bringing the spirit down and incarnating it in the world around us, we also change the world, we raise up the whole existence, our own and the life and culture around us. The dynamic is thus in two directions, embodying spirit and spiritualising matter, changing each aspect, and transforms not only ourselves (at both spiritual and material levels) but the world too. This evolution is only possible on this plane. We cannot do it in Devachan or in a state of meditation. Hence the importance of the human kingdom. As HPB says, before we can spiritualize, we must humanize [SD II, 246].
So if we are not seeking the Pratyeka Buddha path which leads to an aeonic period in nirvana, but take the Boddhisattvic path of the Doctrine of the Heart which HPB points to, where then do we find our summum bonum as we wend our way through life’s conflicts and challenges, is there a state of blessedness to be found along the way?
The mystery is to be found within the nature of human ties. As WQJ points out: ‘The greatest of all truths lies frequently in plain sight’ and adeptship is not attained by forsaking the association of one’s fellow creatures nor by, for instance, refusing marriage, instead:
‘One of the most exalted of the Divine Mysteries lies hidden here – therefore, Oh man, it is wise to cherish that which holds so much of God and seek to know its meaning; not by dissolution and cutting asunder, but by binding and strengthening the ties.’ [WQJ: Articles Vol.II, p414, The True Theosophist’s Path]
This strengthening of ties is significant. It is in relation to others, not in isolation, that we grow. I say something to you and then you respond to me -and then I think and I respond again to you - and in this we learn about ourselves, we learn about each other and we stretch ourselves to reach each other. This is how consciousness is developed.
The nature of our connections with others, of whatever kind, will vary not only because each individual is unique but because relationships are dynamic, each having its own interactional pattern. The important determinant will be which sub-principles we are each bringing to that relationship and whether there is alignment between them; the higher the aspects that both/all parties bring - and which match - the greater the quality of the relating and whether it expresses true brotherhood. WQJ speaks of ‘ the actual realisation of brotherhood on every plane of being’ not just on this one, and he connects this with ‘perfectness’ [WQJ Articls. Vol.1, Three great Ideas p242] which implies its development alongside the 49 fires.
I would suggest the clues are there, that the most meaningful higher state can be found in that communion between people where there is open heart, mind, reciprocity and communication which most of us, at our current stage of evolution, may know little of as yet but which is related to the incoming new sense and which can be found, in the here and now, in the act of daily living if we have the willingness to persevere with the growth demanded of us. Not in seeking the satisfaction of personal needs alone, but where there is expressed a mutual depth of brotherly connection. Removal to another state of consciousness is not pre-required but a higher state may be brought down into the experiencing through the act of interrelating itself and thus embrace us in participation in the divine buddhic field.
So you don’t necessarily have to meditate to enter samadhi; you could arrive there in connection with others. By opening to the other, we open to the divine field.
‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ [Matt 18.20 King James Version].
The presence of two being fully present together brings about a third presence, a union at buddhic level in which two people touch the sacred in the interface between them - not in the solitary beingness of the Pratyeka Buddha, but in the sacred beingness together.
Where this occurs between individuals or within a group or network then members are united not just by common aims but by true brotherhood - ‘ the close brotherly union of men’s inner selves’ which HPB specified. Already, in a compatible group, we may dimly sense a special sense of bonding or be aware that the group ‘entity’ has an identity of its own, that its nature and complexity changes as members come and go.
Whether we know it or not, we are all connected and daily influencing each other. Before the demons of the lower nature which we’ve pushed into the unconscious rush forward into the world, it is our duty to take responsibility and work on our self-awareness so that we can make the ethical evolution necessary to be the brotherhood that honours all life, the brotherhood the Masters called us to. Though it may take us the round to fully achieve it, it begins in the here and now, in the heart, and it is up to us to make a start.
Aveline, Carlos: The Islands of the Mind-Readers: an unusual Short Story on the Challenge of Sincerity link
Bellamy, Edward: The Islands Of the Mind-Readers [originally: To Whom this May come 1938] reprinted at: link
Blavatsky, H.P. 1987 : The Key to Theosophy, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles
------------ 1888 The Secret Doctrine, The Theosophical Publishing Co. Ltd., 2 vols,
------------ 1892 Theosophical Glossary, The Theosophical Publishing Society
------------ 1883 Transmigration of the Life Atoms, in ULT Magazine Pamphlet No. 18, Soul, Life and Sevenfold Man, The Theosophy Co., Los Angeles
------------ 2017 [Facsimile of 1889 Ed] Voice of the Silence, Theosophy Co. Ltd., London
------------ 1985 reprint Five Messages from H.P. Blavatsky to the American Theosophists 1888 – 1889 -1890 - 1891, Theosophy Co., India
Judge, William Q. 1980: Theosophical Articles Volumes I and II, The Theosophy Co., Los Angeles
Judge, William Q. 1887 March: Through the Gates of Gold, The Path
The Great Master’s Letter 1880, U.L.T. Pamphlet – No. 33, Theosophy Co., India
The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Chronological Edition 1998 Ed. Vicente Hao Chin, TPH, Adyar; and 1923 Ed. A.T. Barker
Osterhage, Scott J.: Collation of Theosophical Glossaries, link see Pratyeka Buddha
Theosophy World Encyclopedia: link
Dumas, Guillaume 2011: Towards a two-body neuroscience, Communicative and Integrative Biology, link
Gerhardt, Sue 2015 Why Love Matters 2nd ed. Routledge, New York
Hillman, James 2015: James Hillman on Changing the Object of our Desire, Youtube
Kahn, Peter 2013 Ecopsychology :Reinventing the Human – Nature Relationship in the Digital Age, University of Washington, Youtube
Kantelhardt, Jan, reported in: Charles Q. Choi Feb 01 2007 Human Heartbeats and Breathing Can Synchronize, Live Science, online
Lancer, Darlene 2019: Neuroscience Explains How a Narcissist Can Control our Brain, Psychology Today.com April 3rd 2020
Mate, Gabor 2012: What Promotes Positive Health, Youtube
Muller, Viktor and Lindenberger, Ulman Sept 21, 2011: Cardiac and Respiratory Patterns Synchronize between Persons during Choir Singing, in Plos One, online at: journals.plos.org/plosone
Palumbo, Richard 2015 Interpersonal Physiology: assessing Interpersonal Relationships through Physiology, dissertation online, or see:
-------- Baer, Drake Jan 31, 2017: People Naturally Sync Their Bodies, Breathing and Skin, Relationships, the cut.com Ramachandran, V.S. 2020 Do Mirror Neurons Give Us Empathy?, Greater Good Magazine, University of Berkeley in California, online
-------- 2013 The Neurones that Shaped Civilization Ted-ED, Youtube
Rizzolatti, G. and Destro, M.F. 2011, Mirror Neurons, scholarpedia.org
Rentoul, Robert W. 2011, Ferenczi’s Language of Tenderness, Jason Aronson
Von Franz, Marie Louise 1992: The Golden Ass of Apuleius, Shambhala Publications, Boston and London
Schore, Allan 2009, The Paradigm Shift: The Right Brain and the Relational Unconscious, American Psychological Association Annual convention Plenary Address, www.allanschore.com>pdf
------- 2017, The Shaping of our Emotional Selves, Youtube
------- 2019, Right Brain Psychotherapy, W.W. Norton & Co., London