Book of Dzyan in the Third Millennium
by Harvey Tordoff
A summary of a talk presented at the Ripon Summer School
of The Theosophical Society on the 31st July 2000.
"And these teachings, often imperfectly interpreted,
would form the basis of the belief systems of the Fifth
Race" (O Lanoo! ~ Stanza XII, Verse 49)
A long time ago I heard a talk given by
an old Tibetan monk. I can't remember the occasion, or
even the subject of the talk, but one statement stayed
with me: "The world doesn't need more of anything.
What it needs is less ignorance." We have enough
food and natural resources; we simply need to make better
and fairer use of them, which will only come about by
reducing greed nurtured by ignorance. Over the years I
have come to believe that wherever possible we should
try to reduce the world's ignorance. Wisdom is not easy
to come by, but if we have a little bit it is our duty
to share it. Which is something I want to come back to
First, I should explain where I am coming from. I found
The Secret Doctrine (SD) at a fairly early age (in my
teens) and although I could understand very little at
the time it seemed a book which would provide all the
answers. I read quite widely until I got married, had
a family and had to concentrate on earning a living. But
throughout my business career the concepts of The SD remained
with me, and the basic philosophy of re-incarnation and
karma made more and more sense.
When, at the age of 42, I had the opportunity to leave
the rat-race, I decided to ignore the monk's advice and
give the world one more thing ~ a book, which turned out
to be O Lanoo! I felt if only more people read and understood
The SD the world would be a happier place. However, The
SD is dense, long, and old-fashioned, and it will never
be read by many people. With O Lanoo ! I wanted to make
the message of The SD more accessible, by simplifying
it and reducing it to its essence.
Summer schools are a great opportunity to get down to
some real in-depth study, with no distractions. If anyone
ever works out how many angels can balance on a pin-head,
it will probably be at a summer school somewhere in the
world. But I don't want to go into great detail about
theosophical conundrums, or the seven of this or the seven
of that. I want to stay with the bigger picture.
||If I were to invite single word suggestions,
I wonder how many different words we would come up
with to describe the essence of The SD? There might
be words like 'truth' and 'wisdom', but they are abstract
words with many interpretations. For me, the essence
of The SD can be summed up in the word 'unity'. The
unity of a single family, of a race of people, of
a continent, of the human race, of the eco-system
of planet Earth, of the Universe.
OLanoo! follows the stanzas of Dzyan in rich poetical
language, but without using difficult Sanskrit words
and long explanations, without following the many
side issues of Madame HP Blavatsky.
And I have tried to bring out the concept
of unity wherever possible. Lanoo, the one Sanskrit word
I have retained, means student, or seeker after truth.
I, of course, am a lanoo myself, but I have followed the
tradition of Dzyan in addressing the reader as 'O Lanoo'.
For those of you who remember 'Doctor Who' from the days
of black and white television, I would suggest that The
SD is a bit like a time machine, like the Tardis. There
is more inside than could be imagined from the outside,
and in opening the pages we step back into the mists of
time. But can this Victorian book move forward in time?
Can we bring it into the Third Millennium? Does it have
any relevance today?
In searching for relevance, the starting point should
not be with the detail, but with the patterns. Information
is just information, and knowledge needs understanding
to be transformed into wisdom. Too many facts can actually
prevent understanding. When I was an ambitious young executive
director there were three older non-executive directors
on the board to keep us youngsters in check. One of them
had a favourite expression to deflate us. "Gee wizz!"
He would use it whenever we presented him with a fact
or a statistic which was designed to impress him with
our cleverness but which he could not apply in any useful
way. "Gee wizz statistics." I can illustrate
it with a passage from OL!
Stanza II (page 25)
And where was silence?
Where were the ears to sense it?
Nay, there was neither silence
Naught save unconscious,
It was the eternal
In the breathing of Brahma,
Following the inhalation
Which had ended the last great cycle,
And before the exhalation
Which was to be your expanding universe.
The moment had not come;
The Ray of Light in the Darkness
Had not yet flashed into the essence of Matter;
Matter and energy had not yet produced
The heat and mositure of Life.
Still latent was the Ether
Which was to receive the spark
Of immaculate conception,
Thence to give rise
To the virgin birth
Of the finite Universe.
The three higher Elements
Had not yet combined
With Fire, Air, Water and Earth,
The four lower Elements
That would mark the boundaries
Of your world of illusion,
The Universe had yet to become
A Divine Thought;
Son of God,
Had yet to be conceived.
Had not yet said:
"Let there be Light!"
There is an old Hermetic saying "As
above, so below", and that is how we can apply patterns.
This reading is from Stanza II, and nothing has happened
yet. Seven stanzas to describe the entire evolution of
the universe, and yet two of them are devoted to 'setting
the scene'. So we see the importance of periods of inactivity
in our lives, perhaps it is the reason for a two-day weekend.
But, we need to be active in some way for the other five
days, we need to make a contribution. We shouldn't become
moribund as we contemplate our navels.
Let me return to the concept of unity. HPB tells
us that we are all connected. Accept that fact and
then look at the patterns rippling out. Wars and
violence just don't make sense. Harm to others actually
harms ourselves. Abuse is always self-abuse. 400
years ago John Donne wrote words that are often
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every
man is a piece of a continent, a part of the main.
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved
in Mankind. And therefore never send to know for
whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
This message is repeated by HPB, and by me in O
Stanza III (page 33)
Your Sun moves from East to West,
Obscuring the reality above
And illuminating your world of illusion
Where you see
Many differentiated aspects
Which you do not recognise
As manifestations of the Divine Essence,
Of the One Universal Element,
Which is unborn
How can you say
That the Light in you
Is not the same Light
That shines in all sentient beings,
Transformed from the Darkness
At the beginning of Time?
From where else
Would come your Spirit?
Once we have accepted the concept of unity, and the
wisdom of striving for harmony, we still have to live
in the modern world with all its pressures and conflicting
demands. After my period of 'inactivity' (reading philosophical
books in my teenage years) I spent 25 years in the business
world. Even there, unity and harmony make sense. There
is no fundamental conflict between running a successful
business and believing in unity. It might be helpful to
draw on the philosophy of respect practised by the Native
American people: respect for others, for the environment,
even for the animal being hunted for food. In the business
world respect for customers and employees can add value
to the product or service. Lack of respect, even for suppliers
or competitors, can prove to be very short-sighted.
The computer company I worked for had a simple motto:
"make as much profit as we can today, providing that
doesn't stop us making even more profit tomorrow."
It might sound mercenary, but making too much profit out
of employees and customers today might result in lost
business in the future. It is a philosophy that can be
applied to most situations: "be as happy as you can
today, providing that it doesn't stop us being even happier
tomorrow." "Help as many people today . . ."
"Acquire as much wisdom and understanding today .
. ." etc. etc. In other words, live in the moment
but always be aware of the moment to come.
Story of Man
||The essence of The SD might be unity,
but above all the book tells the story of Mankind.
HPB claims that Dzyan is a remnant of the oldest records
on earth, handed down from the ruins of Atlantis.
"Gee wizz!" So what? How is that relevant
today? Are there patterns that will help us live our
Stanza II (page 78)
Spirit descends gradually,
Eventually accepting the constraints
Of the awful prison of Matter,
But when the Creative Spirits
Saw the Earth-made man-creatures
They recoiled in horror,
For these bodies
Were too gross for spiritual growth;
Man could not be created
By Nature unaided.
We have to bring spirit into our lives.
As Dzyan tells us, nature alone is not enough. But it
is very easy on a spiritual path to forget about nature,
and on this plane of existence spirit needs matter. We
have to provide the harmony in which the two can co-exist.
To return to the business analogy, the most difficult
aspect of management is at the edges, managing frontiers,
boundaries and change. The department has procedures and
runs like clockwork, but communication between two departments,
or between the business and the outside world, needs constant
management attention. If you are the Managing Director
of your life, you need to pay attention to your frontiers,
especially to the ways in which spirit and matter can
function in harmony.
I would suggest that we are concerned with bringing the
concept of unity into the modern world: between peoples
and communities; between man and the environment; between
spirit and matter.
At the risk of following HPB down a side issue,
I would just like to touch on two aspects of traditional
teachings that might actually get in the way of
applying the 'essence' of The SD to modern life:
reincarnation, and the concept of illusion.
It has been said that the Chinese Empire fell into decay
through a lethargy stemming from a belief in reincarnation.
Too many people started to think that they would take
it easy this life and make up for it next time. A belief
in countless incarnations can result in the misconception
that progress in any single incarnation is unimportant.
To overcome that, try living as though the fate of humankind
is in the balance. We have generated exactly the same
amount of good karma as bad karma, and somewhere in the
world the next act is going to tip the scales one way
or another. So forget the long term, just make sure your
next action is a good one.
It is a fundamental aspect of Buddhism to refer to this
world of illusion. I have even listened to debates as
to whether a table continues to exist if we all leave
a room. But if we extend the argument, then what about
pain and suffering? Are they illusions? Why should we
bother trying to achieve harmony and reduce suffering
in the world if it is all an illusion? I would like to
state, quite strongly, that the world is not an illusion.
Stanza IV sloka 1 (from para 2)(page
Listen, son of Earth,
Learn that no manifestation,
Not even Time,
Can be understood
Except as part of a larger whole.
It is not that what you see
Does not exist;
But that which you see
Is but the tip of an iceberg:
One aspect revealed;
Six aspects concealed.
This world 'matters'. Our lives 'matter'. (Funny word,
'matter') We might be caught up in something that is too
big and complex to understand, but we can at least feel
the movement. And if we listen to the motion we will detect
the direction. It is our responsibility to use our small
store of wisdom to add to the forward momentum of the
This might sound grand, but is it just another Gee wizz
statement? Is there a more specific message to be discovered
in the story of mankind?
Stanza X (page 113)
As yet Man still communed with the Gods,
That his slow fall into Matter
Rendered him less than the Gods.
And when the Gods
Faded from his field of vision
Man saw himself as King of Earth,
And believed he was a God;
The ego eclipsed the Divine Spark
And Spiritual Man
Became the Man of Self.
The Golden Age
Became a distant memory,
For although the Gods
Were still with Man
Man could no longer perceive the Gods
And felt abandoned
In an Age of Darkness.
And with the loss of his third eye
Man lost sight of the perfect harmony
Of the Universe,
Balanced by the law of Karma and Rebirth
Which decrees that every action has a reaction;
Every cause has an effect.
Man forgot that his Soul
Is subject to no Fate,
Random or predetermined,
Save that which every Being
Creates for himself.
And as his higher senses faded
Man became imprisoned
In a physical body
Constrained by Time and Space.
Physical Man is losing touch with his soul.
Does that sound familiar? I think HPB intended us to learn
a specific lesson from Atlantis.
Stanza XI (page 119)
The Atlanteans were no wiser
Than their ancestors;
Self was their only god
And again Man built statues
In his own likeness
As Men of your own Fifth Race
Made their first appearance
The destruction of Atlantis loomed;
Not, this time, by fire,
But by the deluge
Remembered in all your cultures.
I am passing by large parts of The SD, so it might be
helpful to sum up:
We should ask ourselves how we can do this. Is it enough
to talk with our family and friends? To meet in our comfortable
lodges and summer schools? To reinforce our own knowledge
~ and perhaps our feelings of superiority? I know that we
meditate and pray, that we send out positive thoughts for
the well-being of mankind, but are we not in a similar position
to that of the Tibetan monks before the Chinese invasion?
They possessed wisdom that could have helped the world,
but they erected barriers making it more difficult for outsiders
to discover their secrets. Only when the Chinese scattered
the Tibetan monks to the four corners of the world did their
spiritual teachings become accessible.
If we have some little wisdom, should we hide it behind
obscure texts and theosophical hierarchies, or should we
be looking for ways to share it, to help the world move
forwards? HPB dedicated a large part of her life to making
the ancient teachings more accessible. Did that process
end with her death, or do we have a duty to continue? Not
by pushing the truth on people who are not ready for it,
but by making the truth easier to find for those who are
ready. Not by converting others to our way of thinking,
but by example.
Before we leave Ripon we should ask ourselves what contribution
can we make? How can we spread the concept of unity? As
individuals? As lodges? As a Society?
I chose to make the SD more accessible by writing O Lanoo!
~ to reach out beyond The Theosophical Society. Then I read
the Dalai Lama's 'Ancient Wisdom, Modern World', and I realised
that O Lanoo! itself is too obscure. Perhaps one day it
will be read by many people, but meanwhile I need to do
something else. I am writing articles on current social
issues and publishing them on my web-site Bigger-Picture
without making too many references to God and the Universe.
And I have joined the board of a wind farm co-operative,
a practical example of respectful unity. I am not suggesting
that what I am doing is right for other people. We all have
to find the right way for ourselves. And no doubt my search
will go on, as will yours, fellow lanoos!
HPB never finished The SD; there were to be two more volumes.
And The Book of Dzyan ends in mid-sentence. As a modern
author I didn't think I would get away with that, and so
in O Lanoo! I added an epilogue. I would like to finish
by reading part of it.