Le Phare de L’inconnu
[The Beacon-Light of the Unknown]
La Revue Theosophique, May, 1889
Translated into English and re-printed in the
Theosophist, July, August, September, 1889
It is written in an old book upon the Occult Sciences: “Gupta Vidya (Secret Science) is an attractive sea, but stormy and full of rocks. The navigator who risks himself thereon, if he be not wise and full of experience,1 will be swallowed up, wrecked upon one of the thousand submerged reefs. Great billows, in colour like sapphires, rubies and emeralds, billows full of beauty and mystery will overtake him, ready to bear the voyager away towards other and numberless lights that burn in every direction. But these are will-o-the-wisps, lighted by the sons of Kâliya2 for the destruction of those who thirst for life. Happy are they who remain blind to these false deceivers; more happy still those who never turn their eyes from the only true Beacon-light whose eternal flame burns in solitude in the depths of the water of the Sacred Science. Numberless are the pilgrims that desire to enter those waters; very few are the strong swimmers who reach the Light. He who gets there must have ceased to be a number, and have become all numbers. He must have forgotten the illusion of separation, and accept only the truth of collective individuality.3 He must “see with the ears, hear with the eyes,4 understand the language of the rainbow, and have concentrated his six senses in his seventh sense.”5
The Beacon-light of Truth is Nature without the veil of the senses. It can be reached only when the adept has become absolute master of his personal self, able to control all his physical and psychic senses by the aid of his “seventh sense,” through which he is gifted also with the true wisdom of the gods—Theo-sophia.
Needless to say that the profane—the non-initiated, outside the temple or pro-fanes,—judge of the “lights” and the “Light” above mentioned in a reversed sense. For them it is the Beacon-light of Occult truth which is the ignis fatuus, the great will-o-the-wisp of human illusion and folly; and they regard all the others as marking beneficent sand banks, which stop in time those who are excitedly sailing on the sea of folly and superstition.
“Is it not enough,” say our kind critics, “that the world by dint of isms has arrived at Theosophism, which is nothing but transcendental humbuggery (fumisterie), without the latter offering further us a réchauffée of mediæval magic, with its grand Sabbath and chronic hysteria?”
“Stop, stop, gentlemen. Do you know, when you talk like that, what true magic is, or the Occult Sciences? You have allowed yourselves in your schools to be stuffed full of the ‘diabolical sorcery’ of Simon the magician, and his disciple Menander, according to the good Father Ireneus, the too zealous Theodoret and the unknown author of Philosophumena. You have permitted yourselves to be told on the one hand that this magic came from the devil; and on the other hand that it was the result of imposture and fraud. Very well. But what do you know of the true nature of the system followed by Apollonius of Tyana, Iamblicus and other magi? And what is your opinion about the identity of the theurgy of Iamblicus with the ‘magic’ of the Simons and the Menanders? Its true character is only half revealed by the author of the book De Mysteriis.6 Nevertheless his explanations sufficed to convert Porphyry, Plotinus, and others, who from enemies to the esoteric theory became its most fervent adherents.” The reason is extremely simple.
True Magic, the theurgy of Iamblicus, is in its turn identical with the gnosis of Pythagoras, the ὴγνώσιςτώνὄντών, the science of things which are, and with the divine ecstacy of the Philaletheans, “the lovers of Truth.” But, one can judge of the tree only by its fruits. Who are those who have witnessed to the divine character and the reality of that ecstacy which is called Samâdhi in India?7
A long series of men, who, had they been Christians, would have been canonized,—not by the decision of the Church, which has its partialities and predilections, but by that of whole nations, and by the vox populi, which is hardly ever wrong in its judgments. There is, for instance, Ammonius Saccas, called the Theodidaktos, “God-instructed”; the great master whose life was so chaste and so pure, that Plotinus, his pupil, had not the slightest hope of ever seeing any mortal comparable to him. Then there is this same Plotinus who was for Ammonius what Plato was for Socrates—a disciple worthy of his illustrious master. Then there is Porphyry, the pupil of Plotinus,8 he author of the biography of Pythagoras. Under the shadow of this divine gnosis, whose beneficent influence has extended to our own days, all the celebrated mystics of the later centuries have been developed, such as Jacob Boehme, Emanuel Swedenborg, and so many others. Madame Guyon is the feminine counterpart of Iamblicus. The Christian Quietists, the Mussulman Soufis, the Rosicrucians of all countries, drink the waters of that inexhaustible fountain—the Theosophy of the Neo-Platonists of the first centuries of the Christian Era. The gnosis preceded that era, for it was the direct continuation of the Gupta Vidya and of the Brahmâ-Vidya (“secret knowledge” and “knowledge of Brahmâ”) of ancient India, transmitted through Egypt; just as the theurgy of the Philaletheans was the continuation of the Egyptian mysteries. In any case, the point from which this “diabolic” magic starts, is the Supreme Divinity; its end and aim, the union of the divine spark which animates man with the parent-flame, which is the Divine ALL.
This consummation is the ultima thule of those Theosophists, who devote themselves entirely to the service of humanity. Apart from these, others, who are not yet ready to sacrifice everything, may occupy themselves with the transcendental sciences, such as Mesmerism, and the modern phenomena under all their forms. They have the right to do so according to the clause which specifies as one of the objects of the Theosophical Society “the investigation of unexplained laws of nature and the psychic powers latent in man.”
The first named are not numerous,—complete altruism being a rara avis even among modern Theosophists. The other members are free to occupy themselves with whatever they like. Notwithstanding this, and in spite of the openness of our proceedings, in which there is nothing mysterious, we are constantly called upon to explain ourselves, and to satisfy the public that we do not celebrate witches’ Sabbaths, and manufacture broom-sticks for the use of Theosophists. This kind of thing, indeed, sometimes borders on the grotesque. When it is not of having invented a new “ism,” a religion extracted from the depths of a disordered brain, or else of humbugging that we are accused, it is of having exercised the arts of Circé upon men and beasts. Jests and satires fall upon the Theosophical Society thick as hail. Nevertheless it has stood unshaken during all the fourteen years during which that kind of thing has been going on: it is a “tough customer,” truly.
After all, critics who judge only by appearances are not altogether wrong. There is Theosophy and Theosophy: the true Theosophy of the Theosophist, and the Theosophy of a Fellow of the Society of that name. What does the world know of true Theosophy? How can it distinguish between that of a Plotinus, and that of the false brothers? And of the latter the Society possesses more than its share. The egoism, vanity and self-sufficiency of the majority of mortals is incredible. There are some for whom their little personality constitutes the whole universe, beyond which there is no salvation. Suggest to one of these that the alpha and omega of wisdom are not limited by the circumference of his or her head, that his or her judgment could not be considered quite equal to that of Solomon, and straight away he or she accuses you of anti-theosophy. You have been guilty of blasphemy against the spirit, which will not be pardoned in this century, nor in the next. These people say, “I am Theosophy,” as Louis XIV said “I am the State.” They speak of fraternity and of altruism and only care in reality for that for which no one else cares—themselves—in other words their little “me.” Their egoism makes them fancy that it is they only who represent the temple of Theosophy, and that in proclaiming themselves to the world they are proclaiming Theosophy. Alas! the doors and windows of that “temple” are no better than so many channels through which enter, but very seldom depart, the vices and illusions characteristic of egoistical mediocrities.
These people are the white ants of the Theosophical Society, which eat away its foundations, and are a perpetual menace to it. It is only when they leave it that it is possible to breathe freely.
It is not such as these that can ever give a correct idea of practical Theosophy, still less of the transcendental Theosophy which occupies the minds of a little group of the elect. Every one of us possesses the faculty, the interior sense, that is known by the name of intuition, but how rare are those who know how to develop it! It is, however, only by the aid of this faculty that men can ever see things in their true colours. It is an instinct of the soul, which grows in us in proportion to the employment we give it, and which helps us to perceive and understand the realities of things with far more certainty than can the simple use of our senses and exercise of our reason. What are called good sense and logic enable us to see only the appearances of things, that which is evident to every one. The instinct of which I speak, being a projection of our perceptive consciousness, a projection which acts from the subjective to the objective, and not vice versa, awakens in us spiritual senses and power to act; these senses assimilate to themselves the essence of the object or of the action under examination, and represent it to us as it really is, not as it appears to our physical senses and to our cold reason. “We begin with instinct, we end with omniscience” says Professor A. Wilder, our oldest colleague. Iamblicus has described this faculty, and certain Theosophists have been able to appreciate the truth of his description.
“There exists,” he says, “a faculty in the human mind which is immeasurably superior to all those which are grafted or engendered in us. By it we can attain to union with superior intelligences, finding ourselves raised above the scenes of this earthly life, and partaking of the higher existence and superhuman powers of the inhabitants of the celestial spheres. By this faculty we find ourselves liberated finally from the dominion of destiny (Karma), and we become, as it were, the arbiters of our own fates. For, when the most excellent parts in us find themselves filled with energy; and when our soul is lifted up towards essences higher than science, it can separate itself from the conditions which hold it in the bondage of every-day life; it exchanges its ordinary existence for another one, it renounces the conventional habits which belong to the external order of things, to give itself up to and mix itself with another order of things which reigns in that most elevated state of existence.”
Plato has expressed the same idea in two lines: “The light and spirit of the Divinity are the wings of the soul. They raise it to communion with the gods, above this earth, with which the spirit of man is too ready to soil itself. . . . To become like the gods, is to become holy, just and wise. That is the end for which man was created, and that ought to be his aim in the acquisition of knowledge.”
This is true Theosophy, inner Theosophy, that of the soul. But followed with a selfish aim Theosophy changes its nature and becomes demonosophy. That is why Oriental wisdom teaches us that the Hindu Yogi who isolates himself in an impenetrable forest, like the Christian hermit who, as was common in former times, retires to the desert, are both of them nothing but accomplished egoists. The one acts with the sole idea of finding a nirvanic refuge against reincarnation; the other acts with the unique idea of saving his soul,—both of them think only of themselves. Their motive is altogether personal; for, even supposing they attain their end, are they not like cowardly soldiers, who desert from their regiment when it is going into action, in order to keep out of the way of the bullets?
In isolating themselves as they do, neither the Yogi nor the “Saint” helps anyone but himself; on the contrary both show themselves profoundly indifferent to the fate of mankind whom they fly from and desert. Mount Athos9 contains, perhaps, a few sincere fanatics; nevertheless even these have without knowing it got off the only track that leads to the truth,—the path of Calvary, on which each one voluntarily bears the cross of humanity, and for humanity. In reality it is a nest of the coarsest kind of selfishness; and it is to such places that Adams’ remark on monasteries applies: “There are solitary creatures there who seem to have fled from the rest of mankind for the sole pleasure of communing with the Devil tête-à-tête.”
Gautama, the Buddha, only remained in solitude long enough to enable him to arrive at the truth, which he devoted himself from that time on to promulgate, begging his bread, and living for humanity. Jesus retired to the desert only for forty days, and died for this same humanity. Apollonius of Tyana, Plotinus, Iamblicus, while leading lives of singular abstinence, almost of asceticism, lived in the world and for the world. The greatest ascetics and saints of our days are not those who retire into inaccessible places, but those who pass their lives in travelling from place to place, doing good and trying to raise mankind; although, indeed, they may avoid Europe, and those civilized countries where no one has any eyes or ears except for himself, countries divided into two camps—of Cains and Abels.
Those who regard the human soul as an emanation of the Deity, as a particle or ray of the universal and ABSOLUTE soul, understand the parable of the Talents better than do the Christians. He who hides in the earth the talent which has been given him by his “Lord,” will lose that talent, as the ascetic loses it, who takes it into his head to “save his soul” in egoistical solitude. The “good and faithful servant” who doubles his capital, by harvesting for him who has not sown, because he had not the means of doing so, and who reaps for the poor who have not scattered the grain, acts like a true altruist. He will receive his recompense, just because he has worked for another, without any idea of remuneration or reward. That man is the altruistic Theosophist, while the other is an egoist and a coward.
The Beacon-light upon which the eyes of all real Theosophists are fixed is the same towards which in all ages the imprisoned human soul has struggled. This Beacon, whose light shines upon no earthly seas, but which has mirrored itself in the sombre depths of the primordial waters of infinite space, is called by us, as by the earliest Theosophists, “Divine Wisdom.” That is the last word of the esoteric doctrine; and, in antiquity, where was the country, having the right to call itself civilized, that did not possess a double system of WISDOM, of which one part was for the masses, and the other for the few,—the exoteric and the esoteric? This name, WISDOM, or, as we say sometimes, the “Wisdom Religion” or Theosophy, is as old as the human mind. The title of Sages—the priests of this worship of truth—was its first derivative. These names were afterwards transformed into philosophy, and philosophers—the “lovers of science” or of wisdom. It is to Pythagoras that we owe that name, as also that of gnosis, the system of ὴγνώσιςτώνὄντών, “the knowledge of things as they are,” or of the essence that is hidden beneath the external appearances. Under that name, so noble and so correct in its definition, all the masters of antiquity designated the aggregate of our knowledge of things human and divine. The sages and Brachmânes of India, the magi of Chaldea and Persia, the hierophants of Egypt and Arabia, the prophets or Nabi of Judea and of Israel, as well as the philosophers of Greece and Rome, have always classified that science in two divisions—the esoteric, or the true, and the exoteric, disguised in symbols. To this day the Jewish Rabbis give the name of Mercabah to the body or vehicle of their religious system, that which contains within it the higher knowledge, accessible only to the initiates, and of which higher knowledge it is only the husk.
We are accused of mystery, and we are reproached with making a secret of the higher Theosophy. We confess that the doctrine which we call gupta vidya (secret science) is only for the few. But where were the masters in ancient times who did not keep their teachings secret, for fear they would be profaned? From Orpheus and Zoroaster, Pythagoras and Plato, down to the Rosicrucians, and to the more modern Free-Masons, it has been the invariable rule that the disciple must gain the confidence of the master before receiving from him the supreme and final word. The most ancient religions have always had their greater and lesser mysteries. The neophytes and catechumens took an inviolable oath before they were accepted. The Essenes of Judea and Mount Carmel required the same thing. The Nabi and the Nazars (the “separated ones” of Israel), like the lay Chelas and the Brahmâcharyas of India, differed greatly from each other. The former could, and can, be married and remain in the world, while they are studying the sacred writings up to a certain point; the latter, the Nazars and the Brahmâcharyas, have always been entirely vowed to the mysteries of initiation. The great schools of Esotericism were international, although exclusive, as is proved by the fact that Plato, Herodotus and others, went to Egypt to be initiated; while Pythagoras, after visiting the Brahmins of India, stopped at an Egyptian sanctuary, and finally was received, according to Iamblicus, at Mount Carmel. Jesus followed the traditional custom, and justified his reticence by quoting the well known precept:
Give not the sacred things to the dogs,
Cast not your pearls before the swine,
Lest these tread them under their feet,
And lest the dogs turn and rend you.
Certain ancient writings—known, for that matter, to the bibliophiles—personify WISDOM; which they represent as emanating from Ain-Soph, the Parabrahm of the Jewish Kabbalists, and make it the associate and companion of the manifested Deity. Thence its sacred character with every people. Wisdom is inseparable from divinity. Thus we have the Vedas coming from the mouth of the Hindu “Brahmâ” (the logos); the name Buddha comes from Budha, “Wisdom,” divine intelligence; the Babylonian Nebo, the Thot of Memphis, Hermes of the Greeks, were all gods of esoteric wisdom.
The Greek Athena, Metis and Neitha of the Egyptians, are the prototypes of Sophia-Achamoth, the feminine wisdom of the Gnostics. The Samaritan Pentateuch calls the book of Genesis Akarnauth, or “Wisdom,” as also two fragments of very ancient manuscripts, “the Wisdom of Solomon,” and “the Wisdom of Iasous (Jesus).” The book called Mashalim or “Sayings and Proverbs of Solomon,” personifies Wisdom by calling it “the helper of the (Logos) creator,” in the following terms, (literally translated):
I (a) HV (e) H possessed me from the beginning.
But the first emanation in the eternities,
I appeared from all antiquity, the primordial.—
From the first day of the earth;
I was born before the great abyss.
And when there were neither springs nor waters,
When he traced the circle on the face of the deep,
I was with him Amun.
I was his delight, day by day.
This is exoteric, like all that has reference to the personal gods of the nations. The INFINITE cannot be known to our reason, which can only distinguish and define;—but we can always conceive the abstract idea thereof, thanks to that faculty higher than our reason,—intuition, or the spiritual instinct of which I have spoken. Only the great initiates, who have the rare power of throwing themselves into the state of Samadhi,—which can be but imperfectly translated by the word ecstacy, a state in which one ceases to be the conditioned and personal “I,” and becomes one with the ALL,—only those can boast of having been in contact with the infinite: but no more than other mortals can they describe that state in words.
These few characteristics of true theosophy and of its practice, have been sketched for the small number of our readers who are gifted with the desired intuition.
Do our benevolent critics always know what they are laughing at? Have they the smallest idea of the work which is being performed in the world and the mental changes that are being brought about by that Theosophy at which they smile? The progress already due to our literature is evident, and, thanks to the untiring labours of a certain number of Theosophists, it is becoming recognized even by the blindest. There are not a few who are persuaded that Theosophy will be the philosophy and the law, if not the religion of the future. The party of reaction, captivated by the dolce far niente of conservatism, feel all this, hence come the hatred and persecution which call in criticism to their aid. But criticism, inaugurated by Aristotle, has fallen far away from its primitive standard. The ancient philosophers, those sublime ignoramuses as regards modern civilization, when they criticised a system or a work, did so with impartiality, and with the sole object of amending and improving that with which they found fault. First they studied the subject, and then they analyzed it. It was a service rendered, and was recognized and accepted as such by both parties. Does modern criticism always conform to that golden rule? It is very evident that it does not.
Our judges of today are far below the level even of the philosophical criticism of Kant. Criticism, which takes unpopularity and prejudice for its canons, has replaced that of “pure reason”; and the critic ends by tearing to pieces with his teeth everything he does not comprehend, and especially whatever he does not care in the least to understand. In the last century—the golden age of the goose-quill—criticism was biting enough sometimes; but still it did justice. Caesar’s wife might be suspected, but she was never condemned without being heard in her defence. In our century Montyon prizes and public statues are for him who invents the most murderous engine of war; today, when the steel pen has replaced its more humble predecessor, the fangs of the Bengal tiger or the teeth of the terrible saurian of the Nile would make wounds less cruel and less deep than does the steel nib (bec) of the modern critic, who is almost always absolutely ignorant of that which he tears so thoroughly to pieces.
It is some consolation, perhaps, to know that the majority of our literary critics, trans-atlantic and continental, are ex-scribblers who have made a fiasco in literature, and are revenging themselves now for their mediocrity upon everything they come across. The small blue wine, insipid and doctored, almost always turns into very strong vinegar. Unfortunately the reporters of the press in general—hungry poor devils whom we would be sorry to grudge the little they make, even at our expense—are not our only or our most dangerous critics. The bigots and the materialists—the sheep and goats of religions—having placed us in turn in their index expurgatorius, our books are banished from their libraries, our journals are boycotted, and ourselves subjected to the most complete ostracism. One pious soul, who accepts literally the miracles of the Bible, following with emotion the ichthyographical investigations of Jonas in the whale’s belly, or the trans-ethereal journey of Elias, when like a salamander he flew off in his chariot of fire, nevertheless regards the Theosophists as wonder-mongers and cheats. Another—áme damnée of Hæckel,—while he displays a credulity as blind as that of the bigot in his belief in the evolution of man and the gorilla from a common ancestor (considering the total absence of every trace in nature of any connecting link whatever), nearly dies with laughing when he finds that his neighbour believes in occult phenomena and psychic manifestations. Nevertheless, neither the bigot nor the man of science, nor even the academician, counted among the number of the “Immortals,” can explain to us the smallest of the problems of existence. The metaphysicians who for centuries have studied the phenomena of being in their first principles, and who smile pityingly when they listen to the wanderings of Theosophy, would be greatly embarrassed to explain to us the philosophy or even the cause of dreams. Which of them can tell us why all the mental operations,—except reasoning, which faculty alone finds itself suspended and paralysed,—go on while we dream with as much activity and energy as when we are awake? The disciple of Herbert Spencer would send anyone to the biologist who squarely asked him that question. But he, for whom digestion is the alpha and omega of every dream,—like hysteria, that great Proteus with a thousand forms, which is present in every psychic phenomenon—can by no means satisfy us. Indigestion and hysteria are, in fact, twin sisters, two goddesses, to whom the modern psychologist has raised an altar at which he has constituted himself the officiating priest. But this is his business so long as he does not meddle with the gods of his neighbours.
From all this it follows that, since the Christian characterises Theosophy as the “accursed science” and the forbidden fruit; since the man of science sees nothing in metaphysics but “the domain of the crazy poet” (Tyndall); since the “reporter” touches it only with poisoned forceps; and since the missionaries associate it with idolatry and “the benighted Hindu,”—it follows, we say, that poor Theo-Sophia is as shamefully treated as she was when the ancients called her the TRUTH,—while they relegated her to the bottom of a well Even the “Christian” Kabbalists, who love so much to mirror themselves in the dark waters of this deep well, although they see nothing there but the reflection of their own faces, which they mistake for that of the Truth,—even the Kabbalists make war upon us. Nevertheless, all that is no reason why Theosophy should have nothing to say in its own defence, and in its favour; or that it should cease to assert its right to be listened to, or why its loyal and faithful servants should neglect their duty by acknowledging themselves beaten.
“The accursed science,” you say, good Ultramontanes? You should remember, nevertheless, that the tree of science is grafted on the tree of life. That the fruit which you declare “forbidden,” and which you have proclaimed for sixteen centuries to be the cause of the original sin that brought death into the world,—that this fruit, whose flower blossoms on an immortal stem, was nourished by that same trunk, and that therefore it is the only fruit which can insure us immortality. You also, good Kabbalists, ignore,—or wish to ignore,—that the allegory of the earthly paradise is as old as the world, and that the tree, the fruit and the sin had once a far profounder and more philosophic signification than they have today,—when the secrets of initiation are lost.
Protestantism and Ultramontanism are opposed to Theosophy, just as they are opposed to everything not emanating from themselves; as Calvinism opposed the replacing of its two fetishes, the Jewish Bible and Sabbath, by the Gospel and the Christian Sunday; as Rome opposed secular education and Free-masonry. Dead-letter and theocracy have, however, had their day. The world must move and advance under penalty of stagnation and death. Mental evolution progresses pari passu with physical evolution, and both advance towards the ONE TRUTH,—which is the heart of the system of Humanity, as evolution is the blood. Let the circulation stop for one moment and the heart stops at the same time, and it is all up with the human machine! And it is the servants of Christ who wish to kill, or at least paralyze, the Truth by the blows of a club which is called “the letter that kills!” But the end is nigh. That which Coleridge said of political despotism applies also to religious. The Church, unless she withdraws her heavy hand, which weighs like a nightmare on the oppressed bosoms of millions of believers whether they resent it or not, and whose reason remains paralyzed in the clutch of superstition, the ritualistic Church is sentenced to give up its place to Religion and—to die. Soon it will have but a choice. For once the people become enlightened about the truth which it hides with so much care, one of two things will happen, the Church will either perish by the people; or else, if the masses are left in ignorance and in slavery to the dead letter, it will perish with the people. Will the servants of eternal Truth,—out of which Truth they have made a squirrel that runs round an ecclesiastical wheel,—will they show themselves sufficiently altruistic to choose the first of these alternative necessities? Who knows!
I say it again; it is only theosophy, well understood, that can save the world from despair, by reproducing social and religious reform—a task once before accomplished in history, by Gautama, the Buddha: a peaceful reform, without one drop of blood spilt, each one remaining in the faith of his fathers if he so chooses. To do this he will only have to reject the parasitic plants of human fabrication, which at the present moment are choking all religions and churches in the world. Let him accept but the essence, which is the same in all: that is to say, the spirit which gives life to man in whom it resides, and renders him immortal. Let every man inclined to go on find his ideal,—a star before him to guide him. Let him follow it, without ever deviating from his path; and he is almost certain to reach the Beacon-light of life—the TRUTH: no matter whether he seeks for and finds it at the bottom of a cradle or of a well.
Laugh, then, at the science of sciences without knowing the first word of it! We will be told, perhaps, that such is the literary right of our critics. With all my heart. If people always talked about what they understood, they would only say things that are true, and—that would not always be so amusing. When I read the criticisms now written on Theosophy, the platitudes and the stupid ridicule employed against the most grandiose and sublime philosophy in the world,—one of whose aspects only is found in the noble ethics of Philalethes,—I ask myself whether the Academies of any country have ever understood the Theosophy of the Philosophers of Alexandria better than they understood us now? What does any one know, what can he know, of Universal Theosophy, unless he has studied under the masters of wisdom? and understanding so little of Iamblicus, Plotinus and even Proclus, that is to say, of the Theosophy of the third and fourth centuries, people yet pride themselves upon delivering judgment on the Neo-Theosophy of the nineteenth!
Theosophy, we say, comes to us from the extreme Last, as did the Theosophy of Plotinus and Iamblicus and even the mysteries of ancient Egypt. Do not Homer and Herodotus tell us, in fact, that the ancient Egyptians were “Ethiopians of the East,” who came from Lanka or Ceylon, according to their descriptions? For it is generally acknowledged that the people whom those two authors call Ethiopians of the East were no other than a colony of very dark skinned Aryans, the Dravidians of Southern India, who took an already existing civilization with them to Egypt. This migration occurred during the prehistoric ages which Baron Bunson calls pre-Menite (before Menes) but which ages have a history of their own, to be found in the ancient annals of Kalouka Batta. Besides, and apart from the esoteric teachings, which are not divulged to a mocking public, the historical researches of Colonel Vans Kennedy, the great rival in India of Dr. Wilson as a Sanskritist, show us that pre-Assyrian Babylonia was the home of Brahmanism, and of the Sanskrit as a sacerdotal language. We know also, if Exodus is to be believed, that Egypt had, long before the time of Moses, its diviner, its hierophants and its magicians, that is to say, before the XIX dynasty. Finally Brugsh Bey sees in many of the gods of Egypt, immigrants from beyond the Red Sea—and the great waters of the Indian Ocean.
Whether that be so or not, Theosophy is a descendant in direct line of the great tree of universal GNOSIS, a tree the luxuriant branches of which, spreading over the whole earth like a great canopy, gave shelter at one epoch—which biblical chronology is pleased to call “antediluvian”—to all the temples and to all the nations of the earth. That gnosis represents the aggregate of all the sciences, the accumulated wisdom (savoir) of all the gods and demi-gods incarnated in former times upon the earth. There are some who would like to see in these, the fallen angels and the enemy of mankind; these sons of God who, seeing that the daughters of men were beautiful, took them for wives and imparted to them the secrets of heaven and earth. Let them think so. We believe in Avatars and in divine dynasties, in the epoch when there were, in fact, “giants upon the earth,” but we altogether repudiate the idea of “fallen angels” and of Satan and his army.
“What then is your religion or your belief?” we are asked. “What is your favourite study?”
“The TRUTH,” we reply. The truth wherever we can find it; for, like Ammonius Saccas, our greatest ambition would be to reconcile the different religious systems, to help each one to find the truth in his own religion, while obliging him to recognize it in that of his neighbour. What does the name signify if the thing itself is essentially the same? Plotinus, Iamblicus and Apollonius of Tyana, had all three, it is said, the wonderful gifts of prophecy, of clairvoyance, and of healing, although belonging to three different schools. Prophecy was an art that was cultivated by the Essenes and the B’ni Nebim among the Jews, as well as by the priests of the pagan oracles. Plotinus’s disciples attributed miraculous powers to their master; Philostratus has claimed the same for Apollonius while Iamblicus had the reputation of surpassing all the other Eclectics in Theosophic theurgy. Ammonius declared that all moral and practical WISDOM was contained in the books of Thoth or Hermes Trismegistus. But Thoth means “a college,” school or assembly, and the works of that name, according to the Theodidactos, were identical with the doctrines of the sages of the extreme East. If Pythagoras acquired his knowledge in India (when even now he is mentioned in old manuscripts under the name of Yavanachárya,10 the Greek Master), Plato gained his from the books of Thoth-Hermes. How it happened that the younger Hermes, the god of the shepherds, surnamed “the good shepherd,” who presided over divination and clairvoyance became identical with Thoth (or Thot) the deified sage, and the author of the Book of the Dead,—the esoteric doctrine only can reveal to Orientalists.
Every country has had its saviours. He who dissipates the darkness of ignorance by the help of the torch of science, thus discovering to us the truth, deserves that title as a mark of our gratitude quite as much as he who saves us from death by healing our bodies. Such an one awakens in our benumbed souls the faculty of distinguishing the true from the false, by kindling a divine flame, hitherto absent, and he has the right to our grateful worship, for he has become our creator. What matters the name or the symbol that personifies the abstract idea, if that idea is always the same and is true! Whether the concrete symbol bears one title or another, whether the saviour in whom we believe has for an earthly name Krishna, Buddha, Jesus or Æsculapius,—also called “the saviour god” Σώτηρ,—we have but to remember one thing: symbols of divine truths were not invented for the amusement of the ignorant; they are the alpha and omega of philosophic thought.
Theosophy being the way that leads to truth, in every religion, as in every science, occultism is, so to say, the touchstone and universal solvent. It is the thread of Ariadne given by the master to the disciple who ventures into the labyrinth of the mysteries of being; the torch that lights him through the dangerous maze of life, for ever the enigma of the Sphinx. But the light thrown by this torch can be discerned only by the eye of the awakened soul—by our spiritual senses; it blinds the eye of the materialist as the sun blinds that of the owl.
Having neither dogma nor ritual,—these two being but fetters, the material body which suffocates the soul,—we do not employ the “ceremonial magic” of the Western Kabalists; we know its dangers too well to have anything to do with it. In the T.S. every Fellow is at liberty to study what he pleases, provided he does not venture into unknown paths which would of a certainty lead him to black magic,—the sorcery against which Eliphas Lévi so openly warned the public. The occult sciences are dangerous for him who understands them imperfectly. Any one who gave himself up to their practice by himself, would run the risk of becoming insane; and those who study them would do well to unite in little groups of from three to seven. These groups ought to be uneven in numbers in order to have more power; a group, however little cohesion it possesses, forming a single united body, wherein the senses and perceptions of those who work together complement and mutually help each other, one member supplying to another the quality in which he is wanting,—such a group will always end by becoming a perfect and invincible body. “Union is strength.” The moral of the fable of the old man bequeathing to his sons a bundle of sticks which were never to be separated is a truth which will forever remain axiomatic.
“The disciples (Lanous) of the law of the Heart of Diamant (magic) will help each other in their lessons. The grammarian will be at the service of him who looks for the soul of the metals (chemist)” etc.—(Catechism of the Gupta-Vidja).
The ignorant would laugh if they were told that in the Occult sciences, the alchemist can be useful to the philologist and vice versa. They would understand the matter better, perhaps, if they were told that by this substantive (grammarian or philologist), we mean to designate one who makes a study of the universal language of corresponding symbols, although only the members of the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society can understand clearly what the term “philologist” means in that sense. All things in nature have correspondences and are mutually interdependent. In its abstract sense, Theosophy is the white ray, from which arise the seven colours of the solar spectrum, each human being assimilating one of these rays to a greater degree than the other six. It follows that seven persons, each imbued with his special ray, can help each other mutually. Having at their service the septenary bundle of rays, they have the seven forces of nature at their command. But it follows also that, to reach that end, the choosing of the seven persons who are to form a group, should be left to an expert,—to an initiate in the science of occult rays.
But we are here upon dangerous ground, where the Sphinx of esotericism runs the risk of being accused of mystification. Still, orthodox science furnishes a proof of the truth of what we say, and we find a corroboration in physical and materialistic astronomy. The sun is one, and its light shines for every one; it warms the ignorant as well as the astronomers. As to the hypotheses about our luminary, its constitution and nature,—their name is legion. Not one of these hypotheses contains the whole truth, or even an approximation to it. Frequently they are only fictions soon to be replaced by others. For it is to scientific theories more than to anything else in this world below that the lines of Malherbe are applicable:
. . . Et rose, elle a vècu ce que vivent les roses,
L’espace d’un matin.
Nevertheless, whether they adorn or not the altar of Science, each of these theories may contain a fragment of truth. Selected, compared, analysed, pieced together, all these hypotheses may one day supply an astronomical axiom, a fact in nature, instead of a chimera in the scientific brain.
This is far from meaning that we accept as an increment of truth every axiom accepted as true by the Academies. For instance, in the evolution and phantasmagorical transformations of the sun spots,—Nasmyth’s theory at the present moment,—Sir John Herschell began by seeing in them the inhabitants of the sun, beautiful and gigantic angels. William Herschell, maintaining a prudent silence about these celestial salamanders, shared the opinion of the elder Herschell, that the solar globe was nothing but a beautiful metaphor, a maya—thus announcing an occult axiom. The sun spots have found a Darwin in the person o£ every astronomer of any eminence. They were taken successively for planetary spirits, solar mortals, columns of volcanic smoke (engendered, one must think, in brains academical), opaque clouds, and finally for shadows in the shape of the leaves of the willow tree, (“willow leaf theory”). At the present day the sun is degraded. According to men of science it is nothing but a gigantic coal, still aglow, but prepared to go out in the grate of our solar system.
Even so with the speculations published by Fellows of the Theosophical Society, when the authors of these, although they belong to the Theosophical fraternity, have never studied the true esoteric doctrines. These speculations can never be other than hypotheses, no more than coloured with a ray of truth, enveloped in a chaos of fancy and sometimes of unreason. By selecting them from the heap and placing them side by side, one succeeds, nevertheless, in extracting a philosophic truth from these ideas. For, let it be well understood, theosophy has this in common with ordinary science, that it examines the reverse side of every apparent truth. It tests and analyses every fact put forward by physical science, looking only for the essence and the ultimate and occult constitution in every cosmical or physical manifestation, whether in the domain of ethics, intellect, or matter. In a word, Theosophy begins its researches where materialists finish theirs.
“It is then metaphysics that you offer us!” it may be objected, “Why not say so at once.”
No, it is not metaphysics, as that term is generally understood, although it plays that part sometimes. The speculations of Kant, of Leibnitz, and of Schopenhauer belong to the domain of metaphysics, as also those of Herbert Spencer. Still, when one studies the latter, one cannot help dreaming of Dame Metaphysics figuring at a bal masqué of the Academical Sciences, adorned with a false nose. The metaphysics of Kant and of Leibnitz—as proved by his monads—is above the metaphysics of our days, as a balloon in the clouds is above a pumpkin in the field below. Nevertheless this balloon, however much better it may be than the pumpkin, is too artificial to serve as a vehicle for the truth of the occult sciences. The latter is, perhaps, a goddess too freely uncovered to suit the taste of our savants, so modest. The metaphysics of Kant taught its author, without the help of the present methods or perfected instruments, the identity of the constitution and essence of the sun and the planets; and Kant affirmed, when the best astronomers, even during the first half of this century, still denied. But this same metaphysics did not succeed in proving to him the true nature of that essence, any more than it has helped modern physics, notwithstanding its noisy hypotheses, to discover that true nature.
Theosophy, therefore, or rather the occult sciences it studies, is something more than simple metaphysics. It is, if I may be allowed to use the double terms, meta-metaphysics, meta-geometry, etc., etc., or a universal transcendentalism. Theosophy rejects the testimony of the physical senses entirely, if the latter be not based upon that afforded by the psychic and spiritual perceptions. Even in the case of the most highly developed clairvoyance and clairaudience, the final testimony of both must be rejected, unless by those terms is signified the ϕωτός of Iamblicus, or the ecstatic illumination, the ἀγωγὴμαντεία of Plotinus and of Porphyry. The same holds good for the physical sciences; the evidence of the reason upon the terrestrial plane, like that of our five senses, should receive the imprimatur of the sixth and seventh senses of the divine ego, before a fact can be accepted by the true occultist.
Official science hears what we say and—laughs. We read its “reports,” we behold the apotheoses of its self-styled progress, of its great discoveries,—more than one of which, while enriching the more a small number of those already wealthy, have plunged millions of the poor into still more terrible misery—and we leave it to its own devices. But, finding that physical science has not made a step towards the knowledge of the real nature and constitution of matter since the days of Anaximenes and the Ionian school, we laugh in our turn.
In that direction, the best work has been done and the most valuable scientific discoveries of this century have, without contradiction, been made by the great chemist Mr. William Crookes.11 In his particular case, a remarkable intuition of occult truth has been of more service to him than all his great knowledge of physical science. It is certain that neither scientific methods, nor official routine, have helped him much in his discovery of radiant matter, or in his researches into protyle, or primordial matter.12
That which the Theosophists who hold to orthodox and official science try to accomplish in their own domain, the Occultists or the Theosophists of the “inner group” study according to the method of the esoteric school. If up to the present this method has demonstrated its superiority only to its students, that is to say, to those who have pledged themselves by oath not to reveal it, that circumstance proves nothing against it. Not only have the terms magic and theurgy been never even approximately understood, but even the name Theosophy has been disfigured. The definitions thereof which are given in dictionaries and encyclopædias are as absurd as they are grotesque. Webster, for instance, in explanation of the word Theosophy assures his readers that it is “a direct connection or communication with God and superior spirits”; and, further on, that it is “the attainment of superhuman and supernatural knowledge and powers by physical processes (!?) as by the theurgic operations of some ancient Platonists, or by the chemical processes of the German fire philosophers.” This is nonsensical verbiage. It is precisely as if we were to say that it is possible to transform a crazy brain into one of the calibre of Newton’s, and to develop in it a genius for mathematics by riding five miles every day upon a wooden horse.
Theosophy is synonymous with Gnanâ-Vidya, and with the Brahmâ-Vidya13 of the Hindus, and again with the Dzyan of the trans-Himalayan adepts, the science of the true Raj-Yogas, who are much more accessible than one thinks. This science has many schools in the East. But its offshoots are still more numerous, each one having ended by separating itself from the parent stem,—the true Archaic Wisdom,—and varying in its form.
But, while these forms varied, departing further with each generation from the light of truth, the basis of initiatory truths remained always the same. The symbols used to express the same idea may differ, but in their hidden sense they always do express the same idea. Ragon, the most erudite mason of all the “Widow’s sons,” has said the same. There exists a sacerdotal language, the “mystery language,” and unless one knows it well, he cannot go far in the occult sciences. According to Ragon “to build or found a town” meant the same thing as to “found a religion”; therefore, that phrase when it occurs in Homer is equivalent to the expression in the Brahmins, to distribute the “Soma juice.” It means, “to found an esoteric school,” not “a religion” as Ragon pretends. Was he mistaken? We do not think so. But as a Theosophist belonging to the esoteric section dare not tell to an ordinary member of the Theosophical Society the things about which he has promised to keep silent, so Ragon found himself obliged to divulge merely relative truths to his pupils. Still, it is certain that he had made at least an elementary study of “THE MYSTERY LANGUAGE.”
“How can one learn this language?” we may be asked. We reply: study all religions and compare them with one another. To learn thoroughly requires a teacher, a guru; to succeed by oneself needs more than genius: it demands inspiration like that of Ammonius Saccas. Encouraged in the Church by Clement of Alexandria and by Athenagoras, protected by the learned men of the synagogue and of the academy, and adored by the Gentiles, “he learned the language of the mysteries by teaching the common origin of all religions, and a common religion.” To do this, he had only to teach according to the ancient canons of Hermes which Plato and Pythagoras had studied so well, and from which they drew their respective philosophies. Can we be surprised if, finding in the first verses of the gospel according to St. John the same doctrines that are contained in the three systems of philosophy above mentioned, he concluded with every show of reason that the intention of the great Nazarene was to restore the sublime science of ancient wisdom in all its primitive integrity? We think as did Ammonius. The biblical narrations and the histories of the gods have only two possible explanations: either they are great and profound allegories, illustrating universal truths, or else they are fables of no use but to put the ignorant to sleep.
Therefore the allegories,—Jewish as well as Pagan,—contain all the truths that can only be understood by him who knows the mystical language of antiquity. Let us see what is said on this subject by one of our most distinguished Theosophists, a fervent Platonist and a Hebraist, who knows his Greek and Latin like his mother tongue, Professor Alexander Wilder,14 of New York:
The root idea of the Neo-Platonists was the existence of one only and supreme Essence. This was the Diu, or “Lord of the Heavens” of the Aryan nations, identical with the Ιαω(Iao) of the Chaldeans and Hebrews, the Iabe of the Samaritans, the Tiu or Tuiseo of the Norwegians, the Duw of the ancient tribes of Britain, the Zeus of those of Thrace, and the Jupiter of the Romans. It was the Being—(non-Being), the Facit, one and supreme. It is from it that all other beings proceeded by emanation. The moderns have, it seems, substituted for this their theory of evolution. Perchance some day a wiser man than they will combine these systems in a single one. The names of these different divinities seem often to have been invented with little or no regard to their etymological meaning, but chiefly on account of some particular mystical signification attached to the numerical value of the letters employed in their orthography.
This numerical signification is one of the branches of the mystery language, or the ancient sacerdotal language. This was taught in the “Lesser Mysteries,” but the language itself was reserved for the high initiates alone. The candidate must have come victorious out of the terrible trials of the Greater Mysteries before receiving instruction in it. That is why Ammonius Saccas, like Pythagoras, obliged his disciples to take an oath never to divulge the higher doctrines to any one to whom the preliminary ones had not already been imparted, and who, therefore, was not ready for initiation. Another sage, who preceded him by three centuries, did the same by his disciples, in saying to them that he spoke “in similes” (or parables) “because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given . . . because in seeing they see not, and in hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”
Therefore the “similes” employed by Jesus were part of the “language of the mysteries,” the sacerdotal tongue of the initiates. Rome has lost the key to it: by rejecting theosophy and pronouncing her anathema against the occult sciences,—she loses it for ever.
1. Acquired under a Guru.
2. The great serpent conquered by Krishna and driven from the river Yanuma into the sea, where the Serpent Kaliya took for wife a kind of Siren, by whom he had a numerous family.
3. The illusion of the personality of the Ego, placed by our egotism in the first rank. In a word, it is necessary to assimilate the whole of humanity, live by it, for it, and in it, in other terms, cease to be “one,” and become “all” or the total.
4. A Vedic expression. The senses, counting in the two mystic senses, are seven in Occultism; but an Initiate does not separate these senses from each other, any more than he separates his unity from Humanity. Every sense contains all the others.
5. Symbology of colours. The Language of the prism, of which “the seven mother colours have each seven sons,” that is to say, forty-nine shades or “sons” between the seven which graduated tints are so many letters or alphabetical characters. The language of colours has, therefore, fifty-six letters for the Initiate. Of these letters each septenary is absorbed by the mother colour, as each of the seven mother colours is absorbed finally in the white ray, Divine Unity symbolized by these colours.
6. By Iamblicus, who used the name of his master, the Egyptian priest Abammon as a pseudonym.
7. Samâdhi is a state of abstract contemplation, defined in Sanskrit terms that each require a whole sentence to explain them. It is a mental, or, rather, spiritual state, which is not dependent upon any perceptible object, and during which the subject, absorbed in the region of pure spirit, lives in the Divinity.
8. He lived in Rome for 28 years, and was so virtuous a man that it was considered an honour to have him as guardian for the orphans of the highest patricians. He died without having made an enemy during those 28 years.
9. A celebrated Grecian monastery.
10. A term which comes from the words Yavana or “the Ionian.” And achârya, “professor or master.”
11. Member of the Executive Council of the London Lodge of The Theosophical Society
12. The homogeneous, non-differentiated element which he calls meta-element.
13. The meaning of the word Vidya can only be rendered by the Greek term Gnosis, the knowledge of hidden and spiritual things; or again, the knowledge of Brahm, that is to say, of the God that contains all the gods.
14. The first Vice-President of the Theosophical Society when it was founded.