Studies in the Secret Doctrine:
In the preceding studies we have tried to present certain definite ideas: first, that Absolute Knowledge is a condition or a state which actually exists and is designated the world of Noumena, in contradistinction to the relative knowledge, which is the world of phenomena. Therefore, Absolute Knowledge exists everywhere, as the hidden soul of every phenomenon.
Next, we tried to show the triple aspect of this Absolute Knowledge or the World of Noumena. The World in the Mind of the Deity; Maya produced through Shakti by Ishvara; Son begotten in the primal womb of Mother Wisdom by the Father; other expressions were used and an attempt was made to show the triple aspect of Absolute Knowledge.
To understand a little more accurately and a little more fully this triple aspect, let us point to the threefold relationship of Sophia, as daughter, wife and mother 1 — “the one instrument with which the Logos [Deity] works.” 2 Sophia, like Eve, is the daughter of Adam, having been formed from his rib; not satisfied with that, she becomes his wife and the mother of his progeny. Sophia is the daughter of the One Knower, Ishvara; as His consort she is the Shakti-power, Daiviprakriti, the Light of Knowledge; the Knower and the Knowledge beget the Word to be known. Thus the Knower, Knowledge, Known; the Teacher, Teaching, Taught, are three in one. In Brahmanical tradition we are told that Gayatri is the mother of the Vedas, and in the Gita Sri Krishna says that He is the Pranava (the sacred word, Aum) in all the Vedas. The single syllable Aum becomes the metre Gayatri and her progeny are the Four Gospels, called Vedas in Brahmanical lore.
In the Avesta, the Ahuna-vairya, the twenty-one-word prayer, is the same as Gayatri, which Zarathustra, the prophet, uses to overthrow Ahriman or Angra-mainyu, and it is said to be the Word proclaimed by Mazda.
Thirdly, we spoke in our last study of the two worlds of Noumena and of Archetypes, and hinted at the natural conclusion to be drawn of the existence of the two types of Absolute Knowledge — Noumenal and Archetypal. In other words, Absolute Knowledge has a double aspect. Just as in the Noumenal world ideas exist in the mind of the Deity which at a later stage of the manifesting process are built into the model-archetypal world, so also Sophia, who ever exists everywhere, is transformed into Theosophy, or Wisdom-Religion, or Gnosis. In its aspect of Noumenal Knowledge, it is ever present everywhere; at all points of space and at each moment of time it exists, the soul of every body, the energy of every force, the life of every form. Its manifestation as a synthetic system of learning is an incarnation of Noumenal Knowledge, which may be named Archetypal Knowledge; and this latter is Theosophy — the Wisdom-Religion, Gnosis.
Paul, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, draws a distinction between “enticing words of man’s wisdom” and the “wisdom among them that are perfect” and the latter is called “the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world.” 3 Here we have the difference pointed out between Absolute and Relative Knowledge.
In the early Christian church much wrangling took place about the masculine and feminine aspect of Wisdom. Sophia and Gnosis are a pair and they are sometimes mistaken for synonyms, at others, for antonyms; votaries of the rival sects of the Female Logos, Sophia, and of the Male Logos, Christ, fought like their brothers of India, who quarreled about the superior nature of the masculine Shiva and the feminine Shakti. Thus in Proverbs (9:4-5) the Hebrew Sophia says to “him that wanteth understanding” — “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine which I have mingled,” which in the New Testament are made the gifts of Christ to his apostle-disciples.
H.P.B. defines Sophia as “Universal Mind” and “Wisdom,” 4 while Gnosis is “Spiritual and Sacred Knowledge, the Gupta Vidya of the Hindus.” 5
Thus we have the “enticing words” — relative knowledge; Sophia — Noumenal Knowledge, and Gnosis — Archetypal Knowledge.
In Brahmanical esotericism four terms are used, Avidya, Apara Vidya, Para Vidya and Gupta Vidya. Their translated equivalents are Nescience, Lower Knowledge, Higher Knowledge and Secret Knowledge. A score of other Vidyas or branches of knowledge are spoken of, but all of them can be classified under these four main headings. Avidya has been a stumbling-block for students of Indian philosophy. Avidya is knowledge of the non-existent non-self and thus understood as a synonym of Maya becomes “Agnosticism and Nescience rather than ignorance.” 6 An agnostic is not an ignoramus, but his knowledge is not Gnosis and hence illusory. Death is the loss of the knowledge of our unity with the Universal Consciousness and is produced by this Avidya — Knowledge of the non-existent non-self. All materialists in this sense are dead, as H.P.B. points out. They may be described as breaking up (or having completed that process) their spiritual unit of self-consciousness into numerous units, not self-consciousness. Denying the existence of the Soul, they assert the existence of diversified material organisms as the Self.Isavasyopanishad speaks of overcoming death by Avidya, provided Vidya is made use of at the same time, 7 and therein confirms one of the very mysterious teachings of The Secret Doctrine and The Voice of the Silence, viz., the connection of the spiritual man with the physical man in the treading of the Path recommended in the second of the fragments of the latter.
Let us turn our attention to the pair of Para and Apara Vidyas of which the Mundakopanishad 8 speaks. Apara Vidya or the Lower Knowledge contains “the four Vedas, the Sciences of phonetics, ritual, grammar, philosophy, metrics and astrology.” The Higher Knowledge is “that by which the Imperishable Akshara is realized.” Akshara is the syllable Aum — the Pranava — the Sacred Word; “by taking refuge in it the Gods became immortal and fearless.” 9
From this it will become clear that Para Vidya, the Higher Knowledge, is the Noumenal aspect of the Absolute Knowledge about which we have been writing. The Apara Vidya, the lower, is the relative knowledge. Remains Gupta Vidya — the secret or esoteric Knowledge — that is the Archetypal aspect of Absolute Knowledge or Wisdom-Religion which we call Theosophy.
Thus it will be seen that Sophia and Gnosis, Para Vidya and Gupta Vidya, have been often misunderstood. They are closely allied and yet they are distinct; hence the same names and titles have been interchangeably used for both of them. Bearing this in mind, let the student proceed with his enquiry.
Sophia, the Mother-Wisdom, has seven sons or a sevenfold reflection in manifestation. She is “the mother of the seven planetary powers.” 10 In ancient and occult astrology she is the mother 11 of Kanya, the Virgin, whose progeny are the six Forces of the six Hierarchies, “synthesized by their Primary, the seventh, who personify the Fifth Principle of Cosmic Nature, or of the ‘Mother’ in its Mystical Sense.” 12 The six schools of Indian philosophy (Shat-Darshanani) and the six systems of Indian science (Shad-Anganani) are the phenomenal manifestations of Absolute Knowledge. The six are the progeny of the Invisible Mother. The triple manifestation of each of these six manifestations of Sophia forms the subject of the eighteen discourses of the Bhagavad-Gita; the Great War on Kurukshetra lasted for eighteen days and the contending armies were divided into eighteen army corps; its description in theMahabharata takes eighteen parvas or volumes.
The knowledge of the phenomenal universe in reference to its origin, evolution and disintegration is the lower Knowledge (Apara Vidya); 13 the Realization of the Self as the one and only Knower is the Higher Wisdom (Para Vidya) — the Way from the former to the latter is the Gupta Vidya, the Secret Path. The Indian Upanishads deal with the Higher Wisdom (Para Vidya) and they are said to attain “the conquest of ignorance by the revelation of secret, spiritual knowledge.” Let it be clearly understood that the Gupta Vidya, the Secret and Sacred Knowledge of the Spirit, is absent in the pages of the “priceless thesaurus” which “require now the additional possession of a Master-key to enable the student to get at their full meaning.” 14 Adds The Secret Doctrine: “TheyCONTAIN the beginning and the end of all human knowledge, but they have now ceased to REVEAL it, since the day of Buddha.” (Volume I, p. 270.)
Though the secret and spiritual Knowledge is not “revealed,” it has not ceased to exist.
Gupta Vidya, the Secret Knowledge that leads to Para Vidya, is like the way to Mount Everest; the latter in all its beauty, grandeur and dignity causes awe and reverence in mortal minds and inspires the few earnest hearts to the perilous adventure of climbing its steep ascents, the necessary knowledge whereof is lost. Thus Para Vidya, the Knowledge of the Self, stands guard over all arts, sciences, philosophies and religions, but the hazardous journey to Self-Realization is only accomplished by the daring soul who wills to seek the Hidden Light and, having sought, knows the Secret Art. Shiva, the patron-saint of Yogis and Sannyasis, is supposed to be sitting in silent tapas in company of His consort, Shakti-Parvati, on Mount Kailasa (Heaven); children of mortality behold the picture of the Couple in awesome dread, as for them Shiva is the destroyer, and they make obeisance to Him from the far distance which separates their earth from His high heaven. The immortal sons of Yoga, however, confident of their soul-strength and bent on reaching Home where the parents dwell in eternal felicity, hasten and climb the steep ascents.
Thus it will be perceived that, like Absolute Knowledge, Relative Knowledge also is twofold; Noumenal and Archetypal are the aspects of the former; the phenomenal which is the reflection of the Noumenal and the definite types of learning which emanate from the Archetypal is the first aspect of Relative Knowledge, Avidya or Agnosticism being the second.
Perhaps it will be a help for some to approach the problem in terms of our human constitution.
Noumenal Knowledge is Atma — Para Vidya.
Archetypal Knowledge is Buddhi — Gupta Vidya.
Typal Knowledge is Manas — Apara Vidya.
Nescience or No-Knowledge is the lower Quaternary — Avidya.
Here, too, “mind is the slayer of the Real.” It is the fall of Apara Vidya into the abyss of separation, instead of remaining faithful to its parent-source of Absolute Knowledge.
Four Vedas and six Vedangas (limbs of the Vedas) make the perfect number ten, and they constitute Apara-Vidya, the Lower Knowledge, as shown by the above quotation of the Mundakopanishad. These ten are organized orifices in the body of Akshara — the Imperishable Aum; the substance composing that body is manasic or mahatic.
The Brahmanical system further lays down six additional limbs (shad-upangani) of the Vedas which are designated the six points of view (shat-darshanani) ordinarily known as the six schools of Indian philosophy.
Apara Vidya contacts the Gupta Vidya by its additional, inner limbs. Its six primary limbs (quoted above) correspond to the five senses with the lower mind as the sixth, which are all turned to “This” — the world without. Its six additional or inner limbs are the six outlooks of the Higher Mind — East, West, South, North, Nadir and Zenith, in the directions of “That” — the Imperishable Akshara. The last of these six inner limbs is Vedanta — the end of Knowledge. The world-famous Upanishads belong to these inner limbs of the Vedas.
Thus these six schools constitute a bridge between Apara Vidya (of which they are a part) and Gupta Vidya — between Manas (of which Manas Taijasi is an aspect) and Buddhi. These six inner limbs may be profitably compared to “the spiritual efflorescence ofManas” spoken of in The Secret Doctrine, which uniting with Buddhi makes Manas spiritual. 15
But what has all this to do with our approach to Theosophy? the reader may well ask. Let him note that the Brahmanical esoteric tradition, however curtailed, distorted out of shape, and even corrupted in a great measure, has left enough material for us to understand universal facts known to the entire ancient world. The teaching about the Four Vidyas prevailed everywhere in the days of yore and if we have utilized the Brahmanical aspect of it we have done so because The Secret Doctrine has adopted it. 16
Theosophy is neither the Vedanta of the Hindus, nor the teachings of the Upanishads and other writings of the six schools of Indian philosophy. Theosophical views, teachings and ideas may be, nay, will be found in these, as also in the Vedas and its six outer or primary limbs; but so will they be found in the Egyptian Puranas known as the Book of the Dead, or in the Greek Itihasas of Iliad and Odyssey, or in the Hebraic Smriti of Moses. But in all these which exist everywhere as Apara Vidya, lower knowledge, distortions and corruptions abound; not only has Avidya-Agnosticism made inroads in Apara Vidya, but priestcraft has attacked it, making it worse than useless — maleficent.
In the modern world, therefore, Theosophy comes as a body of teaching which is beyond the Apara Vidya, which is first of the chapters of Gupta Vidya and which cannot be found in full anywhere. The Message of H. P. Blavatsky constitutes that first chapter; “however incomplete and feeble as an exposition” it may be, however inadequate the daring attempt to write it in a human language — that Message is the first of the seven chapters of the Esoteric Science — Gupta Vidya — of which its bearer says this:
As a whole, neither the foregoing nor what follows can be found in full anywhere. It is not taught in any of the six Indian schools of philosophy, for it pertains to their synthesis — the seventh, which is the Occult doctrine. It is not traced on any crumbling papyrus of Egypt, nor is it any longer graven on Assyrian tile or granite wall. The Books of the Vedanta (the last word of human knowledge) give out but the metaphysical aspect of this world-Cosmogony; and their priceless thesaurus, the Upanishads — Upa-ni-shad being a compound word meaning “the conquest of ignorance by the revelation of secret, spiritual knowledge” — require now the additional possession of a Master-key to enable the student to get at their full meaning. The reason for this I venture to state here as I learned it from a Master. (Volume I, p. 269.)
Scepticism and superstition alike are the fruits of corruption of the Apara Vidya, the lower knowledge, whose thread of life, Gupta Vidya, connected it to its Spirit, Para Vidya, in the days of yore. The eternal enemies of the Wisdom — human credulity and its progeny, priestcraft — ever cut that thread of life, begetting death, and, to perpetuate themselves, vitalize the corpse and call it angel and God. Says The Secret Doctrine:
…all exoteric religions [can] be shown the falsified copies of the esoteric teaching. It is the priesthood which has to be held responsible for the reaction in favour of materialism of our day. It is by worshiping and enforcing on the masses the worship of the shells — personified for purposes of allegory — of pagan ideals, that the latest exoteric religion has made of Western lands a Pandemonium, in which the higher classes worship the golden calf, and the lower and ignorant masses are made to worship an idol with feet of clay. (Volume I, p. 578.)
And again it speaks of how the Rays of Gupta Vidya
became necessarily weakened as they were diffused and shed upon an uncongenial, because too material soil. With the masses they degenerated into Sorcery, taking later on the shape of exoteric religions, of idolatry full of superstitions, and man-, or hero-worship. (Volume II, p. 281.)
and refers to the “systematic persecution of the Prophets of the Right Path by those of the Left” and adds:
The latter, having inaugurated the birth and evolution of the sacerdotal castes, have finally led the world into all these exoteric religions, invented to satisfy the depraved tastes of the “hoi polloi” and the ignorant for ritualistic pomp and the materialization of the ever-immaterial and Unknowable Principle. (Volume II, p. 503.)
In none of the exoteric religious philosophies, much less in creeds and less still in priest-ridden places of worship is to be found the pristine Light of Wisdom which can illumine the mind of man, transforming it into Manas-Taijasi. In East and West alike corruption prevails, expressing itself in scientific scepticism, religious superstition, and the strange mixture of blind faith and false learning which gives birth to hydra-headed Psychism.
The approach of Theosophy, in this day and generation, has to be, therefore, through the clear Message of our era. Once its great Teachings are grasped, religions, sciences, arts and philosophies, show forth the grandeur of what is truly good and beautiful in all of them. Theosophy provides the common basis which unifies them all and co-ordinates what seems contradictory in each.
1. Cf. The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 136.
2. The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 137 fn.
3. I Corinthians: 2: 4-7.
4. The Theosophical Glossary, p. 305.
5. Ibid., p. 129.
6. The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 7.
7. Isavasyopanishad, II
8. Mundakopanishad, I, 4-5.
9. Chhandogyopanishad, I, 4-4.
10. The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 72. Cf. “Seven sons of the divine Sophia” in Ibid., p. 430.
11. Sometimes referred to as Uma-Kanya, the Virgin of Light, or better, Virgin-Light.
12. The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 293.
13. Cf. Mundakopanishad, I, 4-5.
14. The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 269.
15. The Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, p. 230.
16. See The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, pp. 269 to 272.