Studies in the Secret Doctrine:
Original Method, Original Teaching, Original Impulse
True Shruti or Revelation or Revealed Wisdom-Religion is immemorial, universal and impersonal — immemorial in time, universal as to space and impersonal in the sense that it is neither the invention of any individual or individuals, and though guarded, preached, proclaimed, and promulgated in different parts of the world at different periods of human growth, by individuals, it is done by a special method wherein impersonality plays the most prominent part. In this world of name and form (Nama-Rupa) personalities abound, and so the Impersonal Message proclaimed by an Impersonal Method, by Impersonal Individualities comes to be endowed with name and form, and the proclaimers get transformed, in the minds of the non-mystical, into individualized personalities.
In the light of our last study, Shruti, Vedas, Revelations, the Sacred Knowledge ceases to be Brahmanical, Christian or Masonic; they are different names for the same principle. Once grasp this important idea, and with it as a telescope stand on the vantage ground of observation to examine creeds and religions, philosophies and sciences, emblems and rituals, in any country at any particular period, and they show a universal basis, an impersonal background and a consistent phase, related to other equally consistent phases. That which is not to be found manifested or implied at all places and at all times, that claiming special and privileged existence for itself, that which cannot stand on its own inherent impersonality and veracity, but demands for its continued existence the strength of personalities — that is not Revelation though Christians may call it so, nor Vedas though Brahmans may name it so, nor the Word of Allah though Muslims may believe it so. Truth alone is the Word of Allah as also the Vedas that were heard, and the Revelation that came from God, and is the common property of the human race. In that way, and that alone, religion becomes a Force that unites. The Mahabharata defines religion thus: “That which supports, that which holds together the peoples everywhere, that is Dharma.” The temple, the church, the mosque in reality ought to be the meeting-place of all students who seek for Truth; these places have become in every age instruments of discrimination against seekers, for they have welcomed only blind believers.
The Secret Doctrine teaches the continued, unimpaired and thorough existence of Shruti-Revelation, in the correct sense of the term. Said Madame Blavatsky:
What I do believe in is (1) the unbroken oral teachings revealed by living divine men during the infancy of mankind to the elect among men; (2) that it has reached us unaltered; and (3) that the MASTERS are thoroughly versed in the Science based on such uninterrupted teaching. 1
This stupendous claim has not been made for the first time in the history of human thought. The student will do well to reflect over this statement which finds corroborative testimony in many an ancient scripture. In fact the real Revelation, universal and impersonal, about which we have been writing, has been an object of exposition by great Teachers in a very long line of succession, and equally also an object of enquiry and search by a large number of earnest and devoted students of Truth which is Wisdom. Many claim the privilege of teaching; all true teachers, however different their personal ways of imparting knowledge, teach the one ancient and universal truth. As the Brahmabindopanishad has it: “Cows are many coloured; but the milk of all has but one colour. Look on knowledge as the milk, and on the teacher as the cows.” Herein we find the means whereby students can determine for themselves between false and true teachers.
Let us here quote a few significant statements from scriptural authorities. They become authorities not because they are scriptural in the ordinary sense of the word, but because they manifest the universal and impersonal inherent in them, and thus become Authoritative Scripture. They cease to be Christian or Brahmanical, narrow and particular and personal; they assume a universal significance, objects of inquiry and not of belief, to be accepted after understanding on the basis of their inherent but self-evident strength. They reveal themselves to the one who is ready to see; they are heard by the one who is ready to hear.
In the Bhagavad-Gita Sri Krishna, the Incarnation of the Universal Self, speaks of one of the Pedigrees of the Wisdom-Religion. In the Mundakopanishad is to be found another aspect traced. In the Matsya Purana we come across a different phase of the same subject. It is not our purpose here to endeavor to grasp the inner meaning and precise significance of beings and subjects treated of in these passages. What we are desirous of is to point out the singular fact of the existence of a system of thought, a body of knowledge, ancient and consistent and which in unbroken continuity is transmitted by one generation of Knowers of the Wisdom to another, by a unique impulsion and method. These three references selected from the Brahmanical Scriptures are only examples; such can be multiplied from the same and other scriptural lore.
To begin with the Bhagavad-Gita: Sri Krishna says that He himself taught it to Vivasvat and it is described as a “yoga” which is imperishable. This Vivasvat is correspondentially related to the Sun; Vivasvat is Hiranyagarbha Brahma in another text; and both stand for the Deity manifesting this Solar Universe of ours. Manu, the Heavenly Man, is next named and the implication is that just as the imparting of the Yoga by the Kosmic Deity to Vivasvat enabled the latter to manifest Himself as the Solar Deity and create and become the Solar system, so also He in turn imparting it to Manu enables the latter to manifest Himself as the Deity of the Human Race and create and become Earth-humanity. A further subdivision is reached when the Deity of the Race imparts the yoga to His own son, Ikshvaku, the founder of the Indian Solar Dynasty, who leaves the inheritance to a line of Divine Kings, until in the course of time it was forgotten. It may be asked — why? The Gita verse contains the answer for the careful student; for in it Arjuna’s name is Parantapa — “harasser of foes.” Arjuna is the human soul whose foes are of his own household, the senses and all that emanate from them. When the human Ego begins to harass his foes then only he begins to tread the Inner Path, and subduing the outer, he unfolds the inner eye to see what is Revealed, the inner ear to hear the Word spoken, the Vedas chanted, the Gayatri sung, the Ahuna-Viaryo uttered.
What is taught and handed down is a yoga — a process of union which results in a manifestation. Here is the Original Method whereby the Original Impulse is worked and which produce the Original Teaching. “Even though myself unborn, of changeless essence, and the Lord of all existence, yet in presiding over Nature — which is mine — I am born but through my own Maya, the mystic power of self-ideation.” In the Tenth Discourse Arjuna, addressing Krishna as a Yogi who is appealed to by all people, enquires about the details of the Yoga and Vibhuti (power of union and glory) of the Lord and elicits an answer, descriptive in character of the nature of the Lord; but in the following discourse Arjuna addresses Him not as yogi but as yogeshwara, Lord of yoga, and prays for a Vision of the Universal Self which lies hidden “enveloped in my yogamaya” (VII, 25) — the maker of Vivasvat of the fourth discourse. The Vision vouchsafed to Arjuna is of Krishna, the unborn and the imperishable. Thus the Bhagavad-Gitaspeaks of handing down the Method whereby the Wisdom of the Self is attained.
Turn now to the Mundakopanishad. Here we find another type of pedigree; not of yoga, method or process, but of the Vidya, the Knowledge — the System of thought. That which is handed down is Brahma-Vidya, the Wisdom of the Self Divine or Theo-sophia. Says the Upanishad that Brahma, the first of the Shining Ones, arose as the maker and the protector of the world, and immediately proceeds to inform us that it was He who told of Brahma-Vidya, which is the foundation and resting place of all other Vidyas or Knowledge, to His own eldest son Atharva, just as the imperishable yoga of the Gita was taught by Manu to His eldest son Ikshvaku. Atharva in his turn told it to Angir in ancient times and Angir imparted the knowledge to one whose name was Satyavaha of the Bharada Vaja family; the last named to Angiras, and so the Vidya descended and in the process, proceeding from Teachers to pupils, the Lower Knowledge emanated from the Higher and deteriorated into Avidya-Agnosticism. Here once again we meet with the idea of the Gita as to how the exhaustless Doctrine was forgotten till Krishna declared it “this day” to His Bhakta and Sakha — Devotee and Friend. Thus also in this Upanishad Saunaka of Maha-salah of the Great House (i.e., the Great Lodge), Devotee and Friend in knowledge and service, approaches Angiras, with proper rite, and addresses him as Bhagavan (Lord) and asks, “What is that through which, if known, everything becomes known?” The answer is Para and Apara Vidya, the Higher and the Lower Knowledge, the latter composed of the Four Vedas and its six limbs, of which we have already written. Here we get not only the relationship between Absolute and Relative Knowledge, but an indication of the pedigree of the expounders of the true Revelation-Shruti.
In the Matsya Purana a still different phase of this doctrine emerges. It speaks of the Manus and Rishis who live and work to maintain unbroken the Arya Dharma (the Noble Law) from falling into decay and ruin and this is done by Them through the constant instruction which They impart to new Egos. They are spoken of as Shistha — those who remain behind to instruct. They have in Their own constitution the Dharma in the form of memory — this is Smriti. The knowledge of the Shishta is Shishtachara. The memory gives the Impulse to Knowledge to manifest itself. In this aspect Masters as Embodiments of the Wisdom, Teachers who are in a very real sense Their own Teaching, come to the fore. It is this Original Impulse of Smriti, Memory of the Great Teachers of the Wisdom-Religion, to which The Secret Doctrine refers:
Events which were never written outside the human memory, but which were religiously transmitted from one generation to another, and from race to race, may have been preserved by constant transmission “within the book volume of the brain,” and through countless æons, with more truth and accuracy than inside any written document or record. 2
From all this it will be evident to the student that real Shruti-Revelation is not a matter of the past but it exists today; further, that such true Revelation, in course of time, falls into the mire of decay, and that from time to time its existence is made known and the subject-matter of its contents freshly explained. Thus arises the strange phenomenon of the co-existence of the true and the false Revelation in many an age, and in our own Theosophical Movement this phenomenon can be contacted, in more than one direction, in the days of H.P.B. herself, as also since her passing away in 1891.
In the Pistis Sophia a very pregnant passage brings a valuable lesson on this subject and we draw the attention of our readers especially to the necessity pointed out about the words fitting and harmonizing in the whole gnosis:
When then Jesus had said this, Mary answered and said: “My Lord, if men go to seek and they come upon the doctrines of error, whence then are they to know whether they belong to thee or not?”
The Savior answered and said unto Mary: “I have said unto you aforetime: ‘Be ye as skillful money-changers. Take the good, throw the bad away.’
“Now, therefore, say unto all men who would seek the godhead: ‘If the north wind cometh, then ye know that there will be cold; if south wind cometh, then ye know that there will be burning and fervent heat.’ Now, therefore, say unto them: ‘If ye have known the face of the heaven and of the earth from the winds, then know ye exactly, if then any come now unto you and proclaim unto you a godhead, whether their words have harmonized and fitted with all your words which I have spoken unto you through two up to three witnesses, and whether they have harmonized in the setting of the air and of the heavens and of the circuits and of the stars and of the light-givers and of the whole earth and all on it and of all waters and all in them.’ Say unto them: ‘Those who shall come unto you, and their words fit and harmonize in the whole gnosis with that which I have said unto you, I will receive as belonging unto us.’ This is what ye shall say unto men, if ye make proclamation unto them in order that they may guard themselves from the doctrines of error.”
Herein the student receives an answer to the question so often asked — how shall we know what teaching is genuinely Theosophical? Any teaching that does not dovetail with the “whole gnosis” must be rejected as non-Theosophical.
Thus the three facets of the Secret Doctrine or Wisdom-Religion are Teaching, Method, Impulse. When Emerson wrote that “the reverence for the Scriptures is an element of civilization, for thus has the history of the world been preserved and is preserved,” he must have had in mind the inner significance of the true Revelation. From “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” of the formal creeds of man-made scriptures we must learn to appeal to the Nature-Laws, more ancient, more majestic, more enduring, as Sophocles’ heroine, Antigone, did; she defying the laws of her state, appealed to
The unwritten laws divine, immutable,
That are not of today or yesterday,
But abide forever, none knowing whence they sprang.
This is not the poetic imagination of Sophocles who himself was inspired by the words of an Attic orator, perhaps Pericles himself — “Not only the written laws, but also those unwritten laws — which no man ever yet had the power to abrogate, or dared to contradict — whoso violates them must pay the penalty not only to man but to the gods.”
H.P.B.’s Message is of the nature of Shishtachara for a sub-cycle and therefore she speaks of the necessity of living true “to its original impulses through the next hundred years.” 3
The Method whereby that impulse is given and should be sustained is hinted at and indicated. H.P.B. claims to be a transmitter, not an originator or author, and that which is transmitted is neither new nor a “revelation” but is “as old as thinking man.” The Secret Doctrine employs the Original Method, imparts the Original Teaching, introduces in our time the Original Impulse. Therefore it is of the nature of Shruti.
1. Lucifer, October, 1889, p. 157.
2. S.D., Vol. II, p. 424.
3. The Key to Theosophy, p. 243.