THEOSOPHY, Vol. 43, No. 2, December, 1954
(Pages 65-68; Size: 12K)
(Number 2 of a 3-part series)
A STUDY IN PREFACES
IN addition to a preface, named as such, The Secret Doctrine has an Introductory and a Proem, and both these terms, according to Webster are listed among the definitions of "preface" and as synonyms of it. That H.P.B. herself regarded her Introductory as an extended preface and as an adjunct to her Preface is borne out on page xxxviii:Such a work as this has to be introduced with no simple Preface, but with a volume rather; one that would give facts, not mere disquisitions, since the SECRET DOCTRINE is not a treatise, or a series of vague theories, but contains all that can be given out to the world in this century.As already stated, the prefaces to the books of the Teachers are marked by two outstanding pronouncements in reference to the source of Theosophy. One is the physical, objective source, which consists of unbroken records of the Adept-Custodians of this Wisdom extending back to the very night of time; the other is the spiritual, subjective source: the Universal Mind and the Immortal Spirit of MAN HIMSELF. The Introductory deals very largely with the objective records and their long and checkered history. According to the exigencies of the times and the moral condition of the race, the vast bulk of the occult records -- especially those containing clues to powers -- were sometimes generally accessible, sometimes withdrawn and concealed from all but a responsible few. The choice was made, H.P.B. says, by the Adepts, who, knowing the tendency of the cycle, acted in the best interest of their younger brothers, average humanity. There were, of course, others who destroyed accessibility, as at the time of the rise of the Christian churches when, in order to establish sacerdotal authority and claims to unique revelations, the priesthood deliberately obliterated monuments, books, and as many evidences of the existence of an immemorial Wisdom-Religion as they could lay their hands on.
The Introductory to The Secret Doctrine refers to "a very old book" to which all the great world scriptures can be traced, and which appears to be the primary source and record of wisdom for our present Fifth-Race Humanity. This very old book is also mentioned in the first paragraph of Isis Unveiled. We are there told that:There exists somewhere in this wide world an old Book -- so very old that our modern antiquarians might ponder over its pages an indefinite time, and still not quite agree as to the nature of the fabric upon which it is written. It is the only original copy now in existence.The Secret Doctrine reference is more detailed, declaring that this Book is the original from which all the great world scriptures were derived, also containing the moral kernel of the history of the human races thus far during the present Round. We quote from the Introductory, page xliii:The "very old Book" is the original work from which the many volumes of Kiu-ti were compiled. Not only this latter and the Siphrah Dzeniouta but even the Sepher Jezirah, the work attributed by the Hebrew Kabalists to their Patriarch Abraham (!), the book of Shu-king, China's primitive Bible, the sacred volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes, the Purânas in India, and the Chaldean Book of Numbers and the Pentateuch itself, are all derived from that one small parent volume. Tradition says, that it was taken down in Senzar, the secret sacerdotal tongue, from the words of the Divine Beings, who dictated it to the sons of Light, in Central Asia, at the very beginning of the 5th (our) race; for there was a time when its language (the Sen-zar) was known to the Initiates of every nation, when the forefathers of the Toltec understood it as easily as the inhabitants of the lost Atlantis, who inherited it, in their turn, from the sages of the 3rd Race, the Manushis, who learnt it direct from the Devas of the 2nd and 1st Races. The "illustration" spoken of in "Isis" relates to the evolution of these Races and of our 4th and 5th Race Humanity in the Vaivasvata Manvantara or "Round;" each Round being composed of the Yugas of the seven periods of Humanity; four of which are now passed in our life cycle, the middle point of the 5th being nearly reached. The illustration is symbolical, as every one can well understand, and covers the ground from the beginning. The old book, having described Cosmic Evolution and explained the origin of everything on earth, including physical man, after giving the true history of the races from the First down to the Fifth (our) race, goes no further. It stops short at the beginning of the Kali Yuga just 4989 years ago at the death of Krishna, the bright "Sun-god," the once living hero and reformer.This throws light on the true origin of "revelation," which has been perverted by those who let go their hold on Ariadne's thread and so lost the way in the labyrinth of matter, settling for special revelations from an imagined personal deity. In the Proem (pp. 9-10), we read: "The Occultist accepts revelation as coming from divine yet still finite Beings, the manifested lives, never from the Unmanifestable ONE LIFE; from those entities, called Primordial Man, Dhyani-Buddhas, or Dhyan-Chohans, the 'Rishi- Prajâpati' of the Hindus, the Elohim or 'Sons of God,' the Planetary Spirits of all nations, who have become Gods for men." The Introductory reveals the existence of still another and comparatively recent book. It contains, it is said, the occult record and history of humanity during a historical period of about five-thousand years -- and it covers the fateful history of the very times we live in, including prophecies of the Karmic outcome. The Secret Doctrine continues (Intro., p. xliii):But there exists another book. None of its possessors regard it as very ancient, as it was born with, and is only as old as the Black Age, namely, about 5,000 years. In about nine years hence, the first cycle of the first five millenniums, that began with the great cycle of the Kali-Yuga, will end. And then the last prophecy contained in that book (the first volume of the prophetic record for the Black Age) will be accomplished. We have not long to wait, and many of us will witness the Dawn of the New Cycle, at the end of which not a few accounts will be settled and squared between the races. Volume II of the Prophecies is nearly ready, having been in preparation since the time of Buddha's grand successor, Sankarâchârya.Not only is the occult history of humanity thus brought up to date, but the unbroken line of Adept Teachers and Custodians is conceived as a living, ever-present fact. This declaration, perhaps, opens a channel through which Their help and protection may more effectively reach us. Such seems to be implicit in the reference to the Adepts of 1888 on page xlv:The Initiates of 1888 would indeed remain incomprehensible and ever a seemingly impossible myth, were not like Initiates shown to have lived in every other age of history. This could be done only by naming Chapter and Verse where may be found mention of these great characters, who were preceded and followed by a long and interminable line of other famous Antediluvian and Postdiluvian Masters in the arts. Thus only could be shown, on semi-traditional and semi-historical authority, that knowledge of the Occult and the powers it confers on man, are not altogether fictions,...In the Proem the surety is given that, abstruse as the occult teachings often are, Man has it in his power to rise to direct soul-perception of their verity, and that this perception expands and deepens as one's approach to the Teachings springs from a pure motive and a firm desire to help others. Man has the power to apprehend universals, and such universal, inherent, and basic ideas are posited in the Three Fundamental Propositions of The Secret Doctrine --which H.P.B. presents as such in the Proem (p. 13) to her monumental work. In her words:Before the reader proceeds to the consideration of the Stanzas from the Book of Dzyan which form the basis of the present work, it is absolutely necessary that he should be made acquainted with the few fundamental conceptions which underlie and pervade the entire system of thought to which his attention is invited. These basic ideas are few in number, and on their clear apprehension depends the understanding of all that follows; therefore no apology is required for asking the reader to make himself familiar with them first, before entering on the perusal of the work itself.After presenting these axiomatic concepts, the author concludes (p. 20):Such are the basic conceptions on which the Secret Doctrine rests.The final source and authority, then, is MAN as an Immortal Thinker and a Being of moral power.
It would not be in place here to enter upon any defence or proof of their inherent reasonableness; nor can I pause to show how they are, in fact, contained -- though too often under a misleading guise -- in every system of thought or philosophy worthy of the name.
Once that the reader has gained a clear comprehension of them and realised the light which they throw on every problem of life, they will need no further justification in his eyes, because their truth will be to him as evident as the sun in heaven.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
I think immortality is the passing of a soul through many lives or experiences; and such as are truly lived, used and learned, help on to the next, each growing richer, happier, and higher, carrying with it only the real memories of what has gone before.
I seem to remember former states, and feel that in them I have learned some of the lessons that have never been mine here, and in my next step I hope to leave behind many of the trials I have struggled to bear here and begin to find lightened as I go on. This accounts for the genius and great virtue some show here. They have done well in many phases of this great school and bring into our class the virtue or the gifts that make them great or good. We don't remember the lesser things. They slip away as childish trifles, and we carry only the real experiences.
--LOUISA MAY ALCOTT
A STUDY IN PREFACES
(Part 3 of a 3-part series)
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