THEOSOPHY, Vol. 44, No. 3, January, 1956
(Pages 114-118; Size: 14K)
THE ANATHEMAS AGAINST ORIGEN
[Part 5 of a 5-part series]
FEW present-day minds, perhaps, even among the most profound of theological students, are intellectually qualified to penetrate the subtleties of early Christian metaphysics. Even a cursory survey of the anathemas against Origen gives clear indication that the religion of some of the early Church Fathers was both philosophical and complex, and that in addition to its accepted Jewish heritage, it possessed strong elements of both Greek and Oriental cosmogony in its terminology and teaching. Terms such as God, Christ, Logos, Nous, the Trinity, Seraph, Cherub, etc., etc., carried shades of meaning not even suspected by the average Western scholar, but a knowledge of which was held by the ancients to be absolutely necessary for religious understanding.
Anathemas No. VI through IX contain references to many of the metaphysical terms enumerated above, i.e., to the Logos, Nous, the Monad, etc., thus pointing clearly to the philosophical character of Origen's teachings. How is one to account for the general ignorance among religious thinkers of this day with respect to God, Man and Nature? Might it be due to the fact that none of the present-day teachings of theology contain clear and concise statements of the many-sided relationships and differences, the fine distinctions of being-hood, that must necessarily exist between these metaphysical forces of Nature?
Christianity, evidently, has ceased to be a philosophy. In its place have arisen numerous stereotyped creeds and sects, preaching dogmas fit only for minds that are content to believe in literal symbolism. Oriental metaphysics, on the other hand, as also the elaborate system of the Greeks, remain philosophical from beginning to end, possessing clarifying concepts not only of the nature and character of the invisible "gods and angels," but also of their duties and functions on the invisible side of Nature. Real Kosmos, says The Secret Doctrine, is invisible. The phenomena of the material universe are but the effects of causes set in motion by intelligent beings behind the veil of matter. It is the loss, no doubt, of this true pantheistic spirit that has transformed so much of modern thinking into a cold materialism.
It would be a task too difficult, and perhaps too dull, for most inquirers to go into lengthy philosophical definitions of the terms found in the Anathemas against Origen. It is enough to say that such definitions do exist in the nomenclature of Theosophy, recourse to which is open to anyone interested in the subject. (See Secret Doctrine Index.)
It may be worth-while, however, to consider briefly the idea of creation as set forth in Anathema No. VI, together with comparative statements from theosophical teachings:If anyone shall say ... that the world which has in itself elements more ancient than itself, and which exist by themselves, viz: dryness, damp, heat and cold, and the image to which it was formed, was so formed, and that the most holy and consubstantial Trinity did not create the world, but that it was created by the working intelligence which is more ancient than the world, and which communicates to it its being: let him be anathema.The Secret Doctrine admits of no personal God, or Creator, of the Universe.It admits a Logos or a collective "Creator" of the Universe; a Demi-urgos -- in the sense implied when one speaks of an "Architect" as the "Creator" of an edifice, whereas that Architect has never touched one stone of it, but, while furnishing the plan, left all the manual labour to the masons; in our case the plan was furnished by the Ideation of the Universe, and the constructive labour was left to the Hosts of intelligent Powers and Forces. But that Demiurgos is no personal deity, -- i.e., an imperfect extra-cosmic god, -- but only the aggregate of the Dhyan-Chohans and the other forces." (S.D. I, 279-80.)All the elements of which the universe is composed, then, existed in germ before physical nature condensed, "the image to which it was formed" being likewise pre-existent in Universal Mind.
The active Power, the "Perpetual motion of the great Breath" only awakens (not creates) Kosmos at the dawn of every new Period, ... Everything that is, was, and will be, eternally IS, even the countless forms, which are finite and perishable only in their objective, not in their ideal Form. ... Neither the form of man, nor that of any animal, plant or stone has ever been created, and it is only on this plane of ours that it commenced "becoming," i.e., objectivising into its present materiality, or expanding from within outwards, from the most sublimated and supersensuous essence into its grossest appearance. (S.D. I, 282.)
Anathema No. VII depicts the age-old teaching of the journey of the Monad through the kingdoms of Nature, as well as through all forms of life upon this planet. The theosophical teachings of Buddhism touch upon the numberless incarnations of the Buddha, before he was born as Gautama, referring to the same doctrine. The Buddha, representing in this case the Monad, begins a series of incarnations in the lowest forms of life upon the globe, striving ever upward through all classes and degrees of intelligence, and emerging finally into the body of a perfected Man. From this teaching has come the idea underlying every religious concept of the Saviour, or Divine Incarnation. See what Anathema No. VII has to say on this tenet:If anyone shall say that ... to restore them (all those who had fallen) he (Christ) passed through diverse classes, had different bodies and different names, became all to all, an Angel among Angels, a Power among Powers, had clothed himself in the different classes of reasonable beings with a form corresponding to that class, and finally has taken flesh and blood like ours and is become man for man. ... let him be anathema.No impartial student of comparative religions will fail to see in this journey a passage of "the Christ" through the various classes of being, an identity of teaching with that of the five thousand Jatakas (the events of former incarnations) of the Buddha, by way of the Cycle of Necessity as depicted in the Third Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine. This is the "obligatory pilgrimage" for the Divine Soul through every form of the external universe, as well as through all the varying degrees of intelligence. Buddhaship or Christhood, which is the goal of every pilgrim-Soul, implies the experience and assimilation of every degree of knowledge, as of every feeling of joy and sorrow:If anyone says or thinks that at the resurrection, human bodies will rise in spherical form and unlike our present form, let him be anathema. (Justinian's Anathema, No. V.)The ancient Greeks, according to The Ocean of Theosophy, held that the form of man was once globular or spherical in shape. This was at a time prior to the consolidation of the physical universe, when the human race lived in a state of matter more ethereal than the present gross substance. It is held by Oriental metaphysics that every human Ego possesses an invisible form which lasts throughout the period of a Great Cycle, or Manvantara. After each earthly incarnation, at the time of death, and when the physical body has been discarded, the immortal soul, they say, rises invisibly into higher regions, in its permanent ethereal form. Such, says Origen, "shall be the bodies of all after the resurrection," whereupon "the nature of their bodies (physical) shall be annihilated."
Anathemas Nos. XII and XIII show forth the substance of Origen's teaching with respect to the unity of all life. The tragedy of latter-day Christianity is the hard and fast division it has made between good and evil, the separation of God from the devil. No. XII reads:If anyone shall say that the heavenly Powers and all men and the Devil and evil spirits are united with the Word of God in all respects, as the NOUS which is by them called Christ and which is in the form of God, let him be anathema.While No. XIII holds thatIf anyone shall say that the Christ (i.e., the NOUS) is in no wise different from other reasonable beings, neither substantially nor by wisdom nor by his power and might over all things but that all will be placed at the right hand of God, as well as he that is called by them Christ (the NOUS), as also they were in the feigned pre-existence of all things: let him be anathema.The ancient Latin phrase, Demon est Deus inversus implies that one cannot properly make a separation between spirit and matter, between God and Devil, or between Christ and Satan. All are identical in essential nature, in any true doctrine of universal brotherhood. It may be pleasant for pious bigots to visualize themselves at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, while their less fortunate brothers suffer the pangs of eternal damnation, but a more pernicious doctrine has never been conceived by the human mind. The point is that this view was utterly unknown to early philosophical Christianity.
The difference between a Christ and a sinner is a difference in degree, not in kind. The lowest of creatures, according to Esoteric Philosophy, contains in himself all the potentialities of the whole. Is this not implied in the teachings of Jesus, where He says:Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (I Cor. 3:16)In closing this study, it will be worth-while to compare the "noble" sentiments of Justinian's Anathema No. IX with those expressed by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. Justinian declared:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:48)If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.Fortunately, the curses of the Holy Church, even though sanctioned and upheld by the civil law of Justinian, are not enough to upset the Laws of Nature instituted from all eternity, nor to condemn protesters and unbelievers to bottomless pits of fire and brimstone. Among the numberless rituals, dogmas, and ceremonies borrowed from Paganism, the Church, says H. P. Blavatsky, "can claim but one invention as thoroughly original with her -- namely, the doctrine of eternal damnation, and one custom, that of the anathema."
Thinking human beings, if only they would think, would ever be moved by conscience, and by the force of their awakened sense of justice, to repudiate both these inventions. In the meantime, the impersonal Law of Karma, unmoved either by curse or by dogmatism, will continue to serve those who work with it, and to lead on even the "sinner" to the far-away heights of perfection.Even if thou wert the greatest of all sinners, thou shalt be able to cross over all sins in the bark of spiritual knowledge.
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:
There was a striking naturalness, a profound propriety, in the obscurities of secrecy and awe with which the ancient Mysteries shrouded from a rash curiosity their instructions concerning the future life and only unfolded them by careful degrees to the prepared candidate. It is so with the reality itself in the nature of things.
Revelation is not to receive an announcement; it is to perceive a truth. Since God is infinite, we cannot stand out against him and talk with him. Souls in finer and fuller harmony with the works and laws of God, thus fulfilling the human condition of inspiration, are met by the divine conditions, and obtain new insight of the ways and designs of God. They experience purer and richer ideas and emotions than others, and may afterwards impart them to others, thus transmitting the revelation to them. ... This new enlightenment is what alone constitutes a true revelation.
--WILLIAM R. ALGER
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