THEOSOPHY, Vol. 56, No. 4, February, 1968
(Pages 105-110; Size: 18K)
(Number 4 of a 36-part series)


PAGAN ROOTS: Christian Dogmas

THE ancient Kabala, the Gnosis, or traditional secret knowledge, was never without its representatives in any age or country. The trinities of initiates, whether passed into history or concealed under the impenetrable veil of mystery, are preserved and impressed throughout the ages.... Who, of those who ever studied the ancient philosophies, who understand intuitionally the grandeur of their conceptions, the boundless sublimity of their views of the Unknown Deity, can hesitate for a moment to give the preference to their doctrines over the incomprehensible dogmatic and contradictory theology of the hundreds of Christian sects? Who that ever read Plato and fathomed his [words] "whom no person has seen except the Son," can doubt that Jesus was a disciple of the same secret doctrine which had instructed the great philosopher? For, as we have shown before now, Plato never claimed to be the inventor of all that he wrote, but gave credit for it to Pythagoras, who, in his turn, pointed to the remote East as the source whence he derived his information and his philosophy. Colebrooke shows that Plato confesses it in his epistles, and says that he has taken his teachings from ancient and sacred doctrines! Moreover, it is undeniable that the theologies of all the great nations dovetail together and show that each is a part of "one stupendous whole." Like the rest of the initiates we see Plato taking great pains to conceal the true meaning of his allegories. Every time the subject touches the greater secrets of the Oriental Kabala, secret of the true cosmogony of the universe and of the ideal, preëxisting world, Plato shrouds his philosophy in the profoundest darkness. His Timæus is so confused that no one but an initiate can understand the secret meaning. And Mosheim thinks that Philo has filled his works with passages directly contradicting each other for the sole purpose of concealing the true doctrine. For once we see a critic on the right track.

And this very trinitarian idea, as well as the so bitterly denounced doctrine of emanations, whence their remotest origin? The answer is easy, and every proof is now at hand. In the sublime and profoundest of all philosophies, that of the universal "Wisdom-Religion," the first traces of which, historical research now finds in the old pre-Vedic religion of India. As the much-abused Jacolliot well remarks, "It is not in the religious works of antiquity, such as the Vedas, the Zend Avesta, the Bible, that we have to search for the exact expression of the ennobling and sublime beliefs of those epochs."

"The holy primitive syllable, composed of the three letters AUM., in which is contained the Vedic Trimurti (Trinity), must be kept secret, like another triple Veda," says Manu, in book xi., sloka 265.

Swayambhouva is the unrevealed Deity; it is the Being existent through and of itself; he is the central and immortal germ of all that exists in the universe. Three trinities emanate and are confounded in him, forming a Supreme unity. These trinities, or the triple Trimurti, are: the Nara, Nari, and Viradyi -- the initial triad; the Agni, Vaya, and Sourya -- the manifested triad; Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, the creative triad. Each of these triads becomes less metaphysical and more adapted to the vulgar intelligence as it descends. Thus the last becomes but the symbol in its concrete expression; the necessarianism of a purely metaphysical conception. Together with Swayambhouva, they are the ten Sephiroth of the Hebrew kabalists, the ten Hindu Prajapatis -- the En-Soph of the former, answering to the great Unknown, expressed by the mystic A U M of the latter.

Says Franck, the translator of the Kabala:

"The ten Sephiroth are divided into three classes, each of them presenting to us the divinity under a different aspect, the whole still remaining an indivisible Trinity.

"The first three Sephiroth are purely intellectual in metaphysics, they express the absolute identity of existence and thought, and form what the modern kabalists called the intelligible world -- which is the first manifestation of God.

"The three that follow, make us conceive God in one of their aspects, as the identity of goodness and wisdom; in the other they show to us, in the Supreme good, the origin of beauty and magnificence (in the creation). Therefore, they are named the virtues, or the sensible world.

"Finally, we learn, by the last three Sephiroth, that the Universal Providence, that the Supreme artist is also absolute Force, the all-powerful cause, and that, at the same time, this cause is the generative element of all that is. It is these last Sephiroth that constitute the natural world, or nature in its essence and in its active principle. Natura naturans."

This kabalistic conception is thus proved identical with that of the Hindu philosophy. Whoever reads Plato and his Dialogue Timæus, will find these ideas as faithfully re-echoed by the Greek philosopher. Moreover, the injunction of secrecy was as strict with the kabalists, as with the initiates of the Adyta and the Hindu Yogis.

"Close thy mouth, lest thou shouldst speak of this (the mystery), and thy heart, lest thou shouldst think aloud; and if thy heart has escaped thee, bring it back to its place, for such is the object of our alliance" (Sepher Jezireh, Book of Creation).

"This is a secret which gives death: close thy mouth lest thou shouldst reveal to the vulgar; compress thy brain lest something should escape from it and fall outside" (Agrouchada-Parikshai).

Truly the fate of many a future generation hung on a gossamer thread, in the days of the third and fourth centuries. Had not the Emperor sent in 389 to Alexandria a rescript -- which was forced from him by the Christians -- for the destruction of every idol, our own century would never have had a Christian mythological Pantheon of its own. Never did the Neo-platonic school reach such a height of philosophy as when nearest its end. Uniting the mystic theosophy of old Egypt with the refined philosophy of the Greeks; nearer to the ancient Mysteries of Thebes and Memphis than they had been for centuries; versed in the science of soothsaying and divination, as in the art of the Therapeutists; friendly with the acutest men of the Jewish nation, who were deeply imbued with the Zoroastrian ideas, the Neo-platonists tended to amalgamate the old wisdom of the Oriental Kabala with the more refined conceptions of the Occidental Theosophists. Notwithstanding the treason of the Christians, who saw fit, for political reasons, after the days of Constantine, to repudiate their tutors, the influence of the new Platonic philosophy is conspicuous in the subsequent adoption of dogmas, the origin of which can be traced but too easily to that remarkable school. Though mutilated and disfigured, they still preserve a strong family likeness, which nothing can obliterate.

But, if the knowledge of the occult powers of nature opens the spiritual sight of man, enlarges his intellectual faculties, and leads him unerringly to a profounder veneration for the Creator, on the other hand ignorance, dogmatic narrow-mindedness, and a childish fear of looking to the bottom of things, invariably leads to fetish-worship and superstition.

When Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria, had openly embraced the cause of Isis, the Egyptian goddess, and had anthropomorphized her into Mary, the mother of God; and the trinitarian controversy had taken place; from that moment the Egyptian doctrine of the emanation of the creative God out of Emepht began to be tortured in a thousand ways, until the Councils had agreed upon the adoption of it as it now stands -- the disfigured Ternary of the kabalistic Solomon and Philo! But as its origin was yet too evident, the Word was no longer called the "Heavenly man," the primal Adam Kadmon, but became the Logos -- Christ, and was made as old as the "Ancient of the Ancient," his father. The concealed WISDOM became identical with its emanation, the DIVINE THOUGHT, and made to be regarded coëqual and coëternal with its first manifestation.

If we now stop to consider another of the fundamental dogmas of Christianity, the doctrine of atonement, we may trace it as easily back to heathendom. This corner-stone of a Church which had believed herself built on a firm rock for long centuries, is now excavated by science and proved to come from the Gnostics. Professor Draper shows it as hardly known in the days of Tertullian, and as having "originated among the Gnostic heretics." We will not permit ourselves to contradict such a learned authority, farther than to state that it originated among them no more than their "anointed" Christos and Sophia. The former they modelled on the original of the "King Messiah," the male principle of wisdom, and the latter on the third Sephiroth, from the Chaldean Kabala, and even from the Hindu Brahma and Sara-âsvati, and the Pagan Dionysus and Demeter. And here we are on firm ground, if it were only because it is now proved that the New Testament never appeared in its complete form, such as we find it now, till 300 years after the period of apostles, and the Sohar and other kabalistic books are found to belong to the first century before our era, if not to be far older still.

The Gnostics entertained many of the Essenean ideas; and the Essenes had their "greater" and "minor" Mysteries at least two centuries before our era. They were the Isarim or Initiates, the descendants of the Egyptian hierophants, in whose country they had been settled for several centuries before they were converted to Buddhistic monasticism by the missionaries of King Asoka, and amalgamated later with the earliest Christians; and they existed, probably, before the old Egyptian temples were desecrated and ruined in the incessant invasions of Persians, Greeks, and other conquering hordes. The hierophants had their atonement enacted in the Mystery of Initiation ages before the Gnostics, or even the Essenes, had appeared. It was known among hierophants as the BAPTISM OF BLOOD, and was considered not as an atonement for the "fall of man" in Eden, but simply as an expiation for the past, present, and future sins of ignorant but nevertheless polluted mankind. The hierophant had the option of either offering his pure and sinless life as a sacrifice for his race to the gods whom he hoped to rejoin, or an animal victim. The former depended entirely on their own will. At the last moment of the solemn "new birth," the initiator passed "the word" to the initiated, and immediately after that the latter had a weapon placed in his right hand, and was ordered to strike. (For explanatory note, see THEOSOPHY 55: 43-5.) This is the true origin of the Christian dogma of atonement.

Verily the "Christs" of the pre-Christian ages were many. But they died unknown to the world, and disappeared as silently and as mysteriously from the sight of man as Moses from the top of Pisgah, the mountain of Nebo (oracular wisdom), after he had laid his hands upon Joshua, who thus became "full of the spirit of wisdom" (i.e., initiated).

Nor does the Mystery of the Eucharist pertain to Christians alone. Godfrey Higgins proves that it was instituted many hundreds of years before the "Paschal Supper," and says that "the sacrifice of bread and wine was common to many ancient nations." Cicero mentions it in his works, and wonders at the strangeness of the rite. There had been an esoteric meaning attached to it from the first establishment of the Mysteries, and the Eucharistia is one of the oldest rites of antiquity. With the hierophants it had nearly the same significance as with the Christians. Ceres was bread, and Bacchus was wine; the former meaning regeneration of life from the seed, and the latter -- the grape -- the emblem of wisdom and knowledge; the accumulation of the spirit of things, and the fermentation and subsequent strength of that esoteric knowledge being justly symbolized by wine. The mystery related to the drama of Eden; it is said to have been first taught by Janus, who was also the first to introduce in the temples the sacrifices of "bread" and "wine" in commemoration of the "fall into generation" as the symbol of the "seed." "I am the vine, and my father is the husbandman," says Jesus, alluding to the secret knowledge that could be imparted by him. "I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

The festival of the Eleusinian Mysteries began in the month of Boëdromion, which corresponds with the month of September, the time of grape-gathering, and lasted from the 15th to the 22nd of the month, seven days. The Hebrew festival of the Feast of Tabernacles began on the 15th and ended on the 22nd of the month of Ethanim, which Dunlap shows as derived from Adonim, Adonia, Attenim, Ethanim; and this feast is named in Exodus (23:16) the feast of ingatherings. "All the men of Israel assembled unto King Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh."

The dance performed by David round the ark was the "circle-dance" said to have been prescribed by the Amazons for the Mysteries. Such was the dance of the daughters of Shiloh (Judges 21:21, 23 et passim), and the leaping of the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:26). It was simply a characteristic of the Sabean worship, for it denoted the motion of the planets round the sun. That the dance was a Bacchic frenzy is apparent. Sistra were used on the occasion, and the taunt of Michael and the king's reply are very expressive. "The king of Israel uncovered himself before his maid-servants as one of the vain (or debauched) fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself." And he retorts. "I will play (act wantonly) before , and I will be yet more vile than this, and I will be base in my own sight." When we remember that David had sojourned among the Tyrians and Philistines, where their rites were common; and that indeed he had conquered that land away from the house of Saul, by the aid of mercenaries from their country, the countenancing and even, perhaps, the introduction of such a Pagan-like worship by the weak "psalmist" seems very natural. David knew nothing of Moses, it seems, and if he introduced the Jehovah-worship it was not in its monotheistic character, but simply as that of one of the many gods of the neighboring nations -- a tutelary deity to whom he had given the preference, and chosen among "all other gods."

Next article:
PAGAN ROOTS: The Trinity
(Part 5 of a 36-part series)

Back to the
"Christianity in the Light of Theosophy"
complete list of articles.

Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".


(1) NOTE.--"The Christian Scheme," begun in November, 1967, is collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky. It recounts the historical background and early development of Christianity.
Back to text.

Main Page | Introductory Brochure | Volume 1--> Setting the Stage
Karma and Reincarnation | Science | Education | Economics | Race Relations
The WISDOM WORLD | World Problems & Solutions | The People*s Voice | Misc.