THEOSOPHY, Vol. 55, No. 11, September, 1967
(Pages 331-341; Size: 31K)



[Part 11 of a 12-part series]

A VERY old religion is but a chapter or two of the entire volume of archaic primeval mysteries -- Eastern Occultism alone being able to boast that it is in possession of the full secret, with its seven keys. ... Like the Universe itself, Science is ever becoming, and can never say, "I am that I am." On the other hand, Occult Science has its changeless traditions from pre-historic times. It may err in particulars; it can never become guilty of a mistake in questions of Universal laws, simply because that Science, justly referred to by philosophy as the "divine," was born on higher planes, and was brought on Earth by beings who were wiser than man will be, even in the seventh Race of his Seventh Round.

Among the numerous sciences pursued by the well-disciplined army of earnest students of the present century, none has had less honours or more scoffing than the oldest of them -- the science of sciences, the venerable mother-parent of all our modern pigmies. Anxious in their petty vanity to throw the veil of oblivion over their undoubted origin, the self-styled positive scientists, ever on the alert, present to the courageous scholar who tries to deviate from the beaten highway traced out for him by his dogmatic predecessors, a formidable range of serious obstacles.

As a rule, Occultism is a dangerous, double-edged weapon for one to handle who is unprepared to devote his whole life to it. The theory of it, unaided by serious practice, will ever remain in the eyes of those prejudiced against such an unpopular cause an idle, crazy speculation, fit only to charm the ears of ignorant old women. ... In relation to the Kabalah, or the compound mystic text-book of the great secrets of Nature, we do not know of anyone in the present century who could have commanded a sufficient dose of that moral courage which fires the heart of the true Adept with the sacred flame of propagandism, to force him into defying public opinion by displaying familiarity with that sublime work. Ridicule is the deadliest weapon of the age, and while we read in the records of history of thousands of martyrs who joyfully braved flames and faggots in support of their mystic doctrines in the past centuries, we would scarcely be likely to find one individual in the present times who would be brave enough even to defy ridicule by seriously undertaking to prove the great truths embraced in the traditions of the Past.

As an instance of the above, I will mention the article on Rosicrucianism, signed "Hiraf." ... "Hiraf" doubts whether there are in existence, in England or elsewhere, what we term regular colleges for the neophytes of this Secret Science. I will say from personal knowledge that such places there are in the East -- in India, Asia Minor, and other countries. As in the primitive days of Socrates and other sages of antiquity, so now, those who are willing to learn the Great Truth will ever find the chance if they only "try" to meet some one to lead them to the door of one "who knows when and how." If "Hiraf" is right about the seventh rule of the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, which says that "the Rose-crux becomes and is not made," he may err as to the exceptions which have ever existed among other Brotherhoods devoted to the pursuit of the same secret knowledge. Then again, when he asserts, as he does, that Rosicrucianism is almost forgotten, we may answer him that we do not wonder at it, and add, by way of parenthesis, that, strictly speaking, the Rosicrucians do not now even exist, the last of that fraternity having departed in the person of Cagliostro.

"Hiraf" ought to add to the word Rosicrucianism "that particular sect" at least, for it was but a sect after all, one of many branches of the same tree.

By forgetting to specify that particular denomination and by including under the name of Rosicrucians all those who, devoting their lives to Occultism congregated together in Brotherhoods, "Hiraf" commits an error by which he may unwittingly lead people to believe that the Rosicrucians having disappeared, there are no more Kabalists practising Occultism on the face of the earth. He also becomes thereby guilty of an anachronism, attributing to the Rosicrucians the building of the pyramids and other majestic monuments, which indelibly exhibit in their architecture the symbols of the grand religions of the past. For it is not so. If the main object in view was, and still is, alike, with all the great family of the ancient and modern Kabalists, the dogmas and formulæ of certain sects differ greatly. Springing one after the other from the great Oriental mother-root, they scattered broadcast all over the world, and each of them desiring to out-rival the other by plunging deeper and deeper into the secrets jealously guarded by Nature, some of them became guilty of the greatest heresies against the primitive Oriental Kabalah.

While the first followers of the secret sciences, taught to the Chaldæans by nations whose very name was never breathed in history, remained stationary in their studies, having arrived at the maximum, the Omega of the knowledge permitted to man, many of the subsequent sects separated from them, and, in their uncontrollable thirst for more knowledge, trespassed beyond the boundaries of truth and fell into fictions. In consequence of Pythagoras -- so says Jamblichus -- having by sheer force of energy and daring penetrated into the mysteries of the Temple of Thebes, obtained therein his initiation and afterwards studied the sacred sciences in Egypt for twenty-two years, many foreigners were subsequently admitted to share the knowledge of the wise men of the East, who, as a consequence, had many of their secrets divulged. Later still, unable to preserve them in their purity, these mysteries were so mixed up with fictions and fables of the Grecian mythology that truth was wholly distorted.

As the primitive Christian religion divided, in course of time, into numerous sects, so the science of Occultism gave birth to a variety of doctrines and various brotherhoods. So the Egyptian Ophites became the Christian Gnostics, shooting forth the Basilideans of the second century, and the original Rosicrucians created subsequently the Paracelsists, or Fire Philosophers, the European Alchemists, and other physical branches of their sect. (See Hargrave Jennings' Rosicrucians.) To call indifferently every Kabalist a Rosicrucian, is to commit the same error as if we were to call every Christian a Baptist on the ground that the latter are also Christians.

The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross was not founded until the middle of the thirteenth century, and notwithstanding the assertions of the learned Mosheim, it derives its name neither from the Latin word Ros (dew), nor from a cross, the symbol of Lux. The origin of the Brotherhood can be ascertained by any earnest, genuine student of Occultism, who happens to travel in Asia Minor, if he chooses to fall in with some of the Brotherhood, and if he is willing to devote himself to the head-tiring work of deciphering a Rosicrucian manuscript -- the hardest thing in the world -- for it is carefully preserved in the archives of the very Lodge which was founded by the first Kabalist of that name, but which now goes by another name. The founder of it, a German Ritter, of the name Rosencranz, was a man who, after acquiring a very suspicious reputation through the practice of the Black Art in his native place, reformed in consequence of a vision. Giving up his evil practices, he made a solemn vow, and went on foot to Palestine, in order to make his amende honorable at the Holy Sepulchre. Once there, the Christian God, the meek, but well-informed Nazarene -- trained as he was in the high school of the Essenians, those virtuous descendants of the botanical as well as astrological and magical Chaldæans -- appeared to Rosencranz, a Christian would say, in a vision, but I would suggest, in the shape of a materialized spirit. The purport of this visitation, as well as the subject of their conversation, remained for ever a mystery to many of the Brethren; but immediately after that, the ex-sorcerer and Ritter disappeared, and was heard of no more till the mysterious sect of Rosicrucians was added to the family of Kabalists, and their powers aroused popular attention, even among the Eastern populations, indolent and accustomed as they are to live among wonders. The Rosicrucians strove to combine together the most various branches of Occultism, and they soon became renowned for the extreme purity of their lives and their extraordinary powers, as well as for their knowledge of the secret of secrets.

As alchemists and conjurers they became proverbial. Later (I need not inform "Hiraf" precisely when, as we drink at two different sources of knowledge), they gave birth to the more modern Theosophists, at whose head was Paracelsus, and to the Alchemists, one of the most celebrated of whom was Thomas Vaughan (seventeenth century), who wrote the most practical things on Occultism under the name of Eugenius Philalethes. I know and can prove that Vaughan was, most positively, "made before he became."

The Rosicrucian Kabalah is but an epitome of the Jewish and the Oriental ones, combined, the latter being the most secret of all. The Oriental Kabalah, the practical, full, and only existing copy, is carefully preserved at the headquarters of this Brotherhood in the East, and, I may safely vouch, will never come out of its possession. Its very existence has been doubted by many of the European Rosicrucians. One who wants "to become" has to hunt for his knowledge through thousands of scattered volumes, and pick up facts and lessons, bit by bit. Unless he takes the nearest way and consents "to be made," he will never become a practical Kabalist, and with all his learning will remain at the threshold of the "mysterious gate." The Kabalah may be used and its truths imparted on a smaller scale now than it was in antiquity, and the existence of the mysterious Lodge, on account of its secrecy, doubted, but it does exist and has lost none of the primitive secret powers of the ancient Chaldæans. The lodges, few in number, are divided into sections and known but to the Adepts; no one would be likely to find them out, unless the Sages themselves found the neophyte worthy of initiation. Unlike the European Rosicrucians -- who, in order "to become and not to be made," have constantly put into practice the word of St. John, who says, "Heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force," and who have struggled alone, violently robbing Nature of her secrets -- the Oriental Rosicrucians (for such we will call them, being denied the right to pronounce their true name), in the serene beatitude of their divine knowledge, are ever ready to help the earnest student struggling "to become" with practical knowledge, which dissipates the blackest clouds of sceptical doubt.

"Hiraf" is right again when he says that "knowing that their mysteries, if divulged, in the present chaotic state of society, would produce mere confusion and death," they shut up that knowledge within themselves. Heirs to the early heavenly wisdom of their first forefathers, they keep the keys which unlock the most guarded of Nature's secrets, and impart them only gradually and with the greatest caution. But still they do impart sometimes.

When our learned author asserts so dogmatically that the Rosicrucian learns, though he never uses, the secret of immortality in earthly life, he asserts only what he himself, in his practical inexperience, thinks impossible. The words "never" and "impossible" ought to be erased from the dictionary of humanity, until the time at least when the great Kabalah shall all be solved, and so rejected or accepted. The Count St. Germain is, until this very time, a living mystery, and the Rosicrucian Thomas Vaughan another one. The countless authorities we have in literature, as well as in oral tradition (which sometimes is the more trustworthy), about this wonderful Count's having been met and recognized in different centuries, is no myth. Anyone who admits one of the practical truths of the occult sciences taught by the Kabalah tacitly admits them all. It must be Hamlet's "to be or not to be," and if the Kabalah is true, then St. Germain need be no myth.

But I am digressing from my object, which is, firstly, to show the slight differences between the two Kabalahs, that of the Rosicrucians and the Oriental one; and, secondly, to say that the hope expressed by "Hiraf" to see the subject better appreciated at some future day than it has been till now, may perhaps become more than a hope.

The first Kabalah in which a mortal man ever dared to explain the greatest mysteries of the universe, and show the keys to "those masked doors in the ramparts of Nature through which no mortal can ever pass without rousing dread sentries never seen upon this side her wall," was compiled by a certain Simeon Ben Iochai, who lived at the time of the second Temple's destruction. Only about thirty years after the death of this renowned Kabalist, his MSS. and written explanations, which had till then remained in his possession as a most precious secret, were used by his son Rabbi Elizzar and other learned men. Making a compilation of the whole, they so produced the famous work called Sohar (God's splendour). This book proved an inexhaustible mine for all the subsequent Kabalists, their source of information and knowledge, and all more recent and genuine Kabalahs were more or less carefully copied from the former. Before that, all the mysterious doctrines had come down in an unbroken line of merely oral tradition as far back as man could trace himself on earth. They were scrupulously and jealously guarded by the wise men of Chaldæa, India, Persia and Egypt, and passed from one Initiate to another, in the same purity of form as when handed down to the first man by the angels, students of God's great Theosophic Seminary. For the first time since the world's creation, the secret doctrines, passing through Moses who was initiated in Egypt, underwent some slight alterations.

In consequence of the personal ambition of this great prophet-medium, he succeeded in passing off his familiar spirit, the wrathful "Jehovah," for the spirit of God himself, and so won undeserved laurels and honours. The same influence prompted him to alter some of the principles of the great oral Kabalah in order to make them the more secret. These principles were laid out in symbols by him in the first four books of the Pentateuch, but for some mysterious reasons he withheld them from Deuteronomy. Having initiated his seventy Elders in his own way, the latter could give but what they had received themselves, and so was prepared the first opportunity for heresy, and the erroneous interpretation of the symbols. While the Oriental Kabalah remained in its pure primitive shape, the Mosaic or Jewish one was full of drawbacks, and the keys to many of the secrets -- forbidden by the Mosaic law -- purposely misinterpreted. The powers conferred by it on the Initiates were formidable still, and of all the most renowned Kabalists, King Solomon and his bigoted parent, David, notwithstanding his penitential psalms, were the most powerful. But still the doctrine remained secret and purely oral, until, as I have said before, the days of the second Temple's destruction. Philologically speaking, the very word Kabalah is from two Hebrew words, meaning to receive, as in former times the Initiate received it orally and directly from his Master, and the very book of the Sohar was written out on received information, which was handed down as an unvarying stereotyped tradition by the Orientals, and altered, through the ambition of Moses, by the Jews.

*  *  *

Would-be aspirants must not lure themselves with the idea of any possibility of their becoming practical Occultists by mere book-knowledge. The works of the Hermetic philosophers were never intended for the masses, as Mr. Charles Sotheran, a learned member of the Society Rosæ Crucis, in a late essay observes:

Gabriel Rossetti in his disquisitions on the anti-papal spirit which produced the Reformation shows that the art of speaking and writing in a language which bears a double interpretation is of very great antiquity, that it was in practice among the priests of Egypt, brought thence by the Manichees, whence it passed to the Templars and Albigenses, spread over Europe, and brought about the Reformation.
The ablest book that was ever written on Symbols and Mystic Orders, is most certainly Hargrave Jennings' The Rosicrucians, and yet it has been repeatedly called "obscure trash" in my presence, and that too, by individuals who were most decidedly well-versed in the rites and mysteries of modern Freemasonry. Persons who lack even the latter knowledge, can easily infer from this what would be the amount of information they might derive from still more obscure and mystical works; for if we compare Hargrave Jennings' book with some of the mediæval treatises and ancient works of the most noted Alchemists and Magi, we might find the latter as much more obscure than the former -- as regards language -- as a pupil in celestial philosophy would find the Book of the Heavens, if he should examine a far distant star with the naked eye, rather than with the help of a powerful telescope.

But to particularize one or another book on Occultism, to those who are anxious to begin their studies in the hidden mysteries of nature, is something the responsibility of which I am not prepared to assume. What may be clear to one who is intuitional, if read in the same book by another person might prove meaningless. Unless one is prepared to devote to it his whole life, the superficial knowledge of Occult Sciences will lead him surely to become the target for millions of ignorant scoffers to aim their blunderbusses loaded with ridicule and chaff against. Besides this, it is in more than one way dangerous to select this science as a mere pastime. One must bear for ever in mind the impressive fable of OEdipus, and beware of the same consequences. OEdipus unriddled but one-half of the enigma offered him by the Sphinx and caused its death; the other half of the mystery avenged the death of the symbolic monster, and forced the King of Thebes to prefer blindness and exile in his despair rather than face what he did not feel himself pure enough to encounter. He unriddled the man, the form, and had forgotten God, the idea.

If a man would follow in the steps of Hermetic philosophers he must prepare himself beforehand for martyrdom. He must give up personal pride and all selfish purposes, and be ready for everlasting encounters with friends and foes. He must part, once for all, with every remembrance of his earlier ideas, on all and on everything. Existing religions, knowledge, science, must rebecome a blank book for him, as in the days of his babyhood, for if he wants to succeed he must learn a new alphabet on the lap of Mother Nature, every letter of which will afford a new insight to him, every syllable and word an unexpected revelation. The two hitherto irreconcilable foes, science and theology -- the Montecchi and Capuletti of the nineteenth century -- will ally themselves with the ignorant masses against the modern Occultist. If we have outgrown the age of stakes, we are in the heyday, per contra, of slander, the venom of the press, and all these mephitic venticelli of calumny so vividly expressed by the immortal Don Basilio. To science it will be the duty -- arid and sterile as a matter of course -- of the Kabalist to prove that from the beginning of time there was but one positive science -- Occultism; that it was the mysterious lever of all intellectual forces, the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil of the allegorical paradise, from whose gigantic trunk sprang in every direction boughs, branches and twigs, the former shooting forth straight enough at first, the latter deviating with every inch of growth, assuming more and more fantastical appearances, till at last one after the other lost its vital juice, got deformed, and, drying up, finally broke off, scattering the ground afar with heaps of rubbish. To theology the Occultist of the future will have to demonstrate that the Gods of the mythologies, the Elohims of Israel as well as the religious and theological mysteries of Christianity, to begin with the Trinity, sprang from the sanctuaries of Memphis and Thebes; that their mother Eve is but the spiritualized Psyche of old, both of them paying a like penalty for their curiosity, descending to Hades or hell, the latter to bring back to earth the famous Pandora's box, the former to search out and crush the head of the serpent -- symbol of time and evil, the crime of both expiated by the pagan Prometheus and the Christian Lucifer; the first delivered by Hercules, the second conquered by the Saviour.

Furthermore, the Occultist will have to prove to Christian theology, publicly, what many of its priesthood are well aware of in secret, namely, that their God on earth was a Kabalist, the meek representative of a tremendous Power, which, if misapplied, might shake the world to its foundations; and that of all their evangelical symbols, there is not one but can be traced up to its parent fount. For instance, their incarnated Verbum or Logos was worshipped at his birth by the three Magi led on by the star, and received from them the gold, the frankincense and myrrh -- the whole of which is simply an excerpt from the Kabalah our modern theologians despise, and the representation of another and still more mysterious "Ternary" embodying allegorically in its emblems the highest secrets of the Kabalah.

A clergy whose main object has ever been to make of their Divine Cross the gallows of Truth and Freedom, could not do otherwise than try and bury in oblivion the origin of that same cross, which, in the most primitive symbols of the Egyptians' magic, represents the key to heaven. Their anathemas are powerless in our days -- the multitude is wiser; but the greatest danger awaits us just in that latter direction, if we do not succeed in making the masses remain at least neutral -- till they come to know better -- in this forthcoming conflict between Truth, Superstition and Presumption, or to express it in other terms, Occult Spiritualism, Theology and Science. We have to fear neither the miniature thunderbolts of the clergy, nor the unwarranted negations of science. But Public Opinion, this invisible, intangible, omnipresent, despotic tyrant -- this thousand-headed Hydra, the more dangerous for being composed of individual mediocrities -- is not an enemy to be scorned by any would-be Occultist, courageous as he may be. Many of the far more innocent Spiritualists have left their sheepskins in the clutches of this ever-hungry, roaring lion, for he is the most dangerous of our three classes of enemies. What will be the fate in such a case of an unfortunate Occultist, if he once succeeds in demonstrating the close relationship existing between the two? The masses of people, though they do not generally appreciate the science of truth or have real knowledge, on the other hand are unerringly directed by mere instinct; they have intuitionally -- if I may be allowed to so express myself -- an idea of what is formidable in its genuine strength. People will never conspire except against real Power. In their blind ignorance, the Mysteries and the Unknown have been, and ever will be, objects of terror for them. Civilization may progress; human nature will remain the same throughout all ages. Occultists, beware!

Let it be understood then that I address myself but to the truly courageous and persevering. Besides the danger expressed above, the difficulties in becoming a practical Occultist in this country are next to insurmountable. Barrier upon barrier, obstacles in every form and shape, will present themselves to the student; for the keys of the Golden Gate leading to the Infinite Truth lie buried deep, and the gate itself is enclosed in a mist which clears up only before the ardent rays of implicit faith. Faith alone -- one grain of which as large as a mustard-seed, according to the words of Christ, can lift a mountain -- is able to find out how simple becomes the Kabalah to the Initiate once he has succeeded in conquering the first abstruse difficulties. The dogma of it is logical, easy and absolute. The necessary union of ideas and signs; the trinity of words, letters, numbers, and theorems; the religion of it can be compressed into a few words. "It is the Infinite condensed in the hand of an infant," says Éliphas Lévi. Ten ciphers, twenty-two alphabetical letters, one triangle, a square and a circle. Such are the elements of the Kabalah from whose mysterious bosom sprang all the religions of the past and present; which endowed all the Freemasonic associations with their symbols and secrets, which alone can reconcile human reason with God and Faith, Power with Freedom, Science with Mystery, and which has alone the keys of present, past and future.

The first difficulty for the aspirant lies in the utter impossibility of his comprehending, as I said before, the meaning of the best books written by Hermetic philosophers. These, who mainly lived in the mediæval ages, prompted on the one hand by their duty towards their brethren, and by their desire to impart only to them and their successors the glorious truths, and on the other very naturally desirous to avoid the clutches of the bloodthirsty Christian Inquisition, enveloped themselves more than ever in mystery. They invented new signs and hieroglyphs, renovated the ancient symbolical language of the high priests of antiquity, who had used it as a sacred barrier between their holy rites and the ignorance of the profane, and created a veritable Kabalistic slang. This latter, which continually blinded the false neophyte, attracted towards the science only by his greediness for wealth and power which he would have surely misused were he to succeed, is a living, eloquent, clear language, but it is and can become such only to the true disciple of Hermes.

But were it even otherwise, and could books on Occultism, written in a plain and precise language be obtained in order to get initiated in the Kabalah, it would not be sufficient to understand and meditate on certain authors. Galatinus and Pic de la Mirandola, Paracelsus and Robertus de Fluctibus do not furnish one with the key to the practical mysteries. They simply state what can be done and why it is done; but they do not tell one how to do it. More than one philosopher who has by heart the whole of the Hermetic literature, and who has devoted to the study of it upwards of thirty or forty years of his life, fails when he believes he is about reaching the final great result. One must understand the Hebrew authors, such as Sepher Yetzirah, for instance, learn by heart the great book of the Zohar in its original tongue, master the Kabalah Denudata from the Collection of 1684 (Paris); follow up the Kabalistic pneumatics at first, and then throw oneself headlong into the turbid waters of that mysterious*(2) ... never tried to explain: the Prophecy of Ezekiel and the Apocalypse, two Kabalistic treatises, reserved without doubt for the commentaries of the Magi kings, books closed with the seven seals to the faithful Christian, but perfectly clear to the Infidel initiated in the Occult Sciences.

Thus the works on Occultism, were not, I repeat, written for the masses, but for those of the Brethren who make the solution of the mysteries of the Kabalah the principal object of their lives, and who are supposed to have conquered the first abstruse difficulties of the Alpha of Hermetic philosophy.

[Note: These are the links to HPB's two articles, that most of the above article was put together from.--Compiler.]
(1) "Occultism or Magic"
(2) "The Search After Occultism"

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(1) NOTE.--"The Wisdom Religion" began in November, 1966. This section is taken from A Modern Panarion (pp. 38-46; 49-54), except for the first paragraph (from S.D. I, 318, 516). [Note: Those first two sets of page numbers provided by the Editors are to two articles by HPB, of the many that are in the 504-page book entitled "A Modern Panarion". I've placed links to them at the end of this article.--Compiler.]
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(2) * The cutting is here imperfect -- some paragraph or so wanting.
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