THEOSOPHY, Vol. 55, No. 3, January, 1967
(Pages 76-84; Size: 26K)
THE WISDOM RELIGION(3)
THE MYSTERIES: II
[Part 3 of a 12-part series]
ONE need not go very deep into the literature of the Orientalists to become convinced that in most cases they do not even suspect that in the arcane philosophy of India there are depths which they have not sounded, and cannot sound, for they pass on without perceiving them. There is a pervading tone of conscious superiority, a ring of contempt in the treatment of Hindu metaphysics, as though the European mind is alone enlightened enough to polish the rough diamond of the old Sanscrit writers, and separate right from wrong for the benefit of their descendants. We see them disputing over the external forms of expression without a conception of the great vital truths these hide from the profane view.
"As a rule, the Brahmans," says Jacolliot, "rarely go beyond the class of grihasta [priests of the vulgar castes] and purahita [exorcisers, divines, prophets, and evocators of spirits]. And yet, we shall see ... once that we have touched upon the question and study of manifestations and phenomena, that these initiates of the first degree (the lowest) attribute to themselves, and in appearance possess faculties developed to a degree which has never been equalled in Europe. As to the initiates of the second and especially of the third category, they pretend to be enabled to ignore time, space, and to command life and death."
Such initiates as these M. Jacolliot did not meet; for, as he says himself, they only appear on the most solemn occasions, and when the faith of the multitudes has to be strengthened by phenomena of a superior order. "They are never seen, either in the neighborhood of, or even inside the temples, except at the grand quinquennial festival of the fire. On that occasion, they appear about the middle of the night, on a platform erected in the centre of the sacred lake, like so many phantoms, and by their conjurations they illumine the space. A fiery column of light ascends from around them, rushing from earth to heaven. Unfamiliar sounds vibrate through the air, and five or six hundred thousand Hindus, gathered from every part of India to contemplate these demigods, throw themselves with their faces buried in the dust, invoking the souls of their ancestors."
Bearing in mind that the Christian fathers have always claimed for themselves and their saints the name of "friends of God," and knowing that they borrowed this expression, with many others, from the technology of the Pagan temples, it is but natural to expect them to show an evil temper whenever alluding to these rites. Ignorant, as a rule, and having had biographers as ignorant as themselves, we could not well expect them to find in the accounts of their beatific visions a descriptive beauty such as we find in the Pagan classics. Whether the visions and objective phenomena claimed by both the fathers of the desert and the hierophants of the sanctuary are to be discredited, or accepted as facts, the splendid imagery employed by Proclus and Apuleius in narrating the small portion of the final initiation that they dared reveal, throws completely into the shade the plagiaristic tales of the Christian ascetics, faithful copies though they were intended to be. The story of the temptation of St. Anthony in the desert by the female demon, is a parody upon the preliminary trials of the neophyte during the Mikra, or minor Mysteries of Agræ -- those rites at the thought of which Clemens railed so bitterly, and which represented the bereaved Demeter in search of her child, and her good-natured hostess Baubo.
Taylor devoted his whole useful life to the search after such old manuscripts as would enable him to have his own speculations concerning several obscure rites in the Mysteries corroborated by writers who had been initiated themselves. It is with full confidence in the assertions of various classical writers that we say that ridiculous, perhaps licentious in some cases, as may appear ancient worship to the modern critic, it ought not to have so appeared to the Christians. During the medieval ages, and even later, they accepted pretty nearly the same without understanding the secret import of its rites, and quite satisfied with the obscure and rather fantastic interpretations of their clergy, who accepted the exterior form and distorted the inner meaning. We are ready to concede, in full justice, that centuries have passed since the great majority of the Christian clergy, who are not allowed to pry into God's mysteries nor seek to explain that which the Church has once accepted and established, have had the remotest idea of their symbolism, whether in its exoteric or esoteric meaning. Not so with the head of the Church and its highest dignitaries. And if we fully agree with Inman that it is "difficult to believe that the ecclesiastics who sanctioned the publication of such prints(1) could have been as ignorant as modem ritualists," we are not at all prepared to believe with the same author "that the latter, if they knew the real meaning of the symbols commonly used by the Roman Church, would not have adopted them."
To eliminate what is plainly derived from the sex and nature worship of the ancient heathens, would be equivalent to pulling down the whole Roman Catholic image-worship -- the Madonna element -- and reforming the faith to Protestantism. The enforcement of the late dogma of the Immaculation was prompted by this very secret reason. The science of symbology was making too rapid progress. Blind faith in the Pope's infallibility and in the immaculate nature of the Virgin and of her ancestral female lineage to a certain remove could alone save the Church from the indiscreet revelations of science.
To think for one moment that any of the popes, cardinals, or other high dignitaries "were not aware" from the first to the last of the external meanings of their symbols, is to do injustice to their great learning and their spirit of Machiavellism. It is to forget that the emissaries of Rome will never be stopped by any difficulty which can be skirted by the employment of Jesuitical artifice.
There was not a Christian Father who could have been ignorant of these symbols in their physical meaning; for it is in this latter aspect that they were abandoned to the ignorant rabble. Moreover, they all had as good reasons to suspect the occult symbolism contained in these images; although as none of them -- Paul excepted, perhaps -- had been initiated they could know nothing whatever about the nature of the final rites. Any person revealing these mysteries was put to death, regardless of sex, nationality, or creed. A Christian father would no more be proof against an accident than a Pagan Mysta.
If during the Aporreta or preliminary arcanes, there were some practices which might have shocked the pudicity of a Christian convert -- though we doubt the sincerity of such statements -- their mystical symbolism was all sufficient to relieve the performance of any charge of licentiousness. Even the episode of the Matron Baubo -- whose rather eccentric method of consolation was immortalized in the minor Mysteries -- is explained by impartial mystagogues quite naturally. Ceres-Demeter and her earthly wanderings in search of her daughter are the euhemerized descriptions of one of the most metaphysico-psychological subjects ever treated of by human mind. It is a mask for the transcendent narrative of the initiated seers; the celestial vision of the freed soul of the initiate of the last hour describing the process by which the soul that has not yet been incarnated descends for the first time into matter, "Blessed is he who hath seen those common concerns of the underworld; he knows both the end of life and its divine origin from Jupiter," says Pindar. Taylor shows, on the authority of more than one initiate, that the "dramatic performances of the Lesser Mysteries were designed by their founders, to signify occultly the condition of the unpurified soul invested with an earthly body, and enveloped in a material and physical nature ... that the soul, indeed, till purified by philosophy, suffers death through its union with the body."
The body is the sepulchre, the prison of the soul, and many Christian Fathers held with Plato that the soul is punished through its union with the body. Such is the fundamental doctrine of the Buddhists and of many Brahmanists too. When Plotinus remarks that "when the soul has descended into generation (from its half-divine condition) she partakes of evil, and is carried a great way into a state the opposite of her first purity and integrity, to be entirely merged in which is nothing more than to fall into dark mire"; he only repeats the teachings of Gautama Buddha. If we have to believe the ancient initiates at all, we must accept their interpretation of the symbols. And if, moreover, we find them perfectly coinciding with the teachings of the greatest philosophers and that which we know symbolizes the same meaning in the modern Mysteries in the East, we must believe them to be right.
If Demeter was considered the intellectual soul, or rather the Astral soul, half emanation from the spirit and half tainted with matter through a succession of spiritual evolutions -- we may readily understand what is meant by the Matron Baubo, the Enchantress, who before she succeeds in reconciling the soul -- Demeter, to its new position, finds herself obliged to assume the sexual forms of an infant. Baubo is matter, the physical body; and the intellectual, as yet pure astral soul can be ensnared into its new terrestrial prison but by the display of innocent babyhood. Until then, doomed to her fate, Demeter, or Magna-mater, the Soul, wonders and hesitates and suffers; but once having partaken of the magic potion prepared by Baubo, she forgets her sorrows; for a certain time she parts with that consciousness of higher intellect that she was possessed of before entering the body of a child. Thenceforth she must seek to rejoin it again; and when the age of reason arrives for the child, the struggle -- forgotten for a few years of infancy -- begins again. The astral soul is placed between matter (body) and the highest intellect (its immortal spirit or nous). Which of those two will conquer? The result of the battle of life lies between the triad. It is a question of a few years of physical enjoyment on earth and -- if it has begotten abuse -- of the dissolution of the earthly body being followed by death of the astral body, which thus is prevented from being united with the highest spirit of the triad, which alone confers on us individual immortality; or, on the other hand, of becoming immortal mystæ; initiated before death of the body into the divine truths of the after life. Demi-gods below, and GODS above.
Such was the chief object of the Mysteries represented as diabolical by theology, and ridiculed by modern symbologists. To disbelieve that there exist in man certain arcane powers, which, by psychological study he can develop in himself to the highest degree, become an hierophant and then impart to others under the same conditions of earthly discipline, is to cast an imputation of falsehood and lunacy upon a number of the best, purest, and most learned men of antiquity and of the middle ages. What the hierophant was allowed to see at the last hour is hardly hinted at by them. And yet Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus, Iamblichus, Proclus, and many others knew and affirmed their reality.
Whether in the "inner temple," or through the study of theurgy carried on privately, or by the sole exertion of a whole life of spiritual labor, they all obtained the practical proof of such divine possibilities for man fighting his battle with life on earth to win a life in the eternity. What the last epopteia was is alluded to by Plato in Phædrus (64); "... being initiated in those Mysteries, which it is lawful to call the most blessed of all mysteries ... we were freed from the molestations of evils which otherwise await us in a future period of time. Likewise, in consequence of this divine initiation, we became spectators of entire, simple, immovable, and blessed visions, resident in a pure light." This sentence shows that they saw visions, gods, spirits. As Taylor correctly observes, from all such passages in the works of the initiates it may be inferred, "that the most sublime part of the epopteia ... consisted in beholding the gods themselves invested with a resplendent light," or highest planetary spirits. The statement of Proclus upon this subject is unequivocal: "In all the initiations and mysteries, the gods exhibit many forms of themselves, and appear in a variety of shapes, and sometimes, indeed, a formless light of themselves is held forth to the view; sometimes this light is according to a human form, and sometimes it proceeds into a different shape."
"Whatever is on earth is the resemblance and SHADOW of something that is in the sphere, while that resplendent thing (the prototype of the soul-spirit) remaineth in unchangeable condition, it is well also with its shadow. But when the resplendent one removeth far from its shadow life removeth from the latter to a distance. And yet, that very light is the shadow of something still more resplendent than itself." Thus speaks Desatir, the Persian Book of Shet, thereby showing its identity of esoteric doctrines with those of the Greek philosophers.
The second statement of Plato confirms our belief that the Mysteries of the ancients were identical with the Initiations, as practiced now among the Buddhists and the Hindu adepts. The highest visions, the most truthful, are produced, not through natural ecstatics or "mediums," as it is sometimes erroneously asserted, but through a regular discipline of gradual initiations and development of psychical powers. The Mystæ were brought into close union with those whom Proclus calls "mystical natures," "resplendent gods," because, as Plato says, "we were ourselves pure and immaculate, being liberated from this surrounding vestment, which we denominate body, and to which we are now bound like an oyster to its shell."
So the doctrine of planetary and terrestrial Pitris was revealed entirely in ancient India, as well as now, only at the last moment of initiation, and to the adepts of superior degrees. Many are the fakirs, who, though pure, and honest, and self-devoted, have yet never seen the astral form of a purely human pitar (an ancestor or father), otherwise than at the solemn moment of their first and last initiation. It is in the presence of his instructor, the guru, and just before the vatou-fakir is dispatched into the world of the living, with his seven-knotted bamboo wand for all protection, that he is suddenly placed face to face with the unknown PRESENCE. He sees it, and falls prostrate at the feet of the evanescent form, but is not entrusted with the great secret of its evocation; for it is the supreme mystery of the holy syllable. The AUM contains the evocation of the Vedic triad, the Trimurti Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, say the Orientalists; it contains the evocation of something more real and objective than this triune abstraction -- we say, respectfully contradicting the eminent scientists. It is the trinity of man himself, on his way to become immortal through the solemn union of his inner triune SELF -- the exterior, gross body, the husk not even being taken in consideration in this human trinity.(2) It is, when this trinity, in anticipation of the final triumphant reunion beyond the gates of corporeal death became for a few seconds a UNITY, that the candidate is allowed, at the moment of the initiation, to behold his future self. Thus we read in the Persian Desatir, of the "Resplendent one"; in the Greek philosopher-initiates, of the Augoeides -- the self-shining "blessed vision resident in the pure light"; in Porphyry, that Plotinus was united to his "god" six times during his lifetime; and so on.
"In ancient India, the mystery of the triad, known but to the initiates, could not, under the penalty of death, be revealed to the vulgar," says Vrihaspati.
Neither could it in the ancient Grecian and Samothracian Mysteries. Nor can it be now. It is in the hands of the adepts, and must remain a mystery to the world so long as the materialistic savant regards it as an undemonstrated fallacy, an insane hallucination, and the dogmatic theologian, a snare of the Evil One.
Subjective communication with the human, god-like spirits of those who have preceded us to the silent land of bliss, is in India divided into three categories. Under the spiritual training of a guru or sannyâsi, the vatou (disciple or neophyte) begins to feel them. Were he not under the immediate guidance of an adept, he would be controlled by the invisibles, and utterly at their mercy, for among these subjective influences he is unable to discern the good from the bad. Happy the sensitive who is sure of the purity of his spiritual atmosphere!
To this subjective consciousness, which is the first degree, is, after a time, added that of clairaudience. This is the second degree or stage of development. The sensitive -- when not naturally made so by psychological training -- now audibly hears, but is still unable to discern; and is incapable of verifying his impressions, and one who is unprotected the tricky powers of the air but too often delude with semblances of voices and speech. But the guru's influence is there; it is the most powerful shield against the intrusion of the bhutná into the atmosphere of the vatou, consecrated to the pure, human, and celestial Pitris.
The third degree is that when the fakir or any other candidate both feels, hears, and sees; and when he can at will produce the reflections of the Pitris on the mirror of astral light. All depends upon his psychological and mesmeric powers, which are always proportionate to the intensity of his will. But the fakir will never control the Akasa, the spiritual life-principle, the omnipotent agent of every phenomenon, in the same degree as an adept of the third and highest initiation. And the phenomena produced by the will of the latter do not generally run the market-places for the satisfaction of open-mouthed investigators.
The unity of God, the immortality of the spirit, belief in salvation only through our works, merit and demerit; such are the principal articles of faith of the Wisdom-religion, and the ground work of Vedaism, Buddhism, Parsism, and such we find to have been even that of the ancient Osirism, when we, after abandoning the popular sun-god to the materialism of the rabble, confine our attention to the Books of Hermes, the thrice-great.
"The THOUGHT concealed as yet the world in silence and darkness. ... Then the Lord who exists through Himself, and who is not to be divulged to the external senses of man, dissipated darkness, and manifested the perceptible world."
"He that can be perceived only by the spirit, that escapes the organs of sense, who is without visible parts, eternal, the soul of all beings, that none can comprehend, displayed His own splendor" (Manu, book i., slokas, 6-7).
Such is the ideal of the Supreme in the mind of every Hindu philosopher.
"Of all the duties, the principal one is to acquire the knowledge of the supreme soul (the spirit); it is the first of all sciences, for it alone confers on man immortality" (Manu, book xii., sloka 85).
And our scientists talk of the Nirvana of Buddha and the Moksha of Brahma as of a complete annihilation! It is thus that the following verse is interpreted by some materialists.
"The man who recognizes the Supreme Soul, in his own soul, as well as in that of all creatures, and who is equally just to all (whether man or animals) obtains the happiest of all fates, that to be finally absorbed in the bosom of Brahma" (Manu, book xii., sloka 125).
The doctrine of the Moksha and the Nirvana, as understood by the school of Max Müller, can never bear confronting with numerous texts that can be found, if required, as a final refutation. There are sculptures in many pagodas which contradict, point-blank, the imputation. Ask a Brahman to explain Moksha, address yourself to an educated Buddhist and pray him to define for you the meaning of Nirvana. Both will answer you that in every one of these religions Nirvana represents the dogma of the spirit's immortality. That, to reach the Nirvana means absorption into the great universal soul, the latter representing a state, not an individual being or an anthropomorphic god, as some understand the great EXISTENCE. That a spirit reaching such a state becomes a part of the integral whole, but never loses its individuality for all that. Henceforth, the spirit lives spiritually, without any fear of further modifications of form; for form pertains to matter, and the state of Nirvana implies a complete purification or a final riddance from even the most sublimated particle of matter.
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:
The Principle before all principles is no doubt the first principle of the universe, but not as immanent: immanence is not for primal sources but for engendering secondaries; that which stands as primal source of everything is not a thing but is distinct from all things; it is not, then, a member of the total but earlier than all, earlier, thus, than the Intellectual-Principle -- which in fact envelopes the entire train of things.
THE WISDOM RELIGION
THE MYSTERIES: III
[Part 4 of a 12-part series]
"THE WISDOM RELIGION"
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THREE (3) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(3) NOTE.--This series began in the November, 1966, issue. The material in this section is from Isis II, 102-3; 108-17.
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(1) Illustrated figures "from an ancient Rosary of the blessed Virgin Mary, printed at Venice, 1524, with a license from the Inquisition." In the illustrations given by Dr. Inman the Virgin is represented in an Assyrian "grove," the abomination in the eyes of the Lord, according to the Bible prophets. "The book in question," says the author, "contains numerous figures, all resembling closely the Mesopotamian emblem of Ishtar. The presence of the woman therein identifies the two as symbolic of Isis, or la nature; and a man bowing down in adoration thereof shows the same idea as is depicted in Assyrian sculptures, where males offer to the goddess symbols of themselves." (See Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism, p. 91. Second edition. J. W. Bouton, publisher. New York.)
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(2) The body of man -- his coat of skin -- is an inert mass of matter, per se; it is but the sentient living body within the man that is considered as the man's body proper, and it is that which, together with the fontal soul or purely astral body, directly connected with the immortal spirit, constitutes the trinity of man.
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