THEOSOPHY, Vol. 57, No. 4, February, 1969
(Pages 109-116; Size: 23K)
(Number 16 of a 36-part series)
THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME(1)
GOD: The Unknowable
WE have often wondered at the extraordinary ideas of God and His justice that seem to be honestly held by those Christians who blindly rely upon the clergy for their religion, and never upon their own reason. How strangely illogical is this doctrine of the Atonement. We propose to discuss it with the Christians from the Buddhistic stand-point, and show at once by what a series of sophistries, directed toward the one object of tightening the ecclesiastical yoke upon the popular neck, its acceptance as a divine command has been finally effected; also, that it has proved one of the most pernicious and demoralizing of doctrines.
The clergy say: no matter how enormous our crimes against the laws of God and of man, we have but to believe in the self-sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of mankind, and His blood will wash out every stain. God's mercy is boundless and unfathomable. It is impossible to conceive of a human sin so damnable that the price paid in advance for the redemption of the sinner would not wipe it out if a thousandfold worse. And, furthermore, it is never too late to repent. Though the offender wait until the last minute of the last hour of the last day of his mortal life, before his blanched lips utter the confession of faith, he may go to Paradise; the dying thief did it, and so may all others as vile. These are the assumptions of the Church.
But if we step outside the little circle of creed and consider the universe as a whole balanced by the exquisite adjustment of parts, how all sound logic, how the faintest glimmering sense of Justice revolts against this Vicarious Atonement! If the criminal sinned only against himself, and wronged no one but himself; if by sincere repentance he could cause the obliteration of past events, not only from the memory of man, but also from that imperishable record, which no deity -- not even the Supremest of the Supreme -- can cause to disappear, then this dogma might not be incomprehensible. But to maintain that one may wrong his fellow-man, kill, disturb the equilibrium of society, and the natural order of things, and then -- through cowardice, hope, or compulsion, matters not -- be forgiven by believing that the spilling of one blood washes out the other blood spilt -- this is preposterous! Can the results of a crime be obliterated even though the crime itself should be pardoned? The effects of a cause are never limited to the boundaries of the cause, nor can the results of crime be confined to the offender and his victim. Every good as well as evil action has its effects, as palpably as the stone flung into a calm water. The simile is trite, but it is the best ever conceived, so let us use it. The eddying circles are greater and swifter, as the disturbing object is greater or smaller, but the smallest pebble, nay, the tiniest speck, makes its ripples. And this disturbance is not alone visible and on the surface. Below, unseen, in every direction -- outward and downward -- drop pushes drop until the sides and bottom are touched by the force. More, the air above the water is agitated, and this disturbance passes, as the physicists tell us, from stratum to stratum out into space forever and ever; an impulse has been given to matter, and that is never lost, can never be recalled! ...
So with crime, and so with its opposite. The action may be instantaneous, the effects are eternal. When, after the stone is once flung into the pond, we can recall it to the hand, roll back the ripples, obliterate the force expended, restore the etheric waves to their previous state of non-being, and wipe out every trace of the act of throwing the missile, so that Time's record shall not show that it ever happened, then, then we may patiently hear Christians argue for the efficacy of this Atonement.
The Chicago Times recently printed the hangman's record of the first half of the present year (1877) -- a long and ghastly record of murders and hangings. Nearly every one of these murderers received religious consolation, and many announced that they had received God's forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, and were going that day to Heaven! Their conversion was effected in prison. See how this ledger-balance of Christian Justice (!) stands: These red-handed murderers, urged on by the demons of lust, revenge, cupidity, fanaticism, or mere brutal thirst for blood, slew their victims, in most cases, without giving them time to repent, or call on Jesus to wash them clean with his blood. They, perhaps, died sinful, and, of course, -- consistently with theological logic -- met the reward of their greater or lesser offenses. But the murderer, overtaken by human justice, is imprisoned, wept over by sentimentalists, prayed with and at, pronounces the charmed words of conversion, and goes to the scaffold a redeemed child of Jesus! Except for the murder, he would not have been prayed with, redeemed, pardoned. Clearly this man did well to murder, for thus he gained eternal happiness? And how about the victim, and his or her family, relatives, dependents, social relations -- has Justice no recompense for them? Must they suffer in this world and the next, while he who wronged them sits beside the "holy thief" of Calvary and is forever blessed? On this question the clergy keep a prudent silence.
There is not one of the past and present personal gods, known to us from the earliest days of History, that does not belong to the third stage of Cosmic manifestation. In every religion we find the concealed deity forming the ground work; then the ray therefrom, that falls into primordial Cosmic matter (first manifestation); then the androgyne result, the dual Male and Female abstract Force, personified (second stage); this separates itself finally, in the third, into seven Forces, called the creative Powers by all the ancient Religions, and the "Virtues of God" by the Christians. The later explanation and metaphysical abstract qualifications have never prevented the Roman and Greek Churches from worshipping these "Virtues" under the personifications and distinct names of the seven Archangels. In the Book of Druschim (p. 59, 1st Treatise) in the Talmud, a distinction between these groups is given which is the correct Kabalistical explanation. It says:
"There are three groups (or orders) of Sephiroth. 1st. The Sephiroth called 'the divine attributes' (abstract). 2nd. The physical or sidereal Sephiroth (personal) -- one group of seven, the other of ten. 3rd. The metaphysical Sephiroth, or periphrasis of Jehovah, who are the first three Sephiroth (Kether, Chochma and Binah), the rest of the seven being the (personal) seven spirits of the Presence" (also of the planets).
The same division has to be applied to the primary, secondary and tertiary evolution of gods in every theogony, if one wishes to translate the meaning esoterically. We must not confuse the purely metaphysical personifications of the abstract attributes of Deity, with their reflection -- the sidereal gods. This reflection, however, is in reality the objective expression of the abstraction: living Entities and the models formed on that divine prototype. Moreover, the three metaphysical Sephiroth or "the periphrasis of Jehovah" are not Jehovah; it is the latter himself with the additional titles of Adonai, Elohim, Sabbaoth, and the numerous names lavished on him, who is the periphrasis of the Shaddai, the Omnipotent. The name is a circumlocution, indeed, a too abundant figure of Jewish rhetoric, and has always been denounced by the Occultists. To the Jewish Kabalists, and even the Christian Alchemists and Rosicrucians, Jehovah was a convenient screen, unified by the folding of its many flaps, and adopted as a substitute: one name of an individual Sephiroth being as good as another name, for those who had the secret. The Tetragrammaton, the Ineffable, the sidereal "Sum Total," was invented for no other purpose than to mislead the profane and to symbolize life and generation. The real secret and unpronounceable name -- "the word that is no word" -- has to be sought in the seven names of the first seven emanations, or the "Sons of the Fire," in the secret Scriptures of all the great nations, and even in the Zohar, the Kabalistic lore of that smallest of all, the Jewish. This word, composed of seven letters in each tongue, is found embodied in the architectural remains of every grand building in the world; from the Cyclopean remains on Easter Island (part of a continent buried under the seas nearer four million years ago than 20,000) down to the earliest Egyptian pyramids.
No cosmogony, the world over, with the sole exception of the Christian, has ever attributed to the One Highest cause, the UNIVERSAL Deific principle, the immediate creation of our Earth, man, or anything connected with these.
Religion and science were closer knit than twins in days of old; they were one in two, and two in one from the very moment of their conception. With mutually convertible attributes, science was spiritual and religion was scientific. Like the androgyne man of the first chapter of Genesis -- "male and female," passive and active; created in the image of the Elohim. Omniscience developed omnipotency, the latter called for the exercise of the former, and thus the giant had dominion given him over all the four kingdoms of the world. But, like the second Adam, these androgynes were doomed to "fall and lose their powers" as soon as the two halves of the duality separated. The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge gives death without the fruit of the Tree of Life. Man must know himself before he can hope to know the ultimate genesis even of beings and powers less developed in their inner nature than himself. So with religion and science; united two in one they were infallible, for the spiritual intuition was there to supply the limitations of physical senses. Separated, exact science rejects the help of the inner voice, while religion becomes merely dogmatic theology -- each is but a corpse without a soul.
The esoteric doctrine, then, teaches, like Buddhism and Brahmanism, and even the persecuted Kabala, that the one infinite and unknown Essence exists from all eternity, and in regular and harmonious successions is either passive or active. In the poetical phraseology of Manu these conditions are called the "day" and the "night" of Brahma(2). The latter is either "awake" or "asleep." The Svâbhâvikas, or philosophers of the oldest school of Buddhism (which still exists in Nepaul), speculate but upon the active condition of this "Essence," which they call Svâbhâvât, and deem it foolish to theorize upon the abstract and "unknowable" power in its passive condition. Hence they are called atheists by both Christian theology and modern scientists; for neither of the two are able to understand the profound logic of their philosophy. The former will allow of no other God than the personified secondary powers which have blindly worked out the visible universe, and which became with them the anthropomorphic God of the Christians -- the Jehovah, roaring amid thunder and lightning. In its turn, rationalistic science greets the Buddhists and the Svâbhâvikas as the "positivists" of the archaic ages. If we take a one-sided view of the philosophy of the latter, our materialists may be right in their own way. The Buddhistsmaintain that there is no Creator but an infinitude of creative powers, which collectively form the one eternal substance, the essence of which is inscrutable -- hence not a subject for speculation for any true philosopher. Socrates invariably refused to argue upon the mystery of universal being, yet no one would ever have thought of charging him with atheism, except those who were bent upon his destruction. Upon inaugurating an active period, says the Secret Doctrine, an expansion of this Divine essence, from within outwardly, occurs in obedience to eternal and immutable law, and the phenomenal or visible universe is the ultimate result of the long chain of cosmical forces thus progressively set in motion. In like manner, when the passive condition is resumed, a contraction of the Divine essence takes place, and the previous work of creation is gradually and progressively undone. The visible universe becomes disintegrated, its material dispersed; and "darkness," solitary and alone, broods once more over the face of the "deep." To use a metaphor which will convey the idea still more clearly, an outbreathing of the "unknown essence" produces the world; and an inhalation causes it to disappear. This process has been going on from all eternity, and our present Universe is but one of an infinite series which had no beginning and will have no end.
Thus we are enabled to build our theories solely on the visible manifestations of the Deity, on its objective natural phenomena. To apply to these creative principles the term God is puerile and absurd. One might as well call by the name of Benvenuto Cellini the fire which fuses the metal, or the air that cools it when it is run in the mould. If the inner and ever-concealed spiritual, and to our minds abstract, Essence within these forces can ever be connected with the creation of the physical universe, it is but in the sense given to it by Plato. IT may be termed, at best, the framer of the abstract universe which developed gradually in the Divine Thought within which it had lain dormant.
In the first book of Manu, we read: "Know that the sum of 1,000 divine ages, composes the totality of one day of Brahma; and that one night is equal to that day." One thousand divine ages is equal to 4,320,000,000 of human years, in the Brahmanical calculations.
"At the expiration of each night, Brahma, who has been asleep, awakes, and through the sole energy of the motion causes to emanate from himself the spirit, which in its essence is, and yet is not."
"Prompted by the desire to create, the Spirit (first of the emanations) operates the creation and gives birth to ether, which the sages consider as having the faculty of transmitting sound.
"Ether begets air whose property is tangible, and which is necessary to life.
"Through a transformation of the air, light is produced.
"From air and light, which begets heat, water is formed, and the water is the womb of all the living germs."
Throughout the whole immense period of progressive creation, covering 4,320,000,000 years, ether, air, water and fire (heat), are constantly forming matter under the never-ceasing impulse of the Spirit, or the unrevealed God who fills up the whole creation, for he is in all, and all is in him. This computation, which was secret and which is hardly hinted at even now, led Higgins into the error of dividing every ten ages into 6,000 years. Had he added a few more ciphers to his sums he might have come nearer to a correct explanation of the neroses, or secret cycles.
In the Sepher Jezireh, the kabalistic Book of Creation, the author has evidently repeated the words of Manu. In it, the Divine Substance is represented as having alone existed from the eternity, boundless and absolute; and emitted from itself the Spirit. "One is the Spirit of the living God, blessed be His Name, who liveth for ever! Voice, Spirit, and Word, this is the Holy Spirit;" and this is the kabalistic abstract Trinity, so unceremoniously anthropomorphized by the Fathers. From this triple ONE emanated the whole Cosmos. First from ONE emanated number TWO, or Air, the creative element; and then number THREE, Water, proceeded from the air; Ether or Fire complete the mystic four, the Arba-il. "When the Concealed of the Concealed wanted to reveal Himself, he first made a point (primordial point, or the first Sephira, air or Holy Ghost), shaped it into a sacred form (the ten Sephiroth, or the Heavenly man), and covered it with a rich and splendid garment, that is the world." "He maketh the wind His messengers, flaming Fire his servants," says the Jezireh, showing the cosmical character of the later euhemerized angels, and that the Spirit permeates every minutest atom of the Cosmos.1(3)
When the cycle of creation is run down, the energy of the manifested word is weakening. He alone, the Unconceivable, is unchangeable (ever latent), but the Creative Force, though also eternal, as it has been in the former from "no beginning," yet must be subject to periodical cycles of activity and rest; as it had a beginning in one of its aspects, when it first emanated, therefore must also have an end. Thus, the evening succeeds the day, and the night of the deity approaches. Brahma is gradually falling asleep. In one of the books of Sohar, we read the following:
"As Moses was keeping a vigil on Mount Sinai, in company with the Deity, who was concealed from his sight by a cloud, he felt a great fear overcome him and suddenly asked: 'Lord, where art Thou ... sleepest thou, O Lord?' and the Spirit answered him: 'I never sleep; were I to fall asleep for a moment before my time, all the Creation would crumble into dissolution in one instant'." And Vamadeva-Modely describes the "Night of Brahma," or the second period of the Divine Unknown existence, thus:
"Strange noises are heard, proceeding from every point.... These are the precursors of the Night of Brahma; dusk rises at the horizon and the Sun passes away behind the thirtieth degree of Macara (sign of the zodiac), and will reach no more the sign of the Minas (zodiacal pisces, or fish). The gurus of the pagodas appointed to watch the räs-chakr (Zodiac), may now break their circle and instruments, for they are henceforth useless.
"Gradually light pales, heat diminishes, uninhabitable spots multiply on the earth, the air becomes more and more rarefied; the springs of waters dry up, the great rivers see their waves exhausted, the ocean shows its sandy bottom, and plants die. Men and animals decrease in size daily. Life and motion lose their force, planets can hardly gravitate in space; they are extinguished one by one, like a lamp which the hand of the chokra (servant) neglects to replenish. Sourya (the Sun) flickers and goes out, matter falls into dissolution (pralaya), and Brahma merges back into Dyäus, the Unrevealed God, and his task being accomplished, he falls asleep. Another day is passed, night sets in and continues until the future dawn.
"And now again re-enter into the golden egg of His Thought, the germs of all that exist, as the divine Manu tells us. During His peaceful rest, the animated beings, endowed with the principles of action, cease their functions, and all feeling (manas)(4) becomes dormant. When they are all absorbed in the SUPREME SOUL, this Soul of all the beings sleeps in complete repose, till the day when it resumes its form, and awakes again from its primitive darkness."
The ever unknownable Karana alone, the Causeless Cause of all causes, should have its shrine and altar on the holy and ever untrodden ground of our heart -- invisible, intangible, unmentioned, save through "the still small voice" of our spiritual consciousness. Those who worship before it, ought to do so in the silence and the sanctified solitude of their Souls; making their spirit the sole mediator between them and the Universal Spirit, their good actions the only priests, and their sinful intentions the only visible and objective sacrificial victims to the Presence.
The Personal God Idea
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FOUR (4) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(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.
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(3) 1 It is interesting to recall Hebrews 1:7, in connection with this passage. "Who maketh his angels (messengers) spirits, and his ministers (servants, those who minister) a flame of fire." The resemblance is too striking for us to avoid the conclusion that the author of "Hebrews" was as familiar with the "Kabala" as adepts usually are.
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COMPILER'S NOTE: I added these two footnotes; they were not in the article. If any of them don't paint an accurate enough picture, or are incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot them and point the inaccuracies out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.
(2) "Brahma" is the impersonal Absolute principle in the Universe, the ALL.
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(4) "Manas" means mind.
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