The Esoteric Tradition by G. de Purucker

Copyright © 2011 by Theosophical University Press


Chapter 1

Theosophy: the Mother of Religions, Philosophies, and Esoteric Sciences

From immemorial time, in all peoples there has been current an intuition, an intimation, persistent and ever-enduring, that there exists somewhere a body of sublime teaching which can be had by those who qualify to receive it. Like those vague yet undying rumors of the existence of mysterious personages, whose names flash out in the annals of history and then fade away into the mists of time, just so have these intimations of a sublime wisdom-teaching in both history and story frequently found lodgment in legend and myth, and thus have become enshrined or crystallized in the religious and philosophical records of the human race.

There is probably no single group of religious and philosophical works which does not contain some record, given either in open statement or by vague hint, of the existence of this wisdom-teaching; and it is one of the most interesting of literary pursuits to trace out and to assemble together these scattered and usually imperfect records from everywhere; and by juxtaposition to discover in them distinct and easily verifiable proof that they are indeed but fragments of an archaic wisdom common to the human race. The literary historian, the mythologer, the anthropologist, all know of the existence of these scattered fragments of archaic thought; but being unable to make anything coherent of them, they are usually ascribed to the inventive genius of so-called primitive man weaving myths and legendary tales about natural phenomena which, because of the fear and awe their appearance had aroused, were thought to be the workings of gods and genii, some friendly and some inimical to man himself.

Running in a contrary direction is the teaching brought again to the Western world by H. P. Blavatsky, who showed in her books the real existence in the world of such a body of wisdom-teaching, comprising in its totality a marvelous system of doctrine dealing not only with cosmogonic matters embracing the noumena and the phenomena of the universe, but likewise a complete historical story of the origin, nature, and destiny of man himself.

As stated by H. P. Blavatsky in the "Introductory" to The Secret Doctrine:

The "Wisdom Religion" is the inheritance of all the nations, the world over. . . .
. . . the Esoteric philosophy is alone calculated to withstand, in this age of crass and illogical materialism, the repeated attacks on all and everything man holds most dear and sacred, in his inner spiritual life. . . . Moreover, Esoteric philosophy reconciles all religions, strips every one of its outward, human garments, and shows the root of each to be identical with that of every other great religion. It proves the necessity of an absolute Divine Principle in nature. . . .
Time and human imagination made short work of the purity and philosophy of these teachings, once that they were transplanted from the secret and sacred circle. . . .
That doctrine was preserved secretly — too secretly, perhaps — within the sanctuary. . . .
This is the true reason, perhaps, why the outline of a few fundamental truths from the Secret Doctrine of the Archaic ages is now permitted to see the light, after long millenniums of the most profound silence and secrecy. I say "a few truths," advisedly, because that which must remain unsaid could not be contained in a hundred . . . volumes, nor could it be imparted to the present generation of Sadducees. But, even the little that is now given is better than complete silence upon those vital truths. The world of to-day, in its mad career towards the unknown . . . is rapidly progressing on the reverse, material plane of spirituality. It has now become a vast arena — a true valley of discord and of eternal strife — a necropolis, wherein lie buried the highest and the most holy aspirations of our Spirit-Soul. That soul becomes with every new generation more paralyzed and atrophied. . . . there is a fair minority of earnest students who are entitled to learn the few truths that may be given to them now; . . .
The main body of the Doctrines given is found scattered throughout hundreds and thousands of Sanskrit MSS., some already translated — disfigured in their interpretations, as usual, — others still awaiting their turn. . . .
The members of several esoteric schools — the seat of which is beyond the Himalayas, and whose ramifications may be found in China, Japan, India, Tibet, and even in Syria, besides South America — claim to have in their possession the sum total of sacred and philosophical works in MSS. and type: all the works, in fact, that have ever been written, in whatever language or characters, since the art of writing began; from the ideographic hieroglyphs down to the alphabet of Cadmus and the Devanagari. . . .
The Secret Doctrine was the universally diffused religion of the ancient and prehistoric world. Proofs of its diffusion, authentic records of its history, a complete chain of documents, showing its character and presence in every land, together with the teaching of all its great adepts, exist to this day in the secret crypts of libraries belonging to the Occult Fraternity. . . .
. . . it is not a religion, nor is its philosophy new; for, as already stated, it is as old as thinking man. Its tenets are not now published for the first time, but have been cautiously given out to, and taught by, more than one European Initiate. . . .
Yet there remains enough, even among such mutilated records, to warrant us in saying that there is in them every possible evidence of the actual existence of a Parent Doctrine. Fragments have survived geological and political cataclysms to tell the story; and every survival shows evidence that the now Secret Wisdom was once the one fountain head, the ever-flowing perennial source, at which were fed all its streamlets — the later religions of all nations — from the first down to the last. — 1:xviii-xlv

It would be impossible to express in more striking language just what the character and nature of the Esoteric Tradition is. An exhaustive and critical examination, conducted in an impartial spirit, of even the remains of the religious and literary relics of ancient times, will convince one that the statements made in the preceding paragraphs are founded on fact. The conviction grows upon the unbiased student that it is a marvel that scholars could have been so blind as to allow the actual existence of the Esoteric Tradition to escape observation and discovery for so long. What is needed is more intuition and less merely brain-mind analysis of dates and grammar and names and spelling; for these, however important they may be, all too frequently distract the attention from the underlying truth to the overlying details of literary rubble.

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There can be but one truth, and if we can find a formulation of that truth in logical, coherent, and consistent form, obviously we then can understand those portions of it equal to our capacity of comprehension. The Esoteric Tradition, today called theosophy, may be proved to be this formulation of truth. It deals with the universe, and with man as an offspring of that universe. It tells us what man is, what his inner constitution is, whence it comes, what becomes of its various principles and elements when the great liberator, Death, frees the imprisoned spirit-soul. It teaches us how to understand men, and enables us to go behind the veil of outer appearances into the realms of reality. It teaches us of the nature of civilizations and how they arise, what they are based on, and of the working of the energies springing from human hearts and minds which form civilization.

Theosophy is not an invention; it was not discovered; it was not composed by some finely intellectual and spiritual mind. Nor is it a mere aggregate of doctrines taken piecemeal from the various religions and philosophies of the world. This last absurdity has been put forth as a theory by some critics, probably because they saw in theosophy doctrines similar to, and in cases identical with, other doctrines in the various ancient religions and philosophies. They did not see the alternative explanation: that these religions and philosophies were originally derived from the Esoteric Tradition of antiquity.

The reader may ask: "What is this theosophy which pretends to be the source of the world's philosophies and religions? These claims seem to be more inclusive by far than the most ambitious claims ever made by any religionist or philosopher."

So far as the truly illimitable field of thought covered by theosophy is concerned, its claims are indeed greater than any that have ever been made; but they are not unsupported claims. We aver that this majestic wisdom-religion is as old as thinking man, far older than the so-called enduring hills; because races of thinking men have existed in times so far past that continents have been submerged under the oceans and new lands have arisen to take the places of those which disappeared. These geologic convulsions were long posterior to the first appearance of homo sapiens on this globe.

Indeed, this wisdom-religion was delivered to the first thinking human beings on this earth by highly-intelligent spiritual entities from superior spheres; and it has been passed down from guardians to guardians thereof until our own time. Furthermore, portions of this original and majestic system have been given out from time to time to various races in different parts of the world by those guardians when humanity stood in need of some new extension and cyclical renewal of spiritual verities.

Who are these guardians? They are those whom we call the elder brothers of the human race, and are men in all senses of the word and not excarnate spirits. They are, relatively speaking, fully evolved or perfected men, who have successfully run the evolutionary race and are therefore now in point of spiritual and intellectual grandeur where we shall be many ages hence.

Thus then, it may be said that there is one source from which Truth flows forth into the world, which source may be seen as divided into three branches:

1. The primeval "Revelation," delivered to primordial humanity by beings from higher spheres, of glorious spiritual and intellectual capacities and power, who inspired and taught the then youthful mankind, and who finally withdrew to their own spheres, leaving behind them the highest and best of their pupils, chosen from among selected individuals of the youthful humanity.

2. The elder brothers, teachers, masters, who are the particular and especial guardians and deliverers of this primeval wisdom to men, whenever the times permit a new impulse of spiritual and intellectual teaching to be given to the world.

3. The esoteric or hid meanings of the fundamental tenets of the great world religions, all of which contain various aspects of the truth about the universe and man, but which inner meanings are virtually unattainable unless the student have the theosophical key enabling him to read these esoteric tenets correctly.

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Esotericism reveals the truth; exotericism, the popular formulation of religious and philosophic doctrines, re-veils the truth; the self-assurance of ignorance, whether it be learned ignorance or mere folly, always reviles the truth. All pioneers of thought in every age have experienced this; many a human heart has broken under the cruel revilings of the ignorant; but the greater ones of mankind, the seers, have marched steadily onwards through time and have transmitted the torchlight of truth from race to race. Thus has it come down to our own time.

The complete unveiling of the Esoteric Tradition simply could not be made — because of its magnitude, quite outside of other reasons. Therefore is it, that following of necessity the ancient custom or tradition of reticence, a certain portion of this doctrine is withheld. No conscientious chemist would publish dangerous secrets concerning explosives to all and sundry. The situation is bad enough as it is where some of the latest discoveries of science are used in war and otherwise, for destruction of life and property. The more recondite and difficult teachings thus are entrusted by the guardians to those who have proved themselves by their lives and impersonal work for their fellow human beings to be worthy depositaries of that holy trust. Knowledge itself is not wrong; it is the abuse of knowledge that works widespread mischief in the world when employed for selfish purposes.

By those who are worthy receptacles of it, such holy knowledge would not be misused. Money would not be made out of it, nor would it be employed as an instrument for gaining influence for selfish purposes over the minds of their fellow men. Such abuse of knowledge has only too often occurred, despite all the safeguards that the guardians of this wisdom have thrown around it. History records many cases where even simple religious teaching has been abused, as in the lamentable periods of religious persecution, and power and influence gained over the minds of those who suffered pitiably because they thought that others had religious wisdom in greater degree than themselves.

As the ages passed, every religion or philosophy has suffered degeneration, each one in later time needing reinterpretation by men less great than the original founders. The result is what we see around us today — religions from which the life and inner meaning have fled, more or less, and philosophies whose appeal to the human intellect and heart no longer is imperatively strong as once it was. Yet despite this, if we search the records enshrined in the literatures of the various religions and philosophies, we shall find underneath the words which once conveyed their full and luminous meaning the same fundamental truths everywhere. In all races of men we shall find the same message. The words varied indeed, in which the inner sense lay, according to the age and the characteristic intellects of the men who promulgated the primal truths; but it will be found that they all tell of a secret doctrine, give hints of an esoteric system, containing a wonderful and sacred body of teachings delivered by the respective founders; and that this wisdom was handed down from generation to generation as the most holy and precious possession.

In ancient Greece and in the countries under the sway of Rome, for instance, one finds that the greatest men during many centuries have left evidence in unequivocal language that there is indeed such an esoteric system. That esoteric system went under the name of "the Mysteries" — most carefully guarded, restricted to those men (in Greece and in the Roman Empire the women had esoteric mysteries of their own) who had proved themselves worthy.

In India, the motherland of religions and philosophies, is found the same body of teachings — a wonderful doctrine kept secret, esoteric; therefore called "a mystery," rahasya — not in the sense of something that no one actually understood, but in the ancient sense of the Greek word mysterion, something kept for the mystai, those initiated in the Mystery schools, to study and to follow as the supreme ethical guidance in life. For all religious and philosophical teaching from time immemorial has been divided into two parts: that for the multitude and that for the "twice-born," the initiated.

Examples of literary works in which such teachings were imbodied are the Hindu Upanishads — upanishad being a Sanskrit compound word meaning "according to the sitting down." The figure is that of pupils who sat in the Oriental style at the feet of the teacher, who taught them in strict privacy, and in forms and manners of expression that later were reduced to writings and promulgated for private reading.

Every great teacher has founded an inner school and taught to his disciples, in more open form than was given to the outer world, the solution of the riddles of the universe and of human life. As the New Testament has it:

Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. — Luke 8:10

How cruel the latter part of this quotation sounds; yet if the meaning be understood it is readily seen that there is nothing cruel or selfishly restrictive in these words, but merely veiled language expressing a recondite truth. The idea was that certain doctrines should be taken from the Mysteries and given at appropriate time-periods to the people for their help and inspiration, but in veiled language only; for an unveiled exposition would have amounted to a betrayal of the Mystery-teaching to those who had not been educated to understand it, and thus would have led on step by step to thoughts and acts and practices detrimental not alone to themselves but to those with whom they were in daily association.

The disciples of Jesus were given the "mysteries of the kingdom of God," but the same truth was given to the others in parables; and it is thus that though they saw, they did not see with the inner vision and understand, and although they heard the words and obtained help therefrom, their relative lack of training in the mystical language brought them no esoteric understanding of the secret doctrine behind the words. But "To you, 'little ones,' 'my children,' " said Jesus in substance, "I tell you plainly the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens" (Matthew 13:11).

This symbolic language is the speech even of the Greek Mysteries; such words as "little ones," or "children," were technical terms and referred to those who were "newly born," who had begun to tread the pathway of the secret teachings. This very word "mysteries," as found in Luke, is taken directly from the Greek esoteric rites; while the expression "the kingdom of the heavens" is a phrase belonging to the esoteric system of the Hither East. These words and phrases were, among others, religious and philosophical commonplaces to the people to whom Jesus was then speaking. All of which proves that Christianity had such an inner or esoteric doctrine, but no longer has, at least as a recognized department of Christian study.

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Although it is not generally recognized, it is true that the early doctrines that the Christian scheme promulgated during the first centuries of its existence were not so far removed from the Neoplatonic and Neopythagorean teachings so generally current among the Greeks and Romans of that period. But as the years went by, the real meaning of these Neopythagorean and Neoplatonic doctrines became deeply obscured in the Christian system, in which literalism and blind faith with increasing rapidity took the place of the original religious idealism. Mere metaphor and literal interpretation finally supplanted the intuitive feeling, and in many cases the knowledge, among those early Christians, that there was indeed a secret truth behind the writings which passed current as canonical — or indeed apocryphal — in the Christian Church.

There were during the earliest centuries a number of remarkable men who sought to stem this growing crystallization, to effect a spiritual reconciliation between the highest teachings of the peoples surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, with the new religious scheme which in later time was called Christianity. Such men were, for instance, Clement of Alexandria, who lived in the second century of the Christian era. Another was the famous Origen, likewise of the Alexandrian school, who lived in the second and third centuries of the same era. A third was the Neoplatonist Christian bishop, Synesius, who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries. In what manner Synesius managed to reconcile his strong Neoplatonic convictions with the new Christian scheme and the duties of his episcopal position, is something which offers to the student of history an interesting example of mental and psychological gymnastics; but he did so, and apparently managed to retain the respect of all sides, for he seems to have been at heart a good and sincere man. Synesius remained a Neoplatonist until the day of his death, and was the warm friend of Hypatia, whose misfortunate and tragic end Charles Kingsley, the English novelist, has made so well known. Hypatia in fact was Synesius' early teacher in philosophy.

The Alexandrian scholar and Church Father, Origen, taught many things so curiously alike in certain respects to the theosophical doctrines that, were one to change names and manner of phrasing, one could probably find in his words a good deal of the Esoteric Philosophy. Origen fought all his life in order to keep some at least of these esoteric keys imbodied in the doctrines of his church and in their interpretation, to work as a living spiritual power in the hearts and minds of Christians. As long as he lived and could personally direct the movement which he headed, there were always in the Christian Church some who followed these inner teachings devoutly, for this inner sense they felt answered the inward call of their souls for a greater revealing of truth than was usually expressed in the outward or literal word.

In the year 543 or thereabouts, some two hundred years after the death of Origen, there was held in Constantinople the Home Synod, convened under the Patriarch Mennas in obedience to an imperial rescript issued by the Emperor Justinian. It set forth in official statement the complaints that had reached the imperial palace alleging that certain doctrines ascribed to the Alexandrian Origen were "heretical," and that, if the council then convoked by him should in fact find them to be such, these doctrines were by the said synod to be placed under the ban and prohibition of the ecclesiastical anathema. The doctrines complained of were hotly disputed in this Home Synod; and after long and envenomed dispute, the result of the deliberations was that the specified teachings of Origen, so strongly objected to, were finally and formally condemned and anathematized.

Part of the fifteen anathemas pronounced against Origen's doctrines may be summarized as follows:

1. The preexistence of the soul before its present earth-life; and its ultimate restoration to its original spiritual nature and condition.
2. The derivation of all rational entities from high spiritual beings, which latter at first were incorporeal and nonmaterial, but are now existing in the universe in descending degrees of substantiality and which are differentiated into various orders called Thrones, Principalities, Powers, and in other grades or orders called by other names.
3. That the sun, the moon, the stars, and the other heavenly bodies, are the visible encasements of spirits now more or less degenerated from their former high condition and state.
4. That man now has a material or physical body as a retributive or punitive result of wrongdoing, following upon the soul's sinking into matter.
5. That even as these spiritual beings formerly fell into matter, so may and will they ultimately rise again to their former spiritual status.
10. The body of Christ in the resurrection was globular or spherical; and so will our bodies likewise finally be.
11. The Judgment to come is the vanishing of the material body; and there will be no material resurrection.
12. All inferior orders of entities in the vast hierarchy of Being are united to the divine Logos (whether such beings be of Heaven or Earth) as closely as is the Divine Mind; and the Kingdom of Christ shall have an end when all things are resolved back into the Divinity.
13. That the soul of Christ preexisted like the souls of all men; and that Christ is similar in type to all men in power and substance.
14. All intelligent beings, wheresoever they be, ultimately will merge into the Divine Unity, and material existence will then vanish.
15. That the future life of all spiritual beings will be similar to their original existence; and hence the end of all things will be similar to the original state or condition of all things.

All these doctrines of Origen find a satisfactory explanation in the theosophical teachings, where they are more fully elaborated.

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In the religion which is commonly, though wrongly, supposed to be the main fountain-head of Christianity, i.e. in the doctrines of the Jews, can be found clear traces of the same esoteric teaching that exists everywhere else. Yet in the case of Judaism it is mainly imbodied in what the Jewish initiates called "the tradition" or "the Secret Doctrine"; the Hebrew word for tradition being Qabbalah — from the verbal root qabal, "to receive," "to hand down" — meaning something which is handed down from generation to generation by traditional transmission.

A short extract from the principal book of the Qabbalah may be pertinent. This book is called Zohar, a Hebrew word meaning "Splendor":

Woe unto the son of man who says that the Torah [comprising the first five Books of the Hebrew Bible] contains common sayings and ordinary tales. If this were so, we could even today compose a body of doctrines from profane literature which would arouse greater reverence. If the Law contains only ordinary matter, then there are far nobler sentiments in the profane literatures; and if we went and compiled a selection from them, we could compile a much superior code of doctrine. No. Each word of the Law contains a sublime meaning and a truly heavenly mystery. . . . As the spiritual angels were obliged to clothe themselves in earthly garments when they descended upon earth, and as they could not have remained nor have been understood on earth without putting on such garments: so is it with the Law. When the Law came to us, it had to be clothed in earthly fashion in order to be understood by us; and such clothing is its mere narratives. . . . Hence, those who understand look not at such garments [the mere narratives] but to the body under them [that is, at the inner meaning], whilst the wise, the servants of the heavenly One . . . look only at the soul. — 3:152a

Unquestionably, and despite plausible arguments to the contrary, the Jewish Qabbalah existed as a traditional system of doctrine long before the present manuscripts of it and their literary ancestors were written, for these are of comparatively late production and probably date from the European Middle Ages. One proof of this statement lies in the fact that in the earliest centuries of the Christian era several of the Church Fathers are found using language which could have been taken only from the Hebrew theosophy — the Hebrew Qabbalah.

Each and every people in ancient times, such as the Greeks, Hindus, Persians, Egyptians and Babylonians, used differing tongues, and in many cases differing symbols of speech; but in all the great religions and philosophies are to be found fundamental principles which, when placed in juxtaposition and subjected to meticulous examination and analysis, are discovered to be identic in substance.

However, all such religions and philosophies did not in any one case give out in fullness and in explicit form the entirety of the body of teachings which are at its heart: one religion emphasizing one or more of the basic principles, another religion or philosophy stressing another of the principles, the remaining principles lying in the background thereof and relatively veiled. This accounts for the variation both in type and characteristics of the various world religions which often seem to have little in common, perhaps even to be contradictory. Another cause of this is the varying manner in which they were originally given to the world; each such religion or philosophy, having its own place and period in time, representing in its later forms the different minds who developed its doctrines into this or that particular form.

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Complete ignorance of this background of esoteric wisdom has led some people to say that theosophy is nothing but old and outworn theories of religion and philosophy, popular five hundred, a thousand, or five thousand years ago. Such critics say: "It is foolish to go back to the ancients in our search for truth: only the new has value for our age." Or they say: "Let us turn our faces to the future, and leave the dead past to bury its own moldering bones!" The minds of such people are enchained by the scientific myth that man has only recently, comparatively speaking, evolved from an ape ancestor, or from a semi-animal ancestor common to both man and the apes, which passed the halcyon times of its freedom from any moral or intellectual responsibility in chewing fruit and insects in its intervals of swinging from branch to branch in some tropical forest. Therefore, all our future is in what is to come; the past holds nothing of worth; and hence it is a huge waste of time to study otherwise than in the more or less academic manner of the archaeologist.

What a perverse running counter to all the facts not only of history but also of science, which point with increases of emphasis, as fresh discoveries are accumulated, to the now well recognized fact that the origins of the human race run far back into the night of time; and that, for all we know to the contrary, these dark corridors and chambers of the now forgotten past may actually, should they ever be opened again, reveal that the long past saw grand and mighty civilizations covering the earth on continents formerly existing where now the turbulent waters of the present oceans roll their melancholy waves.

In architecture, in engineering and in art, in philosophy, religion and science — in all the things that form the basis of civilization — we find ancient thought lying there, the foundation of our own civilization and thinking, and the as yet unrecognized inspiration by heritage and transmission of the best that we have. Where have we built anything which in magnitude of fine technical engineering, in grandeur of conception and in wonder of execution, is comparable with the Great Pyramid of Egypt? So stupendous in its colossal pile, so finely orientated as to astronomical points, so accurate in the laying of its masonry, so magnificent in the ideal conception which gave it birth, that our modern engineers and scholars stand before it in amazement and frankly say that were the utmost resources of modern engineering skill brought to bear upon a similar work, doubtless we could not improve upon it, possibly even barely equal it.

How about the Nagkon [Angkor] Wat in Cambodia? And the gigantic and astonishing megalithic monuments in Peru and Central America — yes, even the remarkable archaic structures that still exist in Yucatan and in parts of Mexico, and in other parts of the world? How about the beautiful temple of Borobudur in Java — a relatively recent mass of apparently solid masonry, standing in wondrous beauty after the lapse of centuries; and despite the destructive and corroding influences of earthquakes and weathering, literally covered with a wealth of carving, in places like lace-work in stone, so delicately done that it looks as if the work had been picked out with a needle?

How about the marvelous temple of Karnak in Thebes, Egypt — quite recent from an archaeological standpoint — of which today but portals, columns, and pylons in a more or less ruined state remain, but the ensemble of which still strikes the observer with awe?

We are proud of our own glass; but the Romans had glass which could be molded, so Roman writers have reported, into any desired shape with the hammer or mallet. The Mediterranean nations of Europe likewise had in ancient times a method of hardening copper so that it had the temper and took the edge of our good steel.

We heat our houses by means of hot water or hot air; but so did the Romans in the days of Cicero. We use the microscope and the telescope and are justly proud of our skill; but we also know that the Babylonians, for instance, carved gems with designs so fine that the naked eye cannot discern these with any clearness whatsoever, and we must use a microscope or magnifying glass in order to see clearly the line-work. How did they do this, if they had no magnifying facilities? Were their eyes so much more powerful than ours? That supposition is absurd. What then can we conclude but that they did have some kind of magnifying apparatus, of glass or other material? How is it that the ancient astronomers are said to have known not merely of other planets, which indeed the naked eye could see in most cases, but also are stated by certain scholars to have known of their moons, which latter fact we with our improved astronomical instruments have known only for a few score of years? We read in ancient works that the Emperor Nero used a magnifying glass — what we would call an opera glass — in order to watch the spectacles in the Roman theaters; and legend states that he used this in order to watch the burning of Rome.

How about shorthand? The speeches of Cicero given in the Roman Forum and elsewhere were taken down in shorthand by his freedman and beloved Tiro, who later also became his biographer. How long have we employed this most useful means of perpetuating the exact words of human discourse? We are also told that lightning rods were placed on the Temple of Janus in Rome by Numa, one of the earliest and wisest of the Roman kings, who lived in the first ages of Rome according to tradition, centuries before the formation of the Republic. What again about Archimedes of Syracuse, one of the greatest of physical scientists and discoverers? Then there are the Vimanas or flying machines, which are mentioned in very ancient Sanskrit writings, as in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the two greatest epic poems of India.

How about the canon of proportion in art as used by the ancient Greeks? Compare their exquisite and inspired art with our own, and then turn to our modern artistic vagaries, such as cubism and futurism, that make one think that he is crazily seeing into the astral when he tries to understand what his eye is plagued with. What is, indeed, the fundamental canon that the majority of our artists and technicians follow today, not merely in architecture, but in sculpture also? The Greek canon as we understand it. Where did the best in modern European religion originally come from; where did it take its rise? From the Greek and Latin ancients.

How about the heliocentric system, which tells us that the sun is at the center of his realms, that the planets circle around the sun, each in its own orbit, and that the earth is a sphere poised in space as a planetary body? It took European thinkers and discoverers a long time, in the face of great persecution and at the cost of the lives of not a few great men, to bring their less intuitive and more unthinking fellows to a recognition of this fact of nature; but the greatest among the ancient Greeks taught it all — Pythagoras, Philolaus, Ekphantos, Hiketas, Heraklides, Aristarchos, and many more. Others would have taught it openly had it not been that the heliocentric system was a teaching confined to the Mysteries, and that only a few dared to do more than hint at it.

The Mystery-teaching hid beneath the outward forms of the archaic systems of thought was held as the most sacred thing that men could transmit to their descendants, for it was found that the revelation of this Mystery-doctrine under proper conditions to worthy depositaries worked marvelous changes in their lives. Why? The answer can be found in all the old religions and philosophies under the same metaphor: the figure of a new birth, a birth into truth, for, indeed, it was a spiritual and intellectual awakening of the powers of the human spirit, and could therefore be called in truth a re-birth of the soul into spiritual self-consciousness. When this happens, such men were called Initiates — in India, dvijas, a Sanskrit word meaning "twice-born"; in Egypt such "reborn" men were called "sons of the Sun." In other countries they were called by other names.

In her "Esoteric Character of the Gospels," H. P. Blavatsky wrote:

The Gnosis [or wisdom] supplanted by the Christian scheme was universal. It was the echo of the primordial wisdom-religion which had once been the heirloom of the whole of mankind; and, therefore, one may truly say that, in its purely metaphysical aspect, the Spirit of Christ (the divine logos) was present in humanity from the beginning of it. The author of the Clementine Homilies is right; the mystery of Christos — now supposed to have been taught by Jesus of Nazareth — "was identical" with that which from the first had been communicated "to those who were worthy," . . . We may learn from the Gospel according to Luke, that the "worthy" were those who had been initiated into the mysteries of the Gnosis, and who were "accounted worthy" to attain that "resurrection from the dead" [initiation] in this life, . . . "those who knew that they could die no more, being equal to the angels as sons of God and sons of the Resurrection." In other words, they were the great adepts of whatever religion; and the words apply to all those who, without being Initiates, strive and succeed, through personal efforts to live the life and to attain the naturally ensuing spiritual illumination in blending their personality — the "Son" with the "Father," their individual divine Spirit, the God within them. This "resurrection" can never be monopolized by the Christians, but is the spiritual birth-right of every human being endowed with soul and spirit, whatever his religion may be. Such individual is a Christ-man. — Studies in Occultism, pp. 145-6

Chapter 2

Contents