The Theosophical Forum – June 1940

THE USE WE GIVE TO WORDS — P. A. Malpas

It is remarkable that just at this time when so much emphasis is being laid upon accuracy of words in our studies and statements, words are being used and abused in the world as never before. With some people, so long as you can find a suitable word to excuse or cover anything bad, it becomes tolerable, if not actually good. Murder is the taking of human life and is justly abhorred by all decent people. Call it execution, elimination, removal, liquidation, "mercy killing," euthanasia, abortion, and for some unexplainable reason it becomes accepted as much less than murder, while in reality remaining what it was before.

Some people worship words; to them "Mesopotamia" has a blessed ring about it. David's "vigorous Saxon" in the Bible has a meaning all its own, regardless of the intention of the oriental original. It is even possible that some words acquire, so to say, an artificial life and force.

There is more even than that in the matter. There have been times and places where words have been used intentionally with two meanings, one for enlightenment and one for concealment. This is the case with many words in the Bible, which is an oriental collection of writings set in a Western frame. This gives any one expositor an opportunity to claim that his meaning is right and all others wrong, much to the confusion of the masses. For a time it seems that he has as much right as anyone else to claim authority. But we live in times of strange discoveries and even the exoteric world, learned and unlearned, begins to suspect if not to discern that there are methods of verification which are for them terra incognita. There was a time when it seemed impossible to analyse the substances of the sun. Then came spectrum analysis and the miracle seemed easy. The age of the earth appeared to be incalculable. Radio-activity was discovered and scientists positively assert that here is an accurate time-clock by which to judge. Actually they know nothing of radio-inhalation and radio-exhalation, so to say, and they will have someday to revise their conclusions, but at any rate, it is a new method. Quite likely someday someone will find the key to the film-cupboard where nature has stored every incident, every thought, since the world began, and later the way to pick out any given picture instead of a nightmare order of scenes, or the chaos of so-called "clairvoyance," and then we shall have another scientific miracle of test and verification.

So it is with even such a simple thing as the "Bible," if anyone really wants to know what it all means and not what it seems to mean. It may be found that all these writings are private ritual writings of secret societies of mystical bent, and that the history of each and all has been carefully preserved by bodies of scientists or mystics who have an interest in so doing. Perhaps even some of the societies who produced them may still exist in quiet and privacy, undesirous of the turmoil of the outer world of dogma and doctrine.

Someday it will be found that many "authorities" are painfully inaccurate, such for instance as some of the Greek and Roman historians. We have been laughed at by learned men for suggesting that perhaps after all Alexander never conquered India and never even entered India proper, but there are just as good historians as the Greek who declare that it is so.

So we need have no qualms in pointing out that there are worlds unconquered in the words of even the gospels. The gospels are stories of the chrestos-pilgrim, "Everyman," who struggles and fights his way forward through the gates of initiation-death-birth until he becomes a Christos. Later an actual historical figure who had won through was set in this ideal frame, and so we have the historical "Christ." But what a terrible confusion has been caused for the exoteric student by this jumble of terms. It might well be the case, on the other hand, that any member of that secret school who used this symbolism should say, "Well, it is no concern of theirs. Why did they interfere and steal our property? They deserve never to know that there is a key to it. That they should demand the key is outrageous. We did well to use the words cautiously."

Look at Paul, also a member of some school of the mystics — one of the Tanaim, in fact. He spent his whole life, according to the records, in preaching the anastasis, the "resurrection." What a world of perplexity has grown up round his cautious use of the word! There are more meanings than one in his watchword, but if we say that "resurrection" of the physical body hardly enters the picture even as the merest shadow, we shall probably be right. He taught reincarnation; he taught the resurrection from materiality to spirituality, but the dead-letter of modern western material "resurrection" is an absurdity with him, unless he was willing that outsiders should purposely mislead themselves, not having the training to understand the teaching without doing more harm than good.

The teaching of "Peter" seems to have been what we call faith — pistis. It seems unfair to deride serious scholars, but really what many have made of this seems to justify the little child's definition of faith, "It's when you believe something which isn't true!" Actually the technical mystical meaning of the word as used by the mystical societies means something quite different, gloriously different. It might almost be defined as "soul-knowledge" as opposed to "brain-knowledge," which latter, by the way, is often a hindrance to true soul-knowledge.

Of the meanings of the word Jesus in the mystical societies of the near Orient we need not now speak. But an interesting volume might be written on the subject.

Only — is it not strange that all these key-words of the gospels and the New Testament should be so very wide of their mystical meaning when translated into "Saxon"?

If any seriously wish to know more of what these words and others do really mean, there is enough material in H. P. Blavatsky's works for months of study.


The Theosophical Forum

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE