The Theosophical Forum – October 1942

THE BEACON OF THE UNKNOWN: IV — H. P. Blavatsky

This series of articles is one of H. P. Blavatsky's most brilliant writings, presenting a clear statement of the meaning of true Theosophy in theory and in practice. In this fourth number the author continues, with her own consummate skill, her championing of the cause of the universal Wisdom-Religion — that Truth which can be found by the earnest seeker under a thousand guises, hidden in a thousand symbols and under many names. H. P. B. in her trenchant writing is herself like a beacon lighting the way of discovery. The series originally appeared in the French magazine La Revue Theosophique, 1889, under the title "Le Phare de L'Inconnu." Its translation was first published in The Theosophist, Volume X.

Laugh, then, at the science of sciences without knowing the first word of it! We will be told, perhaps, that such is the literary right of our critics. By all means. If people always talked about what they understood, they would tell nothing but the truth, and that would not always be so pleasant. When I read the criticisms now written on Theosophy, the platitudes and the stupid ridicule employed against the most grandiose and sublime philosophy in the world, of which only one aspect is found in the noble ethics of the Philalethes, I ask myself whether the Academies of any country have understood the Theosophy of the Alexandrian philosophers any better than they understand us now. What do they know, what can they know, of Universal Theosophy, without having studied under the Masters of Wisdom? And understanding so little of Iamblichus, Plotinus, and even Proclus, i. e., of the Theosophy of the third and fourth centuries, they yet pride themselves on delivering judgment on the New Theosophy of the nineteenth.

Theosophy, we say, comes to us from the extreme East, as did the Theosophy of Plotinus and Iamblichus and even the mysteries of ancient Egypt. Do not Homer and Herodotus practically tell us that the ancient Egyptians were the "Ethiopians of the East," who, according to their descriptions, came from Lanka or Ceylon? For it is generally acknowledged that the people whom these two classical writers call Ethiopians of the East were but a colony of very dark skinned Aryans, the Dravidians of Southern India, who took an already-existing civilization with them to Egypt. This migration occurred during the prehistoric ages which Baron Bunsen calls pre-Menite (before Menes), but which have a history of their own in the ancient annals of Kaluka-Batta. Besides, apart from the esoteric teachings which are not divulged to a mocking public, the historical researches of Colonel Vans Kennedy, the great rival of Dr. Wilson as a Sanskritist in India, show us that pre-Assyrian Babylonia was the home of Brahmanism, and of Sanskrit as the sacerdotal language. We know also, if Exodus is to be believed, that long before the time of Moses — i. e., before the XIX Dynasty — Egypt had its diviners, its hierophants and its magicians. Finally, Brugsch Bey sees in many of the gods of Egypt, immigrants from beyond the Red Sea and the great waters of the Indian Ocean.

Whether all this be so or not, Theosophy descends in a direct line from the universal GNOSIS, a tree whose luxuriant branches, spreading over the earth like a great canopy, gave shelter to all the temples and to all the nations of the earth at an epoch which Biblical chronology is pleased to called "antediluvian." That Gnosis represents the aggregate of all the sciences, the accumulated wisdom of all the gods and demi-gods incarnated in former times upon the earth. There are some who would like to see in these beings fallen angels and the enemy of mankind: sons of God who, seeing that the daughters of men were beautiful, took them for wives, and imparted to them all the secrets of heaven and earth. Let them think as they please. We believe in Avatars and in divine dynasties, in the age when there really were "giants upon the earth," and we absolutely repudiate the idea of "fallen angels" and of Satan and his army.

"What then is your religion or belief?" we are asked. "What is your favorite study?"

"The TRUTH," we reply. The truth wherever we can find it; for like Ammonius Saccas, our greatest ambition is to reconcile the different religious systems, to help each one to find the truth in his own belief and at the same time oblige him to recognise it in the belief of his neighbor. What does the name matter if the thing itself is essentially the same? Plotinus, Iamblichus and Apollonius of Tyana had, all three, it is said, the wonderful gifts of prophecy, of clairvoyance, and of healing, although they belonged to three different schools. Prophecy was an art that was cultivated equally by the Essenes and the B'ni Nebin among the Jews, as by the priests of the pagan oracles. The disciples of Plotinus attributed miraculous powers to him; Philostratus has claimed the same for Apollonius, while Iamblichus had the reputation of surpassing all the other Eclectics in Theosophic theurgy. Ammonius declared that all moral and practical WISDOM was contained in the books of Thoth or Hermes Trismegistus. But Thoth means a "college," school or assembly, and the works of that name, according to Theo-didaktos, were identical with the doctrines of the sages of the extreme East. If Pythagoras acquired his knowledge in India (where even today he is mentioned in old manuscripts under the name of Yavanacharya, (1) the Greek Master), Plato gained his learning from the books of Thoth-Hermes. How it happened that the younger Hermes, the god of the shepherds, surnamed "the good shepherd," who presided over divination and clairvoyance, became identical with Thoth (or Thot), the deified sage and the author of the Book of the Dead, only the esoteric doctrine can reveal to the Orientalists. Every country has had its saviors. He who dissipates the darkness of ignorance by the help of the torch of science, thus revealing to us the truth, deserves that title as a mark of our gratitude quite as much as he who saves us from death by healing our bodies. Such a one awakens in our benumbed souls the faculty of distinguishing the true from the false, by kindling a divine flame hitherto absent, and he has the right to our grateful worship, for he has become our creator. What matters the name or the symbol that personifies the abstract idea, if that idea is always the same and is true? Whether the concrete symbol bears one title or another, whether the savior in whom we believe has for an earthly name Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, or Aesculapius, surnamed "the Savior God," we have but to remember one thing: symbols of divine truths were not invented for the amusement of the ignorant; they are the alpha and omega of philosophic thought.

As Theosophy is the way that leads to Truth, in every religion as in every science, so occultism, so to say, is the touchstone and universal solvent. It is the Ariadne's thread given by the master to the disciple who ventures into the labyrinth of the mysteries of being; the torch that lights him through the dangerous maze of life, for ever the enigma of the Sphinx. But the light thrown by this torch can be discerned only by the eye of the awakened soul — by our spiritual senses; it blinds the eye of the materialists as the sun blinds that of the owl.

Having neither dogma nor ritual — these two being but the fetters, the material form which stifles the soul — we do not employ the "ceremonial magic" of the Western Kabbalists; we know its dangers too well to have anything to do with it. In the T. S. every fellow is free to study what he pleases, provided he does not venture into unknown paths which would of a certainty lead him to black magic, the sorcery against which Eliphas Levi so openly warned the public. The occult sciences are dangerous for him who understands them imperfectly. Those who devote themselves alone to their practice, run the risk of becoming insane; and those who study them would do well to unite in little groups of from three to seven. These groups ought to be uneven in numbers in order to have more power; a group, however little cohesion it possesses at first, by forming a single united body, whereby the senses and perceptions of those who work together complement and mutually help each other, one member supplying to another the quality in which he is wanting — such a group will always end by becoming a perfect and invincible body. "Union is strength." The moral of the fable of the old man bequeathing to his sons a bundle of sticks which were never to be separated is a truth which will forever remain axiomatic.

FOOTNOTE:

1. A term which comes from the words Yavana or "the Ionian," and acharya, "professor or master." (return to text)


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