ALLAN J. STOVER
According to the Ancient Wisdom, worlds and universes are born and reborn, reimbody, in other words. Consequently the creation myths of antiquity never speak of a beginning, or of a creation out of nothing by some extra-cosmic and manlike god; but always of a new beginning as of an awakening after sleep, followed by the stirring of spiritual and monadic forces, and lastly of the emanation and consolidation of the physical form.
Distorted and telescoped though they may often be, the creation myths of Greek and Roman times still follow the pattern of a parent doctrine. In them we see creation proceeding through the three stages which were known to the Greeks as the First, Second, and Third Logos; which according to their several natures were also known as Chaos, Theos, and Cosmos. By Chaos the philosophers meant the unformed and unorganized condition in which the seeds (or life atoms) of a former cycle or manvantara await the opening of a new period of activity. It is the condition of a planetary globe or of a universe during pralaya, and contains all the elements in an undifferentiated state, corresponding to what has been called Father-Mother in The Secret Doctrine, where the cosmogony of antiquity is given at length. The Second Logos, known as Theos, is of a spiritual or monadic nature and in it the ethereal structure of the world is accomplished. The Third Logos is that relating to the physical world or universe and because of its inherent order and arrangement is called Cosmos, from the Greek word kosmos, order.
Not only worlds, but every being, as it enters embodiment passes through its own three Logoic stages. As Dr. G. de Purucker has stated in Studies in Occult Philosophy, pp. 548-549:
Every different plane has its own three Logoi: the unmanifest, the partially manifest or quasi-manifest, the manifest, otherwise called First, Second and Third Logoi. Why is this? Because Nature's operations and functions and structure are repetitive on all planes. What is in the highest is in the lowest, and vice versa; or, to put the thought differently, because the entire Universe is constructed of and in hierarchies which repeat each other on the different planes. . . . Every hierarchy, which means every plane, has its own three Logoi: the first or highest, the unmanifest for that hierarchy or plane, the Hyparxis, if you wish; its clothing or offspring or expression the Second Logos; its child or clothing the Third Logos.
And since man is himself a copy of the universe we find "Atman the First Logos, Buddhi the Second Logos, Manas the Word, Reason, the expressed reason, the reason delivering the life of its progenitor to others — the Third Logos or Manas."
Many translators and students of mythology, not understanding the cosmogony of the ancients, have so confused the three stages of creation as to make the Greek and Roman myths ridiculous; when by separating the account into the stages of the three Logoi, the symbolical story is seen to be in harmony with that given in The Secret Doctrine and also with what science is beginning to discover regarding the upper atmosphere and the formation of worlds and universes. On the other hand, there is much to suggest that the deeper meaning of the myths was gradually becoming lost even during the time of Classic Greece, for with the coming of the Dark Ages, withdrawal of the Mystery Schools, and endowing of the gods with all the personality and faults of weak humanity, the light was almost extinguished.
The Latin poet Ovid, near the close of a turbulent life, gathered a series of Greek myths together in his famous Metamorphoses, the first book of which opens with an account of the creation of the world. In this work Ovid restates the myth of creation, while something of its real significance was still understood; for it was written at the beginning of our era, when the days of pagan philosophy were numbered.
In the following translation an attempt has been made to bring out a fuller meaning, by no means disregarding the literal text, but by a more appropriate choice of words and by an occasional paraphrase, uncover the significance of the myth.
"Before the sea and land and the all-covering sky (1) there was [but] one appearance of nature in the whole orb, (2) which was called Chaos; a formless unorganized mass nor [was there] anything except an inactive weight (3) and the unharmonized [and] ununited seeds of things collected together in the same place."
"No Titan (4) [Helios or Sungod] had yet furnished rays of light to the world, (5) nor did Phoebe [goddess of the moon] by waxing [and waning] renew her horns, nor did Earth (6) float self-poised, in the encircling air, nor did Amphitrite [an early goddess of the sea] extend her arms into the long margin of the lands.
"And where the [element] (7) earth was, there also were [the elements] water and air. So the earth was unstable, the water not liquid, the air without lightness; nothing retained its own form and each thing opposed everything else, because in [the same] body, cold contended with heat, moist with dry, soft with hard, and weight with lightness."
The account so far describes the condition of Chaos, the First Logos, i e., condition of undifferentiated matter awaiting a new cycle of activity. That which follows is descriptive of the Second Logos, wherein the four elements begin to separate one from another as the focalization of the monadic and spiritual forces of the planet to be begins.
"God (8) put an end to this strife, for he separated [all that belongs to] the earth from the sky and the waters from the lands and separated the pure aether from the thick atmosphere. (9)
"After that he evolved forth the elements (10) and taking them from the dark mass [of Chaos] he united the different kinds in appropriate places."
"The fiery weightless essence of vaulted heaven, (11) sprang forth and chose a place for itself in the highest zone [of the sky]. The air is next to that [fiery essence] in lightness and location; the earth denser than these, attracted the grosser elements and was compressed by its own weight: the surrounding moisture took possession of the outermost (12) layers of the earth and kept the solid globe within bounds."
Thus ends the second scene of the drama of creation; and now the Third Logos begins with the forming and concreting of the physical globe.
"When, whoever of the gods he was (13) he divided the mass thus disposed and separated it into [its physical] elements; first of all he rounded the earth into the form of a great globe, lest it might be unequal on any side. Then he spread out seas and ordered them to swell [by means of] rapid winds and to enclose the shores of the encircled earth. He added also springs and immense ponds and lakes; and bounded the running rivers with sloping banks, which being different in different places [the waters] are partly absorbed by [the earth] herself and partly reach the sea and being received in the expanse of the sea [literally the level place of unrestrained waters] they dash upon the shore instead of banks. He ordered also plains to be extended, valleys to sink, forests to be covered with leaves, [and] rocky mountains to rise.
"And as two zones separate heaven to the right [i.e. to the north] and as many to the left [i.e. to the south] the fifth [the torrid or middle zone] is hotter than those: so the plan of god divided the earth enclosed by the sky with the same number [of zones] and just as many regions are impressed on the earth [as in the sky]."
"The middle one of these [the torrid or tropical zone] is not habitable from heat; deep snow covers two [polar zones]: next he placed a zone between each [of the others] and gave [them] temperatures in which heat was mixed with cold [the north and south temperate zones]."
Then follows a very significant sentence: "Scarcely had he separated all [things] within [their] appointed boundaries when the stars which, long oppressed, lay hid under [or hid by] the chaotic mass, began to shine forth in the whole heaven." This throws light on the corresponding though misunderstood passage in Genesis, I, 14, in which the luminaries in the heavens are first mentioned on the third day, not that they were not existing, as is usually supposed, but that they were not visible until that time. In fact Genesis shows many links with the Greek Cosmogony. During the Middle Ages, however, the older knowledge was almost forgotten; the spherical form of the earth, its previous embodiments, the meaning of the hierarchies of the gods, the existence of inner planes, all was lost in the dogma of a word (all the understanding left of the Logos) spoken by an extra-cosmic God in the year 4004 b.c.
Even as late as the Eighteenth century the Scottish Divine Dr. Blair wrote, "In the progress of the Divine works and government, there arrived a period in which this earth was to be called into existence. When the signal moment predestined from all eternity was come, the Deity arose in his might, and with a word, created the world. What an illustrious moment was that, when, from non-existence, there sprang at once into being, this mighty globe, on which so many millions of creatures now dwell. No preparatory measures were required. No long circuit of means was employed. He spake, and it was done: he commanded; and it stood fast."
The Greek poet Hesiod who lived in the eighth or ninth century b.c. gathered together the already ancient stories of the gods into his Theogony; which because of its great age, is of long standing as a work of reference among students of mythology. Lines 116 to 129 dealing with the early stages of creation are here given for comparison with the Metamorphoses of Ovid.
"In truth first Chaos came into existence, but next broad-breasted Gaia the ever-enduring abode of all, and Eros [or Phanes] most beautiful among the immortal gods, who relaxes the limbs and subdues the mind and the shrewd plans within the hearts of all gods and men."
While Gaia is the earth the reference here is not to the physical earth but to the spiritual and primordial earth from which it emanates. The term broad-breasted is used in the sense of producing and nourishing all things.
"From Chaos awakened Erebus and black Night; and from Night came forth Aether and Day, whom she conceived and brought forth from union in love with Erebus."
Chaos is the absolute light of the cosmic spirit which is darkness to us, and from it issues Erebus and dark Night, the latter so called because it precedes the opening of a new cycle of manifestation; from Erebus and Night with the help of Eros come cosmic Aether, the Akasa of Hindu philosophy and outermost zone of heaven, and Day. The distinction between Aether and Day being that the former is the light of the superior planes while the latter is the light of the sphere of earth. Eros at this stage of evolution corresponds to the Tibetan Fohat and permeates the universe as a creative and formative force.
"And therefore first of all Gaia emanated forth from within herself Ouranos, the shining heavens, like herself, in order that she might be entirely enwrapped on every side, and as an ever-enduring abode for the blessed gods."
Ouranos, often mistakenly translated the starry heavens, was the shining ocean of space which surrounds every celestial body and which is here spoken of as issuing from the heart of the primordial earth or Gaia. It is this akasic ocean which is referred to in Greek Mythology when it is stated that the abodes of the dead are on the banks of Oceanus, for it was no body of water but the shining spaces of aether surrounding the earth globe.
The remainder of the Theogony describes later stages of evolution in language which to the modern mind rather obscures than reveals the ancient knowledge, but which a study of H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine shows to be part of a primeval knowledge which was widely distributed.
We will now turn to the still more ancient Surya-Siddhanta of India where in chap. XII a description of the earth is given as follows:
29. "This Brahma-egg is hollow; within it is the universe, consisting of earth, sky, etc., it has the form of a sphere, like a receptacle made of a pair of caldrons."
30. "A circle within the Brahma-egg is styled the orbit of the ether: within which is the revolution of the asterisms (the Greek Ouranos) and likewise, in order, one below the other,"
31. "revolve Saturn, Jupiter, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon: below in succession, the Perfected Ones, the Possessors of Knowledge, and the clouds."
32. "Quite in the middle of the egg, the earth-globe stands in the ether, bearing the supreme might of Brahma, which is of the nature of self-supporting force."
33. "Seven cavities within it, abodes of serpents and demons endowed with the savor of heavenly plants, delightful, are the interranean earths."
34. "A collection of manifold jewels, a mountain of gold, is Meru, passing through the middle of the earth-globe, and protruding on either side."
35. "At its upper end are stationed, along with Indra, the gods, and the Great Sages; at its lower end, in a like manner, the demons have their place — each the enemy of the other."
36. "Surrounding it on every side is fixed next this great ocean, like a girdle about the earth, dividing the two hemispheres of the gods and of the demons."
— Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. VI, no. 2
A comparative study of the foregoing selections from Latin, Greek and Sanskrit Theogony not only shows a similarity of thought but each throws light on obscure passages in others.
. . . . . . .
While an area of land may differ markedly on the surface, a series of wells may yet draw from the same deep stratum of sweet water. It is not chance that we find similarities among the myths of mankind everywhere; for they sprang from a common source — the Ancient Wisdom now known to the world as Theosophy.
1. coelum, as the vast reaches of the sky surrounding the earth, and often referred to as the home of the gods. (return to text)
2. in toto orbe, in the circle or orb of the earth, as the globe has not yet been formed. (return to text)
3. iners pondus, in the sense of an attraction toward a center, i.e., gravity in modern terminology. (return to text)
4. Titan, here used for Helios the sun-god preceding Apollo. (return to text)
5. mundo, the world or universe as opposed to Chaos. (return to text)
6. tellus, here referring to the globe earth which is yet to be formed. (return to text)
7. The elements here referred to are not the physical elements known to us, but are their spiritual counterparts, from which the physical elements will later emanate. The tattvas of Indian philosophy.
In the preceding Ovid attempts to describe the undifferentiated state of matter and the equally indescribable conditions existing during the pralaya between earth embodiments It is not a state of confusion but a condition in which heat and cold, wet and dry, heavy and light cease to exist and everything is reduced to its original state of matter. (return to text)
8. Deus et melior natura, the phase of deity belonging to the Second Logos, the second aspect of the trinity. (return to text)
9. liquidum coelum ab spisso aere, the pure, clear sky or aether is separated from the thick air of our lower atmosphere The shining and fiery upper atmos phere corresponds to the Sanskrit Akasa and the Greek Ouranos. (return to text)
10. The physical elements now begin to unfold or emanate from the primordial elements and are removed from caeco acervo, the dark mass. Absolute light is considered as darkness to our eyes hence the original substance of Chaos is called a "dark mass" (return to text)
11. The elements ether, air, water, and earth were thus disposed in concentric circles about the earth, according to weight. Science in exploring the upper atmosphere and finding extremely high temperatures at certain levels is in a certain degree confirming the ancient tradition. (return to text)
12. Circumfluus humor possedit ultima often translated as "the water took possession of the outermost edges" in order to support the flat earth theory. (return to text)
13. quisquis Deorum, Jupiter or Zeus, according to the Orphic tradition represents the Mundane Egg or the corresponding Egg of Brahma of the Hindus, in other words the wholeness of the earth or of any entity living thereon; the will or command of Jupiter is simply the will of the whole But Jupiter is the fifth in descent in a line of which Phanes, Night, Ouranos, Saturn and Jupiter form a series and each in turn is spoken of as Father of the Gods and of all things. It is the same divine essence represented under different names and aspects on different planes or stages of evolution. The idea is illustrated in the monadic constitution of man, in which the stream of consciousness descends from the divine monad and builds a soul and body on each plane of man's sevenfold constitution, of material appropriate to each plane.
It was only during the downward cycle that the great gods of the Greeks assumed, in popular opinion, the weaknesses and personality of mankind, and came to be what we find in mythology today. They were never understood by the intelligent men of Greece as we understand them today. (return to text)
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE