The Path – April 1888

THE TIDE OF LIFE: I — Charles Johnston

(Annotated by H. P. Blavatsky)

"Our souls have sight of that immortal sea which brought us hither;
     Can in a moment travel thither —
And see the children sport upon the shore,
     And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore."

That the book of Genesis is not a homogeneous work, but is composed of several distinct and widely different books, becomes evident from a slight examination. The first thirty-four verses form the first and apparently the most ancient of these. This treatise contains a system of cosmogony closely resembling that of the Puranas and Upanishads. The origin of this ancient tract, and the causes which led to its incorporation with the Hebrew scriptures, we can only guess at. Its source may have been some venerable hieratic manuscript brought by Moses from the temple-libraries of Egypt, where it had lain for thousands of years, from the time when the colonists of Egypt left their early home in ancient India. Or it came, perhaps, from the Chaldaen Magians, the inheritors of the sacred Iranian lore, the younger sister of the wisdom-religion of the motherland of the Aryas. This much we know, that it contains a Divine Cosmogony, of evident Oriental character, and almost identical with the Archaic Sacred theories of the East.

This tract splits off like a flake from the story of Adam and Eve which, from its more vivid colour, has almost cast it into the shade, and a mere preface or pendant to which it has erroneously been considered to be. To make this separation more clearly apparent, a few of the lines of cleavage may be shown. (1) To begin with, we find two quite different and distinct accounts of the "Creation."

(1.) In the more ancient cosmogony, contained in the first thirty-four verses, the account of the formation of man is similar to, and parallel with, that of the animals. (2)

"The Elohim created man, male and female."

While the second and later account introduces the distinct and peculiar story of the creation of Adam from dust, and of Eve from Adam's rib. Besides this, earlier in the second account, we find that the formation of man as detailed in the first tract is entirely ignored by the words —

"There was not a man to till the ground." (3)

and this nine verses after it had been chronicled that "God created man."

(2.) In the more ancient tract, man and woman are created together, and over them is pronounced the blessing —

"Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth,"

yet in the subsequent story of Adam and Eve, the absence of woman is marked by the words —

"It is not good that the man should be alone:"

and further on, in the story of Eden, the children of Eve are foretold with a curse and not with a blessing,

"I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception,"

for, in this story, while Adam and Eve remained unfallen they remained childless.

(3.) We read in the first account that —

"The Earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit tree."

This is ignored in the second account, when we read twenty-four verses later,

"No plant of the field was yet in the earth."

Similarly, we have a second and distinct account of the formation of the animal kingdom; which, moreover, comes after the Seventh day "on which God rested from all his work which he had created and made." (4)

(4.) In the first account the order of creation is as follows: —

"Birds; beasts; man; woman;"

In the second, we find the order changed,

"Man; beasts; fowls; woman."

In the one case man is created to rule the beasts; in the other the beasts are created as companions for man.

(5.) In the first account all herbs and fruits are given to man unreservedly —
"I have given you every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed"

In the second we read —

"Of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it."

(6.) All through the earlier cosmogony the Divine Creative Energy is called "Elohim;" thus in the first verse we read —

"Berashit bara Elohim."

In the story of Adam and Eve this title is replaced by another, "Jehovah" or "Yava." In the English the difference is veiled by translating the former "God," though it is a plural form, while the latter becomes "the Lord God." In other parts of the Bible several other titles of Deity are introduced, "El," "Adon-ai," "El Shaddai."

(7.) The early cosmogony gives to man a Divine dignity from the first: —

"The Elohim created man in their own image; in the image of the Elohim created they him."

In the story of Adam and Eve this likeness to the Divine comes only after the forbidden fruit is eaten, when man has fallen; then it was that

"Jehovah said, The man is become as one of us."
These facts warrant us in considering this Divine cosmogony, contained in the first thirty-four verses of Genesis, separate and distinct from the less orderly and scientific, though more popular, story of Adam and Eve.

At the present time, when the apparent antagonism between modern evolutionary doctrines and the doctrine of the Adamic Creation is perplexing many, it may not be out of place to draw attention to this earlier and more scientific cosmogony, and to point out that not only is it perfectly in accordance with the latest ascertained facts, but that it is probably "more scientific than the scientists," in that it recognised clearly the dual character of evolution, while modern thought manifests too great a tendency to one-sidedness.

The doctrine of this first cosmogony of Genesis is that of the formation of the phenomenal universe by the expansive or emanative power of the great unmanifested Reality, or underlying Divine Vigor in virtue of which existence is possible. This unmanifested Reality has no name in the West, but it may be called with the Hindu Vedantins, Parabrahm. After a period of Cosmic rest called in the East a Night of Brahma, the Unmanifested, by its inherent expansive power, sends forth from itself a series of emanations.

The first emanation, the only Divine and eternal one, which is conceived as lasting even through the Night of Brahma, is the Logos. The second emanation is what was called by the cabalistic philosophers the "fifth essence," counting "fire," "air," "water," and "earth" as the other four. It may be termed "Spiritual Ether." From Ether proceeded the element called by the cabalists "fire"; from fire proceeded "air"; from air proceeded the element "water"; from water, "earth."

These five — ether, fire, air, water, earth, are the five emanations which, in their various phases and combinations, make up the phenomenal universe, the Logos being considered Divine and subjective, or noumenal. From Earth sprang in order the vegetable and animal kingdoms, and finally Man.

The "elements", as understood in the above classification, are by no means to be confounded with the elements of modern chemistry; they are arrived at by an entirely different though equally scientific course of reasoning.

In the cosmogony of Genesis the Divine Underlying Reality is called GOD. The expansive power by which, after the period of cosmic rest, the phenomenal universe was formed is thus described: —

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

This "in the beginning," marks off from eternity the point at which the present period of cosmic activity, or day of Brahma, began; when the Universe proceeded from "the everlasting bosom of God" to which it must return when this period comes to an end. Modern scientists are not without some dim perception of this process of emanation and absorption, as may be seen from the speculations in the "Unseen Universe," (5) though the authors of this work confine themselves chiefly to the last emanation, that of physical matter from the emanation which preceded it. Whence the universe emerged, thither also must it return; a truth clear to the pure insight of Shakespeare —

". . . Like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind."

God, the eternal Parabrahm, remains unchanged; with God remains the Logos, the first and eternal emanation —

"The spirit of God. . ."

which, "dove-like, sat brooding on the vast abyss."

This "vast abyss," or, as it is styled in the cosmogony of Genesis —

"The face of the waters,"

is what we have called the elemental Ether, the "Akasa" of the Upanishads. It is of ethereal nature, and is the plane of sound, answering to the sense of hearing; that it is the plane of sound has been taught by the Brahmans and the cabalists, and may be inferred from various considerations, amongst others from the difficulty of locating sounds in their immediate material sources (they having, as it were, an immaterial character), and from their spiritual, ethereal nature.

This element of ether has within it the possibility of innumerable sounds and changes of sound: according to the cabalists the sound becomes apparent to our senses only when it strikes against a material object, such as a vibrating violin-string, which becomes merely a point of reflection for the all-prevading element of sound; just as a beam of sunlight becomes apparent only by reflection from particles of dust floating in the air. (6)

Next in order after the emanation of ether, the matrix of sound, comes the elemental Light, the "fire-element" of the cabalists. It corresponds to the plane of colour and the sense of sight, which should rightly be called the "colour sense," For colour is really the only quality perceived by the eye. "All objects," says Ruskin, "appear to the human eye simply as masses of colour. Take a crocus, and put it on a green cloth. You will see it detach itself as a mere space of yellow from the green behind it, as it does from the grass. Hold it up against the window, you will see it detach itself as a dark space against the white or blue behind it. In either case its outline is the limit of the space of colour by which it expresses itself to your sight. The fact is that all nature is seen as a mosaic composed of graduated portions of different colours." (7) This light, or colour-element, is a pure element containing within itself the possibility of all varieties of colour. After its formation, we find the words —

"The evening and the morning were the first day,"

introducing the element of time first with this emanation. The Logos is, as we have seen, eternal; and the immaterial, semi-physical element of Ether is, as it were, the borderland between the subjective eternal Logos and the objective elements of fire, air, water, and earth.

After this light-emanation comes the element called by the cabalists "Air." Its formation in the cosmogony of Genesis is marked by the words —

"The Elohim said, Let there be an Expanse."

This word, for a long time wrongly translated "firmament," is chosen to express the air-element, because from this element we derive the idea of the extension or expansiveness of a body — its ability to fill a certain quantity of space. The air-element corresponds to the sense of touch, so far as this sense conveys the idea of "expansiveness" or "extension." The sense of touch differs from the senses of sound and sight, in that it is distributed all over the surface of the skin, while they are confined to definite sense-organs, or spaces of localised sensitiveness, and, in proportion as the eye and ear have gained in sensitiveness to light and sound, the rest of the skin has lost its power of responding to these sensations. The whole surface of the body is, on the contrary, still sensitive to touch, as also to the sensation of heat. (8) There is reason to believe that at one time the body's whole surface could respond equally to all sensations; (9) the specialised organs of sense not being then developed, just as the whole surface of the jelly fish still responds to the stimulus of light. An analogy to this condition of unspecialised sensitiveness is furnished by modern experiments in thought transference, from which it appears that the sensations of sound, colour, taste, touch, and smell are all transferred from one mind to another with equal ease. There are some grounds for the belief that when an organ is specialised for some particular sensation it loses the power of responding to other sensations: that the retina, for instance, will be insensible to heat. (10) The sensations of heat and touch are, as we have seen, distributed over the whole surface of the skin; and from this fact, among others, we are led to consider heat as well as touch an attribute of the element "air." Another reason for this conclusion is the fact that we find heat always associated with expansiveness or extension. As elucidating this point we may quote the researches in the solidification of gases, and speculations on "absolute zero" in temperature, though want of space precludes us from more than merely referring to them. After air comes the element of water, marked in the Genesis cosmogony by the words: —

"The Elohim said, Let the waters be gathered together."

This elemental water corresponds to the sense of taste, and in part to the idea of molecular motion; the motion of masses being one of the ideas attached to the Air-element. It might be thought that the sensation of taste might also be derived from solid bodies; but that this is not so may be inferred from recent scientific researches, which have demonstrated that all bodies, even the metals, and ice far below zero, are covered with a thin layer of liquid, and it is from this liquid layer that we get the sensation of taste from solids. In this element of water are the potentialities of innumerable tastes, every organic body, and even minerals and metals, having a distinctive taste: zinc and steel among the metals for instance, and sugar, vinegar, and wine in the organic world.

This element is followed by the last emanation, the Earth-element of the cabalists, marked in the Cosmogony of Genesis by the words,

"The Elohim said, Let the dry land appear, and it was so, and the Elohim called the dry land Earth."

This emanation corresponds to the extreme of materiality, solidity, and, amongst the senses, to smell. A piece of camphor, for example, throws off small solid particles in every direction, and these, coming in contact with the nerves specialised to this sense, produce the sensation of smell. This Earth-element is the last emanation strictly so-called. To this point the outward expansion of Parabrahm has been tending, and from this point the wave of spirit must again recede.

It must be here stated that these elements, fire, air, water, and earth, are not what we ordinarily mean by these terms, but are, so to speak, the pure elemental or spiritual counterparts of these. Down to this point, Form has been gradually developing, being destined to combine with each of the elements in turn, in the ascending scale.

(To be continued.)

FOOTNOTES:

1. The esoteric teaching accounts for it. The first chapter of Genesis, or the Elohistic version, does not treat of the creation of man at all. It is what the Hindu Puranas call the Primal creation, while the second chapter is the Secondary creation or that of our globe of man. Adam Kadmon is no man, but the protologos, the collective Sephirsthal Tree — the "Heavenly Man", the vehicle (or Vahan) used by En-Soph to manifest in the phenomenal world (see Sohar): and as the "male and female" Adam is the "Archetypal man," so the animals mentioned in the first chapter are the sacred animals, or the zodiacal signs, while "Light" refers to the angels so called. — H. P. Blavatsky. (return to text)

2. Vide supra — "The great whale" (v. 21) is the Makara of the Hindu Zodiac — translated very queerly as "Capricorn," whereas it is not even a "Crocodile," as "Makara " is translated, but a nondescript aquatic monster, the "Leviathan" in Hebrew symbolism, and the vehicle of Vishnu. Whoever may be right in the recent polemical quarrel on Genesis between Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Huxley, it is not Genesis that is guilty of the error imputed. The Elohistic portion of it is charged with the great zoological blunder of placing the evolution of the birds before the reptiles (Vide — "Modern Science, and Modern Thought," by Mr. S. Laing), and Mr. Gladstone is twitted with supporting it. But one has but to read the Hebrew text to find that Verse 20 (Chap. 1) does speak of reptiles before the birds. And God said, "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the (swimming and creeping, not) moving creatures that hath life, and fowl that may fly" etc. This ought to settle the quarrel and justify Genesis, for here we find it in a perfect zoological order — first the evolution of grass, then of larger vegetation, then of fish (or mollusks), reptiles, birds, etc., etc. Genesis is a purely symbolical and kabalistic volume. It can neither be understood nor appreciated, if judged on the mistranslations and misinterpretations of its Christian remodellers. — H. P. Blavatsky. (return to text)

3. Because Adam is the Symbol of the first terrestrial MAN or Humanity. — H. P. Blavatsky. (return to text)

4. Genesis being an eastern work, it has to be read in its own language. It is in full agreement,
when understood, with the universal cosmogony and evolution of life as given in the Secret Doctrine of the Archaic Ages. The last word of Science is far from being uttered yet. Esoteric philosophy teaches that man was the first living being to appear on earth, all the animal world coming after him. This will be proclaimed absurdly unscientific. But see in Lucifer — "The Latest Romance of Science." — H. P. Blavatsky. (return to text)

5. "The Unseen Universe," by Professors Balfour Stewart and P. G. Tait. — [C. J.] (return to text)

6. While taking this view of sound, we are, of course, perfectly acquainted with modern researches and speculations on the subject. Our standpoint, however, is so widely different from that of modern science that no comparison with its teachings is possible. (return to text)

7. Ruskin, "Lectures on Art," p. 125. (return to text)

8. For speculations on a specialised heat sense we may refer to Mr. E. A. Proctor's ideal visit to Saturn's Satellites. (return to text)

9. Readers will remember the translations which appeared in the PATH some time ago giving the German Mystic Kernning's teachings hereupon. [W. Q. J.] (return to text)

10. Vide some experiments with thermal rays in Tyndall's "Heat a Mode of Motion." (return to text)


The Path

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE