The Path – October 1894

ON THE SOURCES OF THE "SECRET DOCTRINE" — Katharine Hillard

It has often been my fortune to be asked upon what authority the statements in the Secret Doctrine were made, and I thought it might be useful to many members of the T. S. to have the few passages of the book itself that refer to its origins put into a more compact and easily-handled form. At the same time we must never forget the two points upon which H. P. B. herself laid so much stress; first, that nothing was to be accepted by the student simply and solely upon authority, however exalted, but only that to which his own soul testified as the truth; and second, that a large part, even of the esoteric teaching, was allegorical. Bearing these two statements in mind, we have as it were a touchstone wherewith to prove all things and to hold fast that which is good.

In the introductory chapter to Vol. I the author speaks of the "Wisdom Religion" as the inheritance of all the nations, the world over, and states that Gautama's metaphysics and secret teachings form but a very small part of the esoteric wisdom of the world since the beginning of our humanity, while he limited his public instructions to the purely moral and physiological aspect of the Wisdom Religion, to Ethics and Man alone. Things "unseen and incorporeal" the great Teacher reserved for a select circle of his Arhats, who received their initiation at the famous Saptaparna cave near Mount Baibhar. These teachings, once transferred from this inner circle into the outer world of China, Japan, Siam, and Burmah, soon became greatly changed and corrupted, while early in the present century one key to the ancient symbolism having been discovered, its outer and grosser meaning was eagerly seized as explaining everything, and the literature of phallicism threatened to usurp the place of all other symbolism. And this, says H. P. B., is perhaps "the true reason why the outline of a few fundamental truths from the Secret Doctrine of the archaic ages is now permitted to see the light".

The main body of the doctrines given is found scattered through hundreds and thousands of Sanscrit manuscripts, some already translated, more or less badly, others still in the vernacular. These are accessible to the scholar, while a few passages, taken from oral teaching or from the Commentaries, will be found difficult to trace. However, one fact is certain, says Mme. Blavatsky, that 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 and South America — claim to have in their possession all the sacred and philosophical works, whether in manuscript or in type, in whatever language or whatever character, that have ever been written, from the ideographic hieroglyphs down. And that these works have been carefully preserved in subterranean crypts and cave-libraries in the mountains of Western Tibet and elsewhere, where there are said to be hidden collections of books far too numerous to find room even in the British Museum.

The documents have been concealed, it is true, but the knowledge itself has always been made known to the chosen few through the medium of the great Adepts and teachers. More than one great scholar has stated that there never was a religious founder who had invented a new religion or revealed a new truth. They were all transmitters, not original teachers, and handed on fragments of the truths they had learned, couched in the symbolism of their own special nation.

The teaching of the Secret Doctrine antedates the Vedas, and much of it has only been transmitted orally. The present instalment is based upon the Stanzas of the Book of Dzyan, a volume written in Senzar, the secret sarcerdotal tongue, once known to the Initiates of every nation. For this language, besides having an alphabet of its own (says H. P. B. in the preface to the Voice of the Silence), may be rendered in several modes of ideographic writing, common and international property among initiated mystics and their followers. Dan (in modern Chinese and Tibetan phonetics, Ch'an) is the general term for the esoteric schools and their literature. In old books the word "Janna" is defined as "to reform one's self by meditation and knowledge", a second, inner birth. Hence Dzyan (Djan, phonetically), the Book of Dzyan. The only original copy now in existence, says Isis Unveiled (vol. I, p. 1), is so very old that modern antiquarians would not even agree upon the nature of the fabric upon which it is written. Tradition says that its contents were dictated to the first men of each race by the Divine Beings whose duty it was to instruct them. The old book, having described cosmic evolution and explained the origin of everything on earth, including physical man, gives the true history of the races from the First down to the Fifth, our present race, and stops short with the death of Krishna, which occurred about 4995 years ago.

It is the original work from which the many volumes of Kin-ti were compiled, and not only this and the Siphrah Dzenionta (the most ancient Hebrew document on occult learning), but even the Sepher Jezireh, the book of Shu-King (China's primitive bible), the sacred volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes, the Puranas of India, the Chaldean Book of Numbers, and the Pentateuch itself, are all derived from that one small parent volume, upon which an enormous mass of commentaries, glosses, etc., have been written. In the Secret Doctrine as we have it, certain portions of the stanzas of the Book of Dzyan are printed, and extracts are also given from the Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanscrit translations of the original Senzar Commentaries and Glosses.

In addition we are told (I, 208) that is it from the Divine Teachers before-mentioned that infant humanity got its first notions of all the arts and sciences, as well as of spiritual knowledge, and it is they who laid the foundation-stones of those ancient civilizations that are so puzzling to our modern scholars. The Druidical circles, the dolmans, the temples of India, Egypt, and Greece, the towers and the 127 towns in Europe which were found "Cyclopean in origin" by the French Institute, are all the work of initiated Priest-Architects, the descendants of those primarily taught by the "Sons of God", justly called the "Builders".

The Secret Doctrine (I, 272) is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, but such is the power of occult symbolism that the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, to set down, and explain, are all recorded in a few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs. It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals, but is the one uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of seers, whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one race to another of the teachings of the Divine Instructors who watched over the childhood of humanity. And for long ages the "Wise Men" of the Fifth, our own, Race passed their lives in learning, not teaching, in checking, testing, and verifying in every department of Nature the traditions handed down to them, by the independent visions of great Adepts; that is, men who have developed their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one Adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions — so obtained as to stand as independent evidence — of other Adepts, as well as by centuries of experiences.

In fact, the history of the world since its formation and to its end is "written in the stars", that is, is recorded in the Zodiac and the Universal Symbolism whose keys are in the keeping of the Initiates (II, 438). The records of the temples, zodiacal and traditional, as well as the ideographic records of the East as read by the Adepts of the Sacred Science, are not a whit more doubtful than the so-called ancient history of the European nations, now edited, corrected, and amplified by half a century of archaeological discoveries, and the very problematical reading of the Assyrian tiles, cuneiform fragments, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. So are our data based upon the same inscriptions in addition to an almost inexhaustible number of secret works of which Europe knows nothing, and plus the perfect knowledge by the Initiates of the symbolism of every word so recorded.

It was a correct inference of Barth from the study of the Rig Veda, that this Scripture has been compiled by Initiates (II, 45 1). The whole of the Secret Doctrine is an endeavor to prove this truth. The ancient Adepts solved the great problems of science, however unwilling modern materialism may be to admit the fact. The mysteries of Life and Death were fathomed by the great master-minds of antiquity; and if they have preserved them in secrecy and silence it is because these problems formed part of the sacred Mysteries, and because they must always have remained incomprehensible to the vast majority of men, as they do now.

Such are the statements, in a more or less condensed form, of the sources of that most extraordinary book known as the Secret Doctrine, taken from the two volumes of the work itself, as well as from the introductory chapters of the Voice of the Silence and Isis Unveiled.


The Path

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