Theosophical University Press Online Edition
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Metaphysically and esoterically there is but One Element in nature, and at the root of it is the Deity; and the so-called seven elements, of which five have already manifested and asserted their existence, are the garment, the veil, of that deity; direct from the essence whereof comes Man, whether physically, psychically, mentally or spiritually considered. Four elements only are generally spoken of in later antiquity, five admitted only in philosophy. For the body of ether is not fully manifested yet, and its noumenon is still “the Omnipotent Father — AEther, the synthesis of the rest.” But what are these “Elements” whose compound bodies have now been discovered by Chemistry and Physics to contain numberless sub-elements, even the sixty or seventy of which no longer embrace the whole number suspected. (Vide Addenda, §§ XI. and XII., quotations from Mr. Crookes’ Lectures.) Let us follow their evolution from the historical beginnings, at any rate.
The four Elements were fully characterized by Plato when he said that they were that “which composes and decomposes the compound bodies.”
Hence Cosmolatry was never, even in its worst aspect, the fetishism which adores or worships the passive external form and matter of any object, but looked ever to the noumenon therein. Fire, Air, Water, Earth, were but the visible garb, the symbols of the informing, invisible Souls or Spirits — the Cosmic gods to whom worship was offered by the ignorant, and simple, respectful recognition by the wiser. In their turn the phenomenal subdivisions of the noumenal Elements were informed by the Elementals, so called, the “Nature Spirits” of lower grades.
In the Theogony of Mochus, we find Ether first, and then the air; the two principles from which Ulom the intelligible ([[noetos]]) God (the visible universe of matter) is born.*
In the Orphic hymns, the Eros-Phanes evolves from the Spiritual Egg, which the AEthereal winds impregnate, Wind being “the Spirit of God,” who is said to move in AEther, “brooding over the chaos” — the Divine “Idea.” In the Hindu Katakopanisad, Purusha, the Divine Spirit, already stands before the original matter, from whose union springs the great Soul of the World, “Maha = Atma, Brahm, the Spirit of Life;”† these latter appellations being again identical with the Universal Soul, or Anima Mundi, the Astral Light of the Theurgists and Kabalists, being its last and lowest division.”
The [[stoicheia]] (Elements) of Plato and Aristotle, were thus the incorporeal principles attached to the four great divisions of our Cosmic World, and it is with justice that Creuzer defines those primitive beliefs . . . as a species of magism, a psychic paganism, and a deification of potencies; a spiritualization which placed the believers in a close community with these potencies,” (Book IX, p. 850). So close, indeed, that the hierarchies of those potencies or Forces have been classified on a graduated scale of seven from the ponderable to the imponderable. They are Septenary, — not as an artificial aid to facilitate their comprehension — but in their real Cosmic gradation, from their chemical (or physical) to their purely spiritual composition. Gods — with the ignorant masses — gods independent and supreme; daemons with the fanatics, who, intellectual as they often may be, are unable to understand the Spirit of the philosophical sentence, in pluribus unum. With the hermetic philosopher they are forces relatively “blind,” or “intelligent,” according to which of the principles in them he deals with. It required long millenniums before they found themselves, in our cultured age, finally degraded into simple chemical elements.
At any rate, good Christians, and especially the Biblical Protestants,
* Movers: “Phoinizer,” 282.
† Weber: “Akad. Vorles,” 213, 214, etc.
ought to show more reverence for the four Elements, if they would show any for Moses. For the Bible manifests the consideration and mystic significance in which they were held by the Hebrew Lawgiver, on every page of the Pentateuch. The tent which contained the Holy of Holies “was a Cosmic Symbol, sacred, in one of its meanings, to the Elements, the four cardinal points, and Ether. Josephus shows it built in white, the colour of Ether. And this explains also why, in the Egyptian and the Hebrew temples — according to Clemens Alexandrinus — a gigantic curtain, supported by five pillars, separated the sanctum sanctorum (now represented by the altar in Christian churches) wherein the priests alone were permitted to enter, from the part accessible to the profane. By its four colours the curtain symbolized the four principal Elements, and signified the knowledge of the divine that the five senses of men can enable man to acquire with the help of the four Elements. (See Stromata I., v. § 6).
In Cory’s Ancient Fragments, one of the “Chaldean Oracles” expresses ideas about the elements and Ether in language singularly like that of the Unseen Universe, written by two eminent scientists of our day.
It states that “from ether have come all things, and to it all will return; that the images of all things are indelibly impressed upon it; and that it is the store-house of the germs or of the remains of all visible forms, and even ideas. It appears as if this case strangely corroborates our assertion that whatever discoveries may be made in our days will be found to have been anticipated by many thousand years by our ‘simple-minded ancestors.’ ” — (Isis Unveiled.)
Whence came the four elements and the malachim of the Hebrews? They have been made to merge, by a theological sleight-of-hand on the part of the Rabbins and the later Fathers of the Church into Jehovah, but their origin is identical with that of the Cosmic gods of all other nations. Their symbols, whether born on the shores of the Oxus, on the burning sands of Upper Egypt, or in the wild forests, weird and glacial, which cover the slopes and peaks of the sacred snowy mountains of Thessaly, or again, in the pampas of America, their symbols, we repeat, when traced to their source, are ever one and the same. Whether Egyptian or Pelasgian, Aryan or Semitic, the genius loci, the local god, embraced in its unity all nature; but not especially the four elements any more than one of their creations, such as trees, rivers, mounts or stars. The genius loci — a very late after-thought of the last sub-races of the Fifth Root-race, when the primitive and grandiose meaning had become nearly lost — was ever the representative in his accumulated titles of all his colleagues. It was the god of fire, symbolised by thunder, as Jove or Agni; the god of water, symbolised by the fluvial bull or some sacred river or fountain, as Varuna, Neptune, etc.; the god of air, manifesting in the hurricane and tempest, as Vayu and Indra; and the god or spirit
of the earth, who appeared in earthquakes, like Pluto, Yama, and so many others.
These were the Cosmic gods, ever synthesizing all in one, as found in every cosmogony or mythology. Thus, the Greeks had their Dodonean Jupiter, who included in himself the four elements and the four cardinal points, and who was recognized, therefore, in old Rome under the pantheistic title of Jupiter Mundus; and who now, in modern Rome, has become the Deus Mundus, the one mundane god, who is made to swallow all others in the latest theology — by the arbitrary decision of his special ministers.
As gods of Fire, Air, Water, they were celestial gods; as gods of the lower region, they were infernal deities: the latter adjective applying simply to the Earth. They were “Spirits of the Earth” under their respective names of Yama, Pluto, Osiris, the “Lord of the lower kingdom, etc., etc.,” and their tellurial character proves it sufficiently.* The ancients knew of no worse abode after death than the Kamaloka, the limbus on this Earth. If it is argued that the Dodonean Jupiter was identified with Aidoneus, the king of the subterranean world, and Dis, or the Roman Pluto and the Dionysius Chthonios, the subterranean, wherein, according to Creuzer (I, vi., ch. 1), oracles were rendered, then it will become the pleasure of the Occultists to prove that both Aidoneus and Dionysius are the bases of Adonai, or “Jurbo Adonai,” as Jehovah is called in Codex Nazaraeus. “Thou shalt not worship the Sun, who is named Adonai, whose name is also Kadush and El-El” (Cod. Naz., i, 47; see also Psalm lxxxix., 18), and also “Lord Bacchus.” Baal-Adonis of the Sods or Mysteries of the pre-Babylonian Jews became the Adonai by the Massorah, the later-vowelled Jehovah. Hence the Roman Catholics are right. All these Jupiters are of the same family; but Jehovah has to be included therein to make it complete. Jupiter-Aerios or Pan, the Jupiter Ammon, and the Jupiter-Bel-Moloch, are all correlations and one with Yurbo-Adonai, because they are all one cosmic nature. It is that nature and power which create the specific terrestrial symbol, and the physical and material fabric of the latter, which proves the Energy manifesting through it as extrinsic.
For primitive religion was something better than simple pre-occupation about physical phenomena, as remarked by Schilling; and principles, more elevated than we modern Sadducees know of, “were hidden under the transparent veil of such merely natural divinities as thunder,
* The Gehenna of the Bible was a valley near Jerusalem, where the monotheistic Jews immolated their children to Moloch, if the prophet Jeremiah is to be believed on his word. The Scandinavian Hel or Hela was a frigid region — again Kamaloka — and the Egyptian Amenti a place of purification. (See Isis Unveiled, Vol. II., p. 11.)
the winds, and rain.” The ancients knew and could distinguish the corporeal from the spiritual elements, in the forces of nature.
The four-fold Jupiter, as the four-faced Brahma — the aerial, the fulgurant, the terrestrial, and the marine god — the lord and master of the four elements, may stand as a representative for the great Cosmic gods of every nation. While passing power over the fire to Hephaistos-Vulcan, over the sea, to Poseidon-Neptune, and over the Earth, to Pluto-Aidoneus — the aerial Jove was all these; for AEther, from the first, had pre-eminence over, and was the synthesis of, all the elements.
Tradition points to a grotto, a vast cave in the deserts of Central Asia, whereinto light pours through its four seemingly natural apertures or clefts placed crossways at the four cardinal points of the place. >From noon till an hour before sunset that light streams in, of four different colours, as averred — red, blue, orange-gold, and white — owing to some either natural or artificially prepared conditions of vegetation and soil. The light converges in the centre around a pillar of white marble with a globe upon it, which represents our earth. It is named the “grotto of Zaratushta.”
When included under the arts and sciences of the fourth race, the Atlanteans, the phenomenal manifestation of the four elements, justly attributed by the believers in Cosmic gods to the intelligent interference of the latter, assumed a scientific character. The magic of the ancient priests consisted, in those days, in addressing their gods in their own language. “The speech of the men of the earth cannot reach the Lords. Each must be addressed in the language of his respective element” — is a sentence which will be shown pregnant with meaning. “The Book of Rules” cited adds as an explanation of the nature of that Element-language: “It is composed of sounds, not words; of sounds, numbers and figures. He who knows how to blend the three, will call forth the response of the superintending Power” (the regent-god of the specific element needed).
Thus this “language” is that of incantations or of Mantras, as they are called in India, sound being the most potent and effectual magic agent, and the first of the keys which opens the door of communication between Mortals and the Immortals. He who believes in the words and teachings of St. Paul, has no right to pick out from the latter those sentences only that he chooses to accept, to the rejection of others; and St. Paul teaches most undeniably the existence of cosmic gods and their presence among us. Paganism preached a dual and simultaneous evolution: “creation” — “spiritualem ac mundanum,” as the Roman Church has it — ages before the advent of that Roman Church. Exoteric phraseology has changed little with respect to divine hierarchies since the most palmy days of Paganism, or “Idolatry.” Names alone have changed,
along with claims which have now become false pretences. For when Plato put in the mouth of the Highest Principle — “Father AEther” or Jupiter — these words, for instance: “The gods of the gods of whom I am the maker (opifex) as I am the father of all their works (operumque parens)”; he knew the spirit of this sentence as fully, we suspect, as St. Paul did, when saying: “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, as there be gods many and lords many,” . . . . etc. (1 Cor. viii. 5.)* Both knew the sense and the meaning of what they put forward in such guarded terms.
Says Sir W. Grove, F.R.S., speaking of the correlation of forces, “The ancients when they witnessed a natural phenomenon, removed from ordinary analogies, and unexplained by any mechanical action known to them, referred it to a soul, a spiritual or preternatural power. . . . Air and gases were also at first deemed spiritual, but subsequently they became invested with a more material character; and the same words [[pneuma]], spirit, etc., were used to signify the soul or a gas; the very word gas, from geist, a ghost or spirit, affords us an instance of the gradual transmutation of a spiritual into a physical conception . . . . . .” (P. 89.) This, the great man of science (in his preface to the fifth edition of “Correlation of Physical Forces”) considers as the only concern of exact science, which has no business to meddle with the causes. “Cause and effect,” he explains, “are therefore, in their abstract relation to these forces, words solely of convenience. We are totally unacquainted with the ultimate generating power of each and all of them, and probably shall ever remain so; we can only ascertain the norma of their actions; we must humbly refer their causation to one omnipresent influence, and content ourselves with studying their effects and developing, by experiment, their mutual relations” (p. xiv.).
This policy once accepted, and the system virtually admitted in the above-quoted words, namely, the spirituality of the “ultimate generating power,” it would be more than illogical to refuse to recognise this quality which is inherent in the material elements, or rather, in their com-
* We cannot be taken to task by the Protestants for interpreting the verse from the Corinthians as we do; for, if the translation in the English Bible is made ambiguous, it is not so in the original texts, and the Roman Catholic Church accepts the words of the Apostle in their true sense. For a proof see the Commentaries on St. Paul’s Epistles, by St. John Chrysostom “directly inspired by the Apostle,” and “who wrote under his dictation,” as we are assured by the Marquis de Mirville, whose works are approved by Rome. And St. Chrysostom says, commenting on that special verse, “And, though there are (in fact) they who are called gods . . . . — for it seems, there are really several gods — withal, and for all that, the God-principle and the Superior God ceasing to remain essentially one and indivisible.” . . . Thus spoke the old Initiates also, knowing that the worship of minor gods could never affect the “God Principle” (See de Mirville, “Des Esprits,” vol. ii., 322).
pounds — as present in the fire, air, water or earth. The ancients knew these powers so well, that, while concealing their true nature under various allegories, for the benefit (or to the detriment) of the uneducated rabble, they never departed from the multiple object in view, while inverting them. They contrived to throw a thick veil over the nucleus of truth concealed by the symbol, but they ever tried to preserve the latter as a record for future generations, sufficiently transparent to allow their wise men to discern that truth behind the fabulous form of the glyph or allegory. They are accused of superstition and credulity, those ancient sages; and this by those very nations, which, learned in all the modern arts and sciences, cultured and wise in their generation, accept to this day as their one living and infinite God, the anthropomorphic “Jehovah” of the Jews.
What were some of the alleged “superstitions”? Hesiod believed, for instance, that “the winds were the sons of the giant Typhoeus,” who were chained and unchained at will by AEolus, and the polytheistic Greeks accepted it along with Hesiod. Why should not they, since the monotheistic Jews had the same beliefs, with other names for their dramatis personae, and since Christians believe in the same to this day? The Hesiodic AEolus, Boreas, etc., etc., were named Kadim, Tzaphon, Daren, and Ruach Hajan by the “chosen people” of Israel. What is, then, the fundamental difference? While the Hellenes were taught that AEolus tied and untied the winds, the Jews believed as fervently that their Lord God, “with smoke coming out of his nostrils and fire out of his mouth, rode upon a cherub and did fly; and was seen upon the wings of the wind” (II. Sam., xxii. 9 and 11). The expressions of the two nations are either both figures of speech, or both superstitions. We think they are neither; but only arise from a keen sense of oneness with nature, and a perception of the mysterious and the intelligent behind every natural phenomenon, which the moderns no longer possess. Nor was it “superstitious” in the Greek pagans to listen to the oracle of Delphi, when, at the approach of the fleet of Xerxes, that oracle advised them to “sacrifice to the Winds,” if the same has to be regarded as Divine Worship in the Israelites, who sacrificed as often to the wind and fire — especially to the latter element. Do they not say that their “God is a consuming fire” (Deut. iv., 24), who appeared generally as Fire and “encompassed by fire”? and did not Elijah seek for him (the Lord) in the “great strong wind, and in the earthquake”? Do not the Christians repeat the same after them? Do not they, moreover, sacrifice to this day, to the same “God of Wind and Water?” They do; because special prayers for rain, dry weather, trade-winds and the calming of storms on the seas exist to this hour in the prayer-books of the three Christian churches; and the several hundred sects of the Protestant religion
offer them to their God upon every threat of calamity? The fact that they are no more answered by Jehovah, than they were, probably, by Jupiter Pluvius, does not alter the fact of these prayers being addressed to the Power or Powers supposed to rule over the Elements, or of these Powers being identical in Paganism and Christianity; or have we to believe that such prayers are crass idolatry and absurd “superstition” only when addressed by a Pagan to his idol, and that the same superstition is suddenly transformed into praiseworthy piety and religion whenever the name of the celestial addressee is changed? But the tree is known by its fruit. And the fruit of the Christian tree being no better than that of the tree of Paganism, why should the former command more reverence than the latter.
Thus, when we are told by the Chevalier Drach, a converted Jew, and the Marquis de Mirville, a Roman Catholic fanatic of the French aristocracy, that in Hebrew lightning is a synonym of fury, and is always handled by an evil Spirit; that Jupiter Fulgur or Fulgurans is also called by the Christians oelicius, and denounced as the soul of lightning, its daemon;* we have either to apply the same explanation and definitions to the “Lord God of Israel,” under the same circumstances, or renounce our right of abusing the gods and creeds of other nations.
The foregoing statements emanating as they do from two ardent and learned Roman Catholics, are, to say the least, dangerous, in the presence of the Bible and its prophets. Indeed, if Jupiter, the “chief Daemon of the Pagan Greeks,” hurled his deadly thunder-bolts and lightnings at those who excited his wrath, so did the Lord God of Abraham and Jacob. We find in II. Samuel, that “the Lord thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice, and he sent out arrows (thunder bolts) and scattered them (Saul’s armies) with lightning, and discomforted them.” (Chap. xxii. 14, 15.)
The Athenians are accused of having sacrificed to Boreas; and this “Demon” is charged with having submerged and wrecked 400 ships of the Persian fleet on the rocks of Mount Pelion, and of having become so furious “that all the Magi of Xerxes could hardly counteract it by offering contra-sacrifices to Tethys” [Herodotus “Polym.” cxc]. Very fortunately, no authenticated instance is on the records of Christian wars showing a like catastrophe on the same scale happening to one Christian fleet owing to the “prayers” of its enemy — another Christian nation. But this is from no fault of theirs, for each prays as ardently to Jehovah for the destruction of the other, as the Athenians prayed to Boreas. Both resorted to a neat little piece of black magic con amore. Such abstinence from divine interference being hardly due to lack of
* Cosmolatry, p. 415.
prayers, sent to a common Almighty God for mutual destruction, where, then, shall we draw the line between Pagan and Christian? And who can doubt that all Protestant England would rejoice and offer thanks to the Lord, if, during some future war, 400 ships of the hostile fleet were to be wrecked owing to such holy prayers. What is, then, the difference, we ask again, between a Jupiter, a Boreas, and a Jehovah? No more than this: The crime of one’s own next-of-kin — say of one’s “father” — is always excused and often exalted, whereas the crime of our neighbour’s parent is ever gladly punished by hanging. Yet the crime is the same.
So far the “blessings of Christianity” do not seem to have made any appreciable advance on the morals of the converted Pagans.
The above is not a defence of Pagan gods, nor is it an attack on the Christian deity, nor does it mean belief in either. The writer is quite impartial, and rejects the testimony in favour of either, neither praying to, believing in, nor dreading any such “personal” and anthropomorphic God. The parallels are brought forward simply as one more curious exhibition of the illogical and blind fanaticism of the civilized theologian. For, so far, there is not a very great difference between the two beliefs, and there is none in their respective effects upon morality, or spiritual nature. The “light of Christ” shines upon as hideous features of the animal-man now, as the “light of Lucifer” did in days of old.
“Those unfortunate heathens in their superstition regard even the Elements as something that has comprehension! . . . . They still have faith in their idol Vayu — the god or, rather, Demon of the Wind and Air . . . they firmly believe in the efficacy of their prayers, and in the powers of their Brahmins over the winds and storms. . . . .” (The Missionary Lavoisier, of Cochin, in the Journal des Colonies.) In reply to this, we may quote from Luke viii., 24: “And he (Jesus) arose and rebuked the Wind and the raging of the Water, and they ceased and there was a calm.” And here is another quotation from a prayer book: . . . “Oh, Virgin of the Sea, blessed Mother and Lady of the Waters, stay thy waves . . .” etc., etc. (prayer of the Neapolitan and Provencal sailors, copied textually from that of the Phoenician mariners to their Virgin-goddess Astarte.) The logical and irrepressible conclusion arising from the parallels brought forward, and the denunciation of the Missionary is this: The commands of the Brahmins to their element-gods not remaining “ineffectual,” the power of the Brahmins is thus placed on a par with that of Jesus. Moreover, Astarte is shown not a whit weaker in potency than the “Virgin of the Sea” of Christian sailors. It is not enough to give a dog a bad name, and then hang him; the dog has to be proven guilty. Boreas and Astarte may be devils in theological
fancy, but, as just remarked, the tree has to be judged by its fruit. And once the Christians are shown as immoral and wicked as the pagans ever were, what benefit has humanity derived from its change of gods and idols?
That, however, which God and the Christian Saints are justified in doing, becomes a crime, if successful, in simple mortals. Sorcery and incantations are regarded as fables now; yet from the day of the Institutes of Justinian down to the laws against witchcraft of England and America — obsolete but not repealed to this day — such incantations, even when only suspected, were punished as criminal. Why punish a chimera? And still we read of Constantine, the Emperor, sentencing to death the philosopher Sopatrus for unchaining the winds, and thus preventing ships loaded with grain from arriving in time to put an end to famine. Pausanias, when affirming that he saw with his own eyes “men who by simple prayers and incantations” stopped a strong hail-storm, is derided. This does not prevent modern Christian writers from advising prayer during storm and danger, and believing in its efficacy. Hoppo and Stadlein two magicians and sorcerers — were sentenced to death for throwing charms on fruit and transferring a harvest by magic arts from one field to another, hardly a century ago, if we can believe Sprenger, the famous writer, who vouches for it: “Qui fruges excantassent segetem pellicentes incantando.”
Let us close by reminding the reader that, without the smallest shadow of superstition, one may believe in the dual nature of every object on Earth — in the spiritual and the material, the visible and the invisible nature, and that science virtually proves this, while denying its own demonstration. For if, as Sir William Grove has it, the electricity we handle is but the result of ordinary matter affected by something invisible, the “ultimate generating power” of every Force, the “one omnipresent influence,” then it only becomes natural that one should believe as the ancients did; namely, that every Element is dual in its nature. “Ethereal fire is the emanation of the Kabir proper; the aerial is but the union (correlation) of the former with terrestrial fire, and its guidance and application on our earthly plane belongs to a Kabir of a lesser dignity” — an Elemental, perhaps, as an Occultist would call it; and the same may be said of every Cosmic Element.
No one will deny that the human being is possessed of various forces: magnetic, sympathetic, antipathetic, nervous, dynamical, occult, mechanical, mental — every kind of force; and that the physical forces are all biological in their essence, seeing that they intermingle with, and often merge into, those forces that we have named intellectual and moral — the first being the vehicles, so to say, the upadhi, of the second. No one, who does not deny soul in man, would hesitate in
saying that their presence and commingling are the very essence of our being; that they constitute the Ego in man, in fact. These potencies have their physiological, physical, mechanical, as well as their nervous, ecstatic, clairaudient, and clairvoyant phenomena, which are now regarded and recognised as perfectly natural, even by science. Why should man be the only exception in nature, and why cannot even the elements have their vehicles, their “Vahans” in what we call the physical forces? And why, above all, should such beliefs be called “superstition” along with the religions of old?
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