Theosophical University Press Online Edition
We are reminded in King’s “Gnostics” that the Greek language has but one word for vowel and voice; and this has led the uninitiated to many erroneous interpretations. On the simple knowledge, however, of that well-known fact a comparison may be attempted, and a flood of light thrown upon several mystic meanings. Thus the words, so often used in the Upanishads and the Puranas, “Sound” and “Speech,” may be collated with the Gnostic “Vowels” and the “Voices” of the Thunders and Angels in “Revelation.” The same will be found in Pistis Sophia, and other ancient Fragments and MSS. This was remarked even by the matter-of-fact author of “The Gnostics and their Remains.”
Through Hippolytus, an early Church Father, we learn what Marcus — a Pythagorean rather than a Christian Gnostic, and a Kabalist most certainly — had received in mystic revelation. It is said that “Marcus had it revealed unto him that ‘the seven heavens’* . . . . sounded each one vowel, which, all combined together, formed a complete doxology”; in clearer words: “the Sound whereof being carried down (from these seven heavens) to earth, became the creator and parent of all things that be on earth.” (See “Hippolytus,” vi., 48, and King’s Gnostics, p. 200.) Translated from the Occult phraseology into still plainer language this would read: “The Sevenfold LOGOS having differentiated into seven Logoi, or creative potencies (vowels) these (the second logos, or “Sound”) created all on Earth.
Assuredly one who is acquainted with Gnostic literature can hardly help seeing in St. John’s Apocalypse, a work of the same school of thought. For we find John saying (chap. x. 3, 4), “Seven thunders uttered their voices . . . and I was about to write . . . (but) I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, ‘Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.’ ” The same injunction is given to Marcus, the same to all other semi and full Initiates. Yet the sameness of equivalent expressions used, and of the underlying ideas, always betrays a portion of the mysteries. We must always seek for more than one meaning in every mystery allegorically revealed, especially in those in which the number seven and its multiplication seven by seven, or forty-nine, appear. Now when the Rabbi Jesus is requested (in Pistis
* The “Heavens” are identical with “Angels,” as already stated.
Sophia) by his disciples to reveal to them, “the mysteries of the Light of thy (his) Father” (i.e., of the higher Self enlightened by Initiation and Divine knowledge), Jesus answers: “Do ye seek after these mysteries? No mystery is more excellent than they which shall bring your souls unto the Light of Lights, unto the place of Truth and Goodness, unto the place where there is neither male nor female, neither form in that place but Light, everlasting, not to be uttered. Nothing therefore is more excellent than the mysteries which ye seek after, saving only the mystery of the seven vowels and their forty and nine powers, and their numbers thereof; and no name is more excellent than all these vowels.” “The Seven Fathers and the Forty-nine Sons blaze in Darkness, but they are the life and light and the continuation thereof through the Great Age” — says the Commentary speaking of the “Fires.”
Now it becomes evident that, in every esoteric interpretation of exoteric beliefs expressed in allegorical forms, there was the same underlying idea — the basic number seven, the compound of three and four, preceded by the divine three () making the perfect number ten.
Also, these numbers applied equally to divisions of time, to cosmography metaphysical and physical, as well as to man and everything else in visible nature. Thus these Seven vowels with their forty-nine powers are identical with the three and the Seven Fires of the Hindus and their forty-nine fires; identical with the numerical mysteries of the Persian Simorgh; identical with those of the Jewish Kabalists. The latter, dwarfing the numbers (their mode of blinds), made the duration of each successive renewal (what we call in esoteric parlance Round) of the seven renewals of the globe only of 7,000 years, instead of, as is more likely, 7,000,000,000, and assigned to the total duration of the universe 49,000 years only. (Compare § “Chronology of the Brahmins.”)
Now, the Secret Doctrine furnishes a key which reveals to us on indisputable grounds of comparative analogy that Garuda, the allegorical and monstrous half-man and half-bird, — the Vahan or vehicle on which Vishnu (who is Kala, “time”) is shown to ride — is the origin of all other such allegories. He is the Indian phoenix, the emblem of cyclic and periodical time, the “man-lion” Singha, of whose representations the so-called “gnostic gems” are so full.* “Over the seven rays of the lion’s crown, and corresponding to their points, stand, in many cases, the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet [[AEEIOUO]], testifying to the Seven Heavens.” This is the Solar lion and the emblem of the Solar cycle, as
* As confessed by King, the great authority on Gnostic antiquities, these gnostic gems are not the work of the Gnostics, but belong to pre-christian periods, and are the work of magicians (p. 241).
Garuda* is that of the great cycle, the “Maha-Kalpa” co-eternal with Vishnu, and also, of course, the emblem of the Sun, and Solar cycle. This is shown by the details of the allegory. At his birth, Garuda is mistaken for Agni, the God of Fire, on account of his (Garuda’s) “dazzling splendour,” and called thereupon Gaganeswara, “lord of the sky.” Again, his being represented as Osiris, and by many heads of allegorical monsters on the Abraxas (gnostic) gems, with the head and beak of an eagle or a hawk (solar birds), denotes Garuda’s solar and cyclic character. His Son is Jatabu, the cycle of 60,000 years. As well remarked by C. W. King: — “Whatever the primary meaning (of the gem with the solar lion and vowels) it was probably imported in its present shape from India, that true fountain head of gnostic iconography” (Gnostics, p. 218).
The mysteries of the seven gnostic vowels, uttered by the thunders of St. John, can be unriddled only by the primeval and original Occultism of Aryavarta, brought into India by the primeval Brahmins, who had been initiated in Central Asia. And this is the Occultism we study and try to explain, as much as is possible in these pages. Our doctrine of seven Races and Seven Rounds of life and evolution around our terrestrial chain of spheres, may be found even in Revelation.† When the seven “thunders,” or “sounds,” or “vowels” — one meaning out of the seven for each such vowel relating directly to our own Earth and its seven Root-Races in each Round — “had uttered their voices” — but forbidden the Seer to write them, and made him “seal up those things” — what did the Angel “standing upon the sea and upon the earth” do? He lifted his hand to heaven “and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever . . . . that there should be time no longer.” “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel when he shall begin to sound, the Mystery of God (of the Cycle) should be finished” (x. 7), which means, in theosophic phraseology, that when the Seventh Round is completed, then Time will cease. “There shall be time no longer” very naturally, since pralaya shall set in and there will remain no one on earth to keep a division of time, during that periodical dissolution and arrest of conscious life.
Dr. Kenealy and others believed this doctrine of the Rabbins (their calculations of cyclic seven and forty-nine) to have been brought by
* The lack of intuition in Orientalists and antiquarians past and present, is remarkable. Thus, Wilson, the translator of Vishnu Purana, declares in his Preface that in the Garuda Purana he found “no account of the birth of Garuda.” Considering that an account of “Creation” in general is given therein, and that Garuda is co-eternal with Vishnu, the Maha Kalpa, or Great Life-CycIe, beginning with and ending with the manifesting Vishnu, what other account of Garuda’s birth could be expected !
† Vide Revelation xvii., verses 2 and 10; and Leviticus xxiii., verses 15 to 18; the first passage speaking of the “Seven Kings,” of whom five have gone; and the second about the “Seven Sabbaths,” etc.
them from Chaldea. This is more than likely. But the Babylonians, who had all those cycles and taught them only at their great initiatory mysteries of astrological magic, got their wisdom and learning from India. It is not difficult, therefore, to recognize in them our own esoteric doctrine. In their secret computations, the Japanese have the same figures in their cycles. As to the Brahmins, their Puranas and Upanishads are a good proof of it. The latter have passed entirely into Gnostic literature; and a Brahmin needs only to read Pistis Sophia* to recognize his forefathers’ property, even to the phraseology and similes used. Compare: in Pistis Sophia the disciple says to Jesus: “Rabbi, reveal unto us the Mysteries of the Light (i.e., the “Fire of Knowledge or Enlightenment”) . . . forasmuch as we have heard thee saying that there is another baptism of smoke, and another baptism of the Spirit of Holy Light,” i.e., the Spirit of fire. “I baptize you with water, but . . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire,” says John of Jesus (Matt. iii. 2); meaning this esoterically. The real significance of this statement is very profound. It means that he, John, a non-initiated ascetic, can impart to his disciples no greater wisdom than the mysteries connected with the plane of matter (water being a symbol of it). His gnosis was that of exoteric and ritualistic dogma, of dead-letter orthodoxy;† while the wisdom which Jesus, an Initiate of the higher mysteries, would reveal to them, was of a higher character, for it was the “Fire” Wisdom of the true gnosis or the real spiritual enlightment. One was Fire, the other the Smoke. For Moses, the fire on Mount Sinai, and the spiritual wisdom imparted; for the multitudes of the “people” below, for the profane, Mount Sinai in (through) smoke, i.e., the exoteric husks of orthodox or sectarian ritualism.
Now, having the above in view, read the dialogue between the sages Narada and Davamata in the Anugita, the antiquity and importance of which MS. (an episode from the Mahabharata) one can learn in the “Sacred Books of the East,” edited by Prof. Max Muller.‡ Narada is discussing upon the breaths or the “life-winds,” as they are called in
* Pistis Sophia is an extremely important document, a genuine Evangel of the Gnostics, ascribed at random to Valentinus, but much more probably a pre-Christian work in its original. It was discovered in a Coptic MS. by Schwartze, in the British Museum, quite accidentally, and translated by him into Latin; after which text and (Latin) version were published by Petermann in the year 1853. In the text itself the authorship of this Book is ascribed to Philip the Apostle, whom Jesus bids to sit down and write the revelation. It is genuine and ought to be as canonical as any other gospel. Unfortunately it remains to this day untranslated.
† In the Cycle of Initiation, which was very long, water represented the first and lower steps toward purification, while trials connected with fire came last. Water could regenerate the body of matter; fire alone, that of the inner Spiritual man.
‡ See Introduction by Kashinath Trimbak Telang, M.A.
the clumsy translations of such words as Prana, Apana, etc., whose full esoteric meaning and application to individual functions can hardly be rendered in English. He says of this Science that “it is the teaching of the Veda that the fire verily is all the deities, and knowledge of it arises among Brahmans, being accompanied by intelligence.” By “fire,” says the Commentator, he means the Self. By “intelligence,” the Occultist says, Narada means neither “discussion” nor “argumentation,” as Arjuna Misra believes, but “intelligence” truly, or the adaptation of the fire of Wisdom to Exoteric Ritualism for the profane. This is the chief concern of the Brahmans (who were the first to set the example to other nations who thus anthropomorphized and carnalized the grandest metaphysical truths). Narada makes it plain and is made to say: “The smoke of that fire, which is of excellent glory, appears in the shape of darkness” (verily so!); “its ashes (are) passion; and goodness is that in connection with it in which the offering is thrown”: i.e., that faculty in the disciple which apprehends the subtle truth (the flame) which escapes heavenward, while the objective sacrifice remains as a proof and evidence of piety only to the profane. For what can Narada mean in teaching that “those who understand the sacrifice understand the Samana and the Vyana as the principal (offering)”; and “the Prana and Apana, but portions of the offering . . . and between them is the fire . . . . that is the excellent seat of the Udana as understood by Brahmanas. As to that which is distinct from these pairs, hear me speak about that. Day and night are a pair, between them is the fire. . . That which exists and that which does not exist are a pair, between them is the fire, etc.,” and after every such contrast Narada adds “That is the excellent seat of the Udana as understood by Brahmanas.”
Now many people do not know the full meaning of such terms as Samana and Vyana, Prana and Apana, explained as being “life-winds” (we say “principles and their respective faculties and senses”), being offered up to Udana, the soi-disant principal “life wind,” (?) said to act at all the joints. Therefore the reader, who is ignorant that the word “fire” means in these allegories both the “Self” and the higher divine knowledge, will understand nothing in this; and will therefore entirely miss the point of our argument, as its translators and even its editor, the great Oxford Sanskritist, Max Muller, has missed the true meaning of Narada’s words. Exoterically, all this enumeration of “life winds” means, of course, approximately, that which is surmised in the foot-notes; namely, “The sense appears to be this . . . . worldly life is due to the operations of the life-winds which are attached to the Self, and lead to its manifestations as individual souls (?). Of these the Samana and Vyana are controlled and held under check by
the Prana and Apana. . . . The latter two are held in check and controlled by the Udana, which thus controls all. And the control of this, which is the control of all five . . . . leads to the Supreme Self” (p. 259, Anugita, “Sacred Books of the East,” Vol. VIII.)
The above is given as an explanation of the text, which records the words of the Brahmana, who narrates how he reached the ultimate Wisdom of Yogism, and had reached all knowledge in this wise. Saying that he had “perceived by means of the Self the seat abiding in the Self,” where dwells the Brahman free from all; and explaining that that indestructible principle was entirely beyond the perception of senses (i.e., of the five “life-winds”), he adds that “in the midst of all these (life-winds) which move about in the body and swallow up one another, blazes the Vaisvanara fire sevenfold.” This “Fire,” according to Nilakantha’s Commentary, is identical with the “I,” the self, which is the goal of the ascetic (Vaisvanara being a word often used for the Self). Then the Brahmana goes on to enumerate that which is meant by the word “Sevenfold,” and says, “The nose (or smell), the tongue (taste), the eye, and the skin, and the ear as the fifth, the mind, and the understanding, these are the seven tongues of the blaze of Vaisvanara,*. . . . . those are the seven (kinds of) fuel for me,†. . . . . these are the seven great officiating priests.”
These seven priests are accepted by Arjuna Misra in the sense of meaning “the soul distinguished as so many (souls, or principles) with reference to these several powers”; and, finally, the translator seems to accept the explanation, and reluctantly admits that “they may mean” this; though he himself takes the sense to mean “the powers of hearing, etc. (the physical senses, in short) which are presided over by the several deities.” (Vide loc. cit., p. 259, f.n. 6.)
But whatever it may mean, whether in scientific or orthodox interpretations, this passage on page 259 explains Narada’s statements on page 276, and shows them referring to exoteric and esoteric methods and contrasting them. Thus the Samana and the Vyana, though subject to the Prana and the Apana, and all the four to Udana in the matter of acquiring the Pranayama (of the Hatha-Yogi, chiefly, or the “lower” form of the Yoga) are yet referred to as the principal offering, for, as rightly argued by the commentator, their “operations are more practically important for vitality”; i.e., they are the grossest, and are offered in the sacrifice, to disappear, so to speak, in the quality of darkness of that fire or its smoke (mere exoteric ritualistic form). But
* In the astronomical and cosmical key, Vaisvanara is Agni, son of the Sun, or Viswanaras, but in the psycho-metaphysical symbolism it is the Self, in the sense of non-separateness, i.e., both divine and human.
† Here the speaker personifies the said divine Self.
Prana and Apana, though shown as subordinate (because less gross or more purified), have the fire between them: the Self and the secret knowledge possessed by that Self. So for the good and evil, and for “that which exists and that which does not exist”; all these “pairs”* have fire between them, i.e., esoteric knowledge, the Wisdom of the divine self. Let those who are satisfied with the Smoke of the Fire remain wherein they are, that is to say within the Egyptian darkness of theological fictions and dead-letter interpretations.
The above is written only for the Western students of Occultism and Theosophy. The writer presumes to explain these things neither to the Hindus, who have their own Gurus; nor to the Orientalists, who think they know more than all the Gurus and Rishis, past and present, put together. These rather lengthy quotations and examples cited are necessary, if even to point out to the student the works he has to study so as to derive benefit and learning from comparison. Let him read Pistis Sophia in the light of the Bhagavatgita, the Anugita and others; and then the statement made by Jesus in the Gnostic Gospel will become clear, and the dead letter blinds disappear at once. Read this and compare with the explanation from the Hindu scriptures just given. . . . “And no name is more excellent than all these (seven) vowels. A name wherein be contained all names, all Lights, and all (the forty-nine) powers, knowing it, if a man quits this body of matter† no smoke (i.e., no theological delusion),‡ no darkness, nor Ruler of the Sphere (no personal genius or planetary spirit called God), or of Fate (karma) shall
* Compare with these “pairs of opposites,” in the Anugita, the “pairs” of AEons, in the elaborate system of Valentinus, the most learned and profound master of Gnosis. As the “pairs of opposites,” male and female, are all derived from Akasa (undeveloped and developed, differentiated and undifferentiated, or Self or Prajapati), so are the Valentinian “pairs” of male and female AEons shown to emanate from Bythos, the pre-existing eternal Depth, and in their secondary emanation from Ampsiu-Ouraan (or sempiternal Depth and Silence), the second Logos. In the esoteric emanation there are seven chief “pairs of opposites;” and so also in the Valentinian system there were fourteen, or twice seven. Epiphanius, copying incorrectly, “copied one pair twice over,” Mr. C. W. King thinks, “and thus adds one pair to the proper fifteen.” (“The Gnostics,” etc., pp. 263-4.) Here King falls into the opposite error: the pairs of AEons are not 15 (a blind) but 14, as the first AEon is that from which others emanate, Depth and Silence being the first and only emanation from Bythos. As Hippolytus shows: “The AEons of Valentinus are confessedly the Six Radicals of Simon (Magus),” with the seventh, Fire, at their head. And these are: Mind, Intelligence, Voice, Name, Reason and Thought subordinate to Fire, the higher self, or precisely the “Seven Winds” or the “Seven Priests” of Anugita.
† Not necessarily at death only, but during Samadhi or mystic trance.
‡ All the words and sentences between parenthetical marks, are the writer’s. This is translated directly from the Latin MS. of the British Museum. King’s translation in the Gnostics conforms too much to the gnosticism as explained by the Church-Fathers.
be able to hold back the soul that knoweth that name. . . If he shall utter that (Name) unto the fire, the darkness shall flee away. . . And if he shall utter that name unto. . . . all their Powers, nay, even unto Barbelo,* the Invisible God, and the triple-powered Gods, so soon as he shall have uttered that name in those places, they shall all be shaken and thrown one upon the other, so that they shall be ready to melt, perish and disappear, and shall cry aloud, ‘O, Light of all Lights that art in the Boundless Light, remember us also and purify us!’ ”
It is easy to see who this Light and Name are: the light of Initiation and the name of the “Fire-Self,” which is no name, no action, but a Spiritual, ever-living Power, higher even than the “Invisible God,” as this Power is Itself.
But if the able and learned author of the “Gnostics and their Remains” has not sufficiently allowed for the Spirit of allegory and mysticism in the fragments translated and quoted by him, in the above named work, from Pistis Sophia — other Orientalists have done far worse. Having neither his intuitional perception of the Indian origin of the Gnostic Wisdom still more than of their “gems,” most of them, beginning with Wilson and ending with the dogmatic Weber, have made most extraordinary blunders with regard to almost every symbol. Sir M. Monier Williams and others show a very decided contempt for the “Esoteric Buddhists” as theosophists are now called; yet no Student of Occult philosophy has ever mistaken a cycle for a living personage and vice versa, as was very often the case with our learned Orientalists. An instance or two may illustrate the statement more graphically. Let us choose the best known.
In the Ramayana, Garuda is called “the maternal uncle of Sagara’s 60,000 sons”; and Ansumat, Sagara’s grandson, “the nephew of the 60,000 uncles” reduced to ashes by the look of Kapila, “the Purushottama” (or infinite Spirit), who caused Sagara’s horse for the Aswamedha sacrifice to disappear. Again, Garuda’s son† — Garuda being himself the Maha-Kalpa or great cycle — Jatayu, the king of the feathered tribe, when on the point of being slain by Ravana who carries off Sita — says, speaking of himself:
“It is 60,000 years O King, that I am born,” after which turning his back on the Sun — he dies.
Jatayu is, of course, the cycle of 60,000 years within the great cycle of garuda; hence he is represented as his son, or nephew, ad libitum,
* Barbelo is one of the three “Invisible Gods,” and, as C. W. King believes, includes “the Divine Mother of the Saviour,” or rather Sophia Achamoth (Vide cap. 359).
† In other Puranas Jatayu is the son of Aruna, Garuda’s brother, both the Sons of Kasyapa. But all this is external allegory.
since the whole meaning rests in his being placed on the line of Garuda’s descendants. Then, again, there is Diti — the Mother of the Maruts — whose descendants and progeny belonged to the posterity of Hiranyaksha, “whose number was 77 crores (or 770 millions) of men.” (See Padma Purana.) All such narratives are pronounced meaningless fictions and absurdities. But — Truth is the daughter of Time, verily; and time will show.
Meanwhile, what could be easier than an attempt, at least, to verify Puranic chronology? There are many Kapilas; but the Kapila who slew King Sagara’s progeny — 60,000 men strong — was undeniably Kapila, the founder of the Sankhya philosophy, since it is so stated in the Puranas; although one of them flatly denies the imputation without explaining its esoteric meaning. It is the Bhagavata Purana (IX. viii., 12 and 13), which says that “the report that the sons of the King were reduced to ashes by the mere glance of the sage is not true.” “For,” as it argues, “how can the quality of darkness, the product of anger, exist in a sage whose goodness was the essence that purified the world — the earth’s dust, as it were, attributed to Heavens! How should mental perturbation distract that sage, identified with the Supreme Spirit, and who has steered here (on earth) that solid vessel of the Sankhya (philosophy), with the help of which he who desires to obtain liberation crosses the dreaded ocean of existence, that path to death?”
The Purana is in duty bound to speak as it does. It has a dogma to promulgate and a policy to carry out — that of great secrecy with regard to mystical divine truths divulged for countless ages only at initiation. It is not in the Puranas, therefore, that we have to look for an explanation of the mystery connected with various transcendental states of being. That the story is an allegory is seen upon its very face: the 60,000 Sons, brutal, vicious, and impious, are the personification of the human passions that a “mere glance of the sage” — the self who represents the highest state of purity that can be reached on earth — reduces to ashes. But it has also other significations — cyclic and chronological meanings, — a method of marking the periods when certain sages flourished, found also in other Puranas.
Now it is as well ascertained as any tradition can be, that it was at Hardwar (or Gangadwara, the “door or gate of the Ganges”) at the foot of the Himalayas, that Kapila sat in meditation for a number of years. Not far from the Sewalik range, the “pass of Hardwar” is called to this day “Kapila’s Pass”; and the place, “Kapilasthen,” by the ascetics. It is there that Ganga (Ganges) emerging from its mountainous gorge, begins its course over the sultry plains of India. And it is as clearly ascertained by geological survey that the tradition which claims that the
ocean ages ago washed the base of the Himalayas — is not entirely without foundation, for there are traces left of this.
The Sankhya philosophy may have been brought down and taught by the first, and written out by the last Kapila.
Now Sagara is the name of the Ocean, and even of the Bay of Bengal, at the mouth of the Ganges, to this day in India (Vide Wilson’s Vishnu Purana, Vol. III. p. 309). Have geologists ever calculated the number of millenniums it has taken the sea to recede to where it is now, from Hardwar, 1,024 feet above the level of the sea at present? If they did, those Orientalists who show Kapila flourishing from the 1st to the 9th cent. A.D., might change their opinions, if only for one of two very good reasons: the true number of years elapsed since Kapila’s day is in the Puranas unmistakably, though the translators fail to see it. And secondly — the Kapila of the Satya, and the Kapila of the Kali-Yugas may be one and the same individuality, without being the same personality.
Kapila, besides being the name of a personage, of the once living Sage and the author of Sankhya philosophy, is also the generic name of the Kumaras, the celestial ascetics and virgins; therefore the very fact of Bhagavata Purana calling that Kapila — which it showed just before as a portion of Vishnu — the author of Sankhya philosophy, ought to have warned the reader of a blind containing an esoteric meaning. Whether the Son of Vitatha, as Harivansa shows him to be, or of anyone else, the author of Sankhya cannot be the same as the Sage of the Satya-Yuga — at the very beginning of the Manvantara, when Vishnu is shown in the form of Kapila, “imparting to all creatures true Wisdom”; for this relates to that primordial period when “the Sons of God” taught to the just created men the arts and sciences, which have been cultivated and preserved since then in the sanctuaries by the Initiates. There are several well-known Kapilas in the Puranas. First the primeval sage, then Kapila, one of the three “Secret” Kumaras; and Kapila, son of Kasyapa and Kadru — the “many-headed Serpent,” (See Vayu Purana placing him on the list of the forty renowned sons of Kasyapa), besides Kapila, the great sage and philosopher of the Kali Yuga. Being an Initiate, “a Serpent of Wisdom,” a Naga, the latter was purposely blended with the Kapilas of the former ages.