Theosophical University Press Online Edition
The Seven Principles
The Ancient Egyptians
Future of Christianity
Being Truly Human
Seeking a Teacher
The Meaning of Osiris and Isis
The Symbol of the Winged Globe
Theophany, Theopneusty, Theopathy
Rejection of a Teacher's Message
Imagination and Fancy
Pantheism and Universal Consciousness
Meaning of the Term Chaldean
Why is it necessary to have seven principles? Cannot Divinity work through one good vehicle?
Between divinity and the manifested universe there must be intermediate links, because any thinking person can see that Divine Perfection cannot engage in efforts of imperfection. And consequently the Sun itself, for example, consists of a fundamental Divine Being breaking up or radiating into the seven solar logoi. Each of these in its turn copies the example of its divine prototype. We see in this example, understandable by children, the reason for the vast and almost incomprehensible range of entities in the manifested universe and accounting for the progressively greater increase of imperfection as our thought ranges from Divinity on the one hand down to the lowest degrees of the manifested world. Now we break up this infinite variety into seven principles or logoi streaming from the Divine ONE, not only as a symbol of numeration because that springs from the zero, philosophically speaking the All, but ONE merely in the sense that it is incomprehensible Infinitude which our feeble human minds cannot easily expand to the point of grasping. From the Divine Unity springs forth the manifested world, the physical world of manifestation. And it is for these foregoing reasons that the Masters and H. P. B. insisted so strongly that for the proper comprehension of the Theosophical teachings we know the seven principles of the universe and man.
Perfection does not produce imperfection. Therefore between the perfection of the Divine Unity and the imperfection of the manifested universe, that dark and somber place, there must be a virtually infinite range of intermediary stages running from Divinity to the utmost dregs of materiality. Thus we call these the seven principles in man from the Atman, corresponding to the Divine in the universe, to the physical body, corresponding to the lowest manifested plane. Man obviously is not divine, neither in devotion nor in thought, nor in any characteristic, for if it were so men would be gods. But men are imperfect and it is this range from the perfect to the imperfect in the universe that corresponds to the seven principles of man.
I have always considered Egyptians as a very religious people, but at the same time have countered a tendency among my theosophical friends to look upon all Egyptians as perfect and everything Egyptian as marvelous.
The Egyptians were good, bad, and between, just like us, and Egypt was a land like all other lands. It bore a reputation among the ancients of being a land 'shadowing with wings' — a direct allusion to her reputation for producing magicians and sorcerers, and it is true that perhaps in recorded history no land and no people west of Suez (or Aden) has ever been so religious. Their religion was of two kinds: sacramental and ceremonial worship which they believed in and governed their outer or exoteric lives by, and the religion of the sanctuary, which was the religion of the heart and intuition, including the higher intellect, for it was the religion of the initiation chamber. And in Egypt these two kinds of religion combined into one, so that everything an Egyptian did was religiously done in the sense of their being guided by the teachings found and heard in the temples and given out by the temple priests. And the lives of the Egyptians were very successful while they lived by the teachings which were received from behind the veil, from the sanctuary. So religious were they that they rose, bathed and ate and clothed themselves, worked and ate again, and worked again and studied and wrote and ate again, and lay themselves down to sleep at night, and did every action governed by the teachings they had received — a procedure which to the Occident is incomprehensible and would be looked upon as slavery, the West quite forgetting that slavery never is what each man longs and yearns to do but only what is imposed upon a man against his will.
We are not religious enough, being unable to do as the Egyptians did and find happiness in it. I don't mean Theosophists. I mean the Occident generally. It has lost faith in its religion, and that religion has great beauty in it as well as outstanding faults in its history. Today if a man gives himself, as the Egyptian did, to his religion, which he has been taught presumably from his childhood, he is looked upon as weak-minded or as a fanatic, both criticisms equally unjust.
Yes, Egypt gained the reputation of being religious partly because of her high white magic taught in the sanctuary and partly because of her sorcery. Study the facts and you will see. Why, the common name in Rome about the beginning of the Christian era for magicians was Aegyptii or Chaldaei. But don't think of the Egyptians as demi-gods or archangels come to earth, and that we poor human wrecks ought to become Egyptians again! Not at all, though it is undoubtedly quite true that a number of men and women, perhaps a very large number of us, lived in ancient Egypt once, twice, thrice; but some of us also came from other countries of ancient times. I recognise distinctly Roman traits in some of my friends, Hindu traits in others, Greek in others, et cetera.
Has Christianity as a world religion run its race? Is it about to die?
I believe — I may be wrong, but it is my innermost conviction, that there is the possibility for a renascence of primitive Christianity in the West. It will be when among the ranks of the clergy there shall be found some courageous and high-minded enough to trace back the origins of their grand teaching, their theology, to Pagan antiquity, finding brotherhood in the fellow-thoughts of the ancient races, of Egypt especially, of Greece, yes, even of Rome. For then the religion of the West will have fresh blood flowing through its veins, a new revelation will have come, arising from the spirit, and a new illumination thrown upon the secrets of the past. Then Christianity will be properly understood, and will be seen to be grand; for primitive Christianity was grand because it was the same as Theosophy, the original wisdom of the Gods.
Should not the chela try to eliminate from his life all personal friendships? Have not all the leaders of the Theosophical Society done so?
Leader and teacher as I am, I believe I have a right to cherish in my heart warm friendships, and I do not think I am losing in my spirituality, or losing my ability to help others, by allowing the heart-impulse to have free, play just as long as I am just, just as long as I am true and sincere. I do not believe that any of the great Teachers of the world ever wanted one of his chelas to be — well, a mossback, a fossil. I believe that every part of a man's being should receive its due meed of cultural work. I do not believe that the human heart, the human hearts in the world, can be best reached by a man who has no heart himself. I do not believe that a man who does not understand the problems of his fellow human beings can help them. I believe that it is only when we are fully and truly human, and rise above our humanhood occasionally into the deeps of divinity welling up within us, that we do our best work, for that means that we understand the human hearts around us. Our heart then beats in sympathetic rhythm with the pain in others' hearts. We understand it. But believe me, we can rise above the pain into the peace and quiet, and thereby become efficient in help.
What is the ethical attitude toward looking for a Teacher? Should we look for a Teacher?
Should we look for Teachers? I would most emphatically urge upon every normal human being not merely to look for Teachers, but to accept them. Make the call and that call will be answered. Look upon Teachers as one of the commonest phenomena of human history. The call is strongest when despair is harshest, when discouragement threatens to overwhelm non-thinking but sensitive humans. When the call for help is most urgently torn from the human heart, that call evokes an answer. It has throughout human history, and it will do it today. It is a magnificent spiritual and intellectual exercise, not merely to expect help but to demand it; and you have no right to demand help until you prove yourself worthy of it. Then the combination is irresistible, and the Master comes, comes to you as an individual, or comes to a people, to a race. The man who is worthy makes a call that is not merely for himself but for all, so that he may amongst the others feel the blessed warmth of the divine sunlight of the spirit shed upon all. He who makes his call by the token universal, is a magician, strong, and his call is powerful, and he has a right to make that call. But I would advise before making a call for an exterior teacher, make the call to the greatest Teacher for every man that any man can ever know, the Spirit within man, the god within himself. This very appeal transforms the man's life, and makes him more worthy and makes his call for the outer Teacher incomparably stronger. Cleanse your own Temple before you call upon a god to enter in and abide there.
What were some of the deeper meanings of the Egyptian symbology concerning Osiris and Isis?
How many people, I wonder, who have not studied Egyptology, know that there was an older Osiris and a younger, an older Isis and a younger, an older Horus and a younger?
Osiris according to Egyptian theology, was what is known since ancient Egyptian times in the west as the Spirit of Intelligence in the Universe, or the solar system; and Isis, the Divine Consort; just as in Hindusthan we have similar thoughts with Brahma and Prakriti, Brahman and Pradhana, Parabrahman and Mulaprakriti. All the ancient divinities, in whatever land, were considered to be two-sided, a masculine aspect and a feminine, so that there was the divine Father and the divine Mother of the Universe. The divine Father, the old Osiris, was the Cosmic Intelligence ruling all, governing all, giving birth to all, stimulating all; and the older Isis was his holy, divine Consort, the spirit of love, productiveness, and compassion showing itself throughout the Universe. According to earliest Christian theology it was the Father and the Holy Spirit — which latter was feminine, in original Christianity please remember, not as a later Christianity turned it into a masculine principle.
Horus was the son of the divine parent, what the Greeks and Christians called the Logos, the logos of life, the so-called Creator, the Demiurge.
Then there was the younger Osiris and Isis who were considered in ancient Egyptian theology to pertain especially to this our Globe or Planetary Chain. In this case Osiris was that one of the seven (or ten or twelve) solar Logoi or solar Forces emanating from the spiritual Sun, and especially infilling our own Globe as its spirit of Intelligence, the mind, the highest planetary spirit; and Isis was the spiritual counterpart of this younger Osiris, that which works itself out on our Globe — and especially in the hearts of us human beings who in this imbodiment are children of our Globe — as sympathy, love, pity, productiveness or creativeness, the bringing forth power whether of our minds or of our hearts.
Horus is their son, the product of the best in man, which we could call in this case enlightened mind in man. This is a bit of ancient Egyptian theology, and so greatly did this one time Egyptian concept steal into the hearts of early Christians that they adopted it practically wholesale — in some cases took over the names substantially exactly the same. For instance, Isis with the divine child Horus in her arms, became the original of all the later Madonnas, as the Italians called them, with the moon under her feet.
Can you give me some information on the symbolism of the Winged Globe of the Egyptians?
The symbol of the winged globe, the globe carried through time and space on the wings of spiritual force or of the spirit, is one of the most beautiful of ancient Egyptian symbols, because it combines both religion and philosophy. The globe is just one form of representing the golden germ, Hiranyagarbha in the Sanskrit, which in its movements through time and space is carried by the wings of the spirit on its evolutionary journey. This is the keynote of one of the thoughts of the winged globe.
Another thought about it, or aspect of it, is that the winged globe is the monad, which is in a sense practically the same as the cosmic germ or hiranyagarbha, and the wings there signify the same thing, conscious mind moving through space and time in the form of the monad and expressing its power in the movement of the wings, consciousness moving in the evolutionary journey upwards and upwards forever.
Still another way of interpreting it — all the same at bottom because of the law of analogy — is that the globe would represent a celestial orb, a sun or a planet, in its turn carried on the wings of its spirit along the evolutionary journey into the distant future, and out of the past.
With reference to its standing for the human soul or the reincarnating ego of a human being, it has its application there in just the same way, the monad, the golden germ, the ego, or if you wish the soul, represented by the sphere or globe, or the primordial point again from another standpoint.
There are really a thousand ways of interpreting it, or rather applying the interpretation to different aspects of our cosmic philosophy. Yet the interpretation is the same for all these different aspects, making only the adjustment according to whatever entity it is that is thus adventuring through the cosmic planes and through cosmic life and through cosmic time.
It is thus also a symbol, as it were a declaration, of spiritual individual hope for the future, a proclamation and symbol of the immortality of the spirit or of the monad, or of whatever entity it is that the symbol is applied to.
Then when we add the serpents, as is often done, one on each side of the globe with raised heads, yet with bodies or tails intertwined, this is but another graphic way of speaking of the dual serpents of Wisdom and Love, the two great dominant powers in the constitution of any entity, both shielding and protecting and inspiring, and yet carried along by the monad, of which both these faculties, wisdom and love, of the winged globe, are the symbols.
These are the general keys, and anyone can elaborate them, if he thinks carefully, almost indefinitely. It is a wonderful symbol.
Did the fifth degree of the Mysteries as described by Theon of Smyrna include the three interior revelations called by the Greeks Theophany, Theopneusty, and Theopathy?
By Theophany, Theopneusty, and Theopathy, the Greeks meant as follows: Theophany, vision of the divine; Theopneusty, the next higher, means the divine breathing through one in addition to the vision; but Theopathy means the complete incarnation of the Divine for a greater or less period of time, and therefore includes both the Theophany and Theopneusty. Hence, Theopathy I would say belongs to the sixth or rather the seventh stage.
Theon of Smyrna speaks of this fifth degree as "friendship and interior communion with God, and the enjoyment of that felicity which arises from intimate converse with divine beings," — signifying by this enjoyment, the spiritual and intellectual enjoyment of the realization of one's own inner communion with the God within, of having the Divine within oneself constantly present in one's life, not so much as merely being the vehicle for the Divine, as in the case of Theopathy, but more like Theopneusty, the Divine Breathing through one, at least occasionally. I would therefore say that what Theon is referring to is what otherwise is called Theopneusty; or perhaps taken all together we can say it was the Divine Vision or Theophany with a more or less occasional Theopneusty, or the Divine Breath blessing one with its presence, at least on occasions.
Theophany, Theopneusty, and Theopathy, are illustrations of what takes place in the three highest, the fifth, sixth and seventh degrees. The Eleusinian Mysteries were ninety percent ritual and ceremony, but when occasionally a neophyte was discovered who was fully prepared, at least before the Mysteries were degenerate, then he was taken in hand privately, as it were, by the hierophants.
You once spoke of the failure or partial failure of the message that Jesus brought. Is the progress, the evolution, of the true teacher or the messenger from the gods, retarded or sped, according to the degree of the acceptance of his message by humanity?
I would not say so, if I understand your question correctly. The question runs to this: If the Teacher come from the gods or if the Envoy come from the Lodge of the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion and Peace, and his message is rejected, does this rejection retard the evolution of the Envoy?
I think not. In fact, I rather believe the contrary may be the case, because there comes a sorrow, a deep grief, when the bearer of truth is repulsed. It is like a man who comes in aid to a fellow human being who is in danger, who is in peril, and by whom the offer of help is rejected. If the helper is a good man, the incident does not imply that the next time a chance to help comes, he will then say: "Well no; I am not going to try to help again. I have made a fool of myself once, and I am not going to do it twice." No. The man of heart will understand; the man of heart and vision will help even despite the rejection. If you see a little child in danger of burning or of drowning and you rush to its aid, and the child pushes you away, are you going to be a little child yourself, and turn around haughtily and walk away? No, indeed; you help the little child despite itself. Do you realize what Jesus, the great Teacher you speak of, said in substance to his disciples: Children, in the vision of a true Teacher, ordinary men and women are like little children, to a certain extent to be humored, to be loved, to be cared for, to be understood, to be educated to be helped.
There is the mother-heart in every good man as well as the father-heart; and every decent man never forgets his instinct of protection and brotherly kindness. I tell you that the man who would refuse to go in aid when a cry of help comes, no matter what the danger is, is unhuman, to a certain extent at least unhuman, is not a full and complete man. Do you think that the great Teachers would be less than a good man, than an ordinary and average good man should be? Their evolution is not retarded by the rejection of their Message, except in the sense perhaps that they will try again later, and this keeps them longer in the same sphere of life. Their evolution is perhaps helped, because it gives them an added opportunity for the pouring out of the inner Buddha, of the spiritual Christ.
What is the essential and guiding fact that separates idle fancy from constructive imaging? I think these are very much mixed.
The great Plato used these two words when he spoke of fantasy and the faculty and power of the nous. The noetic power, i.e., of the nous, is that which originates ideas, ideals, which visions truth, which therefore is coherent with the structure and operations of the Universe. Whereas fantasy is the reflected moonlight of this in our little human minds. I can imagine, for instance, a street-railway from Earth to Moon, but I cannot build one. This is fantasy. I can use mere words, and speak of a triangle which is a square, but that is impossible, because a triangle has only three sides; if it had four it would not be a triangle. This is fantasy. But were I great enough, I could envisage wondrous truths of the Universe, I could see them, I could feel them. This is the proper working of the true image-making faculty in man, seeing truth; it is intuition.
What is going to guide the person so that he avoid the one and function properly in the other?
That is a more difficult question to answer. It is the old, old problem. I yearn to live the Life Beautiful, but my feet constantly stumble on the Path. How may I walk so that my pathway shall be safe? How difficult it is to answer this question for everybody! I would therefore answer that the guide is an aspiration that weakens never, a yearning to know the truth which will be satisfied with naught less than it, a heart which is filled with love and beats in sympathy with all beings. In other words, become harmonious. Try to attune yourself to the Cosmic Life. That is the pathway, and it is difficult. But it can be done; and the great Masters of life, whom we Theosophists call the Mahatmans, are just they who are succeeding in doing this. The gods have succeeded more than men have, and there are gods who are but one stage higher than men. The Christians call them angels. There are gods still higher than these that I have just spoken of, and they are closer still to the Heart of Being, and the Christians call these archangels, and so on up the Ladder of Life. This is at first a weary journey, it is true, and bestrewn with perils, but it leadeth to the heart of the Universe, and is accompanied with a splendor which brightens into glory unspeakable. An open mind, an eager, searching intellect, the striving to have an unveiled spiritual vision: these are some of the keys which will lead you safely on the path, so that your feet stumble not thereon.
What is the difference between Pantheism and the Theosophical idea of the Universal Consciousness?
That is a good question. It would be very easy to explain if everybody had studied philosophy. But I will try for the benefit of those to whom philosophical thought is relatively unknown or obscure, to give an answer which I think all may understand. The average idea of Pantheism, as it is understood in the Occident, is confused, is vague. It is a generalized idea that the Universe has back of it — mark you that — has back of it a Kosmic Spirit, therefore considered to be impersonal, but working through all things as an all-permeant life or energy, and that even these 'all things' are portions of the Kosmic Spirit itself. This is about as far as Occidental Pantheism goes, I believe.
Now then, the Theosophical conception of the universal Consciousness-Life-Substance says not only that back of the sevenfold or tenfold Universe is this universal Consciousness-Life-Substance, but that the Universe itself is a partial manifestation of it by means of an almost infinite number of hierarchies. This obviously does not mean that every stone, every bit of wood, or every flower, etc., is god or a god, but that the essential substance, the world-stuff, the mind-stuff, the consciousness-energy-substance, is the same in it and in me and in you and indeed everywhere, thus manifesting in innumerable individual forms.
Occidental Pantheism is a great step forwards towards the Theosophical idea, but it is an imperfect step. It does not go far enough. It is one thing to say that there is a Kosmic Spirit which permeates all things, and that the Universe is this Kosmic Spirit imbodied — all of which is true. It is another thing to go all the length of the thought, as Theosophy does, and point out that this Kosmic Life is, as it were, like the sunlight broken up into innumerable rays, countless hosts, of evolving entities which in their aggregate make the Kosmic Spirit; although the Kosmic Spirit continuously soars above them and is not wholly included even in the kosmic aggregate of innumerable individual manifestations; and each one such ray or manifestation is nevertheless in its essence and in its root that Kosmic Spirit in its totality. "Thou and the Universe are one." This is a most wonderful thought and requires deep reflexion for grasping it in its amazingly, suggestive reaches.
Next: The Theosophical philosophy teaches that there are invisible worlds and realms and spheres of which our physical world or realm or sphere is but the outer garment and therefore does not contain the fulness of the Kosmic Spirit. Occidental Pantheism has little or no idea of this last. It seems to have the idea that there is a Kosmic Spirit which in some way — I don't think I have ever heard an attempt to explain it — but which in some way is allied to the gross physical universe, and that this gross physical universe in some other inexplicable way is a portion of the Kosmic Spirit; which of course is true as far as it goes.
Now, that is not the Theosophical teaching because it is incomplete and imperfect as an idea. This physical universe is merely the garment, the outer physical garment, alive, nevertheless, of a conscious Ladder of Life, extending inwards, inwards, ever more inwards, and indeed ever outwards too, for SPACE per se has no directions. Thus we can range in thought, from the physical to the astral, from the astral to realms and spheres still more ethereal, from these last to others more ethereal again, and then to realms spiritual, then to realms and spheres divine, and so on ad infinitum, and never reach an end, although at intervals the Ladder of Life is seen to be divided into separate parts or portions which we call hierarchies.
Occidental Pantheism has no conception at all of this grandiose idea in its fulness; but nevertheless it is a step towards the wonder-teaching of the Ancient Wisdom today called Theosophy. We are therefore truly Pantheists, but in a vastly greater and nobler sense than the Occidental ideas imply. We are Pantheists. To us everything that is, is essentially alive. But all things exist in all-various grades of evolution. The tiny atom, the lichen on the stone, the sea-weed, the plant, the flower, the sponge, the beginnings of the so-called animal kingdom, ascending through all their various orders and families up to man; and, as our teaching says, beyond man there are other beings ascending in an endless Ladder of Life, both inwards into the spiritual realms and outwards into the spiritual realms.
So, then, I would answer more briefly, that Occidental Pantheism is but one small facet, one small step, towards what our teaching is. It is nevertheless exceedingly good that the step has been taken.
Did the ancient Greek and Latin writers refer actually to the Chaldeans as natives of Chaldea, or was there some more general meaning to the term?
The so-called Sumerians and Akkadians were really the beginnings of the immigrants from India, who became the Chaldeans and Babylonians and later the Assyrians.
Chaldeans were called Initiates by the classic Greek and Latin writers. This arose out of the fact that during Latin times, and to a less extent in later Greek times, the Latins and Greeks looked to the Mesopotamian countries, or the countries surrounding the Euphrates and Tigris valley, as the homeland of sages, very much as modern Theosophists rightly or wrongly, usually wrongly, look upon the Tibetans as a kind of spiritual race, or as being more or less developed sages, all of which is utterly untrue.
This attitude of the Greeks and Latins was so marked that in the later days of Rome and Greece, when they used the word Chaldaios, or Chaldean, they meant an astrologer, or one erudite, or supposedly learned in occult philosophy. So great, however, became the abuse of this custom, because of imposition and cheating in Rome, that the later Roman emperors passed extremely severe measures against what were then popularly called Chaldeans.
But there were, before these later classic times, schools of Occultism in Chaldea and in Babylonia which had no small hand in helping to teach the Greeks and the Romans the Occult Philosophy, and it was to those periods in time that the term Chaldean as a learned man originally referred.
When Greece and Rome were 'young,' i.e., before they had reached the apex of material life and influence, there were actually in Chaldea and in Babylonia, as in Egypt, occult schools from whom missionaries were sent to the West, and it was in this way that the Greeks and the Romans constantly looked to the East for light. This accounted also for the fact that later on, basing their attitude on this original true fact, every impostor in Greece and Rome called himself a Chaldaios.