Theosophy – December 1896

THEOSOPHY IN THE APOCRYPHA: II — Katharine Hillard

II. — THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON.

The first verses of the Wisdom of Solomon suggest the occult law which teaches the necessity of a proper state of mind in the would-be recipient of divine truth, and shows that of all adverse conditions, the worst is doubt. "Seek the Lord in simplicity (or singleness) of heart," says the writer, "for he showeth himself unto such as do not distrust him." And then, after several chapters that remind one, sometimes of Proverbs and sometimes of the Pauline Epistles, King Solomon, the supposed writer, describes how, although of human birth and rearing, he called upon God, and how the spirit of wisdom came to him, and raised him to a higher plane. Having preferred her to sceptres and thrones, he found that all good things follow in her train.

Thus God gave him certain knowledge of the things that are, to know how the world was made, and the operation of the elements; the beginning, ending, and midst of the times (the law of cycles); the alterations of the turning of the sun, and the change of seasons; the circuits of years, and the positions of stars; the natures of living creatures, and the furies of wild beasts; the violence of winds and the reasonings of men; the diversities of plants, and the virtues of roots; and all such things as are either secret or manifest.

"If a man desire much experience," says Solomon, "wisdom knoweth things of old, and conjectureth what is to come; she knoweth the subtilties of speech, and can expound dark sentences; she foreseeth signs and wonders, and the events of seasons and times. Moreover by means of her I shall obtain immortality, and leave behind me an everlasting memorial to them that come after me."

And lest we should mistake the true nature of this wisdom, and confound her with mere occult knowledge of material things, he gives us that magnificent description of her, as "the worker of all things, present with God when he made the world, having all power, overseeing all things, and going through all understanding, pure, and most subtle spirits. For wisdom is more moving than any motion; she passeth and goeth through all things by reason of her pureness. For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty; therefore can no defiled thing fall into her. For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness."

"And being but one, she can do all things, and remaining in herself she maketh all things new; and in all ages, entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God, and prophets. For she is more beautiful than the sun, and above all the order of stars; being compared with the light, she is found before it."

This Wisdom is that spiritual faculty which some have called Intuition, and some Buddhi, and her light is that spoken of by St. John, that glory which lit up the celestial city, so that there was no need there of the sun, neither of the moon.

It is at the end of the next chapter, the 8th, that Solomon makes such a clear statement, not only of the fact of reincarnation, but of the law which guides it, when he says: "Being good, I came into a body undefiled." He seems to take the idea so much for granted, that he neither explains it nor dwells upon it, but simply mentions it as one would mention any recognized law of nature.

And in chapter 11th he asserts another fact of which no occultist could entertain a doubt: "Thou hast ordered all things in measure and number and weight." Certainly the Divine Spirit as conceived by this writer was very different from the "jealous God" of the Hebrews, for he goes on to say:

"Thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which thou hast made; for never wouldst thou have made anything if thou hadst hated it. And how could anything have endured if it had not been thy will, or been preserved, if not called by thee? But thou sparest all: for they are thine, O Lord, thou lover of souls." Surely here we have a foundation-stone for the rule of universal brotherhood.

In the 17th chapter there is a description of the sufferings of the Egyptians from the plague of darkness, which is as superb in its lofty and far-reaching imaginativeness, as the description of Wisdom herself, but it has nothing to do with the present subject, except as it represents the punishment of the guilty as entirely within themselves, and made heavy by their own remorse. "For the whole world shined with clear light, and none were hindered in their labor: Over them only was spread an heavy night, an image of that darkness which should afterwards receive them: but yet were they unto themselves more grievous than the darkness."

Ecclesiasticus is also called "the Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach," and purports to be a collection of wise sayings made by Jesus the father of Sirach and containing also many of his own, which was handed down to the grandson and by him "compiled all orderly into one volume."

Those who wish to study the origin and character of all these books from an historical and critical point of view, will find much to interest them in the articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica on the "Apocrypha," "Esdras,""Ecclesiasticus," etc. These questions I have preferred not to go into here, but simply to quote a few passages from the text, which are of value as they stand, and appeal to that authority which is not of the scribes.

The book called Ecclesiasticus is by no means of as lofty a character as the Wisdom of Solomon, it is more like Proverbs, and is concerned largely with ordinary ethics, and even drops occasionally into questions of deportment and manners at table. Jesus the son of Sirach says that it also contains "dark sentences and parables," and it certainly contains a caution as to humility in study, that may be useful to us all.

"Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee," says the writer, "neither search the things that are above thy strength. But what is commanded thee, think thereupon," (I omit inserted words) "for they are not needful for thee — the things that are in secret. Be not curious in unnecessary matters; for more things are showed unto thee than men understand."

In these three verses what a sermon is preached to those theosophists who are ever seeking for the mysterious, who are constantly looking for signs and wonders, and yet neglect the study of the simple ethics of life, and the true nature of their own minds! More things are indeed shown unto them than most men understand, and still they put these aside, and strive after marvels.

Humility is one of the essentials in the acquirement of wisdom that are laid down in the Bhagavad-Gita, and Jesus the son of Sirach says: "Mysteries are revealed unto the meek." And again he warns us of the endless nature of the search after wisdom: "The first man knew her not perfectly, no more shall the last find her out. For her thoughts are more than the sea, and her counsels profounder than the great deep."

Neither should we pay any attention to light and idle dreams, says this wise man: "Whoso regardeth dreams is like him that catcheth at a shadow, and followeth after the wind." He evidently understood the nature of ordinary dreams, for he compares them to reflections in a mirror, but he was able to distinguish between them and the voice of the Higher Self, for he continues: "If they be not sent from the Most High in thy visitation, set not thy heart upon them, for dreams have deceived many."

One might make many more of these quotations, but the object of this paper was simply to direct attention to the many treasures hidden in these scriptures that are too seldom read, for in very truth, "more things are shown unto men than they understand."


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