In a well-known passage in the Introduction to The Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky avers that the Secret Doctrine of antiquity will be rejected in the nineteenth century, but that in the twentieth century scholars will begin to recognize it as a fact. The present volume is one evidence of this forecast, for it deals with innumerable matters with which H. P. Blavatsky was concerned when she outlined the tenets of the Secret Doctrine and the evidences for its universal diffusion as the groundwork of all religions and great philosophical systems. The author, so far as we have been able to discover, shows no knowledge of H. P. Blavatsky's teachings, or of the numerous literature that has sprung therefrom; but he quotes a great number of authorities English, French, and German, and we have no means of knowing whether any of them had contact with Theosophical writings. But however the case may be, it is evident that the subject of a universal mystery and symbol language, which at once reveals and conceals ancient lore, is being widely studied by scholars of many lands. The author states in his Preface that he is about to consider several topics which may seem unrelated: the esoteric basis of Plato's science of numbers, the origin of the Runic script, the origin of some Old Testament legends, and the historical implications of Plato's metaphors. His endeavor is to show how these are related; but students of Theosophy know how very much wider a field is covered by such researches, and how not merely the few things mentioned by the author, but the sacred lore and symbolism of all lands and all times is included in the scheme. The author's scope, apart from occasional references, does not extend beyond the Aryan peoples (in the usual linguistic sense), and is confined mainly to ancient Greece. He takes a very high view of Plato, whom he regards as in possession of an esoteric knowledge, with numerical keys, and as being obliged, like Jesus, to address the multitude in parables.
It is still a mystery to me whether Plato actually knew the initial source of all his inspirations. Was it intuition or schooling which led him to his "vision" of the cultural past of humanity?
The ancient thinkers knew how to conceal their esoteric doctrine from the laics. In order to get access to their treasury we must pass through Plato.
Speaking of references by Plato to the Sun as the source of Wisdom, he says:
The above-mentioned passage seems to indicate that for a "true philosopher," who understands the relationship between the shadows, images, reflections, pictures of things and their "ideas," the access to "true knowledge" is open. He actually sees "truth" as such. His eyes possess the power of penetrating into the very essence of things. Like the Solar God, Apollo, a "true philosopher," is able to approach the "eidos" [archetype] of a thing and to reveal it to his own view and to that of congenial fellow thinkers.
The worship of the sun is pan-Aryan. We find it among the Hindu, the Persians, the Greeks, the Goths, the Slavs.
The Apollonian myth is one of the few keys to the "Delphic mysteries."
There is a great deal about numbers and their correspondences here, reminding us of such books as Higgins's Anacalypsis and Skinner's Source of Measures; studies which involve us in intricacies, as students well know. The author has detected the existence of an octaval system of numeration (we forbear to risk the word "notation," which usually implies the use of a zero and positional value). Students too readily accept a group of digits, like 777, or 600, for instance, as denoting numbers in the ordinary decimal scale (an argument for photostatic reproduction!), whereas there is no knowing what numbers they may indicate.
He speaks of a "pre-logical" school, as representing an ancient cast of thought contrasted with the "logical" school initiated by Aristotle, and which has set the pattern of subsequent Western thought. Plato was a mathematician of the Pythagorean school, he says, and this book is very largely on numbers. Students of The Secret Doctrine are aware of the importance attached to this subject, and Mr. Efron bears out H. P. Blavatsky's contention that numbers were formerly considered in a different way from the merely numerical way in which they are considered in our mathematics. A German author, G. Albert, is quoted to the effect that "the digits determine and are the skeleton of number; the zeros are in so far without importance." A French author, Shure, says that 7 represents the union between the divine and human, represented respectively by 3 and 4; also that 7 represents the law of evolution and complete realization. (But we observe that he cites and endorses a statement by Plato that the number 5040 has 44 factors, whereas it will be found to have 58).
The Sacred Tree Script is a figure found in the Runic inscription on the Gothic stone of Kylfver; it looks like a diagram of a fir tree, and speculation is made as to the meaning of the number and size and arrangement of the branches on each side, with a view to finding a numerical key of interpretation.
The first section of this book is on the Ideal Numbers; the second is on the Ship of State, described as Plato's leading metaphor which seems to determine the main features of his ideal city. Noah's ark is compared with it. Much is said in The Secret Doctrine about the symbol of the Ark, ship, boat, crescent, moon, etc., as denoting the feminine aspect of the Universal Spirit, the Great Mother, Isis, etc., the receptacle or container of all. The author has a chapter on the "Indie and Indo-German Background of the Genesis," in which he points out some of these analogies. Thus he has hold of a part of the scheme of the Wisdom-Religion.
1. The Sacred Tree Script: the Esoteric Foundation of Plato's Wisdom. By Andrew Efron. The Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor Co., New Haven. 1941. (return to text)