[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]
Through some fourteen centuries we have watched the pattern of the Ariadne Thread, held for the most part by those who were disciples of the Pythagorean, Platonic and Neo-Platonic Schools of thought. With the first quarter of the seventh century a.d., the pattern changed: a new World Religion was to find birth, and during some of the succeeding centuries which were barren periods for Europe, culturally, Mohammedan annals were filled with brilliant names in many fields of learning. Moreover, the conquest of Spain by the Arabs placed that country, during Moorish supremacy, far ahead of the rest of Europe in civilization. And while this influence was still at work there were learned men, students of the symbolic Kabala, who were handing on the Ariadne Thread. H. P. Blavatsky tells us that "History catches glimpses of famous kabalists ever since the eleventh century. The Mediaeval ages, and even our own times, have had an enormous number of the most learned and intellectual men who were students of the Kabala." — Theosophical Glossary
The Middle Ages were represented by two other distinctive groups: the Alchemists, and the Christian mystics. Of the former H. P. B. says:
"Some people — nay, the great majority — have accused alchemists of charlatanry and false pretending. Surely such men as Roger Bacon, Agrippa, Henry Kunrath, and the Arabian Geber (the first to introduce into Europe some of the secrets of chemistry), can hardly be treated as impostors — least of all as fools. Scientists who are reforming the science of physics upon the basis of the atomic theory of Demokritus, as restated by John Dalton, conveniently forget that Demokritus, of Abdera, was an alchemist, and that the mind that was capable of penetrating so far into the secret operations of nature in one direction must have had good reasons to study and become a Hermetic philosopher." — Isis Unveiled, xxv
We continue, then, from the
SEVENTH CENTURY, A.D., 570-632
Mohammed, referred to by William Q. Judge, as a minor, intermediate Avatara. Dr. de Purucker, answering a question on this statement writes: ". . . a strong emphasis should be laid upon the word 'minor,' the truth being that Muhhammed can be called an Avatara, but only by a great extension of the meaning of the word 'Avatara.' Muhhammed did a certain racial work under the influence of a Ray from the Planetary Spirit, but was not conscious of his mission in this sense of the word, and was, in fact, but very little higher than any other noteworthy man who is made an instrument of karmic activity. In this sense only was Muhhammed a minor Avatara, and he did indeed, as Judge says, belong to the 'civil, military, and religious' type." — Studies in Occult Philosophy, 697-8
EIGHTH CENTURY, A.D., last quarter-c. 1492
Sufiism, a form of Mohammedan mysticism, and "having its home chiefly in Persia." Dr. de Purucker writes that "the Persian Sufi mystics . . . were adherents of what may be called the Theosophy of Persian Mohammedanism." Quoting from Abu Yazld, "I am the wine I drink, and the cup-bearer of it," he adds: "The wine-cup, for these mystical writers, symbolized in general the 'Grace of God' as Christians might say, the influences and workings of the spiritual powers infilling the Universe." — The Esoteric Tradition, 76
NINTH CENTURY, A.D., c. 800-c. 891
Johannes Scotus Erigena, who stated that "in the larger process of the world the primal causes descend into the elements, and the elements into bodies, then bodies are resolved into the elements again, and the elements into the primal causes." — The Division of Nature. And Dr. de Purucker comments: "Thus even in the writings of a mediaeval Neo-Platonist Christian theologian-philosopher may be found a clear echo of the archaic Wisdom-Religion and its teachings of the serial evolution or unfolding of the Universe, and its final return to its primordial divine source.
"Yet it must be remembered that Erigena's work was formally condemned by the official church and put on the Index in the thirteenth century, though it had dominated all mediaeval Christian thought for more than two centuries." — E. T., 566
TENTH CENTURY, A.D.
The thread of mystical thought carried by various Sufi writers.
ELEVENTH CENTURY, A.D., 1091-1153
Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the mediaeval mystics who wrote thus on union with the Divine: "To lose thyself as it were, as if thou thyself wert not, and to have no consciousness at all of thyself — to empty out thyself almost to nothingness — such is the heavenly intercourse. . . . To achieve this, is to become the Divine: God." — Quoted in E. T., 1004
TWELFTH CENTURY, A.D., 1135-1204
Moses Maimonides, "the great Jewish theologian and historian, who at one time was almost deified by his countrymen and afterward treated as a heretic. . . . This learned man has successfully demonstrated that the Chaldean Magic, the science of Moses and other learned thaumaturgists was wholly based on an extensive knowledge of the various and now forgotten branches of natural science." — Isis, I, 17
THIRTEENTH CENTURY, A.D., 1214-1294
Roger Bacon, "the friar, was laughed at as a quack, and is now generally numbered among "pretenders" to magic art; but his discoveries were nevertheless accepted, and are now used by those who ridicule him the most. Roger Bacon belonged by right if not by fact to that Brotherhood which includes all those who study the occult sciences." — Isis, I, 64-5
FOURTEENTH CENTURY, A.D., 1265-1321
Dante, about whom Dr. de Purucker gave the following as his own private conviction. "I think," he says, ". . . there was sufficient spiritual life in the man to allow the entrance into his consciousness, if you understand me, of a divine ray, which touched his brain, so that when he wrote his immortal poem he mentally set forth, although in Christian phrasing and terms, a great deal of the teaching of the ancient doctrine. There are the nine stages, or the nine or ten hells; there is purgatory and the terrestrial paradise; there are the nine or ten heavens — a typical mediaeval example of the Oriental teaching of the lokas and talas." — Studies Occ. Phil., 504
FIFTEENTH CENTURY, A.D., 1401-1464
Nikolas de Cusa, whose "extraordinary genius in investigation, and in what was then broad-minded and courageous exploration of the mysteries of the Nature surrounding him and of the inspirations of his own inner nature, brought upon him charges of heresy including that of pantheism; and it is likely that only the personal friendship of three Popes, who seemed to stand in reverential awe of the genius of this great man, saved him from the fate which later befell Giordano Bruno, and still later, but in less degree, Galileo. Cardinal de Cusa has often been called a 'Reformer before the Reformation.' " — E. T., 356-7
SIXTEENTH CENTURY, A.D., 1493-1541
Paracelsus, whom H. P. B. terms "the greatest occultist of the middle ages." She quotes from Pfaff as follows: "What man has ever taken more comprehensive views of nature than Paracelsus? He was the bold creator of chemical medicines; the founder of courageous parties; victorious in controversy, belonging to those spirits who have created amongst us a new mode of thinking on the natural existence of things." H. P. B. says of his doctrine: "His incomprehensible though lively style must be read like the biblio-rolls of Ezekiel, 'within and without.' " Further, she asks: "How did Paracelsus come to learn anything of the composition of the stars, when, till a very recent period — till the discovery of the spectroscope in fact — the constituents of the heavenly bodies were utterly unknown to our learned academies?" — Isis, I, 52, 167-8
Giordano Bruno. "In common with the Alexandrian Platonists, and the later Kabalists, he held that Jesus was a magician in the sense given to this appellation by Porphyry and Cicero, who call it the divina sapientia (divine knowledge), and by Philo Judaeus, who described the Magi as the most wonderful inquirers into the hidden mysteries of nature, not in the degrading sense given to the word magic in our century. In his noble conception, the Magi were holy men, who, setting themselves apart from everything else on this earth, contemplated the divine virtues and understood the divine nature of the gods and spirits, the more clearly; and so, initiated others into the same mysteries." — Isis, I, 94
A paragraph from Bruno's Confession will give added light on his philosophy: "I hold, in brief, to an infinite universe, that is, an effect of infinite divine power, because I esteemed it a thing unworthy of divine goodness and power, that being able to produce besides this world another and infinite others, it should produce a finite world. Thus I have declared that there are infinite particular worlds similar to this of the earth, which, with Pythagoras, I understand to be a star similar in nature with the moon, the other planets, and the other stars, which are infinite." — Quoted in Isis, I, 96
Jacob Boehme, "one of the most prominent Theosophists of the mediaeval ages. . . . He was a thorough born Mystic, and evidently of a constitution which is most rare; one of those fine natures whose material envelope impedes in no way the direct, even if only occasional, intercommunion between the intellectual and the spiritual Ego. It is this Ego which Jacob Boehme, like so many other untrained mystics, mistook for God." — Theos. Gloss.
In The Secret Doctrine, II, 634, H. P. B. refers to Boehme as "the Prince of all the medieval Seers," and in I, 494, as "the nursling of the genii (Nirmanakayas)."
SEVENTEENTH CENTURY, A.D., 1614-1687
Henry More. "His faith in immortality and able arguments in demonstration of the survival of man's spirit after death are all based on the Pythagorean system, adopted by Cardan, Van Helmont, and other mystics. The infinite and uncreated spirit that we usually call God, a substance of the highest virtue and excellency, produced everything else by emanative causality." — Isis, I, 205-6
Spinoza. This "Netherlandish Jewish Pantheist re-echoed the teaching of the Upanishads of ancient Hindusthan in stating as the essence of his own philosophical doctrine that the Universe is but a manifestation or a reflection of the consciousness of the Kosmic Divinity." — E. T., 150. H. P. B. writes as follows: "It may be correctly stated that were Leibnitz" and Spinoza's systems reconciled, the essence and Spirit of esoteric philosophy would be made to appear. From the shock of the two — as opposed to the Cartesian system — emerge the truths of the Archaic doctrine." — S. D., I, 628-9 Of Leibnitz (I, 619-20) she says that he "came several times very near the truth, but defined monadic evolution incorrectly, which is not to be wondered at, since he was not an Initiate, nor even a Mystic, only a very intuitional philosopher."
EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, A.D. ?
St. Germain. "He never laid claim to spiritual powers, but proved to have a right to such claim. . . . As a matter of course, he had numerous enemies, and therefore it is not to be wondered at if all the gossip invented about him is now attributed to his own confessions. . . . If he said that "he had been born in Chaldea and professed to possess the secrets of the Egyptian magicians and sages," he may have spoken truth without making any miraculous claim. There are Initiates, and not the highest either, who are placed in a condition to remember more than one of their past lives. . . . However that may be, Count St. Germain was certainly the greatest Oriental Adept Europe has seen during the last centuries. But Europe knew him not." — Theos. Gloss.
Louis Claude de Saint-Martin. "He was an ardent disciple of Jacob Boehme, and studied under Martinez Paschalis, finally founding a mystical semi-Masonic Lodge, "the Rectified Rite of St. Martin," with seven degrees. He was a true Theosophist. At the present moment [c. 1890-1] some ambitious charlatans in Paris are caricaturing him and passing themselves off as initiated Martinists, and thus dishonouring the name of the late Adept." — Theos. Gloss.
In the Foreword to Theosophic Correspondence, A. L. Conger writes: "Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, Cagliostro, and the Count Saint Germain in their respective ways exerted a major influence on the thought of their time as did Jacob Bohme in an earlier period. Old and crystallized molds of dogmatism were broken through, at least in the field of the best educated researchers. The courage of their followers, risking "burning at the stake" for their heresies, has given us, however, some fruits of their labor that we of the 20th century may benefit by their efforts."
NINETEENTH CENTURY, A.D., 1831-1891
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. "The Theosophist says that all these great names represent members of the one single brotherhood, who all have a single doctrine. And the extraordinary characters who now and again appear in western civilization, such as St. Germain, Jacob Boehme, Cagliostro, Paracelsus, Mesmer, Count St. Martin, and Madame H. P. Blavatsky, are agents for the doing of the work of the Great Lodge at the proper time. It is true they are generally reviled and classed as impostors — though no one can find out why they are when they generally confer benefits and lay down propositions or make discoveries of great value to science after they have died. . . . Madame Blavatsky brought once more to the attention of the West the most important system, long known to the Lodge, respecting man, his nature and destiny." — The Ocean of Theosophy, 10-11
In a tribute to H. P. Blavatsky after her death, W. Q. Judge wrote: "Amid all the turmoil of her life, above the din produced by those who charged her with deceit and fraud and others who defended, while month after month, and year after year, witnessed men and women entering the theosophical movement only to leave it soon with malignant phrases for H. P. B., there stands a fact we all might imitate — devotion absolute to her Master. "It was He," she writes, "who told me to devote myself to this, and I will never disobey and never turn back.'"
In 1888 H. P. B. wrote to William Q. Judge, whom she addressed as her "only friend': "Night before last I was shown a bird's-eye view of the Theosophical Societies. I saw a few earnest reliable Theosophists in a death struggle with the world in general, with other — nominal but ambitious — Theosophists. The former are greater in numbers than you may think, and they prevailed, as you in America will prevail, if you only remain staunch to the Master's programme and true to yourselves. . . . The defending forces have to be judiciously — so scanty they are — distributed over the globe, wherever Theosophy is struggling against the powers of darkness."
Thus — the Ariadne Thread.