The Path – September 1894


(Concluded from page 149)

Perhaps the first great difficulty which confronts the student of the Secret Doctrine arises from the lack of method which seems to prevail throughout the work. But if in spite of this he can at all familiarize himself with the subject matter, he will almost certainly come to the conclusion that, although from a literary standpoint this lack of method certainly exists, yet from the standpoint of a student of Theosophy it is a great gain. For there is, so it seems to the writer, a deeper method in the seeming lack of it than could have been obtained in any other way. The student, however, at the very outset is warned and may know what to expect, and if he is wise he will lay his plans accordingly. H. P. B. herself speaks of the "necessity under which the writer (H. P. B.) has labored to be ever explaining the facts given from the hoariest Past by evidence gathered from the historical period. No other means was at hand, at the risk even of being once more charged with a lack of method and system." (1) And she has been so charged by those who forget the reason which she herself gave for such lack of method. In considering this we come to another very important matter which must be taken into account in our study of the Secret Doctrine, and a knowledge of which to a great extent reveals the deeper method underlying the seeming lack of it.

The Secret Doctrine is based upon Stanzas from the "Book of Dzyan", a book hitherto unknown to Orientalists, and but little known in the East. These stanzas "give an abstract formula which can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to all evolution: to that of our tiny earth, to that of the chain of planets of which that earth forms one, to the Solar Universe to which that chain belongs, and so on, in an ascending scale, till the mind reels and is exhausted in the effort." (2)

Consider for a moment! In what language could such an abstract formula be written; how could it be expressed? It could only be in a language which is perfectly symbolical, and whose symbols, while primarily representing abstract ideas and being subject to mathematical law, are yet capable of being applied to all the departments of Nature and thus of having as many interpretations. Such a language or writing was "the early hieroglyphic cypher, still preserved in some Fraternities, and named in Occultism the Senzer". (3) In regard to this language it is stated that there was a time when it was "known to the Initiates of every nation, when the forefathers of the Toltec understood it as easily as the inhabitants of the lost Atlantis, who inherited it, in their turn, from the sages of the Third Race, the Manushis, who learned it direct from the Devas of the Second and First Races". (4)

Such was the ancient "Mystery" language, the language of symbolism, which has been preserved to a greater or less extent in the languages in which the ancient scriptures of the World were originally written, and which was the foundation of the Jewish Kabala. Students of the Kabala and of the symbolism of the ancient religions have arrived at the conclusion that all have not only sprung from one primeval teaching but that all bear record to the one primeval "esoteric" language. It is claimed in the Secret Doctrine that from one small volume written in this ancient sacerdotal tongue were derived the books of Kiu-ti, the book of Shu-king, China's primitive bible, the sacred books of Thoth-Hermes, the Puranas, the Chaldean Book of Numbers, and the Pentateuch. (5) So that, since it is the aim of our author to prove the identity of source and symbolism of all the religious teachings of the World, it is inevitable that constant reference to, and quotations from, them must be made. This in itself makes the study of the Secret Doctrine a difficult matter, in that it is the cause, to a great extent, of the seeming lack of method and introduces so many apparent side-issues. But the great difficulty does not lie here, but in the different interpretations which can be put upon all these ancient writings.

The Mystery language has seven keys, symbology has seven departments, and these or at least some one or more of them must be known to some degree if the ancient scriptures are to be understood. But how many understand even one of the keys and can use it? We can to some extent apply the "three fundamental propositions" to all our studies in the Secret Doctrine we may also be able in some degree to make use of the law of correspondence and analogy for the elucidation of some of its propositions; but further knowledge, knowledge of the science of symbology, is required for the full solution of its problems. Hence it is most important for the student to bear this in mind, and to study with a view to acquiring knowledge of this most ancient science. The work under consideration is not the Secret Doctrine itself, except in so far as much that is there given out has hitherto been secret for the West; it touches only the outer fringe and lifts but a corner of the veil of the true Secret Doctrine which must ever remain hidden from the profane. At the same time, however, it gives the student clues by following which he may learn the A, B, C, of the Mystery language of the Initiates, and so take the first step toward comprehending those depths of knowledge which is in their possession, but which is also the heritage of every man.

In these preliminary articles the writer can do little more than call the attention of the Student of the Secret Doctrine to this most important part of his studies. An important point to notice is the fact that the Science of Symbology depends upon, and is indeed only an application of, the Law of Correspondences, and so ultimately depends upon the "three fundamental propositions". Hence, although we have found what at first sight seem to be different keys to the study of the Secret Doctrine, these are in reality but different aspects of one key which may be applied to all the departments of nature.

Throughout the Secret Doctrine the attention of the student is again and again definitely called to the way in which he may arrive at an understanding of its truths, and of those contained in all the ancient religions and mythologies, in which the deepest mysteries of man and nature have found expression. If therefore he will keep this in mind and follow the hints given him he will find evidence accumulate in support of its statements on every side. In support of the above it will be sufficient to give only two quotations from the Secret Doctrine: others can be easily found by the student himself.

Every old religion is but a chapter or two of the entire volume of archaic primeval mysteries — Eastern Occultism alone being able to boast that it is in possession of the full secret, with its seven keys. (6)

As truly stated by Ragon, 'the ancient Hierophants have combined so cleverly the dogmas and symbols of their religious philosophies that these symbols can be fully explained only by the combination and knowledge of all the keys'. They can be only approximately interpreted, even if one finds out three of these seven systems: the anthropological, the psychic, and the astronomical. The two chief interpretations, the highest and the lowest, the spiritual and the physiological, they preserved in the greatest secrecy until the latter fell into the hands of the profane. (7)

The true value of the Secret Doctrine can only be known by those who read it with reference to the purpose for which it was written, and it has been the writer's aim to point out the main guide-posts, which, however, are no discovery of his, but to which the Secret Doctrine itself is continually directing attention. So far as the method of study is concerned, this will depend largely upon the previous training and capabilities of the student, but by far the greater number of students of the Secret Doctrine recommend, after a general reading, study by topics, for the information on any one subject is, from the very nature and purpose of the book, scattered throughout its two volumes.

The Secret Doctrine is a mine of knowledge and information. Much information can be obtained by a mere reading, but its great treasures do not lie on the surface; they must be dug out, and its pearls can only be had for the diving. It is no wonder that those who look upon this latter part of the XIXth Century as the flower of the Ages should find such difficulty in reading this work, or that they should complain of its lack of method, for "this work is written for the instruction of students of Occultism" (8) and "the rejection of these teachings may be expected and must be accepted beforehand". (9)

The intelligent study of the Secret Doctrine requires persistence and effort, and it is well to realize this at the outset. It may be that the conclusions which the student may reach today will be modified, if not completely changed, in the future; indeed, this is inevitable if progress is to be made. For man's outlook is limited, and it must be that, as his horizon widens, new factors will arise which will modify previous conclusions; but if he can make sure of his "fundamentals" and hold to them, he will have a sure guide which will not fail him in any of his investigations of the mysteries of man and nature.


1. Secret Doctrine I, xlv (new edition, I, 28). (return to text)

2. Ibid, I. 20. (new edition, I, 48). (return to text)

3. Secret Doctrine, II. 480, (new edition, II, 458) (return to text)

4. Ibid, xliii (new edition, I, 260) (return to text)

5. Ibid, xliii, (new edition, I, 260) (return to text)

6. Secret Doctrine, I, 318, (new edition, I, 338). (return to text)

7. Secret Doctrine, I, 368, (new edition, I, 389) (return to text)

8. Secret Doctrine, I, 23 (new edition, I, 50) (return to text)

9. Secret Doctrine, I, xxxvii, (new edition, I, 21) (return to text)

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