I have listened with deep interest to the remarks on the Jewish Christian Bible made this evening. Let me say first that I have been astonished at the remarkable way in which much light has been thrown upon some of the meanings of the Hebrew Scripture called ‘The Book of the Beginnings.’
It is true that the original word translated as ‘God’ in the English version, used in the opening verses of the Book of Genesis, is ’Elohim. It is a Hebrew plural meaning ‘gods,’ ‘divine beings.’ The monotheistic Hebrews, and the monotheistic Christians who took over the scriptures, in other words the Hebrew Bible, of the Jews, say that this Hebrew plural is a ‘plural of majesty,’ used in somewhat the same sense in which crowned heads sometimes will speak of themselves: ‘We, by the Grace of God,’ so-and-so — John, Peter, James, William, or what not. But there is no proof whatsoever in the writings themselves that this word ’Elohim is merely a ‘plural of majesty.’ Grammatically speaking it is a distinct, clear, Hebrew plural.
In a moment or two I shall recite to you a few verses, at least the first two verses, of the original Hebrew, and will then tell you a little something about it; but before doing so, I want to call your attention to one or two interesting facts. You speak of the Hebrew Bible as the Old Testament or Old Covenant. Do you realize that this last phrase is an original Jewish expression, simply meaning that certain writings, some of them religious, some of them quasi-historic, some of them poetic, which were the property of a small Semitic people, were supposed to evidence an ancient covenant made between this people and their tribal deity? Other peoples in the world have similar writings, similar scriptures, which are just as sacred and true to these other peoples, just as highly cherished, and considered by these other peoples of as great worth to themselves, as these particular writings were to the Hebrews. In other words, the Hebrew writings are not the only sacred scriptures of the world cherished by the people among whom they arose.
In the second place, the only scripture of the Hebrew Old Testament which, from our Theosophical standpoint, is truly occult, esoteric, is the first book, as these books now stand in their printed order — ‘the Book of the Beginnings’; and indeed, only a few chapters in the beginning of this first book, are fully esoteric. This does not mean that some of the other books have no mystical meaning, such as the Book of Job. That exclusive idea is not what I mean. The Psalms of David, so called, for instance, were written by a poet-heart; and every poet-heart is a seer more or less. But the true universal wisdom of the ‘Oriental Qabbalah’ is found most fully only in the first few chapters of the Book of Genesis.
Now, the phrase ‘Oriental Qabbalah’ means the ‘Oriental Tradition,’ because this word ‘Qabbalah’ is a noun derived from the Hebrew verbal root qabal, which means ‘to receive,’ ‘to take,’ ‘to hand down.’ Thus the ‘Oriental Qabbalah’ means the universal ‘Oriental Tradition’; and the Hebrew Qabbalah is the Hebrew form of this body of the Oriental doctrine often called Traditionary Wisdom, handed down from generation to generation of human Seers. In other words, the Jewish Qabbalah is the Theosophy of the Jews; and it is one rather restricted phase, or rather one minor national representation, of the Universal Qabbalah or universal Tradition of the World.
Here is the Hebrew as the original Hebrew text has been in modern times divided into words, and so printed:
(1) Bere’shith bara’ ’Elohim ’eth hash-shamayim we-’eth ha-’ arets.
(2) We-ha-’arets hayethah thohu wa-bohu we-hhoshech ‘al-pnei thehom we-ruahh ’Elohim merahhepheth ‘al pnei ham-mayim.
In the very first word you are confronted with a difficulty: How is this word to be divided? Let me explain what I mean. In writing ancient Hebrew the letters of the words followed each other without break, precisely as if you were to take a paragraph in a modern newspaper, remove all the spaces or divisions between the words, remove all the marks of punctuation, and thus have the letters run along in a solid line or file, one after the other.
Furthermore — and this is very important — there are no characters for vowels in the Hebrew alphabet, so in order to make our illustration clear and exact, all the vowels in the modern newspaper paragraph would have to be removed, and only the consonants following each other in a solid, steady file would remain. This is the picture of how ancient Hebrew was written.
Obviously then, having this series of solid lines before you, you can divide, perhaps successfully, a single such line into different and differing words; and these first two words in the Hebrew that I have quoted for you, to wit: bere’shithbara’ , can be divided differently from the manner commonly used, for instance: Bere’sh yithbare’, which translated, gives an entirely different meaning.
The common division: Bere’shith bara’ ’Elohim means: “In the beginning ’Elohim carved (or cut or shaped)” — the two heavens and the earth. The other division of the Hebrew letters: Bere’sh yithbare’ changes the meaning entirely. Re’sh or ro’sh means head, wisdom, knowledge, the higher part, the first in a series; and the word yithbare’ is a reflexive form of the verb bara’, thus signifying ‘making itself’ or ‘making themselves’ — to be the two heavens and the earth. In other words, the meaning with the two first words thus divided is that the gods or cosmic spirits, through wisdom, through knowledge, through being the chief or first formative forces, made themselves to become the heavens and the material sphere.
‘Heavens’ — shamayim — dual, plural, not one, a series; ’erets or ’arets — the ‘world,’ translated ‘earth’ which Christians think is this little earth of ours, and later extended to the universe when they learned that the stars were no longer little points of light caught up there, but dazzling glorious suns, many of them larger than ours. ’arets means the body-sphere, the material sphere.
You see what an utterly different interpretation can be gained by dividing the file or row of Hebrew letters in this second way.
Furthermore, the English translation called the Authorized Version, while it is dear to English people on account of the religious memories of childhood, and because also perhaps the English language of King James’s day seems to Englishmen of today more virile than the current English of our own era, yet lacks entirely the proper spirit of the mystical Hebrew original; and the very fact that Englishmen love their King James’s version so much distracts their attention away from the original mystical sense of the Hebrew scripture. Go then to the original tongue and ask those who really know just what the essential meaning of the Hebrew is.
When I hear some of these dear good people who talk so much about ‘numerology,’ as they imagine it to exist in the Hebrew scriptures, and who think that by counting the number of words in the English translation and the number of chapters in one of the scriptures, or the number of phrases in a chapter, or the number of words in a phrase, they can arrive at solutions of wonderful mysteries or discover the secret of occult truths, I always feel impelled and compelled to say that they forget that they are using a translation, and a very imperfect translation at that, of what is something quite different from their supposition in the original tongue: for there were no chapters, and no verses, and no marks of punctuation such as commas, periods, semi-colons, or capital letters — in the body of the original Hebrew — naught but solid lines or files of letters crossing the pages of the original books.
Now, which translation do you prefer, the usual and I may say mistaken version of the English translation: “In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth,” or the other translation equally authorized by the original Hebrew, and which has the further advantage of being on all fours with the Universal Tradition, to wit: “In wisdom (or in multitude, in company, as a host) the gods carved (or shaped, or formed)” out of already pre-existent material (for the original Hebrew verbal root bara means ‘to cut.’ ‘to carve,’ not ‘to create’) “the heavens and the material sphere”; which, when understood, means the following: “In the beginning of the Manvantara the gods became the spiritual realms and the material.”
The meaning, therefore, very briefly given, of the Hebrew account of Creation so-called is rather an account of evolving forth from seeds, cosmic seeds, pre-existent in space, by the power of the indwelling spiritual fires. You have a strict analogy of that in the way a human being is born from a microscopic human seed, a cell, and grows into a six-foot man by powers derived from within itself.
That is the way worlds came into being. I wonder why so many have never realized what must have been before, according to their theory, God Almighty created the universe, the world? God is not a carpenter, or, as the Greeks put it, a Demiurge, a Builder. Divinity is the indwelling spirit of fire and love and intelligence and consciousness — the fountain of everything: atom and man, sun and beast, flower and stone. All can be traced back to the divine source, to their growth from within.
Thus it was that according to the Hebrew account of Creation, the gods, the spiritual beings, the children of the divine, were embryo-gods, not yet grown up, baby-gods as it were, unevolved; but the gods of our world, or our galaxy for instance, were the guiding, inspiriting fire of life and intelligence that brought our galaxy into being, our earth into being. There is the whole story, and the Hebrew does not say one word about an extra-cosmic god creating the world. This word, mistranslated ‘god’ in the Hebrew, let me emphasize, is plural: ’elohim, which means gods, divine beings, spiritual beings, creatures of love and flaming thought, children of the Incomprehensible Divine, which is the fountain of the universe out of which they come, and, after their evolutionary course is run, into the immeasurable deeps of which they again sink into unutterable peace, later to reissue again and to become through evolving aeons first men, then gods, and then super-gods, to be followed by another period of divine rest, after which a new issuing forth into cosmic activity; but ever growing endlessly.
In the two or three first chapters of ‘the Book of the Beginnings,’ commonly spoken of in European countries as the Book of Genesis which is a Greek word meaning Beginning or Becoming, you will find the Ancient Wisdom of the human race. All the rest of the Bible, all the other parts of the Hebrew Old Testament, are simply local, national, traditional, records, without much or any esoteric meaning whatsoever.
The Christian New Testament, which is the second part of the Christian Bible, read literally, with its thirty-six thousand and some odd hundreds of mistranslations from the Greek original, as existing in the King James’s or Authorized Version, contains no more of the ancient and esoteric wisdom than do the books of the Old Testament. What it does contain of the Ancient Wisdom-Religion of Mankind is the story, when esoterically understood, of a cycle of initiation, with the great Syrian Initiate, Jesus, as the central type-figure.
The orthodox Jewish Rabbis explained the origin of evil in the world as having been the creative act of Jehovah, and they pointed to their famous old Prophet, Isaiah, Chapter 45, Verse vii:
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”
So the Jewish Rabbis said that the origin of evil is a dispensation of God. Adonai, the Lord, created it.
Now the Theosophist knows how to interpret this in the sense in which the Prophet Isaiah, or he who wrote in the name of the Prophet Isaiah, intended it to be interpreted. But if you accept that statement with its surface meaning, do you realize what the logical impasse is that you are driven into? Evil is in the world because it was created by the Lord. Therefore evil is a divine dispensation, and right, and if evil is in my heart, it has been created by the Lord, for “I, the Lord, do all these things.” If the Jewish Holy Book is divinely inspired, word for word, you see what you are led into. Furthermore, the Christians were far too wise and wary even in the early days to accept the surface meaning of this phrase in Isaiah.
Some weeks ago, in looking up this reference from Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible, looking up the original Hebrew, I found there that the authorized English version beclouds the force and strength of the old Hebrew, in which the main verb of divine action is the present participle throughout. So with these words; they read: I am forming Light and I am creating darkness, now in the present. I am making peace and I am creating evil. I, Jehovah, am doing these things now. — The idea being not that good and evil were once and forever created in some past time, but that it is a continuous process. The meaning is obvious, as being a mystical statement intended to be interpreted as the slow evolutionary flowing forth from the bosom of the Divine of the hosts of evolving creatures, entities, things, driven by past karmic impulses; so that whatever is is in continuous production, and evolution: continuous adventures from the imperfect to the more perfect, from the worse towards the best, the best that can be achieved. It does not mean that an extra-cosmic god once and forever created good and evil, and set the world to spinning, and that human beings are but helpless entities in it, chained by an inscrutable divine Fate.
Now here is a very difficult Theosophical doctrine, and yet it helps to complete the picture, however vaguely it must be stated. It should be obvious, a deduction of the simplest kind, that the great teachings of the various religions and philosophies of the world, of the hierarchies of dhyan-chohanic or devic or angelic beings, must be based on something, these beings being partly good and partly what men call evil, in other words more perfect and less perfect; and there is no escape from that deduction. If you once get the picture of these armies of evolving beings issuing as it were from the heart of divinity after their long pralayic sleep, to begin a new evolutionary period of awakening in a new world-period, you see that there must be amongst them beings in all grades of evolution from what to us is simply divine, down to the least evolved life-center.
Furthermore, as nature divides herself into hierarchies or family groups, there must be at the head of each such hierarchy an individual divinity who is as it were the hierarch thereof, like the president of a republic, the king of his kingdom. Therefore, there must be in Universal Nature, spiritual, very spiritual, and divine beings, in all-various grades of evolutionary states. In other words we are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses,” to use the words of Paul, and these are divine, spiritual, and material and sub-material beings. So, they have been called angels or archangels or dhyan-chohans or devas, or what not. The name matters not. The main thing to remember is that they exist, and it is therefore obvious that if our minds and hearts are turned in the direction of the Sons of Light, or contrariwise towards the left-hand path, in the direction of the Children of the Dark — not demons, not devils, simply imperfectly evolved entities — we can come into touch with these former, or with the latter; from the former receiving immense inspiration and help; from the latter feeling the attraction to ‘hell.’ That is the reason why some of the old religions, profound as they were, worshiped angels, archangels, and what-not, as the early Christians did. And if worship means ‘worthship,’ not adoration which means petitionary prayer, then it is an ennobling thing to do: ‘worthshiping,’ revering, the Children of Light, our predecessors on the upward Path.
I would like to say a few words on the Cosmic Rays. What are they? Where do they come from, where do they go, what is their function? Do you know, modern science today, and daily more and more so, is using the word ‘radiation,’ or ‘radiations’ with virtually the same significance and purport, with virtually the same attempt to describe facts, that the ancient theologians of pre-Christian days in Greece and Rome, Egypt, Persia and Babylon, and equivalently in other parts of the earth made in using the word ‘emanation,’ ‘emanations.’ As light radiates or flows forth from a center of energy, a sun, or an electric globe, as it radiates forth, we can replace this word ‘radiates’ with ‘emanates.’ Out of a central core flows forth light, call it radiation, call it emanation, it is the same. When you understand something of what the finest thinkers of modern science mean to say when they use the term ‘radiation,’ when you understand something of what they have in mind and attempt to express by that word, you will begin to understand what the ancient theologians of pre-Christian times meant when they used the word ‘emanation,’ flowing forth.
Thus a human being, as an instance, radiates or emanates vitality. Constantly radiating, it flows forth from him, and flowing forth from him shows that it is a thing, and this thing is a fluid. Light is a fluid, all these various kinds of rays are fluidic in character; but being fluidic in character this merely means that they are aggregates or concretions of entities, emanated entities, call them monads, call them life-atoms if you will.
Before I go on farther, let me try to illustrate what I think we should understand by the modern scientific effort to designate something which is at one and the same time a wave and a particle. If you follow in thought a bullet from a rifle you will realize that it is at once a particle so to speak, and at the same time accompanied with waves, these waves being the phenomena of its passage through the air. Now imagine a life-atom discharged from an entity. It passes with the speed of light, some atoms with a speed far exceeding that of light, and obviously their passage through substance is accompanied with intense disturbance along the track that the particle follows. Follow my thought? Thus the wave and the particle must accompany each other. The particle produces the wave; without the particle the wave would not be.
Now these Cosmic Rays we can call life-atoms if we wish. In fact, they are that, the life-atoms of the Universe but on a low, because a physical and even inferior to physical, plane in the hierarchical sense. This is shown by their intensely rapid vibration.
And again: Where do they come from — these life-atoms of space that are streaming all through interstellar space, and, in so far as our own universe is concerned, throughout our solar universe — streaming through it? Mainly from the active, superlatively active, stomachs of the various suns, pouring forth from the suns of Space in inconceivable floods, or in inconceivable numbers. They make their peregrinations hither and yon as life-atoms of a type or kind, always coming back ultimately, sometime, someway, somewhere, to their father-substance; and meanwhile passing through all other entities as they peregrinate (transmigrate was the old word), wander hither and yon, back and forth.
Indeed, it is thus that the suns feed themselves. Our own sun feeds its own store of vitality from these floods of life-atoms reaching it from outer space, drawn into its own stomach and expelled again through the sun-spots. Why, you remember that even in The Secret Doctrine , H. P. B. openly there speaks of the fact, quoting one of the old records, that the sun was feeding on the refuse of space. As a matter of fact, our own bodies do that — physical body, astral body, mental body, interior sheath of consciousness — they all do just the same thing. They emanate floods of life-atoms, radiate them away and suck in, attract in, those of others. This is just what the sun does; so that these cosmic atoms, or cosmic rays — which are merely names which the scientists have given to them because they do not understand them very well yet, and they seem to be like rays, and they seem to be like particles, but are simply the life-atoms that have flowed forth from the suns of space, and happen to reach us, passing through us — sometime they will leave us and go elsewhere. Just in the same way our globe Earth is being fed and its vitality kept up, its energy sustained, electrical, psychic, physical, and what not, from what it sucks in from outer space, and it in turn emanates forth its own light and fluids. We call them Cosmic Rays, life-atoms if you wish; and thus we see a cosmic give and take, give and take.
But these are not the only life-atoms that there are. There are many, many families of life-atoms that no physical scientific instrument will ever succeed in perceiving, or even apperceiving. They are above, outside, our plane entirely; as for instance, there are purely astral life-atoms, mental life-atoms, spiritual, and divine. But these Cosmic Rays that scientists are now just beginning to gain some knowledge of are cosmic life-atoms of a low, that is of a type even inferior to the physical in the hierarchical sense; very ‘hard’; ‘hard rays’ they call them; and were they to strike in condensed form — as the X-rays do — they would be very dangerous.
Now when I say that our sun (as well as other suns), feeds itself on the refuse and ‘sweat’ of space, on these flowing streams of life-atoms, oceans of them — for space is filled, incomprehensibly full with them, it is ocean of life — I don’t mean that the sun feeds on them to the exclusion of other life-atoms. The sun attracts to itself life-atoms on all planes, some far higher than the physical.
But I want to add this. Call it an interesting theory if you like. There is an old, old, and to me very fascinating, legend which has been current in the Orient from time out of mind. It is couched in this form: the gods feed on men. Now I do not mean to frighten anyone, or to have you think that when your day of dying comes it is going to be that some god is going to make a meal of you! I do not mean anything like that. But why should human beings be the only exceptions to the universal rule? Man feeds on other things. You know, as a matter of fact, we feed one another. Every time a group of people sits close together, as you all do, you are feeding each other, changing and exchanging life-atoms, just as we think, changing and exchanging thoughts; and thus it is that arises a phenomenon which every one of us notices, I doubt not, and it is that people who live a great deal together, like husband and wife, grow to resemble each other; and I have even seen that with pets who are with human beings. A master or mistress actually begins to look like the pet! It is the change of life-atoms, and it is not always good either. It is not good for the pet, and it is not good for the human being; and there are other reasons, though of course I know among some dear people here it would be my death-sentence to say anything against pets!! These would not understand me: “Why, that’s horrid, G. de P. What a perfectly horrid man!”