The Secret Doctrine
There was no Being, no matter nor spirit — not even the pure Spirit of Non-Being.
There was no death, yet nothing was immortal — there was no Time.
Only the One, the Unborn, stretched boundless, causeless, in dreamless sleep.
All existence was dissolved in one ocean of Space — an ocean without light.
Then in the stillness and utter darkness something stirred — the first Desire.
This Desire was the primal germ of Universal Mind, connecting spirit with matter.
This connection sparked a single ray to shoot across the darkness of Space.
And darkness became Light, the primordial Light that carried the potency of all the Universe.
This first Light held the patterns of the Essences, the lower Elements and the higher Powers.
Who knows the source of these patterns? What caused this creation?*
It was the Unknown Cause of all causes. Without form or being, it was beyond all existence, before Time had begun. Inscrutable, incognizable, describable only in terms of negation: the Boundless, the Causeless Cause, the Timeless. Concealed within the Boundless was the Primal Will, the first Divine Desire, the first emanation — it was a point of Light that spread itself outward, forming a vestment of the highest Nature. This in turn emanated a vestment of the second highest nature. And these descending emanations continued manifesting all the levels of creation.*
[Hermes Trismegistus describing his communion with the Divine]
Once when I was deep in thought about the nature of things, my Understanding was lifted up, and I sensed a being of exceedingly great magnitude, of infinite greatness. I said, “Who are you?”
“I,” he said, “am Pymander, the Mind of the Divine. You have me in your inmost mind, and I will teach you.” Then in an instant all things were revealed to me. All things were Light. From that Light the Logos descended into Nature, suffusing all with the pure fire of the Spirit. And Pymander said, “I am that Light, the Mind of the Divine, illuminating the Darkness with Intelligence.”
Then I beheld in my mind the Light that fills Nature with numberless powers, and I asked Pymander, “How are the Elements of Nature Created?” Pymander answered, “The Archetypal Forms pre-existed with Cosmic Ideation. These Archetypes are the models for all of manifestation. Yet even before Ideation was the absolute Unity, a Oneness without conditions. The first emanation from this One Reality was the highest Logos, the unmanifested First Cause. This First Logos emanated the Second Logos, the Father-Mother of creation, in which spirit and matter are joined to emanate the Third Logos, Cosmic Ideation, the Creator of the Cosmos. This Divine Mind emanated the Seven Powers who govern the sensible world. And all at once Spirit differentiated from matter. The Earth and the Water were separated from each other, each bringing forth living creatures. Then Divine Mind brought forth Man, in the image of the Divine. Each of the Seven Powers that govern life made
Man partake of his own order. And so the powers of Nature, being mingled with Man, brought forth a Wonder — Man had the nature of the Harmony of the Seven. And since these Seven Powers emanated from the Divine, Man is begotten of the Divine, descended from the Spirit of the Universe.”*
The Chaldean Oracles
The One Principle of the Universe is an Unknown Darkness, eternal, unbegotten, indivisible. Absorbed within the One is the dormant spark of pre-cosmic Being, the First Monad, the unmanifested First Cause. When it awakens, the Divine Essence shines forth, emanating the powers that vitalize the Second Monad, Intelligible Life, the all-pervading Spirit-Substance, the Matrix of manifesting Life. From this second monadic principle flow all the central orders of the third monadic principle, Cosmic Ideation. This holds the essence of the first ideas in luminous perfection — and the Darkness emanates Light.
A fiery whirlwind flashes through the cosmos, creating all the lower spheres, and animating them with the Fire of Mind. The Artificer of the fiery cosmos is Divine Ideation. The higher powers, which first receive the Intelligible patterns of life, are the intermediate links that communicate spirit with matter. The higher powers constitute a septenary of principles, governing the seven planes of matter. These Seven Architects embody the incorruptible impressions of the Divine, the vestiges of which cause the world to appear invested with form.
Thus are all things the progeny of one immortal Fire — the Divine Mind. As this is understood by the rational soul, the flower of the intellect is energized. By understanding the unity of all things, the human soul is thereby inspired by the Fire of Mind. For all the elements of the cosmos constitute a whole. All things proceed from Divinity, and again all things return to it.*
The Egyptian Book of the Dead & Funerary Inscriptions
Utter darkness spread over the Abyss, eternal, unknowable. Within this darkness was the Great Deep, the primordial Waters of Space, the matrix that preceded all of creation. In this dark Ocean of Space were the potencies of all existence, all the things and beings which afterwards took form in heaven and on earth. Then in the dark Abyss there suddenly beamed forth a divine ray, the First Light. This was Kneph, the primeval Logos, the unmanifested and eternal Deity. From Kneph emanated Ptah, the Logos of Divine Fire, the essence of the Cosmic Spirit. Ptah was the Divine Artificer who fashioned the Egg of Creation. And from this Cosmic Egg came Osiris, the Third Logos, the Universal Soul, containing all the potencies that would develop in the evolution of life. And the god-spark of Osiris permeated all of creation, as the essential divinity in all that exists.
Thus every human soul is divine in essence. And when divested of the body, the aim of the soul is to be purified, to be “cleansed of all stain” of the physical world. Only then may the soul pass through the “Land of the Shadows,” to be “manifested in light” and be one with Osiris.
This is seen in the Stele Inscription of Remā, with the soul of the deceased addressing the Divine: “May I be with you. May you be with me. Your divinity is within me.”
And in the Book of the Dead: “I am the One in the Primordial Water, my state is the state of all the gods in eternity. I am this Osiris, the Lord of Resurrection. The perfection of being is within me. I am one who knows.”
And what does this perfected soul know? It is the consciousness of divine unity: “The divinity in me has reunited spirit and matter: all the gods and all the mortals, all that is in Heaven and all that is on Earth. I am the son of the Whole among you, bearing witness to this Truth. I have brought life to the eternal living One within me.”*
In the Puranic texts all of creation is founded on the principle of Intelligence.
The first creation was that of Mahat or Intellect, which is also called the creation of Brahmā. Divine Intelligence was the first manifestation. Mahat, impelled by the desire to create, caused various creations.
All the kingdoms of life were born from this Universal Mind. And when the time came to create the human kingdom, its evolution was also founded on Divine Intelligence.
Brahmā engendered mind-born sons, Spirits of Intelligence emanated from Mahat. These were so created that they might give of themselves to humankind, that these divine emanations would support the evolution of the human kingdom. But these first Sons of Brahmā were without desire or passion. They remained in meditation, estranged from the universe.
So Brahmā engendered a hierarchy of creative spirits, and these informed the human kingdom on many levels, allowing vital currents to sustain the human frame. But this was not enough to create a self-conscious human being.
What is needed, in the midst of all these vital currents, is to set ablaze the Living Fire of the mind. With this Fire, the mind can perceive that indestructible principle abiding in the self. This Fire is verily all the gods.
The Fire of Mind is that which enables the mind to focus on a self-image and identify with all that it perceives. And this power is truly a manifestation of the Divine. It is the meditative power that was manifested in the first Spirits of Intelligence, the ones who were “inspired only with holy wisdom, and so remained estranged from the Universe.” But now these Spirits turned their focus to the evolution of humanity. These Spirits of Intelligence sacrificed their exalted state to inform the human mind, so that human beings could become “fit instruments” to “perceive the divinity abiding in the self.” And through the ages this became their perennial purpose.
In every age the Mind-born Spirits of Intelligence give their essence to humanity. Their essence is born here again and again.*
Concealed within the Absolute Unknown Cause was the first emanation, the Primal Will, represented by a luminous primordial point.
When the Unknown of the Unknown wished to manifest Itself, It began by producing a luminous point, a point of infinite potential which was still unmanifest and diffused no light. Then It went forth from Its Will to create the universe.
This point was the first Sephirah, which emanated from within itself a second Sephirah, which engendered a third — and this process continued to produce the entire ten-fold universe. The totality of the ten Sephiroth represents the Archetypal Adam, Adam Qadmon.
Adam Qadmon is composed of a decad of primordial energies, the Ten Sephiroth, ten intermediate emanations between the Unknowable Deity and physical humanity. These descending Logoi are used as vehicles in the process of manifestation.
The unity of the ten Adamic Logoi constitutes the Macrocosm, the Great Archetypal World. This is the World of Emanation, the first of four levels of Being, descending from spirit to matter, where each level informs the one that follows. And in each of these descending levels is a collective host of energies. The first energic level, the World of Emanation, is embodied by the First Adam.
This is the most exalted of all Conditions, containing only the Upper Ten Sephiroth, the highest of the Intermediaries between Ain Soph, the Primal Cause of All, and the inferior emanations which develop all the rest of existence.
The Upper Ten Sephiroth inform the creative Spirits in the second level, the World of Creation, embodied by the Second Adam. These Spirits inform the third level, the World of Formation, embodied by the Third Adam. Finally, these Formation energies inform the Terrestrial World, embodied by the Fourth Adam.
The Second Adam is the archetype of protoplastic humanity. The Third Adam, when created, had a body of light. And this luminous Adam, after the Fall, became the Fourth Adam, “clothed with skin.”
In effect, each human being is part of one great Chain of Being that stretches from the Macrocosm, the highest Sephiroth, to the microcosm, the human constitution.
All souls emanated from the Divine Nature long before the foundations of the world. The human soul, before it descends into matter, passes through and is informed by the Sephiroth. The Macrocosm informs the microcosm.
And so every human being becomes a microcosmic reflection of the Sephirothal Macrocosm. Starting with the highest known Sephiroth, cosmic Wisdom and universal Intelligence, minor versions of these are replicated in the human constitution. The intermediate Sephiroth inform our most precious sensibilities: compassion, justice, and beauty. And the following Sephiroth endow us with the potential for steadfast patience, endurance, and a sense of the sublime.
Every human soul was first engendered by the highest emanations of Divinity. Humanity’s destiny is to find the path to all that is divine in life. “From the One Divine Light comes all illumination to the human soul. Find this luminous path, and all other paths are illuminated.”*
Ancient Fragments of the Phœnician, Chaldæan, Egyptian, Tyrian, Carthaginian, Indian, Persian, and other Writers, compiled by Isaac Preston Cory, 2nd ed. London: William Pickering, 1832.
Anugītā, Part 3 of Bhagavadgītā with the Sanatsujātīya and the Anugītā, tr. Kāshināth Trimbak Telang. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1882.
Bibliotheca Classica [first written by John Lemprière in 1788], new edition, “enlarged, re-modelled, and extensively improved” by Charles Anthon, 2 vols. New York: G. & C. & H. Carvill, H. C. Sleight, 1833.
Budge, E. A. W., Notes on Egyptian Stelæ. London: Harrison & Sons, 1885.
Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, tr. John Everard, “Reprinted from the Edition of 1650.” London: George Redway, 1884.
Ginsburg, Christian D., The Kabbalah: its Doctrines, Development, and Literature, “An Essay.” London: Longmans, Green, Reader, & Dyer, 1865.
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Livre des Morts des Anciens Égyptiens, tr. Paul Pierret. Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1882.
Original Sanskrit Texts, tr. J. Muir, 2nd ed., 5 vols. London: Trübner & Co., 1868-73.
Pimandre de Mercure Trismegiste, Le, translated from the Greek, with copious commentaries, by François, Monsieur de Foix. Bordeaux: S. Millanges, 1579.
Qabbalah, “translated from the Zohar” by Isaac Myer. Philadelphia: Published by the Author, 1888.
Taylor, Thomas, Collectanea. London, 1806.
Theological and Philosophical Works of Hermes Trismegistus, Christian Neoplatonist, The, tr. John David Chambers. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1882.
Vishṇu Purāṇa, tr. H. H. Wilson, ed. Fitzedward Hall, 5 vols. London: Trübner & Co., 1864-77.
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