No doubt but ye are the people and wisdom
shall die with you.
JOB xii. 2.
But wisdom is justified of her children.
MATTHEW xi. 19.
IT is the privilege--as also occasionally the curse--of
editors to receive numerous letters of advice, and the conductors of Lucifer have not escaped the common lot. Reared in the aphorisms of the ages
they are aware that "he who can take advice is superior to him who
gives it," and are therefore ready to accept with gratitude any sound
and practical suggestions offered by friends; but the last letter received
does not fulfill the condition. It is not even his own wisdom, but that
of the age we live in, which is asserted by our adviser, who thus seriously
risks his reputation for keen observation by such acts of devotion
on the altar of modern pretensions. It is in defense of the "wisdom"
of our century that we are taken to task, and charged with "preferring
barbarous antiquity to our modern civilization and its inestimable boons,"
with forgetting that "our own-day wisdom compared with the awakening
instincts of the Past is in no way inferior in philosophic wisdom even
to the age of Plato." We are lastly told that we, Theosophists, are
"too fond of the dim yesterday, and as unjust to our glorious (?)
present-day, the bright noon-hour of the highest civilization and culture"!
Well, all this is a question of taste. Our correspondent is welcome
to his own views, but so are we to ours. Let him imagine that the Eiffel
Tower dwarfs the Pyramid of Ghizeh into a mole-hill, and the Crystal Palace
grounds transform the hanging gardens of Semiramis into a kitchen-garden--if
he likes. But if we are seriously "challenged" by him to show
"in what respect our age of hourly progress and gigantic thought"--a
progress a trifle marred, however, by our Huxleys being denounced by our
Surgeons, and the University ladies, senior classics and wranglers, by
the "hallelujah lasses"--is inferior to the ages of, say, a
hen-pecked "Socrates and a cross-legged Buddha," then we will
answer him, giving him, of course, our own personal opinion.
Our age, we say, is inferior in Wisdom to any other, because it professes,
more visibly every day, contempt for truth and justice, without which
there can be no Wisdom. Because our civilization, built up of shams
and appearances, is at best like a beautiful green morass, a bog, spread
over a deadly quagmire. Because this century of culture and worship of
matter, while offering prizes and premiums for every "best thing"
under the Sun, from the biggest baby and the largest orchid down to the
strongest pugilist and the fattest pig, has no encouragement to offer
to morality; no prize to give for any moral virtue. Because it has Societies
for the prevention of physical cruelty to animals, and none with the object
of preventing the moral cruelty practiced on human beings. Because it
encourages, legally and tacitly, vice under every form, from the sale
of whiskey down to forced prostitution and theft brought on by starvation
wages, Shylock-like exaction, rents and other comforts of our cultured
period. Because, finally, this is the age which, although proclaimed as
one of physical and moral freedom, is in truth the age of the most ferocious
moral and mental slavery, the like of which was never known before. Slavery
to State and men has disappeared only to make room for slavery
to things and Self, to one's own vices and idiotic social
customs and ways. Rapid civilization, adapted to the needs of the higher
and middle classes, has doomed by contrast to only greater wretchedness
the starving masses. Having leveled the two former it has made them the
more to disregard the substance in favor of form and appearance, thus
forcing modern man into duress vile, a slavish dependence on things inanimate,
to use and to serve which is the first bounded duty of every cultured man.
Where then is the Wisdom of our modern age?
In truth, it requires but a very few lines to show why we bow before
ancient Wisdom, while refusing absolutely to see any in our modem civilization.
But to begin with, what does our critic mean by the word "wisdom"?
Though we have never too unreasonably admired Lactantius, yet we must
recognize that even that innocent Church Father, with all his cutting
insults anent the heliocentric system, defined the term very correctly
when saying that "the first point of Wisdom is to discern that which
is false, and the second, to know that which is true." And if so.
what chance is there for our century of falsification, from the revised
Bible texts down to natural butter, to put forth a claim to "Wisdom"?
But before we cross lances on this subject we may do well, perchance,
to define the term ourselves.
Let us premise by saying that Wisdom is, at best, an elastic word --at
any rate as used in European tongues. That it yields no clear idea of
its meaning, unless preceded or followed by some qualifying adjective.
In the Bible, indeed, the Hebrew equivalent Chokmah (in Greek, Sophia) is applied to the most dissimilar things--abstract and
concrete. Thus we find "Wisdom" as the characteristic both of
divine inspiration and also of terrestrial cunning and craft; as meaning
the Secret Knowledge of the Esoteric Sciences, and also blind faith; the
"fear of the Lord," and Pharaoh's magicians. The noun is indifferently
applied to Christ and to sorcery, for the witch Sedecla is also referred
to as the "wise woman of En-Dor." From the earliest Christian
antiquity, beginning with St. James (iii, 13-17), down to the last Calvinist
preacher, who sees in hell and eternal damnation a proof of "the
Almighty's wisdom," the term has been used with the most varied
meanings. But St. James teaches two kinds of wisdom; a teaching with which
we fully concur. He draws a strong line of separation between the divine
or noëtic "Sophia"--the Wisdom from above--and
the terrestrial, psychic, and devilish wisdom (iii, 15). For the true
Theosophist there is no wisdom save the former. Would that such an one
could declare with Paul, that he speaks that wisdom exclusively only among
them "that are perfect," i.e., those initiated into its
mysteries, or familiar, at least, with the A B C of the sacred sciences.
But, however great was his mistake, however premature his attempt to sow
the seeds of the true and eternal gnosis on unprepared soil, his
motives were yet good and his intention unselfish, and therefore has
he been stoned. For had he only attempted to preach some particular fiction
of his own, or done it for gain, who would have ever singled him out or
tried to crush him, amid the hundreds of other false sects, daily "collections"
and crazy "societies"? But his case was different. However cautiously,
still he spoke "not the wisdom of this world" but truth or
the "hidden wisdom . . . which none of the Princes of this World
know (I Corinth. ii.) least of all the archons of our modern science.
With regard to "psychic" wisdom, however, which James defines
as terrestrial and devilish, it has existed in all ages, from the days
of Pythagoras and Plato, when for one philosophus there were nine sophistae, down to our modern era. To such wisdom our century is
welcome, and indeed fully entitled, to lay a claim. Moreover, it is an
attire easy to put on; there never was a period when crows refused to
array themselves in peacock's feathers, I if the opportunity was offered.
But now as then, we have a right to analyze the terms used and inquire
in the words of the book of Job, that suggestive allegory of Karmic purification
and initiation rites: "Where shall (true) wisdom be found? Where
is the place of understanding?" and to answer again in his words:
"With the ancient is wisdom and in the length of days understanding"
(Job xxviii, 12 and xii, 12) .
Here we have to qualify once more a dubious term, viz: the word "ancient,"
and to explain it. As interpreted by the orthodox churches, it has in
the mouth of Job one meaning; but with the Kabalist, quite another; while
in the Gnosis of the Occultist and Theosophist it has distinctly a third
signification, the same which it had in the original Book of Job, a
pre-Mosaic work and a recognized treatise on Initiation. Thus, the Kabalist
applies the adjective "ancient" to the Manifested WORD or LOGOS (Dabar) of the forever concealed and
uncognizable deity. Daniel, in one of his visions, also uses it when speaking
of Jahve--the androgynous Adam Kadmon. The Church man connects it with
his anthropomorphic Jehovah, the "Lord God" of the translated Bible. But the Eastern Occultist employs the mystic term only when
referring to the reincarnating higher Ego. For, divine Wisdom being diffused
throughout the infinite Universe, and our impersonal HIGHER SELF being an integral part of it, the atmic light of the
latter can be centered only in that which though eternal is still individualized--i.e., the noëtic Principle, the manifested God within each rational
being, or our Higher Manas at one with Buddhi. It is this
collective light which is the "Wisdom that is from above," and
which whenever it descends on the personal Ego, is found "pure, peaceable,
gentle." Hence, Job's assertion that "Wisdom is with the Ancient,"
or Buddhi-Manas. For the Divine Spiritual "I," is alone
eternal, and the same throughout all births; whereas5 the "personalities"
it informs in succession are evanescent, changing like the shadows of
a kaleidoscopic series of forms in a magic lantern It is the "Ancient,"
because, whether it be called Sophia, Krishna, Buddhi-Manas or Christos,
it is ever the "first-born" of Alaya-Mahat, the Universal
Soul and the Intelligence of the Universe. Esoterically then, Job's statement
must read: "With the Ancient (man's Higher Ego) is Wisdom, and in
the length of days (or number of its re-incarnations) is understanding."
No man can learn true and final Wisdom in one birth; and every new rebirth,
whether we be reincarnated for weal or for woe, is one more lesson we
receive at the hands of the stern yet ever just schoolmaster-- KARMIC LIFE.
But the world--the Western world, at any rate--knows nothing of this,
and refuses to learn anything. For it, any notion of the Divine Ego or
the plurality of its births is "heathen foolishness." The Western
world rejects these truths, and will recognize no wise men except
those of its own making, created in its own image, born within its own
Christian era and teachings. The only "wisdom" it understands
and practices is the psychic, the "terrestrial and devilish"
wisdom spoken of by James, thus making of the real Wisdom a misnomer
and a degradation. Yet, without considering her multiplied varieties,
there are two kinds of even "terrestrial" wisdom on our globe
of mud--the real and the apparent. Between the two, there is even for
the superficial observer of this busy wicked world, a wide chasm, and
yet how very few people will consent to see it! The reason for this is
quite natural. So strong is human selfishness, that wherever there is
the smallest personal interest at stake, there men become deaf and blind
to the truth, as often consciously as not. Nor are many people capable
of recognizing as speedily as is advisable the difference between men
who are wise and those who only seem wise, the latter being chiefly
regarded as such because they are very clever at blowing their own trumpet.
So much for "wisdom" in the profane world.
As to the world of the students in mystic lore, it is almost worse.
Things have strangely altered since the days of antiquity, when the truly
wise made it their first duty to conceal their knowledge, deeming it too
sacred to even mention before the hoi polloi. While the mediæval Rosecroix, the true philosopher, keeping old Socrates in mind,
repeated daily that all he knew was that he knew nothing, his modern self-styled
successor announces in our day, through press and public, that those mysteries
in Nature and her Occult laws of which he knows nothing, have never existed
at all. There was a time when the acquirement of Divine Wisdom (Sapientia) required the sacrifice and devotion of a man's whole life. It depended
on such things as the purity of the candidate's motives, on his fearlessness
and independence of spirit; but now, to receive a patent for wisdom and
adept-ship requires only unblushing impudence. A certificate of divine
wisdom is now decreed, and delivered to a self-styled "Adeptus" by a regular majority of votes of profane and easily caught gulls,
while a host of magpies driven away from the roof of the Temple of Science
will herald it to the world in every marketplace and fair. Tell the public
that now, even as of old, the genuine and sincere observer of life and
its underlying phenomena, the intelligent co-worker with nature, may,
by becoming an expert in her mysteries thereby become a "wise"
man, in the terrestrial sense of the word, but that never will a materialist wrench from nature any secret on a higher plane--and you will be laughed
to scorn. Add, that no "wisdom from above" descends on any one
save on the sine quâ non condition of leaving at the
threshold of the Occult every atom of selfishness, or desire for personal
ends and benefit--and you will be speedily declared by your audience a
candidate for the lunatic asylum. Nevertheless, this is an old, very old
truism. Nature gives up her innermost secrets and imparts true wisdom
only to him, who seeks truth for its own sake, and who craves for
knowledge in order to confer benefits on others, not on his own unimportant
personality. And, as it is precisely to this personal benefit that
nearly every candidate for adept-ship and magic looks, and that few are
they, who consent to learn at such a heavy price and so small a benefit
for themselves in prospect--the really wise Occultists become with every century fewer and rarer. How many are there, indeed, who would not
prefer the will-o'-the-wisp of even passing fame to the steady and ever-growing
light of eternal, divine knowledge, if the latter has to remain,
for all but oneself--a light under the bushel?
The same is the case in the world of materialistic science, where we
see a great paucity of really learned men and a host of skin-deep scientists,
who yet demand each and all to be regarded as Archimedes and Newtons.
As above so below. Scholars who pursue knowledge for the sake of truth
and fact, and give these out, however unpalatable, and not for the dubious
glory of enforcing on the world their respective personal hobbies--may
be counted on the fingers of one hand: while legion is the name of the
pretenders. In our day, reputations for learning seem to be built by suggestion
on the hypnotic principle, rather than by real merit. The masses cower
before him who imposes himself upon them: hence such a galaxy of men regarded as eminent in science, arts and literature; and if they are
so easily accepted, it is precisely because of the gigantic self-opinionated
and self-assertion of, at any rate, the majority of them. Once thoroughly
analyzed, however, how many of such would remain who truly deserve the
appellation of "wise" even in terrestrial wisdom? How many,
we ask, of the so-called authorities" and "leaders of men"
would prove much better than those of whom it was said--by one "wise"
indeed--"they be blind leaders of the blind"? That the teachings
of neither our modern teachers nor preachers are "wisdom from above"
is fully demonstrated. It is proved not by any personal incorrectness
in their statements or mistakes in life, for "to err is but human,"
but by incontrovertible facts. Wisdom and Truth are synonymous
terms, and that which is false or well-known representative of the Church
of England, that the Sermon of the Mount would, in its practical
application, mean utter ruin for his country less than three weeks; and
if it is no less true, as asserted by a literary
critic of science, that "the knell of Charles Darwinism is rung in
Mr. A.R. Wallace's present book,"1 an
event already predicted by Quatrefages--then we are left to choose between
two courses. We have either to take both Theology and Science on blind faith
and trust; or, to proclaim both untrue and untrustworthy there is however,
a third course open: to pretend that we believe in both at the same time,
and say nothing, as many do; but this would be sinning against Theosophy
and pandering to the prejudices of Society--and that we refuse to do. More
than this: we declare openly, quand mëme, that not one of the
two, neither Theologist nor Scientist, has the right in the face of this
to claim, the one that he preaches that which is divine inspiration, and
the other--exact science; since the former enforces that, which is on his
own recognition, pernicious to men and states--i.e. the ethics of Christ;
and the other (in the person of the eminent naturalist, Mr. A. R. Wallace,
as shown by Mr. Samuel Butler) teaches Darwinian evolution, in which he
believes no longer; a scheme, moreover, which has never existed in nature,
if the opponents of Darwinism are correct.
Nevertheless, if anyone would presume to call "unwise" or
"false" the world-chosen authorities, or declare their respective
policies dishonest, he would find himself promptly reduced to silence.
To doubt the exalted wisdom of the religion of the late Cardinal Newman,
of the Church of England, or again of our great modern scientists, is
to sin against the Holy Ghost and Culture. Woe unto him who refuses to
recognize the World's "Elect." He has to bow before one or the
other, though, if one is true, the other must be false;
and if the "wisdom" of neither Bishop nor Scientist is "from
above"--which is pretty fairly demonstrated by this time--then their
"wisdom" is at best--"terrestrial, psychic, devilish."
Now our readers have to bear in mind that note of the above is meant
as a sign of disrespect for the true teachings of Christ, or true science: nor do we judge personalities but only the systems of our
civilized world. Valuing freedom of thought above all things as the only
way of reaching at some future time that Wisdom, of which every
Theosophist ought to be enamored, we recognize the right to the same freedom
in our foes as in our friends. All we contend for is their claim to Wisdom--as
we understand this term. Nor do we blame, but rather pity, in our innermost
heart, the "wise men" of our age for trying to carry out the
only policy that will keep them on the pinnacle of their "authority";
as they could not, if even they would, act otherwise and preserve their prestige with the masses, or escape from being speedily outcast
by their colleagues. The party spirit is so strong with regard to the
old tracks and ruts, that to turn on a side path means deliberate treachery
to it. Thus, to be regarded now-a-days as an authority in some particular
subject, the scientist has to reject nolens volens the metaphysical,
and the theologian to show contempt for the materialistic teachings. All
this is worldly policy and practical common sense, but it is not the Wisdom of either Job or James.
Shall it be then regarded as too far fetched, if, basing our words on
a life-long observation and experience, we venture to offer our ideas
as to the quickest and most efficient means of obtaining our present World's
universal respect and becoming an "authority"? Show the tender
regard for the corns of every party's hobbies, and offer yourself as the
chief executioner, the hangman, of the reputations of men and things regarded
as unpopular. Learn, that the great secret of power consists in the art
of pandering to popular prejudices, to the World's likes and dislikes.
Once this principal condition complied with, he who practices it is certain
of attracting to himself the educated and their satellites--the less educated--they
whose rule it is to place themselves invariably on the safe side of public
opinion. This will lead to a perfect harmony or simultaneous action. For,
while the favorite attitude of the cultured is to hide behind the intellectual
bulwarks of the favorite leaders of scientific thought, and jurare
in verba magistri, that of the less cultured is to transform themselves
into the faithful, mechanical telephones of their superiors, and to repeat
like well-trained parrots the dicta of their immediate leaders
The now aphoristical precept of Mr. Artemus Ward, the showman of famous
memory--"Scratch my back, Mr. Editor, and I will scratch yours"--proves
immortally true. The "rising Star," whether he be a theologian,
a politician, an author, a scientist, or a journalist--has to begin scratching
the back of public tastes and prejudices--a hypnotic method as old as
human vanity. Gradually the hypnotized masses begin to purr, they are
ready for "suggestion." Suggest whatever you want them to believe,
and forthwith they will begin to return your caresses, and purr now to
your hobbies, and pander in their turn to anything suggested by theologian,
politician, author, scientist, or journalist. Such is the simple secret
of blossoming into an "authority" or a "leader of men";
and such is the secret of our modern-day wisdom.
And this is also the "secret" and the true reason of the unpopularity of Lucifer and of the ostracism practiced by this same modern world
on the Theosophical Society: for neither Lucifer, nor the Society
it belongs to, has ever followed Mr. Artemus Ward's golden precept. No
true Theosophist, in fact, would consent to become the fetish of a fashionable
doctrine, any more than he would make himself the slave of a decaying
dead-letter system, the spirit from which has disappeared for ever. Neither
would he pander to anyone or anything, and therefore would always decline
to show belief in that in which he does not, nor can he believe, which
is lying to his own soul. Therefore there, where others see "the
beauty and graces of modern culture," the Theosophist sees only moral
ugliness and the somersaults of the clowns of the so-called cultured centres.
For him nothing applies better to modern fashionable society than Sydney
Smith's description of Popish ritualism: "Posture and imposture,
flections and genuflections, bowing to the right, curtsying to the left,
and an immense amount of male (and especially female) millinery."
There may be, no doubt, for some worldly minds, a great charm in modern
civilization; but for the Theosophist all its bounties can hardly repay
for the evils it has brought on the world. These are so many, that it
is not within the limits of this article to enumerate these offspring
of culture and of the progress of physical science, whose latest achievements
begin with vivisection and end in improved murder by electricity.
Our answer, we have no doubt, is not calculated to make us more friends
than enemies, but this can be hardly helped. Our magazine may be looked
upon as "pessimistic," but no one can charge it with publishing
slanders or lies, or, in fact, anything but that which we honestly
believe to be true. Be it as it may, however, we hope never to lack moral
courage in the expression of our opinions or in defense of Theosophy and
its Society. Let then nine-tenths of every population arise in arms against
the Theosophical Society wherever it appears--they will never be able
to suppress the truths it utters. Let the masses of growing Materialism,
the hosts of Spiritualism, all the Church-going congregations, bigots
and iconoclasts, Grundy-worshippers, aping-followers and blind disciples,
let them slander, abuse, lie, denounce, and publish every falsehood about
us under the sun-- they will not uproot Theosophy, nor even upset her
Society, if only its members hold together. Let even such friends and advisers as he who is now answered, turn away in disgust from those
whom he addresses in vain--it matters not, for our two paths in life run
diametrically opposite. Let him keep to his "terrestrial" wisdom:
we will keep to that pure ray "that comes from above," from
the light of the "Ancient."
What indeed, has WISDOM, Theosophia--the Wisdom
"full of mercy and good fruits, without wrangling or partiality
and without hypocrisy" (James iii, 17)--to do with our cruel, selfish,
crafty, and hypocritical world? What is there in common between
divine Sophia and the improvements of modern civilization and science;
between spirit and the letter that killeth? The more so as at this stage
of evolution the wisest man on earth, according to the wise Carlyle,
is but a clever infant spelling letters from a hieroglyphical, prophetic
book, the lexicon of which lies in eternity."
Lucifer, September, I890
1 See "The Deadlock of Darwinism,"
by Samuel Butler, in the Universal Review for April, 1890.
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