THE outward form of idolatry is but a veil,
concealing the one Truth like the veil of the Saitic Goddess,
Only that truth, being for the few, escapes the majority. To the
pious profane, the veil recovers a celestial locality thickly
peopled with divine beings, dwarfs and giants, good and wicked
powers, all of whom are no better than human caricatures. Yet,
wile for the great majority the space behind the veil is really
impenetrable--if it would but confess the real state of its mind--those,
endowed with the "third eye" (the eye of Shiva), discern
in the Cimmerian darkness and chaos a light in whose intense radiance
all shape born of human conception disappears, leaving the all-informing
divine PRESENCE, to be felt--not seen; sensed--never
A charming allegory translated from an old Sanskrit manuscript
illustrates this idea admirably:
Toward the close of the Pralaya (the intermediate period between
two "creations" or evolutions of our phenomenal universe),
the great IT, the One that rests in infinity
and ever is, dropped its reflection, which expanded in
limitless Space, and felt a desire to make itself cognizable by
the creatures evolved from its shadow. The reflection assumed
the shape of a Mahârâja (great King). Devising means
for mankind to learn of his existence, the Mahârâja
built out of the qualities inherent in him a palace, in which
he concealed himself, satisfied that people should perceive the
outward form of his dwelling. But when they looked up to the place
where stood the palace, whose one corner stretched into the right,
and the other into the left infinitude--the little men saw
nothing; the palace was mistaken by them for empty space,
and being so vast remained invisible to their eyes. Then the Mahârâja
resorted to another expedient. He determined to manifest himself
to the little creatures whom he pitied--not as a whole but
only in his parts. He destroyed the palace built by
him from his manifesting qualities, brick by brick, and began
throwing the bricks down upon the earth one after the other. Each
brick was transformed into an idol, the red ones becoming Gods
and the grey ones Goddesses; into these the Devatâs and
Devatîs--the qualities and the attributes of the Unseen--entered
and animated them.
This allegory shows polytheism in its true light and that it rests
on the One Unity, as does all the rest. Between the Dii
majores and the Dii minores there is in reality
no difference. The former are the direct, the latter the broken
or refracted, rays of one and the same Luminary. What are Brahmâ,
Vishnu and Shiva, but the triple Ray that emanates directly from
the Light of the World? The three Gods with their Goddesses are
the three dual representations of Purusha the Spirit, and Prakriti--matter;
the six are synthesized by Svâyambhuva the self-existent,
unmanifested Deity. They are only the symbols personifying the Unseen Presence in every phenomenon of nature.
"The seven [regions]1 of Bhûmi, hang by
golden threads [beams or rays] from the Spiritual central Sun
[or 'God']. Higher than all, a watcher for each [region]. The
Suras come down this [beam]. They cross the six and reach the
Seventh [our earth]. They are our mother earth's [Bhûmi]
supporters [or guardians]. The eighth watches over the [seven]
Suras are in the Vedas deities, or beings, connected with the
Sun; in their occult meaning they are the seven chief watchers
or guardians of our planetary system. They are positively identical
with the "Seven Spirits of the Stars." The Suras are
connected in practical Occultism with the Seven Yogic powers.
One of these, Laghima(n) or "the faculty of assuming levity,"
is illustrated in a Purâna as rising and descending along
a sunbeam to the solar orb with its mysteries; e.g., Khatvânga,
in Vishnu Purâna (BookIV). "It must
be equally easy to the Adept to travel a ray downwards,"
remarks Fitzedward Hall (p. 311). And why not, if the action is
understood in its right and correct sense?
Eight great Gods are often reckoned, as there are eight points
of the compass, four cardinal and four intermediate points over
which preside also inferior Lokapâlas or the "doubles"
of the greater Gods. Yet, in many instances where the number eight
is given it is only a kind of exoteric shell. Every globe, however,
is divided into seven regions, as 7X7=49 is the mystic number
To make it clearer: in each of the seven Root Races, and in every
one of the seven regions into which the Occult Doctrine divides
our globe, there appears from the dawn of Humanity the "Watcher"
assigned to it in the eternity of the Æon. He comes first
in his own "form," then each time as an Avatâra.
In a secret work upon the Mysteries and the rites of Initiation,
in which very rough but correct prints are given of the sacramental
postures, and of the trials to which the postulant was subjected,
the following details are found:
(1) The neophyte--representing the Sun, as
he of the thousand rays"--is shown kneeling before the "Hierophant."
The latter is in the act of cutting off seven locks of
the neophyte's long hair,2
and in the following--(2)--illustration,
the postulant's bright crown of golden beams is thrown off, and
replaced by a wreath of sharp ligneous spines, symbolizing the
loss.3 This was enacted in India. In
trans-Himâlayan regions it was the same.
In order to become a "Perfect One," the Sakridâgâmin
("he who will receive new birth," lit.) had,
among other trials, to descend into Pâtâla, the "nether
world," after which process only he could hope to become
an "Anâgâmin"--"one who will be reborn
no more." The full Initiate had the option of either entering
this second Path by appearing at will in the world of men under
a human form, or he could choose to first rest in the world of
Gods (the Devachan of the Initiates), and then only be reborn
on this our earth. Thus, the next stage shows the postulant preparing
for this journey.
(3) Every kind of temptation--we have no right to enumerate these
or speak of them--was being placed on his way. If he came out
victorious over these, then the further Initiation was proceeded
with; if he fell--it was delayed, often entirely lost for him.
These rites lasted seven days.
ON CYCLES AND MODERN
The Hermetic axiom has been made good by astronomy and geology.
Science has become convinced now that the milliards of the heavenly
hosts--suns, stars, planets, the systems in and beyond the Milky
Way--have all had a common origin, our earth included. Nevertheless
that a regular evolution, incessant and daily, is still going
on. That "cosmic life-times have begun at different epochs
and proceed at different rates of change. Some began so far back
in eternity or have proceeded at so rapid a rate, that their careers
are brought to a conclusion in the passing age. Some are even
now awaking into existence; and it is probable that worlds are
beginning and ending continually. Hence cosmic existence, like
the kingdoms of organic life, presents a simultaneous panorama
of a completed cycle of being. A taxonomic arrangement of the
various grades of animal existence presents a succession of forms
which we find repeated in the embryonic history of a single individual,
and again in the succession of geological types; so the taxonomy
of the heavens is both a cosmic embryology and a cosmic palæontology."
(World Life, p. 539.)
So much for cycles again in modern orthodox science. It was the
knowledge of all these truths--scientifically demonstrated and
made public now, but in those days of antiquity occult and known
to Initiates alone--that led to the formation of various cycles
into a regular system. The grand Manvantaric system was divided
into other great cycles; and these in their turn into smaller
cycles, regular wheels of time, in Eternity. Yet no one outside
of the sacred precincts ever had the key to the correct reading
and interpretation of cyclic notation, and therefore even the
ancient classics disagreed on many points. Thus, Orpheus is said
to have ascribed to the "Great" Cycle 120,000 years'
duration, and Cassandrus 136,000, according to Censorinus (De
Natal Die, Chron. and Astron. Fragments). Analogy is the law,
and is the surest guide in occult sciences, as it ought to be
in the natural philosophy made public. It is perhaps mere vanity
that prevents modern science from accepting the enormous periods
of time insisted upon by the ancients, as elapsed since the first
civilizations. The miserable little fragment torn out from the
Book of the Universal History of Mankind, now called so proudly
"Our History," forces historians to dwarf every
period in order to wedge it in within the narrow limits primarily
constructed by theology. Hence the most liberal among them hesitate
to accept the figures given by ancient historians. Bunsen, the
eminent Egyptologist, rejects the period of 48,863 years before
Alexander, to which Diogenes Laertius carries back the records
of the priests, but he is evidently more embarrassed with the
ten thousand of astronomical observations, and remarks that "if
they were actual observations, they must have extended
over 10,000 years" (p. 14. "We learn, however,"
he adds, "from one of their own old chronological works .
. . that the genuine Egyptian traditions concerning the mythological
period, treated of myriads of years." (Egypte,
i. p. 15.)
We must notice and try to explain some of these great and smaller
cycles and their symbols. Let us begin with the cycle of Mahâyuga,
personified by Shesha--the great serpent called "the couch
of Vishnu." because that God is Time and Duration personified
in the most philosophical and often poetical way.
It is said that Vishnu appears on it at the beginning of every
Manvantara as "the Lord of Creation." Shesha is the
great Serpent-Cycle, represented as swallowing its own tail--thence
the emblem of Time within Eternity. Time. says Locke (On the
Human Understanding)--Time is "duration set forth by
measures," and Shesha sets forth evolution by symbolizing
its periodical stages. On him Vishnu sleeps during the intervals
of rest (pralayas) between "creations"; the blue
God--blue because he is space and the depth of infinity--awakens
only when Shesha bends his thousand heads, preparing to again
bear up the Universe which is supported on them. The Vishnu
Purâna describes him thus: "Below the seven Pâtâlas
is the form of Vishnu, proceeding from the quality of darkness,
which is Shesha, the excellences of which neither Daityas nor
Dânavas can fully enumerate. This being is called Ananta
[the infinite] by the spirits of Siddha (Yoga Wisdom, sons of
Dharma, or true religion), and is worshipped by sages and by gods.
He has a thousand heads, which are embellished with the pure and
visible mystic sign [Syastika]; and the thousand jewels in his
crests (phana) give light to all the regions.... In one
hand he holds a plough4 and in the other a pestle....
From his mouths, at the end of the Kalpa, proceeds the venomed
fire that, impersonated as Rudra [Shiva, the 'destroyer'] . .
. devours the three worlds." (ii. 211.)
Thence Shesha is the cycle of the great Manvantara, and also the
spirit of vitality as of destruction, since Vishnu, as the preserving
or conservative force, and Shiva as the destroying potency, are
both aspects of Brahma. Shesha is said to have taught the sage
Garga--one of the oldest astronomers in India, whom, nevertheless,
Bentley places only 548 B.C.--the secret sciences,
the mysteries of the heavenly bodies, of astrology, astronomy
and various omens. Shesha is so great and mighty, that it is more
than likely he will some day, in far off future ages, render the
same service to our modern astronomers. Nothing like "Time"
and cyclic changes to cure sceptics of their blindness.
But Occult truths have to contend with a far more blind foe than
science can ever be to them, namely, the Christian theologians
and bigots. These claim unblushingly the number of years lived
by their Patriarchs some four thousand years ago, and pretend
to prove that they have interpreted "the symbolic predictions
of scripture" and have "traced the historic fulfilment
of two of the most important of them"--handling Biblical
chronology as reverently as though it had never been a rehash
of Chaldæan records and cyclic figures, to hide the true
meaning under exoteric fables! They speak of "that history
that unrolls before our eyes a record extending over six thousand
years" from the moment of creation; and maintain that there
are "very few of the prophetic periods whose fulfilment cannot
be traced in some parts of the scrolls." (The Approaching
End of the Age.)
Moreover they have two methods and two chronologies to show those
events verified--the Roman Catholic and the Protestant. The first
relies on the calculations of Kepler and Dr. Sepp; the latter
on Clinton, who gives the year of the Nativity as A.M.
4138; the former holds to the old calculation of 4320 by lunar,
and 4004 by solar years.
l In every ancient cosmography the universe and the earth
are divided into seven parts or regions.
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2 See Judges xvi, again, where Samson, the
personification of the Sun, the Jewish Hercules, speaks of his
seven locks which, when cut off, will deprive him of his
(physical) strength, i.e., kill the material man, leaving
only the spiritual. But the Bible fails to explain, or
rather, conceals purposely, the esoteric truth, that the seven
locks symbolize the septenary physical or terrestrial man, thus
cut off and separated from the spiritual. To this day the High
Lamas cut off during public consecrations a lock of the hair of
the candidates for the religious life, repeating a formula to
the effect that the six others will follow, when the "upâsaka"
IS READY. The lock of hair or tonsure
of the Roman Catholic priests is a relic of the same mystery-idea.
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3 No need of explaining that Sanjnâ--pure
spiritual conscience--is the inner perception of the neophyte
(or chelâ) and Initiate; the scorching of it by the too
ardent beams of the Sun being symbolical of the terrestrial passions.
Hence the seven locks are symbolical of the seven cardinal sins,
and as to the seven cardinal virtues--to be gained by the Sakridâgâmin
(the candidate "for new birth"), they could be attained
by him only through severe trial and suffering.
back to text
4 An emblem referring to the "ploughing"
and sowing the renewed earth (in its new Round) with fresh seeds
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