LECTURE THE FIRST (1)
THE purpose of the Lectures, of which this is the first, is the exposition of a system of Doctrine and Life, at once scientific, philosophic, and religious, and adapted to all the needs and aspirations of mankind. This system is offered in substitution, on the one hand, for that traditional and dogmatic Conventionalism which, by its failure to meet the tests of science and to respond to the moral instincts, is now by thoughtful persons nearly or wholly discarded; and, on the other hand, for that agnostic Materialism which is rapidly overspreading the world to the destruction of all that is excellent in the nature of man.
2. But although offered in substitution both for that which experience has shown to be defective, and that which
is so recent as to be only now in course of reception, the system to be proposed is not itself new; and its present exposition represents, not an Invention as ordinarily understood, but a Restoration. For, as will be shown indubitably, there has been in the world from the earliest ages a system which fulfils all the conditions requisite for endurance; a system which, being founded in the nature of Existence itself, is eternal in its truth and application, and needs but due understanding and observance to enable man by means of it to attain to the highest perfection and satisfaction he can by any possibility imagine or desire. And, as also will be shown, this system is no other than that which all the great religions of the world have, under various guises and with varying degrees of success, striven to express.
3. Our object, therefore, is to restore and to rehabilitate the Truth, by divesting it of all the many limitations, degenerations, perversions, and distortions to which throughout the ages it has been subjected; and by explaining the real meaning of the formulas and symbols which thus far have served rather to conceal than to reveal it. That which we shall propound, therefore, will be no new doctrine or practice; but that only which is either so old as to have become forgotten, or so profound as to have escaped the superficial gaze of modern eyes.
4. Now, in order to be entitled to a hearing in respect of a subject thus momentous and recondite, it is obviously necessary that the claimant should be able to plead some special qualification in the shape of de possession either of an exclusive source of information, or of an unusual faculty. Hence it becomes necessary to include in these introductory remarks an account of the qualification relied on in the present instance.
5. That which is thus claimed is at once a faculty and
a source of information, and is, in these days, of rare though not novel occurrence. It is that mode of the mind whereby, after exercising itself in an outward direction as Intellect, in order to obtain cognition of phenomena, it returns towards its centre, as Intuition, and be ascertaining the essential idea of the fact apprehended through the senses, completes the process of its thought. And just as only by the combined and equal operation of the modes termed centrifugal and centripetal, of force, the solar system is sustained; so only by the equilibrium of the modes, intellectual and intuitional, of the mind, can man complete the system of his thought, and attain to certitude of truth. And as well might we attempt to construct the solar system by means of an exercise of force in one direction, the human system by means of one sex, or the nervous system by means of the motor roots only, as to attain to knowledge by means of one mode only of mind. It is, however, precisely in this manner that the materialistic hypothesis errs; and by its error it has forfeited all claim to be accounted a system.
6. The Intuition, then, is that operation of the mind whereby we are enabled to gain access to the interior and permanent region of our nature, and there to possess ourselves of the knowledge which, in the long ages of her past existences, the Soul has made her own. For that in us which perceives and permanently remembers is the Soul. And inasmuch as, in order to obtain her full development, she remains for thousands of years in connection, more or less close, with Matter, until, perfected by experience of all the lessons afforded by the body, she passes on the higher conditions of being; it follows that no knowledge which the race has once acquired in the past can be regarded as hopelessly lost to the present.
7. But the memory of the soul is not the only factor in spiritual evolution. The faculty which we have named the Intuition, is completed and crowned by the operation of Divine Illumination. Theologically, this illumination is spoken of as the Descent of the Holy Spirit, or outpouring of the heavenly efflux, which kindles into a flame in the soul, as the sun’s rays in a lens. Thus, to the fruits of the soul’s experience in the past, is added the “grace” or luminance of the Spirit; the baptism of Fire which, falling from on high, sanctifies and consummates the results of the baptism of Water springing from the earth. To be illumined by this inward Light, to be united with this abiding divinity, was ever the ardent aspiration of the seeker after God in all times and of all lands, whether Egyptian Epopt, Hindu Yogi, Greek Neoplatonist, Arab Sufi, or Christian Gnostic. By the last named it was styled the Paraclete and Revealer, by whom man is led into all truth. With the Hindu it was Atman, the All-seeing, not subject to rebirths like the soul, and redeeming from the vicissitudes of destiny. By the combined operation of this Light, and the enhancement it effects in the intuitions of the soul – enabling her to convert her knowledge into wisdom – the human race has been from age to age perpetually carried up to higher levels of its evolution, and will, in due course, be enabled to substantialise in itself and to be all that in the past it has known and desired of perfection.
8. These Lectures, then, represent the result of intuitional memory, quickened and enhanced, we believe, by some measure of the divine influx, and developed by the only mode of life ever found compatible with sound philosophic aspirations. And of the doctrine we seek to restore, the basis is the Pre-existence and Perfectibility of the Soul. The former, because, but for her persistence, progressive
genesis, or gradual becoming, would be impossible. For development depends upon memory, and is the result of the intelligent application of knowledge gained by experience, in satisfaction of the needs of the individual; the sense of need being complemented by a sense of power.
And the Perfectibility; because, as a portion of the Divine Being – which is God – constituted of the Divine Substance and illumined by the Divine Spirit, she, the Soul, is necessarily capable of all that her nature implies; and competent to realise for the individuality animated by her, the injunction of the great Master of mystical science; “Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
9. It is necessary for the elucidation of our system to speak yet further of the constitution of man. Concerning this, our doctrine is that which has prevailed from the earliest times, and in all philosophical religions. According to this doctrine, man is possessed of a fourfold nature, a speciality which differentiates him from all other creatures. The four elements which constitute him are, counting from without inwards, the material body, the fluidic perisoul or astral body, the soul or individual, and the spirit, or divine Father, and life of his system. This last it is whose kingdom is described as the leaven taken by the woman – the divine Sophia or Wisdom – and hidden in three measures of meal, namely, the soul, the perisoul, and the body, until the whole is leavened; until, that is, the whole man is so permeated and lightened by it that he is finally transmuted into Spirit, and becomes “one with God.”
10. This doctrine of the fourfold nature of man, finds expression also in the
Hebrew Scriptures, being symbolised by the four rivers
beings of Ezekiel, and their four wheels or circles, each of which denotes a region and principality or power. It has its correspondence also in the four interpretations of all mystical Scriptures, which are the natural, the intellectual, the ethical, and the spiritual; and also in the unit of all physical existence, the physiologic cell. For this, as the student of Histology knows, is composed, from without inwards, first of cell-membrane or capsule, which is not a separable envelope, but a mere coagulative sheathing of its fluidic part; secondly, of the protoplasmic medium; thirdly, of the nucleus, itself a mode of protoplasmic substance; and, lastly, of an element not present in all cells, and often when present difficult to perceive, namely, the nucleolus, or inmost and perfectly transparent element. Thus does man, as the Microcosm of the Macrocosm, exemplify in very detail of his system the fundamental doctrine of the famous Hermetic philosophy by which the expression of every true Bible is controlled, the doctrine, namely, of Correspondence.
“As is the outer, so is the inner; as is the small, so is the great: there is but one law; and He that worketh is One. Nothing is small, nothing is great in the Divine Economy.”
12. Now, the modes whereby the intuition operates are
two, namely, Perception and Memory. By the former, man understands and interprets; by the latter, he retains and utilises. Perceiving, recollecting, and applying, the mind enacts for itself a process analogous to that which occurs in the physical organism. For its operations correspond to the three physiological processes of Nutrition – prehension, digestion, and absorption.
13. When the uninitiated person, or materialist, denies positively, as, with curious inconsistency, such persons do deny, the possibility of positive knowledge, and declares that “all that we know is, nothing can be known,” he speaks truly so far as concerns himself and his fellows. “The natural man” as the apostle declares, “perceiveth not the things that are of the Spirit, for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned. But the spiritual man judgeth all things, and he himself is judged of no man.” While the two orders here indicated refer to the inner and outer, or soul and body, of each individual, they refer also to the two great divisions of mankind – they who as yet recognise the body only, and they who are so far unfolded in their interior nature as to recognise the soul also. Of these last is the initiate of sacred mysteries. Following his intuition, such an one directs the force of his mind inwards, and – provided his will is subordinated to and made one with the Divine will – passes within the veil, and knows even as he is known. For, as the apostle says again, “What man knoweth the things of a man save the man himself? So, likewise, the things of God no man knoweth, save the Spirit of God within the man. And the Spirit knoweth all things and revealeth them unto the man.” As thus by means of our Divine part we apprehend the Divine, no such apprehension is possible to him who does not, in some degree, reflect the Divine
image. “For if thine eye be evil, thy whole body is full of darkness. If, then, the very means of light in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”
14. Matter is the antithetical ultimate of Spirit. Wherefore the enemy of spiritual vision is always Materialism. It is therefore by the dematerialisation of himself that man obtains the seeing eye and hearing ear in respect of Divine things. Dematerialisation consists, not in the separation of the soul from the body, but in the purification of both soul and body from the engrossment by the things of sense. It is but another example of the doctrine of correspondence. As with the vision of things physical, so with that of things spiritual. Purity alike of instrument and medium is indispensable to perception.
15. This, then, is the nature and function of the Intuition. By living so purely in thought and deed as to prevent the interposition of any barrier between his exterior and his interior, his phenomenal and his substantial self; and by steadfastly cultivating harmonious relations between these two – by subordinating the whole of his system to the Divine central Will, whose seat is in the soul – the man gains full access to the stores of knowledge laid up in his soul, and attains to the cognition alike of God and of the universe. And for him, as is said, “There is nothing hid which shall not be revealed.”
16. And it is not his own memory alone that, thus endowed, he reads. The very planet of which he is the offspring, is, like himself, a Person, and is possessed of a medium of memory. And he to whom the soul lends her ears and eyes, may have knowledge not only of his own past history, but of the past history of the planet, as beheld in the pictures imprinted in the magnetic light whereof the planet’s memory consists. For there are actually ghosts of
events, manes of past circumstances, shadows on the protoplasmic mirror, which can be evoked.
17. But beyond and above the power to read the memory of himself or of the planet, is the power to penetrate to that innermost sphere wherein the soul obtains and treasures up her knowledge of God. This is the faculty whereby true revelation occurs. And revelation, even in this its highest sense, is, no less than reason, a proper prerogative of man, and belongs of right to him in his highest and completest measure of development.
18. For placed as is the soul between the outer and the inner, mediator between the material and the spiritual, she looks inwards as well as outwards, and by experience learns the nature and method of God; and according to the degree of her elevation, purity, and desire, sees, reflects, and transmits God. It is in virtue of the soul’s position between the worlds of substance and of phenomenon, and her consequent ability to refer things to their essential ideas, that in her, and her alone, resides an instrument of knowledge competent for the comprehension of Truth even the highest, which she only is able to behold face to face. It is no hyperbole that is involved in the saying, “The pure in heart see God.” True, the man cannot see God. But the Divine in man sees God. And this occurs when, by means of his soul’s union with God, the man becomes “one with the Father,” and beholds God with the eyes of God.
19. That is not really knowledge which is without understanding. And the knowledge acquired by man through the soul, involves the understanding of all things apprehended. Now, to understand a thing, is to get intellectually into, beyond, and around it; to know the reasons of and for it; and to perceive clearly that it, and it only under the circumstances, is and could by any possibility
be true. Apart from such knowledge and understanding, belief is impossible. For that is not belief, in any sense worthy of the term, which is not of knowledge. And only that belief saves which is conjoined with understanding. For the Rock on which the true Church is built, is the Understanding.
20. Such is the meaning of the words of Jesus on the memorable occasion of Peter’s confession of him. It was not to the man Simon that was applied the apostrophe – “Thou art Peter, the rock, and upon this will I build my Church;” but to the eternal and immutable Spirit of Understanding, by means of which the disciple had “Found Christ.” Thus the utterance of Jesus had reference, not to the man, but to the Spirit who informed the man, and whom with his spiritual eyes the Master discerned.
21. We have said that the soul, with the eyes of understanding, looks two ways, inwards as well as outwards. It is interesting to remember that this characteristic of the soul was typified under the image of the two-faced divinity, Janus Bifron, or, as called by Plutarch, Iannos. Now Janus is the same as Jonas. Wherefore it is said that Simon, the expositor of the true doctrine, is the son of Jonas, meaning the Understanding. Janus is also the doorkeeper, as is Peter in Catholic tradition. And for this reason a door is called janua, and the first month or entrance of the year, January. Janus thus came to be regarded, like Peter, as the elder, the renewer of time, and the guardian of the outermost circle of the system, and one therefore with Saturn. And as the former was called Pater Janus, so the latter was called Peter Jonas, the Rock of Understanding. And he is represented, as also is Peter, standing in a ship, and holding in one hand a staff and in the other a key. By this is signified, that to the Understanding,
born of the experiences of Time,
belong the Rod of the Diviner – or the power of the Will – and the Keys of the
22. The priesthoods, materialising, as is their wont, divine things, have applied the utterance of Jesus to the man Simon and his successors in office; but with the most disastrous consequences. For, ignoring the understanding, and putting asunder that which God has joined together – Faith and Reason – they have made something other than Mind the criterion of truth.
To this divorce between the elements masculine and feminine of man’s intellectual system, is due the prevailing unbelief. For, converted thereby into superstition, religion has been rendered ridiculous; and instead of being exhibited as the Supreme Reason – God has been depicted as the Supreme Unreason. Against religion, as thus presented, mankind has done well to revolt. To have remained subject, had been intellectual suicide. Wherefore the last person entitled to reproach the world for its want of faith is the Priest; since it is his degradation of the character of God, that has ministered to unbelief. Suppressing the “woman,” who is the intuition, by putting themselves in her place, the priests have suppressed also the man, who is the intellect. And so the whole of humanity is extinguished. Of the influences under which Sacerdotalism has acquired its evil repute, a full account will appear as we proceed.
sensible, intellectual, moral, and spiritual, comprised in the constitution of man, wherein consists Common Sense. It is not upon any authority of book, person, tradition, or order, that we ourselves rely, or that we invite the attention of others. Reference will indeed be made, as already, to various sacred and other sources, but only for illustration, interpretation, or confirmation. For, confident in the knowledge that all things have their procession from Mind, and that consequently Mind is competent for the comprehension of all things; and also that Mind is eternally one and the same; – we have no fear of antagonism between the perceptions of the present and those of the past, however remote that past be. Only let it be remembered, the appeal is, in all cases, to perception, and in no case, to prejudice or convention. In proceeding from God, all things proceed from pure Reason; and only by Reason which, in being unwarped by prejudice and unobscured by Matter, is pure, can anything be rightly apprehended.
24. Hence it is that the disposition which refers everything, for instance, to a book, and this, perhaps, one arbitrarily selected from among many similar books; or that refuses to accept truth save on the authority of miracle, is a superstitious disposition, and one that opposes as insuperable a barrier to knowledge as does the materialism – no less superstitious – which, constructing an hypothesis independently of facts, rejects all evidence which conflicts with its hypothesis. It is precisely a materialism such as this which, in the recoil from superstition of one kind, has plunged the age headlong into superstition of another kind. For the cultus of the present day – that of Matter – is the most stupendous example of Fetish-worship the world has ever seen. But of this we shall have more to say further
on. It is necessary here but to remind those who worship a book, that things are not true because they are in a Bible; but that they are in a Bible because previously recognised as true. And miracles – which are natural effects of exceptional causes – may indeed be proofs of occult power and skill, but are no evidence of the truth of any doctrine.
25. The following story from the Talmud will serve both to lighten our lecture and to illustrate our position in this respect:
“On a certain day, Rabbi Eliezer ben Orcanaz replied to the questions proposed to him concerning his teaching; but his arguments being found to be inferior to his pretensions, the doctors present refused to admit his conclusions. The Rabbi Eliezer said, ‘My doctrine is true, and this karoub tree, which is near us shall demonstrate the infallibility of my teaching.’ Immediately the karoub tree, obeying the voice of Eliezer, arose out of the ground and planted itself a hundred cubits farther off. But the Rabbis shook their heads and answered, ‘The karoub tree proves nothing.’ ‘What,’ cried Eliezer, ‘you resist so great a miracle? Then let this rivulet flow backwards, and attest the truth of my doctrine.’ Immediately the rivulet obeying the command of Eliezer, flowed backwards towards its source. But again the Rabbis shook their heads and said, ‘The rivulet proves nothing. We must understand before we can believe.’ ‘Will you believe me,’ said Rabbi Eliezer, ‘if the walls of this house wherein we sit should fall down?’ And the walls, obeying him, began to fall, until Rabbi Joshua exclaimed, ‘By what right do the walls interfere in our debates?’ Then the walls stopped in their fall out of respect to Rabbi Joshua, but remained leaning out of respect for Rabbi Eliezer, and remain leaning until this day. But
Eliezer, mad with rage, cried out: ‘Then in order to confound you, and since you compel me to it, let a voice from heaven be heard!’ And immediately the Bath-Kol, or Voice from heaven, was heard at a great height in the air, and it said, ‘What are all the opinions of the Rabbis compared to the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer? When he has spoken, his opinion ought to prevail.’ Hereupon Rabbi Joshua rose and said, ‘It is written, “The law is not in heaven; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” It is in your reason; for again it is written, “I have left you free to choose between life and death and good and evil.” And it is in your conscience; for “if ye love the Lord and obey His voice within you, you will find happiness and truth.” Wherefore then does Rabbi Eliezer bring in a karoub tree, a rivulet, a wall, and a voice to settle questions of doctrine? And what is the only conclusion that can be drawn from such miracles, but that they who have expounded the laws of nature have not wholly understood them, and that we must now admit that in certain cases a tree can unroot itself, a rivulet flow backwards, walls obey instructions, and voices sound in the air? But what connection is there between these observations and the teaching of Rabbi Eliezer? No doubt these miracles were very extraordinary, and they have filled us with astonishment; but to amaze is not to argue, and it is argument, not phenomena, that we require. When, therefore, Rabbi Eliezer shall have proved to us that karoub trees, rivulets, walls, and unknown voices afford us, by unusual manifestations, reasonings equal in value and weight to that reason which God has placed within us to guide our judgment, then alone will we make use of such testimonies and estimate them as Eliezer requires.’”
To the same purport the famous commentator, Maimonides,
says, “When thy senses affirm that which thy reason denies, reject the testimony of thy senses, and listen only to thy reason.”
26. Having spoken of the Soul’s functions, and of her relation to man, we come now to speak of her nature and history. Whether of the individual or of the universal, Soul is Substance, that which sub-stands all phenomena. This substance is original protoplasm; at once that which makes and that which becomes. The first manifestation of substance is in the interplanetary ether, called by Homer the “Middle Air,” and known in the terminology of Occultism as the Astral Fluid. This, be it observed, is not soul, but that whereby soul is manifest, and in which it potentially subsists. Matter is the ultimate expression of substance, and represents that condition in which it is furthest removed from its original state, as the membranous capsule which forms the circumference of the physiologic cell represents the ultimate expression of the fluidic contents.
27. The soul may be likened to the nucleus of the cell. The protoplasmic medium which is found within the capsular envelope and in which the nucleus floats, may be likened to the astral fluid, whether interplanetary or intercellular. But the nucleus, the fluidic body surrounding it, and the exterior membrane, are all equally protoplasmic in nature, and the potentiality of one is in all; the difference actually observable among them being due only to difference of condition.
28. All the elements of the cell, however – the nucleus included – are material; whereas Matter itself is, whatever its kind, a mode of Substance, of which the nature is spiritual. But though Substance is, by its nature, Spirit, there is a sense in which Spirit is not Substance. This is
the sense in which Spirit denotes will or energy, as distinguished from the Substance in which this inheres. Under impulsion of the Spirit as thus defined, Substance exchanges its static for a dynamic condition, repose for activity, becoming molecularised, and therefore materialised, in the process. It does not, however, cease to be Substance by becoming Matter; but Matter ceases to be Matter by cessation of motion. Matter may thus be defined as Substance in a state of incessant, intense activity, which is the condition of every particle in the universe. From the microscopic molecule to the planet everything revolves impelled by one force, and obeying one law.
29. The truth that Matter is Substance in its dynamic condition was well-known to the hierophants of ancient India and Egypt, and finds expression in the Hebrew sacred books – which are Egyptian in origin – in the phrase – “And on the seventh day, God ended his work, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.”
This “resting” – which is not annihilation but repose – involves the return of Matter to its static condition of Substance. The idea presented is that of cessation of active creative force, and the consequent return of phenomenal existence into essential being. This stage it is which constitutes the termination of the creative period, and the perfection of every creative work. It is at once the “rest which remains for the people of God;” the attainment of perfection by the individual, system, or race; and the return of the universe into the bosom of God, by re-absorption into the original substance. The Buddhist terms it Nirvâna; and the period of which it is the termination is called by the Hindus, Kalpa, a word signifying Form. And they hold that the universe undergoes a succession of Kalpas, being at the end of each reabsorbed into Deity, Who then rests
awhile prior to the next manifestation, reposing upon Sesha, the celestial “serpent,” or living circle of Eternity, the symbol of essential Being, as opposed to ex-istence in its strict sense of manifested Being.
30. For, as will by-and-by be more fully shown, the substance of the soul, and therein of all things, and the substance of Deity, are one and the same; since there is but one Substance. And of this substance, the life is also called God, Who, as living Substance, is at once Life and Substance, one and yet twain, or two in one. And that which is begotten of these two, and is, theologically, called the Son, and the Word, is necessarily the expression of both, and is, potentially, the Universe, for He creates it after His own Divine image by means of the Spirit He has received. Now the Divine Substance is, in its original condition, homogeneous. Every monad of it, therefore, possesses the potentialities of the whole. Of such a monad, in its original condition, every individual soul consists. And of the same substance, projected into lower conditions, the material universe consists. It undergoes, however, no radical change of nature through such projection; but its manifestation – on whatever plane occurring – is always as is the evolution of its Trinity. Thus – to reckon from without inwards, and below upwards – on the plane physical it is Force, universal Ether, and their offspring the material World. On the plane intellectual it is Life, Substance, and Formulation. On the plane spiritual – its original point of radiation – it is Will, Wisdom, and the Word. And on all planes whatsoever, it is, in some mode, Father, Mother, and Child. For “there are Three which bear record in ‘heaven,’ or the invisible, and these Three are One. And there are three which bear record on ‘earth,’ or
the visible, and these three agree in one, being Spirit, Soul, and Body.” (1)
31. The soul’s entrance into Matter, and primal manifestation as an individual, occurs in the lowest modes of organic life, and is due to the convergence of the magnetic poles of the constituent molecules of some protoplasmic entity, an action due to the working of the Spirit in the Matter concerned. For all Matter, it must be remembered, has, and is, Spirit. The focusing of these poles gives rise to a circular magnetic current, of which the result is an electric combustion, which is the vital spark, organic life, Soul. It is, however, no new creation in the ordinary sense of the term. For nothing can be either added to or withdrawn from the universe. It is but a new condition of the one substance already existing, a condition which constitutes a fresh act of individuation on the part of that substance. It has become by self-generation, a soul or nucleus to the cell in which it has manifested itself. Such is the mode of operation of Substance, whether as manifested in the human soul or in the physiologic cell.
32. The doctrine of creation by development or evolution is a true doctrine, and is in no way inconsistent with the idea of divine operation; but the development is not of the original substance. Being infinite and eternal, that is perfect always. Development is of the manifestation of the qualities of that substance in the individual.
Development is intelligible only by the recognition of the inherent consciousness of the substance of existence. Of the qualities of that substance as manifested in the individual, Form is the expression. And it is because development is directed by conscious, experienced, and continually experiencing intelligence, which is ever seeking to eliminate
the rudimentary and imperfect, that progression occurs in respect of Form. The highest product, man, is the result of the Spirit working intelligently within. But man attains his highest, and becomes perfect only through his own voluntary co-operation with the Spirit.
There is no mode of Matter in which the potentiality of personality, and therein of man, does not subsist. For every molecule is a mode of the universal consciousness. Without consciousness is no being. For consciousness is being.
33. The earliest manifestation of consciousness appears in the obedience paid to
the laws of gravitation and chemical affinity, which constitute the basis of the
later, evolved organic laws of nutritive assimilation. And the perception,
memory, and experience represented in man, are the accumulations of long ages of
toil and thought gradually advancing, through the development of the
consciousness, from inorganic combinations upward to God. Such is the secret
meaning of the old mystery story which relates how Deucalion
and Pyrrha, under the direction of Themis (Law) produced men and women from stones, and so
peopled the renewed earth. These words of John the Baptist bear a similar
signification: – “Verily I say unto you, that even of these stones God is able
to raise up children unto Abraham.” And by children of
Abraham, are denoted that “spiritual
34. As between Spirit and Matter, so between the organic and the inorganic, there is no real barrier. Nature works in spirals, and works intelligently. In all that modern science has of truth, in respect of the doctrine of Evolution, it was anticipated thousands of years ago. But the scientists of old, using a faculty of the very existence of which those of the present day hear but to jeer at it, discerned in Soul
the agent, and in Mind, the efficient cause of all progress. They perceived, as all now perceive who only allow themselves to think, that were Matter, as ordinarily regarded, all that is, and blind force its impelling agent, no explanation would be possible of the obviously intelligent adaptation everywhere apparent of means to ends; the strong set of the current life in the direction of beauty and goodness; and the differentiation of uses, functions, and kinds, not only in cellular tissues, but even in crystalline inorganic elements. Why should Matter, if only what ordinarily it is supposed – unconscious, aimless, purposeless – differentiate, diversify, develop? This is the question the ancients asked themselves; and they were keen enough to see that in their very ability to ask it, lay the solution of the problem. For the question was prompted by Mind, and the presence of Mind in the product man, involves its presence in the substance whereof man consists, seeing that an extract cannot contain that which is not in its original abstract.
35. The reasonableness of this proposition is, however, at length beginning once again to be recognised even in the prevailing school, by some of the more intelligent of its members; one of these having recently declared it necessary, in order to account for the facts of existence, to credit Matter with a “little feeling.” (1) This is an admission, which, carried to its legitimate issue, involves the recognition of the system now under exposition. For it involves the recognition of God and the Soul. Thus is modern science, painfully and against its will, working back towards the great doctrine taught long ages ago in the lodges of the Indian and Egyptian Mysteries, and verified by the spiritual experience of every epopt who lived the life prescribed as the condition of illumination.
36. This is the doctrine known as that of the Transmigration of Souls. Of this doctrine the following concise description is taken from a translation dated 1650 of one of the so-called Hermetic books, which emanating from Alexandria, and dating from pre-Christian or early Christian times, represent – at least in a measure – the esoteric doctrine of the Egyptian and other ancient religious systems. Of this body of writings only a few fragments survive. The passage cited is from book IV of the work called The Divine Pymander, or Shepherd, of Hermes Trismegistus.
“From one Soul of the Universe are all those Souls which in all the World are tossed up and down as it were, and severally divided. Of these Souls there are many Changes, some into a more fortunate Estate, and some quite contrary. And they which are of Creeping Things are changed into those of Watery Things, and those of Things Living in the Water to those of Things living on the Land; and Airy ones into Men; and Human Souls that lay hold of Immortality are changed into (holy) Demons. And so they go on into the Sphere of the Gods. ... And this is the most perfect glory of the Soul. But the Soul entering into the Body of a Man, if it continue evil, shall neither taste of Immortality nor be Partaker of the Good; but being drawn back the same Way, it returneth into Creeping Things. And this is the Condemnation of an evil Soul.”
37. The doctrine of the Progression and Migration of Souls, and of the power of man, while still in the body, to recover the recollections of his soul, constituted the foundation of all those ancient religions out of which Christianity had its birth; and was therefore universally communicated to all initiates of the sacred mysteries. And, indeed, one of the special objects of the curriculum of these institutions, was to enable the candidate to recover the memory of his
previous incarnations, with a view to his total emancipation from the body. For the attainment of this power was regarded as a token that the final regeneration of the individual – when he would no longer have need of the body and its lessons – was well-nigh accomplished. Thus the prime object of the ancient lodges which constituted the pre-Christian Churches, was the culture of the soul as the divine and permanent element of the individual.
38. Various eminent sages are said to have remembered some at least of their
previous incarnations; and notably
Socrates also is represented as distinctly asserting the doctrine of reincarnation; and it was implied, if not expressed in the system formulated by the superb modern thinker and scientist, Leibnitz.
39. Following the Rabbins and especially the Pharisees, Josephus asserted the return of Souls into new bodies. Nor are recognitions of the doctrine wanting in the Old and New Testaments. Thus the writer of the Book of Wisdom says of himself: “Being good, I came into a body undefiled.” The prophets Daniel and John are told by their inspiring angel that they shall stand again on the earth in the last days of the Dispensation. And of John it was also intimated by Jesus that he should tarry within reach of the earth-life, either for reincarnation or metempsychosis, when the appointed time should come. And of that great school which, apparently because it approached too near the truth to be safely tolerated by a materialising sacerdotalism, was denounced as the most dangerously heretical – the school of the Gnostics – the leader Carpocrates, taught that the Founder of Christianity also was simply a person who, having a soul of great age and high degree of purity, had been enabled, through his mode of life, to recover the memory of its past. And Paul’s description of him as a “Captain of Salvation made perfect through suffering,” obviously implies a course of experience far in excess of any that is predicable of a single brief career.
To these instances must be added that of the question put to Jesus by his disciples respecting the blind man whom he had cured: “Did this man sin, or his parents, that he was born blind?” For it shows either that the belief in transmigration was a popular one among the Jews, or that Jesus had inculcated it in his disciples. His refusal to satisfy their curiosity is readily intelligible on the supposition that he was unwilling to disclose the affairs of other souls.
40. The opening chapters of the Book of Genesis imply the like doctrine. For they present creation as occurring through a gradual evolution from the lowest types upwards – from gaseous elemental combinations to the crowning manifestation of humanity in woman – and thus indicate the animal as ministering to the human in a sense widely differing from that ordinarily supposed; for they represent the animal as the younger self of the man, namely, as man rudimentary. All this is involved in the fact that the term applied to the genesis of living things below man, signifies soul, (1) and is so translated when applied to man: whereas
applied to beasts it is rendered “living creature.” Thus, had the Bible been accurately translated, the doctrine that all creatures whatsoever represent incarnations, though in different conditions, of one and the same universal soul, would not now need to be re-declared, or, when re-declared would not be received with repugnance. That it does produce such a feeling, is a sign how far man has receded from a level once attained, at least in respect of his affectional nature. For the doctrine of a universal soul is the doctrine of love, in that it implies the recognition of the larger self. It represents, moreover, Humanity as the one universal creation of which all living things are but different steps either of development or of degradation, progression or retrogression, ascent or descent; that which determines the present condition and ultimate destiny of each individual entity, being its own will and affections. Animals appeared first on earth, not, as is vainly supposed, to minister to man’s physical wants, but as an essential preliminary to humanity itself. On no other hypothesis is their existence intelligible for the long ages which elapsed before the appearance of man.
41. Thus, not only is the doctrine respectable for its antiquity, universality, and the quality and character of those who, on the strength of their own experience, have borne testimony to it; it is indispensable to any system of thought which postulates Justice as an essential element of Being. For it, and it alone of all methods ever suggested, solves the problem of the universe by resolving the otherwise insuperable difficulties which confront us in regard to the inequalities of earthly circumstance and relation.
The importance attached to it by the Egyptians is shown by the fact that they chose for their chief religious symbol an embodiment of it. For in representing the lowest as
linked to the highest – the loins of the creature of prey to the head and breast of the Woman – the Sphinx denoted at once the unity, and the method of development, under individuation, of the soul of the universal humanity.
42. We will now define more precisely the nature of the system we seek to restore, and its relation towards that so long in possession in the West. Although neither Christian nor Catholic in the accepted sense of these terms, it claims to be both Christian and Catholic in their original and true sense, and to be itself the lawful heir, whose inheritance has been usurped by a presentment altogether corrupt, false, superstitious, idolatrous.
According to the system recovered, the Christ Jesus, Redeemer, and Saviour, while equally its beginning, middle, and end, is not a mere historical personage, but, above and beyond this, a Spiritual Ideal and an Eternal Verity. Recognising fully that which Jesus was and did, it sets forth salvation as depending, not on what any man has said or done, but on what God perpetually reveals. For, according to it, Religion is not a thing of the past, or of any one age, but is an ever-present, ever-occurring actuality; for every man one and the same; a process complete in itself for each man; and for him subsisting irrespective of any other man whatsoever. It thus recognises as the actors in the momentous drama of the soul two persons only, the individual himself and God. And whereas in it alone is to be found a complete and reasonable exposition of the parts assigned to both in the work of salvation, all competing systems must be regarded as but an aspiration towards or a degeneration from it, and as true only in so far as they accord with it.
43. And here it may be remarked, that the doctrine of religion as a present reality, needing no historic basis, is one which in this age ought to find especial welcome. For, what now is the condition of men’s minds in respect to the historical element of the existing religion? None but those who through lack of education stand necessarily upon the old ways, have any reliance upon it. Critical analysis – that function of the mind which, in its nature destructive, is, nevertheless, really harmful only to that which, in being untrue, has not in itself the element of perpetuity – has laid an unsparing axe to the forest of ancient tradition. The science of Biblical exegesis has made it obvious to every percipient mind that sacred books, so far from being infallible records of actual events, abound with inaccuracies, contradictions, and interpolations; that sacred persons, if they existed at all, had histories differing widely from those narrated of them; that sacred events could not have occurred in the manner stated; and that sacred doctrines are, for the most part, either intrinsically absurd, or common to systems yet more ancient, whose claims to sanctity are denied.
44. Thus, to take the leading items of Christian belief – the whole story of the Incarnation, the expectation of the Messiah, the announcement by the angel, the conception by the Virgin, the birth at midnight in a cave, the name of the immaculate mother, the appearance to shepherds of the celestial host, the visit of the Magi, the flight from the persecuting Herod, the slaughter of the innocents, the finding of the divine boy in the temple, the baptism, the fasting and trial in the wilderness, the conversion of the water into wine, and other like marvels, the triumphal entry into the holy city, the passion, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension, and much of the teaching
ascribed to the
– all these are variously attributed also to Osiris,
Mithras, Iacchos, Zoroaster,
45. The Fathers of the Church – who were well aware of these facts – dealt with them variously according to the tone and resources of their individual minds. Many of the most notable, including St. Augustine, saw the truth in its proper light; but the explanation accepted was, that the Devil, foreknowing the counsel and intention of God, had maliciously forestalled the career of the true Messiah by false semblances, causing it to be enacted in anticipation by a number of spurious messiahs, so that when the world’s true redeemer should appear, he might be lost, as it were, in the crowd of his predecessors, and shorn of all particular glory.
46. And what, it may be asked, of the personage just mentioned, who plays so enormous part in the orthodox presentment? He, too, is a perversion of a truth, the real meaning of which will by-and-by be exhibited. It is sufficient to remark here, that, in being founded – as by the current corrupt orthodoxy – on the conception of a personal and, virtually, a divine principle of evil, Christianity is made to rest upon an hypothesis altogether monstrous and impossible.
47. There is neither space nor need to particularise the
strictures to which the Bible, throughout, is fairly open alike on grounds historical, moral, and scientific; or to speak of the many ecclesiastical Councils which, from century to century, have dealt with its component books, variously affirming or denying their canonicity; or to point out the innumerable contradictions and inconsistencies, of doctrine and of narrative with which it abounds. These things, already familiar to many, are readily verifiable by all. This only must be insisted on: to be a student of religion, to be a theologian in the true sense, it is necessary to have knowledge, not of one religion only, but of all religions, not of one sacred book only, but of all sacred books; and to deal with all as with the one, and with the one as with all; to handle the Vedas, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Lalita-Vistara, the Zend-Avesta, and the Kabbala with the same reverence as the Old and New Testaments; and to apply to these the same critical touchstone as to those. It is truth alone which is valuable, and this fears nothing. The crucible does not hurt the gold. The dross alone falls away under the test; and of the dross we are surely well rid.
48. And when all this has been done; when the mind, purified from prejudice and disciplined by experience, has become an instrument of knowledge competent for the discernment of truth, what, it will be asked, remains to man of his faith and hope, his God and his soul? We know the reply of the Materialist. He, as has been wittily said, throws away the child with the water in which it has been washed. Because he finds impurity obstructing the truth, he rejects the truth together with the impurity. That which remains is the real, ever-living religion; a Divine and operating Word, and not a testament of the dead; a God and a Soul who, as Parent and Offspring, are able to
come into direct and palpable relations with each other. And the Creation, the Fall, the Redemption, and the Ascension – rescued from the tomb of the past – become living and eternal verities, enacted by every child of God in his own soul; and Inspiration once more lifts its voice and is heard among us as truly as of old.
49. For those, then, who, being indeed of Christ, as well as called by his name, know by personal experience that “the kingdom of heaven is within,” there is no cause for anxiety as to the issue of any investigation, critical, scientific, or historical, how keen and unsparing soever. For they know that Religion – which is the Science of Life Eternal – appeals, not to the bodily senses, but to the soul, since no mere physical phenomena can have any relation to spiritual needs. They know, too, that in representing absolute, eternal verities, religious ideas are beyond the reach of any power of earth to erase or destroy them. But they who, on the contrary, have staked their all of faith in God and hope in heaven upon the special events of a particular period and place, have indeed ground for dismay and despair when they behold in the sculptured remains of other places and remoter times, the effigies of the like events – the crucifixion of Mithras, the infant Horus or Krishna in the arms of an immaculate mother, the resurrection of Osiris, and the ascension of Heracles. For they see in these, the invalidation, or at least the perplexing multiplication, of events which, on their hypothesis, ought to have happened but once in the world’s – nay in the universe’s – whole history, and on the correct reporting of which their eternal welfare depends. The actual value of these facts will appear as we proceed. They are cited here in demonstration of the fallacy involved in the conception of religion as a thing dependent on history. Rightly interpreted, they
will show that the Soul has no
relation to phenomena, and that “the
50. The Gospels bear evidence of being compiled or adapted in great measure from older Oriental Scriptures. But whether or not the events related happened only in part or not at all; whether they were put into their present form by Alexandrian Epopts some hundred years after the date assigned in them to the events they record; or whether their central figure, being himself an Initiate and Adept in the religious science of Egypt and India, actually rehearsed in his own person the greater part of the sacred mysteries – is, happily, but of secondary importance. And even were it otherwise, it is obvious that the further we get away from the period of the events relied on, and the more years multiply upon us, thrusting that past into still remoter times and ever deepening shades of antiquity, the more difficult must the task of verification become, and the weaker the influences exerted upon man’s moral and intellectual nature. Alas for the hopes of the generations yet to be born, if an historical Christianity be indeed essential to salvation? Nor can we be blind to the injustice and cruelty of making salvation dependent upon belief in occurrences concerning which only a learned few can at any time be in a position to judge whether or not they ever took place; and these, moreover, occurrences of a nature to be a priori incredible save to an elect few. Assuredly, if any demonstration be needed of the necessary unsoundness of a system which rests upon history, it is to be found in the present condition of Christianity. Declining to entrust its doctrine to Reason, the Church has taken its stand upon historical evidence, only to find this give way under it; and it is now without any basis save that of Custom. The time has come in which Christians are Christians, only
because they are accustomed to be Christians. Habit has superseded conviction.
51. Very different is the relation between the human mind and the system under exposition. Appealing to the understanding, and condemning as superstition the faith which is not also knowledge, this system meets unshaken the tests alike of time and of reason; and, so far from looking coldly on science, hails it as an indispensable ally, stipulating only that it be science, and not that which is “falsely so called.” Hoping everything and fearing nothing from the light of reason, it welcomes the searching ray into every recess, and greets with eager hands the philosopher, the historian, the critic, the philologist, the mathematician, the classic, the physicist, and the occultist. For its appeal is to intelligence as developed by knowledge, in the absolute assurance that where these exist in the greatest plenitude, there it will gain the fullest recognition.
52. And the intelligence appealed to is not the head only, but is also of the heart; of the moral conscience as well as of the intellect. Insisting upon the essential unity of all being, it admits of no antagonism between the human and the Divine. But holding that the human is the Divine, and that that which is not Divine is subhuman, it seeks, by the demonstration of the perfection of God, to enable man to perfect himself after the image of God. And it claims, moreover, to be the one philosophy wherein that image finds intelligent exposition, and whereby it obtains practical recognition. To the question why, being in all respects so admirable, it has become lost or perverted, the answer involves the history of man’s original Fall, and will in due course appear.
53. There are two or three classes of objectors, to whom
reply will now be made in anticipation. Of these classes one is that which, under the influence of the prevailing Materialism, holds, that so far from the phrase just employed, “Image of God,” having any basis in reality, modern science has practically demonstrated the non-existence of God. If the following reply to this class involves a reference to regions of being as yet unrecognised in their own science, it is not upon us that the responsibility for the limitation rests. We speak of that which we know, having learned it by experience.
is verily, and in no metaphoric sense, the projection upon the human perception of the Eidola of the Divine persons. The Eidolon is the reflection of a true object in the magnetic atmosphere; and the magnetic atmosphere is a transparent medium, through which the soul receives sensations. For sensation is the only means of knowledge, whether for the body or for the reason. The body perceives by means of the five avenues of touch. The soul perceives in like manner by the same sense, but of a finer sort and put into action by subtler agents. The soul can know nothing not perceptible; and nothing not perceptible is real. For that which is not can give no image. Only that which is can be reflected.
55. To the other classes of objectors, who are chiefly of the religious and orthodox order, the following considerations are addressed:
a. The apparently new, is not necessarily the really new; but may be a recovery – providential, timely, and precious – of the old and original which has been forgotten, perverted, or suppressed.
b. So far from it being incumbent on Christians to accept the
established in religion as necessarily the true and the right, the condemnation
by the later Hebrew prophets of the established form of Judaism, as no longer in
their time representing the religion divinely given through Moses, imposes on
Christians the duty of exercising, at the least, hesitation before accepting the
established form of Christianity as faithfully representing the religion
divinely given through Jesus. Christendom has been exposed for a far longer
period than was
sacerdotal, and therein to Tradition uninterpreted by Intuition. And not only so, but on the first formal definition and establishment of Christianity under Constantine – himself an ardent votary of a sun-worship become grossly materialistic – the dominant conception was far more in accordance with the principles of sacerdotalism than with those of its Founder. There remains, also, the strong a priori improbability that a system identical with that which, in consequence of the efforts of Jesus to purify it, became his destroyer – a system exclusively sacerdotal and traditional – should, even though calling itself Christian, prove a trusty guardian and faithful expositor of his doctrine.
c. The belief that Christianity was indeed divinely intended and adapted to effect the redemption of the world from engrossment by the elements merely material of existence, to the recognition and appreciation of its spiritual and true substance; and the fact that thus far Christianity has signally failed to accomplish that object – make it in the highest degree obligatory on Christians, both to seek diligently the cause of such failure, and to seek it elsewhere than in an original defect of the religion itself.
d. According to numerous indications – including the express declarations of Jesus himself – much that is essential to the proper comprehension and practical application of Christian doctrine, was reserved for future disclosure. History has yet to record the full manifestation of that “Spirit of Truth,” who was to testify of Jesus, and lead his followers into all truth. And the world has still to see the Christ-ideal so “lifted up” and exhibited as, by force of its perfection as a system of life and thought, irresistibly to “draw all men” to it.
e. In point alike of character and of time, the present period coincides with that indicated in numerous prophecies,
as appointed for the close of the old and the commencement of a new era. This is necessarily an event which can come about only through some radical change in the course of the world’s thought. For, in being, however unconsciously to itself, a product of Mind, the world always follows its thought. The world has now followed its thought in the direction of Matter and blind force, until, for the first time in man’s history, its recognised intellect has, almost with one consent, pronounced decidedly against the idea of God. This, therefore, is no other than that “time of the end” whereof the token should be the exaltation of Matter instead of Spirit, and the obtrusion into the “holy place” of God and the soul, of the “abomination that maketh desolate,” to the utter extinction of the world’s spiritual life and of the idea of a divine Humanity. Now is “that wicked one” and “man of sin” – that is, humanity deliberately self-made in the image of the Not-God – definitely revealed; and the gospel of Love is confessedly replaced by the gospel of Force. (1) Of the prophecies, moreover, which referred to the period in question, it was declared that the words should be “closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” The very discovery of a true interpretation of mystical Scriptures would therefore constitute an indication that the “end is at hand.”
f. If it be, indeed, that man is not to “go down quick into the pit” that he has dug for himself, the emergency is one with which religion alone can grapple. But, so far from the religion already in the world being competent for the task, it has, by reason of its own degeneracy, ministered
to the evil. Wherefore only by a religion which is not that now in vogue, can man be saved. Time can, of course, alone determine if, or by what means, the needed redemption will be wrought. Enough has been said to show that, from the religious point of view, there is ample reason in favour of according a serious hearing even to doctrines and claims so strange and unfamiliar to most persons as those herein advanced.
56. Finally, to close this Introductory Lecture, and to reassure those who, desirous to know more, are yet apprehensive of finding themselves in the issue, like the patriarch of old, robbed of their gods, we add this final reflection: – The end in view is not denial, but interpretation; not destruction, but reconstruction, and this with the very materials hitherto in use. No names, personages or doctrines now regarded as divine will be rejected or defamed. And even though the indubitable fact be recognised, that the “one name given under heaven whereby men can be saved” has been shared by many, that name will still be the name of salvation, and the symbol of its triumph will still be the cross of Jesus, even though borne before him by, or in the name of, an Osiris, a Mithras, a Krishna, a Dionysos, or a Buddha, or any others who, overcoming by love the limitations of Matter, have been faithful to the death mystically called the death of the cross, and, attaining thereby the crown of eternal life for themselves, have shown to men the way of salvation.
Instead, then, of indulging apprehension on the score indicated, let heed rather be given to the true moral of the story of all the Christs, how many so ever they be, by whom is enacted in its fullness, while yet in the body, the divine drama of the soul. For, with Christ, all may, in their degree, be redeemers alike of themselves and of others; and
with him, to redeem, they must themselves first love and suffer and die. For, as said the German mystic, Scheffler, two centuries ago –
“Though Christ a thousand
But not within thyself, thy soul will be forlorn:
The cross of
Unless within thyself it be set up again.”
(1:1) This lecture was delivered by Anna Kingsford on Monday the 16th May, 1881. Paragraphs 1-6; 14-18; 22-24; 52, 53 and 55 were written by Edward Maitland; and paragraph 7-13; 19-21; 26-29; 43-51; 54 and 56 were written by Anna kingsford (Life of A.K., vol. ii., pp. 17, 33).
(18:1) See App. No. III., p. 354.
(20:1) The late Professor Clifford.
(23:1) Heb., Nephesh; i.e., the lowest mode of soul.
(27:1) For a comparative list of some “pre-Christian data” which were “Chritianised in the Canonical Gospels and the Book of Revelation,” see Ancient Egypt, by Gerald Massey (1907), vol. ii., pp. 907-914.
(32:1) This paragraph was taken down by Edward Maitland as spoken by Anna Kingsford under Illumination (Life of A.K., vol. ii., p. 33).
(35:1) It is not a little remarkable, that the foremost symbol of this new gospel should have for the name the Greek term for force; dynamite being simply δύαμις.