THEOSOPHY, Vol. 53, No. 11, September, 1965
(Pages 327-331; Size: 15K)

HERETICS AND THE RENAISSANCE

VIII--IN THE LIGHT OF THEOSOPHY
[1 of 3]

[Part 8 of a 10-part series]

The Gnosis supplanted by the Christian scheme was universal. It was the echo of the primordial wisdom-religion which had once been the heirloom of the whole of mankind.
THE days of Constantine were the last turning-point in history, the period of the Supreme struggle that ended in the Western world throttling the old religions in favor of the new one, built on their bodies. This period, beginning with Buddha and Pythagoras at the one end and the Neo-Platonists and Gnostics at the other, is the only focus left in History wherein converge for the last time the bright rays of light streaming from the æons of time gone by, unobscured by the hand of bigotry and fanaticism. (S.D. I, Introductory.)

It was the new religion of the Nazarenes that wrought a change for the worse -- in the policy of centuries. The made-up and dogmatic Christianity of the Constantinian period is simply an offspring of the numerous conflicting sects, half-castes themselves, born of Pagan parents. The Gnostics, or early Christians, were but the followers of the old Essenes under a new name. The Christian Gnostics sprang into existence toward the beginning of the second century, and just at a time when the Essenes most mysteriously faded away, which indicated that they were the identical Essenes, and moreover pure Christists, viz: they believed and were those who best understood what one of their own brethren had preached. (Isis I, 26; II, 324.)

The philosophical systems of the Gnostics and the primitive Jewish Christians, the Nazarenes and the Ebionites, show the views held in those days -- outside the circle of Mosaic Jews -- about Jehovah. He was identified by all the Gnostics with the evil, rather than with the good principle. For them, he was Ilda-Baoth, "the son of Darkness," whose mother, Sophia Achamoth, was the daughter of Sophia, the Divine Wisdom (the female Holy Ghost of the early Christians) -- Akasa; while Sophia Achamoth personified the lower Astral Light or Ether. The astral light stands in the same relation to Akasa and Anima Mundi, as Satan stands to the Deity. Ilda-Baoth, or Jehovah, is simply one of the Elohim, the seven creative Spirits, and one of the lower Sephiroth. (S.D. I, 197-8.)

It is in the religious doctrines of the Gnostics that the real meaning of the Dragon, the Serpent, the Goat, and all those symbols of powers now called Evil, can be seen the best; as it is they who divulged the esoteric nature of the Jewish Substitute for AIN-SOPH in their teachings; of the true meaning of which, while the Rabbins concealed it, the Christians, with a few exceptions, knew nothing. Surely Jesus of Nazareth would have hardly advised his apostles to show themselves as wise as the serpent, had the latter been a symbol of the Evil one; nor would the Ophites, the learned Egyptian Gnostics of "the brotherhood of the Serpent," have reverenced a living snake in their ceremonies as the emblem of WISDOM, the divine Sophia (and a type of the all-good, not all-bad), were that reptile so closely connected with Satan. The fact is, that even as a common ophidian it has ever been a dual symbol; and as a Dragon it had never been anything else than a symbol of the manifested Deity in its great Wisdom. There is no Devil, no Evil, outside mankind to produce a Devil. (S.D. II, 386-7.)

Evil is a necessity in, and one of the supporters of the manifested universe. It is a necessity for progress and evolution, as night is necessary for the production of Day, and Death for that of Life -- that man may live forever.

Satan represents metaphysically simply the reverse or the polar opposite of everything in nature. He is the "Adversary," allegorically, the "murderer," and the great Enemy of all, because there is nothing in the whole universe that has not two sides -- the reverses of the same medal. But in that case, light, goodness, beauty, etc., may be called Satan with as much propriety as the Devil, since they are the adversaries of darkness, badness, and ugliness. And now the philosophy and the rationale of certain Christian sects -- called heretical and viewed as the abomination of the times -- will become more comprehensible. We may understand how it was that the sect of SATANIANS came to be degraded, and were anathematized without any hope of vindication in a future day, since they kept their tenets secret. How, on the same principle, the CAINITES came to be degraded, and even the (Judas) ISCARIOTES; the true character of the treacherous apostle having never been correctly presented before the tribunal of Humanity.

As a direct consequence, the tenets of the Gnostic sects also become clear. Each of these sects was founded by an Initiate, while their tenets were based on the correct knowledge of the symbolism of every nation. Thus it becomes comprehensible why Ilda-baoth was regarded by most of them as the god of Moses, and was held as a proud, ambitious, and impure spirit, who had abused his power by usurping the place of the highest God, though he was no better, and in some respects far worse than his brethren Elohim; the latter representing the all-embracing, manifested deity only in their collectivity, since they were the fashioners of the first differentiations of the primary Cosmic substance for the creation of the phenomenal Universe. Therefore Jehovah was called by the Gnostics the Creator of, and one with Ophiomorphos, the Serpent, Satan, or EVIL. They taught that Iurbo and Adonai were "names of Jao-Jehovah, who is an emanation of Ilda Baoth" (Codex Nazareus). This amounted in their language to saying what the Rabbins expressed in a more veiled way, by stating that -- "Cain had been generated by Samael or Satan." (S.D. II, 389.)

The fallen Angels are made in every ancient system the prototypes of fallen men -- allegorically, and, those men themselves --esoterically. Thus the Elohim of the hour of creation became the "Beni-Elohim," the sons of God, among whom is Satan -- in the Semitic traditions; war in heaven between Thraetaona and Azhi-dahaka, the destroying Serpent, ends on earth, according to Burnouf, in the battle of pious men against the power of Evil, "of the Iranians with the Aryan Brahmins of India." And the conflict of the gods with the Asuras is repeated in the Great War -- the Mahabhârata. In the latest religion of all, Christianity, all the Combatants, gods and demons, adversaries in both the camps, are now transformed into Dragons and Satans, simply in order to connect EVIL personified with the Serpent of Genesis, and thus prove the new dogma. (S.D. II, 390.)

The Satan of the Old Testament, the Diabolos or Devil of the Gospels and Apostolic Epistles, were but the antagonistic principle in matter, necessarily incident to it, and not wicked in the moral sense of the term. The Jews, coming from the Persian country, brought with them the doctrine of two principles. They could not bring the Avesta, for it was not written. The early Church, at least the Pauline part of it, the Gnostics and their successors, further refined upon their ideas; and the Catholic Church adopted and adapted them, meanwhile putting their promulgators to the sword. The Protestant is a reaction from the Roman Catholic Church. (Isis II, 500-501.)

"Deus est Demon inversus" of the kabalists now becomes clear. It is but the intense and cruel desire to crush out the last vestige of the old philosophies by perverting their meaning, for fear that their own dogmas should not be rightly fathered on them, which impels the Catholic Church to carry on such a systematic persecution in regard to Gnostics, Kabalists, and even the comparatively innocent Masons. How little the philosophy of the old secret doctrine was understood, is illustrated in the atrocious persecutions of the Templars by the Church, and in the accusation of their worshipping the Devil under the shape of the goat-Baphomet! (Isis II, 303, 302.)

Clement describes Basilides, the Gnostic, as "a philosopher devoted to the contemplation of divine things." This very appropriate expression may be applied to many of the founders of the more important sects which later were all engulfed in one -- that stupendous compound of unintelligible dogmas enforced by Irenæus, Tertullian, and others, which is now termed Christianity. If these must be called heresies, then early Christianity itself must be included in the number. Basilides and Valentinus preceded Irenæus and Tertullian; and the two latter Fathers had less facts than the two former Gnostics to show that their heresy was plausible. Neither divine right nor truth brought about the triumph of their Christianity; fate alone was propitious. (Isis II, 123.)

The Gnostic Records contained the epitome of the chief scenes enacted during the mysteries of Initiation, since the memory of man; though even that was given out invariably under the garb of semi-allegory, whenever entrusted to parchment or paper. But the ancient Tanaïm, the Initiates from whom the wisdom of the Kabala (oral tradition) was obtained by the later Talmudists, had in their possession the secrets of the mystery language, and it is in this language that the Gospels were written. Thus while the three Synoptics display a combination of the pagan Greek and Jewish symbologies the Revelation is written in the mystery language of the Tanaïm -- the relic of Egyptian and Chaldean wisdom -- and St. John's Gospel is purely Gnostic. He alone who has mastered the esoteric cypher of antiquity -- the secret meaning of the numerals, a common property at one time of all nations -- has the full proof of the genius which was displayed in the blending of the purely Epypto-Jewish, Old Testament allegories and names, and those of the pagan-Greek Gnostics, the most refined of all the mystics of that day. (THEOSOPHY 4:137.)

The primitive pure Oriental gnosticism was completely corrupted and degraded by the different subsequent sects. (Isis I, 271 fn.) What with several generations of the most active Church Fathers ever working at the destruction of old documents and the preparation of new passages to be interpolated in those which happened to survive, there remains of the Gnostics --the legitimate offspring of the Archaic Wisdom-religion -- but a few unrecognizable shreds. But a particle of genuine gold will glitter for ever; and, however garbled the accounts left by Tertullian and Epiphanius of the Doctrines of the "Heretics," an occultist can yet find even in them traces of those primeval truths which were once universally imparted during the mysteries of Initiation. Among other works with most suggestive allegories in them, we have still in the so-called Apocryphal Gospels, and the last discovered as the most precious relic of Gnostic literature, a fragment called Pistis-Sophia, "Knowledge-Wisdom." Those who translate Pistis by "Faith," are utterly wrong. The word "faith" as grace or something to be believed in through unreasoned or blind faith, is a word that dates only since Christianity. Nor has Paul ever used this term in this sense in his Epistles; and Paul was undeniably -- an INITIATE (THEOSOPHY 4:141.)

They persecuted the Gnostics, murdered the philosophers, and burned the kabalists and the masons; and when the day of the great reckoning arrives, and the light shines in darkness, what will they have to offer in the place of the departed, expired religion? What will they answer, these pretended monotheists, these worshippers and pseudo-servants of the one living God, to their Creator?

And thus, one by one, perished the Gnostics, the only heirs to whose share had fallen a few stray crumbs of the unadulterated truth of primitive Christianity. (Isis II, 249.) But if the Gnostics were destroyed, the Gnosis, based on the secret science of sciences, still lives. The ancient Kabala, the Gnosis, or traditional secret knowledge, was never without its representatives in any age or country. (Isis II, 37, 38.)

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Sources used in this installment: The Secret Doctrine, Isis Unveiled, and the article "The Esoteric Character of the Gospels" by H. P. Blavatsky, reprinted in THEOSOPHY, Volume 4.

(To be continued)


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