THEOSOPHY, Vol. 11, No. 10, August, 1923
(Pages 468-474; Size: 22K)

INITIATES AND INITIATION(1)

VIII

[Part 8 of an 8-part series]

"IN ANCIENT INDIA the mystery of the triad, known but to the initiates, could not, under the penalty of death, be revealed to the vulgar," says Vrihasapati. Neither could it in the ancient Grecian and Samothracian Mysteries. Nor can it be now. It is in the hands of the adepts, and must remain a mystery to the world so long as the materialistic savant regards it as an undemonstrated fallacy, an insane hallucination, and the dogmatic theologian a snare of the Evil One.

Subjective communication with the human, god-like spirits of those who have preceded us to the silent land of bliss is in India divided into three categories. Under the spiritual training of a guru or sannyasi, the vatou (disciple or neophyte) begins to feel them. Were he not under the immediate guidance of an adept, he would be controlled by the invisibles, and utterly at their mercy, for among these subjective influences he is unable to discern the good from the bad. Happy the sensitive who is sure of the purity of his spiritual atmosphere!

To this subjective consciousness, which is the first degree, is, after a time, added that of clairaudience. This is the second degree or stage of development. The sensitive -- when not naturally made so by psychological training -- now audibly hears, but is still unable to discern; and is incapable of verifying his impressions, and one who is unprotected the tricky powers of the air but too often delude with semblances of voices and speech. But the guru's influence is there; it is the most powerful shield against the intrusion of the bhutna into the atmosphere of the vatou, consecrated to the pure, human, and celestial Pitris.

The third degree is that when the fakir or any other candidate both feels, hears, and sees; and when he can at will produce the reflections of the Pitris on the mirror of astral light. All depends on his psychological and mesmeric powers, which are always proportionate to the intensity of his will. But the fakir will never control the Akasa, the spiritual life-principle, the omnipotent agent of every phenomenon, in the same degree as an adept of the third and highest initiation. And the phenomena produced by the will of the latter do not generally run the market-places for the satisfaction of open-mouthed investigators.

To disbelieve that there exist in man certain arcane powers, which, by psychological study he can develop in himself to the highest degree, become a hierophant and then impart to others under the same conditions of earthly discipline, is to cast an imputation of falsehood and lunacy upon a number of the best, purest, and most learned men of antiquity and of the middle ages. What the hierophant was allowed to see at the last hour is hardly hinted at by them. And yet Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus, Iamblichus, Proclus, and many others knew and affirmed their reality.

Whether in the "inner temple," or through the study of theurgy carried on privately, or by the sole exertion of a whole life of spiritual labor, they all obtained the practical proof of such divine possibilities for man fighting his battle with life on earth to win a life in the eternity. What the last epopteia was is alluded to by Plato in Phaedrus (64): "... being initiated into those Mysteries, which it is lawful to call the most blessed of all mysteries ... we were freed from the molestation of evils which otherwise await us in a future period of time. Likewise, in consequence of this divine initiation, we became spectators of entire, simple, immovable, and blessed visions, resident in a pure light." This sentence shows that they saw visions, gods, spirits. As Taylor correctly observes, from all such passages in the works of the initiate it may be inferred, "that the most sublime part of the epopteia ... consisted in beholding the gods themselves invested with a resplendent light," or highest planetary spirits. The statement of Proclus upon this subject is unequivocal: "In all the initiations and mysteries the gods exhibit many forms of themselves, and appear in a variety of shapes, and sometimes, indeed, a formless light of themselves is held forth to the view; sometimes this light is according to a human form, and sometimes it proceeds into a different shape."

"Whatever is on earth is the resemblance and SHADOW of something that is in the sphere, while that resplendent thing (the prototype of the soul-spirit) remaineth in unchangeable condition it is well also with its shadow. But when the resplendent one removeth far from its shadow, life removeth from the latter to a distance. And yet, that very light is the shadow of something more resplendent than itself." Thus speaks Desatir, the Persian Book of Shet, (Verses 33-41) thereby showing its identity of esoteric doctrines with those of the Greek philosophers.

The second statement of Plato confirms our belief that the Mysteries of the ancients were identical with the Initiations, as practiced now among the Buddhists and Hindu adepts. The highest visions, the most truthful, are produced, not through natural ecstatics or "mediums," as it is sometimes erroneously asserted, but through a regular discipline of gradual initiations and development of psychical powers. The Mystae were brought into a close union with those whom Proclus calls "mystical natures," "resplendent gods," because, as Plato says, "we were ourselves pure and immaculate, being liberated from this surrounding vestment, which we denominate body, and to which we are now bound like an oyster to its shell."

So the doctrine of planetary and terrestrial Pitris was revealed entirely in ancient India, as well as now, only at the last moment of initiation, and to the adepts of superior degrees. Many are the fakirs who, though pure, and honest, and self-devoted, have yet never seen the astral form of a purely human pitar (an ancestor or father), otherwise than at the solemn moment of their first and last initiation. It is in the presence of his instructor, the guru, and just before the vatou-fakir is dispatched into the world of the living, with his seven-knotted bamboo wand for all protection, that he is suddenly placed face to face with the unknown PRESENCE. He sees it, and falls prostrate at the feet of the evanescent form, but is not entrusted with the great secret of its evocation, for it is the supreme mystery of the holy syllable. The AUM contains the evocation of the Vedic triad, the Trimurti Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, say the Orientalists; it contains the evocation of something more real and objective than this triune abstraction -- we say, respectfully contradicting the eminent scientists. It is the trinity of man himself, on his way to become immortal through the solemn union of his inner triune SELF -- the exterior gross body, the husk, not even being taken in consideration in this human trinity. It is when this trinity, in anticipation of the final triumphant reunion beyond the gates of corporeal death became for a few seconds a UNITY, that the candidate is allowed, at the moment of initiation, to behold his future self. Thus we read in the Persian Desatir of the "Resplendent one;" in the Greek philospher-initiates, of the Augoeides -- the self-shining "blessed vision resident in the pure light;" in Porphyry, that Plotinus was united to his "god" six times during his life-time; and so on.

That Moses was considered the transmigration of Abel and Seth does not imply that the kabalists -- those who were initiated at least -- believed that the identical spirit of either of Adam's sons reappeared under the corporeal form of Moses. It only shows what was the mode of expression they used when hinting at one of the profoundest mysteries of the Oriental Gnosis, one of the most majestic articles of faith of the Secret Wisdom. It was purposely veiled so as to half conceal and half reveal the truth. It implied that Moses, like certain other god-like men, was believed to have reached the highest of all states on earth:-- the rarest of all psychological phenomena, the perfect union of the immortal spirit with the terrestrial duad had occurred. The trinity was complete. A god was incarnate. But how rare such incarnations!

That expression, "Ye are gods," which, to our biblical students, is a mere abstraction, has for the kabalists a vital significance. Each immortal spirit that sheds its radiance upon a human being is a god -- the Microcosmos of the Macrocosmos, part and parcel of the Unknown God, the First Cause of which it is a direct emanation. It is possessed of all the attributes of its parent source. Among these attributes are omniscience and omnipotence. Endowed with these, but yet unable to fully manifest them while in the body, during which time they are obscured, veiled, limited by the capabilities of physical nature, the thus divinely-inhabited man may tower far above his kind, evince a god-like wisdom, and display deific powers; for while the rest of mortals around him are but overshadowed by their divine SELF, with every chance given to them to become immortal hereafter, but no other security than their personal efforts to win the kingdom of heaven, the so chosen man has already become an immortal while yet on earth. His prize is secured. Henceforth he will live forever in eternal life. Not only he may have "dominion" over all the works of creation by employing the "excellence" of the NAME (the ineffable one) but be higher in this life, not, as Paul is made to say, "a little lower than the angels." (This contradiction, which is attributed to Paul in Hebrews, by making him say of Jesus in chapter i, 4: "Being made so much better than the angels," and then immediately stating in chapter ii, 9: "But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels," shows how unscrupulously the writings of the apostles, if they ever wrote any, were tampered with.)

The ancients never entertained the sacrilegious thought that such perfected entities were incarnations of the One Supreme and for ever invisible God. No such profanation of the awful Majesty entered into their conceptions. Moses and his antitypes and types were to them but complete men, gods on earth, for their gods (divine spirits) had entered into their hallowed tabernacles, the purified physical bodies. The disembodied spirits of the heroes and sages were termed gods by the ancients. Hence, the accusation of polytheism and idolatry on the part of those who were the first to anthropomorphize the holiest and purest abstractions of their forefathers.

From the very day when the first mystic found the means of communication between this world and the worlds of the invisible host, between the sphere of matter and that of pure spirit, he concluded that to abandon this mysterious science to the profanation of the rabble was to lose it. An abuse of it might lead mankind to speedy destruction; it was like surrounding a group of children with explosive batteries, and furnishing them with matches. The first self-made adept initiated but a select few, and kept silence with the multitudes. He recognized his God and felt the great Being within himself. The "Atman," the Self, the mighty Lord and Protector, once that man knew him as the "I am," the "Ego Sum," the "Ahmi," showed his full power to him who could recognize the "still small voice."

This "Self," which the Greek philosophers called Augoeides, the "Shining One," is impressively and beautifully described in Max Müller's "Veda." Showing the "Veda" to be the first book of the Aryan nations, the professor adds that "we have in it a period of the intellectual life of man to which there is no parallel in any other part of the world. In the hymns of the 'Veda' we see man left to himself to solve the riddle of this world. ... He invokes the gods around him, he praises, he worships them. But still with all these gods ... beneath him, and above him, the early poet seems ill at rest within himself. There, too, in his own breast, he has discovered a power that is never mute when he prays, never absent when he fears and trembles. It seems to inspire his prayers, and yet to listen to them; it seems to live in him, and yet to support him and all around him. The only name he can find for this mysterious power is 'Brahman;' for brahman means originally force, will, wish, and the propulsive power of creation. But this impersonal brahman, too, as soon as it is named, grows into something strange and divine. It ends by being one of many gods, one of the great triad, worshipped to the present day. And still the thought within him has no name; that power which is nothing but itself, which supports the gods, the heavens, and every living being, floats before his mind, conceived but not expressed. At last he calls it 'Atman,' for Atman, originally breath or spirit, comes to mean Self, and Self alone; Self, whether divine or human; Self, whether creating or suffering; Self, whether one or all; but always Self, independent and free. 'Who has seen the first-born,' says the poet, when he who had no bones (i.e., form) bore him that had bones? Where was the life, the blood, the Self of the world? Who went to ask this from any who knew it?" ("Rig-Veda," i., 164, 4.) This idea of a divine Self, once expressed, everything else must acknowledge its supremacy; "Self is the Lord of all things, Self is the King of all things. As all the spokes of a wheel are contained in the nave and the circumference, all things are contained in this Self; all Selves are contained in this Self. Brahman itself is but Self." (Ibid., p. 478; "Khandogya-upanishad," viii, 3, 3, 4); "Chips from a German Workshop," Vol. 1., p. 69.

From the days of the primitive man described by the first Vedic poet, down to our modern age, there has not been a philosopher worthy of that name who did not carry in the silent sanctuary of his heart the grand and mysterious truth. If initiated, he learnt it as a sacred science; if otherwise, then, like Socrates repeating to himself, as well as to his fellow-men, the noble injunction, "O man, know thyself," he succeeded in recognizing his God within himself.

The Adepts have each their Dhyani-Buddha, their elder "Twin-Soul," and they know it, calling it the "Father-Soul," and "Father-Fire." It is only at the last and supreme initiation, however, when placed face to face with the bright "Image" that they learn to recognize it. How much did Bulwer Lytton know of this mystic fact, when describing, in one of his highest inspirational moods, Zanoni face to face with his Augoeides?

Observation, and what would now be termed "remarkable coincidences," added to revelation during the "sacred sleep" of the neophyte, disclosed the dreadful truth. In India, this sublime lethargy is called "the sacred sleep of ...." It is an oblivion into which the subject is thrown by certain magical processes, supplemented by draughts of the juice of the soma. The body of the sleeper remains for several days in a condition resembling death, and by the power of the adept is purified of its earthliness and made fit to become the temporary receptacle of the brightness of the immortal Augoeides. In this state the torpid body is made to reflect the glory of the upper spheres, as a burnished mirror does the rays of the sun. The sleeper takes no note of the lapse of time, but upon awakening, after four or five days of trance, imagines he has slept but a few moments. What his lips utter he will never know, but as it is the spirit which directs them they can pronounce nothing but divine truth. For the time being the poor helpless clod is made the shrine of the sacred presence, and converted into an oracle a thousand times more infallible than the asphyxiated Pythoness of Delphi; and, unlike her mantic frenzy, which was exhibited before the multitude, this holy sleep is witnessed only within the sacred precinct by those few of the adepts who are worthy to stand in the presence of the ADONAI.

The invocation of his own Augoeides, by the purified adept, is described in words of unparalleled beauty by Bulwer-Lytton in Zanoni, and there he gives us to understand that the slightest touch of mortal passion unfits the hierophant to hold communion with his spotless soul. Not only are there few who can successfully perform the ceremony, but even these rarely resort to it except for the instruction of some neophytes, and to obtain knowledge of the most solemn importance.

And yet how little is the knowledge treasured up by these hierophants understood or appreciated by the general public! ... And how they are ridiculed by every Houndsditch commercial traveller who wanders through India in pursuit of "orders" and writes to the Times, and misrepresented by every nimble-fingered trickster who pretends to show by legerdemain, to the gaping crowd, the feats of true Oriental magicians!

In a manuscript of the first century, a combination of the Demotic and Greek texts, and most probably one of the few which miraculously escaped the Christian vandalism of the second and third centuries, when all such precious manuscripts were burned as magical, we find occurring in several places a phrase, which, perhaps, may throw some light upon the question of the word PTR. One of the principal heroes of the manuscript, who is constantly referred to as "the Judean Illuminator" or Initiate, is made to communicate with his Patar; the latter being written in Chaldaic characters. Once the latter word is coupled with the name Shimeon. Several times the "Illuminator," who rarely breaks his contemplative solitude, is shown inhabiting a cave, and teaching the multitudes of eager scholars standing outside, not orally, but through this Patar. The latter receives the words of wisdom by applying his ear to a circular hole in a partition which conceals the teacher from the listeners, and then conveys them, with explanations and glossaries, to the crowd. This, with a slight change, was the method used by Pythagoras, who, as we know, never allowed his neophytes to see him during the years of probation, but instructed them from behind a curtain in his cave.

When the soul of the invocator has reached the Sayadyam, or perfect identity of essence with the Universal Soul, when matter is utterly conquered, then the adept can freely enter into daily and hourly communion with those, who though unburdened with their corporeal forms, are still themselves progressing through the endless series of transformations included in the gradual approach to the Paramatma, or the grand Universal Soul.

We recall the words of Plato, given elsewhere, which show that before an initiate could see the gods in their purest light, he had to become liberated from his body; i.e., to separate his astral soul from it. Apuleius also describes his initiation into the Mysteries in the same way: "I approached the confines of death; and, having trodden on the threshold of Proserpina, returned, having been carried through all the elements. In the depths of midnight I saw the sun glittering with a splendid light, together with the infernal and supernal gods, and to these divinities approaching, I paid the tribute of devout adoration."

Seers, righteous men, who had attained to the highest science of the inner man and the knowledge of truth, have, like Marcus Antoninus, received instructions "from the gods," in sleep and otherwise. Helped by the purer spirits, those that dwell in "regions of eternal bliss," they have watched ..... and warned mankind repeatedly. Skepticism may sneer: faith, based on knowledge and spiritual science, believes and affirms.

[Conclusion]


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(1) Collated from Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine.
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