THEOSOPHY, Vol. 50, No. 3, January, 1962
(Pages 129-134; Size: 17K)

PROTEUS(1)

THE ancients called primordial Substance "Chaos." Plato and Pythagoras named it the Soul of the World. "The Mundane God, eternal, boundless, young and old, of winding form," says the Chaldean oracles. All the ancient nations deified Æther in its imponderable aspect and potency. Virgil calls Jupiter, Pater omnipotens Æther, "the great Æther." The Hindus also placed it among their deities, under the name of Akasha (the synthesis of Æther). According to the latter, the Deity in the shape of Æther or Akasha pervades all things. In the Theogony of Moschus, we find Æther first, and then the Air; the two principles from which Ulom, the intelligible God (the visible universe of matter) is born. Zeus-Zen is Æther, and the Latin Jupiter is from the same root as the Greek Zeus, the greatest god of the ancient Greeks and Romans -- adopted also by other nations. His names are among others Jupiter-Aerios, Jupiter-Ammon of Egypt, Jupiter-Bel-Moloch, the Chaldean Jupiter-Mundus, Deus Mundus, "God of the World," Jupiter-Fulgur, "the Fulgurant," etc., etc. The author of the Homoiomerian System of Philosophy, Anaxagoras of Clazomenæ:, firmly believed that the spiritual prototypes of all things, as well as their elements, were to be found in the boundless Ether where they were generated, whence they evolved, and whither they returned -- an Occult teaching.

It thus becomes clear that it is from Ether in its highest synthetic aspect, once anthropomorphised, that sprung the first idea of a personal creative deity. We must bear in mind that before the time when the Olympian Jupiter was anthropomorphized by the genius of Pheidias into the Omnipotent God, the Maximus, the God of gods -- and thus abandoned to the adoration of the multitudes -- in the earliest and abstruse science of symbology he embodied in his person and attributes the whole of the cosmic forces.

What is the "primordial substance," that mysterious object of which Alchemy was ever talking, and which became the subject of philosophical speculation in every age? What is the primordial Chaos but Æther? Not such as is recognized by our scientists, but such as it was known to the ancient philosophers, long before the time of Moses. Ether, with all its mysterious and occult properties, containing in itself the germs of universal creation; Ether, the celestial virgin, the spiritual mother of every existing form and being, from whose bosom, as soon as "incubated" by the Divine Spirit, are called into existence Matter and Life, Force and Action. It is not "ether" -- sprung at the fourth remove from an Emanation of Intelligence "associated with Ignorance" (i.e., the manifested elements) -- which is the highest principle, the deific Entity worshipped by the Greeks and Latins under the name of Pater Omnipotens Æther, and "Magnus Æther" in its collective aggregates. It is mentioned under various names in every Cosmogony, referred to in every philosophy, and shown to be, to this day, the ever grasp-eluding PROTEUS in Nature. We touch and do not feel it; we look at it without seeing it; we breathe it and do not perceive it; we hear and smell it without the smallest cognition that it is there. For it is in every molecule of that which in our illusion and ignorance we regard as Matter in any of its states, or conceive as a feeling, a thought, an emotion. In short, it is the upadhi or vehicle of every possible phenomenon, whether physical, mental, or psychical. In the opening sentences of Genesis, as in the Chaldean Cosmogony; in the Puranas of India, and in the Book of the Dead of Egypt, it opens everywhere the cycle of manifestation. It is referred to as "the face of the Waters" and Chaos, incubated by the Spirit proceeding from the Unknown, under whatever name.

How timid would appear to some kabalists the tentative efforts to solve the GREAT MYSTERY of the universal ether! To the masters of the Hermetic philosophy ether was not merely a bridge connecting the unseen and seen sides of the universe, but across its span their daring feet followed the road that led through the mysterious gates which modern speculators either will not or cannot unlock. But the deeper the research of the modern explorer, the more often he comes face to face with the discoveries of the ancients. In the mythical biographies of the Olympic gods and goddesses, one well acquainted with the latest principles of physics and chemistry can find their causes, inter-agencies, and mutual relations embodied in the deportment and course of action of the "fickle deities."

The oldest religions allegorized the most important as well as the most trifling causes of the celestial motions; the nature of every phenomenon was personified. The septenary gradation, and the innumerable subdivisions and differences made by the ancients between the powers of Ether collectively, from its outward fringe of effects, has ever been a vexing riddle for every branch of knowledge. The mythologists and symbologists of our day, confused by an incomprehensible glorification on the one hand, and degradation on the other, of the same deified Entity; and in the same religious systems, are often driven to the most ludicrous mistakes. The Church, firm as a rock in each and all of her early errors of interpretation, has made of Ether the abode of her Satanic legions. The whole hierarchy of the "Fallen" angels is there; the Cosmocratores, or the "world bearers" (according to Bossuet); Mundi Tenentes -- the "world holders," as Tertullian calls them; and Mundi Domini, "world dominations," or rather dominators, the Curbati or "Curved," etc., who thus make of the stars and celestial orbs in their course -- Devils!

The explanation given in the esoteric doctrine is this: All the gods of Olympus, as well as the gods of the Hindu Pantheon and the Hindu Rishis -- are in philosophy given seven forms. They are septiform personations. They represent in each case and esoterically, (1) the noumena of the intelligent Powers of Nature; (2) Cosmic Forces; (3) the celestial bodies; (4) gods, or Dhyan Chohans; (5) psychical and spiritual bodies; (6) divine Kings on earth, or the incarnation of the gods; and (7) terrestrial heroes or men. The knowledge of how to discern among these seven forms the one that is meant, belonged at all times to the Initiate, whose earliest predecessors had created this symbolical system. Thus we find in one place "Jupiter ardently desiring to quench" one of the races of mortals; Jupiter again referred to as "the personification of that immutable Cyclic Law, which arrests the downward tendency of each root-race, after attaining the zenith of its glory."

Zeus was the Bel or Bael of the Chaldeans, and originally imported among them by the Akkadians. Says an Orphic hymn: "Zeus is the first and the last, the head and the extremities; from him have proceeded all things. He is a man and an immortal nymph (male and female element); the soul of all things; and the principal motor in fire. He is the sun and the moon, the fountain of the Ocean; the demiurgos of the universe: one power, one God; the mighty creator and governor of the cosmos. Everything, fire, water, earth, ether, night, the heavens; Metis, the primeval architecturess (the Sophia of the Gnostics, the Sephira of the Kabalists), the beautiful Eros, Cupid, all is included within the vast dimensions of his glorious body!"

There are myths which speak for themselves. In this class may be included the double-sexed first creators, of every cosmogony. All the higher gods of antiquity are all "Sons of the Mother" before they become those of the "Father." The Logoi -- like Jupiter or Zeus, who was the son of Kronos-Saturn, "Infinite Time" -- were in their origin represented as male-female. Zeus is said to be the "beautiful Virgin," and Venus is made bearded. Apollo is originally bisexual, so is Brahma-Vach in Manu and the Puranas. Osiris is interchangeable with Isis, and Horus is of both sexes. Finally St. John's vision in Revelations -- that of the Logos, who is now connected with Jesus -- is hermaphrodite, for he is described as having female breasts. So is the Tetragrammaton-Jehovah. The Persian Mithras, the rock-born god, symbol of the male mundane-fire, or the personified primordial light, and Mithra, the fire-goddess, at once his mother and his wife; the pure element of fire (the active or male principle) regarded as light and heat, in conjunction with earth and water, or matter (female or passive elements of cosmical generation). Mithras is the son of Bordj, the Persian mundane mountain, from which he flashes out as a radiant ray of light. Brahma, the fire god, and his prolific consort, wife and daughter, produced from one of the two halves of his body; and the Hindu Unghi, the refulgent deity, from whose body issue a thousand streams of glory and seven tongues of flame, and in whose honor the Sagniku Brahmans preserve to this day a perpetual fire. Siva, personated by the mundane mountain of the Hindus -- the Meru (Himalaya). This terrific fire-god, who is said in the legend to have descended from heaven, like the Jewish Jehovah, in a pillar of fire, and a dozen other archaic, double-sexed deities, all loudly proclaiming their hidden meaning.

What can these dual myths mean but the physico-chemical principle of primordial creation? The first revelation of the Supreme Cause in its triple manifestation of spirit, force and matter; the divine correlation, at its starting-point of evolution, allegorized as the marriage of fire and water, products of electrifying spirit, union of the male active principle with the female passive element, which becomes the parent of their tellurian child, cosmic matter, the prima materia, whose spirit is ether, the ASTRAL LIGHT! The disciples of the school of Pherecydes taught that ether (Zeus or Zen) is the highest empyrean heaven, which enclosed the supernal world, and its light (the astral) is the concentrated primordial element. To a certain extent we can learn of the degree of the solar heat, light, and nature of the planets by simply studying their symbolic representations in the Olympic gods, and the twelve signs of the Zodiac, to each of which in astrology is attributed a particular quality.

If the goddesses of our own planet vary in no particular from other gods and goddesses, but all have a like physical nature, does not this imply that the sentinels who watched from the top of the Chaldean Bel's tower, by day as well as by night, holding communion with the euhemerized deities, had remarked, before ourselves, the physical unity of the universe and the fact that the planets above are made of precisely the same chemical elements as our own? The sun in Aries, Jupiter, is shown in astrology as a masculine, diurnal, cardinal, equinoctial, easterly sign, hot and dry, and answers perfectly to the character attributed to the fickle "father of the gods." When angry Zeus-Akrios snatches from his fiery belt the thunderbolts which he hurls forth from heaven, he rends the clouds and descends as Jupiter Pluvius in torrents of rain. He is the greatest and highest of gods, and his movements are as rapid as lightning itself. In his demiurgic capacity, in conjunction with his consorts, we find in him all the mightiest agents of cosmic evolution -- chemical affinity, atmospheric electricity, attraction, and repulsion. It is in following his representations in this physical qualification that we discover how well acquainted were the ancients with all the doctrines of physical science in their modern development. Electricity, magnetism, light and chemical action are so little understood even now that fresh facts are constantly widening the range of our knowledge. Who knows where ends the power of this protean giant -- Ether, or whence its mysterious origin? Who, we mean, that denies the spirit that works in it and evolves out of it all visible forms?

Esoteric philosophy shows that man is truly the manifesting deity in both its aspects -- good and evil, the dual forces. But theology cannot admit this philosophical truth. Teaching the dogma of the Fallen Titans (Angels) in its dead-letter meaning, and having made of Satan the corner-stone and pillar of the dogma of redemption -- to do so would be suicidal. It is pretty well established that Christ, the Logos, or the God in Space and the Saviour on earth, is but one of the echoes of the same antediluvian and sorely misunderstood Wisdom.

The history begins by the descent on earth of the "Gods" who incarnate in mankind, and this is the FALL. Whether Brahma is hurled down on earth in the allegory of Bhagavat, or Jupiter by Kronos, all are the symbols of the human race. The "Fall of the Angels," and the "War in Heaven" are repeated on every plane, the lower "mirror" disfiguring the image of the superior Mirror, and each repeating it in its own way. Having once shown the rebellious angels distinct from God and the Logos (or Jupiter), for the Church to admit that the downfall of the disobedient Spirits meant simply their fall into generation and matter would be equivalent to saying that God and Satan are one. Yet such was the real philosophical view of the now disfigured tenet in antiquity. The Verbum or the "Son," was shown in a dual aspect by the Pagan Gnostics -- in fact he was a duality in full unity.

Hence the endless and various national versions. With the Greeks it was Jupiter, "son" of Kronos the Father, who hurls him down into the depths of Kosmos. It was Æther, the universal Fire whose dual states can be seen in the injunctions -- strange to our ears -- of Zoroaster and Psellus, respectively. The former said, "Consult it only when it is without form or figure," absque forma et figura, which means without flames or burning coals. "When it has a form, heed it not," teaches Psellus; "but when it is formless, obey it, for it is then sacred fire, and all it will reveal thee, shall be true."


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

TRANSFIGURATION

Physical man takes his nutriment from the earth; the sidereal man receives the states of his feelings and thoughts from the stars; but the spirit has his wisdom from God. The heat of a fire passes through an iron stove, and likewise the astral influences, with all their qualities, pass through man. They penetrate him as rain penetrates the soil, and as the soil is made fruitful by the rain, likewise man's soul is made fruitful by them. But the principle of the supreme wisdom of the universe penetrates into the centre, illuminates it, and rules over all. 


--HARTMANN: Paracelsus

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