THEOSOPHY, Vol. 64, No. 8, June, 1976
(Pages 231-238; Size: 23K)

THE SECRET DOCTRINE

IN PYTHAGOREAN AND PLATONIC TEACHINGS

III

NOTE.--This is the concluding installment of a three-part collation of statements taken from H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine.
ON the plane above, the Number is no Number but a nought -- a CIRCLE. On the plane below, it becomes one -- which is an odd number. Each letter of the ancient alphabets having had its philosophical meaning and raison d'être, the number 1 signified with the Alexandrian Initiates a body erect, a living standing man, he being the only animal that has this privilege. And, by adding to the 1 a head, it was transformed into a P, a symbol of paternity, of the creative potency; while R signified a "moving man," one on his way....

The odd numbers are divine, the even numbers are terrestrial, devilish, and unlucky. The Pythagoreans hated the binary. With them it was the origin of differentiation, hence of contrasts, discord, or matter, the beginning of evil. ... With the early Pythagoreans, however, the duad was that imperfect state into which the first manifested being fell when it got detached from the Monad. It was the point from which the two roads -- the Good and the Evil -- bifurcated. All that which was double-faced or false was called by them "binary." ONE was alone Good, and Harmony, because no disharmony can proceed from one alone. The ternary is thus the first of the odd numbers, as the triangle is the first of the geometrical figures. This number is truly the number of mystery par excellence.

The first solid figure is the Quaternary, symbol of immortality. It is the pyramid: for the pyramid stands on a triangular, square, or polygonal base, and terminates with a point at the top, thus yielding the triad and the quaternary or the 3 and 4. It is the Pythagoreans who taught the connection and relation between the gods and the numbers -- in a Science called arithmomancy. The Soul is a number, they said, which moves of itself and contains the number 4; and spiritual and physical man is number 3, as the ternary represented for them not only the surface but also the principle of the formation of the physical body.

The "great Extreme" of Confucius produces "two figures." These "two" produce in their turn "the four images"; these again "the eight symbols." It is complained that though the Confucianists see in them "Heaven, Earth and man in miniature," we can see in them anything we like. No doubt, and so it is with regard to many symbols, especially in those of the latest religions. But they who know something of Occult numerals, see in these "figures" the symbol, however rude, of a harmonious progressive Evolution of Kosmos and its beings, both the Heavenly and the Terrestrial. And any one who has studied the numerical evolution in the primeval cosmogony of Pythagoras (a contemporary of Confucius) can never fail to find in his Triad, Tetractis and Decade emerging from the ONE and solitary Monad, the same idea.

Thus Vâch, Shekinah, or the "music of the spheres" of Pythagoras, are one, if we take for our example instances in the three most (apparently) dissimilar religious philosophies in the world -- the Hindu, the Greek and the Chaldean Hebrew. These personations and allegories may be viewed under four (chief) and three (lesser) aspects or seven in all, as in Esotericism....

The ten Sephiroth, the three and the Seven, are called in the Kabala the 10 words, D-BRIM (Dabarim), the numbers and the Emanations of the heavenly light, which is both Adam Kadmon and Sephira, or (Brahmâ) Prajâpati-Vâch. Light, Sound, Number, are the three factors of creation in the Kabala. ... In Exotericism one will always find 10 and 7, of either Sephiroth or Prajâpati; in Esoteric rendering always 3 and 7, which yield also 10.

This will help the student to understand why Pythagoras esteemed the Deity (the Logos) to be the centre of unity and "Source of Harmony." We say this Deity was the Logos, not the MONAD that dwelleth in Solitude and Silence, because Pythagoras taught that UNITY being indivisible is no number. And this is also why it was required of the candidate, who applied for admittance into his school, that he should have already studied as a preliminary step, the Sciences of Arithmetic, Astronomy, Geometry and Music, held as the four divisions of Mathematics.(1) Again, this explains why the Pythagoreans asserted that the doctrine of Numbers -- the chief of all in Esotericism -- had been revealed to man by the celestial deities; that the world had been called forth out of Chaos by Sound or Harmony, and constructed according to the principles of musical proportion; that the seven planets which rule the destiny of mortals have a harmonious motion "and intervals corresponding to musical diastemes, rendering various sounds so perfectly consonant, that they produce the sweetest melody, which is inaudible to us, only by reason of the greatness of the sound, which our ears are incapable of receiving." (Censorinus.)

In the Pythagorean Theogony the hierarchies of the heavenly Host and Gods were numbered and expressed numerically. Pythagoras had studied Esoteric Science in India, therefore we find his pupils saying "The monad (the manifested one) is the principle of all things. From the Monad and the indeterminate duad (Chaos), numbers; from numbers, Points; from points, Lines; from lines, Superficies; from superficies, Solids; from these, solid Bodies, whose elements are four -- Fire, Water, Air, Earth; of all which transmuted (correlated), and totally changed, the world consists." (Diogenes Laertius in Vit. Pythag.)

One who prefers, by the bye, to believe Plato, who shows Homer flourishing far earlier, could point to a number of zodiacal signs mentioned in the Iliad and the Odyssey, in the Orphic poems, and elsewhere. ... The Old Testament is full of allusions to the twelve zodiacal signs, and the whole scheme is built upon it -- heroes, personages, and events. ... Pythagoras, and after him Philo Judaeus, held the number 12 as very sacred. "The dodecahedron is a PERFECT number." It is the one among the signs of the Zodiac, Philo adds, that the sun visits in twelve months, and it is to honour that sign that Moses divided his nation into twelve tribes, established the twelve cakes (Levit. xxiv., 5) of the shewbread, and placed twelve precious stones around the ephod of the pontiffs. (See De Profugis.)

Sir Charles Lyell tells us: "Respecting the cosmogony of the Egyptian priests, we gather much information from writers of the Grecian sects, who borrowed almost all their tenets from Egypt, and amongst others that of the former successive destruction and renovation of the world. (Continental, not cosmic, catastrophes.) We learn from Plutarch that this was the theme of one of the hymns of Orpheus, so celebrated in the fabulous ages of Greece. It was brought by him from the banks of the Nile; and we even find in his verses, as in the Indian systems, a definite period assigned for the duration of every successive World. The returns of great catastrophes were determined by the present period of the Magnus Annus, or great year -- a cycle composed of the revolutions of the sun, moon, and planets, and terminating when these return together to the sign whence they were supposed at some remote epoch to set out. We learn particularly from the Timaeus of Plato that the Egyptians believed the world to be subject to occasional conflagrations and deluges.

"You do not know which was the best and most handsome generation of men which has ever lived on this earth," said the priests of Sais to Solon, according to Plato. "Only a weak seed of it, of which you (Greeks) are the descendants,(2) is all that remains." "Their books," they added, "preserved the records of a great nation, which emerging from the Atlantic sea had invaded Europe and Asia (Timaeus). The Greeks were but the dwarfed and weak remnant of that once glorious nation...."(3)

"Atlantis" is the Fourth Continent. It would be the first historical land, were the traditions of the ancients to receive more attention than they have hitherto. The famous island of Plato of that name was but a fragment of this great Continent. ... The Secret Doctrine takes no account of islands and peninsulas, nor does it follow the modern geographical distribution of land and sea. Since the day of its earliest teachings and the destruction of the great Atlantis, the face of the earth has changed more than once. There was a time when the delta of Egypt and Northern Africa belonged to Europe, before the formation of the Straits of Gibraltar, and a further upheaval of the continent, changed entirely the face of the map of Europe. The last serious change occurred some 12,000 years ago, and was followed by the submersion of Plato's little Atlantic island, which he calls Atlantis after its parent continent. Geography was part of the mysteries, in days of old. Says the Zohar (iii., fol. 10a): "These secrets (of land and sea) were divulged to the men of the secret science, but not to the geographers."

Plato is the first sage among the classics who speaks at length of the divine Dynasties, and locates them on a vast continent which he calls Atlantis. ... Not only Herodotus -- the "father of History" -- tells us of the marvellous dynasties of gods that preceded the reign of mortals, followed by the dynasties of demi-gods, Heroes, and finally men, but the whole series of classics support him; Diodorus, Erastosthenes, Plato, Manetho, etc., etc., repeat the same, and never vary the order given.

Now if we compare the 9,000 years mentioned by the Persian tales with the 9,000 years, which Plato declared has passed since the submersion of the last Atlantis, a very strange fact is made apparent. Bailly remarked, but distorted it by his interpretation. The Secret Doctrine may restore the figures to their true meaning. "First of all," we read in "Critias" that "one must remember that 9,000 years have elapsed since the war of the nations, which lived above and outside the Pillars of Hercules, and those which peopled the lands on this side." In "Timaeus" Plato says the same. The Secret Doctrine declaring that most of the later islander Atlanteans perished in the interval between 850,000 and 700,000 years ago, and that the Aryans were 200,000 years old when the first great "island" or continent was submerged, there hardly seems any reconciliation possible between the figures. But there is, in truth. Plato, being an Initiate, had to use the veiled language of the Sanctuary, and so had the Magi of Chaldea and Persia, through whose exoteric revelations the Persian legends were preserved and passed to posterity. ... We of the present times call an age a century. They of Plato's day, the initiated writers, at any rate, meant by a millennium, not a thousand but 100,000 years; ... Thus, when saying 9,000 years, the Initiates will read 900,000 years, during which space of time -- i.e., from the first appearance of the Aryan race, when the Pliocene portions of the once great Atlantis began gradually sinking(4) and other continents to appear on the surface, down to the final disappearance of Plato's small island of Atlantis, the Aryan races had never ceased to fight with the descendants of the first giant races....

All that which precedes was known to Plato, and to many others. But as no Initiate had the right to divulge and declare all he knew, posterity got only hints. Aiming more to instruct as a moralist than as a geographer and ethnologist or historian, the Greek philosopher merged the history of Atlantis, which covered several million years, into one event which he located on one comparatively small island 3000 stadia long by 2000 wide (or about 350 miles by 200, which is about the size of Ireland); whereas the priests spoke of Atlantis as a continent vast as "all Asia and Lybia" put together. But, however altered in its general aspect, Plato's narrative bears the impress of truth upon it.(5) It was not he who invented it, at any rate, since Homer, who preceded him by many centuries, also speaks of the Atlantes (who are our Atlanteans) and of their island in his Odyssey. Therefore the tradition was older than the bard of Ulysses. The Atlantes and the Atlantides of mythology are based upon the Atlantes and the Atlantides of history.

"If our knowledge of Atlantis was more thorough, it would no doubt appear that in every instance wherein the people of Europe accord with the people of America, they were both in accord with the people of Atlantis. ... It will be seen that in every case where Plato gives us information in this respect as to Atlantis, we find this agreement to exist. It existed in architecture, sculpture, navigation, engraving, writing, an established priesthood, the mode of worship, agriculture, and the construction of roads and canals; and it is reasonable to suppose that the same correspondence extended down to all the minor details." (Donnelly, "Atlantis," p. 194.)

The ancient continents had more mountains than valleys on them. Atlas, and the Teneriffe Peak, now two of the dwarfed relics of the two lost continents, were thrice as lofty during the day of Lemuria and twice as high in that of Atlantis. ... Atlas was an inaccessible island peak in the days of Lemuria, when the African continent had not yet been raised. It is the sole Western relic which survives, independent, of the continent on which the Third Race was born, developed and fell,(6) for Australia is now part of the Eastern continent. Proud Atlas, according to esoteric tradition, having sunk one third of its size into the waters, its two parts remained as an heirloom of Atlantis.

This again was known to the priests of Egypt and to Plato himself, the solemn oath of secrecy, which extended even to the mysteries of Neo-Platonism, alone preventing the whole truth from being told.(7) So secret was the knowledge of the last islands of Atlantis, indeed, -- on account of the superhuman powers possessed by its inhabitants, the last direct descendants of the gods or divine Kings, as it was thought -- that to divulge its whereabouts and existence was punished by death....

There are those Orientalists and historians -- and they form the majority -- who, while feeling quite unmoved at the rather crude language of the Bible, and some of the events narrated in it, show great disgust at the immorality in the pantheons of India and Greece. We may be told that before them Euripides, Pindar, and even Plato, express the same; that they too felt irritated with the tales invented -- "those miserable stories of the poets," as Euripides expressed it.

But there may have been another reason for this, perhaps. To those who knew that there was more than one key to theogonic symbolism, it was a mistake to have expressed it in a language so crude and misleading. For if the educated and learned philosopher could discern the kernel of wisdom under the coarse rind of the fruit, and knew that the latter concealed the greatest laws and truths of psychic and physical nature, as well as the origin of all things -- not so with the uninitiated profane. For him the dead letter was religion; the interpretation -- sacrilege. And this dead letter could neither edify nor make him more perfect, seeing that such an example was given him by his gods. But to the philosopher -- especially the Initiate -- Hesiod's theogony is as historical as any history can be. Plato accepts it as such, and gives out as much of its truths as his pledges permitted him.

The fact that the Atlantes claimed Uranos for their first king, and that Plato commences his story of Atlantis by the division of the great continent by Neptune, the grandson of Uranos, shows that there were continents and kings before Atlantis....

There were portions of the Secret Science that for incalculable ages had to remain concealed from the profane gaze. But this was because to impart to the unprepared multitude secrets of such tremendous importance, was equivalent to giving a child a lighted candle in a powder magazine. ... The documents were concealed, it is true, but the knowledge itself and its actual existence had never been made a secret of by the Hierophants of the Temple, wherein MYSTERIES have ever been made a discipline and stimulus to virtue. This is very old news, and was repeatedly made known by the great adepts, from Pythagoras and Plato down to the Neo-platonists.
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NOTE.--The volume and page references to the Secret Doctrine for the material in this installment are as follows: ii, 574, 575; i, 440-1; i, 432-4; i, 648-9; ii, 784; ii, 743; ii, 8, 9; ii, 370, 371, 367; ii, 394, 395; ii, 760-61; ii, 763-4-5; i, xxxv.


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:

THE ETERNAL POLES

Theosophy postulates an eternal principle called the unknown, which can never be cognized except through its manifestations. This eternal principle is in and is every thing and being; it periodically and eternally manifests itself and recedes again from manifestation. In this ebb and flow evolution proceeds and itself is the progress of the manifestation. The perceived universe is the manifestation of this unknown, including spirit and matter, for Theosophy holds that those are but the two opposite poles of the one unknown principle. They co-exist, are not separate nor separable from each other, or, as the Hindu scriptures say, there is no particle of matter without spirit, and no particle of spirit without matter. 


--WILLIAM Q. JUDGE

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SEVEN (7) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:

(1) Justin Martyr tells us that, owing to his ignorance of these four sciences, he was rejected by the Pythagoreans as a candidate for admission into their school.
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(2) For a full discussion of the relations between the old Greeks and Romans, and the Atlantean colonists, cf. Five Years of Theosophy.
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(3) The story about Atlantis and all the traditions thereon were told, as all know, by Plato in his "Timaeus and Critias." Plato, when a child, had it from his grand-sire Critias, aged ninety, who in his youth had been told of it by Solon, his father Dropidas' friend -- Solon, one of the Grecian Seven Sages. No more reliable source could be found, we believe.
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(4) The main continent perished in the Miocene times, as already stated.
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(5) Plato's veracity has been so unwarrantably impeached by even such friendly critics as Professor Jowett, when the "story of Atlantis" is discussed, that it seems well to cite the testimony of a specialist on the subject. It is sufficient to place mere literary cavillers in a very ridiculous position.
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(6) This does not mean that Atlas is the locality where it fell, for this took place in Northern and Central Asia; but that Atlas formed part of the continent.
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(7) Had not Diocletian burned the esoteric works of the Egyptians in 296, together with their books on alchemy; Caesar 700,000 rolls at Alexandria, and Leo Isaurus 300,000 at Constantinople; and the Mahomedans all they could lay their sacrilegious hands on -- the world might know today more of Atlantis than it does. For Alchemy had its birthplace in Atlantis during the Fourth Race, and had only its renaissance in Egypt.
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