[Originally published by Theosophical University Press, Covina, California, 1945]
1. Man's Second Birth
2. The 'Father' and the 'Son'
3. The Bible as an Esoteric Book
5. Redemption, Salvation, Atonement
6. Kingdom of Heaven
7. "The God Within"
8. Satan, the Adversary
9. The Flood Myth
Part 2: (59K)
10. The Golden Rule
11. The Lord's Supper
12. The Spirit of God Dwelleth in You
13. "In Christ Shall All Be Made Alive"
14. The Second Coming
15. The Old Testament
16. The 'Holy Ghost'
17. The Cross
18. Did Jesus Have an Esoteric School?
In Matthew iii, 11, John the Baptist says: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with Fire." As some of the English words used here have acquired special doctrinal significance since they were written, it will be advisable to give meanings which represent the Greek better in modern English. The word translated 'repentance' means a change of mind, a reformation of life, and does not necessarily imply sorrow; the word translated 'Ghost' would better be rendered 'Spirit,' so as to avoid confusion with the theological conception of the second person of the Trinity.
Remembering that the canonical Gospels are a somewhat haphazard collection and selection of esoteric teachings, veiled in allegorical and apparently historical guise, we may expect to find in them many familiar teachings of the ancient Mysteries, which can easily be read in their right sense by those with any knowledge of such teachings; but which at the same time can be interpreted by theologians to suit the purposes of their religion. And nothing could be clearer than that we have here a reference to the double birth of man, and to its ritual symbolism in the ancient initiation ceremonies. Water is the universal symbol of the material side of nature, whether cosmic or human; fire is symbolic of spirit. There were two stages of initiation: the first, by an inferior Teacher, was the baptism by water, and signified the conferring of knowledge relating to the material planes. To quote from The Secret Doctrine, II, 566: "John, a non-initiated ascetic, can impart to his disciples no greater wisdom than the mysteries connected with the plane of matter (water being a symbol of it). His gnosis was that of exoteric and ritualistic dogma, of dead-letter orthodoxy; while the wisdom which Jesus, an Initiate of the higher mysteries, would reveal to them, was of a higher character, for it was the 'FIRE' Wisdom of the true gnosis or the real spiritual enlightenment."
Turn now to John, iii, where a Jewish rabbi comes privately to Jesus to ask questions. He wants to know what is meant by saying that a man must be born again; and is told: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." But can a man enter the womb a second time? asks Nicodemus; and is answered: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Here reference to this twofold initiation is plain enough. The candidate for high initiation must be a complete man.
H. P. Blavatsky has staunchly championed the Gospels, in her articles on 'The Esoteric Basis of Christianity,' showing that this medley of sacred writings yields readily to an obvious interpretation by anyone able (as Theosophists are) to apply the requisite keys and disencumber their minds of prejudice. And the texts above quoted are supported by many others which recount the teachings and acts of an initiated Teacher of high degree, anxious only to set the feet of his disciples on the Path which he himself had followed; but who has been set up on a pedestal and worshipped from afar as the Second Person in the theological triune God.
No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. -- Matthew, xi, 27
The Gospel according to Matthew, by whomever written or when, is one of those compilations or manuals of sacred teachings used by the early Christian Church, and built up around the personality of one Jesus, about whom little can be ascertained, in much the same way as Plato builds up his teachings around the personalities of Socrates and other historical figures. This Gospel contains many sayings which can be recognised by those who have studied the mystic sayings in other religions or philosophies, as being familiar items of the Universal Wisdom-Religion, as taught in the Schools of the Mysteries. They are the teachings of initiated Teachers, from whatever source the Christians may have derived them. They gradually lost their esoteric sense and became transformed into theological dogmas; but their original meaning is so clear, and their theological interpretation so forced, that we may safely leave the truth to vindicate itself before the judgment of the student.
These words, 'Father' and 'Son,' are well-known terms of the Ancient Wisdom, and do not refer to individuals; they do not mean the God of theology and his only son the second person of the Trinity. We cannot do better than quote the words of H. P. Blavatsky in The Esoteric Character of the Gospels, not as seeking to fortify ourselves by an appeal to her authority, but because they so well express the idea we wish to convey:
The first key that one has to use to unravel the dark secrets involved in the mystic name of Christ, is the key which unlocked the door to the ancient mysteries of the primitive Aryans, Sabeans, and Egyptians. 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; and, therefore, one may truly say that, in its purely metaphysical aspect, the Spirit of Christ (the divine logos) was present in humanity from the beginning of it. . . . The author of the Clementine Homilies is right; the mystery of Christos -- now supposed to have been taught by Jesus of Nazareth -- was 'identical' with that which from the first had been communicated 'to those who were worthy.'
And we are told that these and other words used --
apply to all those who, without being Initiates, strive and succeed, through personal efforts, to live the life and to attain the naturally ensuing illumination in blending their personality -- the 'Son' -- with the 'Father,' their individual divine Spirit, the God within them. This 'resurrection' can never be monopolized by the Christians, but is the spiritual birthright of every human being endowed with soul and spirit, whatever his religion may be. Such individual is a Christ-man.
Thus, without going into details as to the several human 'principles,' the broad meaning is clear enough. We have man depicted as a triad: the man himself, the self-conscious human soul, between his spiritual Self on the one hand and his passional terrestrial nature on the other. He achieves his own 'salvation' by conscious and willed union between the Son and the Father, whereby he becomes master of the lower powers instead of their slave, and is a full-grown Man.
Such is the ancient and universal doctrine of salvation by self-conscious evolution and by initiation into the Sacred Mysteries; such is the sublime teaching which, in dark ages, has been corrupted into the dogma of the Vicarious Atonement. These words, 'Son' and 'Father,' are often found in the Gospels, and their correct interpretation at once convinces the mind. Allowance however has to be made for the circumstance that these Gospels were written in times when beliefs were not settled and when there still survived those hopes of the speedy coming of a Messiah which so agitated the Hebrew-Christian world at an earlier date.
There are still some Christians who believe in the 'verbal inspiration' of the Bible -- that it is the Word of God, to be accepted verbally and literally, and this in spite of the fact that it has been translated into many languages, and that our English version teems with mistranslations. There are others who regard it as merely a collection of documents, sacred, historical, and otherwise, recording the beliefs and religions of different people at different times. And there are many engaged in the effort to arrive at some adjustment between the claims of criticism on the one hand and those of religious loyalty on the other. But, if we study the writings of H. P. Blavatsky on this subject, we shall see that Theosophists are the true champions of the Bible and the only ones who can estimate it at its true value. For she tells us that it is one of the world's esoteric works, a version of the Archaic Wisdom, hidden behind many veils, and written in the ancient mystery-language. It is surely a remarkable fact, and one that should make us pause for thought that this book, along with the similar books belonging to other religions, should have been put together and preserved for so many ages intact, to wield so great an influence on mankind. Especially is this so when we consider that a great deal of it is not at all of a kind to appeal to the average devout Christian, to whom indeed such parts as we refer to must be incomprehensible. The explanation of this historical riddle however becomes simple when we bear in mind that the members of the great brotherhood of Masters of Wisdom have the duty of seeing to it that the sacred knowledge depart not from the earth; and so it is preserved in the form of the world's various scriptures, which have an exoteric meaning for the multitude and an esoteric meaning for those who have the keys to understand the symbolism.
Moses was initiated by the Egyptian sacred hierarchy, and conveyed what he had learned to the people which he led; but his teachings, the original faith of the Hebrews, were modified and edited many times, and turned into an exoteric and national religion by David, Hezekiah, and others, and later by the Talmudists. There exists that wonderful system known as the Kabalah, which in so many respects is identical with the teachings of the Secret Doctrine; but even the Kabalah does not unlock the full mystery of the esoteric truths enshrined in the Biblical books.
The story of the creation of the world and of man; of how man changed from an innocent being into a being endowed with the power of self-conscious choice, thus becoming capable of good and evil; the story of the Flood -- these are versions, much corrupted it is true, of allegories that are universal. The Biblical accounts were evidently derived from Chaldaea, their nearest neighbor. The so-called historical books are of the kind so frequent in ancient records -- half historical, half allegoric. The allegoric meaning to be conveyed is grafted upon a basis of historical fact, the parts in the drama being played by personages who actually existed. The symbolic feature is evident in the list of patriarchs, with their long lives and their begotten sons; these refer to cycles of time and also to racial subdivisions. The historical books form a patchwork of contributions from different writers at different times; and the Kabalistic methods of interpretation, including those keys which depend upon finding the numerical values of words according to the system known as Gematria, [Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a number, and thus the words and names acquire a numerical value by which their esoteric meanings can be found.] show that the outer meaning was subordinated to the inner meaning intended to be conveyed.
The Old Testament also contains the Psalms of David, Ecclesiastes, the prophetic books, and others, which seem to the ordinary scholar to be merely specimens of Hebrew literature; but which also enshrine an esoteric meaning, the key to which is found by a comparison with the other sacred literatures of the world. In Ezekiel in particular we can find the symbolism of the zodiacal signs, the evolution of worlds and of man, and other familiar things treated in The Secret Doctrine.
In the New Testament, the Gospels are esoteric books, whose source is difficult to trace. Considered as historical, they present great difficulties, as the events they purport to describe lack confirmation from other sources; and moreover give us but a sorry picture of Jesus and his mission. He seems like an enthusiastic young teacher, with high expectations, who tries to carry off a coup d'état in Jerusalem, and is promptly arrested and executed by the Roman magistrate with the help of the Jewish authorities. The character of the sayings and deeds attributed to him shows that we have here a collection of esoteric documents, manuals and epitomes, couched in the usual allegoric form, and built around the person of some teacher with a name more or less like Jesus, who lived at a much earlier date and about whom little can be ascertained. By the same unseen guidance to which we alluded above, these works have been compiled and preserved, so that they have been handed down as the bible of a racial religion until such time as people are able to realize their true esoteric value. That there was an esoteric movement and society behind early Christianity is shown by the otherwise unaccountable fact that so powerful and enduring a religion should have followed upon a mission so paltry as that of Jesus is represented to have been. Paul, in his epistles, proves himself to be a more or less initiated preacher of an esoteric gospel based on the idea of the mystic Christ incarnate in all men, and upon the distinction and interaction of the higher and lower natures in man. To him the narrative of the Gospels seems to have been entirely unknown. Finally, the Bible closes with that remarkable book known as the Revelation of St. John; and here particularly we see the work of guiding hands in preserving a work which can have but little meaning for the ordinary Christian. It is an esoteric manual dealing with the evolution of worlds and man, belonging to the class of Apocalyptic literature then current.
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. -- Genesis, ii, 7
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. -- Genesis, i, 26-7
These two passages are from the Creation account, which, as said in the last chapter of this study, is the same in essentials as accounts given in other sacred scriptures; but there are differences in detail among these various accounts, because each one of these has diverged from its parent source -- the universal Wisdom-Religion or Secret Doctrine. This Hebrew version is seen, by affinity, to have been immediately derived from a more ancient Chaldean version, of which archaeologists have unearthed the records.
There seem here to be two separate accounts of the creation of man, a fact which must have puzzled some Bible readers, but which is explained when we remember that man is a threefold being, so that three, or at least two, distinct creations can be recorded. In the Bible the two accounts seem to have become transposed, and it is more logical to begin with that in chapter II. And it is most important to observe that the Hebrew word translated God and Lord God is elohim, which is a plural word and in Young's Biblical Concordance is given as 'God, gods, objects of worship. In fact it means creative powers and includes a large range of such beings. To Theosophy, the whole universe consists of living beings, endowed with intelligence in varying degrees, and all of them creative each in its own sphere. In the second of the accounts (which, as said, we take first) the Elohim form man out of earth and breathe into him the breath of life, making him a living soul. This represents two stages of creation, physical and psychic. The word translated 'living soul' is nephesh, the correct meaning of which is given by Young as 'animal soul.' Next we find Elohim endowing man with their own likeness (observe the plural pronouns 'us' and 'our') and thereby rendering him lord of the other animated creation.
The student of The Secret Doctrine will be aware of the great importance attached to this ancient teaching of the dual creation of man. It has been retouched out of the picture by theological dogmatism; yet here we find it unmistakably, if in imperfect form, in our own Bible. The early races of mankind were 'sinless,' knowing not the contrast of good and evil any more than do the birds that hop and sing; but, like those birds, they were creatures of habit and lacking in originality. This state is figured by the Garden of Eden.
God has forbidden Adam and Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is in the midst of the Garden; but to Eve comes the Serpent, and says: "Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." Man eats of the fruit and becomes enlightened; the result is that he loses his previous state of innocent but stagnant bliss and becomes a responsible being. His newly acquired free will leads him at first away from spirit towards matter; man becomes a pilgrim. This story is an imperfect version of a cardinal teaching of the Wisdom-Religion, which is found in fuller form in others of the world's scriptures. That teaching is that the earlier races of mankind were 'mindless,' being little more than perfected animals; but that, in the course of evolution, there came a time when this mindless man received a quickening impulse from the Manasaputras or Sons of Mind. These were spiritual beings more highly evolved than man, but who had themselves been men in an earlier cycle of evolution. It was their duty to enlighten the nascent mankind of this present cycle, which they did by lighting up or calling to light the latent spark of divinity within man; after which man became an intelligent race endowed with self-conscious mind. The Serpent in the allegory stands for these Sons of Mind; for the Serpent is a well-known symbol of Wisdom. Thus the so-called Fall of Man, though in one sense a fall, was really an inevitable and natural step forward in his evolution. All this leads on to the question of man's redemption, about which we must speak later.
We have seen how the gift of self-conscious mind to man changed him from a state of sinless but unprogressive bliss into the state of a pilgrim journeying through the path of experiences in the flesh, so that his communication with his divinity is for awhile shut off, so that he loses his paradisaical beatitude, but gains in exchange the power of self-conscious evolution, with the promise of one day attaining to complete manhood. This last is what is meant by the word Redemption: man, after his fall, rises again; but rises by his own aspiration and endeavor. It could never have been the divine purpose to create a puppet; man was to be endowed with responsibility -- to be made truly in the likeness of God; and it is only by exercising these prerogatives that he can fulfill his glorious destiny.
This doctrine is one of those common to all religions; it is a tenet of the parent Wisdom-Religion, and, like other such tenets, is found in the exoteric religions of today in various perverted and degenerated forms. In John, iii, 16, we read:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
This can be taken both ways, either as referring to the special sacrifice of a particular man Jesus, as the Churches teach, or to the sacrifice of the mystic Christ, the higher self in man, who, through his attachment to the flesh, loses for awhile his brightness and freedom, but by that sacrifice eventually achieves the salvation of the flesh, raising the self of earth up to the heaven in which the higher self dwells. This latter interpretation is favored by what precedes the above quotation:
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. -- iii, 12-15
It would seem that the writer of this gospel was trying to teach his hearers a truer understanding of the doctrine than the perverted one that was more or less prevalent. Turning to Paul, who was a mystic, and undoubtedly an initiate in some degree of the Pagan Mysteries, we find the real teaching even more evident. As has been before remarked, Paul shows no sign of having heard of the gospel story of the life of Jesus and his crucifixion. It is of the mystic Christ, incarnate in all men, that he speaks.
Our old man is crucified with him [Christ], that the body of sin might be destroyed. -- Romans, vi, 6
Seeing that they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, . . . -- Hebrews, vi, 6
They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. -- Galatians, v, 24
As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. -- Galatians, iii, 27
These are a very few of the numerous passages in which Paul expounds the subject. It is not easy to define exactly what his doctrine was, or that of the writer of The Gospel according to St. John: the original pure teaching must have gone through stages of gradual transformation and adaptation to particular times and circumstances. But if we study religions comparatively, checking what we find in one scripture by what we find in others, we shall be able to sift out the accidental circumstances and arrive at the common kernel of truth. The idea of 'sacrifice' is ancient and universal, meaning both the sacrifice undertaken out of love, by the higher in order to redeem the lower; and the sacrifice which the personal man makes of his earthly desires when he aspires to achieve union with the God within. Christ is crucified for us, and we crucify our flesh with its affections and lust. Atonement means making at one, the reconciliation, between the human and the divine. The important point to bear in mind in all this is that we should abandon the weak and foolish hope that we can abrogate our own manly responsibility and secure a vicarious justification for our faults, instead of reaping what we have sown and making straight what we have wrought awry. Again, it is the wrongs we have done to others which should cause us chief concern and rouse a healthy repugnance against the idea of evading the debt by a personal pardon. The Christ, the Redeemer, is in all men, though he may be specially manifested in the great Teachers who come to humanity in all ages, and whose fate it is to have their persons rather than their teachings venerated.
We often hear it said that Christianity has never really been tried, and that we should follow the precepts of Christ rather than bind ourselves by dogmas and ceremonies like the Pharisees, whom he condemns for that very thing; but a Theosophist cannot but be surprised that so little is made after all of these teachings of Christ, even by those who so strongly advocate our attention to them. Instead of studying their Bible, they would seem to rely on a floating idea as to what Christ said, based largely on what they remember of the Sermon on the Mount. We propose here to direct attention to what is surely a most important and often mentioned teaching of Christ -- that indicated by the phrases, 'Kingdom of God,' and 'Kingdom of Heaven,' -- used alternatively in the same sense. In Matt. iii, 2, John, the forerunner of Jesus, says: "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." But he declares that a greater than he shall come (see Chapter I, p. 1); and we find Jesus, at iv, 17, making the same exhortation. In verse 23 Jesus is spoken of as going about and teaching the 'gospel of the kingdom.' Attainment of the kingdom is mentioned in chapter v as the reward of the poor in spirit and the persecuted. Verse 19 of this chapter speaks of men being lesser or greater in the kingdom, and verse 20 uses the phrase 'enter the kingdom.' In vi, 33, we are bidden to seek first the kingdom of heaven; xiii, 11, tells of the mysteries of the kingdom, and verse 52 speaks of being instructed unto the kingdom. In Luke, xvii, 21, occurs the well-known passage: "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (The pronoun 'you' is not indefinite but plural.)
Many more passages in which one of these two expressions occurs might be quoted, but the student may be referred to his Concordance. It is enough to say that we are left in no doubt as to what the Teacher, whose teachings are here recorded, meant. He was speaking of a goal of attainment, open to any man, upon certain conditions, which he continually specifies. [Lest any reader should quote texts which refer to the second coming as an actual and impending political event, we refer them to No. XIV of this series, on 'The Second Coming of Christ,' where this question is fully dealt with.] Those conditions are the purification of the heart, by the practice of altruism, purity, truthfulness, and the other virtues so often called Christian though common to religions in general. Christians are never tired of insisting on the need of practising these virtues, but they surely lose sight of the real purpose in doing so. It is not merely to atone for sin, escape damnation, achieve everlasting bliss after death; nor yet is it enough to say that we must endeavor to be Christ-like in our lives. The one object is too narrow and personal; the other savors of a barren saintliness. If this gospel is to save the world, it must be through creating a body of real disciples, not merely saintly people, but people endowed with the spiritual gifts which Jesus promises to those who follow in his footsteps. See Matt., v, 38, "Be ye therefore perfect"; John, xiv, 12, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do." In short the Teacher, like all such Teachers, was pointing out the Path or Way, by following which every man can unfold the latent spiritual powers within him, fructify the dormant germ, and attain to the status of one of the world's Helpers. This is the true sense of following the Christ and entering into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Mere saintliness, even a life of self-sacrificing philanthropy, is not sufficient. True, self-forgetfulness, to live to benefit mankind, is the first step; but what of the other steps? Why is philanthropy so impotent against the forces of the world? Because it has neglected to equip itself with knowledge. "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matt., x, 16.) If the realm of knowledge is abandoned by the good, it will be seized by the evil; and the world will be ruled by the wisdom that "descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish." (James, iii, 15.) But the esoteric basis of Christianity has been expunged from the canon since the days of the Gnostic Christians; and naught of Jesus' esoteric instructions to his disciples in private is to be found in the Gospels, except such as is veiled in guarded language and symbolism. The mysteries concerning the structure of man and the structure of the universe in which he is have been left to the speculations of a materialistic science, and Christians find themselves but ill-equipped to combat the menacing forces of a knowledge prostituted to curiosity or greed.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? -- 1 Corinthians, iii, 16
This verse is familiar to Theosophists, as it is often quoted. It is not advisable to rest a case on the authority of an isolated text, especially if it has been copied by one writer or speaker from another without reference to the context. But this text, as with others which have been quoted in these pages, can be taken as illustrative of the teachings in which it is found; and a reference to the context will show that it is not isolated but is amply supported by what accompanies it. The doctrine of Paul, who is considered by many to be the real founder of Christianity, is far more mystical, far nearer to the original Gospel, than the representative Christianity of later times. As has been said, the Christ which he preached is the indwelling Christ in every human heart, the Mediator between God and Man, the Divine-Human Soul between the Divine and the Human in Man. For Paul our terrestrial animal nature became linked with the Divine by the influence of this Christ; and thereby we are enabled to follow the higher and overcome the lower. Students of Theosophy are aware that, at a certain stage of evolution, Man acquires the gift of Mind, which is kindled in him by the aid of certain divine Instructors -- the Manasaputras -- after which, Man becomes like unto the Gods, having the discernment of good and evil. "Ye are Christ's: and Christ is God's," he says in verse 23. He warns us that, if we defile this Temple, we court destruction. He speaks of himself and his colleagues as "stewards of the mysteries of God." This reminds us of Jesus' "Kingdom of Heaven," which he urges his disciples to enter.
It is very important that Christians should recognise the true merits of their religion. These teachings of Paul restore the dignity of human nature, whereas professing Christians have all too often belittled and slandered human nature. To restore the dignity of human nature does not however imply self-conceit -- nobody can be more emphatic against that than is Paul himself; it means faith, faith in oneself, faith in the Divinity which has been breathed into us, faith in the eternal Divine Spark from which all beings are sprung.
Pelagius (4th and 5th Centuries A. D.) taught that there was no original sin in man; for man's Creator would in that case be the author of evil; that it is man who, by the abuse of his free will, made sin; that, as there is no original sin, no special salvation by grace is needed; and that man is his own savior. But Pelagius was condemned as a heretic, though he did try to save himself by an awkward compromise on the question of 'grace.' The church authorities said, If this is true, what becomes of Christ and his sacrifice, of salvation, of original sin, of divine grace? What becomes of Christianity itself? they said. And it must be confessed that, if a formal creed be drawn up defining Christianity in a way acceptable to the various sects, it will be found to favor the opponents of Pelagius. But what we are trying to do now is to get away from these creeds and fathom the kernel of which they are the husks. Here is a clear issue, as between the conception of Man as a responsible being, endowed by his divine birthright with the power both to err and to amend; and Man as an innately corrupt being, requiring 'grace' and a propitiatory sacrifice for his redemption.
In this text an appeal is made to the free will of man; and truly such is the only way in which it is possible to help and teach man. For any other proposed means of help turns man into a puppet, without free will, and dependent upon an external power. The Teacher does not say, Believe in me and I will save you. He says, Save thyself; and points the way by which this can be done. The guilt for destroying man's faith in his own divinity rests partly with himself, for giving way to indolence, and partly with false teachers who have ministered to that indolence, and have thus offered themselves as intermediaries between man and God, and dispensers of the grace which man ought to find in himself. The Jesus of the Gospels says:
These things have I spoken to you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. -- John, xiv, 25-26
The word translated 'Comforter' is, in the Greek, Paracletos, and means one who is called in to help. Remembering that the Father is not the personalized Deity borrowed from Hebrew monotheism, but the Universal Spirit which animates every being in the universe, from man down to the atom, we can see in this text the affirmation of the essential divinity of man and of man's power to evoke it to his aid.
Finally, let us note that this body of ours, which we so desecrate, is the Temple of the Holy Ghost; and that we err greatly if we regard it as hopelessly corrupt, instead of looking forward to the ideal of being one day able so to cleanse that Temple that it may be a worthy shrine of its God.
Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. -- 1 Peter, v, 8
Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. -- Matthew, iv, 1
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. -- Job, i, 6
Belief in his Satanic Majesty was very real and strong in bygone centuries; and though it still persists among some sects, it has much weakened in the succeeding years, while to many it has become little more than a jest. The word is used in the Bible in different senses. In the New Testament it often means merely an evil spirit of some kind, such as those which obsessed maniacs and epileptics. But more often it applies to an evil personal deity, the adversary of God, and the adversary of man because he seeks to seduce man from God. There can be no doubt that belief in such an evil Power was strong in the atmosphere wherein the New Testament books were compiled. In those passages which treat of the temptation of Jesus, the devil appears as an agent commissioned by God to test a candidate for high initiation; he offers Jesus all the riches and powers of earth on condition of being worshipped, but Jesus declares himself to be already in command of these things by virtue of his own divinity, and the devil retires defeated. In the story of Job, Satan is actually one of the sons of God, sent by God for the purpose of testing Job.
Both the Hebrew Satan and the Greek Diabolos (the origin of our word devil) mean 'adversary'; and this meaning gives the key to the real meaning of the words. The devil was said in theology to have been a rebellious angel, who was cast out of heaven and thereupon became God's adversary, striving to undo God's work and destroy man; in which work he was assisted by a host of subordinates -- "the Devil and all his angels." This is a perverted allegory. As Theosophy teaches -- in this collecting the sense of many ancient teachings -- there was an epoch in the drama of evolution when certain divine powers left their high sphere in order to bring light to the lower kingdoms of Nature. It was then that Man, hitherto innocent, knowing not good and evil, passively obedient to heavenly law -- the 'mindless,' as the teachings say -- became endowed with the Fire that aroused within him his own hitherto latent divinity. Man became 'as the Gods,' knowing good and evil, able to choose. This is what is meant by the War in Heaven and the Fall of the Angels: in one sense it is a rebellion and a fall; in another and better sense, it is a sacrifice, a performance of the duty of love, whereby Man was enlightened and saved. The story of Venus-Lucifer enshrines this allegory, and so does that of Prometheus the Fire-Bringer. Satan, then, was originally a divine being destined to carry light and life to the nether worlds. He stands for the gift of free will and self-conscious mind to Man; a power which at once seduces and uplifts Man. For with free will comes the power to go astray. Satan is therefore Man's teacher, even as he is in the Book of Job. (It may here be noted that the Bible gives no authority for supposing that it was the Devil who tempted Man in the Garden of Eden; it was the Serpent. But the idea is the same.)
The perversion of this sublime teaching is the cardinal sin of our theological system, a constant theme of H. P. Blavatsky. The human intelligence has been converted into an enemy, and Man has been set at variance with himself. This has resulted in false asceticism and mortification of the flesh, whereas Man should master the powers of his lower nature, not try to destroy them.
It remains to be added that, just as divine powers were personified in a monotheistic anthropomorphic God, so it became necessary to personify the remaining powers of Nature into a personal deity -- his Satanic Majesty. Though this idea may have been derived to some extent from Persian dualism, in Ormazd and Ahriman, yet it differs essentially therefrom; for Ormazd and Ahriman were twin creative powers from the beginning, whereas the theological Satan is simply a rebel, inferior to God and destined to be conquered ultimately by God. The Devil may well stand for corrupt human nature, the alliance between intelligence and passion, which is capable of generating something very like an independent being inhabiting the temple of the body and desecrating it. It may also stand for evil influences from the astral light, born of the corrupt thoughts and lusts of men, which can obsess us if we give them access. As a good rule of conduct, the old biblical adage holds good in any case: "Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you."
And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. -- Genesis, vii, 19
Bible readers must either ignore and reject actual knowledge and indisputable evidence, or else admit that the Flood story is of far greater antiquity than the Biblical account and is universal, being found in every part of the earth and among all peoples, East and West, North and South. The Chaldean account is older than the Hebrew, and the Sumerian version is older still; India, China, and other Asiatic countries furnish their versions. In the West, we have Prescott's account of the surprise of the Jesuit missionaries on finding that the natives already had the story. It occurs in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Quiches. Daniel Brinton, in his Myths of the New World, has collected an immense number of flood stories among the ancient American tribes, North, Central, and Southern. The story is found among the ancient Scandinavians in the North and the Polynesian peoples in the South; and among African tribes, such as the Masai of East Africa. No theory of the spreading of Bible teaching could explain such universal diffusion, such great antiquity. Another theory, still more strained, holds that all races of men, at certain stages of their evolution, and in the same circumstances, will invent the same myths. But even if this were true as to the broad outlines, it could never explain the details. It is a fact that, besides the story of a great flood, and of an ark which saves a few people, there are also particulars such as the sending forth of birds from the ark, and its final resting on a mountain. Such exactitude in the similarity could never be explained by the theory of diffusion or by the other theory mentioned; to say nothing of the fact that either theory would explain a good deal more than it was meant to explain; for why should there be such a similarity in the creation and flood stories and yet such differences in other respects?
It may be thought that all these stories preserve traditions of an actual deluge; and geology shows that such a deluge must actually have occurred, and its date is roughly fixed by the usual stratigraphical criteria and by calculations respecting the Glacial Epoch. It is certainly true that the stories do refer to an actual flood, but this is not the entire meaning. The story is evidently an allegory. In all its versions we find that the race of men had become so corrupt that it was necessary to destroy it; there is always a Noah, a righteous man who with his family is to be saved; an ark is built, and animals and the products of the earth taken in; birds are sent forth, the waters subside, and the ark rests on a mountain.
It may be asked how a story can be at once a historical record and an allegory conveying a figurative meaning. This arises from the universal analogy or correspondence between the workings of Nature on all planes; so that what happens in the affairs of man happens also in the terrestrial world. The history of man, as told in the Secret Doctrine, shows a succession of great races, called Root-Races to distinguish them from the minor division or sub-races; and the change from one Root-Race to the next is marked by great cataclysms in the earth's surface, the earth undergoing its evolution pari passu with the beings upon it. The evidences of these cataclysms are preserved in the geological record, where major unconformities mark the change into a new system of strata. It is at such times that the remnants of the earlier Race are destroyed, and seeds preserved to serve as generators of the Race that is to come. The story of Deucalion and Pyrrha shows the same thing: when Zeus resolved to destroy the degenerate race of men, Deucalion and Pyrrha, on account of their piety, were the only ones saved. A ship is built, in which they float during a flood. Afterwards they start a new race by throwing behind them stones, which become men and women. Xisuthrus, the Chaldean Noah, has similar experiences, but is nearer akin to the biblical narrative.
The Ark is a symbol which has a wider meaning than that which relates merely to the preservation of the seed of a new race: it symbolizes the preservation of seed in general, and hence is an emblem of rebirth. Nothing is destroyed utterly or finally; death is ever the precursor of rebirth. The death of a man means but the dissolution of his temporary instruments or vestures; but the essence of the man is preserved to be the seed of a future re-creation of similar vestures for the next succeeding life on earth.
If anyone should think that this explanation of the universal story of the deluge and ark is far-fetched, we should be glad to hear any other explanation that may be offered. And it must be remembered that the flood story is only a single instance of the universal diffusion of myths; for we find also similar accounts of the creation of the world, the creation of beasts and man, the fall of man; and this is not to mention the whole body of mythology, with its almost identical features all over the world, for which scholars have devised the solar myth theory, as though ancient races amused themselves with devising poetical accounts of the succession of the seasons and the course of the sun and moon.
The only rational explanation is that these stories form the symbolical record of the ancient Secret Doctrine, which was enshrined in this form by wise men, for its preservation during dark ages; and the key to which is available for those sufficiently interested to study the pages of H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine. As said above, owing to the universal correspondences and the analogy of all things in Nature, every such myth has several meanings; and the flood story, of which we find in our Bible a Hebrew-Chaldean version, records the disappearance of the continent of Atlantis, with the degenerate remains of its population, who were destroyed because of their corruption; and the preservation of the human seed for the founding of the next coming (or Fifth) Root-Race of humanity. But the legend at the same time signifies the general law of cycles and rebirth. The word 'ark' is akin to the Chaldean argha, meaning the womb of Nature, the crescent moon, and a cup; and it is the receptacle wherein are preserved the seeds for a new birth. Death means rebirth, and destruction means renewal. These processes are everywhere observable in Nature; but scholarship, with an inverted logic, has supposed that their correspondences in human life are merely poetical analogies; whereas the truth is that physical Nature but repeats outwardly the laws and workings of interior nature. The human race is perpetually renewed; for each human individual is in his essence an undying Self, preserved perpetually through manifold successive changes of his outer vestures; and men, races, and worlds, eternal in their essence, are, as to their outer form, perpetually passing away and reappearing in the cycles of rebirth.
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