Conjuncted: Richard Wagner: Parsifal

 

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The second act of Parsifal takes place in the magic castle (maya) of the black magician Klingsor. Here Satan, personified as the magician, tests Parsifal’s will power. Wagner regards Klingsor “as the counterweight to the god-seeking impulse, which beclouds the power of discernment [the thinking principle, manas], with two sources of illusion: the power of sense impressions and passionate desire [maya and kama].”

How does maya becloud our knowledge? If we were to rely on sensory perception alone, we would conclude that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and that the sun therefore orbits the earth. If we use manas, however, which provides us with knowledge of the earth’s rotation and the motion of the planets and stars, we come to a different conclusion and one which is far nearer to the truth. There are more subtle deceptions, such as external beauty which conjures up what appears to be a higher, more ideal world; it courts us with diverse attractions and casts a pleasant veil over the world of appearances. If we mistake the attractive veil for reality, we succumb once again to deception. The driving force behind this deception is passion.

Klingsor evokes those forces of passion which compel us into a seemingly endless cycle of reimbodiment, rest, and fulfillment, ever seeking redemption. Through self-castration Klingsor has forcibly rendered himself unreceptive to desire. He has obtained magic power over Kundry (desire, kama connected with lower manas) and possession of the holy spear (mind, higher manas). Now he intends with her aid to gain possession of the Grail: Kundry, here representing kama or desire-mind, is to seduce Parsifal, as she did Amfortas before him. Kundry suffers because of herself: she longs for satisfaction and the stilling of her eternal urges. But a knight must be able to withstand, control, and refine the dark forces of desire — ultimately it is desire which impels us to aspire to higher things.

Kundry resists the entreaties of the magician, but when Parsifal enters the realm of Klingsor, she succumbs to the magician’s power lower mind naturally feels drawn to its divine origin. The violent love which she feels, however, is the result of desire. Thus tragedy is preordained.

When Parsifal enters the magic castle, Klingsor conceals himself and turns the area into a beautiful tropical garden where young maidens clad in soft-colored veils dance. When Parsifal approaches, they embrace him, and the game with the flower maidens begins. The higher self can only play with beauty; as soon as one is entrapped by it, his powers become bound to the physical realm. The maidens want more than just to play, and they crowd around him. Firmly driving them off, Parsifal cries: “Have done! You shall not catch me!”

The first attempt at seduction through the power of deceptive beauty has been repulsed. But when Kundry enters and calls his name — Parsifal — he is shocked, because his mother had once addressed him in just the same way in a dream. The flower maidens fade away and Parsifal recognizes the deceptive nature of the material world. Now the power of the desire world is revealed to him: Kundry becomes visible. She tells Parsifal of his origin: Parsifal (the monad) left the world of illusion and went his way, following the laws of spirit. In the world of appearances it is impossible to understand such decisions. So great is the sorrow of his mother (his biological origin) at his decision that she finally dies. When Kundry tells of his mother’s grief when he ran away to seek higher things, she awakens the pity of the higher self with regard to the personal self. Parsifal sinks down at Kundry’s feet and torments himself with severe self-reproaches.

Parsifal experiences here the possibly strongest temptation the aspiring human being can encounter. Overpowering pity in the face of suffering has proved the undoing of many who betrayed their divine ideals for the sake of alleviating suffering. In his state of weakness, Kundry tells Parsifal of the great love between his parents; nevertheless, he does not give in to Kundry’s fantasies but sees Amfortas before him. This time he does not merely see the sorrow in the realm of the Grail, as in the first act, but suffers it directly. Parsifal suddenly starts up with a gesture of the utmost terror, his demeanor expresses some fearful change; he presses his hands hard against his heart as if to master an agonizing pain. He cries: “Amfortas! The wound! The wound! It burns within my heart!”

Parsifal remembers what he saw in the temple of the Grail and “falls into a complete trance.” The vision of his link with divinity awakens once again within him. He is filled with deep compassion which no longer relates to the personal self, nor to the suffering of the spiritual self (Amfortas), but to the inmost divine heart of creation calling us to liberation. It is compassion for his own essential divinity (atma-buddhi, the higher duad) which is enchained by the fetters of desire. This compassion for the divine activates love of the divine and sets in motion the will to complete the process of attaining divinity.

Kundry tries to hinder Parsifal’s compassion, but he recognizes the demonic nature of her attempt. Kundry tries to kiss Parsifal, but he forcefully repulses her. This is the turning point of the whole drama. The deceptive maneuver of the black magician which brought about the downfall of Amfortas and the knights of the Grail, is penetrated by Parsifal, enabling him to achieve clearness of vision. He sees through the bewildering attacks of his adversary and hears the call of the divine will to redemption “in proving himself through the active pity he feels for the sorrow of humanity”attack.

Only now does Klingsor begin his most powerful attack on the initiant. Through Kundry he attempts to conjoin universal love with the personal. Kundry reveals to Parsifal the tragedy of her existence and her own suffering, saying:

One for whom I yearned in deathly longing, whom I recognized though despised and rejected, let me weep upon his breast, for one hour only be united to you and, though God and the world disown me, in you be cleansed of sin and redeemed!

Parsifal here recognizes Klingsor’s seductive attack on his will to redemption. He discerns the way in which the human desire nature repeatedly feigns reformation and binds us to things of matter. He again repulses Kundry, saying: “For evermore would you be damned with me if for one hour, unmindful of my mission, I yielded to your embrace.”

The seducing skills become increasingly spiritual (geistig). Kundry begs for pity and promises Parsifal the attainment of divinity. But the initiant understands that in no event must he allow himself to be ruled by the desire nature; only if desire is used to liberate the aspiring human ego will it be redeemed. He says to Kundry: “Love and redemption shall be yours if you will show me the way to Amfortas.”

Kundry tries once again to win Parsifal’s act of redemption for herself: she tries to embrace him and implores him to take pity. But it is too late: Parsifal is already in a higher state of consciousness. He vigorously pushes her aside. The initiant has withstood the test. Kundry flies into a fury and curses “the fool” in her selfish longing for redemption. She tries to prevent him from reaching the Grail. Klingsor appears in person and hurls the spear at Parsifal, but Parsifal catches the spear and holds it above his head: sensuous lower mind is transformed into aspiring higher mind. Parsifal says: “With this sign I rout your enchantment. As the spear closes the wound which you dealt him with it, may it crush your lying splendor into mourning and ruin!” In the light of the higher mind the demonic illusion fades away; Klingsor’s magic realm sinks as if by an earthquake.

The third act, concerning redemption, takes place in the realm of the Grail on the morning of Good Friday: flowers are in bloom all around and desire moves through the whole of nature, awakening it to new life.

Gurnemanz enters from a humble hermit’s hut, when he hears Kundry moaning. He notices a change in her: the wildness has vanished. She allows Gurnemanz to reawaken her from her paralysis. Her only concern seems to be to serve the knights of the Grail, but Gurnemanz informs her of a change in the knightly order: the spring of divine wisdom has failed. Everyone now looks after himself.

Meanwhile Parsifal enters clad in black armor, which Wagner regarded as a symbol of will power, the fighting strength of the personal self. He saw the conquest of the powers of illusion as an act requiring personal effort and struggle — the assertion of the higher will in the midst of personal, earthly life:

a strong awareness of [suffering] can raise the intellect of the higher nature to knowledge of the meaning of the world. Those in whom this sublime process takes place, it being announced to us by a suitable deed, are called heroes. — Collected Writings of R. Wagner, vol. 10

Gurnemanz calls upon the “stranger” to lay down his weapons at this holy spot. Parsifal then “thrusts the spear into the ground before him, lays shield and sword beneath it, opens his helmet, takes it from his head and lays it with the other arms, then kneels before the spear in silent prayer. . . . Parsifal raises his eyes devoutly to the spearhead.”

In the realm of the Grail or buddhi, the weapons of the personal consciousness are sacrificed to the power of intuition: the helmet of intelligence, the shield of courage, and the sword of the active will, while the point of the spear (mind) represents the moment of maximum concentration which leads to an intuitive understanding of the world. Gurnemanz now recognizes the spear and also the man who had once slain the swan. The spear is back in the realm of the Grail: the power of intuition shines again. When asked where he comes from, Parsifal answers: “Through error and the path of suffering I came; . . . An evil curse drove me about in trackless wandering, never to find the way to healing; numberless dangers, battles, and conflicts forced me from my path even when I thought I knew it.”

Gurnemanz reports that since Titurel’s death the state of the Order has worsened: intuition has been completely lost, and the Grail itself remains enclosed within the shrine. The knights now feed only on dogmas. Parsifal springs up in intense grief — he feels responsible for the knights’ suffering since he, the chosen “Redeemer,” had succumbed to maya (illusion). Amfortas is due to open the shrine in which the Grail is concealed on that very day, when his father is carried to his grave. Gurnemanz wants to take Parsifal to him. But first, one of the most significant scenes of the opera takes place: as Kundry bathes Parsifal’s feet, the full consciousness of his task awakens in him. Once the purification and cleansing of the personal self (the feet) have been carried out, Gurnemanz proceeds to anoint his head — his spiritual judgment must likewise light up pure and spotless within the personal self — enabling the personal self to be united with the divine self of its own free will.

Parsifal is thereby made King of the Grail. His first office is to baptize Kundry: the desire nature is incorporated into the community as an element necessary to progress, and becomes the driving force of pure divine love. That desire no longer serves the lower, but the higher self, brings about a transformation in the whole of nature. In Gurnemanz’s words: “Thus all creation gives thanks, all that here blooms and soon fades, now the nature, absolved from sin, today gains its day of innocence.” Parsifal then kisses Kundry gently on the forehead.

In the distance the sound of bells is heard. As they approach the temple of the Grail, time once more becomes space and the interior of the temple becomes visible. It is the same scene as at the end of the first act, but more gloomy. Two processions of knights enter the stage, one carrying Titurel’s coffin, the other with Amfortas on his deathbed. The knights are aware that without the creative power of intuition of the Grail, they are doomed to die. They are not strong enough to open the shrine themselves and therefore insistently press Amfortas to do so, but in his immeasurable pain he is no longer able to open the shrine. He calls upon the knights to kill him, since no one is able to close the wound.

At this moment the divine love of the higher self breaks through: Parsifal enters the hall, accompanied by Gurnemanz and Kundry and, touching the wound with the end of the spear, says: “But one weapon serves: only the spear that smote you can heal your wound.” The personal mind, gravitating to things of earth, opened up the gulf in human nature; the intuitive mind closes the fissure between the spiritual and earth-bound poles. Parsifal continues: “Be whole, absolved and atoned! For I now will perform your task. O blessed be your suffering, that gave pity’s mighty power and purest wisdom’s might to the timorous fool!”

Parsifal steps towards center stage, holding the spear aloft before him, saying: “I bring back to you the holy spear!” All gaze in reverence at the uplifted spear, to whose point Parsifal raises his eyes and intones:

O supreme joy of this miracle! This that could heal your wound I see pouring with holy blood yearning for that kindred fount which flows and wells within the Grail. No more shall it be hidden: uncover the Grail, open the shrine!

[Parsifal mounts the altar steps, takes the Grail from the shrine now opened by the squires, and kneels before it in silent prayer and contemplation. The Grail begins to glow with a soft light, increasing darkness below and growing illumination far above.

A beam of light: the Grail glows at its brightest. From the dome a white dove descends and hovers over Parsifal’s head. Kundry slowly sinks lifeless to the ground in front of Parsifal, her eyes uplifted to him. Amfortas and Gurnemanz kneel in homage to Parsifal, who waves the Grail in blessing over the worshipping brotherhood of knights.]

Wagner by these stage directions for the final scene epitomizes the ultimate triumph of the hero-soul. Through Parsifal’s act the earthbound human mind is directed upwards again towards divinity; the power of creative intuition flows again through all the realms. As a result, the fossilized spiritual tradition of Titurel is reinvigorated, and he rises from his coffin. The divine spirit, symbolized by the dove, hovers over Parsifal’s head, i.e., the consciousness of the higher ego experiences its innate divinity. This represents a transformation into something completely new: the attainment of Mastery.

Richard Wagner: Parsifal

Art which transcends its own time, in addition to mirroring the artist’s quest for truth, is also a source of inspiration for those who contact it. Such art is often extremely complex and its profound meaning difficult to discern. Richard Wagner is one of the most controversial and wholly misunderstood artists of the past 200 years; and his opera Parsifal one of the most complicated works.

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Wagner felt the first impulse to write Parsifal at the age of 31. He was in Marienbad working on the opera Lohengrin when he read Wolfram von Eschenbach’s ParzivalThis epic poem brings together various mythical traditions; Wagner later added elements from other legends. Three years later, in 1848, the main features of Parsifal flowed over into the draft of a drama entitled “Jesus of Nazareth,” in which Mary Magdalene takes the place of Kundry. In May 1856 Wagner wrote the draft for a Buddhist drama with the working tide “Der Sieger” (“The Victor”), in which the features of what later became Parsifal are already clear. Wagner spent Good Friday 1858 in his Zurich retreat where he had a vision and decided on the main motifs of the opera.

In the years that followed, individual characters began to take shape. At the same time, however, Wagner experienced the immense difficulties presented by the subject matter. Time and again he postponed committing anything to paper — he was plagued with such doubts that he felt like giving up the whole idea. It was not until August 1865 that he wrote a detailed draft at King Ludwig II’s insistence. But a further twelve years elapsed before the work was completed in April 1877, being published in book form the same year. The composition of the music took five more years, and only on July 26, 1882, did the first performance take place in the “Haus Wahnfried” in Bayreuth. Thirty-seven years had gone by between the first idea for the work and its completion.

Concerning Wagner’s knowledge of occultism, we know he was acquainted with Freemasons, with whom he entered into fierce debate, and with the Rosicrucians. In his library, now situated in Bayreuth and open to the public, there are translations of the Upanishads and the Mahabharata, which were just being published in his time. I suspect that Richard Wagner had exceptional intuitive abilities and could see many extremely subtle realms and interrelations directly; also that he suffered deeply because all too often he simply could not find the words to express what took place so clearly before his spiritual eye. It is therefore understandable that he identified with the figure of Amfortas: Wagner believed in living life to the full; he also saw things but could not grasp them. The basic spiritual tendency running through the opera is compassion or buddhi. Reincarnation and karma are clearly described in several places — without them the whole drama would be inexplicable.

A number of symbols and mythical elements are important for a general understanding of the work. First, the symbol of the Grail combines elements of legends from Persia and Asia Minor with those from Celtic mythology. The Grail, the cup which Jesus Christ used at the Last Supper, was made from the stone which fell from Lucifer’s crown as he plunged to earth. Lucifer (the Light-bringer) brought the mental principle to evolving humanity. The stone from Lucifer’s crown can therefore be regarded as ego-consciousness or “I am I”: without the awakening mind principle humanity would not be able to acquire knowledge, and the first step along this path is “I am I.” That this stone was fashioned into a cup or bowl which was used to catch the blood of Christ elevates its meaning because it then stands for the divine self, atma-buddhi. As Wagner remarked, it becomes “Grail consciousness” — purified, redeemed “I am.” The Grail is entrusted to Titurel. He gathers a brotherhood of knights around him, called the knights of the Grail, who devote themselves to the service of this Grail consciousness through noble deeds.

A second important symbol is the spear, derived from the spear of Longinus who, it is said, thrust it into Christ’s side during the crucifixion, shedding the Savior’s blood. It stands for higher mind, that part of us which must decide whether the mind will aspire to spirit or succumb to material desire.

A third central symbol is the swan, denoting the north. Wagner uses the swan as a symbol of those beings who, though still devoid of individual consciousness, are located in the divine realms, but have their whole development before them; this symbol is identical with that of the angel. In the last scene a dove appears, symbol according to Wagner of “divine spirit, which floats down idealistically onto the human soul.” It is the Holy Ghost or Spirit — atma-buddhi.

The first act of the opera, which takes place in the realm of the Grail, begins with trombones sounding the reveille. Gurnemanz, teacher and guardian of the secret wisdom of the Grail, wakens two squires lying asleep under a tree, saying: “Do you hear the call? Give thanks to God that you are called to hear it!” That the reveille sounds from the realm of the Grail indicates that it is a spiritual call. Buddhi penetrates the consciousness of the awakening men and Gurnemanz feels it to be a blessing. He calls on his pupils to give thanks, for he knows that few are granted the privilege of feeling this call of buddhi.

At this time Amfortas, King of the Grail, lies sick and wounded, the wound being an external symbol for inner events. In his striving towards higher things, Amfortas battled in the realm of the lower mind ruled by the black magician Klingsor and lost the spear (mind). Klingsor wounded him in his side with the spear, a wound which will not heal. This wound is the pivot of all further action. It is the fissure between the higher self and the personal self, caused by the fact that the mental principle was directed into the earthly realm where it is now ruled by Klingsor, or mind linked with desire. Gurnemanz and the squires, impelled by buddhi, now try to alleviate the pain suffered by the King of the Grail. They wish to bathe the wound, though Gurnemanz in his wisdom knows this will be of no avail. The King’s wound, an inner wound, cannot be closed by baths or ointments. Wrapped in thought, he sings: “There is but one thing can help him, only one man.” When a knight asks the man’s name, he avoids answering.

Then Kundry enters the scene, appearing wild one moment, lifeless the next. She presses on Gurnemanz a small crystal vessel containing balsam with which Amfortas might be healed. Kundry personifies the desire nature, messenger and temptress at the same time. On the one hand, desire binds us to earthly things, while on the other it provides the first impulses to understand what is hidden. Thus Kundry serves both the Grail and also, as temptress, Klingsor who seeks to divert people from the quest for the divine through the power of the senses. Wagner remarks that the black magician

beclouds the divine judgment of man through the sense impressions of the material world, and thereby leads him into a world of deception.

A dispute arises between the knights of the Grail and Gurnemanz about Kundry (desire). The squires mistrust her, but Gurnemanz says:

Yes, she may be under a curse. She lives here now — perhaps reincarnated, to expiate some sin from an earlier life not yet forgiven there. Now she makes atonement by such deeds as benefit our knightly order; she has done good, beyond all doubt, serving us and thereby helping herself.

Naturally, Kundry was also involved when Klingsor seized the spear of mind from Amfortas.

In his pain, Amfortas addresses the Grail and asks for a sign of help. In a vision he describes how someone will come to help him: “Enlightened through compassion, the innocent fool; wait for him, the appointed one.” This announcement of the foolish innocent (“Fal parsi,” hence Parsifal) refers to the reincarnating ego, which hastens from life to life. If the reincarnating ego gives full expression to its divine individuality in its personal life, the inner fissure — the wound — will be closed again, for the mind which has been directed to things of matter will be turned back to the divine.

Before divinity can be attained, however, human evolution has to be experienced. At the outset, mankind is completely unself-conscious and lives in a state of divine innocence, untouched by things of matter and without an independent mind, a state symbolized by the swan. It has to leave this state, descend to the physical realm, and experience all the conflicts that evolution entails. Through the associated suffering and the development of the thinking principle, humans learn from their own experience to feel compassion for other beings.

These developments find their corollary in the departure of young people from their parental home, the maternal plane. Such a departure is often very difficult and may be accompanied by a great deal of pain and many reproaches; but this break is absolutely necessary if young people are to go through their own experiences and develop the ability to think for themselves, though this simultaneously causes the maternal principle much grief. The result is often condemnation by one’s fellowmen.

This “descent” or gaining of independence by the monad is represented by Wagner in the slaying of the swan by Parsifal. Gurnemanz sternly reproaches Parsifal for killing the swan with an arrow. Parsifal is at first filled with childlike pride at his accuracy but becomes increasingly disturbed when he looks at the dead bird, and for the first time he feels pity. Gurnemanz inquires of Parsifal his name and origin, but Parsifal cannot remember and replies: “I had many, but I know none of them any more.” The only name he remembers is that of his mother: Herzeleide (Heart’s Sorrow). Kundry is able to provide more information about his origin: his father was killed in battle, and his mother ” reared him up in the desert to folly, a stranger to arms.” Parsifal nevertheless recalls that one day he saw the knights of the Grail riding along the forest’s edge: “I ran after them, but could not overtake them; through deserts I wandered, up hill and down dale.”

The monad yearns for more than a solitary, peaceful life. Kundry confirms this, and informs him of his mother’s death. Parsifal springs furiously at her, but Gurnemanz restrains him. Thus although the monad is endowed with a feeling of right and wrong, mind is not yet fully developed. It therefore turns, in conjunction with desire, to anger and rage. Gurnemanz, the initiate, restrains him.

The rest of the opera describes what takes place during this descent of the human monad. Gurnemanz has already recognized that Parsifal is someone who can restore the divine harmony. He offers to lead him to the feast of the Grail. Both move into their inner, spiritual realms, represented by the temple of the Grail. This realm lies beyond the differentiation of space and time. Hence Parsifal remarks: “I scarcely tread, yet seem already to have come far.”

Gurnemanz answers: “You see, my son, time here becomes space.” This is because the inner vision appears to the physical person as space. Gurnemanz warns Parsifal to pay close attention to everything he encounters and later to take it back into the realm of his personal consciousness. Before them both a scene opens with a pillared hall where the knights of the Grail carry in Amfortas. The covered shrine of the Grail is carried before them. In the background can be heard the voice of Titurel, the former guardian of the Grail, who received the Cup from the angel’s hands and learned the occult mysteries in an inner vision. He says, “Amfortas, my son, are you in your place? Shall I again today look on the Grail and live?” This indicates that the life forces of spiritual traditions steadily weaken if they are not renewed by intuitive, creative individuals. Time and again attempts are made to establish a spiritual, compassionate brotherhood. If, however, the innovators fail, the effort comes to a standstill; the teachings ossify, and what used to be the content becomes a veil, until nothing is left of the original impulse. Titurel must therefore die.

So Titurel calls upon Amfortas to view the Grail. But Amfortas is incapable of doing so — he has lost the mental principle to Klingsor, the lower mind. Titurel now calls for the uncovering of the Grail, the revelation of occult wisdom. When, at his insistence, this takes place, Amfortas is racked with pain: for those imprisoned in the lower mind, the sight of divine wisdom is unbearable. The tragedy of such a situation is clear. On the one hand, such people are impelled by divine, buddhic impulses; on the other, they are completely entangled in the world of deception and sensuality. When the full, idealistic nature of the Grail appears to Amfortas, so great becomes his despair that he begs to die. But the Chorus sings again: “Enlightened through compassion, the innocent fool: wait for him, the appointed one.”

Gurnemanz, who led Parsifal to this inner vision, stands beside Parsifal throughout the scene. At the end he asks Parsifal: “Do you know what you have seen?” But Parsifal cannot answer, as he is overcome by the suffering he has seen. Gurnemanz angrily dismisses him. Parsifal is not yet able to help, as this requires more than just a vision of things occult. He must first acquire occult knowledge on the physical plane. This alone will enable him to internalize what he has seen and make it part of his consciousness. Only in this way can the divine be carried over into all realms.

++ Occult/Esoteric ++

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The Greeks were adept in the use of imagery to convey profound esoteric truths, often using the form of sport; or, for instance, they would read into the exercises of the stadium inner significance. One of the best known examples of this was their portrayal through the torchbearer race of the mystic line of succession of great teachers.

In the torch-race, the torch-bearer ran from post to post. On reaching the end of his stage he handed the lighted torch which he carried to the one there waiting, who immediately took up the race and in his turn handed it to the one waiting for him. This exercise of the arena or stadium was taken by many Greek and Latin writers as symbolizing the carrying on of Light from age to age, and as pointing to the spiritual Torch-bearers who pass the Torch of Truth from hand to hand throughout unending time…. This handing on of the light of truth “throughout unending time” has formed the theme of many Mystery parables. The Greeks also referred to this spiritual succession as the Golden Chain of Hermes which they believed to stretch far into the realms of Olympus, to “Father Zeus downwards through a series or line of spiritual beings and then through certain elect and lofty human beings to ordinary men” (Esoteric Tradition).

Purucker described this mystic succession as the guruparampara. This is a Sanskrit compound literally meaning “teacher beyond beyond.” The term signifies a line of teachers reaching beyond the beyond, through past, present, and into the distant future, whose sublime purpose is ever the same: the work of spiritualization.

The ancient Mystery-Schools of every country of the globe and of whatever epoch in time, have had each one a Succession of Teachers trained and authorized by their training to teach in their turn; and as long as this transmission of the light of Truth was a reality in any one country, it was in every sense a truly spiritual institution.

An outstanding example of this ancient transmission is the succession of “living buddhas” of Tibet, which “is a real one, but of a somewhat special type, and it is by no means what Occidental scholars mistake it to be or have frequently misunderstood it to be” (Esoteric Tradition).

Further, in the Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece,

hierophants were drawn from one family, the Eumolpidae, living in Athens, and the torchbearers were drawn from another family, the Lycomidae, living in Athens; and we have reason to believe that the Mysteries of Samothrace, the seat of an older rite, and which were, like the Mysteries of Eleusis, a State function, were also conducted in the same manner by the passing on of the tradition held sacred and incommunicable to outsiders; and the bond of union between the initiates of these so-called Mysteries was considered indissoluble, impossible of dissolution, for death merely strengthened the tie.– Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy

In Persia as well as Egypt, we find this line of succession manifesting in another form. For example, there were the thirteen or more Zoroasters whose esoteric contribution to Persia’s history was the inspiration of that once mighty civilization:

The number of Zoroasters who have appeared from time to time is confusing, so long as we consider, and wrongly consider, these Zoroasters to be reimbodiments of one single ego, instead of different egos imbodying what we may interpret from the occult records as the “Zoroaster-spirit.” The truth of the matter is that in the scheme and terminology of Zoroastrianism, every Root-Race and sub-race, and minor race of the latter, has its own Zoroaster or Zoroasters. The term Zoroaster means in Zoroastrianism, very much what the term Buddha does in Buddhism, or Avatara does in Brahmanism. Thus there were great Zoroasters, and less Zoroasters — the qualificatory adjective depending upon the work done by each Zoroaster, and the sphere of things. Hence we can speak of the Zoroasters as being thirteen in number from one standpoint, or fourteen from another; or like the Manus in Brahmanism, or like the Buddhas in Buddhism, we can multiply each of these by seven again, or even fourteen if we take in every little branchlet race with its guiding Zoroaster-spirit.– Studies in Occult Philosophy.

In Egypt, Hermes Trismegistus (“Hermes the thrice greatest”) stands out from the long Hermes line, whose writings and teachings were founded on the ancient Mystery doctrine. In Greece also we find the Orphic Mysteries, from whose halls of esoteric instruction came forth many who bore the name of Orpheus.

What impelled these pupils to take the names of their teachers? Why did they sign their work, or give oral instruction, in the name of Orpheus, Hermes, or Zoroaster? Was it a kind of spiritual plagiarism, or was it rather because of a compelling gratitude to the teacher who had given them ALL, who had lighted the flame of esoteric fire in their hearts? Surely the latter, for whatever message they had of inspiration and light they deemed not theirs, but “his who sent me” — “As we have received it, thus shall we pass it on.” This practice is distressing to later historians who struggle always to attach correct labels to things, yet one cannot help but love these old disciples for that loyalty of soul which banishes all thought of individual greatness.

The relationship between disciple and teacher is a most sacred bond of spiritual intimacy. Gratitude wells up from the disciple commensurate with greatness of soul: the little of heart feel only resentment when guidance and protection are offered; but the large of heart burn with the flame of loving and inextinguishable gratitude. The links in this Golden Chain of Hermes are joined by gratitude. As each link is coupled with its brother link, heart with heart, teacher with pupil, pupil with teacher — each teacher a pupil to the one above, each pupil a teacher to the one below — all bonded by unbreakable links of love, fidelity, and gratitude to the teacher, to the Brotherhood, to the esoteric wisdom:

Like signal-fires of the olden times, which, lighted and extinguished by turns upon one hill-top after another, conveyed intelligence along a whole stretch of country, so we see a long line of “wise” men from the beginning of history down to our own times communicating the word of wisdom to their direct successors. Passing from seer to seer, the “Word” flashes out like lightning, and while carrying off the initiator from human sight forever, brings the new initiate into view. — Isis Unveiled

This “long line of `wise’ men” has been kept unbroken since the middle of the third root-race by two methods: (a) the actual reincarnation of adepts, and (b) the birth of the initiate out of the disciple. In this way the Brotherhood revitalizes its membership through the rebirth of hierophants, and the “second birth” of recruits from the ranks of the Mystery chambers. The “Passing of the Word” was the final rite of the solar initiation: without it no transmission of occult authority could be made from initiator to disciple.

Hence the line of esoteric authority and wisdom advances in serial order through grade after grade of chelaship to the adepts; from adepts to high mahatmas; from high mahatmas to buddhas; from buddhas to dhyani-buddhas; from dhyani-buddhas to the spiritual guide and protector of the planetary chain of earth; from the earth planetary spirit to the heart of the sun. Truly a line of luminous glory linking the humblest of disciples of wisdom with the solar logos.

The Occultic Brotherhood

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Millions upon millions of years ago in the darkness of prehistory, humanity was an infant, a child of Mother Nature, unawakened, dreamlike, wrapped in the cloak of mental somnolence. Recognition of egoity slept; instinctual consciousness alone was active. Like a stream of brilliance across the horizon of time, divine beings, manasaputras, sons of mind, descended among the sleeping humans, and with the flame of intellectual solar fire lighted the wick of latent mind, and lo! the thinker stirred. Self-consciousness wakened, and man became a dynamo of intellectual and emotional power: capable of love, of hate, of glory, of defeat. Having knowledge, he acquired power; acquiring power, he chose; choosing, he fashioned the fabric of his future; and the perception of this ran like wine through his veins.

Knowledge, more knowledge, and still greater knowledge was required by the maturing humans who looked with gratitude to the godlike beings who had come to awaken them. For many millennia they followed their guidance, as children lovingly follow the footsteps of their mother.

As the ages rolled by, a circulation of divine instructors succeeded these primeval manasaputras and personally supervised the progress of child-humanity: they initiated them in the arts and sciences, taught them to sow their fields with corn and wheat, instructed them in the ways of clean and moral living — in short, established primeval schools of training and instruction open and free to all to learn of things material, intellectual, and spiritual. At this early period there were no Mystery colleges: the ancient wisdom was the common heirloom of all mankind, for as yet there had been no abuse of knowledge, and hence no need for schools kept hid and sacred from the world. Truth was freely given and as freely accepted in that golden age. (H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings)

The race was young; not all were adept in learning. Some through past experience in former world periods learned quickly and with ease, choosing intuitively the path of spiritual intellection; others, less awake, were good though wayward in progress; while a third class of humans, drugged with inertia, found learning and aspiring a burden and became laggards in the evolutionary procession. To them, spiritual apathy was preferable to spiritual exertion.

Mankind as a whole progressed rapidly in the acquisition of knowledge and its subsequent use. Some obviously wrought evil — others good. What had been latent spirituality now became active good and active evil. Suffering and pain became nature’s most merciful method of restoring the heart to its primeval instinct, that of spiritual choice. As mind developed keener potentialities and the struggle for mental supremacy overcame the spiritual, the gift of intellect became a double-edged weapon: on the one hand, the bringer of spiritual awareness and undreamed of intellectual ecstasy; and on the other, the wielder of a weapon of destruction, of horror and, in the worst cases, of deliberate spiritual wickedness — diabolism. As H. P. Blavatsky wrote:

The mysteries of Heaven and Earth, revealed to the Third Race by their celestial teachers in the days of their purity, became a great focus of light, the rays from which became necessarily weakened as they were diffused and shed upon an uncongenial, because too material soil. With the masses they degenerated into Sorcery, taking later on the shape of exoteric religions, of idolatry full of superstitions, . . . — The Secret Doctrine  

Nature is cyclical throughout: at one time fertile in spiritual things, at another barren. At this long-ago period of the third root-race, on the great continent of Lemuria, now submerged, the cycle was against spiritual progress. A great downward sweep was in force, when expansion of physical and material energies were accelerated with the consequent retardation and contraction of spiritual power. The humanities of that period were part of the general evolutionary current, and individuals reacted to the coarsening atmosphere according to their nature. Some resisted its down- ward influence through awakened spirituality; others, weaker in understanding, vacillated between spirit and matter, between good and evil: sometimes listening to the promptings of intuition, at other times submerged by the rushing waves of the downward current. Still others, in whom the spark of intellectual splendor burned low, plunged headlong downstream, unmindful of the turbulent and muddy waters.

As the downward cycle proceeded, knowledge of spiritual verities and living of the life in accordance with them became a dull and useless tool in human hearts and minds. Such folly was inevitable in the course of cosmic events, and all things were provided for. Just as there are many types of people — some spiritual, others material, some highly intelligent, others slow of thought — so are there various grades of beings throughout the universe, ranging from the mineral, through the vegetable, animal, and human kingdom, and beyond to the head and hierarch of our earth.

During these first millennia the spiritual head and guardian of the earth had been stimulating wherever possible the individual fires of active spirituality. Gradually as knowledge of divine things became abused by those strong in will but weak in morality, truth was increasingly veiled. The planetary watcher now felt the need of selecting a band of co-workers to act as bodyguard and protector of the ancient wisdom. Alone a handful of spiritually illumined human beings, in whom the divine fervor burned bright, acknowledged wholehearted allegiance to their planetary mentor — the spiritual hierarch of humanity. Through long ages certain individuals had been watched over and guided, strengthened and tested in innumerable ways, and those who passed the test of self-knowledge and self-sacrifice were gathered together to form the first association of spiritual-divine human beings — the Great Brotherhood. As G. de Purucker elaborates:

Then was formed or established or set in operation the gathering together of the very highest representatives, spiritually and intellectually speaking, that the human race as yet had given manifestation to; . . .

. . . the Silent Watcher of the Globe, through the spiritual-magnetic attraction of like to like, was enabled to attract to the Path of Light, even from the earliest times of the Third Root-Race, certain unusual human individuals, early forerunners of the general Manasaputric “descent,” and thus to form with these individuals a Focus of Spiritual and Intellectual Light on Earth, this fact signifying not so much an association or society or brotherhood as a unity of human spiritual and intellectual Flames, so to speak, which then represented on Earth the heart of the Hierarchy of Compassion. . . .

Now it was just this original focus of Living Flames, which never degenerated nor lost its high status of the mystic center on Earth through which poured the supernal glory of the Hierarchy of Compassion, today represented by the Great Brotherhood of the Mahatmans, . . . Thus it is that the Great Brotherhood traces an unbroken and uninterrupted ancestry back to the original focus of Light of the Third Root-Race. — The Esoteric Tradition  

Hence the elder brothers of the race remain

the elect custodians of the Mysteries revealed to mankind by the divine Teachers . . . and tradition whispers, what the secret teachings affirm, namely, that these Elect were the germ of a Hierarchy which never died since that period” (Secret Doctrine)

— since the foundation and establishment of the Great Brotherhood some 12 million years ago. From this center for millions of years have been streaming in continuous procession rays of light and strength into the world at large and, more specifically, into the hearts of those whose lives are dedicated to the service of truth. From this Fraternity have gone forth messengers, masters of wisdom, to inspire the grand religions of the past, and they will continue to send forth their envoys as long as mankind requires their care.

Planetary Spirit

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Cataclysm after cataclysm occurred, and the leaden slag of the fourth race sank to its doom, deluged by the waters of heaven and earth as they flooded the lands according to karmic law. Along with the sinking of Atlantis, which extended over several million years, new lands had been rising in other parts of the globe, and these became peopled as time went by with certain of the Atlanteans who settled there in two or three great migratory waves.

Thus the fourth root-race gave birth to the fifth whose cradleland was the Desert of Shamo or Gobi and surrounding tablelands — a country whose present sandy wastes give no hint of lands once rich with verdure, where forests and lakes witnessed a succession of civilizations as grand as any the world has ever known. Here for many millions of years, while Atlantis was involved in her death struggle, seeds of the new race were being sown in virgin soil.

Nature is beneficent in her workings. While the consequences of her human children must be met and faced by them through the working of karma and cyclic reimbodiment, yet at each new racial birth she casts her seed in freshly-turned soil, so that the child-race may be conceived in purity and nurtured in spirituality. Peopled thus with egos who had remained clean and strong through the Atlantean upheavals, and helped once again by the reentrance into their midst of semi-divine beings, the new race became a focus of spiritual light. As the Master Koot Hoomi (KH) wrote:

the highest Planetary Spirits, those, who can no longer err . . . appear on Earth but at the origin of every new human kind; at the junction of, and close of the two ends of the great cycle. And, they remain with man no longer than the time required for the eternal truths they teach to impress themselves so forcibly upon the plastic minds of the new races as to warrant them from being lost or entirely forgotten in ages hereafter, by the forthcoming generations. The mission of the planetary Spirit is but to strike the KEYNOTE OF TRUTH. — The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, Letter IX,

Simultaneously with the establishment of the Mystery schools in Atlantis some four or five million years ago, the fifth or Aryan race was slowly coming into being, immensely aided by egos of spiritual refinement attracted there by ties of divine kinship. Gradually the soil was prepared and, the work of striking the “Keynote of Truth” having been accomplished, the demigods retired to their superior spheres. One million years ago the new race was ushered into adult existence impressed with the knowledge of “eternal truths.”

As the centuries passed and civilization succeeded civilization, the love of truth once again became dimmed in human hearts and the ancient precepts fell into disuse. The Mysteries were withdrawn even further, so that the knowledge once universal became the prized guerdon bestowed by the great Brotherhood upon that choice minority whose lives were dedicated to truth and truth alone, unstained by weakness or selfish ambition. With enduring consistency the ongoing purpose of the Mysteries has remained threefold in character:

(1) the persistent spiritualization of the thought-life of humanity so that knowledge of things spiritual may penetrate into the heart, and life in time may become a benediction of peace instead of a tragedy of conflict;

(2) seeding grounds of adepts, nurseries for future recruits, who through trial and initiation may become fit to receive the supreme dignity of membership in the great Brotherhood; and

(3) the preservation of truth for future races unsullied by human hand; and the polishing of the knowledge of truth through investigation by trained seers of the secrets of nature in worlds visible and invisible.

The first of these aims is fulfilled by the periodic appearance of world teachers, the inspirers of what later became the great religious and philosophical schools: messengers from the Lodge who come forth at cyclic periods to strike anew the “Keynote of Truth.” Hence every great religion, every noble philosophy, every fundamental scientific insight was born from the Sanctuary, to become a new religion, a new philosophy, a new science: fresh and new for the age and the people, but ancient beyond time because nurtured in the womb of esoteric antiquity.

All that is good, noble, and grand in human nature, every divine faculty and aspiration, were cultured by the Priest-Philosophers who sought to develop them in their Initiates. Their code of ethics, based on altruism, has become universal. — “The Origin of the Mysteries,” Blavatsky Collected Writings

The second of these aims is ages-long in accomplishment and deeply occult: to rouse the hidden fire of divinity in the human soul, and through the kindling of that flame burn the dross of imperfection, sloth, and unworthy desire from the heart. One of the impelling aims of such discipline is to restore to humanity inner sight, to free people “from every danger of being enslaved whether by a man or an idea”.

The disciple must become vajradhara (“diamond-bearer”), a title used for Bodhisattva Gautama, whose many-faceted heart was ever merciful in reflecting human sorrow, but whose spiritual essence was like a diamond, unyielding at its core to the subtle disguise of illusion (maya).

The third of these aims is made possible through the selection of new recruits into the Brotherhood, so that (a) truth may be preserved untarnished by human selfishness; and (b) investigation into the arcana of nature may go on unhindered, and the results of such examination by generations of trained seers be checked and rechecked, and only then recorded as occult fact for the benefit of humanity.

As far as the labor of the Masters is concerned, the following written by one of their number in 1881 speaks for itself:

If, for generations we have “shut out the world from the Knowledge of our Knowledge,” it is on account of its absolute unfitness; and if, notwithstanding proofs given, it still refuses yielding to evidence, then will we at the End of this cycle retire into solitude and our kingdom of silence once more. . . . We have offered to exhume the primeval strata of man’s being, his basic nature, and lay bare the wonderful complications of his inner Self — something never to be achieved by physiology or even psychology in its ultimate expression — and demonstrate it scientifically. It matters not to them, if the excavations be so deep, the rocks so rough and sharp, that in diving into that, to them, fathomless ocean, most of us perish in the dangerous exploration; for it is we who were the divers and the pioneers and the men of science have but to reap where we have sown. It is our mission to plunge and bring the pearls of Truth to the surface; theirs — to clean and set them into scientific jewels. And, if they refuse to touch the ill-shapen, oyster-shell, insisting that there is, nor cannot be any precious pearl inside it, then shall we once more wash our hands of any responsibility before human-kind.– Mahatma Letters, 

Unthanked, unknown, unconsidered, the Masters go on in their compassionate work for mankind’s enlightenment, a work that has never ceased in its outpouring of spiritual vitality for many millions of years, to continue another such period if necessity demand, until such time as humanity stirs from its lethargy and once again wills to unite its heart with truth. Master KH continues:

For countless generations hath the adept builded a fane of imperishable rocks, a giant’s Tower of INFINITE THOUGHT, wherein the Titan dwelt, and will yet, if need be, dwell alone, emerging from it but at the end of every cycle, to invite the elect of mankind to co-operate with him and help in his turn enlighten superstitious man. And we will go on in that periodical work of ours; we will not allow ourselves to be baffled in our philanthropic attempts until that day when the foundations of a new continent of thought are so firmly built that no amount of opposition and ignorant malice guided by the Brethren of the Shadow will be found to prevail.– Mahatma Letters.

The Occultic

The whole essence of truth cannot be transmitted from mouth to ear. Nor can any pen describe it, not even that of the recording Angel, unless man finds the answer in the sanctuary of his own heart, in the innermost depths of his divine intuitions. — The Secret Doctrine

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How are those “innermost depths” to be sounded, so that knowledge of reality may be won? Through training, discipline, and self-born wisdom. Such training and soul-discipline is the distinguishing mark of the Mystery colleges, which since their inauguration have been divided into two parts: the exoteric form commonly known as the Lesser Mysteries, open to all sincere and honorable candidates for deeper learning; and the esoteric form, or the Greater Mysteries, whose doors open but to the few and whose initiation into adeptship is the reward of those whose interior nobility enables them to undergo the solar rite.

Universal testimony of stone and papyrus, symbol and allegory, cave and crypt, tells of the twofold trial of neophytes. Jesus the Avatara spoke to the multitudes in parable, but “when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples” (Mark 4:34). The Essenes had their greater and minor Mysteries, in the former of which Jesus of Nazareth is believed to have been initiated.

The Chinese Buddhists hold to a well-loved tradition that Buddha Gautama had two doctrines: one for the people and his lay-disciples; the other for his arhats. His invariable principle was to refuse no one admission into the ranks of candidates for Arhatship, but never to divulge the final mysteries except to those who had proved themselves, during long years of probation, to be worthy of Initiation.

Intensity of purpose marks the Hebrew initiates in their shrouding of inner teaching. To the multitude they taught the Torah, the “Law,” but to the few they taught its unwritten interpretation, the “Secret Wisdom” — hokhmah nistorah — “in ‘darkness, in a deserted place, and after many and terrific trials.’ . . . Delivered only as a mystery, it was communicated to the candidate orally, `face to face and mouth to ear.’ ” The Persian and Chaldean Magi also were of two castes: “the initiated and those who were allowed to officiate in the popular rites only” (Isis Unveiled).

Eleusis and Samothrace are limned in exquisite silhouette against the blue-black sky of history. Classical scholars tell us that the Lesser Mysteries were conducted in the springtime at Agrai near Athens, while the Greater Mysteries were celebrated in the autumn at Eleusis. In the Lesser Mysteries the candidates who experienced the first rites were called mystai (the closed of eye and mouth). In the Greater Mysteries the mystai became epoptai (the clear-seeing), who participated in the mysteries of the Divine Elysion — i.e., communion with the divine.

Similarly, the Hindu arhat, the Scandinavian skald, and the Welsh bard guarded the soul of esotericism with the sanctity of their lives and the discipline of their sacred tradition:

Belonging to every temple there were attached the “hierophants” of the inner sanctuary, and the secular clergy who were not even instructed in the Mysteries. — Isis Unveiled.

Further, in all ancient countries “every great temple had its private or secret Mystery-School which was unknown to the multitude or partially known,” and which was attached to it as a secret body. A Mystery school is not necessarily a school of people situated at some specific place, with definite and fixed locality throughout time, and with physical conditions of environment always alike. Wherever the need is great, work must be done; and the “mistake of all scholars and mystics is to put too much emphasis upon places as Mystery-Schools” (Studies in Occult Philosophy).

A Mystery school is not dependent on location; rather it is an association or brotherhood of spiritually disciplined individuals bound by one common purpose, service to humanity, a service intelligently and compassionately rendered because born of love and wisdom. It is a fact, nevertheless, that certain centers appear to be more favorable to success in spiritual things than others. Why, for instance, were the ancient seats of the Mysteries almost invariably in rock-temple or subterranean cave, in forest or mountain pass, in pyramid chamber or temple crypt? Because the currents of the astral light become quieter, more peaceful, cleaner, the farther removed from the madding crowd. Rarely will one find a seat of esoteric training near a large metropolis, for such are “swirling whirlpools . . . ganglia, nerve-centers, in the lower regions of the Astral Light” (Esoteric Tradition).

Hence the locations of the Greater Mysteries were usually carefully chosen and their schools were those which paid no attention to buildings of any kind, mainly for the reason that buildings would at once attract attention and draw public notice, which is the very thing that these more secret, more esoteric Schools tried to avoid. Thus sometimes, when the temples were mere seats of exoteric ritual, the Mystery-Schools were held apart in secret, conducting their gatherings, meetings, initiations, initiatory rites, usually in caves carefully prepared and hid from common knowledge, occasionally even under the open sky as the Druids did among the oaks in their semi-primeval forests in Britain and in Brittany; and even in a few cases having no permanent or set location; but the Initiates receiving word where to meet from time to time, and to carry on their initiatory functions. — Studies in Occult Philosophy

It is the places of quiet, of peace, of strong silence, where the Adepts find themselves drawn, and where the secret or Greater Mysteries can most effectively function. There in the recesses of their initiation chambers the forces and currents are those of the higher astral light, the akasa, the tenuous substance which responds to the higher currents of spirit and intellect. In this way does the Brotherhood transmit its potent spiritual vitality to the initiation halls, and the candidate whose seven-rayed soul is attuned may receive the divine imprint.

Esotericism. Note Quote.

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So, here is some theosophy. Feels nostalgic, for I was a member at the Adyar Society, and these were the lingua franca then….

To the spiritual eagle eye of the seer and the prophet of every race, Ariadne’s thread stretches beyond that “historic period” without break or flaw, surely and steadily, into the very night of time; and the hand which holds it is too mighty to drop it, or even let it break. — The Secret Doctrine 2:67

This thread of esotericism stretches further still into the dawntime of the human race, where “Truth, high-seated upon its rock of adamant, is alone eternal and supreme” (Isis Unveiled 1:v). Where is this truth, this loom of esoteric history, and what the pattern of its fabric? In the home of the Brotherhood stands this loom, whose warp is the ancient threads of initiation held in occult tension by the sacrifice of adepts, and whose woof is woven century by century as each national unit spins the luminous threads of esotericism in its Mystery centers.

Profane history reveals scarcely anything of consecutive value, except insofar as the relics of this mystic pageantry all point to an identic motif. To “have a consecutive and full history of our race from its incipient stage down to the present times,” archaic records must needs be sought. By such alone could one trace even in faint outline the ancient pattern. Access to these, however, is the privilege of the adept alone, for such “knowledge is only for the highest Initiates, who do not take their students into their confidence” (Secret Doctrine 2:437-8). Nevertheless, we have received a priceless gift: the benefit of evidence gathered by those who have penetrated the veils of the adyta and have had the compassion to return and share with us a guarded portion of their vision. Study of their findings may at first reveal only a broken pattern, but if faithfully pursued such study will point with unmistakable clarity to one universal source of truth.

From Central Asia whose lands comprised a vast territory, including the Desert of Gobi or Shamo, the mountains of Tien Shan and Kuen Lun, the regions of Baluchistan, Afghanistan, Persia, and Turkestan, went forth bands of emigrants, in large part glowing with determination to conquer, to subdue, and many were the battles waged in those early days. A primal cause, yet unrecognized by the populace, was the urge of the Brotherhood aided by karma to carry the light of the Mysteries into other lands, to spread the ancient wisdom far and wide on the surface of the earth:

Not one people alone inhabited and built up these civilizations of Central Asia. They were recurrent waves of our present Fifth Root-Race. . . . each one of such civilizations being in its turn a cradle out of which grew children-colonies sent forth to carry light and initiation to what were then barbarous and uncultivated parts of the world, such as what is now Europe, what is now China, what is now Siberia, what is now India.– Studies in Occult Philosophy

To Bharata-varsha or India went forth the Aryas or “worthy ones,” a band of emigrants who founded a civilization and a culture as yet unrivaled in esoteric history, whose ramifications of spiritual influence extended to Egypt, Asia Minor, and Europe. Another band moved westward to Egypt, the “gift of the Nile” as Herodotus called it, and mixing with the aboriginal stock peopled its valleys. From this union sprang a princely civilization, the glory of which remains after thousands of centuries, the more so as the influence of its Mysteries spread far and wide as conquering nation after conquering nation became captive to the interior grandeur of Egypt. Persia, Babylonia, Judea and Crete, Greece and Rome, all trace their spiritual inspiration to the Egyptian and early Aryan cultures. Furthermore, so immense in esoteric power were these primeval civilizations, that there are records which show Egyptian priests — Initiates — journeying in a North-Westerly direction, by land, via what became later the Straits of Gibraltar; turning North and travelling through the future Phoenician settlements of Southern Gaul; then still further North, until reaching Carnac (Morbihan) they turned to the West again and arrived, still travelling by land, on the North-Western promontory of the New Continent [the British Isles].

What was the object of their long journey? And how far back must we place the date of such visits? The archaic records show the Initiates of the Second Sub-race of the Aryan family moving from one land to the other for the purpose of supervising the building of menhirs and dolmens, of colossal Zodiacs in stone, and places of sepulchre to serve as receptacles for the ashes of generations to come.– Secret Doctrine 2:750

What was the mainspring of these civilizations but the Mystery-teachings — teachings which penetrated into the very thought-life of nations, perhaps unknown of source, unrecognized by the multitudes as esoteric? Nonetheless they constituted the inspiration of the artist in his search for divinity, the intuition of the poet in his yearning for truth, and the resounding harmony of the musician as he sought the music of the spheres. It is no idle phrase to say that all things of spiritual, intellectual, and artistic value were born root and seed from the Sanctuary.

What are the stone and papyrus of Egypt but witness to knowledge of ancient truths long forgotten? The scenes of the weighing of the heart against the feather of truth in the papyri of Pert Em Hru — “Coming forth into Day,” commonly known as the Book of the Dead — portray in symbol and allegory what actually took place in the secret chambers of the initiation-pyramids. Living testimonial is the Great Pyramid of Khufu or Cheops, which H. P. Blavatsky hints more than once may go back at least 75,000 years BC, if not more (see Secret Doctrine 2:432, 750).

What of the Druids and their ancient ceremonies under oak and myrtle, with their stone monuments so oriented that the beams of the rising sun touched the brow of the candidate as he rose from his couch of initiation “clothed with the sun,” literally aflame with solar glory? Whence the training of their candidates in three degrees, a training which demanded absolute moral purity, spiritual vigor, and profound understanding of truth?

What about Persia and its long line of Zoroasters, within whose mystic seven-chambered centers truths of great intellectual and spiritual value were taught to neophytes who underwent the traditional discipline of the Mysteries? Were the Magi born from any other source than the archaic mother of occultism? What of the Orphic Mysteries, whose austere discipline and esoteric content may have had a stronger impact on Greek culture than the Eleusinian Mysteries, so popular for centuries? Do not the teachings of Orpheus indicate an Eastern origin reminiscent of those from India’s asramas or mystery-temples? Did not Pythagoras and Plato likewise travel India-wards and bring back to their disciples the identic pattern of esotericism?

Thus one might go on, with the Norse and Germanic mysticism, the Hindu and Chinese philosophies, the Greek and Roman ceremonial — all weavers of one pattern in one universal motif, a motif applicable to all times, to all nations, because capable of infinite variations. To grasp the inner purport of one Mystery school is to perceive the sacred identity of all of them — not in detail of cultural and ethnic interpretation, but in esoteric essentials.

What therefore is the test of truth? One basic requirement is universality: has it been taught by all those who have been “clothed with the central sun” of initiation? Did Buddha Gautama instruct his disciples in the selfsame doctrine that Christ Jesus did? Did Sankaracharya teach the same esotericism that Pythagoras and Empedocles did? Were Zoroaster and Tsong-kha-pa born in their adepthood from the same womb of the initiation chamber as Apollonius of Tyana, Orpheus, or Lao-Tz\bu? Have Persia and Greece, China and ancient America, Iceland, Wales, and Babylonia all received a message which, stripped of outer vestments, is one in essentials? Assuredly, it is so, for such patterns have been woven on one loom — the ageless loom of truth.

In the words of G. de Purucker, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, 

These Mystery schools are not a unique system but, based on the spiritual structure of the universe, they were established from the same motives of compassion that presided over the acts of the great actors of the primal drama, the opening acts of our manvantara. They copied, as it were in miniature, what took place in those primordial times, and what took place in actual life in the Hierarchy of Compassion on our earth, or that section, rather, of the Hierarchy of Compassion which we call the Great White Lodge.

One primeval humanity, many children-colonies; one Mystery teaching, many Mystery schools; one archaic pattern, many variations of color and texture as each nation contributes the woof of its national Mysteries. Three are the variants of motif as seen from the present:

(1) the original unveiling of truth to infant humanity by divine instructors working in consonance with the spiritual planetary of our earth who, through the early millennia, successfully gathered together the choice few into a center of esoteric light – the great Brotherhood;

(2) the secondary unveiling springing directly as the fruit of the first: the spiritualizing influences uninterruptedly sent forth by the Brotherhood, and more specifically energized at cyclic intervals by their disciples, the great world teachers; and

(3) the third unveiling born as the progeny of (1) and (2): the penetration of truth into human life through the Mystery schools, the centers of esoteric discipline, in whose inner chambers initiation of the “elect” alone takes place, but in whose outer courts the world-at-large may seek entrance to learn fundamental verities so that life may be ennobled and death accepted as naturally as is sleep. Thus is the pattern of esotericism woven century by century on the loom of truth.