++ Occult/Esoteric ++

spiritual

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.

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Initiation Revisited.

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In the deeper Mystery-training, the pupil must not only learn to build the mystic vessel of awakened consciousness which will carry him from plane to plane but, in the process of such individual becoming, must rediscover for himself the ageless routes of initiation.

In wisdom and foresight, nature is consistent throughout: one law, one plan, one structure. With charming thrift she rehearses the pathways of initiation through the cycles of sleep and death. Death and its processes form the heart and core of the Greater Mysteries: through death of the inferior the superior finds birth. Except the seed die, the flower cannot bloom; except the flower die, the seed cannot form. “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:39).

Sleep is an incomplete death — unconsciously experienced; death is a complete sleep — unconsciously experienced; initiation is a self-conscious sleep or “death” of the lower elements with a fully conscious liberation of the spiritual soul along the pathways of sleep and death.

In sleep the body “dies” imperfectly, for the golden cord remains linked to the slumbering body. If the soul is not weighted with material desire, then a natural quiescence ensues. During the brief hours of nightly sleep, if the karma be favorable the freed spirit-soul may ascend out of the sphere of earth along the invisible magnetic pathways to higher realms. The ascent is instantaneous, followed by the return along identic pathways until the soul once again enters the sleeping body and a new day dawns.

The pathways of sleep traversed night after night constitute an unconscious journey along the routes of initiation. Such momentary and unrecognized contact during sleep is not wasted; the very repetition of the selfsame process acts as an invisible spur to the ordinary person. If the aspirations continue and the life is made purer, faint impressions of beauty and grandeur will penetrate the soul, intuitions will manifest, and the aspirant will find benediction sweeping into his days through nightly communion with higher spheres.

Death is the following of the same processes of sleep, only perfectly so. The body is cast off permanently and dissipates; the golden cord is withdrawn, and the soul, freed of its terrestrial elements, enters the spheres of temporary purgation. Liberated and cleansed of earthly dross, the soul ascends to its spiritual parent, the higher self, and in peace and bliss undreamed of pursues the identic journey of sleep. In each of the mansions of space, a stop is made, shorter or longer depending upon the links of affinity formerly made through past experience of the spiritual soul until, strengthened by divine contact, it once again treads the ancient pathway, and a child is born on earth.

Thus in death the age-old routes of initiation are followed by the spiritual monad in conscious recognition, but as yet in unconscious appreciation by the ordinary human soul.

A human being is many-sided: he has within him a divine monad, a spiritual soul, and a human soul which works through his vital-astral-physical nature. We must guard against the lower gaining dominion over the higher and must watch carefully, particularly in discussion of these holy themes, lest we become so fascinated by their beauty and intellectual splendor, that we forget their essential worth — that of ethics. Unless an individual has made ethics the foundation of his character, his heart and mind will be continually shaken by the storms of desire.

Those who care for little beyond the immediate will have scant attraction to deeper things, but those who have begun to think and feel intuitively may find themselves irresistibly drawn to the ancient wisdom. However, to those already stirring from the sleep of matter, warning is repeatedly given against entertaining the notion that initiation is just around the corner. One must defend the heart against selfish desire for so-called occult powers as one would defend oneself against the bite of a serpent. The initiations referred to, more particularly in the previous chapter, are not described but only alluded to as hints of what some day the worthy disciple may find himself fortunate enough to experience.

In summation, over and over the journey of initiation is traversed: in sleep imperfectly, in death more perfectly; nightly by the soul in sleep, periodically by the soul in death. Unconsciously undergone, nature thus rehearses that which the soul must one day follow with will and consciousness fully active. This latter process is the journey of initiation: the deliberate paralysis of terrestrial influence followed by the self-perceptive journey through every plane and sphere of the cosmos.

In his Esoteric Tradition, Purucker elaborates:

The purpose of the passing of the Monad postmortem through the various planetary chains is to allow it to free itself on each such planetary chain of the integument or habiliment or vehicle which belongs to the vital essence of such planetary chain. It is only thus that the Monad strips off from itself one after the other the different “coatings” with which it has enwrapped itself during its long evolutionary journey; and thus when it has freed itself from all the seven “coatings” it is then ready, because freed and in its pure and “unclothed” state, to enter into its own native spiritual Home. When the return journey towards Earth’s planetary chain begins, the Monad then passes through all these same seven planets, but in reverse order to that by which it had ascended through them, and in each such planet that it visits . . . it picks up and re-assumes or clothes itself in the lifeatoms forming the “coatings” that it had previously dropped or cast off in each one of these seven planets respectively.

The soul as yet has not developed sufficient strength to withstand the full revelation of the universe. There is a Babylonian legend which points to a Mystery-teaching. Ishtar descends to the underworld and, arriving at the gates of Arallu (Hades), stands beautiful and regal. The archaic decree, however, demands that none may enter the dread precincts of the underworld who are not bare of garment or jewel. 

Therefore at each of the successive gates through which Ishtar must pass, the keeper divests her of some garment or ornament: first her crown, then her ear-rings, then her necklace, then the ornaments from her bosom, then her many-jeweled girdle, then the spangles from her hands and feet, and lastly her loin-cloth. — Will Durant, The Story of Civilization  

Free and pure she enters the Land of No Return where her sister, Ereshkigal, holds sway. Full of jealousy, she sends against Ishtar sixty diseases. Having passed the tests of the lower world, Ishtar retraces her steps through the seven gates, receiving in reverse order the garments and jewels which she had cast aside on her descending journey, and finally, as she ascends into the regions of light, Ishtar is adorned with the seventh jewel, the crown of spiritual glory.

The descent to the underworld is not an automatic process, but a willing decision to undertake the journey as a supreme test of intellectual and spiritual integrity. If the candidate succeed, union with the divine and bliss supernal will be his; if he fail, then death or madness lies in store. Far better had he never ventured upon these trials, for fearful indeed are they. But all is not lost, for in a future life he may try again.

If the aspirant has through austerity, utter devotion, discipline, and learning become as gold in the fire, swift and sure will be his passage through the lower worlds. With the flame of spirituality burning within, the successful candidate rises to the spheres superior, where the passage from planet to planet is made with full awareness. Passing the ultimate test, the pupil, now become master, returns to earth and to his entranced body. The guardian of the initiation chamber, who has watched over the body of his disciple with patient and loving care, is filled with joy: the initiation is consummated.