Monday, 16 April 2018

Meditation: The Four Brahma Viharas


The four Brahma Viharas, variously translated as Sublime Moods or Divine States (of mind) have come to occupy such a central position in the field of Buddhism that they cannot be omitted from a list of subjects for meditation, especially as they are included in the forty subjects mentioned in the Pali Canon.

The four meditations are examined and compared in the ninth chapter of the Visuddhi magga of Buddhaghosha, but the following quotation from the Maha-Sudassana Sutta summarizes the nature and purpose of the exercise. "And he lets his mind pervade one-quarter of the world with thoughts of Love, with thoughts of Compassion, with thoughts of sympathetic Joy and with thoughts of Equanimity; and so the second quarter, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around and everywhere does he continue to pervade with heart of Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity, far-reaching, great, beyond measure, free from the least trace of anger or ill-will." In the Love meditation the meditator radiates his thought-force as it were horizontally; Compassion looks downward towards the world of suffering, just as joy looks upward to the world of happiness, leaving Equanimity to restore the balance disturbed by self-identification with these two extremes.

Love 
Buddhism has been described as a cold religion, but it is easy to collate passages from the Pali Canon which shows the high place that Metta, loving-kindness, held in the Buddha's teaching, and this in spite of the fact that Buddhism is essentially a way of enlightenment and not of emotional mysticism. Moreover, loving-kindness as practised by the Buddhist is a deliberate and sustained attitude of mind, as distinct from a spontaneous exhibition of feeling. Love that springs from centres lower than the creative mind is all too easily replaced by hate, or at least capable of so narrow a focus that hatred of some other person may exist in the mind at the same moment. Not so with the Buddhist who practices the first of the four Brahma Viharas. He first suffuses his own being with unbounded love, partly, as the cynical commentator puts it, because oneself is the easiest of all persons to love, and partly because love must first be built in as a quality of the meditator's mind before he can habitually broadcast it to the world. Having suffused himself with the quality of love he turns in thought to a friend, and finds it easy to suffuse his friend with the same quality. It is suggested by the commentator that for various reasons it is best that the friend chosen should be of the same sex and still living.

The meditator then turns to a more difficult task, the suffusing of some person towards whom he feels indifferent, neither affectionate nor hostile, yet the same quality and quantity of affection must now be sent to him as was more gladly sent to the friend. Next, and most difficult, he visualizes an enemy, should there still be a fellow being for whom he feels antipathy, and even though at first it is difficult to do so without a feeling of hypocrisy, suffuses him with the warmth of generous and  pure affection. In so doing he has no ulterior motive in his mind, though the effect of his action will be to slay the enmity. Finally, he radiates his loving-kindness to all mankind, then to all forms of life, and so through all the Universe until with an intensive effort of the will which carries him far into the Jhanas, or higher states of consciousness, he becomes as it were the very spirit of love, and on return to normal consciousness continues to radiate this power to all around him. He thus, from the plane of thought, joins hands with the Bhakti Yogi and the Western religious mystic, many of whom achieve the same result through purified emotion and desire. 

Compassion 
To the extent that Karuna, compassion, is an emotion at all, it is the Buddhist emotion par excellence. Not without reason is the Buddha called the All-Compassionate One as well as the All-Enlightened One. Yet Compassion is no mere attribute of mind. At its higher levels it includes both love and joy, and even equanimity, for it consists in an understanding love, a blend of emotion-intellect illumined by the intuition. Wherefore is it said in The Voice of Silence, "Compassion is no attribute. It is the LAW of Laws—eternal Harmony, a shoreless universal essence, the light of everlasting Right and fitness of all things, the law of love eternal." Again, in a footnote it is described as "an abstract, impersonal law whose nature, being absolute Harmony, is thrown into confusion by discord, suffering and sin." 

Buddhism has been fairly described as the religion of suffering, for it realizes as none other that suffering is a quality inherent in all forms of life, however blinded those immersed in the illusion of pleasure may be to the limitations inherent in the world of becoming. It is true that suffering is too strong a term to use as the sole equivalent of the Pali dukkha, for the term is, of course, only relative, and covers conditions ranging from the most acute physical and mental agony to a purely metaphysical understanding of the state of incompleteness or imperfection which is a necessary corollary to the law of anicca, the law of change.

But every form of life is subject to the sway of dukkha, and the meditator who is radiating compassion is advised by the commentator to begin with persons in the depths of misery, towards whom the springs of compassion flow easily, and then to enlarge the ambit of his thought to include ever more varied and subtle forms of disharmony, maladjustment and dis-ease, mental and emotional as well as physical, until once more his range is commensurate with the Universe. In such a way he will draw just so much nearer the incomparable ideal set forth in The Voice of the Silence: "Let thy Soul lend its ear to every cry of pain like as the lotus bares its heart to drink the morning sun. Let not the fierce Sun dry one tear of pain before thyself hast wiped it from the sufferer's eye. But let each burning human tear drop on thy heart and there remain; nor ever brush it off until the pain that caused it is removed." 

Joy 
The value of this exercise lies in the effect it has on envy and jealousy, modes of thought which definitely cramp the thinker's mind. The mind which responds whole-heartedly at news of a friend's success or happiness, even though it be attained at the expense of its own, is free from the destructive jealousy which, rooted in egotism, is too often the father of hate. The essence of the exercise lies in being glad on another's account, and is thus an excellent antidote to the narrow claims of self; hence the translation of mudita as "sympathetic joy." Here again, begin the exercise by thinking of a friend who is filled with joy at some good fortune, whether physical or mental, and then enlarge the scope of thought to cover all who rejoice for any reason, whether the cause for rejoicing be in your eyes sufficient or no. 

Equanimity
It is difficult to find an English word to represent upekkha. Detachment is sometimes used, as also dispassion and serenity. The idea is conveyed in the stanza of the Sutta Nipata. "A heart untouched by worldly things, a heart that is not swayed by sorrow, a heart passionless, secure, that is the greatest blessing." The same idea is echoed in Kipling's immortal lines "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat these two imposters just the same." Its essence lies in rising above the self-identification with others' feelings which is to some extent involved in the radiations of compassion and joy. As the commentator says, "The salient characteristic of equanimity is evolving a central position towards others, its function is seeing others impartially, its manifestation is the quenching of both aversion and sycophancy, its proximate cause is the seeing how each belongs to the continuity of his own karma."

It must not, however, be confused with indifference, which is the outcome of a closing of the mind to others' suffering and joy, and therefore the very opposite of the virtue of compassion. It is in the words of the Bhagavad Gita, "A constant unwavering steadiness of heart upon the arrival of every event whether favourable or unfavourable," and is achieved by moving in consciousness towards a central point of view, so that events are viewed from the source of causes instead of the circumference of the circle where they show forth as effects. Strive to infuse your own mind with this quality, then feel it equally towards a friend and enemy, and so by gradual stages to all forms of life, thus, after passing through love, compassion and sympathetic joy, returning to that inner equilibrium which the outward events of daily life should be unable to destroy.  (Concentration and Meditation, Christmas Humphreys, 106-111)

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Through the Gates of Gold - Chapter 3 – The Initial Effort - Part 3

Here the author delves into the process of growth on the subtle planes:
And now let us consider how the initial difficulty of fastening the interest on that which is unseen is to be overcome. Our gross senses refer only to that which is objective in the ordinary sense of the word; but just beyond this field of life there are finer sensations which appeal to finer senses.


An interesting description  in terms of radiation is given:
Here we find the first clew to the stepping-stones we need. Man looks from this point of view like a point where many rays or lines center; and if he has the courage or the interest to detach himself from the simplest form of life, the point, and explore but a little way along these lines or rays, his whole being at once inevitably widens and expands, the man begins to grow in greatness.


An important point is raised concerning balanced growth, one needs to work on all aspects of one’s being, and not favour one aspect over another,  the image of a tree that grows unimpeded is used:
But it is evident, if we accept this illustration as a fairly true one, that the chief point of importance is to explore no more persistently on one line than another; else the result must be a deformity. We all know how powerful is the majesty and personal dignity of a forest tree which has had air enough to breathe, and room for its widening roots, and inner vitality with which to accomplish its unceasing task. It obeys the perfect natural law of growth, and the peculiar awe it inspires arises from this fact.


And then the question is asked:
How is it possible to obtain recognition of the inner man, to observe its growth and foster it?
Let us try to follow a little way the clew we have obtained, though words will probably soon be useless.


It is specified that it must be done alone and the image of climbing a mountain is used:
We must each travel alone and without aids, as the traveller has to climb alone when he nears the summit of the mountain. No beast of burden can help him there; neither can the gross senses or anything that touches the gross senses help him here. But for a little distance words may go with us.


Next is described a kind of essentialist dialectical ascension similar to the one described in Plato’s Symposium, climbing the ladder of divine love to arrive at the contemplation of universal beauty:
The tongue recognizes the value of sweetness or piquancy in food. To the man whose senses are of the simplest order there is no other idea of sweetness than this. But a finer essence, a more highly placed sensation of the same order, is reached by another perception. The sweetness on the face of a lovely woman, or in the smile of a friend, is recognized by the man whose inner senses have even a little — a mere stirring of — vitality. To the one who has lifted the golden latch the spring of sweet waters, the fountain itself whence all softness arises, is opened and becomes part of his heritage.


Contemplation of an essential idea is described as a fountain of waters of life and this process is what lift the iron bar on the heart previously mentioned:
But before this fountain can be tasted, or any other spring reached, any source found, a heavy weight has to be lifted from the heart, an iron bar which holds it down and prevents it from arising in its strength. The man who recognizes the flow of sweetness from its source through Nature, through all forms of life, he has lifted this, he has raised himself into that state in which there is no bondage.


This accomplishment makes one realise that we are a part of the great whole, that we are in touch with all life, that the whole is contained within ourselves.
He knows that he is a part of the great whole, and it is this knowledge which is his heritage. It is through the breaking asunder of the arbitrary bond which holds him to his personal center that he comes of age and becomes ruler of his kingdom. As he widens out, reaching by manifold experience along those lines which center at the point where he stands embodied, he discovers that he has touch with all life, that he contains within himself the whole.


And this realization carries us to the great waters of life, which are eternal and infinite:
And then he has but to yield himself to the great force which we call good, to clasp it tightly with the grasp of his soul, and he is carried swiftly on to the great, wide waters of real living. What are those waters? In our present life we have but the shadow of the substance. No man loves without satiety, no man drinks wine without return of thirst. Hunger and longing darken the sky and make the earth unfriendly. What we need is an earth that will bear living fruit, a sky that will be always full of light. Needing this positively, we shall surely find it.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Through the Gates of Gold, Chapter 3: The Initial Effort - Part 2

The idea of being motivated by an unseen reality is developed by comparing it to the cases of the inventor and the poet; and I think this analogy can be widened to that of the artist and musician or any creative act in general or even athletic disciplines or practical activities such as gardening (or motorcycle maintenance ;-). I suppose anyone who has cultivated these experiences can understand how the inspiration that grows in these areas are similar to the inspirations experienced on the spiritual path. And this lead to a development of one’s subtle bodies, or nourishing the wings of the soul, as Plato says.
“If you talk to an inventor, you will find that far ahead of what he is now doing he can always perceive some other thing to be done which he cannot express in words because as yet he has not drawn it into our present world of objects. That knowledge of the unseen is even more definite in the poet, and more inexpressible until he has touched it with some part of that consciousness which he shares with other men. But in strict proportion to his greatness he lives in the consciousness which the ordinary man does not even believe can exist, — the consciousness which dwells in the greater universe, which breathes in the vaster air, which beholds a wider earth and sky, and snatches seeds from plants of giant growth.”

“It is this place of consciousness that we need to reach out to. That it is not reserved only for men of genius is shown by the fact that martyrs and heroes have found it and dwelt in it. It is not reserved for men of genius only, but it can only be found by men of great soul.”

“It is the essential characteristic of the man of genius that he is comparatively indifferent to that fruit which is just within touch, and hungers for that which is afar on the hills. In fact he does not need the sense of contact to arouse longing. He knows that this distant fruit, which he perceives without the aid of the physical senses, is a subtler and a stronger food than any which appeals to them. And how is he rewarded! When he tastes that fruit, how strong and sweet is its flavor, and what a new sense of life rushes upon him! For in recognizing that flavor he has recognized the existence of the subtile senses, those which feed the life of the inner man; and it is by the strength of that inner man, and by his strength only, that the latch of the Golden Gates can be lifted.”

The need for restraining the activities of the external senses, a basic yoga concept, is discussed – and how one gains a richer inner life thereby:
“In fact it is only by the development and growth of the inner man that the existence of these Gates, and of that to which they admit, can be even perceived. While man is content with his gross senses and cares nothing for his subtile ones, the Gates remain literally invisible. As to the boor the gateway of the intellectual life is as a thing uncreate and non-existent, so to the man of the gross senses, even if his intellectual life is active, that which lies beyond is uncreate and non-existent, only because he does not open the book.”

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Astrology: Spring Equinox, March 20 2018


Earth, Water, Fire
One striking thing about the Spring Equinox chart, coming just three days after the new moon, is that there are no planets in air signs; Venus and Mercury are in impulsive, blunt Aries, with Mercury going retrograde on March 22. Therefore, it could be that communication will be difficult or choppy (or minimal) in this period. Moreover, this chart has seven planets in two signs: four (Uranus, Venus, Mercury, Sun) in fiery Aries and three (Pluto, Saturn, Mars) in earthy Capricorn and all four Aries planets are in difficult (square) aspects to one of the three in Capricorn, which provides the tension in this chart.
 
Dark Aries-Capricorn Face-Off
Highly charged Mars is still on the energized cusp of Capricorn, having arrived on the New Moon of March 17 and is in exaltation, bringing some dynamic Spring energy, and its passage through Capricorn as it joins Saturn and Pluto should fire up that already well-furnished house. The Sun squares a wide Mars/Saturn conjunction, bringing depressive, frustrated, harsh, rigid tendencies with some volatile and impulsive energy as well. There is also a Venus/Mercury/Uranus conjunction squaring Mars/Saturn/Pluto in a powerful face-off. I see this as a rather frustrated, clouded, unstable, resentful, vengeful, conflictual impulse that basically serves to amplify the powerful long-standing Pluto/Uranus square. This is probably one of the last big rebellious, revolutionary Uranian offensives (bolstered by a Mars/Uranus trine) before Uranus moves into Taurus in May. According to Bill Herbst: The Uranus–Pluto alignment is far and away the most important astrological factor for the entire decade of the 2010s— .” He briefly describes it as:” the Uranian impulse toward sudden and revolutionary change is combined with the Plutonian tendency toward radical, ruthless, and extreme use of power.”
 
Bright Moon and Jupiter Sextiles
The Moon and Jupiter, situated in the Taurus-Scorpio axis respectively, bookends the other planets in a six-house hemisphere with some easy trines and sextiles. The sensitive, serene Moon earth trines to Mars and Saturn should help temper the fiery Aries/Capricorn squares and the confident, ambitious Jupiter/Pluto sextile should do the same. Moreover, there is a dreamy, imaginative Moon/Neptune sextile which should enhance the mystical Piscean energy.
 
Positive Jupiter Trines with Sun/Chiron/Neptune
A key aspect is the Sun/Chiron conjunction trine to Jupiter. Chiron’s lengthy stay near the equinoctial axis continues to provide intriguing Christ-on-the-cross, Easter death/resurrection connections. Sun conjunct Chiron can deepen one’s sense of identity and purpose. In general, Spring symbolizes the rebirth of nature and the beginning of the period of victory of light over darkness and so on a personal level overcoming one’s insecurities and healing the wounds that the spear-like Mars/Saturn-Chiron square is driving home, Mars here serving to briefly revive the Chiron/Saturn square covered in last year’s posts. Some themes of Chiron square Saturn are: “Avoiding responsibility, agonizing over old hurts, letting resentment brew, self-punishing behavior, over-sensitivity, escapism to avoid pain, martyrdom.“ Some themes of Jupiter trine Chiron are: “Recognizing the need to heal, no-nonsense attitudes toward self-care, letting go of the past, taking appropriate responsibility, taking an objective view of one’s challenges, volunteering, mentoring”(Dena DeCastro).
 
The Sun/Chiron - Jupiter trine should help cut through the dark clouds in Aries and Capricorn and galvanise the solar-powered spring renewal process. Robert Hand writes of the Sun/Jupiter trine:
This is one of the most positive transits. Unless there is some powerful negative influence operating at the same time, this transit assures a day of good feeling, peace and harmony with other. But you should try to use this energy to accomplish something good and useful for yourself… The enthusiasm, optimism and buoyancy associated with this transit will enable you to project energies into the environment that will help your affairs work out as you want… You should used this ability to see your life as a whole and to take stock of what you are doing and to see how it fits your real needs. Because you are in a positive frame of mind, you can make changes in any area of your life without feeling a great sense of loss. So often in our unhappiness, we cling to something we really don’t need because we feel insecure. (Planets in Transit 73-74)
 
Jupiter’s retrograde motion in Scorpio could help one to dig deeper to connect with one’s inner being setting up a strong archetypal configuration for a fruitful spiritual regeneration. As H. P. Blavatsky writes: “Christ — the true esoteric SAVIOR — is no man, but the DIVINE PRINCIPLE in every human being. He who strives to resurrect the Spirit crucified in him by his own terrestrial passions, and buried deep in the "sepulcher" of his sinful flesh; he who has the strength to roll back the stone of matter from the door of his own inner sanctuary, he has the risen Christ in him. The "Son of Man" is no child of the bond-woman — flesh, but verily of the free-woman — Spirit, the child of man's own deeds, and the fruit of his own spiritual labor. " (The Esoteric Character of the Gospels, part I, Lucifer, Nov. 1887)
 
As noted in the previous astrology post, the Winter Solstice ushered in a less conflictual planetary configuration but the winter season experienced it’s share of turmoil, especially with the two rather powerful eclipses, (January 31/ February 15 – a 5-planet conjunction in difficult aspects with 5 other planets) marked by the tragic February 14 Florida high-school shooting. This was possibly partially due to residual energies remaining from previous eclipses and consequences of many prior difficult aspects, so we should witness a certain stabilization after Uranus leaves Aries setting us up for a six-month period of fairly smooth sailing with the Jupiter/Pluto sextile and Jupiter/Neptune trine.  With Jupiter now in Scorpio, Jupiter and Scorpio are both ambitious and intense; this could give a deep, generous altruism with possible harsh reprisals and a certain freakiness, the most obvious manifestation being the recent and numerous revelations (Jupiter extraversion) of the plague that is sexual harassment (Scorpio passion). Jupiter sextile Pluto gives a very dynamic, ambitious, self-confident outlook (with domineering tendencies). Jupiter / Neptune trine, a water (emotion) aspect, brings good intuitive, optimistic, idealistic, humanitarian and spiritual energy (with a tendency for over-optimism and risky gambling). Saturn in Capricorn is all about realism, responsibility, hard work, and conventional, conservative values.
 
In the previous phase, I observed that it could be a good period to consolidate all the changes and upheavals that previous phases of dissolution brought and begin to roll up one’s sleeves and work at building new structures and projects for the new directions that have hopefully emerged. This cycle would then be a good period to solidify and clarify the rebuilding, renewal projects begun in the previous cycle and raise the sails for the new life directions that circumstances have indicated, which could flourish in a nicely productive summer period.
 
References
Robert Hand, Planets in Transit
http://www.billherbst.com/Comm21.pdf
http://www.denadecastro.com/single-post/2017/01/13/The-Saturn-Chiron-Square-of-2017

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Introduction to Gnosticism: The Pistis Sophia, part 3



Next follows a description of the Light-powers which should be closely compared with the description of the 3 Vestures in the opening pages of the Codex. Then while SOPHIA pours forth hymns of joy, the Power becomes a Crown to her head, and her Hyle or material propensities begin to be purified, while the spiritual or Light-powers which she has still retained, join themselves with the “Vesture of Light” which has descended upon her. Then was the Statute fulfilled, and the First Mystery, in its turn, sent forth a great Power of Light, which joined with the first Power emanated by the “Light,” and became a great Stream of Light, this Power was the First Mystery itself Looking-without (Buddhi-Manas) on its own plane and the “glorified” Initiate in this terrestrial sphere.

It came forth from the First Mystery Looking-within (Atma-Buddhi) or “the Father.” When this is accomplished, PISTIS-SOPHIA, the Lower Manas, is purified again, and her Light-powers are strengthened and filled with Light, by their own co-partner of Light that Syzygy, without whom PISTIS-SOPHIA in the beginning thought she could reach the Light of Lights, and so fell into error. Still she is not even yet entirely freed from the bonds of Matter, for the higher she rises, the stronger are the Powers of Projections sent against her, who proceed to change their shapes, so that she now has to struggle against still greater foes which are emanated and directed by the strongest and subtlest Powers of Matter. Thereupon, PISTIS-SOPHIA is surrounded entirely with the Stream of Light and further supported on either hand by Michael and Gabriel, the “Sun” and “Moon.” The “Wings” of the “Great Bird” flutter, the “Winged Globe” unfolds its pinions, preparatory to its flight. For is not the Infinitude of Space “the Nest of the Eternal Bird, the flutter of whose wings produces life”? (S.D., II, 293).


Thus the last great battle commences. The First Mystery Looking-without, directs its attack against the “cruel crafty powers, passions incarnate” and causes PISTIS-SOPHIA to tread underfoot the Basilisk with the seven heads, destroying its Hyle, “So that no seed could arise from it henceforth,” and casting down the rest of the opposing host.* Thereupon PISTIS-SOPHIA sings Hymns of Praise on her being loosed from the bonds of Chaos. Thus was she set free and remembered. Yet the Great Self-willed One and Adamas, the Tyrant, were not yet entirely subdued, for the command had not yet come from the First Mystery, Looking-within, the Father.

Therefore does the First Mystery, Looking-without, seal their regions and those of their Rulers until 3 times are completed. That is until the completion of the 7th Round (for we are now in the 4th) when humanity will pass into the interplanetary Nirvana. This Nirvana however, is a state outside of space and time, as we know them, and therefore can be reached now and within, by very holy men; Naljors and Arhats, who can attain to the highest degree of the mystical contemplation, called in the East Samadhi. For then shall the “Gates of the Treasure of the Great Light” be opened, as described in our text, and the Nirvanic heights be crossed by the “Pilgrim.” (cf. pp. 169-181) (CW 60-62)

Though the careful student of this stupendous system may sense the unity of the scheme which underlies such manifold multiplicity, yet it is exceedingly difficult, without being excessively prolix, to point out all the correspondences. To all below it the Treasure of Light is a unity; and its Orders, Projections, etc., in other words its Hierarchies have but one influence. Therefore, when the contents of the Treasure are mentioned at an earlier period of instruction, as on page 18, they are simply stated without order. But now, a further veil is withdrawn, and the Treasure becomes the Inheritance of Light; this will be when the Evolution of Cosmos is completed, and by analogy at the end of a Round, or of seven Rounds, or again in Initiation when the plane of consciousness called the Treasure is reached by the neophyte. Then, just as Jesus in his passage to the Height, (pages 25 to 37) turned six of the Aeons to the Right and six to the Left, so will the Initiated enter into the Treasure and with their higher consciousness perceive its differences; thus will there be a Right and Left even in that which was previously supposed to be beyond such division. (Blavatsky, CW 13, p. 64)

[PS 239] “. . . And when they shall have brought him to the Virgin of Light (1), the Virgin of Light shall see the Sign of the Mystery of the Kingdom of the Ineffable, which is with him . . . . .”
1) The Virgin of Light. In the Chaldean cosmogony, Ana signifies the “invisible heaven”, the Heavenly Mother of the terrestrial sea: or esoterically, Akasa the mother of the Astral Light. Now Anaitis is one of the names of Kali, the female aspect. Sakti or Syzygy of Siva. She is also called the Annapãrna and Kanya, the Virgin. Her mystery name is Uma-Kanya, the “Virgin of Light.” (The Secret Doctrine I,91, 92.) In the Egyptian and other cosmogonies, the first septenary group of emanating potencies is called the “Virgins of Light” and is represented collectively by the six-pointed star; this star “refers to the six Forces or Powers of Nature. the six planes, principles, etc., etc., all synthesized by the seventh, or the central point in the Star.” (The Secret Doctrine, I, 125).

On reference to Table VI in the Commentary, it will be seen that there are seven Virgins of Light, all aspects of the one Virgin. Now there are, as of everything else, seven aspects, planes or principles of virgin matter, corresponding to the seven principles of man, from the pure, divine Akasa, to the terrestrial Astral Light, the sin-laden atmosphere of our earth. These are the septenary leaves of the Book of the Recording Angel, Le Livre de la Conscience, whither are instantly transferred the deeds, words and THOUGHTS of every minute of our lives, the Karmic record of each imprisoned soul. In the early portion of our text, we learned how the Initiate donned the spotless Vesture of Light containing the Five Words of Glory, and how they were potent to open all the portals and traverse all the Regions of the Rulers.
So also with every man. Each has his own vesture, reflecting his Karmic record, and “uttering the words” that will acquit or condemn him before the jealous guardians of nature’s inmost realms. Yes; each of us has a vesture woven by his own hands, but few are they who are clad in a “wedding garment” and fit to join in the Marriage Feast, when the King’s Son is united to his Heavenly Bride; in other words, to join that holy Brotherhood where each, to gain admittance, must be at one with the Christos within him. He who seeks admission in sin-soiled robes must, like the man in the parable (Matt., xxii) be cast forth into the “outer darkness” of earth-life, until he has learnt by the experience of suffering to weave for himself a garment worthy of the “Church (Assembly) of the Mystic Christ.”

Thus, then, the Souls of the Dead have to present, each severally, their Defences., Denials, and Tokens, as the text has it, and the nature of their after-death experiences and their subsequent return to earth-life will depend upon which of the seven Virgins they have to face in the “Hall of Judgment.” Thrice blessed is he who, clad in the Vesture of Glory, can pass by the Guardians of every threshold.

The above will throw much light on the Mysteries of the Osirified and the fate of the “defunct” that play so conspicuous a part in the “Wisdom of the Egyptians.” To give one instance out of a multitude: “In the book called by Champollion La Manifestation à la Lumière, there is a chapter on the Ritual which is full of mysterious dialogues, with addresses to various ‘Powers’ by the soul. Among these dialogues there is one which is more than expressive of the potentiality of the Word. The scene is laid in the ‘Hall of the Two Truths.’ The ‘Door,’ the ‘Hall of Truth,’ and even the various parts of the gate, address the soul which presents itself for admission. They all forbid it entrance unless it tells them their mystery, or mystic names.” (Isis Unveiled, II, 369.) (Blavatsky, CW 13, p. 76)

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Introduction to Gnosticism: The Pistis Sophia, part 2


The Name, which is no name, but a Sound or rather Motion. The mystery of the Logos, Verbum and Vâch has ever been concealed in the mystery of Names. These Names, in whatever tongue, or among whatever people, all represent permutations of the “Ineffable Name.”In this connection, the following passage from the Pistis-Sophia (page 378, 379) is of great interest. Jesus, in explaining the Mystery of the Light of his Father, the Baptisms of Smoke and of the Spirit of the Holy Light, and the Spiritual Anointing, to his Disciples, continues:

“Nothing, then, is more excellent than these Mysteries, into which ye inquire, unless it be the Mystery of the Seven Voices, and their Nine-and-forty Powers and Numberings (ps‘phôn), nor is any name more excellent than all of them, the Name, in which are all Names, and all Lights and all Powers. He therefore, who shall depart out of the Body of Hyle (Note: not necessarily at death only, but during Samâdhi, or mystic trance) knowing that Name, no Smoke (Note: i.e. no theological delusion) nor Authority, nor Ruler of the Sphere of Fate, nor Angel, nor Archangel, nor Power, shall be able to prevent that Soul; nay, if on quitting the World, a man shall speak that Name to the Fire, it shall be extinguished, and the Mist shall withdraw. And if he shall speak it to the Daemons and the Receivers of the Outer Mist (Darkness), and to its Rulers, Authorities, and Powers, all shall perish, so that their Flame is consumed, and they cry out, ‘Thou art hallowed, the sanctified one, thou blessed one, of all them who are holy.’ And if they shall speak that Name to the Receivers of Evil Condemnation, and their Authorities and all their powers, and also to Barbelo and the Invisible Deity, and the Three Triple-Powers, forthwith all will collapse in those regions, so that they shall be compelled to dissolve and perish, and cry out: ‘O Light of every Light, which is in the infinite Light, remember us also, and cleanse us’.”
 
With regard to this passage, it is remarked in The Secret Doctrine, II, 570: “It is easy to see who this Light and Name are: the light of Initiation and the name of the ‘Fire Self,’ which is no name, no action, but a Spiritual, ever-living Power, higher even than the ‘Invisible God, as this Power is ITSELF. (Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 13, pp. 42)
 
The 13 Repentences of Pistis Sophia

With page 181 of the Codex [Schwartze’s transcription], we come to the conclusion of the incident of the repentant Sophia. The 139 pages which deal with the subject demand the closest attention of the student of Esotericism, for not only have we here a history of the “pilgrimage” of the Soul, but also a description of the degrees of Initiation which correspond both to the natural degrees or states of consciousness, and to the cycles of human evolution. We will now endeavour to review this Pilgrimage of PISTIS-SOPHIA, following the path of her “transgression” or desire for Light, through her 13 Repentances, or Changes of Mind (Metanoiae, changes of the Nous or Manas), until her restoration to the Thirteenth Aeon, her proper region or plane.
 
To attain to the knowledge of Light, or the Logos, the soul has to descend into Matter or Hyle. Hence PISTIS-SOPHIA, desiring the Light, descends towards its Reflection from the Thirteenth Aeon, through the Twelve Aeons, into the depths of Chaos, where she is in danger of entirely losing her own innate Light or Spirit, of which she is continually deprived by the Powers of Matter. Having descended to the lowest depths of Chaos, she at length reaches the limit, and the path of her pilgrimage begins to lead upward to Spirit again. Thus she reaches the Balance; and still yearning for the Light, rounds the turning-point of the cycle, and changing the tendency of her thought or mind, recites her penitential hymns or Repentances.
 
Her chief enemy who, with his false Light, has drawn her down into Chaos, is Ialdabaoth, the Power with the appearance of a Lion, the Kama “principle”, the false “Light`’ in Chaos, which is assisted by the 24 Hylic or Material Projections, or Emanations, the reflections of the 24 Supernal Projections, the co-partners of PISTIS-SOPHIA, 48 in all, which together with that power or aspect from which the whole may at any time be viewed, make 49.*
* Compare the list of 25 Tattvas (24 + 1 or from another aspect 5 x 5) in the article entitled “The Hindu Theory of Vibration as the Producer of Sounds, Forms and Colors,” The Theosophist, Vol. XII, October and November, 1880, written by C. Kotyya, F.T.S.

Thus then she first utters 7 Repentances. At the 4th of these, the turning-point of a sub-cycle, she prays that the Image of Light may not be turned from her, for the time was come when the Repentance of “those who turn in the Lowest Regions” should be regarded, “the mystery which is made the Type of the Race.” (4th Round.) At the 6th the Light (Upper Manas) remits her transgression, in that she quitted her own Region and fell into Chaos; but the command had not yet come from the First Mystery (Buddhi) to free her entirely from Chaos. Therefore at the conclusion of her 7th Repentance, where she pleads that she has done it in ignorance through her love for the Light, Jesus, the Initiate on the objective plane and the Light on the subjective plane, without the command of the First Mystery (i.e., the power of Manas alone without Buddhi), raises her up to a slightly less confined region in Chaos, but SOPHIA still knew not by whom it was done.
 
At the 9th Repentance the First Mystery partly accepted her prayer and sent Jesus, the Light, to help her secretly, that is, without the powers of the Aeons knowing it; then did PISTIS-SOPHIA recognize the Light. Her next 4 Hymns are sung knowingly to the Light, and are of the nature of thanksgiving, and of declaration that Karmic Justice shall shortly overtake her oppressors, while she prays to be delivered from her “transgression,” viz., the Kamic Power with the appearance of a Lion. After the 13th Repentance, Jesus again, of himself, without the First Mystery, emanated a brilliant Power of Light from himself, and sent it to aid SOPHIA, to rais her higher still in Chaos, until the command should come to free her entirely.†


† There are, therefore, 3 degrees of Chaos. (Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 13, pp. 60-61)

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Introduction to Gnosticism: The Pistis Sophia, part 1


Blavatsky is well-known as a pioneer in the study of Jewish and Christian Gnosticism and towards the end of her life, delivered a masterful set of lectures on the Pistis Sophia, the great mystical classic of Christian Gnosticism.  (with the able assistance of Hermetic/Gnostic scholar G.R.S. Mead) Her comments can be quite complex and intricate; however, the passages presented in the next series of posts give a satisfying explanation of some of the general concepts underlying this great work.

The reader should carefully study the recital of the “Fall” of Sophia, as told in the Philosophumena (p. 107) and compare it with the allegorical drama of the text which follows. It will be noticed that the first and last of the female Aeôns of the Dodecad, are respectively PISTIS and SOPHIA. The Soul was the one subject, and the knowledge of the Soul the one object of all the ancient Mysteries. In the “Fall” of PISTIS-SOPHIA, and her rescue by her Syzygy, JESUS, we see the ever-enacted drama of the suffering and ignorant Personality, which can only be saved by the immortal Individuality, or rather by its own yearning towards IT. In reading this portion of the Pistis-Sophia, the mysterious Duality of the Manas should always be remembered, and this key applied to every line.

As Wisdom was the end of the Gnôsis, so the pivot of the whole Gnostic teaching was the so-called “Sophia-Mythus.” For whether we interpret the allegory from the macro- or from the micro-cosmic standpoint, it is always the evolution of MIND, that the Initiates of old have sought to teach us. The emanation and evolution of Mahat in cosmogenesis, and of Manas in anthropogenesis, was ever the study of the One Science. The dwelling of Sophia was in the Midst, between the Upper and Lower Worlds, in the Ogdoad. Below was the Hebdomad or Seven Spheres, governed by seven Hierarchies of Rulers. Truly hath “Wisdom built for herself a House, and rested it on Seven Pillars” (Proverbs ix, 1 and again: “She is on the lofty Heights; she stands in the midst of the Paths, for she taketh her seat by the Gates of the Powerful Ones (the Rulers), she tarrieth at the Entrances” (Ibid., viii, 2).

Moreover, Sophia was the Mediatrix between the Upper and Lower Region, and at the same time projected the Types or Ideas of the Plerôma into the Universe. Now, why should Sophia, who was originally of a Pneumatic or Spiritual Essence, be in the Middle Space, an exile from her true Dwelling? Such was the great mystery which the Gnôsis endeavoured to solve. Seeing again that this “Fall of the Soul” from its original purity involved it in suffering and misery, the object that the Gnostic teachers had ever before them, was identical with the problem of “Sorrow,” which Gautama Sâkyamuni set himself to resolve. Moreover, the solution of the two systems was identical in that they traced the Cause of Sorrow to Ignorance, and to remove this, pointed out the Path to Self-knowledge. The Mind was to instruct the Mind: “self-analyzing reflection” was to be the Way. The Material Mind (Kâma-Manas) was to be purified and so become one with the Spiritual Mind (Buddhi-Manas). In the nomenclature of the Gnosis, this was expressed by the Redemption of Sophia by the Christos, who delivered her from her ignorance (agnoia) and sufferings. It is not then surprising that we should find Sophia, whether regarded as a unity, or as a duality, or again as cosmic mind, possessed of many names.

Among these may be mentioned the Mother, or All-Mother, Mother of the Living or Shining Mother; the Power Above; the Holy Spirit (all from the macrocosmic standpoint); and again She of the Left-hand, as opposed to Christos, He of the Right-hand; the Man-woman; Prounikos or the Lustful-one; Matrix; Paradise; Eden; Achamôth; the Virgin; Barbelo; Daughter of Light; Merciful Mother; Consort of the Masculine One; Revelant of the Perfect Mysteries; Perfect Mercy; Revelant of the Mysteries of the whole Magnitude; Hidden Mother; She who knows the Mysteries of the Elect; the Holy Dove, which has given birth to the two Twins; Ennoia; Ruler; and The Lost or Wandering Sheep, Helena. In the Valentinian System, Sophia gives birth to the Christoswith a Shadow.”

The above terms are taken from Smith and Wace’s Dictionary of Christian Biography, art. “Sophia,” where we read: “In the Syriac text of the Acts published by Dr. Wright (Apocryphal Acts of Apostles, pp. 238-245) we find the beautiful Hymn of the Soul, which has been sent down from her heavenly home to fetch the pearl guarded by the serpent, but has forgotten here below her heavenly mission till she is reminded of it by a letter from ‘the father, the mother, and the brother,’ performs her task, receives back again her glorious dress, and returns to her old home.” (Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 13, pp. 40-41)