Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Musings on the True Theosophists Path, Part 3 - William Q. Judge

This completes the series of musings, originally published over a 6-month period. I think it goes to show how, contrary to popular belief, Theosophy has quite a down-to-earth, pragmatic, practical daily living philosophy to it.

If you desire to labor for the good of the world, it will be unwise for you to strive to include it all at once in your efforts. If you can help elevate or teach but one soul — that is a good beginning, and more than is given to many.

Fear nothing that is in Nature and visible. Dread no influence exerted by sect, faith, or society. Each and every one of them originated upon the same basis — Truth, or a portion of it at least. You may not assume that you have a greater share than they, it being needful only, that you find all the truth each one possesses. You are at war with none. It is peace you are seeking, therefore it is best that the good in everything is found. For this brings peace.

It has been written that he who lives the Life shall know the doctrine. Few there be who realize the significance of The Life.

It is not by intellectually philosophizing upon it, until reason ceases to solve the problem, nor by listening in ecstatic delight to the ravings of an Elemental clothed — whose hallucinations are but the offspring of the Astral — that the life is realized. Nor will it be realized by the accounts of the experiences of other students. For there be some who will not realize Divine Truth itself, when written, unless it be properly punctuated or expressed in flowery flowing words.

Remember this: that as you live your life each day with an uplifted purpose and unselfish desire, each and every event will bear for you a deep significance — an occult meaning — and as you learn their import, so do you fit yourself for higher work.

There are no rose-gardens upon the way in which to loiter about, nor fawning slaves to fan one with golden rods of Ostrich plumes. The Ineffable Light will not stream out upon you every time you may think you have turned up the wick, nor will you find yourself sailing about in an astral body, to the delight of yourself and the astonishment of the rest of the world, simply because you are making the effort to find wisdom.

He who is bound in any way — he who is narrow in his thoughts — finds it doubly difficult to pass onward. You may equally as well gain wisdom and light in a church as by sitting upon a post while your nails grow through your hands. It is not by going to extremes or growing fanatical in any direction that the life will be realized.

Be temperate in all things, most of all in the condemnation of other men. It is unwise to be intemperate or drunken with wine. It is equally unwise to be drunken with temperance. Men would gain the powers; or the way of working wonders. Do you know, O man, what the powers of the Mystic are? Do you know that for each gift of this kind he gives a part of himself? That it is only with mental anguish, earthly sorrow, and almost his heart's blood, these gifts are gained? Is it true, think you, my brother, that he who truly possesses them desires to sell them at a dollar a peep, or any other price? He who would trade upon these things finds himself farther from his goal than when he was born.

There are gifts and powers. Not just such as you have created in your imagination, perhaps. Harken to one of these powers: He who has passed onward to a certain point, finds that the hearts of men lie spread before him as an open book, and from there onward the motives of men are clear. In other words he can read the hearts of men. But not selfishly; should he but once use this knowledge selfishly, the book is closed — and he reads no more. Think you, my brothers, he would permit himself to sell a page out of this book?

Time — that which does not exist outside the inner circle of this little world — seems of vast importance to the physical man. There comes to him at times, the thought that he is not making any progress, and that he is receiving nothing from some Mystic source. From the fact that he has the thought that no progress is being made the evidence is gained that he is working onward. Only the dead in living bodies need fear. That which men would receive from Mystic sources is frequently often repeated, and in such a quiet, unobtrusive voice, that he who is waiting to hear it shouted in his ear, is apt to pass on unheeding.

Urge no man to see as yourself, as it is quite possible you may see differently when you awake in the morning. It is wiser to let the matter rest without argument. No man is absolutely convinced by that. It is but blowing your breath against the whirlwind.

It was at one time written over the door: "Abandon Hope, all ye who enter here."* It has taken hundreds of years for a few to come to the realization that the wise men had not the slightest desire for the company of a lot of hopeless incurables in the mysteries. There is to be abandoned hope for the gratification of our passions, our curiosities, our ambition or desire for gain. There is also another Hope — the true; and he is a wise man who comes to the knowledge of it. Sister to Patience, they together are the Godmothers of Right Living, and two of the Ten who assist the Teacher.**
American Mystic - The Path – February 1887

* Dante, Divine Comedy, Inferno III, 9,  "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate". A similar explanation can be foundin the writings of 13th century mystic Jacopone da Todi.
** This can be seen as a reference to the Ten Paramitas.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Blavatsky and the Kabbalah 2 : the Sefer Yetzirah

In another major Blavatskyan piece on the Kabbalah, "Tetragrammaton", (Theosophist, November, 1887), she again references Sefer Yetzirah 1,9 via MacGregor Mathers (20-21) - then a member of the TS - of whom she writes: 'there are few more learned Kabbalists in England, though I do not certainly agree with all his views. But on this question we are in almost full agreement." The article makes extensive use of his just published The Kabbalah Unveiled, (something of an esoteric classic, still in print today, via Penguin Books). I think it's still a pretty good intro to the Kabbalah. Another prominent kabbalist and Theosophist W.W. Westcott hadactually released a translation of the Sefer Yetzirah in 1887 - and the translation seems similar, but not exactly the same as in the Secret Doctrine: http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/yetzirah.htm
She also makes some interesting personal asides: " I have studied the Kabbala under two learned Rabbis, one of whom was an initiate, and there was no difference between the two teachings (the esoteric Eastern and the Western) in this instance."

In this instance the reference is used to support the notion of the feminine aspect of the Holy Spirit:

"The circle emanates a light which becomes to our vision four-cornered; this unfolds and becomes seven." Here the "circle" is the first sephira "the kether" or crown, the Risha Havurah, or "white head," and the "upper skull." [It is not limitless, but temporary in this phenomenal world.] It emanates the two lower Sephiroth (Chokhmah and Binah, which are "Father-Mother") and thus form the triangle, the first or upper triad of the Sephirothal Tree. This is the one or the monad of Pythagoras. But, it has emanated from the Seven Elohim, male and female, who are called the "Upper Father-Mother." These are themselves the reflections of the Female Holy Spirit, of which it is said in Sepher Jezirah "One is She, the Elohim of life." How far yet from are these numbers of the Jewish Kabbala, for they are in fact only secret numbers and glyphs. Microprosopus comes the fourth.’’

This particular interpretation is based on a grammatical consideration of the Hebrew text:
"The monotheists have taken (and are still taking) advantage of the profound esotericism of the Kabala to apply the name by which the One Supreme Essence is known to its manifestation, the Sephiroth-Elohim, and call it Jehovah. But this is quite arbitrary and against all reason and logic, as the term Elohim is a plural noun, identical with the plural word Chiim, often compounded with the Elohim.*
* The sentence in the Sepher Jezirah and elsewhere: “Achath-Ruach-Elohim-Chiim” denotes the Elohim as androgynous at best, the feminine element almost predominating, as it would read: “One is She the Spirit of the Elohim of Life.” As said above, Echath (or Achath) is feminine, and Echod (or Achod) masculine, both meaning One.’’(SD I, 130)

So far her use of Sefer Yetzirah 1.9 to support her notion of a metaphysical tetrad is quite varied and flexible, albeit rather short and cryptic. Howeve, in SD I, 92, she gives a full translation of Sefer Yetzirah 1.9-12 (not just 9-10), which gives a more complete illustration of her concept:

“The “Sacred Animals” are found in the Bible as well as in the Kabala, and they have their meaning (a very profound one, too) on the page of the origins of Life. In the Sepher Jezirah it is stated that “God engraved in the Holy Four the throne of his glory, the Ophanim (Wheels or the World-Spheres), the Seraphim,* the Sacred Animals, and the ministering angels, and from these three (the Air, Water, and Fire or Ether) he formed his habitation.” Thus was the world made “through three Seraphim — Sepher, Saphar, and Sipur,” or “through Number, Numbers, and Numbered.” With the astronomical key these “Sacred Animals” become the signs of the Zodiac.
* This is the literal translation from the IXth and Xth Sections: “Ten numbers without what? One: the spirit of the living God . . . . who liveth in eternities! Voice and Spirit and Word, and this is the Holy Spirit. Two: Spirit out of Spirit. He designed and hewed therewith twenty-two letters of foundation, three Mothers and seven double and Twelve single, and one spirit out of them. Three: Water out of spirit; he designed and hewed with them the barren and the void, mud and earth. He designed them as a flowerbed, hewed them as a wall, covered them as a paving. Four: Fire out of water. He designed and hewed therewith the throne of glory and the wheels, and the seraphim and the holy animals and the ministering angels, and of the three He founded his dwelling, as it is said, He makes his angels spirits and his servants fiery flames!” Which words “founded his dwelling” show clearly that in the Kabala, as in India, the Deity was considered as the Universe, and was not, in his origin, the extra-cosmic God he is now.’’

Below is Aryeh Kaplan's translation of the Gra version:

1:9 Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: One is the Breath of the Living God, blessed and benedicted be the Name of the Life of worlds. The Voice of Breath and Speech. And this is the Holy Breath (Ruach HaKodesh).
1:10 Two: Breath from Breath. With it engrave and carved twenty-two foundation letters - three, Mothers, seven Doubles, and twelve Elementals - and one Breath is from them.
1:11 Three: Water and Breath. With it he engraved and carved (22 letters from) chaos and void, mire and clay. He engraved them like a garden plot. He carved them like a wall. He covered them like a ceiling. (And he poured snow over them and it became dust as it is written ''For to snow He said, 'Become Earth' (Job 37.6)''
1:12 Four: Fire from water. With it He engraved and carved the Throne of Glory, Seraphim, Ophanim, holy Chayot, and Ministering Angels. From the three He established His dwelling, as it is written, "He makes His angels of breaths, His ministers from flaming fire" (Psalms 104:4).

Moreover, Kaplan, commenting on this passage, notes that: "According to the philosophers, Water represents the primeval matter, while Fire represents the primitive aether." (p. 78) again corroborating Blavatsky’s statement that the oriental theosophical notion is compatible with the kabbalistic interpretation. Morever, hopefully this article shows that despite the obscurities of the references, Blavatsky demonstrates a more than passing knowledge of the Sefer Yetzirah and that despite various difficulties and obstacles, her writings hold up quite well when compared with more recent reference sources.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Blavatsky and the Kabbalah 1 : the Sefer Yetzirah

HPB wrote rather extensively on the Kabbalah, for example, Isis Unveiled, chapter 5, the Secret Doctrine, I,2,5 "The Hidden Deity", and the The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 3, ‘’The Eastern Gupta Vidya and the Kabalah’’. Here's a somewhat cryptic passage referencing the Sepher Yetzireh (SD I, p. 337). The reference is re-used on p. 447 and is actually an uncredited passage from  Isis Unveiled (p. 272.):

‘’In the Sepher Jezireh, the Kabalistic Book of Creation, the author has evidently repeated the words of Manu. In it, the Divine Substance is represented as having alone existed from the eternity, boundless and absolute; and as having emitted from itself the Spirit.* “One is the Spirit of the living God, blessed be Its name, which liveth for ever! Voice, Spirit, and Word, this is the Holy Spirit;”† and this is the Kabalistic abstract Trinity, so unceremoniously anthropomorphised by the Christian Fathers. From this triple One emanated the whole Kosmos. First from One emanated number Two, or Air (the Father), the creative element; and then number Three, Water (the Mother), proceeded from the air; Ether or Fire completes the mystic four, the Arba-il.‡ “When the Concealed of the Concealed wanted to reveal Himself, he first made a point (primordial point, or the first Sephiroth, air, or Holy Ghost), shaped into a sacred form (the ten Sephiroth, or the Heavenly man), and covered it with a rich and splendid garment, that is the world.”§’’

Footnote(s) ——————————————— * The manifested Spirit; Absolute, Divine Spirit is one with absolute Divine Substance: Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are one in essence. Therefore, Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance in their primal character are one also.
† “Sepher Jezireh,” chap. 1, Mishna ix. ‡ Ibid. It is from Arba that Abram is made to come.
§ “Sohar,” I., 2a.

Added explanations to this passage appear in the SD Vol. 3, p.181 (note the editors add a more accurate translation, but this doesn’t affect the interpretation, as will be shown).

‘’As is constantly shown in the Zohar, the Infinite Unity, or Ain-Suph, is ever placed outside human thought and appreciation; and in Sepher Jetzirah we see the Spirit of God - the Logos, not the Deity itself - One is the Spirit of the Living God . . Who liveth forever. Voice, Spirit, [of the spirit], and Word: this is the Holy Spirit, [ Mishna, i. 9.] Three-in-one and Four - - and the Quaternary. From this Cube emanates the whole Kosmos.’’

There's another reference to that passage in SD 3- “The “Zohar” on Creation and the Elohim” which gives further details, this time it's quoted from the British Kabbalist MacGregor Mathers from a private correspondence that HPB reproduces:

“In the Sepher Yetzirah,or Book of Formation, we read:“One is She the Ruach Elohim Chum - (Spirit of the Living Elohim). . . . Voice, Spirit, and Word; and this is She, the Spirit of the Holy One.” Here again we see the intimate connection which exists between the Holy Spirit and the Elohim. Furthermore, farther on in this same Book of Formation- which is be it remembered, one of the oldest of the Kabalistical Books, and whose authorship is ascribed to Abraham the Patriarch - we shall find the idea of a Feminine Trinity in the first place, from whom a masculine Trinity proceeds; or as it is said in the text: “Three Mothers whence proceed three Fathers.” And yet this double Triad forms, as it were, but one complete Trinity. Again it is worthy of note that the Second and Third Sephiroth (Wisdom and Understanding) are both distinguished by feminine names, Chokmah and Binah, notwithstanding that to the former more particularly the masculine idea, and to the latter the feminine, are attributed, under the titles of Abba and Aima (or Father and Mother).”(p.168)

For the Kabalistic tetrad, it is not obvious to me how a trinity is derived from Sefer Yetzirah 1, 9. I think Boris de Zirkoff (in his edition of the Secret Doctrine) adds an appropriate reference to 1, 12 which would more clearly refer to the tetrad of one, air, water, and fire.

Interestingly, in Aryeh Kaplan's commentary of the Sefer Yetzirah 1, 9 (Weiser, 1997, p.71) he refers to a kabalistic tetrad of Keter, Chakmah, Binah and Ruach Hakodesh which is strikingly similar to Blavatsky’s interpretation:"This 'Holy Spirit' can be seen as the intermediate between Voice and Speech. It is thus also intermediate between Chakmah and Binah consciousness. Ruach HaKodesh is the divine inspiration and information that one can bring back from a state of Chakmah consciousness to one's normal state of Binah consciousness. Such Ruach HaKodesh is like Keter, which stands between Chakman and Binah, but which is above them. Both Chakhmah and Binah are functions of the mind itself, while Ruach HaKodesh is the 'breath of God' mentioned in the verse, 'I will fill him with the Breath of God, with Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge.’’

This article to be concluded in part two.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Blavatsky on the Golgotha of Life

A lovely quote for this time of year:

"Starting upon the long journey immaculate; descending more and more into sinful matter, and having connected himself with every atom in manifested Space — the Pilgrim, having struggled through and suffered in every form of life and being, is only at the bottom of the valley of matter, and half through his cycle, when he has identified himself with collective Humanity. This, he has made in his own image. In order to progress upwards and homewards, the “God” has now to ascend the weary uphill path of the Golgotha of Life. It is the martyrdom of self-conscious existence. Like Visvakarman he has to sacrifice himself to himself in order to redeem all creatures, to resurrect from the many into the One Life."( Secret Doctrine1 - 268)

"Golgotha, Consummatum est!" by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)

Musings on the True Theosophist's Path, Part 2 - William Q. Judge

William Q Judge wrote many interesting articles in a short 10-year span, but today we present a basic, classic article, one that never grows old... Written in a kind of mystical, proverbial tone that was part of most 19th-century mystical writers' repertoire, but not a style that he used very often... It cites another classic Light on the Path, and it is similar in style to that remarkable text...

"Work as those work who are ambitious. — Respect life as those do who desire it. — Be happy as those are who live for happiness." — Light on the Path.

We are tried in wondrous ways, and in the seemingly unimportant affairs of life, there often lie the most dangerous of the temptations.

Labor, at best, is frequently disagreeable owing either to mental or physical repugnance. When he who seeks the upward path, begins to find it, labor grows more burdensome, while at the time, he is, owing to his physical condition, not so well fitted to struggle with it. This is all true, but there must be no giving in to it. It must be forgotten. He must work, and if he cannot have the sort he desires or deems best suited to him, then must he take and perform that which presents itself. It is that which he must needs. It is not intended either, that he do it to have it done. It is intended that he work as if it was the object of his life, as if his whole heart was in it. Perhaps he may be wise enough to know that there is something else, or that the future holds better gifts for him, still this also must to all intents be forgotten, while he takes up his labor, as if there were no to-morrow.

Remember that life is the outcome of the Ever-Living. If you have come to comprehend a little of the mystery of life, and can value its attractions according to their worth; these are no reasons why you should walk forth with solemn countenance to blight the enjoyments of other men. Life to them is as real, as the mystery is to you. Their time will come as yours has, so hasten it for them, if you can by making life brighter, more joyous, better.

If it be your time to fast, put on the best raiment you have, and go forth, not as one who fasts, but as one who lives for life.

Do your sighing and crying within you. If you cannot receive the small events of life and their meanings without crying them out to all the world, think you that you are fitted to be trusted with the mysteries?

The doing away with one or certain articles of diet, in itself, will not open the sealed portals. If this contained the key, what wise beings must the beasts of the field be, and what a profound Mystic must Nebuchadnezar have been, after he was "turned out to grass!"

There are some adherents of a faith, which has arisen in the land, who deem it wise to cast away all things that are distasteful to them; to cut asunder the ties of marriage because they deem it will interfere with their spiritual development, or because the other pilgrim is not progressed enough. Brothers, there lives not the man who is wise enough to sit as a judge upon the spiritual development of any living being. He is not only unwise but blasphemous who says to another: "Depart! You impede my exalted spiritual development."

The greatest of all truths lies frequently in plain sight, or veiled in contraries. The impression has gone abroad that the Adept or the Mystic of high degree, has only attained his station by forsaking the association of his fellow creatures or refusing the marriage tie. It is the belief of very wise Teachers that all men who had risen to the highest degrees of Initiation, have at some time passed through the married state. Many men, failing in the trials, have ascribed their failure to being wedded, precisely as that other coward, Adam, after being the first transgressor cried out "It was Eve."

One of the most exalted of the Divine Mysteries lies hidden here — therefore, Oh Man, it is wise to cherish that which holds so much of God and seek to know its meaning; not by dissolution and cutting asunder, but by binding and strengthening the ties. Our most Ancient Masters knew of this and Paul also speaks of it. (Ephesians v. 32.)

Be patient, kindly and wise, for perhaps in the next moment of life, the light will shine out upon thy companion, and you discover that you are but a blind man, claiming to see. Remember this, that you own not one thing in this world. Your wife is but a gift, your children are but loaned to you. All else you possess is given to you only while you use it wisely. Your body is not yours, for Nature claims it as her property. Do you not think, Oh Man, that it is the height of arrogance for you to sit in judgment upon any other created thing, while you, a beggar, are going about in a borrowed robe?

If misery, want and sorrow are thy portion for a time, be happy that it is not death. If it is death be happy there is no more of life.

You would have wealth, and tell of the good you would do with it. Truly will you lose your way under these conditions. It is quite probable, that you are as rich as you ever will be, therefore, desire to do good with what you have — and do it. If you have nothing, know that it is best and wisest for you. Just so surely as you murmur and complain just so surely will you find that "from him that hath not, shall be taken even that which he hath." This sounds contradictory, but in reality is in most harmonious agreement. Work in life and the Occult are similar; all is the result of your own effort and will. You are not rash enough to believe that you will be lifted up into Heaven like the Prophet of old — but you really hope some one will come along and give you a good shove toward it.

Know then, Disciples, that you only can lift yourselves by your own efforts. When this is done, you may have the knowledge that you will find many to accompany you on your heretofore lonely journey; but neither they or your Teacher will be permitted to push or pull you one step onward.

This is all a very essential part of your preparation and trial for Initiation.

You look and wait for some great and astounding occurrence, to show you that you are going to be permitted to enter behind the veil; that you are to be Initiated. It will never come. He only who studies all things and learns from them, as he finds them, will be permitted to enter, and for him there are no flashing lightnings or rolling thunder. He who enters the door, does so as gently and imperceptibly, as the tide rises in the nighttime.

Live well your life. Seek to realize the meaning of every event. Strive to find the Ever Living and wait for more light. The True Initiate does not fully realize what he is passing through, until his degree is received. If you are striving for light and Initiation, remember this, that your cares will increase, your trials thicken, your family make new demands upon you. He who can understand and pass through these patiently, wisely, placidly — may hope.
American Mystic - The Path – October 1886

Part 3