Monday, 14 October 2019

The Doctrine of the Logos - A comparative study

The doctrine of the Logos is fundamental in Theosophical metaphysics and one could say that it is an esoteric concept found in many different mystical traditions and, as shown in Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled, is related to the Trinity. Therefore an esoteric understanding of the Logos and the Trinity are part of Theosophical metaphysics. Below are a few texts that aim to sketch out a groundwork for a comparative study, beginning with Philo of Alexandria, a key purveyor of the Logos doctrine:
Whatever we can know or say about God, whether through what Scripture tells us, or through our reason, belongs within the intelligible world. It is not only the Powers that belong there, but there too is located the Divine Logos, Divine Reason. The multi-faceted capacities of God, which we can know through our reason, are summarizable in the Divine Logos. … (Samuel Sandmel, Philo of Alexandria - An introduction, New York Oxford University Press, 1979, 94)
Jewish Scripture
Obviously, it has some Greek ancestry, for at the least the word, and some aspects of the idea, are known to be even earlier than Plato. The term is especially prominent, however, in Stoic thought, serving there as the reason which is in-dwelling in the universe and thereby available to all thinking men. (...)* There is also a Jewish ancestry to logos, found in the idea of wisdom. A passage, 1 Kings 3:5-12, tells that Solomon prayed to God for gifts, and inasmuch as he did not pray for long life or wealth but only for wisdom, God granted him wisdom. That is to say, wisdom is a gift from God. Various passages in Scripture, such a Job, chapter 28, describe how impossible it is for men to acquire wisdom by their own efforts, but it can be acquired only as God’s gift. So fully associated is wisdom with God that it was present at creation and available to him as he fashioned the word (Proverbs 8:22-32). That God bestows it makes wisdom kindred to God’s revelation, and in a sense Torah, ‘’divine teaching,’’ and hokma, ‘’wisdom,’’ are synonymous. The presence in Scripture of the Book of Proverbs, a book of wisdom, from a human attribute into a divine capacity which rare men come to possess. Moreover, there are passages in Proverbs, such as chapter 8, wherein wisdom is personified; she builds a house, she beckons to people.
Hokma-Sophia and Torah-Logos
When Greek and Jewish thought met, after the conquest by Alexander the Great in 323, the inter-penetration of ideas brought it about that Hebrew hokma was equated with the Greek Sophia and Sophia with both Torah and Logos. There took place, before Philo’s time, a Hellenistic Jewish amalgam in which Torah-Logos were already intertwined with each other. Such an amalgam is found in the Wisdom of Solomon. (Sandmel, 98-99)
Sanskrit Vach-Latin Vox
The burnt offering was accompanied, as we have already said, by prayer, a hymn interpretive of the symbols, a hymn of praise (stouti), adding a spiritual to the material offering. This had been taught by Vach (the latin Vox), the sacred ‘’speech,’’ the ‘’Word,’’ the ‘’first of speaking beings,’’ the ‘’treasure of prayer,’’ whom one of the hymns of the fourth mandala of the Rig Veda celebrates in these magnificent words:-‘’I am queen and mistress of riches, I am wise… He who is born, who breathes, who hears, feeds with me on this sacred food. He who knows me not is lost. Listen then to me, for I speak words worthy of belief. I speak good things for the gods, and for the children of manu (men). Whom I love I make terrible, pious, wise, bright. … I traverse heaven and earth. I exist in all worlds, and extend towards the heavens. Like the wind, I breathe in all worlds. My greatness extends beyond this world, and reaches even beyond heaven itself.’’(…)
Vach, or Saravasti, the Goddess of Speech, the Sakti, or female form of Brahma, to whom frequent hymns are addressed in the Rig Veda, seems to have been worshipped as an audible manifestation of the Deity, corresponding to the Avalokitesvara, or Kwan Yin, the Sakti of Amitabha, of the later Buddhists-‘’the manifested voice (of the Deity).’’ (See the translation of The Confessional Services of the Great Compassionate Kwan Yin,  by Rec. S. Beal. Journ. R.A.S. Vol. ii., part ii. (New Series))
The Honover of the Zend Avesta seems to have had much the same character as Vach, but to have been considered the ‘’Word,’’ or command, of the Deity employed in calling creation into existence, and was therefore the ‘’Creating Word,’’ or the ‘’Word Creator.’’
The Wisdom (Chochmah) of Solomon, as the idea is first presented in the 8th and 9th chapters of the Book of Proverbs, and afterwards more completely developed in the book called ‘’The Wisdom of Solomon,’’ appears to be an attempt to define an intermediate, or mediating power between God and man- a divine teacher and instructor to lead man to God, or an attempt to personify the action of the Deity in the moral world.
The Memra, or Word, of the Jews-an expression first employed in the Targum of Onkelos-is one of the phrases so commonly substituted by the Jews for the name of God in all that related to the relations of the Deity with man.
The Logos of the Greek and later Hebrew philosophy was used in a double sense: one as Reason, ‘’the immanent word,’’ logos endiatheros; the other, ‘’the enunciative word’’-the Word, properly so called, logos prophorikos. The one prepared men’s minds for the revelation of the Holy Spirit, the other for the manifestation of the Son of God.(…)
‘’GLORY BE TO THE MANIFESTED WORD’’ may be read over the doors of nearly all the Buddhist temples in China and Japan. This Buddhist ascription of praise to Kwan-yin is Nmamo Kwan-shai-yin Pusah,i.e., ‘’Glory of the Bodhisatwa Kwan-shai-yin.’’ Now shai-yin is the phrase which the first translators of the Gospel of St. John into Chinese designed to employ as equivalent to the Logos of the Evangelist; and the word kwan, although commonly rendered in the active voice as ‘’he or she who beholds,’’ is really the equivalent of the Sansrit Avalokita, that is, ‘’the manifested.’’ The whole phrase, therefore, (…) is, ‘’Glory be to the manifested Word or voice, Bodhisatwa,’’ where Bodhisatwa implies a Supreme Being in a human form.
The connection of the Wisdom (Chochmah) of Solomon with this worship of Vach and Honover is remarkable and interesting, especially when it is remembered that Solomon’s fleets were in direct communication with the East, and when a comparison is made of the hymn in the text with the 8th and 9th chapters of Proverbs; though, as might be expected, the doctrine in the latter is purer, and bears evidences of the acquaintance of the writer with divine revelation. In these passages Wisdom is anterior to Creation, and witnesses, but takes no part in the act. Her ‘’delights were with the sons of men’’; her office to guide and direct mankind to choose the better path.  (A Manual of the Ancient History of the East, Volume 2, François Lenormant, Elisabeth Chevallier, 1871. pp.15-16)
In Islamic traditions, the term used is kalimah, meaning “word”, derived from the root klm, from which is also derived kallama (he spoke) and kalām (speech, speaking). All of these terms are used with respect to divine speech in the Qur’an.
In Sunni Islam, the concept of the logos has been given many different names by the denomination's metaphysicians, mystics, and philosophers, including ʿaql ("Intellect"), al-insān al-kāmil ("Universal Man"), kalimat Allāh ("Word of God"), haqīqa muammadiyya ("The Muhammadan Reality"), and nūr muammadī ("The Muhammadan Light").
In particular Ibn Arabi, developed a philosophy of the Logos, similar to that of Philo’s concepts of the Logos as Divine Reason, the Primal Man, and the Messenger of God, esoteric concepts that are compatible with Theosophical concepts of the Logos:
He refers to the Logos (kalimah) as the Reality of Realities (Haqiqatu'l  Haqa'iq - in contrast to this the Sufi Hallaj used the similiar term "Reality of Reality" (Haqiqatu'l Haqiqah) to refer to God Himself [p.68 n.2]), the Reality of Mohammed, the Spirit of  Mohammed, the First Intellect, the Most Mighty Spirit, the Most Exalted Pen (i.e. the Pen which God uses to inscribe the destiny of all things), the Throne (of God), the Perfect Man, the Real  Adam, the Origin of the Universe, the Real who is the Instrument  of Creation, the Pole (Qutb, on which all Creation revolves), the Intermediary (between God and Creation), the Sphere of Life, the  Servant of the All-embracing One, and so on [Affifi, Mystical Philosophy, p.66 note].
* The Stoic use of the Logos can be said to be derived from Heraclitus, the Pre-Socratic philosopher and earliest known person to use the term.

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