Old Philosophers and Modern Critics
IN one of the oldest philosophies and religious
systems of prehistoric times, we read that at the end of a Mahâ-Pralaya
(general dissolution) the great Soul, Param-Atmâ the Self-Existent,
that which can be "apprehended only by the
suprasensual," becomes "manifest of itself."1
The Hindûs give this "Existence" various names,
one of which is Svayambhû, or Self-Existent. This Svayambhû
emanates from itself the creative faculty, or Svâyambhuva--the
"Son of the Self-Existent"--and the
One becomes Two; this in its turn evolves a third principle with
the potentiality of becoming Matter which the orthodox call Virâj,
or the Universe.2 This incomprehensible
Trinity became later anthropomorphized into the Trimûrti,
known as Brahmâ, Vishnu, Shiva, the symbols of the creative,
the preservative, and the destructive powers in Nature--and at
the same time of the transforming or regenerating forces, or rather
of the three aspects of the one Universal Force. It is the Tridanda,
the triply manifested Unity, which gave rise to the orthodox AUM,
which with them is but the abbreviated Trimûrti. It is only
under this triple aspect that the profane masses can comprehend
the great mystery. When the triple God becomes Shârîra,
or puts on a visible form, he typifies all the principles of Matter,
all the germs of life, he is the God of the three visages, or
triple power, the essence of the Vedic Triad. "Let the Brâhmans know the Sacred Syllable [Aum], the three words
of the Sâvitrî, and read the Vedas daily."3
After having produced the universe, He whose power is incomprehensible
vanished again, absorbed in the Supreme Soul. . . . Having retired
into the primitive darkness, the Great Soul remains within the
unknown, and is void of all form. . . .
When having again reunited the subtile elementary principles,
it introduces itself into either a vegetable or animal seed, it
assumes at each a new form.
It is thus that, by an alternative waking and
rest, the Immutable Being causes to revive and die eternally all
the existing creatures, active and inert.4
He who has studied the speculations of Pythagoras on the Monad,
which, after emanating the Duad, retires into silence and darkness,
and thus creates the Triad, can realize whence came the Philosophy
of the great Samian Sage, and after him that of Socrates and Plato.
The mystic Decad (1+2+3+4=10) is a way of expressing this idea.
The One is God; the Two, Matter; the Three, combining Monad and
Duad and partaking of the nature of both, is the phenomenal World;
the Tetrad, or form of perfection, expresses the emptiness of
all; and the Decad, or sum of all, involves the entire Kosmos.
Let us see how the Brâhmanical ideas tally with the pre-Christian
Pagan Philosophies and with Christianity itself. It is with the
Platonic Philosophy, the most elaborate compend of the abstruse
systems of ancient India, that we had better begin.
Although twenty-two and a half centuries have elapsed since the
death of Plato, the great minds of the world are still occupied
with his writings. He was, in the fullest sense of the word, the
world's interpreter. And the greatest Philosopher of the pre-Christian
era faithfully mirrored in his works the spiritualism of the Vedic
Philosophers, who lived thousands of years before himself, with
its metaphysical expression. Vyâsa, Jaimini, Kapila, Patanjali,
and may others, will be found to have transmitted their indelible
imprint through the intervening centuries, by means of Pythagoras,
upon Plato and his school. Thus is warranted the inference that
to Plato and the ancient Hindu Sages the same wisdom was alike
revealed. And so surviving the shock of time, what can this wisdom
be but divine and eternal?
Plato taught of justice as subsisting in the soul and as being
the greatest good of its possessor. "Men, in proportion to
their intellect, have admitted his transcendent claims";
yet his commentators, almost with one consent, shrink from every
passage which implies that his Metaphysics are based on a solid
foundation, and not on ideal conceptions.
But Plato could not accept a Philosophy destitute of spiritual
aspirations; with him the two were at one. For the old Grecian
Sage there was a single object of attainment: REAL KNOWLEDGE. He considered those only to be
genuine Philosophers, or students of truth, who possess the knowledge
of the really-existing, in opposition to mere objects of perception;
of the always-existing, in opposition to the transitory; and of
that which exists permanently, in opposition to that which waxes,
wanes, and is alternately developed and destroyed.
Beyond all finite existences and secondary causes, all laws, ideas,
and principles, there is an INTELLIGENCE or
the Spirit] the first principle of all principles, the Supreme
Idea on which all other ideas are grounded; the ultimate substance
from which all things derive their being and essence, the first
and efficient Cause of all the order, and harmony, and beauty,
and excellency, and goodness, which pervade the universe--who
is called, by way of preëminence and excellence, the Supreme
Good, the God "the God over all" 5
It is not difficult for a Theosophist to recognize in this "God"
(a) the UNIVERSAL MIND in its cosmic aspect; and (b) the Higher Ego in man in
its microcosmic. For, as Plato says, He is not the truth nor the
intelligence, "but the Father of it"; i.e., the
"Father" of the Lower Manas, our personal "brain-mind,"
which depends for its manifestations on the organs of sense. Though
essence of things may not be perceptible
by our physical senses, it may be apprehended by the mind of those
who are not wilfully obtuse.6 We find
Plato stating distinctly that everything visible was created or
evolved out of the invisible and eternal WILL,
and after its fashion. Our Heaven--he says--was produced according
to the eternal pattern of the "Ideal World,"
contained, like everything else, in the dodecahedron, the geometrical
model used by the Deity.7 With Plato,
the Primal Being is an emanation of the Demiurgic Mind (Nous), which contains within itself from eternity the
"Idea" of the ' to-be-created world," and this
Idea it produces out of itself.8 The laws
of Nature are the established relations of this Idea to the forms
of its manifestations. Two thousand years later, we find the great
German philosopher Schopenhauer borrowing this conception when
These forms are time, space and causality. Through time and space
the idea varies in its numberless manifestations.
Thus, if Theology has often disfigured ancient Theosophy, Modern
Psychology and Modern Science have disfigured Ancient Philosophy.
Both borrowed without any acknowledgement from the Ancient Wisdom
and reviled and belittled it whenever they could. But, for lack
of comprehension of the great philosophical and theosophical principles,
the methods of Modern Science, however exact, must end in nullity.
In no one branch can it demonstrate the origin and ultimate of
things. Instead of tracing the effect from its primal source,
its progress is the reverse. Its higher types, it teaches, are
all evolved from antecedent lower ones. It starts from the bottom
of the cycle, led on step by step in the great labyrinth of Nature,
by a thread of Matter. As soon as this breaks, the clue is lost,
and it recoils in affright from the Incomprehensible, and confesses
itself powerless. Not so did Plato and his disciples. With them,
as with us, the lower types were but the concrete images of
the higher abstract types. The Spirit, which is immortal,
has an arithmetical, as the body has a geometrical, beginning.
This beginning, as the reflection of the great universal Archæus,
is self-moving, and from the centre diffuses itself over the whole
body of the microcosm.
Is it the sad perception of this truth, the recognition and the
adoption of which by any man of Science would now prove suicidal,
that makes so many Scientists and famous scholars confess how
powerless is Physical Science, even over the world
Almost a century separated Plato from Pythagoras,9 so
that they could not have been acquainted with each other. But
both were Initiates, and therefore it is not surprising to find
that both teach the same doctrine concerning the Universal Soul.
Pythagoras taught his disciples that God is the Universal Mind
diffused through all things, and that this Mind by the sole virtue
of its universal sameness could be communicated from one object
to another, and be made to create all things by the sole will-power
of man. With the ancient Greeks, too, Kurios was the God-Mind
(Nous). "Now, Koros (Kurios) signifies the pure and unmixed
nature of intellect --wisdom," says Plato in the Cratylus.
Thus we find all the great philosophers, from Pythagoras through
Timæus of Locris and Plato down to the Neo-Platonists, deriving
the Mind-Soul of man from the Universal Mind-Soul.
Of myths and symbols, the despair of modern Orientalism, Plato
declares, in the Gorgias and Phædo, that they
were the vehicles of great truths well worth seeking. But commentators
are so Little en rapport with the great Philosopher as
to be compelled to acknowledge that they are ignorant where '
the doctrinal ends, and the mythical begins." Plato put to
flight the popular superstitions concerning magic and dæmons,
and developed the exaggerated notions of the time into rational
theories and metaphysical conceptions. Perhaps these would not
quite stand the inductive method of reasoning established by Aristotle;
nevertheless they are satisfactory in the highest degree to those
who apprehend the existence of the higher faculty of insight or
intuition, as affording a criterion for ascertaining truth. For
there are few myths in any religious system but have an historical
as well as a scientific foundation. Myths, as Pococke ably expresses
Are now proved to be fables, just in proportion as we misunderstand
them; truths, in proportion as they were once understood. Our ignorance it is which has made a myth of history;
and our ignorance is an Hellenic inheritance, much of it the result
of Hellenic vanity.10
Basing all his doctrines upon the presence of the Supreme Mind,
Plato taught that the Nous, Spirit, or Rational Soul of man, being
"generated by the Divine Father," possessed a nature
kindred to, or even homogeneous with, the Divinity, and capable
of beholding the eternal realities. This faculty of contemplating
reality in a direct and immediate manner belongs to God alone;
the aspiration for this knowledge constitutes what is really meant
by Philosophy--the love of wisdom. The love of truth is inherently
the love of good: and predominating over every desire of the soul,
purifying it and assimilating it to the divine, thus governing
every act of the individual, it raises man to a participation
and communion with Divinity, and restores him to the likeness
of God. Says Plato in the Theætetus:
This flight consists in becoming like God, and this assimilation
is the becoming just and holy with wisdom.
The basis of this assimilation is always asserted to be the preexistence
of the Spirit or Nous. In the allegory of the chariot and winged
steeds, given in the Phædrus, he represents the psychical
nature as composite or two-fold; the thumos, or epithumetic
part, formed from the substances of the world of phenomena;
and the thumoeides , the
essence of which is linked to the eternal world. The present earth-life
is a fall and a punishment. The Soul dwells in "the grave
which we call the body," and in its incorporate state, and
previous to the discipline of education, the noëtic or spiritual
element is "asleep." Life is thus a dream, rather than
a reality. Like the captives in the subterranean cave, described
in the Republic, our backs being turned to the light, we
perceive only the shadows of objects, and think them the actual
realities. Is not this the idea of Mâyâ, or the illusion
of the senses in physical life, which is so marked a feature in
the Hindû Philosophy? But these shadows, if we have not
given ourselves up absolutely to the sensuous nature, arouse in
us the reminiscence of that higher world that we once inhabited.
The interior spirit has some dim and shadowy recollection of its
antenatal state of bliss, and some instinctive and proleptic yearnings
for its return.
It is the province of the discipline of Philosophy to disenthral
the Soul from the bondage of sense, and to raise it into the empyrean
of pure thought, to the vision of eternal truth, goodness, and
beauty, thus uniting it to Spirit.
The soul cannot come into the form of a man if it has never seen
the truth. This is a recollection of those things which our soul
formerly saw when journeying with Deity, despising the things
which we now say are, and looking up to that which really is.
Wherefore the nous, or spirit, of the Philosopher [or student
of the higher truth] alone is furnished with wings; because he,
to the best of his ability, keeps these things in mind, of which
the contemplation renders even Deity itself divine. By making
the right use of these things remembered from the former life,
by constantly perfecting himself in the perfect mysteries, a man
becomes truly perfect--an initiate into the diviner wisdom.
The Philosophy of Plato, we are assured by Porphyry
of the Neoplatonic School, was taught and illustrated in the MYSTERIES.11 Many have questioned and even denied this; and Lobeck, in his Aglaophomus, has gone to the extreme of representing the
sacred festivals as little more than an empty show to captivate
the imagination. As though Athens and Greece would for twenty
centuries and more have repaired every fifth year to Eleusis to
witness a solemn religious farce! Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo,
has exploded such assertions. He declares that the doctrines of
the Alexandrian Platonists were the original Esoteric doctrines
of the first followers of Plato, and describes Plotinus as a Plato
reïncarnated. He also explains the motives of the great Philosopher
for veiling the interior sense of what he taught.
Hence we may understand why the sublimer scenes in the Mysteries
were always in the night. The life of the interior Spirit is the
death of the external nature; and the night of the physical world
denotes the day of the spiritual. Dionysus, the night-sun, is,
therefore, worshipped rather than Helios, orb of day. In the Mysteries
were symbolized the preëxistent condition of the Spirit and
Soul, and the lapse of the latter into earth-life and Hades, the
miseries of that life, the purification of the Soul, and its restoration
to divine bliss, or reunion with Spirit. Theon, of Smyrna, aptly
compares the philosophical discipline to the mystic rites, and
his views may be summarized from Taylor as follows:
Philosophy may he called the initiation into the true arcana,
and the instruction in the genuine Mysteries. There are five parts
of this initiation: I. the previous purification; II. the admission
to participation in the arcane rites; III. the epoptic revelation;
IV. the investiture or enthroning; V.--the fifth, which is produced
from all these, is friendship and interior communion with God,
and the enjoyment of that felicity which arises from intimate
converse with divine beings. . . . Plato denominates the epopteia, or personal view the perfect contemplation of things which
are apprehended intuitively, absolute truths and ideas. He also
considers the binding of the head and crowning as analogous to
the authority which anyone receives from his instructors, of leading
others into the same contemplation. The fifth gradation is the most perfect felicity arising from hence, and,
according to Plato an assimilation to divinity as far as is possible
to human beings.12
Such is Platonism. "Out of Plato," says Ralph Waldo
Emerson, 'come all things that are still written and debated among
men of thought. He absorbed the learning of his time--that of
Greece from Philolaus to Socrates; then that of Pythagoras in
Italy; then what he could procure from Egypt and the East. He
was so broad that all Philosophy, European and Asiatic, was in
his doctrines; and to culture and contemplation he added the nature
and qualities of the poet.
The followers of Plato generally adhered strictly to his psychological
theories. Several, however, like Xenocrates, ventured into bolder
speculations. Speusippus, the nephew and successor of the great
Philosopher, was the author of the Numerical Analysis, a treatise on the Pythagorean Numbers. Some of his speculations
are not found in the written Dialogues; but as he was a
listener to the unwritten lectures of Plato, the judgment of Enfield
is doubtless correct, that he did not differ from his Master.
Though not named, he was evidently the antagonist whom Aristotle
criticized, when professing to cite the argument of Plato against
the doctrine of Pythagoras, that all things were in themselves
numbers, or rather, inseparable from the idea of numbers. He especially
endeavoured to show that the Platonic doctrine of ideas differed
essentially from the Pythagorean, in that it presupposed numbers
and magnitude to exist apart from things. He also asserted that
Plato taught that there could be no real knowledge, if
the object of that knowledge was not carried beyond or above the
But Aristotle was no trustworthy witness. He misrepresented Plato,
and he almost caricatured the doctrines of Pythagoras. There is
a canon of interpretation, which should guide us in our examination
of every philosophical opinion: "The human mind has, under
the necessary operation of its own laws, been compelled to entertain
the same fundamental ideas, and the human heart to cherish the
same feelings in all ages." It is certain that Pythagoras
awakened the deepest intellectual sympathy of his age, and that
his doctrines exerted a powerful influence upon the mind of Plato.
His cardinal idea was that there existed a permanent principle
of unity beneath the forms, changes, and other phenomena of the
universe. Aristotle asserted that he taught that "numbers
are the first principles of all entities." Ritter has expressed
the opinion that the formula of Pythagoras should be taken symbolically,
which is entirely correct. Aristotle goes on to associate these numbers with the "forms" and "ideas"
of Plato. He even declares that Plato said: "forms are numbers,"
and that 'ideas are substantial existences--real beings."
Yet Plato did not so teach. He declared that the final cause was
the Supreme Goodness--.
"Ideas are objects of pure conception for
the human reason, and they are attributes of the Divine Reason.''13 Nor did he ever say that "forms are numbers. "What he
did say may be found in the Timæus: " God [the
Universal Nous or Mind] formed things as they first arose according
to forms and numbers."
It is recognized by Modern Science that all the higher laws of
Nature assume the form of quantitative statement. What is this
but a fuller elaboration or more explicit affirmation of the Pythagorean
doctrine? Numbers were regarded as the best representations of
the laws of harmony which pervade the Kosmos. In Chemistry the
doctrine of atoms and the laws of combination are actually, and,
as it were, arbitrarily defined by numbers. As Mr. W. Archer Butler
has expressed it:
The world is, then, through all its departments, a living arithmetic
in its development, a realized geometry in its repose.
The key to the Pythagorean dogmas is the general formula of
unity in multiplicity, the One evolving the many and pervading
the many. This is the ancient doctrine of emanation in a few words. Even the apostle Paul accepted it as true. --Out of him and through
him and for him all things are--though the pronoun "him"
could hardly have been used with regard to the Universal Mind
by an Initiate--a "Master Builder."
The greatest ancient Philosophers are accused of shallowness and
superficiality of knowledge as to those details in exact Science
of which the moderns boast so much; and Plato cannot escape the
common fate. Yet, once more his modern critics ought to bear in
mind, that the Sodalian Oath of the Initiate into the Mysteries
prevented his imparting his knowledge to the world, in so many
plain words. As Champollion writes:
It was the dream of his [Plato's] life to write a work and record
in it, in full, the doctrines taught by the Egyptian hierophants;
he often talked of it, but found himself compelled to abstain
on account of the solemn oath.
Plato is declared by his various commentators to have been utterly
ignorant of the anatomy and functions of the human body; to have
known nothing of the uses of the nerves for conveying sensations;
and to have had nothing better to offer than vain speculations
concerning physiological questions. He has simply generalized
the divisions of the human body, they say, and given nothing reminding
us of anatomical facts. As to his own views on the human frame,
the Microcosmos being, in his mind, the image in miniature of
the Macrocosmos, they are much too transcendental to obtain the
least attention from our exact and materialistic sceptics. The
idea of this frame being formed out of triangles, like the universe,
seems preposterously ridiculous to several of his translators.
Alone of the latter, Professor Jowett, in his introduction to
the Timæus, honestly remarks that the modern Physical
hardly allows to his notions the merit of being
"the dead men's bones" out of which he has himself risen
to a higher knowledge;14
forgetting how much the Metaphysics of olden times have helped
the "physical" Sciences of the present day. If, instead
of quarrelling with the insufficiency and at times the absence
of strictly scientific terms and definitions in Plato's works,
we analyze them carefully, the Timæus alone will
be found to contain within its limited space the germs of every
new discovery. The circulation of the blood and the law of gravitation
are clearly mentioned, though the former fact, it may be, is not
so clearly defined as to withstand the reiterated attacks of Modern
Science; for, according to Prof. Jowett, the specific discovery
that the blood flows out from one side of the heart through the
arteries, and returns to the other through the veins, was unknown
to him, though Plato was perfectly aware "that blood is a
fluid in constant motion."
Plato's method, like that of Geometry, was to descend from universals
to particulars. Modem Science vainly seeks a First Cause among
the permutations of molecules; but Plato sought and found it amid
the majestic sweep of worlds. For him it was enough to know the
great scheme of creation and to be able to trace the mightiest
movements of the Universe through their changes to their ultimates.
The petty details, the observation and classification of which
have so taxed and demonstrated the patience of modern Scientists,
occupied but little of the attention of the old Philosophers.
Hence, while a fifth-form boy of an English school can prate more
learnedly about the little things of Physical Science than Plato
himself, yet, on the other hand, the dullest of Plato's disciples
could tell more about great cosmic laws and their mutual relations,
and could demonstrate a greater familiarity with and control over
the Occult Forces which lie behind them, than the most learned
professor in the most distinguished Academy of our day.
This fact, so little appreciated and never dwelt upon by Plato's
translators, accounts for the self-laudation in which we moderns
indulge at the expense of that Philosopher and his compeers. Their
alleged mistakes in Anatomy and Physiology are magnified to an
inordinate extent in order to gratify our self-love, until, in
acquiring the idea of our own superior learning, we lose sight
of the intellectual splendour which adorns the ages of the past;
it is as if one should, in fancy, magnify the solar spots until
he should believe the bright luminary to be totally eclipsed.
The wholesale accusation that the ancient Philosophers merely
generalized, and that they practically systematized nothing, does
not prove their "ignorance," and further it is untrue.
Every Science having been revealed in the beginning of time by
a divine Instructor, became thereby sacred, and capable
of being imparted only during the Mysteries of Initiation. No
initiated Philosopher, therefore--such as Plato--had the right
to reveal it. Once postulate this fact, and the alleged "ignorance"
of the ancient Sages and of some initiated classic authors, is
explained. At any rate, even a correct generalization is more
useful than any system of exact Science, which only becomes rounded
and completed by virtue of a number of "working hypotheses"
and conjectures. The relative practical unprofitableness of most
modern scientific research is evinced in the fact that while our
Scientists have a name for the most trivial particle of mineral,
plant, animal, and man, the wisest of them are unable to tell
us anything definite about the Vital Force which produces the
changes in these several kingdoms. It is unnecessary to seek further
than the works of our highest scientific authorities themselves
for corroboration of this statement.
It requires no little moral courage in a man of eminent professional
position to do justice to the acquirements of the Ancients, in
the face of a public sentiment which is content with nothing less
than their abasement. When we meet with a case of the kind we
gladly give the bold and honest scholar his due. Such a scholar
is Professor Jowett, Master of Baliol College, and Regius Professor
of Greek in the University of Oxford, who, in his translation
of Plato's works! speaking of "the physical philosophy of
the ancients as a whole," gives them the following credit:
1. "That the nebular theory was the received
belief of the early physicists." Therefore it could not have
rested, as Draper asserts,15 upon the
telescopic discovery made by Herschel. 2. "That the development
of animals out of frogs who came to land, and of man out of animals,
was held by Anaximenes in the sixth century before Christ."
Professor Jowett might have added that this theory antedated Anaximenes
by many thousands of years, as it was an accepted doctrine among
the Chaldeans, who taught it exoterically, as on
their cylinders and tablets, and esoterically in the
temples of Ea and Nebo--the God, and prophet or revealer of the
Secret Doctrine.16 But in both cases the
statements are blinds. That which Anaximenes--the pupil
of Anaximander, who was himself the friend and disciple of Thales
of Miletus, the chief of the "Seven Sages," and therefore
an Initiate as were these two Masters--that which Anaximenes meant
by 'animals'' was something different from the animals of the
modern Darwinian theory. Indeed the eagle-headed men, and the
animals of various kinds with human heads, may point two ways:
to the descent of man from animals, and to the descent of animals
from man, as in the Esoteric Doctrine. At all events, even the
most important of the present-day theories is thus shown to be
not entirely original with Darwin. 3. Professor Jowett goes on
to show "that, even by Philolaus and the early Pythagoreans,
the earth was held to be a body like the other stars revolving in space." Thus Galileo--studying some Pythagorean
fragments, which are shown by Reuchlin to have still existed in
the days of the Florentine mathematician,17 being, moreover, familiar with the doctrines of the old Philosophers--but
reasserted an astronomical doctrine which prevailed in India in
the remotest antiquity. 4. The Ancients "thought that there
was a sex in plants as well as in anima1s." Thus our modern
Naturalists had but to follow in the steps of their predecessors.
5. "That musical notes depended on the relative length or
tension of the strings from which they were emitted, and were
measured by ratios of number." 6. "That mathematical
laws pervaded the world and even qualitative differences were
supposed to have their origin in number." 7. "That the
annihilation of matter was denied by them, and held to be a transformation
only." "Although one of these discoveries might have
been supposed to be a happy guess," adds Prof. Jowett, "we
can hardly attribute them all to mere coincidences." We should
think not; for, from what he says elsewhere, Prof. Jowett gives
us a full right to believe that Plato indicates (as he really
does) in Timæus, his knowledge of the indestructibility
of Matter, of the conservation of energy, and the correlation
of forces. Says Dr. Jowett:
The latest word of modern philosophy is continuity
and development, but to Plato this is the beginning and foundation of Science.18
In short, the Platonic Philosophy was one of order, system, and
proportion; it embraced the evolution of worlds and species, the
correlation and conservation of energy, the transmutation of material
form, the indestructibility of Matter and of Spirit. The position
of the Platonists in the latter respect was far in advance of
Modern Science, and bound the arch of their philosophical system
with a keystone at once perfect and immovable.
Finally few will deny the enormous influence that Plato's views
have exercised on the formation and acceptance of the dogmas of
Christianity. But Plato's views were those of the Mysteries. The
philosophical doctrines taught therein are the prolific source
from which sprang all the old exoteric religions, the Old and
partially the New Testament included, belonging to the
most advanced notions of morality, and religious "revelations."
While the literal meaning was abandoned to the fanaticism of the
unreasoning lower classes of society, the higher classes, the
majority of which consisted of Initiates, pursued their studies
in the solemn silence of the temples, and also their worship of
the One God of Heaven.
The speculations of Plato, in the Banquet, on the creation
of the primordial men, and the essay on Cosmogony in the Timæus, must be taken allegorically, if we accept them at all. It
is this hidden Pythagorean meaning in Timæus, Cratylus and Parmenides, and other trilogies and dialogues,
that the Neo-Platonists ventured to expound, as far as the theurgical
vow of secrecy would allow them. The Pythagorean doctrine that God is the Universal Mind diffused through all things, and
the dogma of the soul's immortality, are the leading features
in these apparently incongruous teachings. Plato's piety and the
great veneration he felt for the Mysteries, are sufficient warrant
that he would not allow his indiscretion to get the better of
that deep sense of responsibility which is felt by every Adept.
"Constantly perfecting himself in perfect
Mysteries, a man in them alone becomes truly perfect," says
he in the Phædrus.19
He took no pains to conceal his displeasure that the Mysteries
had become less secret than they were in earlier times. Instead
of profaning them by putting them within the
reach of the multitude, he would have guarded them with jealous
care against all but the most earnest and worthy of his disciples.20 While mentioning the Gods on every page, his "Pantheistic
Monism" is unquestionable, for the whole thread of his discourse
indicates that by the term "Gods" he means a class of
beings far lower in the scale than the One Deity, and but one
grade higher than external man. Even Josephus perceived and acknowledged
this fact, despite the natural prejudice of his race. In his famous
onslaught upon Apion, this historian says:
Those, however, among the Greeks who philosophized in accordance
with truth, were not ignorant of anything . . . nor did they fail
to perceive the chilling superficialities of the mythical allegories,
on which account they justly despised them. . . . By which thing
Plato, being moved, says it is not necessary to admit anyone of
the other poets into the "Commonwealth," and he dismisses Homer blandly, after having crowned him and pouring
unguent upon him, in order that indeed he should not destroy,
by his myths, the orthodox belief respecting the One [Deity].21
Those, therefore, who can discern the true spirit of Plato's Philosophy,
will hardly be satisfied with the estimate which Prof. Jowett,
in another part of his work, lays before his readers. He tells
us that the influence exercised upon posterity by the Timæus is partly due to a misunderstanding of the doctrine of its author by the Neo-Platonists. He would have us believe
that the hidden meanings which they found in this Dialogue, are
"quite at variance with the Spirit of Plato." This is
equivalent to the assumption that Prof. Jowett understands what
this spirit really was; whereas his criticism upon this particular
topic rather indicates that he does not penetrate it at all. If,
as he tells us, the Christians seem to find in his work their
Trinity, the Word, the Church, and the creation of the World,
in a Jewish sense, it is because all this is there, and
therefore it is but natural that they should have found it. The
outward building is the same; but the spirit which animated the
dead letter of the Philosopher's teaching has fled, and we would
seek for it in vain through the arid dogmas of Christian theology.
The Sphinx is the same now, as it was four centuries before the
Christian era; but the dipus is no more. He is slain because
he has given to the world that which the world was not ripe enough
to receive. He was the embodiment of truth, and he had to die,
as every grand truth must, before, like the Phoenix of old, it
revives from its own ashes. Every translator of Plato's works
has remarked the strange similarity between the Philosophy of
the Esoteric and the Christian doctrines, and each of them has
tried to interpret it in accordance with his own religious feelings.
So Cory, in his Ancient Fragments, tries to prove that
it is but an outward resemblance; and does his best to lower the
Pythagorean Monad in the public estimation and exalt upon its
ruins the later anthropomorphic deity. Taylor, advocating the
former, acts as unceremoniously with the Mosaic God. Zeller boldly
laughs at the pretensions of the Fathers of the Church, who, notwithstanding
history and chronology, and whether people will have it or not,
insist that Plato and his school have robbed Christianity of its
leading features. It is as fortunate for us as it is unfortunate
for the Roman Church that such clever sleight-of-hand as that
resorted to by Eusebius is rather difficult in our century. It
was easier to pervert chronology, "for the sake of making
synchronisms," in the days of the Bishop of Cæsarea,
than it is now, and while history exists, no one can help people
knowing that Plato lived six hundred years before Irenæus
took it into his head to establish a new doctrine from
the ruins of Plato's older Academy.
* * *
This doctrine of the Universal Mind diffused through all things
underlies all ancient Philosophies. The tenets of Bodhism, or
Wisdom, which can never be better comprehended than when studying
the Pythagorean Philosophy--its faithful reflection--are derived
from this source, as are the exoteric Hindu religion and early
Christianity. The purifying process of reïncarnations--metempsychoses--however
grossly anthropomorphized at a later period, must only be regarded
as a supplementary doctrine, disfigured by theological sophistry,
with the object of getting a firmer hold upon believers through
a popular superstition. Neither Gautama Buddha nor Pythagoras,
nor yet Plato, intended to teach this purely metaphysical allegory literally. None of them addressed himself to the profane,
but only to their own followers and disciples, who knew too much
of the symbological element used even during public instruction
to fail to understand the meaning of their respective Masters.
Thus they were aware that the words metempsychosis and transmigration
meant simply reïncarnation from one human body to another,
when this teaching concerned a human being; and that every
allusion of this or another sage, like Pythagoras, to having been
in a previous birth a beast, or of transmigrating after death
into an animal, was allegorical and related to the spiritual states
of the human soul. It is not in the dead letter of the mystic
sacred literature that scholars may hope to find the true solution
of its metaphysical subtleties. The latter weary the power of
thought by the inconceivable profundity of their ratiocination:
and the student is never farther from truth than when he believes
himself nearest its discovery. The mastery of every doctrine of
the perplexing Buddhist and Brâhmanical systems can he attained
only by proceeding strict]v according to the Pythagorean and Platonic
method; from universals down to particulars. The key to them lies
in the refined and mystical tenets of the spiritual influx of
divine life. "Whoever is unacquainted with my law."
says Buddha. "and dies in that state, must return to the
earth till he becomes a perfect Samanean. To achieve this object,
he must destroy within himself the trinity of Mâyâ.
He must extinguish his passions, unite and identify himself with
the law [the teaching of the Secret Doctrine], and comprehend
the religion of annihilation," i.e,. the laws of Matter,
and those of Karma and Reïncarnation.
Plato acknowledges man to he the toy of the element of necessity--which
is Karma under another name--in appearing in this world of matter.
Man is influenced by external causes, and these causes are daimonia, like that of Socrates. Happy is the man physically pure, for
if his external soul (astral body, the image of the body) is pure,
it will strengthen the second (the lower Manas), or the soul which
is termed by him the higher mortal soul, which, though liable
to err from its own motives, will always side with reason against
the animal proclivities of the body. In other words, the ray of
our Higher Ego, the lower Manas, has its higher light, the reason
or rational powers of the Nous, to help it in the struggle with
Kâmic desires. The lusts of man arise in consequence of
his perishable material body, so do other diseases, says Plato;
but though he regards crimes as involuntary sometimes, for they
result, like bodily disease, from external causes, Plato clearly
makes a wide distinction between these causes. The Karmic fatalism
which he concedes to humanity does not preclude the possibility
of avoiding them, for though pain, fear, anger, and other feelings
are given to men by necessity,
If they conquered these they would live righteously,
and if they were conquered by them, unrighteously.22
The dual man--i.e., one from whom the divine immortal Spirit
has departed, leaving but the animal
the sidereal, Plato's higher mortal soul--is left merely
to his instincts, for he has been conquered by all the evils entailed
on matter,23 hence, he becomes a docile tool
in the hands of the Invisibles--beings of sublimated matter, hovering
in our atmosphere, and ever ready to inspire those
who are deservedly deserted by their immortal counsellor, the
Divine Spirit, called by Plato "genius."24 According to this great Philosopher and Initiate, one
Who lived well during his appointed time would return to the habitation
of his star, and there have a blessed and suitable existence.
But if he failed in attaining this in the second generation he
would pass into a woman [become helpless and
weak as a woman], and should he not cease from evil in that condition
he would be changed into some brute, which resembled him in his
evil ways, and would not cease from his toils and transformations
[i.e., rebirths or transmigrations], until he followed
the original principle of sameness and likeness within him, and
overcame, by the help of reason, the latter secretions of turbulent and irrational elements [elementary dæmons]
composed of fire and air, and water and earth, and returned to
the form of his first and better nature.25
These are the teachings of the Secret Doctrine, of the Occult
Philosophy. The possibility of man losing, through depravity,
his Higher Ego was taught in antiquity, and is still taught in
the centres of Eastern Occultism. And the above shows quite plainly
that Plato believed in Reïncarnation and in Karma just as
we do, though his utterances in respect to the subject were in
a mythical form.
There was not a Philosopher of any notoriety who did not hold
to this doctrine of metempsychosis, as taught by the Brâhmans,
Buddhists, and later by the Pythagoreans, in its Esoteric sense,
whether he expressed it more or less intelligibly. Origen and
Clemens Alexandrinus, Synesius and Chalcidius,
all believed in it; and the Gnostics, who are unhesitatingly proclaimed
by history as a body of the most refined, learned, and enlightened
men,26 were all believers in metempsychosis.
Socrates entertained opinions identical with those of Pythagoras;
and, as the penalty of his divine Philosophy. was put to a violent
death. The rabble has been the same in all ages. These men taught
that men have two souls of separate and quite different natures:
the one perishable--the Astral Soul, or the inner, fluidic body--which
must not be confused with the Astral Body or "double";
the other incorruptible and immortal--the Augoeides, or portion
of the Divine Spirit--Atmâ-Buddhi: that the mortal or Astral
Soul perishes at each gradual change at the threshold of every
new sphere, becoming with every transmigration more purified.
The Astral Man, intangible and invisible as he may be to our mortal,
earthly senses, is still constituted of matter, though sublimated.
Now, if the latter means anything at all, it means that the above
teaching about the "two souls" is exactly that of the
Esoteric, and of many exoteric, Theosophists. The two souls are
the dual Manas: the lower, personal "Astral Soul," and
the Higher Ego. The former--a Ray of the latter falling into Matter,
that is to say animating man and making of him a thinking, rational
being on this plane--having assimilated its most spiritual elements
in the divine essence of the reïncarnating Ego, perishes
in its personal, material form at each gradual change, as Kâma
Rûpa, at the threshold of every new sphere, or Devachan,
followed by a new reïncarnation. It perishes, because it
fades out in time, all but its intangible, evanescent photography
on the astral waves, burnt out by the fierce light which ever
changes but never dies; while the incorruptible and the immortal
"Spiritual Soul," that which we call Buddhi-Manas and
the individual SELF, becomes more purified
with every new incarnation. Laden with all IT could save from the personal Soul, it carries it into Devachan,
to reward it with ages of peace and bliss. This is no new teaching, no "fresh development," as some of our opponents
have tried to prove; and even in Isis Unveiled, the earliest,
hence the most cautious of all the modern works on Theosophy,
the fact is distinctly stated (Vol. i, p. 432 and elsewhere).
The Secret Doctrine does not concede immortality to all men alike.
It declares with Porphyry that only
Through the highest purity and chastity we shall approach nearer
to [our] God, and receive, in the contemplation of Him, the true
knowledge and insight.
If the human soul has neglected during its life-time to receive
its illumination from its Divine Spirit, our personal God, then
it becomes difficult for the gross and sensual man to survive
his physical death for a great length of time. No more than the
misshapen monster can live long after its physical birth, can
the soul, once that it has become too material, exist after its
birth into the spiritual world. The viability of the astral form
is so feeble, that the particles cannot cohere firmly when once
it is slipped out of the unyielding capsule of the external body.
Its particles, gradually obeying the disorganizing attraction
of universal space, finally fly asunder beyond the possibility
of reäggregation. Upon the occurrence of such a catastrophe,
the personal individual ceases to exist; his glorious Augoeides,
the immortal SELF, has left him for Devachan,
whither the Kâma Rûpa cannot follow. During the intermediary
period between bodily death and the disintegration of the astral
form, the latter, bound by magnetic attraction to its ghastly
corpse, prowls about and sucks vitality from susceptible victims.
The man having shut out of himself every ray of the divine light,
is lost in darkness, and, therefore, clings to the earth and the
No Astral Soul, even that of a pure, good
and virtuous man, is immortal in the strictest sense: "from
elements it was formed- to elements it must return." Only,
while the soul of the wicked vanishes, and is al sorbed without
redemption--i.e., the dead man has impressed nothing of
himself on the Spirit-Ego--that of every other person, even moderately
pure, simply changes its ethereal particles for still more ethereal
ones. While there remains in it a spark of the Divine, the personal
Ego cannot die entirely, as his most spiritual thoughts
and aspirations, his "good deeds," the efflorescence
of his "I-am-ship," so to speak, is now at one with
his immortal Parent. Says Proclus:
After death the soul [the spirit] continueth to linger in the
aërial body [astral form], till it is entirely purified from
all angry and voluptuous passions . . . then doth it put off by
a second dying the aërial body as it did the earthly one.
Whereupon, the ancients say that there is a celestial body always
joined with the soul, which is immortal, luminous, and star-like.
Between Pantheism and Fetichism, we have been repeatedly told,
there is but an insignificant step. Plato was a Monotheist, it
is asserted. In one sense, he was that, most assuredly; but his
Monotheism never led him to the worship of one personal God,
but to that of a Universal Principle and to the fundamental idea
that the absolutely immutable or unchangeable Existence alone,
really is, all the finite existences
and change being only appearance, i.e., Mâyâ.27 His Being was noumenal, not phenomenal. If Heracleitus
postulates a World-Consciousness, or Universal Mind; and Parmenides
an unchangeable Being, in the identity of the universal
and individual thought; and the Pythagoreans, along with Philolaus,
discover true Knowledge (which is Wisdom or Deity) in our
consciousness of the unchangeable relations between number and
measure--an idea disfigured later by the Sophists--it is Plato
who expresses this idea the most intelligibly. While the vague
definition of some philosophers about the Ever-Becoming is but too apt to lead one inclined to argumentation into hopeless
Materialism, the divine Being of some others suggests as
unphilosophical an anthropomorphism. Instead of separating the
two, Plato shows us the logical necessity of accepting both, viewed
from an Esoteric aspect. That which he calls the "Unchangeable
Existence" or "Being" is named Be-ness in Esoteric
Philosophy. It is SAT, which becomes at stated
periods the cause of the Becoming, which latter cannot,
therefore, be regarded as existing, but only as something
ever tending--in its cyclic progress toward the One Absolute Existence--to
exist, in the "Good," and at one with Absoluteness.
The "Divine Causality" cannot be a personal, therefore
finite and conditioned, Godhead, any more with Plato than with
the Vedântins, as he treats his subject teleologically,
and in his search for final causes often goes beyond the
Universal Mind, even when viewed as a noumenon. Modern commentators
have attempted on different occasions to prove fallacious the
Neo-Platonic claim of a secret meaning underlying Plato's teachings.
They deny the presence of "any definite trace of a secret
doctrine" in his Dialogues;
Not even the passages brought forward out of
the insititious Platonic letters (VII, p. 341 e, II,
p. 314c) containing any evidence.28
As, however, no one would deny that Plato had been initiated into
the MYSTERIES, there is an end to the other
denials. There are hundreds of expressions and hints in the Dialogues which no modem translator or commentator--save one, Thomas
Taylor--has ever correctly understood. The presence, moreover,
of the Pythagorean number-doctrine and the sacred numerals in
Plato's lectures settles the question conclusively.
He who has studied Pythagoras and his speculations on the Monad,
which, after having emanated the Duad, retires into silence and
darkness, and thus creates the Triad, can realize whence came
the Philosophy of the great Samian Sage, and after him that of
Socrates and Plato.
Speusippus seems to have taught that the psychical or thumetic
soul was immortal as well as the Spirit or rational soul, and
every Theosophist will understand his reasons for it. Unless a
personality is entirely annihilated, which is extremely rare,
the "thumetic soul," our lower Manas, is in one sense
and portion of itself immortal--i.e., the portion that
follows the Ego into Devachan. He also--like Philolaus and Aristotle,
in his disquisitions upon the soul--makes of Ether an element;
so that there were five principal elements to
correspond with the five regular figures in Geometry. This became
also a doctrine of the Alexandrian school.29 Indeed, there was much in the doctrines of the Philaletheans which
did not appear in the works of the older Platonists, but was doubtless
taught in substance by the Philosopher himself, though, with his
usual reticence, he did not commit it to writing, as being too
arcane for promiscuous publication. Speusippus and Xenocrates
after him, held, like their great Master, that
the Anima Mundi, or World-Soul, was not the Deity, but a manifestation.
Those Philosophers never conceived of the One as an animate Nature.30 The original One did not exist, as we understand the term.
Not till he had united with the many--emanated existence (the
Monad and Duad)--was a Being produced. The honoured--the something manifested--dwells in
the center as in the circumference, but it is only the reflection
of the Deity, the World-Soul.31 In this
doctrine we find all the spirit of Esoteric Bodhism, or
Though some have considered Speusippus as inferior to Aristotle,
the world is nevertheless indebted to him for
defining and expounding many things that Plato had left obscure
in his doctrine of the Sensible and Ideal. His maxim was "The
Immaterial is known by means of scientific
thought, the Material by scientific perception."32
Xenocrates expounded many of the unwritten theories and teachings
of his master. He, too, held the Pythagorean doctrine, with its
system of numerals and mathematics, in the highest estimation.
Recognizing but three degrees of knowledge--Thought, Perception, and Envisagement (or knowledge by Intuition), he
made Thought busy itself with all that which is beyond the heavens;
Perception with things in the heavens; Intuition with the heavens
themselves. The source of these three qualities is found in the
Hindu Manava Dharma Shâstra, speaking of the formation
(creation, in vulgar parlance) of man. Brahmâ--who is Mahat,
or the Universal Soul--draws from its own essence the Spirit, the immortal breath which perisheth not in the human being, while to the (lower) soul of that being, Brahma gives the
Ahankara, consciousness of the Ego. Then is added to it "the
intellect formed of the three qualities."
These three qualities are Intelligence, Conscience and Will; answering
to the Thought, Perception and Envisagement (Intuition) of Xenocrates,
who seems to have been less reticent than Plato and Speusippus
in his exposition of soul. After his master's death Xenocrates
travelled with Aristotle, and then became ambassador to Philip
of Macedonia. But twenty-five years later he is found taking charge
of the Old Academy, and becoming its President as successor of
Speusippus, who had occupied the post for over a quarter of a
century, and devoting his life to the most abstruse philosophical
subjects. He is thought more dogmatic than Plato, and therefore
must have been more dangerous to the schools which opposed him.
His three degrees of knowledge, or three divisions of Philosophy,
the separation and connection of the three modes of cognition
and comprehension, are more definitely worked out than by Speusippus.
With him, Science is referred to "that essence which is the
object of pure thought, and is not included in the phenomenal
world"--which is in direct opposition to the Aristotelian-Baconian
ideas; sensuous perception is referred to that which passes into
the world of phenomena; and conception, to that essence "which
is at once the object of sensuous perception and, mathematically,
of pure reason--the essence of heaven and the stars." All
his admiration notwithstanding, Aristotle never did justice to
the Philosophy of his friend and co-disciple. This is evident
from his works. Whenever he is referring to the three modes of
apprehension as explained by Xenocrates, he abstains from any
mention of the method by which the latter proves that scientific
perception partakes of truth. The reason for this becomes apparent
when we find the following in a biography
It is probable that what was peculiar to the Aristotelian logic
did not remain unnoticed by him (Xenocrates); for it can hardly
be doubted that the division of the existent into the absolutely
existent and the relatively existent, attributed to Xenocrates.
was opposed to the Aristotelian table of categories.
This shows that Aristotle was no better than certain of our modem
Scientists, who suppress facts and truth in order that these may
not clash with their own private hobbies and "working hypotheses."
The relation of numbers to Ideas was developed by Xenocrates further
than by Speusippus, and he surpassed Plato in his definition of
the doctrine of Invisible Magnitudes. Reducing them to their ideal
primary elements, he demonstrated that every figure and form originated
out of the smallest indivisible line. That Xenocrates held the
same theories as Plato in relation to the human soul (supposed
to be a number) is evident, though Aristotle
contradicts this, like every other teaching of this philosopher.33 This is conclusive evidence that many of Plato's doctrines were
delivered orally, even were it shown that Xenocrates and not Plato as the first to originate the theory of indivisible
magnitudes. He derives the Soul from the first Duad, and calls
it a self-moving number.34 Theophrastus
remarks that he entered into and elaborated this Soul-theory more
than any other Platonist. For he regarded intuition and innate
ideas, , in
a higher sense than any, and made mathematics mediate between
knowledge and sensuous perception.35 Hence he built upon this Soul-theory the cosmological doctrine, and proved the necessary existence in every part
of universal Space of a successive and progressive series of animated
and thinking though spiritual beings.36 The Human Soul with him is a compound of the most spiritual properties
of the Monad and the Duad, possessing the highest principles of
both. Thus he calls Unity and Duality (Monas and Duas) Deities,
showing the former as a male Existence, ruling in Heaven as "Father Spirit" and an uneven number; and the latter,
as a female Existence, Mother Soul, the Mother of the Gods (Aditi?),
for she is the Soul of the Universe.37 But if like Plato and Prodicus, he refers to the Elements as to
Divine Powers, and calls them Gods, neither himself nor others
connected any anthropomorphic idea with the appellation.
Krische remarks that he called them Gods only that these elementary
powers should not be confounded with the dæmons of the nether
world38 (the Elementary
Spirits). As the Soul of the World permeates the whole Cosmos,
even beasts must have in them something divine.39 This, also, is the doctrine of Buddhists and Hermetists, and Manu
endows with a living soul even the plants and the tiniest blade
of grass--an absolutely Esoteric doctrine.
The dæmons, according to this theory, are
intermediate beings between the divine perfection and human sinfulness,40 and he divides them into classes, each subdivided into many others.
But he states expressly that the individual or personal soul is the leading guardian dæmon of every man, and that
no dæmon has more power over us than our own. Thus the Daimonion
of Socrates is the God or Divine Entity which inspired him all
his life. It depends on man either to open or close his perceptions
to the Divine voice. Like Speusippus, he ascribed immortality
to the psychical body, or irrational soul. But some Hermetic philosophers
have taught that the soul has a separate continued existence only
so long as in its passage through the spheres any material or
earthly particles remain incorporated in it; and that when absolutely
purified, the latter are annihilated, and the quintessence of
the soul alone becomes blended with its divine Spirit, the Rational,
and the two are thenceforth one.
It is difficult to fail to see in the above teachings a direct
echo of the far older Indian doctrines, now embodied in the so-called
"Theosophical" teachings, concerning the dual Manas.
The World-Soul, that which is called by the Esoteric
Yogâchâryas "Father-Mother,"41 Xenocrates referred to as a male-female Principle, the male element
of which, the Father, he designated as the last Zeus, the last
divine activity, just as the students of the Secret Doctrine designate
it the third and last Logos, Brahmâ or Mahat. To this World-Soul
is entrusted dominion over all that which is subject to change
and motion. The divine essence, he said, infused its own Fire,
or Soul, into the Sun and Moon and all the Planets, in a pure
form in the shape of Olympic Gods. As a sublunary power the World-Soul
dwells in the Elements, producing Daimonical (spiritual) powers
and beings, who are a connecting link between
Gods and men, being related to them "as the isosceles triangle
is to the equilateral and the scalene."42
Zeller states that Xenocrates forbade the eating of animal food,
not because he saw in beasts something akin to man, as he ascribed
to them a dim consciousness of God, but
For the opposite reason, lest the irrationality
of animal souls might thereby obtain a certain influence over
But we believe that it was rather because, like
Pythagoras, he had had the Hindû Sages for his Masters and
Models. Cicero depicts Xenocrates as utterly despising everything
except the highest virtue;44 and describes
the stainlessness and severe austerity of his character.
To free ourselves from the subjection of sensuous
existence, to conquer the Titanic elements in our terrestrial
nature through the Divine, is our problem.45
Zeller makes him say:
Purity, even in the secret longings of our heart,
is the greatest duty, and only Philosophy and Initiation into
the Mysteries help toward the attainment of this object.46
This must be so, since we find men like Cicero and Panætius,
and before them, Aristotle and Theophrastus his disciple, expressed
the highest regard for Xenocrates. His writings--treatises on
Science, on Metaphysics, Cosmology and Philosophy--must have been
legion. He wrote on Physics and the Gods; on the Existent, the
One and the Indefinite; on Affections and Memory; on Happiness
and Virtue; four books on Royalty, and numberless treatises on
the State; on the Power of Law; on Geometry, Arithmetic, and finally
on Astrology. Dozens of renowned classical writers mention and
quote from him.
Crantor, another philosopher associated with the earliest days
of Plato's Academy, conceived the human soul as formed out of
the primary substance of all things, the Monad or the One, and
the Duad or the Two. Plutarch speaks at length of this
Philosopher, who, like his Master, believed in souls being distributed
in earthly bodies as an exile and punishment.
Herakleides, though some critics do not believe
him to have strictly adhered to Plato's primal philosophy,47 taught the same ethics. Zeller presents him to us as imparting,
like Hicetas and Ecphantus, the Pythagorean doctrine of the diurnal rotation of the earth and the immobility of the
fixed stars, but adds that he was ignorant of the annual revolution
of the earth around the sun, and of the heliocentric system.48 But we have good evidence that the latter system was taught in
the Mysteries, and that Socrates died for "atheism," i.e., for divulging this sacred knowledge. Herakleides
adopted fully the Pythagorean and Platonic views of the human
soul, its faculties and its capabilities. He describes it as a
luminous, highly ethereal essence. He affirms that souls inhabit
the milky way before descending into "generation" or
sublunary existence. His dæmons, or spirits, are airy and
In the Epinomis is fully stated the doctrine of the Pythagorean
numbers in relation to created things. As a true Platonist, its
author maintains that wisdom can only be attained by a thorough
enquiry into the Occult nature of the creation; it alone assures
us an existence of bliss after death. The immortality of the soul
is greatly speculated upon in this treatise; but its author adds
that we can attain to this knowledge only through a complete comprehension
of numbers; for the man unable to distinguish the straight line
from the curved will never have wisdom enough to secure a mathematical
demonstration of the invisible, i.e., we must assure ourselves
of the objective existence of our soul before we learn that we
are in possession of a divine and immortal Spirit. Iamblichus
says the same thing; adding, moreover, that it is a secret belonging
to the highest Initiation. The Divine Power, he says, always felt
indignant with those "who rendered manifest the composition
of the icostagonus," viz., who delivered the method
of inscribing in a sphere the dodecahedron.
The idea that "numbers" possessing the greatest virtue
produce always what is good and never what is evil, refers to
justice, equanimity of temper, and everything that is harmonious.
When the author speaks of every star as an individual soul, he
only means what the Hindû Initiates and Hermetists taught
before and after him, viz., that every star is an independent
planet, which, like our earth, has a soul of its own, every atom
of Matter being impregnated with the divine influx of the Soul
of the World. It breathes and lives; it feels and suffers as well
as enjoys life in its way. What naturalist is prepared to dispute
it on good evidence? Therefore, we must consider the celestial
bodies as the images of Gods; as partaking of the divine powers
in their substance; and though they are not immortal in their
soul-entity, their agency in the economy of the universe is entitled
to divine honours, such as we pay to minor Gods. The idea is plain,
and one must be malevolent indeed to misrepresent it. If the author
of Epinomis places these fiery Gods higher than the animals,
plants, and even mankind, all of which, as earthly creatures,
are assigned by him a lower place, who can prove him wholly wrong?
One must needs go deep indeed into the profundity of the abstract
metaphysics of the old Philosophies, who would understand that
their various embodiments of their conceptions are, after all,
based upon an identical apprehension of the nature of the First
Cause, its attributes and method.
When the author of Epinomis, along with so many other Philosophers,
locates between the highest and the lowest Gods three classes
of Daimons, and peoples the Universe with hosts of sublimated
Beings, he is more rational than the modern Materialist. The latter,
making between the two extremes--the unknown and the invisible,
hence, according to his logic, the non-existent, and the
objective and the sensuous--one vast hiatus of being and the playground
of blind forces, may seek to explain his attitude on the grounds
of "scientific Agnosticism"; yet he will never succeed
in proving that the latter is consistent with logic, or even with
simple common sense.
H. P. Blavatsky
Lucifer, July, August, 1892
1See Manava Dharma Shastra (Laws of Manu), i,
5, 6, 7, 8, et seq.
back to text
2 Every student of Theosophy will recognize in
these three consecutive emanations the three Logoi of the Secret
Doctrine and the Theosophical Scheme.
back to text
3 Compare Manu, iv. 125.
back to text
4 Compare Manu, i. 50, and other shlokas
back to text
5 Cocker Christianity and Greek Philosophy,
back to text
6 This "God" is the Universal Mind, Alaya,
the source from which the "God" in each one of us has
back to text
7 Compare Timaeus Locrius, p.
back to text
8 See Movers' Explanations, p. 268.
back to text
9 Pythagoras was born in 580 and Plato in 430 B.C.
back to text
10 India in Greece, Preface, p. ix.
back to text
11"The accusations of atheism, the introducing
of foreign deities, and corrupting of the Athenian youth, which
were made against Socrates, afforded ample justification for Plato
to conceal the arcane preaching of his doctrines. Doubtless the
peculiar diction or 'jargon' of the alchemists was employed for
a like purpose. The dungeon, the rack, and the faggot were employed
without scruple by Christians of every shade, the Roman Catholics
especially, against all who taught even natural science contrary
to the theories entertained by the Church. Pope Gregory the Great
even inhibited the grammatical use of Latin as heathenish. The
offence of Socrates consisted in unfolding to his disciples the
arcane doctrine concerning the gods, which was taught in the Mysteries
and was a capital crime. He was also charged by Aristophanes with
introducing the new god Dinos into the republic as the demiurgos
or artificer, and the lord of the solar universe. The Heliocentric
system was also a doctrine of the Mysteries; and hence, when Aristarchus,
the Pythagorean taught it openly, Cleanthes declared that the
Greeks ought to have called him to account and condemned him for
blasphemy against the gods." But Socrates had never been
initiated, and hence divulged nothing which had ever been imparted
back to text
12 Thomas Taylor, Eleusinian and Bacchic
Mysteries, p. 47.
back to text
13 History of Philosophy, by Cousin,
I. p. ix.
back to text
14 Jowett, The Dialogues of Plato, ii. 508.
back to text
15Conflict between Religion and Science, p. 240.
back to text
16 'The Wisdom of Nebo, of the God my instructor,
all-delightful," says verse 7 on the first tablet, which
gives the description of the generation of the Gods and creation.
back to text
17 Some Kabalistic scholars assert that the original
Greek Pythagoric sentences of Sextus, which are now said to be
lost, existed at that time in a convent at Florence, and that
Galileo was acquainted with these writings. They add, moreover,
that a treatise on Astronomy, a manuscript by Archytas, a direct
disciple of Pythagoras, in which were noted all the most important
doctrines of their school, was in the possession of Galileo. Had
some Rufinus got hold of it, he would no doubt have perverted
it, as Presbyter Rufinus has perverted the above-mentioned sentences
of Sextus, replacing them with a fraudulent version, the authorship
of which he sought to ascribe to a certain Bishop Sextus. See
Taylor's introduction to Iamblichus' Life of Pythagoras, p. xvii
back to text
18 Introduction to Timaeus. Dialogues of
Plato, i. 590.
back to text
19 Cory, Phaedrus, i. 328.
back to text
20 This assertion is clearly corroborated by Plato
himself, who says: "You say that, in my former discourse.
I have not sufficiently explained to you the nature of the First.
I purposely spoke enigmatically, that in case the tablet should
have happened with any accident, either by land or sea, a person
without some previous knowledge of the subject, might not be able
to understand its contents" (Plato, Ep. ii. p. 312;
Cory, Ancient Fragments, p. 304)
back to text
21 Josephus, Against Apion, ii. p.
back to text
22Timaeus. See Prof. Jowett's work.
back to text
23 This is the teaching of Esoteric Philosophy
and this tenet was faintly outlined in Isis Unveiled. With Plato the triple man alone is perfect, i.e., one whose
Body, Soul, and Spirit are in close affinity.
back to text
24 And by Theosophists the Higher Ego or
back to text
25 Plato's Timaeus.
back to text
26 See Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the
back to text
27Sophistes, p. 249.
back to text
28Vide Hermann, 1. pp. 544. 744, note
back to text
29Theo. Arith., p. 62; on Pythag.
back to text
30 Plato: Parmenid., 141 E.
back to text
31 See Stobæus' Ecl., i. 862.
back to text
32 Sextus: Math., vii. 145.
back to text
33 Metaph., 407, a. 3.
back to text
34 Appendix to Timaeus.
back to text
35 Aristot., De Interp., p. 297.
back to text
36 Stob., Ecl., i. 62.
back to text
37 Stob: Ibid.
back to text
38 Krische: Forsch., p. 322, etc.
back to text
39 Clem: Stro. Alex., v. 590.
back to text
40 Plutarch: De Isid., ch. 25, p. 360.
back to text
41 See The Secret Doctrine, Stanzas,
back to text
42 Cicero, De Natura Deorum, i. 13.
Strob., or Plut., De Orac. Defect., p. 416, c.
back to text
43 Plato und die Alte Akademie.
back to text
44 Tusc., v. 18, 51.
back to text
45 Ibid. Cf. P. 559.
back to text
46 Plato und die Alte Akademie.
back to text
47 Ed. Zeller: Philos. der Griechen.
back to text
48 Plato und die Alte Akademie.
back to text