CIVILIZATION, THE DEATH OF ART AND BEAUTY
From H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles, Vol. I.
Articles by HPB
|IN an interview with the celebrated Hungarian violinist, M. Remenyi, the Pall Mall Gazette reporter makes the artist narrate some very interesting experiences in the Far East. "I was the first European artist who ever played before the Mikado of Japan," he said; and reverting to that which has ever been a matter of deep regret for every lover of the artistic and the picturesque, the violinist added:
On August 8th, 1886, I appeared before His Majesty--a day memorable, unfortunately, for the change of costume commanded by the Empress. She herself, abandoning the exquisite beauty of the feminine Japanese costume, appeared on that day for the first time and at my concert in European costume, and it made my heart ache to see her. I could have greeted her had I dared with a long wail of despair upon my travelled violin. Six ladies accompanied her, they themselves being clad in their native costume, and walking with infinite grace and charm.
Alas, alas, but this is not all! The Mikado--this hitherto sacred, mysterious, invisible and unreachable personage:
The Mikado himself was in the uniform of a European general! At that time the Court etiquette was so strict, my accompanist was not permitted into His Majesty's drawing room, and this was told me beforehand. I had a good remplacement, as my ambassador, Count Zaluski, who had been a pupil of Liszt, was able himself to accompany me. You will be astonished when I tell you that, having chosen for the first piece in the programme my transcription for the violin, of a C sharp minor polonaise by Chopin, a musical piece of the most intrinsic value and poetic depths, the Emperor, when I had finished, intimated to Count Ito, his first minister, that I should play it again. The Japanese taste is good. I was laden with presents of untold value, one item only being a gold-lacquer box of the seventeenth century. I played in Hong Kong and outside Canton, no European being allowed to live inside. There I made an interesting excursion to the Portuguese possession of Macao, visiting the cave where Camoëns wrote his Lusiad. It was very interesting to see outside the Chinese town of Macao a European Portuguese town which to this very day has remained unchanged since the sixteenth century. In the midst of the exquisite tropical vegetation of Java, and despite the terrific heat, I gave sixty-two concerts in sixty-seven days, travelling all over the island, inspecting its antiquities, the chief of which is a most wonderful Buddhist temple, the Boro Budhur, or Many Buddhas. This building contains six miles of figures, and is a solid pile of stone, larger than the pyramids. They have, these Javans, an extraordinarily sweet orchestra in the national Samelang which consists of percussion instruments played by eighteen people; but to hear this orchestra, with its most weird Oriental chorus and ecstatic dances, one must have had the privilege of being invited by the Sultan of Solo, "Sole Emperor of the World." I have seen and heard nothing more dreamy and poetic than the Serimpis danced by nine Royal Princesses.
Where are the Æsthetes of a few years ago? Or was this little confederation of the lovers of art but one of the soap-bubbles of our fin de siècle, rich in promise and suggestion of many a possibility, but dead in works and act? Or, if there are any true lovers of art yet left among them, why do they not organize and send out missionaries the world over, to tell picturesque Japan and other countries ready to fall victims that, to imitate the will-o'-the-wisp of European culture and fascination, means for a non-Christian land, the committing of suicide; that it means sacrificing one's individuality for an empty show and shadow; at best it is to exchange the original and the picturesque for the vulgar and the hideous. Truly and indeed it is high time that at last something should be done in this direction, and before the deceitful civilization of the conceited nations of but yesterday has irretrievably hypnotized the older races, and made them succumb to its upas-tree wiles and supposed superiority. Otherwise, old arts and artistic creations, everything original and unique will very soon disappear. Already national dresses and time-honoured customs, and everything beautiful, artistic, and worth preservation is fast disappearing from view. At no distant day, alas, the best relics of the past will perhaps be found only in museums in sorry, solitary, and be-ticketed samples preserved under glass!
Such is the work and the unavoidable result of our modern civilization. Skin-deep in reality in its visible effects, in the "blessings" it is alleged to have given to the world, its roots are rotten to the core. It is to its progress that selfishness and materialism, the greatest curses of the nations, are due; and the latter will most surely lead to the annihilation of art and of the appreciation of the truly harmonious and beautiful. Hitherto, materialism has only led to a universal tendency to unification on the material plane and a corresponding diversity on that of thought and spirit. It is this universal tendency, which by propelling humanity, through its ambition and selfish greed, to an incessant chase after wealth and the obtaining at any price of the supposed blessings of this life, causes it to aspire or rather gravitate to one level, the lowest of all--the plane of empty appearance. Materialism and indifference to all save the selfish realization of wealth and power, and the over-feeding of national and personal vanity, have gradually led nations and men to the almost entire oblivion of spiritual ideals, of the love of nature, to the correct appreciation of things. Like a hideous leprosy our Western civilization has eaten its way through all the quarters of the globe and hardened the human heart. "Soul-saving" is its deceitful, lying pretext; greed for additional revenue through opium, rum, and the inoculation of European vices--the real aim. In the far East it has infected with the spirit of imitation the higher classes of the "pagans"--save China, whose national conservatism deserves our respect; and in Europe it has engrafted fashion--save the mark --even on the dirty, starving proletariat itself! For the last thirty years, as if some deceitful semblance of a reversion to the ancestral type--awarded to men by the Darwinian theory in its moral added to its physical characteristics--were contemplated by an evil spirit tempting mankind, almost every race and nation under the Sun in Asia has gone mad in its passion for aping Europe. This, added to the frantic endeavor to destroy Nature in every direction, and also every vestige of older civilizations--far superior to our own in arts, godliness, and the appreciation of the grandiose and harmonious-- must result in such national calamities. Therefore, do we find hitherto artistic and picturesque Japan succumbing wholly to the temptation of justifying the "ape theory" by simianizing its populations in order to bring the country on a level with canting, greedy and artificial Europe!
For certainly Europe is all this. It is canting and deceitful from its diplomats down to its custodians of religion, from its political down to its social laws, selfish, greedy and brutal beyond expression in its grabbing characteristics. And yet there are those who wonder at the gradual decadence of true art, as if art could exist without imagination, fancy, and a just appreciation of the beautiful in Nature, or without poetry and high religious, hence, metaphysical aspirations! The galleries of paintings and sculpture, we hear, become every year poorer in quality, if richer in quantity. It is lamented that while there is a plethora of ordinary productions, the greatest scarcity of remarkable pictures and statuary prevails. Is this not most evidently due to the facts that (a) the artists will very soon remain with no better models than nature morte (or "still life") to inspire themselves with; and (b) that the chief concern is not the creation of artistic objects, but their speedy sale and profits? Under such conditions, the fall of true art is only a natural consequence.
Owing to the triumphant march and the invasion of civilization, Nature, as well as man and ethics, is sacrificed, and is fast becoming artificial. Climates are changing, and the face of the whole world will soon be altered. Under the murderous hand of the pioneers of civilization, the destruction of whole primeval forests is leading to the drying up of rivers, and the opening of the Canal of Suez has changed the climate of Egypt as that of Panama will divert the course of the Gulf Stream. Almost tropical countries are now becoming cold and rainy, and fertile lands threaten to be soon transformed into sandy deserts. A few years more and there will not remain within a radius of fifty miles around our large cities one single rural spot inviolate-from vulgar speculation. In scenery, the picturesque and the natural is daily replaced by the grotesque and the artificial. Scarce a landscape in England but the fair body of nature is desecrated by the advertisements of "Pears' Soap" and "Beecham's Pills." The pure air of the country is polluted with smoke, the smells of greasy railway-engines, and the sickening odours of gin, whiskey, and beer. And once that every natural spot in the surrounding scenery is gone, and the eye of the painter finds but the artificial and hideous products of modern speculation to rest upon, artistic taste will have to follow suit and disappear along with them.
"No man ever did or ever will work well, but either from actual sight or sight of faith," says Ruskin, speaking of art. Thus, the first quarter of the coming century may witness painters of landscapes, who have never seen an acre of land free from human improvement; and painters of figures whose ideas of female beauty of form will be based on the wasp-like pinched-in waists of corseted, hollow-chested and consumptive society belles. It is not from such models that a picture deserving of the definition of Horace--"a poem without words"--is produced. Artificially draped Parisiennes and London Cockneys sitting for Italian contadini or Arab Bedouins can never replace the genuine article; and both free Bedouins and genuine Italian peasant girls are, thanks to "civilization," fast becoming things of the past. Where shall artists find genuine models in the coming century, when the hosts of the free Nomads of the Desert, and perchance all the Negro tribes of Africa--or what will remain of them after their decimation by Christian cannons, and the rum and opium of the Christian civilizer--will have donned European coats and top hats? And that this is precisely what awaits art under the beneficial progress of modern civilization, is self-evident to all.
Aye! let us boast of the blessings of civilization, by all means. Let us brag of our sciences and the grand discoveries of the age, its achievements in mechanical arts, its railroads, telephones and electric batteries; but let us not forget, meanwhile, to purchase at fabulous prices (almost as great as those given in our day for a prize dog, or an old prima donna's song) the paintings and statuary of uncivilized, barbarous antiquity and of the middle ages: for such objects of art will be reproduced no more. Civilization has tolled their eleventh hour. It has rung the death-knell of the old arts, and the last decade of our century is summoning the world to the funeral of all that was grand, genuine, and original in the old civilizations. Would Raphael, O ye lovers of art, have created one single of his many Madonnas, had he had, instead of Fornarina and the once Juno-like women of the Trastevero of Rome to inspire his genius, only the present-day models, or the niched Virgins of the nooks and corners of modern Italy, in crinolines and high-heeled boots? Or would Andrea del Sarto have produced his famous "Venus and Cupid" from a modern East End working girl--one of the latest victims to fashion--holding under the shadow of a gigantic hat à la mousquetaire, feathered like the scalp of an Indian chief, a dirty, scrofulous brat from the slums? How could Titian have ever immortalized his golden-haired patrician ladies of Venice, had he been compelled to move all his life in the society of our actual "professional beauties," with their straw-colored, dyed capillaries that transform human hair into the fur of a yellow Angora cat? May not one venture to state with the utmost confidence that the world would never have had the Athena Limnia of Phidias--that ideal of beauty in face and form--had Aspasia, the Milesian, or the fair daughters of Hellas, whether in the days of Pericles or in any other, disfigured that "form" with stays and bustle, and coated that "face" with white enamel, after the fashion of the varnished features of the mummies of the dead Egyptians.
We see the same in architecture. Not even the genius of Michael Angelo himself could have failed to receive its death-blow at the first sight of the Eiffel Tower, or the Albert Hall, or more horrible still, the Albert Memorial. Nor, for the matter of that, could it have received any suggestive idea from the Colosseum and the palace of the Cæsars, in their present whitewashed and repaired state! Whither, then, shall we, in our days of civilization, go to find the natural, or even simply the picturesque? Is it still to Italy, to Switzerland or Spain? But the Bay of Naples--even if its waters be as blue and transparent as on the day when the people of Cumæ selected its shores for a colony, and its surrounding scenery as gloriously beautiful as ever--thanks to that spirit of mimicry which has infected sea and land, has now lost its most artistic and most original features. It is bereft of its lazy, dirty, but intensely picturesque figures of old; of its lazzaroni and barcarolos, its fishermen and country girls. Instead of the former's red or blue Phrygian cap, and the latter's statuesque, half-nude figure and poetical rags, we see nowadays but the caricatured specimens of modern civilization and fashion. The gay tarantella resounds no longer on the cool sands of the moonlit shore; it is replaced by that libel on Terpsychore, the modern quadrille, in the gas-lit, gin-smelling sailor's trattorias. Filth still pervades the land, as of yore; but it is made the more apparent on the threadbare city coat, the mangled chimney-pot hat and the once fashionable, now cast-away European bonnet. Picked up in the hotel gutters, they now grace the unkempt heads of the once picturesque Neapolitans. The type of the latter has died out, and there is nothing to distinguish the lazzaroni from the Venetian gondoliere, the Calabrian brigand, or the London street-sweeper and beggar. The still, sunlit waters of Canal Grande bear no longer their gondolas, filled on festival days with gaily dressed Venetians, with picturesque boatmen and girls. The black gondola that glides silently under the heavy caned balconies of the old patrician palazze, reminds one now more of a black floating coffin, with a solemn-looking, dark-clothed undertaker paddling it on towards the Styx, than of the gondola of thirty years ago. Venice looks more gloomy now than during the days of Austrian slavery from which it was rescued by Napoleon III. Once on shore, its gondoliere is scarcely distinguishable from his "fare," the British M.P. on his holiday-tour in the old city of the Doges. Such is the levelling hand of all-destroying civilization.
It is the same all over Europe. Look at Switzerland. Hardly a decade ago, every Canton had its distinguishing national costume, as clean and fresh as it was peculiar. Now the people are ashamed to wear it. They want to be mistaken for foreign guests, to be regarded as a civilized nation which follows suit even in fashion. Cross over to Spain. Of all the relics of old, the smell of rancid oil and garlic is alone left to remind one of the poetry of the old days in the country of the Cid. The graceful mantilla has almost disappeared; the proud hidalgo-beggar has taken himself off from the street-corner; the nightly serenades of love-sick Romeos are gone out of fashion; and the duenna contemplates going in for woman's rights. The members of the "Social Purity" Associations may say "thank God" to this and lay the change at the door of Christian and moral reforms of civilization. But has morality gained anything in Spain with the disappearance of the nocturnal lovers and duennas? We have every right to say, no. A Don Juan outside a house is less dangerous than one inside. Social immorality is as rife as ever--if not more so, in Spain, and it must be so, indeed, when even "Harper's Guide Book" quotes in its last edition as follows: "Morals in all classes, especially in the higher, are in the most degraded state. Veils, indeed, are thrown aside, and serenades are rare, but gallantry and intrigue are as active as ever. The men think little of their married obligations; the women . . . are willing victims of unprincipled gallantry." (Spain, "Madrid," page 678.) In this, Spain is but on a par with all other countries civilized or now civilizing, and is assuredly not worse than many another country that could be named; but that which may be said of it with truth is, that what it has lost in poetry through civilization, it has gained in hypocrisy and loose morals. The Cortejo has turned into the petit creve'; the castanets have become silent, because, perhaps, the noise of the uncorked champagne bottles affords more excitement to the rapidly civilizing nation; and the Andalouse au teint bruni having taken to cosmetics and face-enamel, "la Marquesa d' Almedi" may be said to have been buried with Alfred de Musset.
The gods have indeed been propitious to the Alhambra. They have permitted it to be burnt before its chaste Moresque beauty had been finally desecrated, as are the rock-cut temples of India, the Pyramids and other relics, by drunken orgies. This superb relic of the Moors had already suffered, once before, by Christian improvement. It is a tradition still told in Granada, and history too, that the monks of Ferdinand and Isabella had made of Alhambra--that "palace of petrified flowers dyed with the hues of the wings of angels"--a filthy prison for thieves and murderers. Modern speculators might have done worse; they might have polluted its walls and pearl-inlaid ceilings, the lovely gilding and stucco, the fairy-like arabesques, and the marble and gossamer-like carvings, with commercial advertisements, after the Inquisitors had already once before covered the building with whitewash and permitted the prison-keepers to use Alhambra Halls for their donkeys and cattle. Doubting but little that the fury of the Madrilenos for imitating the French and English must have already, at this stage of modern civilization, infected every province of Spain, we may regard that lovely country as dead. A friend speaks, as an eye-witness, of "cocktails" spilled near the marble fountain of the Alhambra, over the blood-marks left by the hapless Abancerages slain by Boabdil, and of a Parisian cancan pur sang performed by working girls and soldiers of Granada, in the Court of Lions!
But these are only trifling signs of the time and the spread of culture among the middle and the lower classes. Wherever the spirit of aping possesses the heart of the nation--the poor working classes--there the elements of nationality disappear and the country is on the eve of losing its individuality and all things change for the worse. What is the use of talking so loudly of "the benefits of Christian civilization," of its having softened public morals, refined national customs and manners, etc., etc., when our modern civilization has achieved quite the reverse! Civilization has depended, for ages, says Burke, "upon two principles . . . the spirit of a gentleman and the spirit of religion." And how many true gentlemen have we left, when compared even with the days of half-barbarous knighthood? Religion has become canting hypocrisy and the genuine religious spirit is regarded now-a-days as insanity. Civilization, it is averred, "has destroyed brigandage, established public security, elevated morality and built railways which now honeycomb the face of the globe." Indeed? Let us analyze seriously and impartially all these "benefits" and we shall soon find that civilization has done nothing of the kind. At best it has put a false nose on every evil of the Past, adding hypocrisy and false pretence to the natural ugliness of each. If it is true to say that it has put down in some civilized centers of Europe--near Rome, in the Bois de Boulogne or on Hampstead Heath--banditti and highway-men, it is also as true that it has, thereby, destroyed robbery only as a specialty, the latter having now become a common occupation in every city great or small. The robber and cut-throat has only exchanged his dress and appearance by donning the livery of civilization--the ugly modern attire. Instead of being robbed under the vault of thick woods and the protection of darkness, people are robbed now-a-days under the electric light of saloons and the protection of trade-laws and police-regulations. As to open day-light brigandage, the Mafia of New Orleans and the Mala Vita of Sicily, with high officialdom, population, police, and jury forced to play into the hands of regularly organized bands of murderers, thieves, and tyrants 1 [Footnote: 1. Read the "Cut Throat's Paradise" in the Edinburgh Review for April, 1877, and the digest of it in the Pall Mall Gazette of April 15th, 1891, "Murder as a Profession," ] in the full glare of European "culture," show how far our civilization has succeeded in establishing public security, or Christian religion in softening the hearts of men and the ways and customs of a barbarous past. Modern Cyclopædias are very fond of expatiating upon the decadence of Rome and its pagan horrors. But if the latest editions of the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography were honest enough to make a parallel between those "monsters of depravity" of ancient civilization, Messalina and Faustina, Nero and Commodus, and modern European aristocracy, it might be found that the latter could give odds to the former--in social hypocrisy, at any rate. Between "the shameless and beastly debauchery" of an Emperor Commodus, and as beastly a depravity of more than one "Honourable," high official representative of the people, the only difference to be found is that while Commodus was a member of all the sacerdotal colleges of Paganism, the modern debauchee may be a high member of the Evangelical Christian Churches, a distinguished and pious pupil of Moody and Sankey and what not. It is not the Calchas of Homer, who was the type of the Calchas in the Operette "La Belle Helene," but the modern sacerdotal Pecksniff and his followers.
As to the blessings of railways and "the annihilation of space and time," it is still an undecided question--without speaking of the misery and starvation the introduction of steam engines and machinery in general has brought for years on those who depend on their manual labour--whether railways do not kill more people in one month than the brigands of all Europe used to murder in a whole year. The victims of railroads, moreover, are killed under circumstances which surpass in horror anything the cut-throats may have devised. One reads almost daily of railway disasters in which people are "burned to death in the blazing wreckage," "mangled and crushed out of recognition" and killed by dozens and scores.2 [Footnote: 2. To take one instance. A Reuter's telegram from America, where such accidents are almost of daily occurrence, gives the following details of a wrecked train: "One of the cars which was attached to a gravel train and which contained five Italian workmen, was thrown forward into the center of the wreck, and the whole mass caught fire. Two of the men were killed outright and the remaining three were injured, pinioned in the wreckage. As the flames reached them their cries and groans were heartrending. Owing to the position of the car and the intense heat the rescuers were unable to reach them, and were compelled to watch them slowly burn to death. It is understood that all the victims leave families." ] This is a trifle worse than the highwaymen of old Newgate.
Nor has crime been abated at all by the spread of civilization; though owing to the progress of science in chemistry and physics, it has become more secure from detection and more ghastly in its realization than it ever has been. Speak of Christian civilization having improved public morals; of Christianity being the only religion which has established and recognized Universal Brotherhood! Look at the brotherly feeling shown by American Christians to the Red Indian and the Negro, whose citizenship is the farce of the age. Witness the love of the Anglo-Indians for the "mild Hindu," the Mussulman, and the Buddhist. See "how these Christians love each other" in their incessant law litigations, their libels against each other, the mutual hatred of the Churches and of the sects. Modern civilization and Christianity are oil and water--they will never mix. Nations among which the most horrible crimes are daily perpetrated; nations which rejoice in Tropmanns and Jack the Rippers, in fiends like Mrs. Reeves the trader in baby slaughter--to the number of 300 victims as is believed--for the sake of filthy lucre; nations which not only permit but encourage a Monaco with its hosts of suicides, that patronize prize-fights, bull-fights, useless and cruel sport and even indiscriminate vivisection--such nations have no right to boast of their civilization. Nations furthermore which from political considerations, dare not put down slave-trade once for all, and out of revenue-greed, hesitate to abolish opium and whiskey trades, fattening on the untold misery and degradation of millions of human beings, have no right to call themselves either Christian or civilized. A civilization finally that leads only to the destruction of every noble, artistic feeling in man, can only deserve the epithet of barbarous. We, the modern-day Europeans, are Vandals as great, if not greater than Atilla with his savage hordes.
Consummatum est. Such is the work of our modem Christian civilization and its direct effects. The destroyer of art, the Shylock, who, for every mite of gold it gives, demands and receives in return a pound of human flesh, in the heart-blood, in the physical and mental suffering of the masses, in the loss of everything true and lovable--can hardly pretend to deserve grateful or respectful recognition. The unconsciously prophetic fin de siècle, in short, is the long ago foreseen fin de cycle; when according to Manjunâtha Sutra, "Justice will have died, leaving as its successor blind Law, and as its Guru and guide--Selfishness; when wicked things and deeds will have to be regarded as meritorious, and holy actions as madness." Beliefs are dying out, divine life is mocked at; art and genius, truth and justice are daily sacrificed to the insatiable mammon of the age --money grubbing. The artificial replaces everywhere the real, the false substitutes the true. Not a sunny valley, not a shadowy grove left immaculate on the bosom of mother nature. And yet what marble fountain in fashionable square or city park, what bronze lions or tumble-down dolphins with upturned tails can compare with an old worm-eaten, moss-covered, weather-stained country well, or a rural windmill in a green meadow! What Arc de Triomphe can ever compare with the low arch of Grotto Azzurra, at Capri, and what city park or Champs Elysées, rival Sorrento, "the wild garden of the world," the birth-place of Tasso? Ancient civilizations have never sacrificed Nature to speculation, but holding it as divine, have honoured her natural beauties by the erection of works of art, such as our modern electric civilization could never produce even in dream. The sublime grandeur, the mournful gloom and majesty of the ruined temples of Pæstum, that stand for ages like so many sentries over the sepulchre of the Past and the forlorn hope of the Future amid the mountain wilderness of Sorrento, have inspired more men of genius than the new civilization will ever produce. Give us the banditti who once infested these ruins, rather than the railroads that cut through the old Etruscan tombs; the first may take the purse and life of the few; the second are undermining the lives of the millions by poisoning with foul gases the sweet breath of the pure air. In ten years, by century xxth, Southern France with its Nice and Cannes, and even Engadine, may hope to rival the London atmosphere with its fogs, thanks to the increase of population and changes of climate. We hear that Speculation is preparing a new iniquity against Nature: smoky, greasy, stench-breathing funiculaires (baby-railways) are being contemplated for some world-renowned mountains. They are preparing to creep like so many loathsome, fire-vomiting reptiles over the immaculate body of the Jungfrau, and a railway-tunnel is to pierce the heart of the snow-capped Virgin mountain, the glory of Europe. And why not? Has not national speculation pulled down the priceless remains of the grand Temple of Neptune at Rome, to build over its colossal corpse and sculptured pillars the present Custom House?
Are we so wrong then, in maintaining that modern civilization with its Spirit of Speculation is the very Genius of Destruction; and as such, what better words can be addressed to it than this definition of Burke:
"A Spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors."
H. P. Blavatsky
Claims of Occultism
From A Modern Panarion
Articles by HPB
[Vol. II. No. 12, September, 1881.]
THIS is the heading of an article I find in a London publication, a new weekly called Light, and described as a "Journal Devoted to the Highest Interests of Humanity, both Here and Hereafter." It is a good and useful journal; and, if I may judge from the only two numbers I have ever seen, one whose dignified tone will prove far more persuasive with the public than the passionate and often rude remarks passed on their opponents and sceptics by its "spiritual" contemporaries. The article to which I wish to call attention is signed by a familiar name (nom de plume), "M.A. Oxon.," that of a profoundly sympathetic writer, of a personal and esteemed friend—of one, in short, who, I trust, whether he remains friendly or antagonistic to our views, would never confound the doctrine with its adherents, or, putting it more plainly, visit the sins of the Occultists upon Occultism and vice versâ.
It is with considerable interest and attention, then, that the present writer has read "The Claims of Occultism." As everything else coming from "M.A. Oxon.'s" pen, it bears a peculiar stamp, not only of originality but of that intense individuality, that quiet but determined resolution to bring every new phases, every discovery in Psychological sciences back to its (to him) first principles—Spiritualism. And when writing the word, I do not mean by it the vulgar "seance-room" Spiritualism, which "M.A. Oxon." has from the very first outgrown, but that primitive idea which underlies all the subsequent theories, the old parent root from which have sprung the modern weeds, namely, belief in a guardian angel or a tutelary spirit, who, whether his charge is conscious of it or not—i.e., mediumistic or non-mediumistic—is placed by a still higher power over every (baptized?) mortal to watch over his actions during life. And this, if not the correct outline of "M.A. Oxon.'s" faith, is undoubtedly the main idea of all the Christian-born Spiritualists, past, present, and future. The doctrine, Christian as it now may be—and preëminently Roman Catholic it is—has not originated, as we all know, with the Christian, but with the Pagan world. Besides being represented in the tutelary daimon of Socrates—that ancient "guide" of whom our Spiritualists make the most they can—it is the doctrine of the Alexandrian Greek theurgists, of the Zoroastrians, and of the later Babylonian Jews, one, moreover, sadly disfigured by the successors of all these—the Christians. It matters little though, for we are now concerned but with the personal views of "M.A. Oxon.," which he sets in opposition to those of some Theosophists.
His doctrine then seems to us more than ever to centre in, and gyrate around, that main idea that the spirit of the living man is incapable of acting outside of the body independently and per se; but that it must needs be like a tottering baby guided by his mother or nurse—be led on by some kind of spiritual strings by a disembodied spirit, an individuality entirely distinct from, and at some time even foreign to himself, as such a spirit can only be a human soul, having at some period or other lived on this planet of ours. I trust that I have now correctly stated my friend's belief, which is that of most of the intellectual, progressive and liberal Spiritualists of our day, one, moreover, shared by all those Theosophists who have joined our movement by deserting the ranks of the hoi polloi of Spiritualism. Nevertheless, and bound though we be to respect the private opinions of those of our Brother-Fellows who have started out in the research of truth by the same path as "M.A. Oxon.," however widely they may have diverged from the one we ourselves follow, yet we will always say that such is not the belief of all the Theosophists—the writer included. For all that, we shall not follow the nefarious example set to us by most of the Spiritualists and their papers, which are as bitter against us as most of the missionary sectarian papers are against each other and the infidel Theosophists. We will not quarrel, but simply argue, for "Light! more light!" is the rallying cry of both progressive Spiritualists and Theosophists. Having thus far explained myself, "M.A. Oxon." will take, I am sure, en bon seigneur every remark that I may make on his article in Light, which I here quote verbatim. I will not break his flowing narrative, but limit my answers to modest footnotes.
It is now some years since Spiritualists were startled by the publication of two ponderous volumes by Madame Blavatsky, under the title of Isis Unveiled. Those who mastered the diversified contents of those large and closely-printed pages, upwards of twelve hundred in number, bore away a vague impression that Spiritualism had been freely handled not altogether to its advantage, and that a portentous claim had been more or less darkly set up for what was called Occultism. The book was full of material—so full that I shall probably be right in saying that no one has mastered its contents so as to fully grasp the author's plan; but the material sadly needed reducing to order, and many of the statements required elucidation, and some, perhaps, limitation.* [Footnote: *. It is not the first time that the just reproach is unjustly laid at my door. It is but too true that "the material sadly needed reducing to order," but it never was my province to do so, as I gave out one detached chapter after the other, and was quite ignorant, as Mr. Sinnett correctly states in The Occult World, whether I had started upon a series of articles, one book or two books. Neither did I much care. It was my duty to give out some hints, to point to the dangerous phases of modern Spiritualism, and to bring to bear upon that question all the assertions and testimony of the ancient world and its sages that I could find, as an evidence to corroborate my conclusions. I did the best I could and knew how. If the critics of Isis Unveiled but consider that (1) its author had never studied the English language, and after learning it in her childhood colloquially had not spoken it before coming to America half-a-dozen of times during a period of many years; (2) that most of the doctrines (or shall we say hypotheses') given had to be translated from an Asiatic language; and (3) that most, if not all of the quotations from, and references to, other works—some of these out of print, and many inaccessible but to the few—and which the author personally had never read or seen, though the passages quoted were proved in each instance minutely correct, then my friends would perhaps feel less critically inclined. However, Isis Unveiled is but a natural entrée en matière in the above article, and I must not lose time over its merits or demerits. ] Moreover, the reader wanted a guide to pilot him through the difficulties that he encountered on every hand; and, above all, he sorely needed some more tangible hold on the history and pretensions of the mysterious Brotherhood for whom the author made such tremendous claims.† [Footnote: †. Indeed, the claims made for a "Brotherhood" of living men were never half as pretentious as those which are daily made by the Spiritualists on behalf of the disembodied souls of dead people. ]
It seemed vain for any seeker after truth to attempt to enter into relations, however remote, with any adept of the order of which Madame Blavatsky is the visible representative. All questions were met with polite or decisive refusal to submit to any examination of the pretensions made. The Brothers would receive an enquirer only after he had demonstrated his truth, honesty and courage by an indefinitely prolonged probation. They sought no one; they promised to receive none.‡ [Footnote: ‡. No more do they now. ] Meantime, they rejected no one who was persevering enough to go forward in the prescribed path of training by which alone the divine powers of the human spirit can, they allege, be developed.
The only palpable outcome of all this elaborate effort at human enlightenment was the foundation in America of the Theosophical Society, which has been the accepted, though not the prescribed, organization of the Occult Brotherhood.§ [Footnote: §. We beg to draw to this sentence the attention of all those of our Fellows and friends in the West as in India, who felt inclined to either disbelieve in, or accuse the "Brothers of the First Section" on account of the administrative mistakes and shortcomings of the Theosophical Society. From the first the Fellows were notified that the First Section might issue occasionally orders to those who knew them personally, yet had never promised to guide, or even protect, either the body or its members. ] They would utilize the Society, but they would not advise as to the methods by which it should be regulated, nor guarantee it any special aid, except in so far as to give the very guarded promise that whatever aid might at any time be vouchsafed by them to enquiring humanity, would come, if at all, through that channel. It must be admitted that this was a microscopically small crumb of comfort to fall from so richly laden a table as Madame Blavatsky had depicted. But Theosophists had to be content, or, at least, silent; and so they betook themselves, some of them, to reflection.
What ground had they for belief in the existence of these Brothers, adepts who had a mastery over the secrets of nature which dwarfed the results of modern scientific research, who had gained the profoundest knowledge—"Know thyself"—and could demonstrate by actual experiment the transcendent powers of the human spirit, spurning time and space, and proving the existence of soul by the methods of exact experimental science? What ground for such claims existed outside of that on which the Theosophical Society rested?
For a long time the answer was of the vaguest. But eventually evidence was gathered, and in this book** [Footnote: ** The Occult World, by A. P. Sinnett. ] we have Mr. Sinnett coming forward to give us the benefit of his own researches into the matter, and especially to give us his correspondence with Koot Hoomi, an adept and member of the Brotherhood, who had entered into closer relations, still however of a secondary nature,*** [Footnote: ***. With Mr. Sinnett, and only so far. His relations with a few other Fellows have been as personal as they could desire. ] with him than had been vouchsafed to other men. These letters are of an extremely striking nature, and their own intrinsic value is high. This is greatly enhanced by the source from which they come, and the light they throw upon the mental attitude of these Tibetan recluses to whom the world and the things of the world are alike without interest, save in so far as they can ameliorate man's state, and teach him to develop and use his powers.
Another fruitful subject of questioning among those who leaned to theosophical study was as to the nature of these occult powers. It was impossible to construct from Isis Unveiled any exact scheme, supported by adequate testimony, or by sufficient evidence from any proper source, of what was actually claimed for the adept. Madame Blavatsky herself, though making no pretension to having attained the full development of those whose representative she was, possessed certain occult powers that seemed to the Spiritualist strangely like those of mediumship.†† [Footnote: ††. Medium, in the sense of the postman who brings a letter from one living person to another; in the sense of an assistant electrician whose master tells him how to turn this screw and arrange that wire in the battery; never in the sense of a spiritual medium. "Madame Blavatsky" neither needed nor did she ever make use of either dark séance-rooms, cabinets, "trance-state," "harmony," nor any of the hundreds of conditions required by the passive mediums who know not what is going to occur. She always knew beforehand, and could state what was going to happen save infallibly answering each time for complete success. ] This, however, she disclaimed with much indignation. A medium, she explained, was but a poor creature, a sort of conduit through which any foul stream might be conveyed, a gas-pipe by means of which gas of a very low power of illumination reached this earth. And much pain was taken to show that the water was very foul, and that the gas was derived from a source that, if at all spiritual, was such as we, who craved true illumination, should by no means be content with. It is impossible to deny that the condition of public Spiritualism in America, at the time when these strictures were passed upon it, was such as to warrant grave censure. It had become sullied in the minds of observers, who viewed it from without, and who were not acquainted with its redeeming features, by association with impurity and fraud. The mistake was to assume that this was the complexion of Spiritualism in itself, and not of Spiritualism as depraved by adventitious causes. This, however, was assumed. If we desired true light, then we were told that we must crush out mediumship, close the doors through which the mere Spiritual loafers come to perplex and ruin us, and seek for the true adepts who alone could safely pilot us in our search. These, it was explained, had by no means given up the right of entrance to their Spiritual house to any chance spirit that might take a fancy to enter. They held the key and kept intruders out, while, by unaided powers of their own, they performed wonders before which medial phenomena paled. This was the only method of safety; and these powers, inherent in all men, though susceptible of development only in the purest, and then with difficulty, were the only means by which the adept worked.
Some Theosophists demonstrated by practical experiment that there is a foundation of truth in these pretensions. I am not aware whether anyone has found himself able to separate quite conclusively between his own unaided efforts and those in which external spirit has had a share. There is, however, one very noteworthy fact which gives a clue to the difference between the methods of the Spiritualist and the Occultist. The medium is a passive recipient of spirit-influence. The adept is an active, energizing, conscious creator of results which he knowingly produces, and of which evidence exists and can be sifted. Spiritualists have been slow to accept this account of what they are familiar with in another shape. Theosophists have been equally slow to estimate the facts and theories of Spiritualism with candour and patience. Mr. Sinnett records many remarkable experiences of his own, which are well worthy of study, and which may lead those who now approach these phenomena from opposite sides to ponder whether there may not be a common ground on which they can meet. We do not know so much of the working of spirit that we can afford to pass by contemptuously any traces of its operation. Be we Spiritualists or Theosophists—odd names to ticket ourselves with!—we are all looking for evidence of the whence and whither of humanity. We want to know somewhat of the great mystery of life, and to pry a little into the no less sublime mystery of death. We are gathering day by day more evidence that is becoming bewildering in its minute perplexities. We want to get light from all sources; let us be patient, tolerant of divergent opinion, quick to recognize the tiny hold that any one soul can have on truth, and the multiform variety in which that which we call truth is presented to man's view. Is it strange that we should see various sides of it? Can we not see that it must needs be so? Can we not wait for the final moment of reconciliation, when we shall see with clearer eye and understand as now we cannot?
There is much in Mr. Sinnett's little book that may help those who are trying to assume this mental attitude. The philosophy that it contains is clearly stated, and affords rich material for thought. The facts recorded are set forth with scientific accuracy, and must profoundly impress the careful and candid reader. The glimpses revealed of this silent Brotherhood, in its lonely home on one of the slopes of the mountains of Tibet, working to solve the mighty problem, and to confer on humanity such benefits as it can receive, are impressive enough even to the Philistine sceptic. If they should indeed be flashes of a greater truth, now only dimly revealed, the importance of such revelation is not to be measured in words.
Be this, however, as it may—and there are many points on which light is necessary before a decisive opinion may be pronounced—there is no doubt whatever that the philosophy contained in Mr. Sinnett's book is similar to that which the great students of Theosophy in ages past have arrived at. It is a mere piece of nineteenth-century arrogance to pooh-pooh it as unworthy of attention by those on whom has flashed the dazzling light of the spirit circle. The facts recorded are at least as scientifically conclusive as any recorded as having happened in a dark séance, or under the ordinary conditions of Spiritualistic investigation. The letters of Koot Hoomi are fruitful of suggestion, and will repay careful study on their own merits. The whole book contains only 172 pages, and will not, therefore, unduly tax the reader's patience. If any instructed Spiritualist will read it, and can say that there is nothing in it that adds to his knowledge, he will at least have the satisfaction of having read both sides of the question, and that should present itself to all candid thinkers as a paramount and imperative duty.
H. P. Blavatsky
COUNT ST. GERMAIN
From A Modern Panarion
Articles by HPB
[Vol. II. No. 8, May, 1881.]
AT long intervals have appeared in Europe certain men whose rare intellectual endowments, brilliant conversation, and mysterious modes of life have astounded and dazzled the public mind. The article now copied from All the Year Round relates to one of these men—the Count St. Germain. In Hargrave Jennings' curious work, The Rosicrucians, is described another, a certain Signor Gualdi, who was once the talk of Venetian society. A third was the historical personage known as Alessandro di Cagliostro, whose name has been made the synonym of infamy by a forged Catholic biography. It is not now intended to compare these three individuals with each other or with the common run of men. We copy the article of our London contemporary for quite another object. We wish to show how basely personal character is traduced without the slightest provocation—unless the fact of one's being brighter in mind, and more versed in the secrets of natural law can be construed as a sufficient provocation to set the slanderer's pen and the gossip's tongue in motion. Let the reader attentively note what follows. The writer in All the Year Round says:
This famous adventurer [the Count St. Germain] is supposed to have been a Hungarian by birth, but the early part of his life was by himself carefully wrapped in mystery. His person and his title alike stimulated curiosity. His age was unknown and his parentage equally obscure. We catch the first glimpse of him in Paris, a century and a quarter ago, filling the court and the town with his renown. Amazed Paris saw a man—apparently of middle age—a man who lived in magnificent style, who went to dinner parties where he ate nothing, but talked incessantly and with exceeding brilliancy on every imaginable topic. His tone was perhaps over trenchant—the tone of a man who knows perfectly what he is talking about. Learned, speaking every civilized language admirably, a great musician, an excellent chemist, he played the part of a prodigy, and played it to perfection. Endowed with extraordinary confidence or consummate impudence, he not only laid down the law magisterially concerning the present, but spoke without hesitation of events 200 years old. His anecdotes of remote occurrences were related with extraordinary minuteness. He spoke of scenes at the court of Francis I. as if he had seen them, describing exactly the appearance of the king, imitating his voice, manner and language, affecting throughout the character of an eye-witness. In like style he edified his audience with pleasant stories of Louis XIV., and regaled them with vivid descriptions of places and persons. Hardly saying in so many words that he was actually present when the events happened, he yet contrived, by his great graphic power, to convey that impression . . . intending to astonish, he succeeded completely. Wild stories were current concerning him. He was reported to be 300 years old, and to have prolonged his life by the use of a famous elixir. Paris went mad about him. He was questioned constantly about his secret of longevity, and was marvellously adroit in his replies, denying all power to make old folks young again, but quietly asserting his possession of the secret of arresting decay in the human frame. Diet, he protested, was, with his marvellous elixir, the true secret of long life, and he resolutely refused to eat any food but such as had been specially prepared for him—oatmeal, groats and the white meat of chickens. On great occasions he drank a little wine, sat up as late as anyone would listen to him, but took extraordinary precautions against the cold. To ladies he gave mysterious cosmetics to preserve their beauty unimpaired; to men, he talked openly of his method of transmuting metals, and of a certain process for melting down a dozen little diamonds into one large stone. These astounding assertions were backed by the possession of apparently boundless wealth, and a collection of jewels of rare size and beauty.
From time to time this strange being appeared in various European capitals, under various names, as Marquis de Montferrat, Count Bellamare, at Venice; Chevalier Schoening, at Pisa; Chevalier Weldon, Milan; Count Soltikoff, at Genoa; Count Tzarogy at Schwalbach, and, finally, as Count St. Germain at Paris; but, after his disaster at the Hague, no longer seems so wealthy as before, and has at times the appearance of seeking his fortune. At Tournay, he is "interviewed" by the renowned Chevalier de Seingalt, who finds him in an Armenian robe and pointed cap, with a long beard descending to his waist, and ivory wand in hand—the complete make-up of a necromancer. St. Germain is surrounded by a legion of bottles, and is occupied in developing the manufacture of hats upon chemical principles. Seingalt being indisposed, the Count offers to physic him gratis and offers to dose him with an elixir, which appears to have been æther; but the other refuses, with many polite speeches. It is the scene of the two augurs. Not being allowed to act as physician, St. Germain determines to show his power as an alchemist, takes a twelve-sous piece from the other augur, puts it on red-hot charcoal, and works with a blow-pipe, the piece of money is fused and allowed to cool. "Now," says St. Germain, "take your money again." "But it is gold." "Of the purest." Augur No. 2 does not believe in the transmutation and looks on the whole operation as a trick; but he pockets the piece, nevertheless, and finally presents it to the celebrated Marshal Keith, then governor of Neuchatel.
Again, in pursuit of dyeing and other manufacturing schemes, St. Germain turned up at St. Petersburg, Dresden and Milan. Once he got into trouble, and was arrested in a petty town of Piedmont on a protested bill of exchange; but he pulled out a hundred thousand crowns' worth of jewels, paid on the spot, bullied the governor of the town like a pickpocket, and was released with the most respectful excuses.
Very little doubt exists that during one of his residences in Russia, he played an important part in the revolution which placed Catherine II. on the throne. In support of this view, Baron Gleichen cites the extraordinary attention bestowed on St. Germain at Leghorn, 1770, by Count Alexis Orloff, and a remark made by Prince Gregory Orloff to the Margrave of Onspach during his stay at Nuremberg.
After all, who was he?—the son of a Portuguese king or of a Portuguese Jew? Or did he in his old age tell the truth to his protector and enthusiastic admirer, Prince Charles of Hesse Cassel? According to the story told by his last friend, he was the son of a Prince Rakoczy of Transylvania, and his first wife a Tekely. He was placed, when an infant, under the protection of the last of the Medici. When he grew up and heard that his two brothers, sons of the Princess Hesse Rheinfels, of Rothenburg, had received the names of St. Charles and St. Elizabeth, he determined to take the name of their holy brother St. Germanus. What was the truth? One thing alone is certain, that he was a protégé of the last Medici. Prince Charles, who appears to have regretted his death, which happened in 1783, very sincerely tells us that he fell sick, while pursuing his experiments in colours at Ekrenforde, and died shortly after, despite the innumerable medicaments prepared by his own private apothecary. Frederick the Great, who, despite his scepticism, took a queer interest in astrologers, said of him, "This is a man who does not die." Mirabeau adds epigrammatically, "He was always a careless fellow, and at last, like his predecessors, forgot not to die."
And now we ask what shadow of proof is herein afforded either that St. Germain was an "adventurer," that he meant to "play the part of a prodigy," or that he sought to make money out of dupes. Not one single sign is there of his being other than what he seemed, viz., a possessor of ample means to support honestly his standing in society. He claimed to know how to fuse small diamonds into large ones, and to transmute metals, and backed his "assertions" by the possession of apparently boundless wealth and a collection of jewels of rare size and beauty. Are "adventurers" like this? Do charlatans enjoy the confidence and admiration of the cleverest statesmen and nobles of Europe for long years, and not even at their deaths show in one thing that they were undeserving? Some encyclopædists (see New American Cyclopædia xiv. 266) say: "He is supposed to have been employed during the greater part of his life as a spy at the courts at which he resided." But upon what evidence is this supposition based? Has anyone found it in any of the state papers in the secret archives of either of those courts? Not one word, not one shred of fact to build this base calumny upon, has ever been found. It is simply a malicious lie. The treatment this great man, this pupil of Indian and Egyptian hierophants, this proficient in the secret wisdom of the East, has had from Western writers, is a stigma upon human nature. And so has the stupid world behaved towards every other person who, like St. Germain, has revisited it after long seclusion devoted to study, with his stores of accumulated esoteric wisdom, in the hope of bettering it, and making it wiser and happier.
One other point should be noticed. The above account gives no particulars of the last hours of the mysterious Count or of his funeral. Is it not absurd to suppose that if he really died at the time and place mentioned, he would have been laid in the ground without the pomp and ceremony, the official supervision, the police registration which attend the funerals of men of his rank and notoriety? Where are these data? He passed out of public sight more than a century ago, yet no memoir contains them. A man who so lived in the full blaze of publicity could not have vanished, if he really died then and there, and left no trace behind. Moreover, to this negative we have the alleged positive proof that he was living several years after 1784. He is said to have had a most important private conference with the Empress of Russia in 1785 or 1786, and to have appeared to the Princess de Lamballe when she stood before the tribunal, a few moments before she was struck down with a billet, and a butcher-boy cut off her head; and to Jeanne Dubarry, the mistress of Louis XV. as she waited on her scaffold at Paris the stroke of the guillotine in the Days of Terror of 1793.
A respected member of our Society, residing in Russia, possesses some highly important documents about Count St. Germain, and for the vindication of the memory of one of the grandest characters of modern times, it is hoped that the long-needed but missing links in the chain of his history may speedily be given to the world through these columns.
H. P. Blavatsky
CLASSIFICATION OF "PRINCIPLES"
From H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles, Vol. II.
Articles by HPB
|IN a most admirable lecture by Mr. T. Subba Row on the Bhagavad-Gita, published in the February number of the Theosophist, the lecturer deals, incidentally as I believe, with the question of septenary "principles" in the Kosmos and Man. The division is rather criticized, and the grouping hitherto adopted and favoured in theosophical teachings is resolved into one of Four.
This criticism has already given rise to some misunderstanding, and it is argued by some that a slur is thrown on the original teachings. This apparent disagreement with one whose views are rightly held as almost decisive on occult matters in our Society is certainly a dangerous handle to give to opponents who are ever on the alert to detect and blazon forth contradictions and inconsistencies in our philosophy. Hence I feel it my duty to show that there is in reality no inconsistency between Mr. Subba Row's views and our own in the question of the septenary division; and to show (a) that the lecturer was perfectly well acquainted with the septenary division before he joined the Theosophical Society; (b) that he knew it was the teaching of old "Aryan philosophers who have associated seven occult powers with the seven principles" in the Macrocosm and the Microcosm (see the end of this article); and (c) that from the beginning he had objected--not to the classification but to the form in which it was expressed. Therefore, now, when he calls the division "unscientific and misleading," and adds that "this sevenfold classification is almost conspicuous by its absence in many (not all?) of our Hindu books," etc., and that it is better to adopt the time-honoured classification of four principles, Mr. Subba Row must mean only some special orthodox books, as it would be impossible for him to contradict himself in such a conspicuous way.
A few words of explanation, therefore, will not be altogether out of place. For the matter of being "conspicuous by its absence" in Hindu books, the said classification is as conspicuous by its absence in Buddhist books. This, for a reason transparently clear: it was always esoteric; and as such, rather inferred than openly taught. That it is "misleading" is also perfectly true; for the great feature of the day--materialism--has led the minds of our Western theosophists into the prevalent habit of viewing the seven principles as distinct and self-existing entities, instead of what they are--namely, upadhis and correlating states--three upadhis, basic groups, and four principles. As to being "unscientific," the term can be only attributed to a lapsus linguae, and in this relation let me quote what Mr. Subba Row wrote about a year before he joined the Theosophical Society in one of his ablest articles, "Brahmanism on the Sevenfold Principle in Man," the best review that ever appeared of the Fragments of Occult Truth--since embodied in Esoteric Buddhism. Says the author:--
"I have carefully examined it (the teaching) and find that the results arrived at (in the Buddhist doctrine) do not differ much from the conclusions of our Aryan philosophy, though our mode of stating the arguments may differ in form." Having enumerated, after this, the "three primary causes" which bring the human being into existence--i.e., Parabrahmam, Sakti and Prakriti--he explains: "Now, according to the Adepts of ancient Aryavarta, seven principles are evolved out of these three primary entities. Algebra teaches us that the number of combinations of things, taken one at a time, two at a time, three at a time, and so forth = 2n - 1. Applying this formula to the present case, the number of entities evolved from different combinations of these three primary causes amount to 23 - 1 = 8 - 1 = 7. As a general rule, whenever seven entities are mentioned in the ancient occult sciences of India in any connection whatsoever, you must suppose that these seven entities come into existence from the three primary entities; and that these three entities, again, are evolved out of a single entity or MONAD." (See Five Years of Theosophy, p. 160.)
This is quite correct, from the occult standpoint, and also kabbalistically, when one looks into the question of the seven and ten Sephiroths, and the seven and ten Rishis, Manus, etc. It shows that in sober truth there is not, nor can there be any fundamental disagreement between esoteric philosophy of the Trans- and Cis-Himalayan Adepts. The reader is referred, moreover, to the earlier pages of the above mentioned article, in which it is stated that "the knowledge of the occult powers of nature possessed by the inhabitants of the lost Atlantis was learnt by the ancient Adepts of India, and was appended by them to the esoteric doctrine taught by the residents of the sacred island (now the Gobi desert).1 [Footnote: 1. See Isis Unveiled, Vol. 1, pp. 598-9, and the appendices by the Editor to the above quoted article in Five Years of Theosophy. ] The Tibetan Adepts, however (their precursors of Central Asia), have not accepted the addition" (pp. 155-156). But this difference between the two doctrines does not include the septenary division, as it was universal after it had originated with the Atlanteans, who, as the Fourth Race, were of course an earlier race than the Fifth--the Aryan.
Thus, from the purely metaphysical standpoint, the remarks made on the Septenary Division in the "Bhagavad-Gita" Lecture hold good today, as they did five or six years ago in the article, "Brahtnanism on the Sevenfold Principle in Man," their apparent discrepancy notwithstanding. For purposes of purely theoretical esotericism, they are as valid in Buddhist as they are in Brahmanical philosophy. Therefore, when Mr. Subba Row proposes to hold to "the time-honoured classification of four principles" in a lecture on a Vedanta work--the Vedantic classification, however, dividing man into five "kosas" (sheaths) and the Atma (the sixth nominally, of course),2 [Footnote: 2. This is the division given to us by Mr. Subba Row. See Five Years of Theosophy, p. 136, article signed T.S. ] he simply shows thereby that he desires to remain strictly within theoretical and metaphysical, and also orthodox computations of the same. This is how I understand his words, at any rate. For the Taraka Raj-Yoga classification is again three upadhis, the Atma being the fourth principle, and no upadhi, of course, as it is one with Parabrahm. This is again shown by himself in a little article called "Septenary Division in Different Indian Systems."3 [Footnote: 3. Ibid., p.185. ]
Why then should not "Buddhist" Esotericism, so-called, resort to such a division? It is perhaps "misleading"--that is admitted; but surely it cannot be called "unscientific." I will even permit myself to call that adjective a thoughtless expression, since it has been shown to be on the contrary very "scientific" by Mr. Subba Row himself; and quite mathematically so, as the afore-quoted algebraic demonstration of the same proves it. I say that the division is due to nature herself pointing out its necessity in kosmos and man; just because the number seven is "a power, and a spiritual force" in its combination of three and four, of the triangle and the quaternary. It is no doubt far more convenient to adhere to the fourfold classification in a metaphysical and synthetical sense, just as I have adhered to the threefold classification--of body, soul and spirit--in Isis Unveiled, because had I then adopted the septenary division, as I have been compelled to do later on for purposes of strict analysis, no one would have understood it, and the multiplication of principles, instead of throwing light upon the subject, would have introduced endless confusion. But now the question has changed, and the position is different. We have unfortunately--for it was premature--opened a chink in the Chinese wall of esotericism, and we cannot now close it again, even if we would. I for one had to pay a heavy price for the indiscretion, but I will not shrink from the results.
I maintain then, that when once we pass from the plane of pure subjective reasoning on esoteric matters to that of practical demonstration in Occultism, wherein each principle and attribute has to be analysed and defined in its application to the phenomena of daily and especially of post-mortem life, the sevenfold classification is the right one. For it is simply a convenient division which prevents in no wise the recognition of but three groups--which Mr. Subba Row calls "four principles associated with four upadhis, and which are associated in their turns with four distinct states of consciousness."4 [Footnote: 4. A crowning proof of the fact that the division is arbitrary and varies with the schools it belongs to, is in the words published in "Personal and Impersonal God" by Mr. Subba Row, where he states that "we have six states of consciousness, either objective or subjective . . . and a perfect state of unconsciousness, etc." (See Five Years of Theosophy pp. 200 and 201.) Of course those who do not hold to the old school of Aryan and Arhat Adepts are in no way bound to adopt the septenary classification. ] This is the Bhagavad-Gita classification, it appears; but not that of the Vedanta, nor--what the Raj-Yogis of the pre-Aryasanga schools and of the Mahayana system held to, and still hold beyond the Himalayas, and their system is almost identical with the Taraka Raj-Yoga,--the difference between the latter and the Vedanta classification having been pointed out to us by Mr. Subba Row in his little article on the "Septenary Division in Different Indian Systems." The Taraka Raj-Yogis recognize only three upadhis in which Atma may work, which, in India, if I mistake not, are the Jagrata, or waking state of consciousness (corresponding to Sthulopadhi); the Swapna, or dreaming state (in Sukshmopadhi); and the Sushupti, or causal state, produced by, and through Karanopadhi, or what we call Buddhi. But then, in transcendental states of Samadhi, the body with its linga sarira, the vehicle of the life-principle, is entirely left out of consideration: the three states of consciousness are made to refer only to the three (with Atma the fourth) principles which remain after death. And here lies the real key to the septenary division of man, the three principles coming in as an addition only during his life.
As in the Macrocosm, so in the Microcosm: analogies hold good throughout nature. Thus the universe, our solar system, our earth down to man, are to be regarded as all equally possessing a septenary constitution--four super-terrestrial and superhuman, so to say;--three objective and astral. In dealing with the special case of man, only, there are two standpoints from which the question may be considered. Man in incarnation is certainly made up of seven principles, if we so term the seven states of his material, astral, and spiritual framework, which are all on different planes. But if we classify the principles according to the seat of the four degrees of consciousness, these upadhis may be reduced to four groups. 5 [Footnote: 5. Mr. Subba Row's argument that in the matter of the three divisions of the body "we may make any number of divisions, and may as well enumerate nerve-force, blood and bones," is not valid, I think. Nerve-force--well and good, though it is one with the life-principle and proceeds from it: as to blood, bones, etc., these are objective material things, and one with, and inseparable from the human body; while ail the other six principles are in their Seventh--the body--purely subjective principles, and therefore all denied by material science, which ignores them. ] Thus his consciousness, never being centered in the second or third principles--both of which are composed of states of matter (or rather of "substance") on different planes, each corresponding on one of the planes and principles in kosmos--is necessary to form links between the first, fourth and fifth principles, as well as subserving certain vital and psychic phenomena. These latter may be conveniently classified with the physical body under one head, and laid aside during trance (Samadhi), as after death, thus leaving only the traditional exoteric and metaphysical four. Any charge of contradictory teaching, therefore, based on this simple fact, would obviously be wholly invalid; the classification of principles as septenary or quaternary depending wholly on the stand-point from which they are regarded, as said. It is purely a matter of choice which classification we adopt. Strictly speaking, however, occult--as also profane--physics would favour the septenary one for these reasons.6 [Footnote: 6. In that most admirable article of his--"Personal and Impersonal God"--one which has attracted much attention in the Western Theosophical circles, Mr. Subba Row says. "Just as a human being is composed of seven principles, differentiated matter in the solar system exists in seven different conditions. These do not all come within the range of our present objective consciousness, but they can be perceived by the spiritual ego in man. Further, Pragna, or the capacity of perception, exists in seven different aspects, corresponding to the seven conditions of matter. Strictly speaking there are six states of differentiated pragna, the seventh state being a condition of perfect unconsciousness (or absolute consciousness). By differentiated pragna I mean the condition in which pragna is split up into various states of consciousness. Thus we have six states of consciousness, etc., etc." (Five Years of Theosophy, pp. 200 and 201.) This is precisely our Trans-Himalayan Doctrine. ]
There are six Forces in nature: this in Buddhism as in Brahmanism, whether exoteric or esoteric, and the seventh--the all-Force, or the absolute Force, which is the synthesis of all. Nature again in her constructive activity strikes the key-note to this classification in more than one way. As stated in the third aphorism of "Sankhya karika" of Prakriti--"the root and substance of all things," she (Prakriti, or nature) is no production, but herself a producer of seven things, "which, produced by her, become all in their turn producers." Thus all the liquids in nature begin, when separated from their parent mass, by becoming a spheroid (a drop); and when the globule is formed, and it falls, the impulse given to it transforms it, when it touches ground, almost invariably into an equilateral triangle (or three), and then into an hexagon, after which out of the corners of the latter begin to be formed squares or cubes as plane figures. Look at the natural work of nature, so to speak, her artificial, or helped production--the prying into her occult work-shop by science. Behold the coloured rings of a soap-bubble, and those produced by polarized light. The rings obtained, whether in Newton's soap-bubble, or in the crystal through the polarizer, will exhibit invariably, six or seven rings--"a black spot surrounded by six rings, or a circle with a plane cube inside, circumscribed with six distinct rings," the circle itself the seventh. The "Noremberg" polarizing apparatus throws into objectivity almost all our occult geometrical symbols, though physicists are none the wiser for it. (See Newton's and Tyndall's experiments.) 7 [Footnote: 7. One need only open Webster's Dictionary and examine the snow flakes and crystals at the word "Snow" to perceive nature's work. "God geometrizes," says Plato ]
The number seven is at the very root of occult Cosmogony and Anthropogony. No symbol to express evolution from its starting to its completion points would be possible without it. For the circle produces the point; the point expands into a triangle, returning after two angles upon itself, and then forms the mystical Tetraktis--the plane cube; which three when passing into the manifested world of effects, differentiated nature, become geometrically and numerically 3 + 4 = 7. The best kabbalists have been demonstrating this for ages ever since Pythagoras, and down to the modern mathematicians and symbologists, one of whom has succeeded in wrenching forever one of the seven occult keys, and has proven his victory by a volume of figures. Set any of our theosophists interested in the question to read the wonderful work called "The Hebrew Egyptian Mystery, the Source of Measures"; and those of them who are good mathematicians will remain aghast before the revelations contained in it. For it shows indeed the occult source of the measure by which were built kosmos and man, and then by the latter the great Pyramid of Egypt, as all the towers, mounds, obelisks, cave-temples of India, and pyramids in Peru and Mexico, and all the archaic monuments; symbols in stone of Chaldea, both Americas, and even of the Eastern Islands--the living and solitary witness of a submerged prehistoric continent in the midst of the Pacific Ocean. It shows that the same figures and measures for the same esoteric symbology existed throughout the world; it shows in the words of the author that the kabbala is a "whole series of developments based upon the use of geometrical elements; giving expression in numerical values, founded on integral values of the circle" (one of the seven keys hitherto known but to the Initiates), discovered by Peter Metius in the 16th century, and re-discovered by the late John A Parker. 8 [Footnote: 8. Of Newark in his work The Quadrature of the Circle, his "problem of the three revolving bodies" (N.Y., John Wiley and Son). ] Moreover, that the system from whence all these developments were derived "was anciently considered to be one resting in nature (or God), as the basis or law of the exertions practically of creative design"; and that it also underlies the Biblical structures, being found in the measurements given for Solomon's temple, the ark of the Covenant, Noah's ark, etc., etc.,--in all the symbolical myths, in short, of the Bible.
And what are the figures, the measure in which the sacred Cubit is derived from the esoteric Quadrature, which the Initiates know to have been contained in the Tetraktis of Pythagoras? Why, it is the universal primordial symbol. The figures found in the Ansated Cross of Egypt, as (I maintain) in the Indian Swastika, "the sacred sign" which embellishes the thousand heads of Sesha, the Serpent-cycle of eternity, on which rests Vishnu, the deity in Infinitude; and which also may be pointed out in the threefold (treta) fire of Pururavas, the first fire in the present Manvantara, out of the forty-nine (7 x 7) mystic fires. It may be absent from many of the Hindu books, but the Vishnu and other Puranas teem with this symbol and figure under every possible form, which I mean to prove in "THE SECRET DOCTRINE." The author of the Source of Measures does not, of course, himself know as yet, the whole scope of what he has discovered. He applies his key, so far, only to the esoteric language and the symbology in the Bible, and the Books of Moses especially. The great error of the able author, in my opinion, is, that he applies the key discovered by him chiefly to post-Atlantean and quasi-historical phallic elements in the world religions; feeling, intuitionally, a nobler, a higher, a more transcendental meaning in all this--only in the Bible,--and a mere sexual worship in all other religions. This phallic element, however, in the older pagan worship related, in truth, to the physiological evolution of the human races, something that could not be discovered in the Bible, as it is absent from it (the Pentateuch being the latest of all the old Scriptures). Nevertheless, what the learned author has discovered and proved mathematically, is wonderful enough, and sufficient to make our claim good: namely, that the figures )O Δ ▢ and 3 + 4 = 7, are at the very basis, and are the soul of cosmogony and the evolution of mankind.
To whosoever desires to display this process by way of symbol, says the author speaking of the ansated cross, the Tau τ of the Egyptians and the Christian cross--"it would be by the figure of the cube unfolded in connection with the circle whose measure is taken off on to the edges of the cube. The cube unfolded becomes in superficial display a cross proper, or of the tau form, and the attachment of the circle to this last, gives the ansated cross of the Egyptians with its obvious meaning of the Origin of Measures.9 [Footnote: 9. And, by adding to the cross proper ✚ the symbol of the four cardinal points and infinity at the same time, thus, 卍, the arms pointing above. below, and right, and left, making six in the circle--the Archaic sign of the Yomas--it would make of it the Swastike, the "sacred sign" used by the order of "Ishmael masons," which they call the Universal Hermetic Cross, and do not understand its real wisdom, nor know its origin. ] Because this kind of measure was also made to co-ordinate with the idea of the origin of life, it was made to assume the type of the hermaphrodite, and in fact it is placed by representation to cover this part of the human person in the Hindu form. . . ." [It is "the hermaphrodite Indranse Indra, the nature goddess, the Issa of the Hebrews, and the Isis of the Egyptians," as the author calls them in another place.]". . . It is very observable, that while there are but six faces to a cube, the representation of the cross as the cube unfolded as to the cross bars displays one face of the cube as common to two bars, counted as belonging to either; then, while the faces originally represented are but six, the use of the two bars counts the square as four for the upright and three for the cross bar, making seven in all. Here we have the famous four, three and seven again, the four and three on the factor members of the Parker (quadrature and of the 'three revolving bodies') problem". . . . (pp. 50 and 51).
And they are the factor members in the building of the Universe and MAN. Wittoba--an aspect of Krishna and Vishnu--is therefore the "man crucified in space," or the "cube unfolded," as explained (see Moore's Pantheon, for Wittoba). It is the oldest symbol in India, now nearly lost, as the real meaning of Vishvakarina and Vikkarttana (the "sun shorn of his beams") is also lost. It is the Egyptian ansated cross ☥ , and vice versa, and the latter--even the sistrum, with its cross bars--is simply the symbol of the Deity as man--however phallic it may have become later, after the submersion of Atlantis. The ansated cross Τis of course, as Professor Seyfforth has shown--again the six with its head--the seventh. Seyfforth says "It is the skull with the brains, the seat of the soul with the nerves extending to the spine, back, and eyes and ears.
For the Tanis stone thus translates it repeatedly by anthropos (man); and we have the Coptic ank, (vita, life) properly anima, which corresponds with the Hebrew anosh, properly meaning anima. The Egyptian anki signifies "my soul."10 [Footnote 10. Quoted in "Source of Measures." ]
It means in its synthesis, the seven principles, the details coming later. Now the ansated cross, as given above, having been discovered on the backs of the gigantic statues found on the Easter Isles (mid-Pacific Ocean) which is a part of the submerged continent; this remnant being described as "thickly studded with cyclopean statues, remnants of the civilization of a dense and cultivated people",--and Mr. Subba Row having told us what he had found in the old Hindu books, namely, that the ancient Adepts of India had learned occult powers from the Atlanteans (vide supra)--the logical inference is that they had their septenary division from them, just as our Adepts from the "Sacred Island" had. This ought to settle the question.
And this Tau cross is ever septenary, under whatever form--it has many forms, though the main idea is always one. What are the Egyptian oozas (the eyes), the amulets called the "mystic eye," but symbols of the same? There are the four eyes in the upper row and the three smaller ones in the lower. Or again, the ooza with the seven luths hanging from it, "the combined melody of which creates one man," say the hieroglyphics. Or again, the hexagon formed of six triangles, whose apices converge to a point--thus the symbol of the Universal creation,
which Kenneth Mackenzie tells us "was worn as a ring by the Sovereign Princes of the Royal Secret"--which they never knew by the bye. If seven has nought to do with the mysteries of the universe and men, then indeed from the Vedas down to the Bible all the archaic Scriptures--the Puranas, the Avesta and all the fragments that have reached us--have no esoteric meaning, and must be regarded as the orientalists regard them--as a farrago of childish tales.
It is quite true that the three upadhis of the Taraka Raj Yoga are, as Mr. Subba Row explains in his little article, "The Septenary Division in Different Indian Systems," "the best and the simplest"--but only in purely contemplative Yoga. And he adds: "Though there are seven principles in man there are but three distinct upadhis, in each of which his Atma may work independently of the rest. These three upadhis can be separated by the Adept without killing himself. He cannot separate the seven principles from each other without destroying his constitution" (Five Years of Theosophy, p. 185). Most decidedly he cannot. But this again holds good only with regard to his lower three principles--the body and its (in life) inseparable prana and linga sarira. The rest can be separated, as they constitute no vital, but rather a mental and spiritual necessity. As to the remark in the same article objecting to the fourth principle being "included in the third kosa, as the said principle is but a vehicle of will-power, which is but an energy of the mind," I answer, Just so! But as the higher attributes of the fifth (Manas), go to make up the original triad, and it is just the terrestrial energies, feelings and volitions which remain in the Kama loka, what, is the vehicle, the astral form, to carry them about as bhoota until they fade out--which may take centuries to accomplish? Can the "false" personality, or the pisacha, whose ego is made up precisely of all those terrestrial passions and feelings, remain in Kama loka, and occasionally appear, without a substantial vehicle, however ethereal? Or are we to give up the seven principles, and the belief that there is such a thing as an astral body, and a bhoot, or spook?
Most decidedly not. For Mr. Subba Row himself once more explains how, from the Hindu stand-point, the lower fifth, or Manas can reappear after death, remarking very justly, that it is absurd to call it a disembodied spirit. (Five Years of Theosophy, p. 174.) As he says: "It is merely a power, or force, retaining the impressions of the thoughts or ideas of the individual into whose composition it originally entered. It sometimes summons to its aid the Kamarupa power, and creates for itself some particular, ethereal form."
Now that which "sometimes summons" Kamarupa, and the "power" of that name make already two principles, two "powers"--call them as you will. Then we have Atma and its vehicle--Buddhi--which make four. With the three which disappeared on earth this will be equivalent to seven. How can we, then, speak of modern Spiritualism, of its materializations and other phenomena, without resorting to the Septenary?
To quote our friend and much respected brother for the last time, since he says that "our (Aryan) philosophers have associated seven occult powers with the seven principles (in men and in the kosmos), which seven occult powers correspond in the microcosm with, or are counterparts of, occult powers in the macrocosm,''11 [Footnote: 11. "Brahmanism on the Sevenfold Principle in Man." ] --quite an esoteric sentence,--it does seem almost a pity that words pronounced in an extempore lecture, though such an able one, should have been published without revision.
CROSS AND FIRE
From H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles, Vol. II.
Articles by HPB
|PERHAPS the most widespread and universal among the symbols in the old astronomical systems, which have passed down the stream of time to our century, and have left traces everywhere in the Christian religion as elsewhere,--are the Cross and the Fire--the latter, the emblem of the Sun. The ancient Aryans had them both as the symbols of Agni. Whenever the ancient Hindu devotee desired to worship Agni--says E. Burnouf (Science des Religions, c. 10)--he arranged two pieces of wood in the form of a cross, and, by a peculiar whirling and friction obtained fire for his sacrifice. As a symbol, it is called Swastica, and, as an instrument manufactured out of a sacred tree and in possession of every Brahmin, it is known as Arani.
The Scandinavians had the same sign and called it Thor's Hammer, as bearing a mysterious magneto-electric relation to Thor, the god of thunder, who, like Jupiter armed with his thunderbolts, holds likewise in his hand this ensign of power, over not only mortals but also the mischievous spirits of the elements, over which he presides. In Masonry it appears in the form of the grand master's mallet; at Allahabad it may be seen on the Fort as the Jaina Cross, or the Talisman of the Jaina Kings; and the gavel of the modern judge is no more than this crux dissimulata--as de Rossi, the archæologist calls it; for the gavel is the sign of power and strength, as the hammer represented the might of Thor, who, in the Norse legends splits a rock with it, and kills Medgar. Dr. Schliemann found it in terra cotta disks, on the site, as he believes, of ancient Troy, in the lowest strata of his excavations; which indicated, according to Dr. Lundy, "an Aryan civilization long anterior to the Greek--say from two to three thousand years B.C." Burnouf calls it the oldest form of the cross known, and affirms that it is found personified in the ancient religion of the Greeks under the figure of Prometheus "the fire-bearer," crucified on mount Caucasus, while the celestial bird--the Cyena of the Vedic hymns,--daily devours his entrails. Boldetti, (Osservazioni I., 15, p. 60) gives a copy from the painting in the cemetery of St. Sebastian, representing a Christian convert and grave-digger, named Diogenes, who wears on both his legs and right arm the signs of the Swastica. The Mexicans and the Peruvians had it, and it is found as the sacred Tau in the oldest tombs of Egypt.
It is, to say the least, a strange coincidence, remarked even by some Christian clergymen, that Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, should have the symbols, identical with the Hindu God Agni. While Agnus Dei expiates and takes away the sins of the world, in one religion, the God Agni, in the other, likewise expiates sins against the gods, man, the manes, the soul, and repeated sins; as shown in the six prayers accompanied by six oblations. (Colebrooke--Essays, Vol. I, p. 190.)
If, then, we find these two--the Cross and the Fire--so closely associated in the esoteric symbolism of nearly every nation, it is because on the combined powers of the two rests the whole plan of the universal laws. In astronomy, physics, chemistry, in the whole range of natural philosophy, in short, they always come out as the invisible cause and the visible result; and only metaphysics and alchemy--or shall we say Metachemistry, since we prefer coining a new word to shocking sceptical ears?--can fully and conclusively solve the mysterious meaning. An instance or two will suffice for those who are willing to think over hints.
The Central Point, or the great central sun of the Kosmos, as the Kabalists call it, is the Deity. It is the point of intersection between the two great conflicting powers--the centripetal and centrifugal forces, which drive the planets into their elliptical orbits, that make them trace a cross in their paths through the Zodiac. These two terrible, though as yet hypothetical and imaginary powers, preserve harmony and keep the Universe in steady, unceasing motion; and the four bent points of the Swastica typify the revolution of the Earth upon its axis. Plato calls the Universe a "blessed god" which was made in a circle and decussated in the form of the letter X. So much for astronomy. In Masonry the Royal Arch degree retains the cross as the triple Egyptian Tau. It is the mundane circle with the astronomical cross upon it rapidly revolving; the perfect square of the Pythagorean mathematics in the scale of numbers, as its occult meaning is interpreted by Cornelius Agrippa. Fire is heat,--the central point; the perpendicular ray represents the male element or spirit; and the horizontal one the female element--or matter. Spirit vivifies and fructifies the matter, and everything proceeds from the central point, the focus of Life, and Light, and Heat, represented by the terrestrial fire. So much, again, for physics and chemistry, for the field of analogies is boundless, and Universal Laws are immutable and identical in their outward and inward applications. Without intending to be disrespectful to any one, or to wander far away from truth, we think we may say that there are strong reasons to believe that in their original sense the Christian Cross--as the cause, and Eternal torment by Hell Fire--as the direct effect of negation of the former--have more to do with these two ancient symbols than our Western theologians are prepared to admit. If Fire is the Deity with some heathens, so in the Bible, God is likewise the Life and the Light of the World; if the Holy Ghost and Fire cleanse and purify the Christian, on the other hand Lucifer is also Light, and called the "Son of the morning star."
Turn wherever we will, we are sure to find these conjoint relics of ancient worship with almost every nation and people. From the Aryans, the Chaldeans, the Zoroastrians, Peruvians, Mexicans, Scandinavians, Celts, and ancient Greeks and Latins, it has descended in its completeness to the modern Parsi. The Phœnician Cabiri and the Greek Dioscuri are partially revived in every temple, cathedral, and village church; while, as will now be shown, the Christian Bulgarians have even preserved the sun worship in full.
It is more than a thousand years since this people, who, emerging from obscurity, suddenly became famous through the late Russo-Turkish war, were converted to Christianity. And yet they appear none the less pagans than they were before, for this is how they meet Christmas and the New Year's day. To this time they call this festival Sourjvaki, as it falls in with the festival in honour of the ancient Slavonian god Sourja. In the Slavonian mythology this deity--Sourja or Sourva,--evidently identical with the Aryan Surya . . . sun . . . is the god of heat, fertility, and abundance. The celebration of this festival is of an immense antiquity, as, far before the days of Christianity, the Bulgarians worshipped Sourva, and consecrated New Year's day to this god, praying him to bless their fields with fertility, and send them happiness and prosperity. This custom has remained among them in all its primitive heathenism, and though it varies according to localities, yet the rites and ceremonies are essentially the same.
On the eve of New Year's day the Bulgarians do no work and are obliged to fast. Young betrothed maidens are busy preparing a large platiy (cake) in which they place roots and young shoots of various forms, to each of which a name is given according to the shape of the root. Thus, one means the "house," another represents the "garden"; others again, the mill, the vineyard, the horse, a cat, a hen, and so on, according to the landed property and worldly possessions of the family. Even articles of value such as jewellery and bags of money are represented in this emblem of the horn of abundance. Besides all these, a large and ancient silver coin is placed inside the cake; it is called bábka and is tied two ways with a red thread, which forms a cross. This coin is regarded as the symbol of fortune.
After sunset, and other ceremonies, including prayers addressed in the direction of the departing luminary, the whole family assemble about a large round table called paralyà, on which are placed the above-mentioned cake, dry vegetables, corn, wax taper, and, finally, a large censer containing incense of the best quality to perfume the god. The head of the household, usually the oldest in the family--either the grandfather, or the father himself--taking up the censer with the greatest veneration, in one hand, and the wax taper in the other, begins walking about the premises, incensing the four corners, beginning and ending with the East; and reads various invocations, which close with the Christian "Our Father who art in Heaven," addressed to Sourja. The taper is then laid away to be preserved throughout the whole year, till the next festival. It is thought to have acquired marvellous healing properties, and is lighted only upon occasions of family sickness, in which case it is expected to cure the patient.
After this ceremony, the old man takes his knife and cuts the cake into as many slices as there are members of the household present. Each person, upon receiving his or her share, makes haste to open and search the piece. The happiest of the lot, for the ensuing year, is he or she who gets the part containing the old coin crossed with the scarlet thread; he is considered the elect of Sourja, and every one envies the fortunate possessor. Then in order of importance come the emblems of the house, the vineyard, and so on; and according to his finding, the finder reads his horoscope for the coming year. Most unlucky he who gets the cat; he turns pale and trembles. Woe to him and misery, for he is surrounded by enemies, and has to prepare for great trials.
At the same time, a large log which represents a flaming altar, is set up in the chimney-place, and fire is applied to it. This log burns in honour of Sourja and is intended as an oracle for the whole house. If it burns the whole night through till morning without the flame dying out, it is a good sign; otherwise, the family prepares to see death that year, and deep lamentations end the festival.
Neither the momtzee (young bachelor), nor the mommee (the maiden), sleep that night. At midnight begins a series of sooth-saying, magic, and various rites, in which the burning log plays the part of the oracle. A young bud thrown into the fire and bursting with a loud snap is a sign of happy and speedy marriage, and vice versa. Long after midnight, the young couples leave their respective homes, and begin visiting their acquaintances, from house to house, offering and receiving congratulations, and rendering thanks to the deity. These deputy couples are called the Souryakari, and each male carries a large branch ornamented with red ribbons, old coins, and the image of Sourja, and as they wend along sing in chorus. Their chant is as original as it is peculiar and merits translation, though, of course, it must lose in being rendered into a foreign language. The following stanzas are addressed by them to those they visit:
Sôurvá, Soúrvá, Lord of the Season,
The singing Souryakari, recompensed for their good wishes with a present at every house, go home at early dawn. . . . And this is how the symbolical exoteric Cross and Fire worship of old Aryavart go hand in hand in Christian Bulgaria. . . .
H. P. Blavatsky
Theosophist, November, 1879