THEOSOPHY, Vol. 75, No. 8, June, 1987
(Pages 234-241; Size: 21K)
A UNIVERSAL SECRET DOCTRINE(1)
NO one can study ancient philosophies seriously without perceiving that the striking similitude of conception between all -- in their exoteric form very often, in their hidden spirit invariably -- is the result of no mere coincidence, but of a concurrent design: and that there was, during the youth of mankind, one language, one knowledge, one universal religion, when there were no churches, no creeds or sects, but when every man was a priest unto himself. And, if it is shown that already in those ages which are shut out from our sight by the exuberant growth of tradition, human religious thought developed in uniform sympathy in every portion of the globe; then, it becomes evident that, born under whatever latitude, in the cold North or the burning South, in the East or West, that thought was inspired by the same revelations, and man was nurtured under the protecting shadow of the same TREE OF KNOWLEDGE.
The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system: e.g., even in the exotericism of the Purânas. But such is the mysterious power of Occult symbolism, that the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, to set down and explain, in the bewildering series of evolutionary progress, are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs. The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. But modern science believes not in the "soul of things," and hence will reject the whole system of ancient cosmogony. It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the "Wise Men" of the Fifth Race, of the stock saved and rescued from the last cataclysm and shifting of continents, had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions -- so obtained as to stand as independent evidence -- of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences.
The Secret Doctrine was the universally diffused religion of the ancient and pre-historic world. Proofs of its diffusion, authentic records of its history, a complete chain of documents, showing its character and presence in every land, together with the teaching of all its great adepts, exist to this day in the secret crypts of libraries belonging to the Occult Fraternity.
This statement is rendered more credible by a consideration of the following facts: the tradition of the thousands of ancient parchments saved when the Alexandrian library was destroyed; the thousands of Sanskrit works which disappeared in India in the reign of Akbar; the universal tradition in China and Japan that the true old texts with the commentaries, which alone make them comprehensible -- amounting to many thousands of volumes -- have long passed out of the reach of profane hands; the disappearance of the vast sacred and occult literature of Babylon; the loss of those keys which alone could solve the thousand riddles of the Egyptian hieroglyphic records; the tradition in India that the real secret commentaries which alone make the Veda intelligible, though no longer visible to profane eyes, still remain for the initiate, hidden in secret caves and crypts; and an identical belief among the Buddhists, with regard to their secret books.
The Occultists assert that all these exist, safe from Western spoliating hands, to re-appear in some more enlightened age. It is not the fault of the initiates that these documents are now "lost" to the profane; nor was their policy dictated by selfishness, or any desire to monopolise the life-giving sacred lore. There were portions of the Secret Science that for incalculable ages had to remain concealed from the profane gaze. But this was because to impart to the unprepared multitude secrets of such tremendous importance, was equivalent to giving a child a lighted candle in a powder magazine.
The documents were concealed, it is true, but the knowledge itself and its actual existence had never been made a secret of by the Hierophants of the Temple, wherein MYSTERIES have ever been made a discipline and stimulus to virtue. This is very old news, and was repeatedly made known by the great adepts, from Pythagoras and Plato down to the Neoplatonists. It was the new religion of the Nazarenes that wrought a change for the worse -- in the policy of centuries.
The days of Constantine were the last turning-point in history, the period of the Supreme struggle that ended in the Western world throttling the old religions in favour of the new one, built on their bodies. From thence the vista into the far distant Past, beyond the "Deluge" and the Garden of Eden, began to be forcibly and relentlessly closed by every fair and unfair means against the indiscreet gaze of posterity. Every issue was blocked up, every record that hands could be laid upon, destroyed. Yet there remains enough, even among such mutilated records, to warrant us in saying that there is in them every possible evidence of the actual existence of a Parent Doctrine. Fragments have survived geological and political cataclysms to tell the story; and every survival shows evidence that the now Secret Wisdom was once the one fountain head, the ever-flowing perennial source, at which were fed all its streamlets -- the later religions of all nations -- from the first down to the last. This period, beginning with Buddha and Pythagoras at the one end and the Neo-Platonists and Gnostics at the other, is the only focus left in History wherein converge for the last time the bright rays of light streaming from the æons of time gone by, unobscured by the hand of bigotry and fanaticism.
However superhuman the efforts of the early Christian fathers to obliterate the Secret Doctrine from the very memory of man, they all failed. Truth can never be killed; hence the failure to sweep away entirely from the face of the earth every vestige of that ancient Wisdom, and to shackle and gag every witness who testified to it. Let one only think of the thousands, and perhaps millions, of MSS. burnt; of monuments, with their too indiscreet inscriptions and pictorial symbols, pulverised to dust; of the bands of early hermits and ascetics roaming about among the ruined cities of Upper and Lower Egypt, in desert and mountain, valleys and highlands, seeking for and eager to destroy every obelisk and pillar, scroll or parchment they could lay their hands on, if it only bore the symbol of the tau, or any other sign borrowed and appropriated by the new faith; and he will then see plainly how it is that so little has remained of the records of the Past. Verily, the fiendish spirits of fanaticism, of early and mediæval Christianity and of Islam, have from the first loved to dwell in darkness and ignorance; and both have made"--the sun like blood, the earth a tomb,Both creeds have won their proselytes at the point of the sword; both have built their churches on heaven-kissing hecatombs of human victims. Over the gateway of Century I of our era, the ominous words "the KARMA OF ISRAEL," fatally glowed. Over the portals of our own, the future seer may discern other words, that will point to the Karma for cunningly made-up HISTORY, for events purposely perverted, and for great characters slandered by posterity, mangled out of recognition, between the two cars of Jagannâtha -- Bigotry and Materialism; one accepting too much, the other denying all. It is the ignorance of the occult tenets and the enforcement of false conceptions under the guise of religious education, which have created materialism and atheism as a protest against the asserted divine order of things.
The tomb a hell, and hell itself a murkier gloom!"
The Secret Doctrine is the common property of the countless millions of men born under various climates, in times with which History refuses to deal, and to which esoteric teachings assign dates incompatible with the theories of Geology and Anthropology. The birth and evolution of the Sacred Science of the Past are lost in the very night of Time; and that, even, which is historic -- i.e., that which is found scattered hither and thither throughout ancient classical literature -- is, in almost every case, attributed by modern criticism to lack of observation in the ancient writers, or to superstition born out of the ignorance of antiquity. It is, therefore, impossible to treat this subject as one would the ordinary evolution of an art or science in some well-known historical nation. It is only by bringing before the reader an abundance of proofs all tending to show that in every age, under every condition of civilization and knowledge, the educated classes of every nation made themselves the more or less faithful echoes of one identical system and its fundamental traditions -- that he can be made to see that so many streams of the same water must have had a common source from which they started. What was this source? If coming events are said to cast their shadows before, past events cannot fail to leave their impress behind them. It is, then, by those shadows of the hoary Past and their fantastic silhouettes on the external screen of every religion and philosophy, that we can, by checking them as we go along, and comparing them, trace out finally the body that produced them.
There must be truth and fact in that which every people of antiquity accepted and made the foundation of its religions and its faith. ... No religion, since the very earliest, has ever been entirely based on fiction, as none was the object of special revelation; and that it is dogma alone which has ever been killing primeval truth. Finally, that no human-born doctrine, no creed, however sanctified by custom and antiquity, can compare in sacredness with the religion of Nature. The Key of Wisdom that unlocks the massive gates leading to the arcana of the innermost sanctuaries can be found hidden in her bosom only; that bosom is in the countries pointed to by the great seer of the past century, Emanuel Swedenborg. There lies the heart of nature, that shrine whence issued the early races of primeval Humanity, and which is the cradle of physical man.
When mortals shall have become sufficiently spiritualised, there will be no more need of forcing them into a correct comprehension of ancient Wisdom. Men will know then, that there never yet was a great World-reformer, whose name has passed into our generation, who (a) was not a direct emanation of the LOGOS (under whatever name known to us), i.e., an essential incarnation of one of "the seven," of the "divine Spirit who is sevenfold"; and (b) who had not appeared before, during the past Cycles. The esoteric doctrine explains it by saying that each of these (as many others) had first appeared on earth as one of the seven powers of the LOGOS, individualized as a God or "Angel" (messenger); then, mixed with matter, they had reappeared in turn as great sages and instructors who "taught the Fifth Race," after having instructed the two preceding races, had ruled during the Divine Dynasties, and had finally sacrificed themselves, to be reborn under various circumstances for the good of mankind, and for its salvation at certain critical periods; until in their last incarnations they had become truly only "the parts of a part" on earth, though de facto the One Supreme in Nature.
The whole of the present work [Isis Unveiled] is a protest against such a loose way of judging the ancients. To be thoroughly competent to criticize their ideas, and assure one's self whether their ideas were distinct and "appropriate to the facts," one must have sifted these ideas to the very bottom. It is idle to repeat that which we have frequently said, and that which every scholar ought to know; namely, that the quintessence of their knowledge was in the hands of the priests, who never wrote them, and in those of the "initiates" who, like Plato, did not dare write them. Therefore, those few speculations on the material and spiritual universes, which they did put in writing, could not enable posterity to judge them rightly, even had not the early Christian Vandals, the later crusaders, and the fanatics of the middle ages destroyed three parts of that which remained of the Alexandrian library and its later schools. Professor Draper shows that the Cardinal Ximenes alone "delivered to the flames in the squares of Granada, 80,000 Arabic manuscripts, many of them translations of classical authors." In the Vatican libraries, whole passages in the most rare and precious treatises of the ancients were found erased and blotted out, for the sake of interlining them with absurd psalmodies!
Who then, of those who turn away from the "secret doctrine" as being "unphilosophical" and, therefore, unworthy of a scientific thought, has a right to say that he studied the ancients; that he is aware of all that they knew, and knowing now far more, knows also that they knew little, if anything. This "secret doctrine" contains the alpha and the omega of universal science; therein lies the corner and the keystone of all the ancient and modern knowledge; and alone in this "unphilosophical" doctrine remains buried the absolute in the philosophy of the dark problems of life and death. ... The secret doctrines of the Magi, of the pre-Vedic Buddhists, of the hierophants of the Egyptian Thoth or Hermes, and of the adepts of whatever age and nationality, including the Chaldean kabalists and the Jewish nazars, were identical from the beginning.
Too many of our thinkers do not consider that the numerous changes in language, the allegorical phraseology and evident secretiveness of old Mystic writers, who were generally under an obligation never to divulge the solemn secrets of the sanctuary, might have sadly misled translators and commentators. The phrases of the mediæval alchemist they read literally; and even the veiled symbology of Plato is commonly misunderstood by the modern scholar. One day they may learn to know better, and so become aware that the method of extreme necessarianism was practiced in ancient as well as in modern philosophy; that from the first ages of man, the fundamental truths of all that we are permitted to know on earth was in the safe keeping of the adepts of the sanctuary; that the difference in creeds and religious practice was only external; and that those guardians of the primitive divine revelation, who had solved every problem that is within the grasp of human intellect, were bound together by a universal freemasonry of science and philosophy, which formed one unbroken chain around the globe. It is for philology and psychology to find the end of the thread. That done, it will then be ascertained that, by relaxing one single loop of the old religious systems, the chain of mystery may be disentangled.
But we see no utility in prosecuting the subject further. For though in the opinion of most of our contemporaries, there has been but one day of learning, in whose twilight stood the older philosophers, and whose noontide brightness is all our own; and though the testimony of scores of ancient and mediæval thinkers has proved valueless to modern experimenters, as though the world dated from A.D. 1, and all knowledge were of recent growth, we will not lose hope or courage. The moment is more opportune than ever for the review of old philosophies. Archæologists, philologists, astronomers, chemists and physicists are getting nearer to the point where they will be forced to consider them. Physical science has already reached its limits of exploration; dogmatic theology sees the springs of its inspiration dry. Unless we mistake the signs, the day is approaching when the world will receive the proofs that only ancient religions were in harmony with nature, and ancient science embraced all that can be known. Secrets long kept may be revealed; books long forgotten and arts long time lost may be brought out to light again; papyri and parchments of inestimable importance will turn up in the hands of men who pretend to have unrolled them from mummies, or stumbled upon them in buried crypts; tablets and pillars, whose sculptured revelations will stagger theologians and confound scientists, may yet be excavated and interpreted. Who knows the possibilities of the future? An era of disenchantment and rebuilding will soon begin -- nay, has already begun. The cycle has almost run its course; a new one is about to begin, and the future pages of history may contain full evidence, and convey full proof that"If ancestry can be in aught believed,Be this as it may, the religion of the ancients is the religion of the future. A few centuries more, and there will linger no sectarian beliefs in either of the great religions of humanity. Brahmanism and Buddhism, Christianity and Mahometanism will all disappear before the mighty rush of facts. "I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh," writes the prophet Joel. "Verily I say unto you ... greater works than these shall you do," promises Jesus. But this can only come to pass when the world returns to the grand religion of the past; the knowledge of those majestic systems which preceded, by far, Brahmanism, and even the primitive monotheism of the ancient Chaldeans.
Descending spirits have conversed with man,
And told him secrets of the world unknown."
NOTE.--The sources from which the foregoing passages were taken are S.D. I, 341, 272-3, xxxiv-xxxv, xliv-xlv, xl, xli, 183; II, 794, 797, 358-59; Isis I, 510-11; II, 142; I, 37-38; 613.
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