THEOSOPHY, Vol. 11, No. 9, July, 1923
(Pages 399-402; Size: 14K)
INITIATES AND INITIATION(1)
[Part 7 of an 8-part series]
THE "schism" of Zoroaster, as it is called, was no schism, strictly speaking, but merely a partially-public exposition of strictly monotheistic religious truths, hitherto taught only in the sanctuaries, and that he had learned from the Brahmans. Zoroaster, the primeval institutor of sun-worship, cannot be called the founder of the dualistic system; neither was he the first to teach the unity of God, for he taught but what he had learned himself with the Brahmans. And that Zarathustra and his followers, the Zoroastrians, "had been settled in India before they immigrated into Persia," is also proved by Max Müller. "That the Zoroastrians and their ancestors started from India," he says, "during the Vaidik period, can be proved as distinctly as that the inhabitants of Massilia started from Greece. ... Many of the gods of the Zoroastrians come out ... as mere reflections and deflections of the primitive and authentic gods of the Veda."
If, now, we can prove -- and we can do so on the evidence of the Kabala and the oldest traditions of the wisdom-religion, the philosophy of the old sanctuaries -- that all these gods, whether of the Zoroastrians or of the Veda, are but so many personated occult powers of nature, the faithful servants of the adepts of secret wisdom -- Magic -- we are on secure ground.
It is admitted on all hands that from time immemorial the distant East was the land of knowledge. Not even in Egypt were botany and mineralogy so extensively studied as by the savants of archaic Middle Asia. Sprengel, unjust and prejudiced as he shows himself to be in everything else, confesses this much in his Histoire de la Medicine. And yet, notwithstanding this, whenever the subject of magic is discussed, that of India has rarely suggested itself to anyone, for of its general practice in that country less is known than among any other ancient people. With the Hindus it was and is more esoteric, if possible, than it was even among the Egyptian priests. So sacred was it deemed that its existence was only half admitted, and it was only practiced in public emergencies. It was more a religious matter, for it was considered divine. The Egyptian hierophants, notwithstanding the practice of a stern and pure morality, could not be compared for one moment with the ascetical Gymnosophists, either in holiness of life or miraculous powers developed in them by the supernatural adjuration of everything earthly. By those who knew them well they were held in still greater reverence than the magians of Chaldea. Denying themselves the simplest comforts of life, they dwelt in woods, and led the life of the most secluded hermits, while their Egyptian brothers at least congregated together. Notwithstanding the slur thrown by history on all who practiced magic and divination, it has proclaimed them as possessing the greatest secrets in medical knowledge and unsurpassed skill in its practice. Numerous are the volumes preserved in Hindu convents in which are recorded the proofs of their learning. To attempt to say whether these Gymnosophists were the real founders of magic in India, or whether they only practiced what had passed to them as an inheritance from the earliest Rishis -- the seven primeval sages -- would be regarded as mere speculation by exact scholars. "The care which they took in educating youth, in familiarizing it with generous and virtuous sentiments, did them peculiar honour, and their maxims and discourses as recorded by historians, prove that they were expert in matters of philosophy, metaphysics, astronomy, morality, and religion," says a modern writer. They preserved their dignity under the sway of the most powerful princes, whom they would not condescend to visit or to trouble for the slightest favor. If the latter desired the advice or the prayers of the holy men they were either obliged to go themselves, or to send messengers. To these men no secret power of either plant or mineral was unknown. They had fathomed nature to its depth, while psychology and physiology were to them open books, and the result was that science or machagiotia that is now termed so superciliously magic.
The history of Domitian's persecution of magicians and philosophers affords as good a proof as any that John was generally considered a kabalist. As the apostle was included among the number, and moreover, conspicuous, the imperial edict banished him not only from Rome, but even from the continent.
But, to close a list of witnesses which might be extended indefinitely, it will suffice to say that from first to last, from Pythagoras down to Eliphas Levi, from highest to humblest, every one teaches that the magical power is never possessed by those addicted to vicious indulgences. Only the pure in heart "see God," or exercise divine gifts -- only such can heal the ills of the body, and allow themselves, with relative security, to be guided by the "invisible powers." Such only can give peace to the disturbed spirits of their brothers and sisters, for the healing waters come from no poisonous source; grapes do not grow on thorns, and thistles bear no figs ... But for all this, "magic has nothing supernal in it;" it is a science, and even the power of "casting out devils" was a branch of it, of which the Initiates made a special study. "That skill which expels demons out of human bodies is a science useful and sanative to men," says Josephus.
None of our bigots has ever looked with more scorn on the abuses of magic than did the true initiate of old. No modern or even mediaeval law could be more severe than of the hierophant. True, he had more discrimination, charity and justice, than the Christian clergy; for, while banishing the "unconscious" sorcerer, the person troubled with a demon, from within the sacred precincts of the adyta, the priests, instead of mercilessly burning him, took care of the unfortunate "possessed" one. Having hospitals expressly for that purpose in the neighborhood of temples, the ancient "medium," if obsessed, was taken care of and restored to health. But with one who had, by conscious witchcraft, acquired powers dangerous to his fellow-creatures, the priests of old were as severe as justice herself. "Any person accidentally guilty of homicide, or of any crime, or convicted of witchcraft, was excluded from the Eleusinian Mysteries." (See Taylor's "Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries"; Porphyry and others.) And so were they from all others. This law, mentioned by all writers on the ancient initiation, speaks for itself.
How dangerous may often become untrained mediumship, and how thoroughly it was understood and provided against by the ancient sages is perfectly exemplified in the case of Socrates. The old Grecian philosopher was a "medium"; hence he had never been initiated into the Mysteries; for such was the rigorous law....
It is generally believed that if he was not initiated into the Mysteries it was because he himself neglected to become so. But the Secret Records teach us that it was because he could not be permitted to participate in the sacred rites, and precisely, as we state, on account of his mediumship. There was a law against the admission not only of such as were convicted of deliberate witchcraft, but even of those who were known to have a "familiar spirit." The law was just and logical, because a genuine medium is more or less irresponsible; and the eccentricities of Socrates are thus accounted for in some degree. ... A medium of olden times, like the modern "medium" was subject to be entranced at the will and pleasure of the "power" which controlled him, therefore he could not well have been entrusted with the awful secrets of the final initiation, "never to be revealed under the penalty of death." The old sage, in unguarded moments of "spiritual inspiration" revealed that which he had never learned, and was therefore put to death as an Atheist.
Neither Pythagoras, Plato, nor any of the later more important Neo-Platonists: neither Iamblichus, Longinus, Proclus, nor Apollonius of Tyana, were ever mediums; for in such case they would not have been admitted to the Mysteries at all. As Taylor proves -- "This assertion of divine visions in the Mysteries is clearly confirmed by Plotinus. And in short, that magical evocation formed a part of the sarcedotal office in them, and this was universally believed by all antiquity long before the era of the later Platonists," shows that apart from natural "mediumship" there has existed, from the beginning of time, a mysterious science, discussed by many, but known only to a few.
The use of it is a longing toward our only true and real home -- the after-life, and a desire to cling more closely to our parent spirit; abuse of it is sorcery, witchcraft, black magic. Between the two is placed natural "mediumship"; a soul clothed with imperfect matter, a ready agent for either the one or the other, and utterly dependent on its surroundings of life, constitutional heredity -- physical as well as mental -- and on the nature of the "spirits" it attracts around itself. A blessing or a curse, as fate will have it, unless the medium is purified of all earthly dross.
A thorough familiarity with the occult faculties of everything existing in nature, visible as well as invisible; their mutual relations, attractions, and repulsions; the cause of these, traced to the spiritual principle which pervades and animates all things; the ability to furnish the best conditions for this principle to manifest itself, in other words, a profound and exhaustive knowledge of natural law -- this was and is the basis of magic.
(To be Continued)
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
FAITH AND CONFIDENCE
Faith is really our confidence in the fact that Masters exist, and that Their teachings are what we are following. If our study so far of Their philosophy has not begotten that confidence, there is little hope for us -- that is, if we have already studied long. But if we have that confidence, and have realized benefit from Their teachings, we can surely go on in full confidence; for it is only by following the lines laid down by Them that we will ever know. It is not so much a question as to what "we" promise to abstain from -- that is, our intention to do so -- as a knowledge of the right course to pursue. No one compels us, and no one will punish us, but "we" succeed or fail in accordance with our use of the advice and suggestions freely given. Do we doubt our ability? As long as we really do so, we will never make much success. We learn to know our ability by using it to the limit. Mistakes need not worry us, if they represent conscientious and unwearied efforts -- we learn through the mistakes we make. It is pure selfishness to desire to know that any advised course will benefit us; advice can be given, but knowledge is acquired. Personal results should not be looked for. We should do things because they are the right things to do, and not because they will be of benefit to us. All our vacillations, fears and despondencies arise from a personal attitude. This we must change -- each one for himself -- no one can change it for us. The first step towards making the change is the seeing of the necessity for it.
INITIATES AND INITIATION
[Part 8 of an 8-part series]
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(1) Collated from Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine.
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