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By H. P. Blavatsky, Boris de Zirkoff
Theosophical Publishing HouseCopyright © 1994 Theosophical Publishing House
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"Ego sum qui sum."
–An axiom of Hermetic Philosophy.
"We commenced research where modern conjecture closes its faithless wings. And with us, those were the common elements of science which the sages of today disdain as wild chimeras, or despair of as unfathomable mysteries".
THERE exists somewhere in this wide world an old Book—so very old that our modern antiquarians might ponder over its pages an indefinite time, and still not quite agree as to the nature of the fabric upon which it is written. It is the only original copy now in existence. The most ancient Hebrew document on occult learning – the Siphra Dtzeniuthah—was compiled from it, and that at a time when the former was already considered in the light of a literary relic. One of its illustrations represents the Divine Essence emanating from ADAM like a luminous arc proceeding to form a circle; and then, having attained the highest point of its circumference, the ineffable Glory bends back again, and returns to earth, bringing a higher type of humanity in its vortex. As it approaches nearer and nearer to our planet, the Emanation becomes more and more shadowy, until upon touching the ground it is as black as night.
A conviction, founded upon seventy thousand years of experience, as they allege, has been entertained by Hermetic philosophers of all periods that matter has in time become, through sin, more gross and dense than it was at man's first formation; that, at the beginning, the human body was of a half-ethereal nature; and that, before the fall, mankind communed freely with the now unseen universes. But since that time matter has become the formidable barrier between us and the world of spirits. The oldest esoteric traditions also teach that, before the mystic Adam, many races of human beings lived and died out, each giving place in its turn to another. Were these precedent types more perfect? Did any of them belong to the winged race of men mentioned by Plato in Phaedrus? It is the special province of science to solve the problem. The caves of France and the relics of the stone age afford a point at which to begin.
As the cycle proceeded, man's eyes were more and more opened, until he came to know "good and evil" as well as the Elohim themselves. Having reached its summit, the cycle began to go downward. When the arc attained a certain point which brought it parallel with the fixed line of our terrestrial plane, the man was furnished by nature with "coats of skin," and the Lord God "clothed them."
This same belief in the pre-existence of a far more spiritual race than the one to which we now belong can be traced back to the earliest traditions of nearly every people. In the ancient Quiché manuscript, published by Brasseur de Bourbourg—the Popol Vuh—the first men are mentioned as a race that could reason and speak, whose sight was unlimited, and who knew all things at once. According to Philo Judaeus, the air is filled with an invisible host of spirits, some of whom are free from evil and immortal, and others are pernicious and mortal. "From the sons of EL we are descended, and sons of EL must we become again." And the unequivocal statement of the anonymous Gnostic who wrote The Gospel according to John, that "as many as received Him," i.e., who followed practically the esoteric doctrine of Jesus, would "become the sons of God," points to the same belief (i, 12). "Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods?" exclaimed the Master. Plato describes admirably in Phaedrus the state in which man once was, and what he will become again: before, and after the "loss of his wings"; when "he lived among the gods, a god himself in the airy world." From the remotest periods religious philosophies taught that the whole universe was filled with divine and spiritual beings of divers races. From one of these evolved, in the course of time, ADAM, the primitive man.
The Kalmucks and some tribes of Siberia also describe in their legends earlier creations than our present race. These beings, they say, were possessed of almost boundless knowledge, and in their audacity even threatened rebellion against the Great Chief Spirit. To punish their presumption and humble them, he imprisoned them in bodies, and so shut in their senses. From these they can escape but through long repentance, self-purification, and development. Their Shamans, they think, occasionally enjoy the divine powers originally possessed by all human beings.
The Astor Library of New York has recently been enriched by a facsimile of an Egyptian Medical Treatise, written in the sixteenth century B.C. (or, more precisely, 1552 B.C.), which, according to the commonly received chronology, is the time when Moses was just twenty-one years of age. The original is written upon the inner bark of Cyperus papyrus, and has been pronounced by Professor Schenk, of Leipzig, not only genuine, but also the most perfect ever seen. It consists of a single sheet of yellow-brown papyrus of finest quality, three-tenths of a meter wide, more than twenty meters long, and forming one roll divided into one hundred and ten pages, all carefully numbered. It was purchased in Egypt, in 1872-3, by the archaeologist Ebers, of "a well-to-do Arab from Luxor." The New York Tribune, commenting upon the circumstance, says: "the papyrus bears internal evidence of being one of the six Hermetic Books on Medicine, named by Clement of Alexandria."
The editor further says: "At the time of Iamblichus, A.D. 363, the priests of Egypt showed forty-two books which they attributed to Hermes (Tehuti). Of these, according to that author, thirty-six contained the history of all human knowledge; the last six treated of anatomy, of pathology, of affections of the eye, instruments of surgery, and of medicines. The Papyrus Ebers is indisputably one of these ancient Hermetic works."
If so clear a ray of light has been thrown upon ancient Egyptian science, by the accidental (?) encounter of the German archaeologist with one "well-to-do Arab from Luxor," how can we know what sunshine may be let in upon the dark crypts of history by an equally accidental meeting between some other prosperous Egyptian and another enterprising student of antiquity!
The discoveries of modern science do not disagree with the oldest traditions which claim an incredible antiquity for our race. Within the last few years geology, which previously had only conceded that man could be traced as far back as the tertiary period, has found unanswerable proofs that human existence antedates the last glaciation of Europe—over 250,000 years! A hard nut, this, for Patristic Theology to crack; but an accepted fact with the ancient philosophers.
Moreover, fossil implements have been exhumed together with human remains, which show that man hunted in those remote times, and knew how to build a fire. But the forward step has not yet been taken in this search for the origin of the race; science comes to a dead stop, and waits for future proofs. Unfortunately, anthropology and psychology possess no Cuvier; neither geologists nor archaeologists are able to construct, from the fragmentary bits hitherto discovered, the perfect skeleton of the triple man—physical, intellectual, and spiritual. Because the fossil implements of man are found to become more rough and uncouth as geology penetrates deeper into the bowels of the earth, it seems a proof to science that the closer we come to the origin of man, the more savage and brute-like he must be. Strange logic! Does the finding of the remains in the cave of Devon prove that there were no contemporary races then who were highly civilized? When the present population of the earth has disappeared, and some archaeologist belonging to the "coming race" of the distant future shall excavate the domestic implements of one of our Indian or Andaman Island tribes, will he be justified in concluding that mankind in the nineteenth century was "just emerging from the Stone age"?
It has lately been the fashion to speak of "the untenable conceptions of an uncultivated past." As though it were possible to hide behind an epigram the intellectual quarries out of which the reputations of so many modern philosophers have been carved! Just as Tyndall is ever ready to disparage ancient philosophers — for a dressing-up of whose ideas more than one distinguished scientist has derived honor and credit — so the geologists seem more and more inclined to take for granted that all of the archaic races were contemporaneously in a state of dense barbarism. But not all of our best authorities agree in this opinion. Some of the most eminent maintain exactly the reverse. Max Müller, for instance, says: "Many things are still unintelligible to us, and the hieroglyphic language of antiquity records but half of the mind's unconscious intentions. Yet more and more the image of man, in whatever clime we meet him, rises before us, noble and pure from the very beginning: even his errors we learn to understand, even his dreams we begin to interpret. As far as we can trace back the footsteps of man, even on the lowest strata of history, we see the divine gift of a sound and sober intellect belonging to him from the very first; and the idea of a humanity emerging slowly from the depths of an animal brutality can never be maintained again."
As it is claimed to be unphilosophical to inquire into first causes, scientists now occupy themselves with considering their physical effects. The field of scientific investigation is therefore bounded by physical nature. When once its limits are reached, enquiry must stop, and their work be recommenced. With all due respect to our learned men, they are like the squirrel upon its revolving wheel, for they are doomed to turn their "matter" over and over again. Science is a mighty potency, and it is not for us pigmies to question her. But the "scientists" are not themselves science embodied any more than the men of our planet are the planet itself. We have neither the right to demand, nor power to compel our "modern-day philosopher" to accept without challenge a geographical description of the dark side of the moon. But, if in some lunar cataclysm one of her inhabitants should be hurled thence into the attraction of our atmosphere, and land, safe and sound, at Dr. Carpenter's door, he would be indictable as recreant to professional duty if he should fail to set the physical problem at rest.
For a man of science to refuse an opportunity to investigate any new phenomenon, whether it comes to him in the shape of a man from the moon, or a ghost from the Eddy homestead, is alike reprehensible.
Whether arrived at by the method of Aristotle, or that of Plato, we need not stop to inquire; but it is a fact that both the inner and outer natures of man are claimed to have been thoroughly understood by the ancient andrologists. Notwithstanding the superficial hypotheses of geologists, we are beginning to have almost daily proofs in corroboration of the assertions of those philosophers.
They divided the interminable periods of human existence on this planet into cycles, during each of which mankind gradually reached the culminating point of highest civilization and gradually relapsed into abject barbarism. To what eminence the race in its progress had several times arrived may be feebly surmised by the wonderful monuments of old, still visible, and the descriptions given by Herodotus of other marvels of which no traces now remain. Even in his days the gigantic structures of many pyramids and world-famous temples were but masses of ruins. Scattered by the unrelenting hand of time, they are described by the Father of History as "these venerable witnesses of the long bygone glory of departed ancestors." He "shrinks from speaking of divine things," ad gives to posterity but an imperfect description from hearsay of some marvellous subterranean chambers of the Labyrinth, where lay — and now lie — concealed, the sacred remains of the King-Initiates.
We can judge, moreover, of the lofty civilization reached in some periods of antiquity by the historical descriptions of the ages of the Ptolemies, yet in that epoch the arts and sciences were considered to be degenerating, and the secret, of a number of the former had been already lost. In the recent excavations of Mariette-Bey, at the foot of the Pyramids, statues of wood and other relics have been exhumed, which show that long before the period of the first dynasties the Egyptians had attained to a refinement and perfection which is calculated to excite the wonder of even the most ardent admirers of Grecian art. Bayard Taylor describes these statues in one of his lectures, and tells us that the beauty of the heads, ornamented with eyes of precious stones and copper eyelids, is unsurpassed. Far below that stratum of sand in which lay the remains gathered into the collections of Lepsius, Abbott, and the British Museum, were found buried the tangible proofs of the Hermetic doctrine of cycles which has been already explained.
Dr. Schliemann, the enthusiastic Hellenist, has recently found, in his excavations in the Troad, abundant evidence of the same gradual change from barbarism to civilization, and from civilization to barbarism again. Why then should we feel so reluctant to admit the possibility that, if the antediluvians were so much better versed than ourselves in certain sciences as to have been perfectly acquainted with important arts, which we now term lost, they might have equally excelled in psychological knowledge? Such a hypothesis must be considered as reasonable as any other until some countervailing evidence shall be discovered to destroy it.
Every true savant admits that in many respects human knowledge is yet in its infancy. Can it be that our cycle began in ages comparatively recent? These cycles, according to the Chaldean philosophy, do not embrace all mankind at one and the same time. Professor Draper partially corroborates this view by saying that the periods into which geology has "found it convenient to divide the progress of man in civilization are not abrupt epochs which hold good simultaneously for the whole human race"; giving as an instance the "wandering Indians of America," who "are only at the present moment emerging from the stone age." Thus more than once scientific men have unwittingly confirmed the testimony of the ancients.
Any Kabalist well acquainted with the Pythagorean system of numerals and geometry can demonstrate that the metaphysical views of Plato were based upon the strictest mathematical principles. "True mathematics," says the Magicon, "is something with which all higher sciences are connected; common mathematics is but a deceitful phantasmagoria, whose much-praised infallibility only arises from this—that materials, conditions, and references are made its foundation." Scientists who believe they have adopted the Aristotelian method only because they creep when they do not run from demonstrated particulars to universal, glorify this method of inductive philosophy, and reject that of Plato, which they treat as unsubstantial. Professor Draper laments that such speculative mystics as Ammonius Saccas and Plotinus should have taken the place "of the severe geometers of the old Museum." He forgets that geometry, of all sciences the only one which proceeds from universals to particulars, was precisely the method employed by Plato in his philosophy. As long as exact science confines its observations to physical conditions and proceeds Aristotle-like, it certainly cannot fail. But notwithstanding that the world of matter is boundless for us, it still is finite; and thus materialism will turn forever in this vitiated circle, unable to soar higher than the circumference will permit. The cosmological theory of numerals which Pythagoras learned from the Egyptian hierophants, is alone able to reconcile the two units, matter and spirit, and cause each to demonstrate the other mathematically.
The sacred numbers of the universe in their esoteric combination solve the great problem and explain the theory of radiation and the cycle of the emanations. The lower orders, before they develop into higher ones, must emanate from the higher spiritual ones, and when arrived at the turning point, be reabsorbed again into the infinite.
Excerpted from ISIS Unveiled by H. P. Blavatsky, Boris de Zirkoff. Copyright © 1994 Theosophical Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
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