A Collection of Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row/The Virgin of the World
THE VIRGIN OF THE WORLD.
This is the title of a recent publication in English of some of the books generally attributed to Hermes. The first book, however, is the only part of the publication to which this heading is strictly appropriate. Two philosophical discourses named "Asclepios on Initiation" and "Definitions of Asclepios" and a few fragments of Hermetic philosophy are added to it, with two introductory Essays by Mr. Maitland and Dr. Kingsford, which are very interesting and instructive.
It will be a most interesting study for every occultist to compare the doctrines of the ancient Hermetic philosophy with the teachings of the Vedantic and Buddhist system of religious thought. The famous books of Hermes seem to occupy with reference to the Egyptian religion the same position which the Upanishads occupy in Aryan religious literature. As there were forty-two provinces in ancient Egypt, and the body of Osiris was cut up into forty-two pieces, so there were forty-two books of Hermes. This, however, is not the number of the Vedas nor of their sub-divisions, as Mr. Maitland seems to suppose. This number is one of the characteristic features of Egyptian mysticism, and veils a profound truth. It has nothing to do with the number of stars in any particular constellation, as some Egyptologists have imagined. So long as these investigators of the Egyptian religious doctrines erroneously believe that they are based on the signs of the Zodiac, the motions of the heavenly bodies, or the appearance of particular groups of stars, it will be impossible for them to penetrate into the profound depth of their meaning. These books of Hermes, if they can be discovered, will no doubt but an end to all such speculations. But Hermes said, "O Sacred Books of the Immortals, ye in whose pages my hand has recorded the remedies by which incorruptibility is conferred, remain for ever beyond the reach of destruction and of decay, invisible and concealed from all who frequent these regions, until the day shall come in which the ancient heaven shall bring forth instruments worthy of you, whom the Creator shall call souls."
This passage has a double meaning, applicable alike to the works of the Divine Hermes and the human Hermes; and the time is yet distant when the true Hermetic philososhy and the ancient civilization of Egypt will be revived in the natural course of evolutionary progress. The works that are now being published as Hermetic, however, do net appear to be the real Hermetic books which were so carefully concealed, though they contain fragments of true Hermetic philosophy coloured by Grecian thought and mythology, and "The Virgin of the World" was probably based on some Egyptian compilation professing to be one of the Hermetic books. It is curious to notice that in it we find Isis informing Horus that the animal signs were placed in the Zodiac after those of human form, which would be the case when the equinoctial point was at the beginning of Gemini. Moreover, as will be shown further on, the main doctrines taught by the discourse are in harmony with the religious doctrines of Ancient Egypt. But the prominent references to Zeus, Kronos, Ares, and Aphrodite unmistakably show that it can in no wise be considered as one of the ancient Hermetic books. In the context in which such names occur, Hermes would no doubt have referred to the corresponding deities of Egyptian mythology. By referring to page 9 it will be seen that the writer identifies Hermes with Mercury, which no ancient Egyptian properly acquainted with his ancient philosophy would have done. Hermes is "cosmic thought," as is stated in another part of this discourse. Strictly speaking, he is the universal mind in his divine aspect, and corresponds with Brahma in the Hindu religion. Just as the Vedas and the Upanishads are said to have originated from Brahma before the evolution of the manifested Cosmos, the Egyptians declared that their religious books originated from the Divine Hermes. Hermes, like Brahma, is represented (p. 10) as taking part in creation. Such being the case, it will be erroneous from the Egyptian standpoint to represent him as Mercury. Hermes is further spoken of as the teacher and initiator of Isis, though in one place the Great Master and the Ruler of the Universe addresses the mysterious goddess as the soul of his soul and the holy thought of his thought. Isis, the great Cosmic Virgin, is the sixth principle of the Cosmos. She is the generative power of the Universe.—not Prakriti, but the productive energy of Prakriti—and as such she generates ideation in the universal mind. Even in her human incarnation she cannot properly be placed in the position of a pupil of Hermes. The human incarnatian of Isis is not the descent of soul into matter, as is the case with the rape of Persephone. Curiously enough in referring to this incarnation in her discourse to Horns, Isis speaks thus:—"The Supreme God...at length accorded to earth for a season thy father Osiris and the great goddess Isis." Who then is this Isis who addresses Horus? Possibly the term Isis was applied to every incarnated soul, as the term Osiris was applied to every departed spirit in the later times of Egyptian history; but even this supposition will be found inconsistent with some portions of the dialogue under consideration. The author of the book, whoever he was, did not comphrehend in its true light the mysterious connection between Isis and Hermes, and, trying to imitate the tone and form of the real Hermetic dialogues (which were repeated during the times of initiation only) according to the traditions current in his time, wrote the dialogue under review in the form in which it is now presented to the public. Before proceeding to notice in detail the doctrines inculcated in this book it is necessary to point out that Persephone is not the Cosmic Virgin, and cannot be represented as such from the standpoint to Hermetic philosophy. This title is only applicable to the great Isis, and not to every soul which is encased in matter and which ultimately manifests itself as the spiritual intelligence of man. The Cosmic Virgin is the maiden mother of the manifested Universe and not the Virgin mother of incarnated Chirst (Spirit).
Isis occupies in the cosmos or macrocosm the same position which the soul that has fallen into the clutches of matter occupies in the microcosm. Isis is the mother of the Logos manifested in the Cosmos, as the soul is the Virgin mother of the regenerated spirit; Isis is mother of Adonais, while the incarnated soul is the mother of Christ: but the former alone is entitled to be called the Cosmic Virgin, and not the latter. In our humble opinion the Cosmic Virgin is not the Virgin manifested in the Cosmos, but the Virgin mother of the Cosmos. The contrast is not between the Virgin of the Cosmos and the "perpetual maid of heaven," but between the macrocosmic Virgin and the microcosmic Virgin. Consequently in the discourse of the Cosmic Virgin to her divine son, we find a general account of cosmic evolution, and not a mere description of the descent of soul into matter. It must be remembered in this connection that the human incarnations of Isis and Osiris should not be taken as mere allegorical representations of the incarnations of spirit. They were placed on quite a different footing by the ancient Egyptian writers; and in this very discourse Isis said that she would not and dared not "recount this nativity" and "declare the origin" of the race of Horus. The so-called myth of Osiris is the great central mystery of Egyptian occultism, and has probably a closer relation with the appearance of Buddha than has usually been imagined. It must further be stated here that the Greek God Dionysos has no proper position to occupy in the Egyptian Pantheon. Dr. Kingsford speaks of the "incarnation martyrdom and resuscitation of Dionysos Zagreus" in the essay prefixed to this book. She says that Dionysos was intended to mean the spirit, and adds further on that "the spirit or Dionysos was regarded as of a specially divine genesis, being the son of Zeus by the immaculate Maiden Kore-Persephoneia...." If so, Dionysos is the seventh principle in man, the Logos that manifests itself in the microcosm. But we are informed at the end of the essay that "Osiris is the microcosmic sun, the counterpart in the human system of the microcosmic Dionysos or Son of God." This latter statement is clearly inconsistent with what has gone before, and is evidently the result of misconception—a misconception generally prevalent in the minds ol the Western Hermetic students regarding the real position of Osiris—and an attempt to interpret the higher mysteries of the Egyptian religion by the mythological fables of ancient Greece, which, though elegant and refined in form, bear no comparison whatever to the allegories of the ancient Egyptian writers in point of occult significance.
There is a remarkable passage on p. 34 of the book under consideration which, if closely examined, may throw some light on the subject. Isis informs Horus that "on high dwell two ministers of the Universal Providence; one is the guardian of the Souls, the other is their conducter, who sends them forth and ordains for them bodies. The first minister guards them, the second releases or binds them, according to the Will of God." The real position and duties of Osiris may perhaps be gathered from this significant paragraph. It will not be very difficult to ascertain the name of the other minister, who has a nearer relationship with the Macroscosmic Sun than Dionysos, from a careful examination of the religious doctrine of Egypt. But as it is the business of the Sphinx to propose riddles, not to solve difficulties on such subjects, nothing more can be said in this connection. Buddha and Shankaracharya may perhaps disclose the real mystery of these two ministers.
Most of the important doctrines explained to Horus by his divine mother are in perfect harmony with the corresponding teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism, as will be seen from the following explanations. Horus represents the regenerated spirit of man, and it is to him that the Cosmic Virgin unveils herself and reveals the mysteries of human existence.
In tracing the evolution of the physical man Isis commences by giving an account of the origin of the spiritual monad. God, it would appear, took out of himself such essence as was necessary, and "mingling it with an intellectual flame, he combined with these other materials in unknown ways; and having, by the use of secret formulæ, brought about the union of these principles, he endowed the universal combination with motion. Gradually in the midst of the protoplasm glittered a substance more subtle, purer and more limpid than the elements from which it was generated.... He called it self-consciousness." The name given to it is very appropriate; it is the germ of pragna, the point of consciousness, the monad which ultimately evolutes the human being. This explanation is similar to that given by alchemists of the composition of the philosopher's stone. Mercury, described as Sivaviryam by the Hindus, is considered by the alchemists as the essence of God, while the intellectual flame is represented by sulphur. The mysterious salt is the other material spoken of in the above acconnt, and it is the azoth that begins to glitter in the composition. This has a profound significance, and gives a clue to the solution of that perplexing problem—the nature and origin of consciousness. Isis points out that myriads of souls were thus formed, and that they were authorized to take part in the creation of the material world and the lower organisms, and were forbidden to transgress certain limits assigned to their action. In course of time, however, they rebelled, and with a view of imprisoning them in organisms and thereby curtailing their power and freedom, God convened a meeting of the celestials and asked them "What they could bestow upon the race about to be born?" Sun, Moon, Kronos (Saturn), Zeus (Jupiter), Aries (Mars), Aphrodite (Venus), and Hermes (Mercury) responded to this call and promised to invest human nature with various qualities, intellectual and emotional, good and bad, peculiarly appertaining to the nature of the donors; and Hermes constructed organisms out of the existing material for the monads to inhabit. Thus was formed the man before his fall. With the transition from simple self-consciousness to the plane of mind and its varied activities there came then a change of Upadhi also, from a mere centre of force to an astral body. While the spiritual monad is evolved by God himself, the latter Upadhi is represented at the work of subordinate powers.
There yet remained one more step of descent into matter. The souls perceived the change in their condition and bewailed their fate; hopes of a better and happier future were held out to them, and it was further pointed out that if any of them should merit reproach they would be made to inhabit abodes destined to them in mortal organisms. In spite of this warning the necessity for a further degradation of the spiritual monad soon arose. Man as an astral being was in a transition stage; and this condition was not such as could be permanently maintained. Mental faculties acting without any weight of responsibility to control and restrain their action were likely to produce evil results. The genius of the law of Karua soon arose from the earth in the form of Momos and pointed out to Hermes the evil results which would inevitably follow if mankind were allowed to remain in their then condition. The wisdom of Hermes soon designed "a mysterions instrument, a measure inflexible and inviolable, to which everything would be subject from birth even to final destruction," and which would be the bond of created entities—in short, the inexorable law of Karma. The instrument forthwith operated, it would seem, as Karmic impulses were already being generated by man, owing to the very mental qualities with which he was invested, and the consequence was that souls were incorporated. This is the summary of the account given by Isis of the gradual evolution of the Karana Sarira, Sukshma Sarira, and Sthula Sarira. The constitution of these Upadhis was also to a certain extent indicated, as well as the nature of the conscious energy and its functions manifested in and through the said Upadhis. This three-fold division of a human being is in agreement with the Vedantic classification of the various Upadhis.
Man thus left encased in matter, with his internal light altogether clouded and obfcured, began to grope in the dark. Without a guide, a teacher and enlightener, mankind developed tendencies which if left unchecked would lead to a still lower level of existence. Confusion and discord reigned supreme. Even the very elements could not bear the presence of man. Loud were the complaints made by the whole of nature against the moral and spiritual chaos that prevailed. It was found that if left to himself man would be unable to liberate his soul from the trammels of matter and attain to salvation. As long as he remained a trinity merely he would remain an imperfect being. It was necessary to convert this trinity into a quaternary. This condition of things had to be remedied, and "forthwith God filled the Universe with His divine voice:—'Go,' said He, 'Sacred offspring, worthy of your father's greatness; seek not to change anything, nor refuse to my creatures your ministry."
This divine Voice is the Logos—the seventh principle in man. He is the real Eswara of the Vedantins and the Saviour of mankind. Through Him alone can salvation and immortality be secured by man; and the end and object of all initiation is to ascertain His attributes and connection with humanity, realize His sacred presence in every human heart, and discover the means of transferring man's higher individuality, purified and ennobled by the virtuous Karma of a series of incarnations, to His feet as the most sacred offering which a human being can bestow.
God further found necessary to send a teacher and a ruler to mankind to disclose to them the laws of initiation and point out the way to reach their own Logos. In spite of the presence of Atma in his own heart, man might remain ignorant of that sacred presence unless the veil of ignorance were removed from his eyes by a spiritual teacher. To meet this necessity God thought of sending down into the world such a teacher and made the following promise to the complaining elements:—
"I will send you an efflux of myself, a pure being who shall investigate all actions, who shall be the dreadful and incorruptible judge of the living: and sovereign justice shall extend its reign even into the shades beneath the earth. Thus shall every man receive his merited deserts."
This efflux manifested itself as Osiris and his female counterpart Isis.
This nativity, the mystery of which Isis refuses to disclose even to Horus, does not however correspond with the nativity of Christ.
Christ or Christos is the divine voice or Logos which manifests itself in every man; and the biblical narrative of Christ is an allegorical account of every regenerated spirit generally. It is not the historical value of the biblical account which is of importance to mankind in general, but its philosophical and occult significance, as asserted by Dr. Kingsford and Mr. Maitland. But it will be erroneous to look open the incarnation of Buddha or this nativity of Osiris and Isis in the same light as that of Christ. Every Buddha is also a Christ: but every Christ is not a Buddha. Every man may become a Christ and identify himself with Christ, but it is not open to every man to develope into a Buddha. Every true Kabalist knows that Christ is the son of man, and not Ennoia, the primitive man; or to express the same thing in Buddhist phraseology, Christ is a Bodhi Satwa and not a Buddha. It must be remembered that by the term Christ I do not refer to any particular individual, but to the spiritual entity with reference to which the Bible account has its philosophical importance. The germ of a Bodhi Satwa is in every man, but not the germ of a Buddha; hence when a Buddha is evolved by humanity in the course of its progress, his appearance will become a matter of historical importance. The appearance of Osiris was placed on the same footing, and was looked upon in the same light by Egyptian initiates. Osiris is not the Logos, but is something higher than the Logos. The Logos itself has a soul and a spirit as everything else has which is manifested; and there is nothing unreasonable in supposing that Osiris or Buddha may represent the soul of the Logos. The Sphinx cannot and dare not say anything more on the subject. The reader may find a very interesting and instructive commentary on the foregoing statements in the second volume of "Isis Unveiled."
We will now proceed with the account of Isis. The reign of order and justice commenced with the appearance of Isis and Osiris; who, amongst other things, taught mankind the secrets of the occult science and the sacred mysteries of initiation. After finishing their work on earth the divine couple were recalled by "the inhabitants of heaven."
After having thus traced the descent of spirit into matter and indicated the provision made by God for securing salvation to mankind, Isis proceeds to give replies to certain questions put to her by Horus. The first question relates to royal or kingly souls. The royalty herein referred to is spiritual royalty. Now and then men like Buddha, Shankaracharya, Christ, Zoroaster and others have appeared on earth as spiritual leaders and rulers of mankind. In point of spiritual development and elevation of moral character they stand at such an enormous height above the level of ordinary humanity as to lead mankind into the belief that they are special incarnation of divinity. This popular belief, however, is not endorsed by Isis, whose way of accounting for the appearance of such men is in harmony with the teachings of occult science. She explains to Horus that "souls destined to reign upon the earth descend thither for two causes. There are those who in former lives have lived blameless, and who merit apotheosis; for such as these royalty is a preparation for the divine state. Again there are holy souls, who for some slight infringement of the interior and divine Law receive in royalty a penance whereby the suffering and shame of incarnation are mitigated. The condition of these in taking a body resembles not that of others; they are as blessed as when they were free." If this reply of Isis is properly understood and accepted by the generality of people, sectarian strife, discord and bigotry will almost cease to exist.
There are differences, it would appear, among these royal souls, due to the nature of the angels and genii who assist them. The reader must not suppose that these powers are elementals; they are the guardians of the souls, whose teaching and guidance the souls follow, as declared by Isis. It is this guardian angel of the soul which is the Kwan-yin of the Buddhists and the Chitkala of the Hindus.
"How are souls born male or female?" asks Horus; and Isis answers thus:—"There are not among them either males or females; this distinction exists only between bodies, and not between incorporeal beings. But some are more energetic, some are gentler, aod this belongs to the air in which all things are formed. For an airy body envelopes the soul......". It is hardly necessary to state that the air referred to is the anima mundi—astral light—and that the airy body is the astral body of man. The next question answered by Isis relates to the various degrees of spiritual enlightenment seen amongst men.
The real difference between a man who has spiritual vision and discernment, and another who does not possess these faculties, is not to be found in the inmost nature of the soul; just as the clearness of vision depends, not on the latent perceptive faculty of the soul or mind, but upon the nature of the organ of vision and the tunics in which it is enveloped, the clearness of spiritual or clairvoyant perception depends, not on the nature of the soul, but on the condition and nature of the Upadhis in which it is placed.
Consequently all progressive development consists in the improvement of the Upadhis; the soul is perfect from the beginning and undergoes no alteration during the course of evolution.
Isis further proceeds to point out differences in national character, physical, intellectual and spiritual, amongst the various races inhabitiug the globe, and attributes them to differences in climate and position of their respective countries. The reference to the constellation Ursa Major has a mystic significance. The ancient Hindus calculated the period of one of their secret cycles with reference to the movements of the stars composing this constellation; and this cycle is related to the evolution of the various races and sub-races on the globe.
Speaking of the agencies which cause "in living men during long maladies an alteration of discernment 'of reason' even of the soul itself," Isis points out "that the soul has affinity with certain elements and aversion for others" and that therefore its functions are sometimes disturbed and affected by changes in either the physical or astral body.
The last chapter of the treatise under review contains the explanations of Isis regarding existence in Devachan or Swarga.
Isis says that there are several regions between the earth and heaven, adapted to varying degrees of spiritual development, wherein "dwell the souls who are freed from bodies and those who have not yet been incorporated." These regions correspond to the various Devalokams (each Devagana has a separate loka) spoken of in Hindu books, and the rupa and arupa lokas of the Buddhists. The two mysterious ministers alluded to in the former part of this article exercise, it would seem, certain powers of supervision and control over the condition of the various Devachanees in accordance with the law of Karma. This law is set in motion by two energies described as memory and experience. The former "directs in nature the preservation and maintenance of all the original types appointed in Heaven." This refers to the record of Karma preserved in astral light. "The function of Experience is to provide every soul descending into generation with a body appropriate thereto." It is needless to state that this is a correct rationale of the doctrine of Karma from the Buddhist and the Hindu standpoint.
There is nothing more of importance to consider in this treatise. The points already referred to show that the same main doctrines of the ancient wisdom religion underlie every exoteric creed whether ancient or modern. It is not true, as Mr. Herbert Spencer says, that the only statement with reference to which all the nations in the world agree in the matter of religious belief is that there is an unknown and unknowable Power in the universe. The religious history of humanity shows that there are a number of doctrines regarding the origin, the nature and the ultimate destiny of the human soul, highly philosophical and complicated, which form the foundation of every exoteric religion and which have influenced the religions sentiments of mankind from time immemorial. How are we to account for these beliefs? Have they any inherent special connection with human nature as it is? Or are they the outcome of a divine revelation during the infancy of the human race, whose influence has survived the vicissitudes of so many civilizations? If neither of these hypothesis is acceptable to the mind of a modern agnostic, can the evolution of these doctrines from a few simple ideas which are common to humanity in general be explained by the operation of known psychological laws? If the latter hypothesis is tenable, how is it that these products of human experience have not undergone any change in spite of great improvements in material civilization and mental culture?
It is not my object now to undertake a discussion of the above subject and offer my own solutions of the problem; I only beg to call the reader's attention to this important question, and request him not to lose sight of it in meditating on the origin and history of religious belief amongst mankind, and the possibility of discovering a common platform on which the followers of the various religions on the globe may take up their stand with brotherly love and affection, forgetting the petty differences of their exoteric dogmatic creeds. The Sphinx does not think it necessary to say anything about the contents of the short philosphical dissertations appended to "The Virgin of the World" as they seem to contain more of Grecian speculation than of Egyptian wisdom.