Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by G. de Purucker

Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.

Chapter 21

Initiations and the Ancient Mysteries. Root-Races and Their Subdivisions. Globe Rounds. Planetary Rounds. Solar Kalpas: How Calculated. Racial Cataclysms.

"As to the Philosophy, by whose assistance the Mysteries were developed (and which, we may say, they were designed to teach), it is coeval with the Universe itself; and, however its continuity may be broken by opposing systems, it will make its appearance at different periods of time, as long as the sun himself shall continue to illuminate the world. It has, indeed, and may hereafter be violently assailed by delusive opinions; but the opposition will be just as imbecile as that of the waves of the sea against a temple built on a rock, which majestically pours them back, broken and vanquished, foaming to the main. However it may be involved in oblivion in barbarous and derided in impious ages, it will again flourish — through all the infinite revolutions of time." — Thomas Taylor, Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries

Hence in the Smaragdine Tablet, disfigured by Christian hands: —

"The Superior agrees with the Inferior; and the Inferior with the Superior; to effect that one truly wonderful Work" — which is MAN. For the secret work of Chiram, or King Hiram in the Kabala, "one in Essence, but three in Aspect," is the Universal Agent or Lapis Philosophorum. The culmination of the Secret Work is Spiritual Perfect Man, at one end of the line; the union of the three elements is the Occult Solvent in the "Soul of the World," the Cosmic Soul or Astral Light, at the other; . . . — The Secret Doctrine, II, 113

The intention of all mystic ceremonies is to conjoin us with the world of the Gods. — Sallust

The design of the Mysteries is to lead us back to the perfection from which, as a Principle, we first made our descent. — Plato

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God [their own inner god]. — Jesus

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. — Job

THIS evening we are going to speak of another matter collateral with our main theme yet very important; and at our next meeting we shall endeavor to take up the scattered threads which we have unloosened, both in generalization and in particular, and gather them together and weave them into a consistent whole, making as nearly as possible a clearer picture for our brain-minds of what we can understand at present of the seventh treasury of wisdom. Also, if we have time this evening, we shall endeavor very briefly to treat of a matter left incomplete at our last meeting, that is to say, the question of the seven root-races of mankind through which the human wave of life passes during the present fourth round on our globe.

We open our study in reading from volume I of The Secret Doctrine, page 424, the extract which we have read before:

To thoroughly comprehend the idea underlying every ancient cosmology necessitates the study, in a comparative analysis, of all the great religions of antiquity; as it is only by this method that the root idea will be made plain. Exact science — could the latter soar so high, while tracing the operations of nature to their ultimate and original sources — would call this idea the hierarchy of Forces. The original, transcendental and philosophical conception was one. But as systems began to reflect with every age more and more the idiosyncrasies of nations; and as the latter, after separating, settled into distinct groups, each evolving along its own national or tribal groove, the main idea gradually became veiled with the overgrowth of human fancy. While in some countries the FORCES, or rather the intelligent Powers of nature, received divine honours they were hardly entitled to, in others — as now in Europe and the civilized lands — the very thought of any such Force being endowed with intelligence seems absurd, and is proclaimed unscientific.

Note the calm but trenchant irony in this extract. I merely call attention to it before passing on. Now this extract, though dealing with the various aspects which the ancient religions took as the ages passed, leading to their differentiations into the so-called great religions of the world, nevertheless fits in very well by analogy and by comparison with the subject which we are going to treat in particular, although briefly, this evening, that is to say, the question of initiations and the ancient Mysteries, and also a much misunderstood fact in nature closely connected with the ancient Mysteries, which was evolved into a doctrine by the ancients and called by them the "succession of teachers" — guruparampara in Sanskrit, and distortedly and faintly reflected in the Apostolic Succession in the Christian scheme.

The Christian Church very early took over that doctrine of the succession of teachers, with much other theological timber, from the old religions of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea; and the doctrine which it took over became for that Church the so-called Apostolic Succession of the Church of Rome, the popes succeeding one another and claiming to be the successors of the fisherman-apostle of Galilee, Simon Peter. We do not care to go into this aspect of the matter for it is useless for our present purpose, and no benefit can be gained by it; but wherever we look and whatever line of human social or religious activity we may choose to take for our study, we shall always find that there is a passing on of authority or a passing on of teachings, or of both. The various heads of even our political bodies succeed one another, and usually carry on a political tradition. Big businesses succeed one another, and usually pass on, from man to man, a tradition of commercial policy and expansion, and so forth. It is simply an exemplification in ordinary practical life of a rule of nature; that is to say, that man, being a mortal being, having to die, but being an entity of thought and of heart, does not want to see that which he feels to be good, or which he believes to be good, lost; and so he transfers either authority or teaching, or both, to another whom he considers fit and capable to carry on his teaching or authority, or both.

It is in the religious field of human activity that this system is most marked, and where the feeling is the strongest. A succession of "prophets" succeeding each other in the ancient Mysteries, a succession of hierophants succeeding each other therein, is a fact well known to us, even ordinary knowledge such as you may find in an encyclopedia or in school books.

In Greece, for instance, in taking the Eleusinian Mysteries as an example, we know that the hierophants were drawn from one family, the Eumolpidae, living in Athens, and the torchbearers were drawn from another family, the Lycomidae, living in Athens; and we have reason to believe that the Mysteries of Samothrace, the seat of an older rite, and which were, like the Mysteries of Eleusis, a State function, were also conducted in the same manner by the passing on of the tradition held sacred and incommunicable to outsiders; and the bond of union between the initiates of these so-called Mysteries was considered indissoluble, impossible of dissolution, for death merely strengthened the tie.

Now outside of the fact that men like to pass on what they think and believe to be good, whence arose throughout the various countries of the world of which we have some knowledge the remarkable mystic similarities we know of, whence came to them all the closely similar knowledge and authority which were passed on from one head to another? It must have come from somewhere. Men no longer believe in the empty philosophico-scientific theory or fallacy of fifty years ago, to the effect that, for instance, six men, living in six different isles, will inevitably and infallibly tread six more or less identical paths of mental and physical thought and ceremony. It was once a scientific heresy to doubt that theory. It was called a fact, though there were no facts to prove it; it was a theory merely, having no other foundation than imagination overworked in order to find an explanation of similarities and identities such as the above.

Let us say here that we look with respect and reverence upon the discoveries of the many great and noble-minded men who have given us brighter views into the shell of nature, the outward physical shell, and whose lives often are models of self-sacrifice; but while we recognize that every new light shed into our minds, showing us new views into the heart of nature, is good for us, nevertheless we draw a sharp line of distinction between science, the noble knowledge of classified truth, and the theories of scientists. We accept a theory if it is good, but only as a theory; and it must be corroborated by nature herself before we will accept it as a fact, as a part of science per se.

So, then, we receive the following bit of knowledge from our Teachers that this particular doctrine, which in the Church of Rome is called the Apostolic Succession, and in the ancient Mysteries was called the Passing of the Word, the Passing of the Knowledge, the Passing of the Authority, or by some similar expression, originated in our Order, but obviously not in our lifetime. We are merely a generation, one of many, carrying on the tradition of the knowledge which originated in the final ages of that vanished continent Lemuria and was more particularly developed in Atlantis, where were first established the ancient Mysteries.

As in the highest of the Lodges, we are taught, the truth is passed from the great Master-Initiator to his successor to the truth and the authority, so in the inferior Lodges, the same system is followed; and we in our work merely carry on the same tradition. It is saddening to see how learned ignoramuses with high-sounding names, or possibly with an alphabetical string of academic titles after their names, sometimes talk about the Mysteries of which they can really know nothing outside of the scattered data found imbodied in old literature. They are mere bookmen, readers, and not understanders. It is also truly pathetic to hear some folk talk about the non-necessity of having a leader, because they believe that one man is as good as another, and that no man can be very much better than another, and to see their opinion that all this talk about spiritual, inner light and illumination passed on from initiate to initiate is just thingumbobbery!

Are they wise? But ask them for proof of their theory, and they can give you none. No proof whatsoever; it is pure speculation. On the contrary, we may point out to them even such facts as we know, or the things of which history has left certain records in her annals, where invariably you will find the same old tradition coming down the ages of the passing down of the knowledge and of the authority and of the doctrine.

Now when we speak of Mysteries and initiations we use those words in a sense which to us is sacred, and with no wish or desire, far less with any attempt, to create a false and mischievous atmosphere of emotionalism. We speak of facts. You know that every member of the School is more or less a scientist, i.e., a "knower" and researcher. We are taught to use our brains and our minds and our wills first of all for self-conquest, and then to analyze properly ourself and the world we live in. Have we not been told again and again that we must consult our consciences before we accept anything? In order to do that, we have to think; we also know that even if in doing so we should, through our own blindness or incapacity, reject a truth offered to us, we shall nevertheless have done aright, because we have been faithful to ourselves and to our consciences, and that the karma of that rejection will be merely temporary, because the inner man understands, and the truth in time will dawn in faithful hearts.

We are taught that the Mysteries — we take those of Greece for an example — were divided into two parts. Let us particularize and take those of Eleusis: you will remember that Eleusis as a word means "advent," "the coming," that which is coming, the promise. As the Mysteries of Samothrace were rather what we would call scientific, dealing more with the operations of nature, and the origin of those operations and the method of controlling them, and teaching what they led to — in other words, what we would today call science; so the teachings at Eleusis were rather those religious and philosophic doctrines of esotericism giving to men what the great Roman orator, Cicero, called a brighter view of life and a livelier hope as regards death, because they taught of the things which are to be, more particularly the so-called, and thoughtlessly so-called, "dark mysteries of death." These Eleusinia were divided into two parts, as said above, the Less Mysteries and the Greater Mysteries. The Less Mysteries were celebrated in the early springtime, more or less about the time of the Anthesteria, the Flower Festival, and the celebrations took place at a small town called Agrae. Those Mysteries were mainly dramatic in form, with this one object in view: to prepare him or her who was initiated into these Less Mysteries better to understand, more quickly to apprehend, and more easily to seize with the mind, that which he was to go through in the Greater Mysteries of Eleusis, providing that in the interim and during the time of trial he proved himself true and fit and clean.

Even in the days when early Christianity had superseded the degenerate and corrupt religions of the Mediterranean countries, even then, fallen as the Eleusinia were from their former high state, yet they were considered so highly that initiations still took place in them. They were actually finally stopped on the initiative of the pagans themselves, the school closed by an order of the Christian Emperor Justinian in Constantinople, but closed on the petition of the better of the so-called pagans themselves. The truth is that the Mysteries were not overcome by Christianity, but fell because of intrinsic degeneracy. Can we imagine what those men must have felt in the day when they saw that which was dearer to them than life closed and ended by their own will, invaded and degraded by degenerate rites and beliefs and, doubtless, also by the Christian fanatics?

Now the dramatizations in the Less Mysteries were not what we would call plays exactly; they were plays in one sense because they were dramas. But they were enacted in the form of spectacles in which the would-be disciple, the initiant or the one to be initiated, had to take the main part himself or herself. Let us give a concrete example, which at least will be interesting and perhaps illuminating, remembering that there were various kinds of styles of initiations and of Mysteries existing in the different countries, although fundamentally they were all one and still today are one in the great secret sodalities; but in each country the initiations and Mysteries took on different aspects, as it were, as for instance in Hindustan as compared with Greece. The initiator and the neophyte might use a different language, and wear different clothing, etc., and perhaps go through a different rite, and so on and so on. But fundamentally the idea was the same the world over. It must be remembered that the Smaller Mysteries were preparations for the Greater. In the former, the candidate was taught, and enacted as a drama what he would have to experience psychically and spiritually in the Greater Initiations.

One of these rites was the drama, or the trial rather, that the neophyte would have to pass through in actuality later, in the Greater Initiation, and it was the meeting with his inner self, his own inner self, not in the vague and abstract way in which we today speak of a man as having "found his true self"; but in the Less Initiation the neophyte was actually put through training and purification in order to fit him to undergo the real test, in which he met his own inner self face to face, as another individual apparently, at first, but at a still higher initiation to be blended with that other self, his own self, his higher self.

This rite is one of the Smaller Mysteries, those of purification and training, and was enacted at the town of Agrae, not far from Athens, where the Less Mysteries were held, and it was enacted dramatically. The neophyte was then and there taught to anticipate and understand what was coming to him if he was successful later in the Greater Rite. He was frankly and openly told at the last what he was there to meet if he desired to go to the end of the path. And similarly with the other stages or degrees of initiation.

Now it is not certainly known how many degrees or secret stages there were of the Eleusinia, but we know that there were several; and we know that to the very end, before they were finally closed on account of their degeneration, they were so carefully guarded, so faithfully kept hid, that to this day scholars are mentally running around in bewilderment, in an endeavor to find out what really was taught in the Eleusinia, in these Mysteries which aroused the admiration of the greatest men of antiquity. In those of Samothrace likewise the circumstances of secrecy and degree were very similar.

Take Egypt: the pyramids, we are taught, were simply — the Great Pyramid especially — majestic initiation-temples. There too the Mysteries and the initiations were most sacredly guarded and kept secret. They were kept only for those who had proved themselves worthy, not by talk but by act, and who had been tried and tested in many different ways. And why? Because it was a dangerous matter for unprepared minds. Our Teachers tell us plainly that there were three results of an initiation: one success; another failure, which often meant death; and the third (a partial failure) often meant madness. But success meant glory unspeakable. Why was it that madness and death sometimes ensued? Through any outward punishment? No. The results were wholly from within the candidates themselves. They were plainly told, these neophytes: "Come with a clean heart, and glory unspeakable and knowledge of the gods shall be yours; but come with a perverse and wicked heart, with your mind untrained and with your will unset, and you will never be able to face that which you will have to meet in the other world." Because that is what the Greater Mysteries were, a passing behind the veil of this physical shell. No wonder that the training was severe, arduous! Those ancient men had high hearts in their bodies and wise old minds.

Now those Mysteries are not dead today. We are taught distinctly that the same ancient truths, the same entrance into glory, the same beautiful realization of the highest hopes that man bears in the secret recesses of his heart, the same surpassing knowledge of life and being: all can be had by him who wills and who dares and who knows how to keep silent. That is what the Masters have taught us. They also have taught us another great truth, that it is not a sine qua non for success to have a mighty brain-mind, for they have told us plainly that even some of their own Brothers, some of the Masters themselves, are such by virtue of their spiritual grandeur, and not by virtue of any brain-mind eminence alone nor of any particular mental power; and further that such of the Masters, spiritual sons of glory, may stand high even among themselves. We are further taught that this brain-mind of ours is very often a hindrance to us; it is indeed a most useful servant if we keep it a servant, but it is a master which will inevitably put our feet upon the left-hand path unless illumined and guided by the spiritual nature, because all its thoughts are thoughts of self, and all its thinking is for gratification of its own desires; its horizons are limited, and its outlook is short; its self-born inspirations are few and far between; and it is mortal and dies with the body. It depends upon ourselves to which side of our nature, the higher or the lower, we shall, as William Quan Judge used to say, nail our faith, pin it there and keep it there.

The other matter mentioned at the beginning of our study this evening is that of the races through which mankind, as a life-wave, passes in its journey from the beginning of evolution on this globe to its end. You will remember that there are seven such root-races which form the evolutionary cycle, in this fourth round, which is what we call one globe-round; and we are at the present time, as said before, in the fourth subrace of our present fifth root-race. There is confusion about these races in the minds of some students, because H. P. Blavatsky, as was pointed out at our last meeting, was under the necessity when she wrote of keeping quiet, or rather hid, certain teachings which she was not then empowered publicly to give out. Had there been the proper appeal from her students, perhaps she would have done so then. At any rate, we shall give a short outline in an attempt to illustrate this rather difficult subject.

diagram: root-races

Let each line of the following diagram represent a root-race. There are seven lines (or root-races), and you will notice that the junction-line, beginning one root-race out of the preceding root-race, is at the middle point of the former, that is, at the fourth subrace of the preceding or mother-race. It is so in all the lines (or root-races). Now we are at present in the fifth root-race, two races short of the completion of our globe-cycle or globe-round, and our present fifth root-race is almost at the point, the middle of our fifth root-race, where the sixth root-race to come will branch off. Each root-race, each of the seven, is divided in our teachings into seven minor races as follows. Notice the recurrence of the number seven:

diagram: root-races, sub-races

[*Another name may be suggested which is better for this and the following terms.]

We say 72 years, because the average man, barring accidents and malignant diseases which may carry him off before his time, usually lives about 72 years. Some human beings live much longer, of course. If we took count of all human deaths — of the babies who die in such numbers in infancy, and of all who die in shipwreck, and of all the men killed in wars, and of all the murders and of all the diseases, and of the train and automobile wrecks, and of all such accidents — probably the average length of human life today would not be more than 15 or 20 years; but those cases, after all, are exceptional. Man lives today, on a natural average, about 72 years, barring all accidents, etc., as above suggested.

The following is an interesting calculation, offered only as a suggestive thing. Suppose that you desire to calculate the length of time of a root-race, and please understand that what we are saying now is only a rough approximation. Take then 72 years, the famous three score years and ten in the Bible — a mystery-figure, a round number for 72 — and multiply it by seven: we get one tribal generation; multiply it by seven again, we get one tribal race; multiply that by seven and we get one national race, and your figure will come to about 25,920 years, the length of the precessional cycle; multiply that by seven again, and you get one family race; multiply that again by seven and you get a secondary subrace; and multiply that by seven once more and you get a figure which is really the entire time period of a root-race. This calculation is very rough numerically, and is so intended to be; but it is suggestive.

You see we do not count the root-race as one of the seven here, but make it the all-inclusive one, and why? Because if we did so count it, we should be counting the primary subrace twice. A root-race really ought to mean the race which originates a thing, or is its "root." It is therefore, strictly speaking, from the first primary subrace that all the others of the series grow, exactly as the root of a tree sends up its trunk, and the trunk its branches, the branches their smaller branchlets, the smaller branchlets still smaller branchings, they the twigs, which bear the leaves. Therefore, according to the above series, it is the primary subrace which really is the root-race.

Now there are seven (please mark again, seven) root-races in one globe-round, that is to say, a planetary round as it passes through our globe. Seven globe-rounds equal one planetary round; seven planetary rounds equal one kalpa or manvantara or Day of Brahma, and seven kalpas plus seven planetary pralayas (or seven periods of planetary rest) equal one solar kalpa.

These figures are given because they are fundamental. They are accurate as far as they go. We shall have to deal with them in future studies.

Please note in conclusion that the drawing on page 294, illustrating the birth of root-races from each other at the middle point of each, equally well can represent a primary subrace or a secondary subrace, or a national race, or a tribal race, etc., and the reason is obvious, because there are no perfectly unique and singular things in nature anywhere. Nature does nothing but repeat itself, and the man who said that nature never repeats itself uttered a titanic fallacy. Nature does nothing but repeat itself. Did you ever see a thing perfectly unique — utterly different in all respects from everything else? On the contrary, you see everything everywhere repeating itself: the seasons year in and year out; day and night year in and year out; the planets circling around the sun continually; their satellites circling around their primaries in more or less the same way; and so forth. There is constant repetition everywhere. A tree in putting forth its foliage, puts forth its own leaves; it does not put forth something unique and unheard of — pumpkin pies or chairs or temples or houses; it puts forth that which belongs to it, as all trees do.

Cycles can be found in every branch of life; for instance, children are born on the average at the end of ten lunar months or nine solar months. A child can live and be perfectly healthy and successful, if born at seven months after conception, but it is often a child of great sensitiveness, high-strung, of nervous temperament, and it needs the most anxious and loving care, because it has to finish its growth in the cold outside, and nature takes two other months to do it normally.

Now, as said before, we shall endeavor at our next study to link together the various threads of thought which we have gathered up and weave them into a whole so consistent, so coherent, that even our brain-minds can grasp at least some notion of the sublime theme that we have been studying within the last few weeks.

Chapter 22

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