Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
The oldest religions of the world — exoterically, for the esoteric root or foundation is one — are the Indian, the Mazdean, and the Egyptian. Then comes the Chaldean, the outcome of these — entirely lost to the world now, except in its disfigured Sabeanism as at present rendered by the archaeologists; then, passing over a number of religions that will be mentioned later, comes the Jewish, esoterically, as in the Kabala, following in the line of Babylonian Magism; exoterically, as in Genesis and the Pentateuch, a collection of allegorical legends. Read by the light of the Zohar, the initial four chapters of Genesis are the fragment of a highly philosophical page in the World's Cosmogony. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 10-11
The first lesson taught in Esoteric philosophy is, that the incognizable Cause does not put forth evolution, whether consciously or unconsciously, but only exhibits periodically different aspects of itself to the perception of finite Minds. Now the collective Mind — the Universal — composed of various and numberless Hosts of Creative Powers, however infinite in manifested Time, is still finite when contrasted with the unborn and undecaying Space in its supreme essential aspect. That which is finite cannot be perfect. . . .
The Hebrew Elohim, called in the translations "God," and who create "light," are identical with the Aryan Asuras. They are also referred to as the "Sons of Darkness" as a philosophical and logical contrast to light immutable and eternal. . . . The Zoroastrian Amshaspends create the world in six days or periods also, and rest on the Seventh; whereas that Seventh is the first period or "day," in esoteric philosophy, (Primary creation in the Aryan cosmogony). It is that intermediate Aeon which is the Prologue to creation, and which stands on the borderland between the uncreated eternal Causation and the produced finite effects; a state of nascent activity and energy as the first aspect of the eternal immutable Quiescence. In Genesis, on which no metaphysical energy has been spent, but only an extraordinary acuteness and ingenuity to veil the esoteric Truth, "Creation" begins at the third stage of manifestation. "God" or the Elohim are the "Seven Regents" of Pymander. They are identical with all the other Creators. — Ibid., II, 487-8
THIS EVENING we commence our study with the following citation from the first volume of The Secret Doctrine, page 224:
Mankind in its first prototypal, shadowy form, is the offspring of the Elohim of Life (or Pitris); in its qualitative and physical aspect it is the direct progeny of the "Ancestors," the lowest Dhyanis, or Spirits of the Earth; for its moral, psychic, and spiritual nature, it is indebted to a group of divine Beings, the name and characteristics of which will be given in Book II. Collectively, men are the handiwork of hosts of various spirits; distributively, the tabernacles of those hosts; and occasionally and singly, the vehicles of some of them.
And on page 225, second paragraph:
Man is not, nor could he ever be, the complete product of the "Lord God"; but he is the child of the Elohim, so arbitrarily changed into the singular masculine gender. The first Dhyanis, commissioned to "create" man in their image, could only throw off their shadows, like a delicate model for the Nature Spirits of matter to work upon. (See Book II.) Man is, beyond any doubt, formed physically out of the dust of the Earth, but his creators and fashioners were many.
It seems advisable first to speak of two things, a less thing and a greater thing; we take the less thing first. As has been seen from the beginning of our studies, we have been bringing forward for our consideration at every one of our meetings teachings found in the great religions of the world, mostly of the past, which are similar to or identical with our own. This has been done in order to join all these teachings, as found in the old religions, with the teachings as given by H. P. Blavatsky, that is, with theosophy. This shows the universality of thought in religions and thereby induces a spirit of kindliness and brotherhood, and leads to the accentuation of the moral sense which so greatly lacks in the comparative religious study of the doctrines of the predominant ancient religions by the mass of scholars in the Occident today. It does away at one sweep with the egoistic opinion that "we are more perfect and morally better than you are," with the idea that we Occidentals are a superior people, and with the idea that a certain race and a certain religion are, by the fiat of the Deity, the chosen receptacles or vehicles for the only truth; that all the other religions are false, and that those who professed them in ancient times were merely brands prepared for the burning!
The second thing and the greater is this. We have constantly been bringing forward certain religious or philosophical analogies and certain points of view thereupon which are veritable doctrinal touchstones; our aim being that those who may read these studies shall be enabled to have at hand, and — through the thoughts therein expressed — to have clear-set in their own minds, keys by which to test the truth and reality of the essential or fundamental doctrines of these ancient religions, because all these doctrines in their essence and in their inner meaning, in those old religions, are true. In this sense Brahmanism is true, in this sense Buddhism is true, likewise Confucianism, and the doctrines of Lao-tse called Taoism. They are all true in that sense.
But all of them have been, in greater or less degree, subject to the influences of certain creations of human fancy; and for one who has not been trained in these studies, it is often difficult to separate the merely human fancies from the nature-true teachings of the ancient wisdom-religion. All the ancient religions sprang from that same source — theosophy, as it is called today. But it is, as said before, sometimes difficult to know what is the original teaching and what the merely human accretion or creation. These creations of human phantasy and irreligious fear are very evident in the two modern monotheistic religions which have sprung from Judaism, that is to say, in Christianity and in Islam. In these two the human accretions of phantasy are very marked; but in both of them there exists a solid substratum of mystical thought based on the ancient teachings of the wisdom-religion.
In Christianity it is particularly in the Neopythagorean and the Neoplatonic forms, as Christianized somewhat and as manifested in the teachings of Dionysius, called the Areopagite; and in the later Mohammedan religion it is manifested somewhat more distantly in the borrowings from Greek thought mainly, though also from other sources, as we find them outlined by the Mohammedan doctors and thinkers, such as Ibn Sina, commonly called Avicenna in Europe, a Persian, who lived and wrote at the end of the tenth century; by Averroes in Cordova, Spain, properly called Roshd, who flourished during the twelfth century; and by another eminent Mohammedan scholar (mentioning these three out of many) Al Farabi, of the tenth century, by descent a Turk. The ancient wisdom also affected the teachings of Mohammed in a highly mystical form, though greatly changed, as shown in the Sufi doctrines, which are particularly and manifestly of Persian origin, owing their rise to that spiritual-minded and subtil people, the Persians. These doctrines are a very welcome contrast with the hard and mechanical religious beliefs which arose out of the egoism of the crude Arabian tribes of that period.
The main theme of our study this evening is the consideration of the opening verses of the Book of Beginnings called Genesis — the first book in the Law of the Jews. We shall first read the English translation of these verses as found in the "authorized version," and of the same chapters we shall make a translation ourselves, in which you will be enabled to see the difference from the former; and we will explain what the difference is, and how it comes to be, and for this purpose we shall have to go into a brief exposition of certain peculiarities of the ancient Hebrew tongue.
In the authorized version of the English Bible, called the version of King James, the Book of Genesis opens as follows:
1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7. And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
10. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
26. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
In the first place, Hebrew is a Semitic tongue, one of the company of languages of which Arabic and Ethiopic and Aramaean (or Aramaic) and Phoenician and Assyrian are other members. The Hebrew in which the Bible is written is called the Biblical Hebrew. It is ancient Hebrew. The language spoken in Palestine at the time when Jesus is supposed to have lived upon the earth in Jerusalem and around that district was Aramaean, and not Hebrew, which was then extinct as a spoken language, and of course when he spoke to his disciples he spoke to them in Aramaean.
The Hebrew language as found in the ancient manuscripts of the Bible — none earlier, probably, than the ninth century of the Christian era — is written with "points," taking the place of vowels, because Hebrew writing is a consonantal system; its alphabet is wholly consonantal. It has the aleph or a, which is nevertheless reckoned as a consonant. It has the waw or w, and it also is reckoned as a consonant; and it has the yod or y, also reckoned as a consonant, but it has no vowel signs proper.
Thus, the language is written without true vowels. Furthermore, in the most ancient manuscripts — and certainly it was so in the original or pre-Christian era texts — the letters are all run together, following one after another, without separation of words. There were some marks possibly, by which certain things in the text were pointed out as of particular importance; but the letters followed one another interminably, with no separation into words, and without vowels. So, you see, there is an open field for many kinds of speculation, even for very able Hebrew scholars, as to what any certain combination of letters found in this endless stream may have originally meant. This way of writing was universal, practically, in ancient times; the earliest Greek and Latin manuscripts of the New Testament are written in this fashion, which merely followed the ancient custom, as may still be seen on the ruins of public buildings in Greece and Rome. Obviously, interpretation, or correct reading, was often dubious: the reader might be very doubtful of the original sense of a passage in a manuscript so written.
So much was this the case that there arose in Palestine at an undetermined date — but we know that it may go back to about the time of the fall of Jerusalem before Titus or, say, about the beginning of the Christian era — a school of interpreters, who interpreted by what they were pleased to call "tradition," masorah, that is to say, "traditional" knowledge, how the Hebrew Bible should be read, how these streams of consonants should be divided up in reading into words, and what vowel points should be put there in order to fix the pronunciation in accordance therewith. This system of "points" was probably not introduced into the text till the seventh century. This school was called the School of the Masorah, and its expounders and followers were called Masoretes.
This School of the Masorah reached its fullest development and completion probably in the ninth century of the Christian era. But while this school depended upon what it called tradition, there is no certainty of proof that their interpretations of their own combinations of letters into words were always correct. They seemed to have got, however, and to have passed down to posterity, some knowledge of the general original sense.
In order to illustrate this matter, let us take the first five English words of Genesis: we drop all the vowels, retaining only the consonants, and we have this: nthbgnnnggdcrtd. You could here insert vowels almost ad libitum in seeking a meaning. "In the beginning God created," and now imagine endless lines of such consonants!
Add to it the fact that Hebrew writing begins at the right hand and runs to the left. Furthermore, it begins at what we would call the end of the book, and runs to the front, as writings in other Semitic tongues do. This fashion of writing was not uncommon with other peoples in ancient days. Greek and Latin writing in ancient times sometimes followed this system, but later, as you can see today if you have been in Greece or in Rome, in the old inscriptions on the temples and elsewhere, it usually began at the left and went to the right, usually with no breaks for words. In the very old Greek writings (and elsewhere too) they also had what they called boustrophedon, from two Greek words meaning "ox-turning," taken from the path followed by the plowing ox: when it starts, let us say, from one end of a field it goes to the other end and then turns and goes back in the opposite direction, parallel with the other line, in plowing its furrows. This method is not followed in the Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible that we possess.
Now, in beginning our translation of the first verses of Genesis, we are met in the very first two words by a difficulty. These words can be translated in two or three different ways. The translation as given in the European Bibles, and as found in the authorized English version, is a fairly correct rendering so far as mere words go; but anyone who has undertaken translations from a foreign language and particularly from a dead one, and more especially again from a religious tongue and one evidently written more or less in cipher, can realize the difficulties there lie in picking out the various meanings which any one word may have, in choosing which is the word that is best for the translation, which word carries the meaning nearest to the intention of the writer. The first two words as usually read are be and reshith; and so divided, their meanings are as here follow: be means "in," reshith means "beginning," this second word being a feminine form and coming originally from the masculine word resh, or rosh, meaning (among several other things) "head," "chief part," "first part." Hence we may translate be reshith as "in first part," or "in highest part," etc.
But this same combination of letters — brashith — could also be translated (by dividing differently) as bore, one word, a verb, and shith, another word, a noun: bore meaning "forming," and shith, an "institution," "establishment," "arrangement." "Forming the establishment (or arrangement)" — of what? The text goes on to say what is arranged or established — by arranging "formed the Elohim heaven and earth."
Furthermore, the word resh, or rosh, above selected, may also mean "head" as before said, signifying "wisdom," or "knowledge": hence, "in wisdom the Elohim formed heavens and earth." Remember, it is permissible to put in vowels almost at choice, because vowels do not exist in the original text of the book, in the Bible, itself; hence the opening for more than merely one interpretation.
Resh or rosh, then, also means "head"; it also means "wisdom"; it also means "host" or "multitude." So here we may select still another — a fourth — translation: beresh, "in multitude," or "by multitude." Yithbare would then be the next word, "formed Elohim." Here comes again another remarkable change in meaning — and I am making these remarks in order to point out how the Hebrew text of the Bible may bear many translations. Supposing then that we divide the first fourteen Hebrew letters of the text into the following word-combinations: be-resh yithbare elohim, we get (by using yithbare, which is one of the forms of the Hebrew verb, called the reflexive form, meaning action upon oneself) the following translation: "by multitude," "through multitude, the gods formed themselves." What follows in the text? "into the heavens and the earth"; that is, "in a host (or multitude) the gods formed (made) themselves into the heavens and the earth." See the vast difference in meaning from the authorized version. This last translation we believe is the best; it shows at once the identity of thought with all other ancient cosmogonic systems.
"By multitude formed" (or "evolved": this word bara means to fatten," "to shape," "to become heavy or gross," to cut," "to form," "to be born," "to evolve") — "by (or in) multitude" or "through (or in) multitude evolved Elohim themselves into the heavens and the earth."
Now the fourth word, elohim: this is a very curious word. The first part of it alone is el, meaning "god," divinity, from which comes the second, a feminine form, eloh "goddess"; im is merely the masculine plural. So, if we translate every element in this single word it would mean, "god, goddess, plural" — showing the androgynous essence of the divinities, as it were: the polar opposites of the hierarchy, the essential duality in life.
Verse 2: "And the earth became ethereal." Now the second word, a verb, in the Hebrew text of the second verse answers to two Latin verbs: esse "to be," and fieri, "to become"; but almost always its original sense is fieri, "to become," like the Greek gignomai, meaning "to become," to grow into a new state of something. "And the earth became" or "grew into ethereality." The two next words (tohu and bohu) of the text, which we here translate "ethereality," are very difficult words rightly to interpret. They both mean "emptiness," "waste, immateriality," hence "dissolution"; the fundamental idea means something unsubstantial, not materially gross. We continue our translation: "And darkness upon the face of the ethers. And the ruahh (the spirit-soul) of the gods (of Elohim) (fluttered, hovered) brooding." The word we translate "brooding" is derived from and means the action of a hen which flutters and hovers and broods over the eggs in its nest. How graphic, how significant is this figure of speech!
You see the same thought here that you see in practically all the ancient teachings: the figure or symbol of the cosmic soul brooding over the waters of space, preparing the world egg, that of the cosmic egg and the divine bird laying the cosmic egg. "And the spirit-soul of Elohim brooding upon the face of the waters," says the Hebrew text. Now "waters," as we have shown before, was a common expression or symbol for space, the ethereal expansion, as it were. We continue our translation:
And said (the) Elohim (the gods) — light, come-into-being! and light came-into-being. And saw (the) gods the light, that (it was) good. And divided Elohim between the light and between the darkness. And called Elohim the light day, and the darkness called they night. And (there) came-into-being eve, and (there) came-into-being morn. Day one. And said Elohim, (let there) come-into-being an expanse in (the) midst of the waters, and let it be a separator (divider) between waters and waters. And made Elohim (or the gods) the expanse, and they separated between the waters which (were) below the expanse, and between the waters which (were) above the expanse, and (it) came-to-be so. And called Elohim (the gods) the expanse heavens, and (there) came-into-being eve, and (there) came-into-being morn. Day second. And said Elohim (the gods), (let there) be-gathered-together [i.e., solidified, condensed] the waters above the heavens into one place, and (let there) be-seen the dry-part [the solidified or manifested part — the word means "dry," in opposition to humidity; humidity means water, standing for space, therefore, the collected matter of a planet to be, of a solar system to be, or a universe to be], and (it) came-to-be so. And called the gods the dry-part earth, and the solidification (gathering-together) of the waters called they seas. And saw Elohim (the gods) that (it was) good.
Now turn to verses 26, 27, 28 of the same, the first, chapter:
And said (the gods) Elohim, Let us make humanity [the word is Adam] in our shadowy image [in our shadow, in our phantom; the word is tselem], according to our pattern (or model). And let them descend into the fish of the sea and into the flying creatures of the heavens, and into the beast, and into all the earth, and into all moving creatures which move upon the earth. And formed [or shaped or evolved, the same verb as above, bara] Elohim (the gods) humanity in their phantom, in the shadowy image of Elohim, formed (or evolved) they him.
Now come two very interesting words, usually translated "male and female," which are two of the meanings respectively found in the dictionaries; but the root-meanings of these words are "thinker and receiver" (or receptacle): "thinker and receptacle evolved they them. And blessed them the Elohim," that is, the Elohim blessed them, "and said to them the Elohim, be fruitful, increase, and fill the earth," and so forth.
You see, therefore, that here, merely by using other words than those usually chosen by Christian translators, or later Jewish translators, and yet recognized dictionary words, and by forcing no meanings, we have found the identical meanings of the esoteric teachings as outlined in The Secret Doctrine when treating of these subjects. First the hierarchy and its manifested divinities evolving the universe or kosmos out of themselves, using the reflexive form of the Hebrew verb bara, as shown above. Furthermore, a study of the first verse of Genesis will show us that the evolution treated in it has no relation solely and especially to the creation of this earth or of any other particular earth, but is a general doctrine having reference rather to the first manifestation of material being in ethereal space, and that the fowls of the air and the fish of the sea and the beasts, which are spoken of, do not necessarily refer (although they could) to the particular animals which we know under those names on earth, but do also refer (in accord with a well-known fact of ancient mythology) to the "animals of the heavens," of which we spoke in our last study, i.e., to every globe of the starry spheres, to every nebula and to every comet, each such being considered in the ancient teachings to be a living being, an "animal," having its physical corpus or body, and having behind it its director, or governor, or divine essence, or spirit.
Furthermore, we see that the Elohim evolved man, humanity, out of themselves, and told them to become, then to enter into and inform these other creatures. Indeed, these sons of the Elohim are, in our teachings, the children of light, the sons of light, which are we ourselves, and yet different from ourselves, because higher, yet they are our own very selves inwardly. In fact, the Elohim became, evolved into, their own offspring, remaining in a sense still always the inspiring light within, or rather above, according to the interpretation authorized by the very words chosen from the dictionary and flouting no rule of Hebrew grammar. For, following the ancient teachings of the esoteric philosophy, and strengthened by exactly similar thought in the Babylonian religious teachings from which these Hebrew teachings originally came, we see that the Elohim projected themselves into the nascent forms of the then "humanity," which thenceforward were "men," however imperfect their development still was.
What were these Elohim, these divinities, these gods? In the hierarchical system of the Qabbalah they are the sixth in derivation from above, from the first or the Crown, and thus are by no means the highest. They were, cosmogonically, the manifested formers or weavers of the web of the universe. Jehovah, spoken of in the second chapter of Genesis, is the third angelic potency, counting downwards from the Crown — the summit of the hierarchy of the Qabbalah.
In chapter five of Genesis, verses 1 and 2, there is an interesting expression. We translate:
This (the) book of the generations of humanity (Adam). In the day of Elohim (of the gods) evolving humanity, in the pattern (or model) of the Elohim, made they him. Thinker-and-receptacle made they them, and blessed them and called their name humanity (or Adam) in the day of their making.
Evidently, it is not here a question of a single human pair, of a man and a woman in our sense, but of nascent androgynous humanity, and they had one name, Adam, and their attributes were thinker and casket (or receptacle): ethereal beings — children of the Elohim, who are themselves — capable of thinking and of receiving and understanding and developing under the lessons which were to follow from their incarnations in the lower fleshly beings they themselves evolved, and signified under the terms as set forth here: the "fowls" of the "air," and the "fish" of the "sea," and every living thing which moveth upon the face of the earth.
These ancient writings have more than one mystical or esoteric application or, as H. P. Blavatsky says, they have more than one key. But, again, what or who were these Elohim? They were our monads — as the term is used in theosophy. It is curious, by the way, that Leibniz, the great Slavic-German philosopher, evolved a theory of monadic evolution which is singularly like our own in some respects. For him, the universe was replete with progressing entities, which he called monads, spiritual beings which evolved through the forces innate in themselves, yet acting and reacting upon each other — a faithful echo, in so far as it goes, of the ancient wisdom-religion.
Again, what do we mean when we speak respectively of emanation, evolution, and creation? Emanation and evolution are closely similar in meaning. Emanation is from a Latin word meaning "flowing out," and in all the ancient teachings of importance the idea was that the gods actively, transitively, "flowed out" from themselves their offspring or children. Evolution is also a Latin word and means "rolling out," "unfolding," something which is unfolded; and obviously a thing which is "flowed out," using the words transitively, is also unrolled out, unfolded out.
Now creation originally in its Latin sense meant practically the same as does this Hebrew word bara. It meant "making," "shaping," "carving," "cutting" — of course out of preexisting material or matter, and the Christian theory (which was more or less that of the Jews in their later days) that God made the world "out of nothing" is preposterous, absurd, both historically and linguistically. It is founded on no ancient teaching whatever, and it arose naturally enough, in a sense, from the monotheistic mania which endeavored to make God extra-cosmic, apart from the universe, and above it, a pure spirit, having no relation of ineluctable union with his creatures, God the "Father and Maker" of them, and yet an absolute personal nonentity — having no "body, parts, or passions," yet a Person withal! Of course the two concepts are contradictory and mutually destructive, and had we the time it would be easy to dilate further on the preposterous absurdity of which we speak.
We can see, therefore, in closing our study this evening, that it is very difficult to say which of these three, emanation, evolution, creation, is first in the order of procession. Was it emanation, followed by evolution, followed by creation; or was it evolution, followed by emanation, followed by creation? Certainly, creation — in its original sense of shaping, forming — comes the last of the three, as is easily shown. The difficulty lies in the fact that in every cosmic act of emanation we immediately perceive an act of evolution or unfolding; and in every act of evolution we immediately perceive an act of emanation. Every monad pari passu passes from one into the other, just as all mankind evolved pari passu from one into the other. We should, probably, say that emanation, evolution, creation, work simultaneously and coordinately, during manifestation.
But taking the question from a purely philosophical standpoint, it is probably accurate and best to say that the first step from what we call the Unmanifest into the manifest is emanation, a flowing out from its source of a monad or rather a host of monads which, as they in turn follow the pattern set for them by their source and their karmic past, grow darker, and more material, proportionately as they recede from their central fount of life; and, again, as they emanate, they also evolve, bringing out from within that which they innately are or have, and they do this in accordance with the karmic lines or patterns upon which we have faintly touched in previous studies, when speaking of the skandhas, because every act of emanation and of evolution begins a new life cycle following the pralaya or rest period of a former life period or manvantara. Then finally, when the period of self-consciousness is reached in the cyclical progression of evolution, comes a period of will, conscious choice, when man begins to "create" or fashion voluntarily; that is, through the exercise of his will and his intuition and his intellect he carves his own destiny and likewise affects the world creationally which exists around him.
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