24
October

The Book of Dzyan: Some Themes Related to Chinese Traditional Religion

By Ingmar de Boer on October 24, 2023 at 10:04 pm

1. Introduction on Shenism

In a previous article, On the Etymology of the Term Fohat, I have identified with reasonable certainty the syllable “fo” in the term “fohat”. H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) mentions in an editorial note to an article in The Theosophist entitled Theosophy and the Avesta (see also CW IV, 242-243), a number of terms from Chinese traditional religion and their corresponding principles as part of the “septenary division of man”. In the same note she refers to the 1847 work A Dissertation on the Theology ofthe Chinese by Walter Henry Medhurst (1796-1857)1, where the Chinese syllable 魄 (pò) was found2, corresponding to the syllable “fo” of The Secret Doctrine (SD). Further research exposed quite a few interesting connections between the text of the stanzas of volume one of the SD, and elements of Chinese Traditional Religion and the literature connected with it, which I will describe in the following paragraphs of this article.

Chinese traditional religion or Chinese folk religion is usually defined as the syncretic forms of the three great religions of China, Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, and the veneration of the shén and the ancestors. All of these components occur in Chinese traditional religion, mixed in different proportions, varying with time in different social settings. This multidimensional and dynamic religious complex was first called “shenism” by the anthropologist Allan J.A. Elliott in his 1955 work Chinese spirit-medium cults in Singapore.3

Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, several forms of divination and astrology, and also several forms of martial arts and their derivatives are connected to shenism, to various degrees. Japanese Shinto has strong parallels with shenism, and the syllable shin in the word shinto (神道, Chin. shén dào, the way of the shén) is cognate with shén (神). The shén (神) themselves are called kami (神, the same character) in Japanese. According to scholars in the field, the veneration of the shén is very ancient, however it would have evolved particularly strong during the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). Today, shenism is still very popular in China and according to some researchers it is the most important religion in mainland China, with more than a quarter of the Chinese population being considered shenist. That would amount to more than 375 million people.4

2. The Divine Breath

Medhurst explores in his dissertation the meaning of the word shîn (神, pīnyīn: shén, spirit), summing up different occurrences of this word in Chinese dictionaries and classical works. To theosophists, the shén are most easily explained as the dhyan chohans in the SD. The same term dhyan chohans is used for the seven great lords of meditation as well as for the hierarchies of beings under their rule, while similarly the word shén is also used to denote both of these in the context of Chinese religion.

On p. 7 of his dissertation, Medhurst translates and paraphrases several definitions from the famous Kāng Xī dictionary (康熙, 1716 CE) appearing under shîn (神, shén, spirit), one of which explains the relations between shîn (shén), kweì (guǐ), hwăn (hún), pĭh (HPB’s Pho, 魄, pò), the life breath k’he (qí, 祇), and the fundamental concepts of 隂 (yīn) and 陽 (yáng)5:

In the next definition of Shîn, given in the Dictionary, we meet with 鬼神 kweì shîn, under which the writer says, 陽魂爲神隂魄爲鬼 the soul of the male or superior principle of nature [陽, yáng] is called shîn, and the anima of the female or inferior principle of nature [隂, yīn] is called kweì; again, lest we should suppose that anything really divine is intended by the hwăn and pĭh, he says 氣之伸者爲神屈者爲鬼 the expanding quality of the breath or spirit of nature [祇, qí] is the shîn, and its contracting quality the kw.

We could compare this text to śloka 10 and 11 of stanza III (SD I, 83):

10. FATHER-MOTHER SPIN A WEB WHOSE UPPER END IS FASTENED TO SPIRIT (Purusha), THE LIGHT OF THE ONE DARKNESS, AND THE LOWER ONE TO MATTER (Prakriti) ITS (the Spirit’s) SHADOWY END; AND THIS WEB IS THE UNIVERSE SPUN OUT OF THE TWO SUBSTANCES MADE IN ONE, WHICH IS SWABHAVAT (a).

11. IT (the Web) EXPANDS WHEN THE BREATH OF FIRE (the Father) IS UPON IT; IT CONTRACTS WHEN THE BREATH OF THE MOTHER (the root of Matter) TOUCHES IT. THEN THE SONS (the Elements with their respective Powers, or Intelligences) DISSOCIATE AND SCATTER, TO RETURN INTO THEIR MOTHER’S BOSOM AT THE END OF THE “GREAT DAY” AND REBECOME ONE WITH HER (a). WHEN IT (the Web) IS COOLING, IT BECOMES RADIANT, ITS SONS EXPAND AND CONTRACT THROUGH THEIR OWN SELVES AND HEARTS; THEY EMBRACE INFINITUDE. (b)

The “breath of fire” in this comparison corresponds to shîn and the “breath of the mother” correpsonds to kweì. The “fire”, or “father”, matches the “superior principle of nature” (yáng) and the mother the “inferior principle of nature” (yīn). Father-Mother is the unity of yīn and yáng. This is a thought that we might have had when we first read these ślokas, but here we have it layed out for us. Mencius calls the “breath or spirit of nature” qí, which is generally known from traditional Chinese medicine and other fields of interest, often spelled “chi” or “ki”. The soul of the male or superior principle of nature (yáng) is actually called hún in Medhurst’s text, and the anima of the female or inferior principle of nature (yīn) is called pò. The hún and pò are called shén and guǐ since their “qualities” of expanding and contracting are shén and guǐ respectively.

In śloka 11 the sons expand and contract, being under the influence of the qualities of the breath (qí). The sons are the (seven) elements, but they have (seven) corresponding powers or intelligences. Elsewhere in the SD, the sons are called the sons of fohat, who are also his brothers. Fohat is himself one of the sons (powers), or the “synthesis” of these powers. (SD I, 293) The sons expand and contract “through their own selves and hearts”, because they are forces which are intrinsically of expanding (shén) or contracting (guǐ) quality. As we know, in the summary to the first part of the first volume of the SD (I, 269-299), they are described as six primary forces, or śakti’s, and as the six hierarchies of dhyan chohans (dhyāni buddhas).

On p. 5 Medhurst continues to cite from the Kāng Xī dictionary:

[…] for 申卽引也 to expand […] means to lead forth; for 天主降氣以感萬物 heaven manages or directs the sending down of the k’he or breath of nature to influence all things, 故言引出萬物 therefore it is said, lead forth all things. […] It is Heaven that sends down its breath or spirit to influence or lead forth all things, and Shîn is the spirit thus employed.

We may compare these passages to śloka 12 (SD I, 85):

12. THEN SVABHAVAT SENDS FOHAT TO HARDEN THE ATOMS. EACH (of these) IS A PART OF THE WEB (Universe). REFLECTING THE “SELF-EXISTENT LORD” (Primeval Light) LIKE A MIRROR, EACH BECOMES IN TURN A WORLD.* . . .

On p. 15 in Medhurst’s dissertation we find also the element of the “web”, here a “net”, spun between heaven and earth, or spirit and matter in the Book of Dzyan:

Betwixt heaven and earth there is nothing so great as this breath of nature; that which enters into every fibre and atom is the male and female principle of nature, and that which incloses heaven and earth as in a net, is this male and female principle of nature.

This fragment is, according to Medhurst, a commentary to a quote from Confucius (孔子, Kǒng Zǐ, 551-479 BCE), but I have as yet not been able to find original texts of the quote or its commentary. I think however, that the correspondence with the already cited ślokas 10 and 11 is evident.

3. Father-Mother

In the Shū jīng (書經), the Book of Documents, originally written before or at the beginning of the Han dynasty, we find again the theme of heaven and earth as the basis of all subsequent phenomena. In Legge’s 1879 translation in volume 3 of the Sacred Books of the East series (p. 125), we find for example about the emperor:

Heaven and earth is the parent of all creatures; and of all creatures man is the most highly endowed. The sincerely intelligent (among men) becomes the great sovereign; and the great sovereign is the parent of the people.

In the first phrase of this quotation we read the word “parent”, a word we know is used in the first śloka of the Book of Dzyan as it is presented in the SD. Interestingly, in the English sentence by Legge, heaven and earth are plural, but are translated as singular. We have here an example of “heaven-earth”, a nominal compound in the Chinese source text, translated by Legge as a single noun. The word parent however, is also a nominal compound in the source text, namely 父母 (fù mǔ), which is litterally “father-mother”.

At the time HPB wrote the SD, there was at least one translation which rendered fù mǔ literally as father-mother. In the 1770 French translation by sinologists Joseph de Guignes and Antoine Gaubil (Le chou-king, un des livres sacrés des Chinois, p. 150), the same quotation from Confucius is as follows:

Le Ciel & la terre ſont le pere & le mere de toutes choſes. L’homme, entre toutes ces choſes, eſt le ſeul qui ait un raiſon capable de diſcerner; mais un Roi doit l’emporter par ſa droiture & pas ſon diſscernement; il eſt maître des hommes, il eſt leur pere & leur mere.

Heaven and earth are the father and mother of all things. Man, among all these things, is the only one who has a rationality capable of discerning; but a King must prevail by his righteousness and not his discernment; he is master of men, he is their father and their mother. [tr. IdB]

Much later, that is after the SD was written, sinologist William Edward Soothill actually uses the compound father-mother in his English translation (1913, The Three Religions of China, p.196):

Heaven and earth are the father-mother of all creatures, and of all creatures men are the most intelligent. The sincere, wise, and understanding among them becomes the great sovereign, and the great sovereign is the father-mother of the people.

Without unambiguously identifying the source of HPB’s use of father-mother in śloka 10 and 11 of stanza III and other places, we can imagine that this characteristic grammatical feature of the Book of Dzyan as given by HPB might be based upon the Chinese nominal compound.

4. Being is Non-Being

One of the ideas we come across in the Book of Dzyan is the “identity of opposites”, in particular when it comes to Being and Non-Being. HPB herself calls it a paradox or a “contradiction in terms”. We find it in several places in the first stanza, for example in SD I, 42:

6. […] THE UNIVERSE, […] TO BE OUTBREATHED BY THAT WHICH IS AND YET IS NOT. NAUGHT WAS.

We find HPB’s commentary on 6 in SD I, 43 under (c):

(c) By “that which is and yet is not” is meant the Great Breath itself, which we can only speak of as absolute existence, but cannot picture to our imagination as any form of existence that we can distinguish from Non-existence.

In SD I, 44 we find:

7. […] THE VISIBLE […] RESTED IN ETERNAL NON-BEING — THE ONE BEING.

The commentary on 7 we find in SD I, 45 under (b) (the page header of p. 45 is “BEING AND NON-BEING”):

(b) The idea of Eternal Non-Being, which is the One Being, will appear a paradox to anyone who does not remember that we limit our ideas of being to our present consciousness of existence; […] In our case the One Being is the noumenon of all the noumena which we know must underlie phenomena, and give them whatever shadow of reality they possess, but which we have not the senses or the intellect to cognize at present.

In SD I, 47 paramārthasatya (absolute truth) and saṃvṛttisatya (relative truth) are contrasted:

9. […] Absolute Being and Consciousness which are Absolute Non-Being and Unconsciousness […]

This idea of the “identity of opposites” is also found in Lao Tze’s well-known classic Tao Te Ching (道德经, dào dé jīng). In the Introductory to the SD (I, xxv), the “Tao-te-King” is mentioned, and its 1842 translation into French by Stanislas Julien. This translation was the first translation of the Tao Te Ching into a Western language, and an outstanding piece of scholarly work. The idea of identity of opposites is presented in chapters I and II of the Tao Te Ching: in chapter I the concept of Tao itself is explained, while in chapter II the unity of opposites is discussed. In chapter II we find in Julien’s text:

故有無相生。

C’est pourquoi l’être et le non-être naissent l’un de l’autre.

That is why being and non-being are born from each other. [tr. IdB]

An example of a more modern English translation of the same passage would be that of John C.H. Wu (1961):

Indeed, the hidden and the manifest give birth to each other.

The terms hidden and manifest may be closer to the SD, but they are not literal translations.

On p. 8 in Julien, in the comments of the later editors, we find in “edition B” from the Song era:

The non-being produces the being; the being produces the non-being. These beings, not being able to subsist eternally, end by returning to the non-being. [tr. IdB]

We can see here, that being and non-being are described as co-originated and interdependent. They create, complement and shape each other. We may associate this with yin and yang as complementary factors in the universe. The Book of Dzyan however goes one step further, in saying that they are identical, or that they are one and the same noumenon.

A different source of the SD on this topic is Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s Wissenschaft der Logik. In SD II, 449n we find:

* The Hegelian doctrine, which identifies Absolute Being or “Be-ness” with “non-Being,” and represents the Universe as an eternal becoming, is identical with the Vedanta philosophy.

and in SD I, 16 we find a similar sentence:

The ABSOLUTE; the Parabrahm of the Vedantins or the one Reality, SAT, which is, as Hegel says, both Absolute Being and Non-Being.

and in SD II, 490:

A thing can only exist through its opposite — Hegel teaches us […]

For comparison: in Hegel’s Wissenschaft der Logik we find for example in Vol. I p. 12:

Der Anfang enthält alſo beydes, Seyn und Nichts; iſt die Einheit von Seyn und Nichts; — oder iſt Nichtseyn, das zugleich Seyn, und Seyn, das zugleich Nichtseyn iſt.

The beginning therefore contains both, Being and Nothing; is the Unity of Being and Nothing; — or is Non-Being, which is at the same time Being, and Being, which is at the same time Non-Being. [tr. IdB]

and on Becoming out of Non-Being and Being, Vol. I. p. 23:

Ihre Wahrheit iſt also dieſe Bewegung des unmittelbaren Verſchwindens des einen in dem andern; das Werden;

Its truth is therefore this movement of the immediate disappearance of the one in the other; the becoming; [tr. IdB]

Here it is clear that there is an actual identity of opposites, which is perhaps a deeper level of insight which may be associated with the so-called yin and yang symbol. The black and white dots may be thought of as representing this idea. The movement suggested by the two halves may represent the eternal becoming, which is called Motion in the text of the SD, and is symbolised in the Book of Dzyan as the Great, or Divine, Breath.

5. The Great Extreme

Searching the SD for Chinese philosophy and related topics, we find Confucius and confucianism mentioned twenty-three times in volumes I and II. In these locations, we come across the “Great Extreme” several times. It is a term from neo-confucianism, but connected to the ancient philosophy of the I-Ching (易經, yì jīng), the Book of Changes. It signifies the “the commencement ‘of changes’ (transmigrations)”. (SD I, 440) Its character representation is 太極 (tài jí). Different Western scholars have used different translations of his term, ranging from “le grand faîte”, “magnus terminus”, “la grande limite” (Guillaume Pauthier), “le grand terme” (Joseph Prémare), “the Grand Terminus” (James Legge), to “the Great Extreme”, a term used by Medhurst in his already mentioned Dissertation.

HPB not only had read Medhurst’s Dissertation on this topic, but also Legge’s well-known translation of the I-Ching with its appendices. This translation was first published in 1882 as volume 16 in Max Müller’s Sacred Books of the East series. For instance, on p. 373 as part of Legge’s translation of the Xì Cí (繫辭) I.11, we find:

70. Therefore in (the system of) the Yî there is the Grand Terminus, which produced the two elementary Forms. Those two Forms produced the Four emblematic Symbols, which again produced the eight Trigrams.

This fragment is rendered in SD I, 440. The Yî (易, yì) is of course the I-Ching, and the two elementary forms are symbolised there by the straight and broken lines of the system of the I-Ching, which is its representation of the cosmos. With two basic lines, 26=64 hexagrams are formed, each one characterising a stage in a model process of evolution.

In a different appendix to the I-Ching, the Xù Guà (序卦), in paragraph 1 (tr. Legge, appendix VI, p. 433), we find:

When there were heaven and earth, then afterwards all things were produced. What fills up (the space) between heaven and earth are (those) all things. Hence (Qian [hexagram I, 天, qián, heaven] and Kun [hexagram II, 坤, kūn, earth]) are followed by Zhun [hexagram III, 屯, tún, sprouting].

So, from the Great Extreme, heaven and earth are produced, the “two elementary forms”, “the twofold” (兩儀, liǎng yí), which serves as a basis for all other productions.6

Just for comparison, we can read again part of stanza III śloka 10 (SD I, 83):

10. FATHER-MOTHER SPIN A WEB WHOSE UPPER END IS FASTENED TO SPIRIT (Purusha), THE LIGHT OF THE ONE DARKNESS, AND THE LOWER ONE TO MATTER (Prakriti) ITS (the Spirit’s) SHADOWY END;

In SD II, 553, the Great Extreme (太極, tài jí) is identified as the “concealed unity of the secret doctrine”, and compared to parabrahman, ein-sof and equivalent concepts from different cultural backgrounds. These are however limitless, noumenal instances, while the neo-confucian philosophers generally distinguish between the Great Extreme and different varieties of infinity. The term “extreme” itself signifies a limit, and the Great Extreme, or Terminus, is defined as an upper limit of the manifested cosmos. Zhū Xī (朱熹, 1130-1200), one of the most important thinkers among the “Sung sages”, places another concept next to the Great Extreme, namely 無極 (wú jí), literally “without boundary”. We can think of it as not only without spatial boundary, but also without temporal limitations. Zhū Xī inserts between these two characters the particle 而 (ér, and) to form a new concept, 無極而太極, wú jí ér tài jí, which is symbolised by a circle. The concepts of yīn and yáng are then defined as its movement 陽 yáng and its retraction 陰 yīn. Perhaps we could think of the Great Extreme as the protogonos or Second Logos, and the Being-without-limits (wú jí) as the concealed Lord, the First Logos of the secret doctrine. Alternatively we could think of wú jí ér tài jí, the Being-with-and-without-limits, as parabrahman, represented as the “immaculate white disk within a dull black ground” in the archaic manuscript in SD I, 1.

6. Alchemy and the Human Soul

Stevan Harrell, in the opening sentences of his article The Concept of Soul in Chinese Folk Religion, states that7:

The concept of “soul” (ling-hun) [灵魂, líng hún] is central to the study of Chinese folk religion for at least three reasons. First, the idea of ling-hun underlies most notions of supernatural beings. […] Second, the loss of one’s “soul” is an extremely common explanation for many kinds of diseases and abberation, both mental and physical, that are treated by Chinese “sacred medicine.” […] Third, trance—a state common to folk practitioners in many parts of southern China—is invariably explained in terms of “soul” travel of spirit possession.

Elliott, whom we came across in the introduction, briefly describes the role of the shén (shen) and guǐ (kuei) in human psychology (op. cit. p. 28-29):

The Chinese concept of shen is closely associated with the idea of the human soul. The soul of a living man is conceived as having two components, the hun [魂] or positive component, which has three parts representing the three spiritual energies, and the p’o [魄] or negative component, which has seven parts representing the seven emotions. Shen and kuei are the ultimate spiritual influences, positive and negative respectively, which underlie the two components of the soul.

Legge in Chinese Classics Vol. I , p. 262, in his commentary to chapter 16 of The Doctrine of the Mean (中庸, zhōng yōng), formulates the same idea as follows:

[shén] signifies “spirits”, “a spirit”, “spirit”; and [guǐ] “a ghost”, or “demon”. The former is used for the animus, or intelligent soul [魂, hún], and the latter for the anima, or animal, grosser, soul [魄, pò], so separated.

In an earlier stage of this investigation into the term fohat, I had already come across an original Chinese text where the term pò (魄) is used within the broader context of traditional Chinese religion, in The Secret of the Golden Flower (太乙金華宗旨, Tài yǐ jīnhuá zōngzhǐ), a Taoist alchemical work translated by Richard Wilhelm into German, first published in 1929.

In 1931 an English translation was published, with an extensive commentary by Carl Gustav Jung. In Jung’s commentary (p. 65), a diagram may be found in which the various concepts are laid out on which the alchemical system is based. I reproduced it here in part. In this diagram we find the term pò (“anima”), and in the Chinese text the same character 魄 (pò) is used as in “fohat”.

In the diagram as it is partly reproduced here, we see Tao (dào) at the top, splitting into a masculine and a feminine spirit, yáng and yīn. The human principles hún and pò are labeled animus and anima. According to Jung’s commentary, the two human souls pò and hún, which are in conflict during the life of an individual. The terms animus and anima are the masculine and feminine meta-physical dimensions of the human being. They have a different sense than animus and anima in Jung’s writings on archetypes. At death they pass into guǐ (鬼), a ghost being, and shén (神), a spirit or god. It is clear that the same subject matter is discussed here as in HPB’s editorial note to the article Theosophy and the Avesta and in Medhursts dissertation.

If we compare the details of the model we find however, that the human principles HPB describes in her editorial note do not match those in The Secret of the Golden Flower. For example, if hún and pò are opposing principles, why do we find them related to ātman and kāma manas, which are by no means natural opposites? Perhaps we will have to conclude that the correspondence given by HPB, between the human principles and the Chinese terms is again a “blind”, and that we have to rely on our own understanding to find the actual correspondence here.

In the alchemical transformation which is described in The Secret of the Golden Flower, the opposing principles hún and pò are involved in the creation of the Golden Flower which is eventually dissolved into Tao (dào). In the commentary, Jung describes the hún and pò principles in man as logos and eros, the intellectual and passionate principles, which theosophists would perhaps call manas and kāma. He refers to chapter V of his own 1921 work Psychologische Typen, where he discusses the hún and pò souls:

Die Existenz der zwei auseinanderstrebenden, gegensätzlichen Tendenzen, die beide den Menschen in extreme Einstellungen hineinzureissen und ihn in die Welt — sei es in deren geistige, sei es in deren materielle Seite — zu verwickeln und dadurch mit sich selber zu veruneinigen vermögen, fordert die Existenz eines Gegengewichtes, welches eben die irrationale Grösse des Tao ist.

The existence of two mutually contending tendencies, both striving to drag man into extreme attitudes and entangle him in the world—whether upon the spiritual or material side—thereby setting him at variance with himself, demands the existence of a counter-weight, which is just this irrational fact, Tao. [1923 Eng. ed. p. 267, tr. H. Godwin Baynes]

So described, the process of unification is doubtlessly more than just unification of the intellectual and passionate principles in man. In the context of alchemical transformation of The Secret of the Golden Flower, the shén and guǐ apparently represent the spiritual and material in man, the heaven and earth aspects of the human entity, ultimately to be unified in Tao.

Epilogue

In studying the SD, and a fortiori its presentation of the text from the Book of Dzyan, one of the main questions is still “what were HPB’s actual sources”? Is the Book of Dzyan an existing text she translated from the secret books of Kiu Te, or their commentaries, from some mysterious language like Senzar, or did HPB derive her often innovative ideas from contemporary works by Medhurst, Legge and others? Was the information passed on through the Masters of Wisdom or was she perhaps only inspired by them, while getting basic information from publicly accessible literature? Without any doubt she was intensely driven by her ideas, throughout her whole life, and arguably these ideas together constitute an important framework, perhaps even more so for today’s world. That in itself may speak for her authenticity as a writer. We could argue that if there would have been no mention of books of Kiu Te, if there would have been no Masters involved, no foreign languages, that her ideas would still be have been of great value. For a serious reader however, she often made it very difficult to distinguish between different layers of message and packaging. The SD has multiple layers of interpretation, and perhaps we should not at all be surprised about that, as in esoteric literature that is often the case.

The themes of the different paragraphs of this article, “The Divine Breath”, “Father-Mother”, “Being is Non-Being”, “The Great Extreme” and “Alchemy and the Human Soul” may all be starting points for further study in the highly interesting field of Chinese traditional religion. Perhaps the esoteric world view presented in the SD can be of use as a study tool, a means to gain more insight into a world of spells, mediumship and shamanic travels. Only in the last few decades academic research in different disciplines seems to be moving in a direction where scholars are trying to understand these as cultural phenomena in their own right, rather than to depreciate them, trying to describe them as Western ideas in distorted form, as misguided religion or failed science. In the nineteenth century HPB already tried to understand religious phenomena from a universal standpoint, finding out the meaning of the elements of different religious traditions for humans in their personal lives and for humanity as a whole. It is this attitude which served as a model idea for the Theosophical Society, which only later resulted in its three objects. ■

Notes

1. Rev. Medhurst was a Calvinist (Congregationalist) missionary stationed in Malacca, Batavia, Shanghai and a few other locations in East-Asia from 1816 to 1856. His aim with this dissertation is to find a word with a meaning closest to that of the word “God” in Christianity. Moreover, Medhurst composed four dictionaries himself, including a Chinese-English dictionary, and together with other translators he was the first to translate the Bible into Chinese. The Chinese phrases in Medhurst’s text are without exception immediately followed by their English translation. In the present article, when introduced, Medhurst’s old style Chinese transliteration is each time accompanied by contemporary pīnyīn transliteration and Chinese characters in their traditional form. The word “Chinese” in connection to language refers to Mandarin Chinese.

2. Boer, Ingmar de, On the Etymology of the Term Fohat, published October 24, 2023 on the Book of Dzyan website, at http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/

3. Elliott, Alan J.A., Chinese Spirit-Medium Cults in Singapore, The Athlone Press, London & Atlantic Higlands NJ, reprinted 1990 (first published 1955), p. 27-29

4. The Dutch researcher J.J.M. de Groot wrote extensively on the different human souls, or aspects of the human soul, in shenism. In volume IV of his monumental The Religious System of China, published in 1901, he describes the different souls in human psychology, various religious ceremonies, and physical and mental pathology.

5. This definition in the Kāng Xī dictionary is a paraphrase of a quotation from a work by Mencius (孟子, Mèng Zǐ, 372-289 BCE). Within Medhurst’s quotations from dictionaries and other works, other (third) works are often quoted. Here we have four levels: myself quoting Medhurst quoting the Kāng Xī dictionary quoting Mencius.

6. In Chinese, the conjunction “heaven and earth” is also written as a nominal compound, “heaven-earth” (天地, qián kūn), in a similar way to “father-mother” in the Book of Dzyan (vol. I stanza II, śloka 10), or, if you will, like a dvandva compound in Sanskrit. Two modern translators of the I-Ching, Rudolf Ritsema & Stephen Karcher, in their 1994 translation (p. 115), render heaven and earth as “Heaven[and]Earth”, expressing the inherent unity and interdependence of the two elements.

7. Harrell, Stevan, The Concept of Soul in Chinese Folk Religion, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3 (May, 1979), p. 519-528

© 2023 Ingmar de Boer, published in The Netherlands

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24
October

On the Etymology of the Term Fohat

By Ingmar de Boer on at 8:03 am

Introduction

In the great play called The Secret Doctrine (SD), perhaps the most important actor is fohat, and certainly the most enigmatic. The term has not yet been identified as part of any known language, although several suggestions are given by H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) in the SD and some of her other writings.

Many of the terms used in the SD were also used in Isis Unveiled (IU), the work HPB considered as a precursor of the SD. The term fohat however, is an exception in this respect. It was used in instructions of the Masters of Wisdom to A.P. Sinnet and A.O. Hume in September or October 1881. Sinnett’s notes of these instructions were published as Appendix II in The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett p. 376-386 under the title Cosmological Notes, and later partly as letter no. I in The Early Teachings of the Masters p. 184-193 (through question no. 16). It appeared in Mahātma letter no. XIII (Barker, i.e. 44 chronological) from M. to A.P. Sinnet, received January 1882 at Allahabad.

It first appeared in theosophical literature in 1882, when HPB wrote an editor’s note to T. Subba Row’s article The Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man. (The Theosophist, Vol. III No. 4, January 1882, p. 93-99, later published in CW III, 400-418)

From then onwards, the term was used in HPB’s publications, various letters from the Masters of Wisdom, other writings by theosophists and other authors.

If we trace the locations where the term fohat is mentioned in this initial phase, we can set up a list of direct references to the meaning of the word or its etymology. In the table on page 1, these locations are listed, each with a short indication of their content and a suggested language if explicitly mentioned. The suggested languages are, in order of high to low frequency: Tibetan, Turanian, Sanskrit and Chinese. The word Turanian is used by HPB in a way that was common in her time, to indicate what we would now call the Altai or Altai-Uralic language family. If we consider the languages in terms of language families besides the Altai or Altai-Uralic, we can see that Chinese and Tibetan are members of the same language family, that is the Sino-Tibetan language family, whereas Sanskrit is a member of the Indo-European language family. The eight clues therefore point to three different language families. If words are of the same language family, that means that they may have cognate roots. If they are not, they may be related typically because they may be borrowed from languages belonging to the different language family. The fact that the different clues are pointing to several different language families, raises the question: is this puzzle solvable provided that all of the clues are valid? We will now analyse the different clues to see if we can find out more on the origin of the term fohat.

Clues 1-5: “a Tibetan Term”

In many places in the SD, HPB mentions that fohat is a buddhist term, used by occultists, esoteric philosophers, the brotherhood north of the Himalayas, the arahats of Tibet etc. In the Tibetan alphabet however, there is no letter “f”, and the language does not have sounds quite similiar to the English “f”. The letter “pha” is perhaps closest to our “f”. It is unclear why fohat is most often written with “f”. The syllable structure in Tibetan is subject to strict rules, which allow only for the two syllables being fo and hat, and not, for example, foh and at. If it would be a Tibetan “compound” word, it would therefore be a combination of the sounds fo and hat, perhaps most likely pho and hat. In location 8 it is spelled as “Pho-hat”, suggesting that it is indeed this two-part compound. In location 6 it is also suggested that fohat might be a compound, optionally bilingual. In location 5, in the Glossary near the end of Five Years of Theosophy, page 562, we find again “Fohat, Tibetan for Sakti: cosmic force or energizing power of the universe.”. In modern and older Tibetan dictionaries there is no mention of a word pho hat, or pho, with a meaning anywhere near our enigmatic term from the SD.

As a sidenote: we may be inclined to think that mahat and fohat are etymologically related, but in the case of fohat being a Tibetan compound this would not be possible. Mahat is a present active participle from the Sanskrit root “mah”, “to be or make great or big”. It means “making great” or “being big”, expressing the important role that was attributed to intellect or intelligence in ancient Indian philosophy. Being derived from the root mah plus ending -at, mahat is composed differently than fo/pho plus hat.

The numbers 6a and 6b are different renderings of the same question-and-answer session, so that we can take them together as one location.

Clue 6: “a Turanian compound” and Sanskrit bhū

That a word would be a “Tibetan term” on the one hand and a “Turanian compound” on the other, are in principle two linguistically incompatible statements, so strictly speaking the clues 1-5 and 6 contradict each other. The attributes Tibetan and Turanian (Altai-Uralic) point to different language families, but these particular languages are used in neighbouring areas, which is why, for example, a word is likely to have a false etymology, while in reality it is borrowed from one of the two. Another explanation might be that HPB received different pieces of information in the course of time. In any case, it remains up to us to decide which of the given options are correct. After a searching a selection of current literature, dictionaries and etymological databases, no Altai-Uralic candidates for “fo” or “hat” were found.

In location 6, a second idea is presented: the Chinese word “pho” being derived from the Sanskrit root bhū. This derivation is implausable, again because Chinese and Sanskrit are generally considered unrelated languages. Although there has been a lot of work done to try to unite the known language families into superfamilies, the Sino-Tibetan and Indo-European families are among the most unlikely partners. Moreover, we can see that the semantic fields of the Chinese and Sanskrit roots pho and bhū have nothing in common.

Clue 7: “Chinese characters”

Like locations 6a and 6b, location 7 is part of the transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, but it was not published in the book bearing that title. These transactions were question-and-answer sessions, where HPB answered questions of the lodge members about successive stanzas from the Book of Dzyan. The larger part of the original handwritten notes of these sessions was recovered by Daniel Caldwell in 1995 and published in book form by Michael Gomes in 2010.

On March 28, 1889, the twelfth session was held at 17, Lansdowne Road, Holland Park, London, where a Mr. Atkinson (William Walker Atkinson), one of the participants who knew some Chinese, asks HPB if she could give the Chinese characters of the word fohat, to be able to look it up in a Chinese dictionary. On the question if the Chinese representation of the word consists of two syllables, HPB answers:

It is from those parts something I have been asking many times. Fo means brilliant. […] Mme. Blavatsky: I wish you would look somewhere where you could find it, because I have been looking for it in India. Mr. Atkinson: If you will only give me the Chinese characters, I will find that at once. Mme. Blavatsky: I have got it somewhere, but not in the Chinese.

It is remarkable that she gives yet another meaning of “fo”. In a modern Chinese dictionary the syllable fo is easy to identify, since there is only one matching syllable and character, which is 佛, fó, with rising tone, meaning Buddha. This syllable is mentioned several times by HPB, also as the origin of the first part of the word fohat. In fact, this syllable fó is borrowed from Sanskrit, as a Chinese rendering of “bu” in “buddha”. Probably the idea that the origin of fo(hat) is the Sanskrit root bhū is based on this, as HPB connects these two in location 6b. However, the two roots bud (to awaken, in “Buddha”) and bhū (to be) are unrelated. The syllable fó only means “Buddha” and not “brilliant”, so for clue 7 we are at a clear dead end.

Clue8: “Pho-hat” and the I Ching

Location 8 (CW IV, 242-243) is a footnote by HPB to an article on the sevenfold in Zoroastrianism, Theosophy and the Avesta, in The Theosophist Vol. IV, No. 1, October, 1882, p. 22. The footnote starts with:

Our Brother has but to look into the oldest sacred books of China—namely the Yi King, or Book of Changes (translated by James Legge) written 1200 B.C., to find that same Septenary division of man mentioned in that system of Divination.

Then seven Chinese terms are mentioned in connection with the seven human principles, see the following table.

The first edition of James Legge’s translation of the I Ching, published in 1882, is the only Western language edition published in HPB’s time. Following HPB’s advice, we have consulted this edition. We find that some of the terms of the “septenary division” are discussed in chapter three, so that we can determine the correct Chinese spelling. But again, our candidate for “fo”, the animal soul, “Pho”, is not to be found there.

If we continue reading the footnote, we find a reference to A Dissertation on the Theology of the Chinese by Walter Henry Medhurst, published in Shanghai in 1847. In this work we also find the terms of HPB’s septenary division, with their correct Chinese spelling. If we put together the information from Legge and Medhurst, we can set up another table, containing the orthography of all seven terms.

On page 5 in “A Dissertation…” we find: “The 鬼 kweì or 魄 pĭh in man, is the anima or grosser part of his spiritual nature […]”. If we look up the character 魄 in a modern Chinese dictionary we find that in modern pīnyīn transliteration it is spelled pò, and that its general meaning is “animal soul”. Could this be the “pho” of the septenary division? HPB writes in location 8:

In the Hwân, or soul (animus), the Khien predominates, and the Zing in the Pho or animal soul. At death the Hwân (or spiritual soul) wanders away, ascending, and the Pho (the root of the Tibetan word Pho-hat), descends and is changed into a ghostly shade (the shell).

From this sentence it is already clear without a doubt that this pho, or, as we now know, 魄 (pò), is indeed a rendering of the first syllable of the word fohat.

This character pò (魄), composed of 白 (bái) and 鬼 (guǐ), is found in some of the oldest Chinese dictionaries, the Ěryǎ (爾雅) and the Shuō wén jiě zì (說文解字), dating from the 3rd century BCE and the early 2nd century CE respectively. Very likely, it predates the Han-dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). A substantial lemma is found in the Kāng Xī dictionary (康熙, 1716 CE). Linguists see cognates in the Tibetan words bla (soul, spirit) and zla (moon). (James A. Matisoff and others) The character is used in the Tao Te Ching (道德經), Lǎozi’s well known (arguably) 6th century BCE classic, where it is used in the sense of “animal soul”. (10.1) Another example of a relevant text is the The Secret of the Golden Flower (太乙金華宗旨, Tài Yǐ Jīnhuá Zōngzhǐ), a Taoist alchemical work translated by Richard Wilhelm and published in German in 1929. In 1931 an English translation (from German, by Cary F. Baynes) was published, with a preface by Carl Gustav Jung.

In the present article only the etymological dimension is investigated. Religious and philosophical aspects may be discussed in a second article.

Conclusions

Of the eight etymological clues, only the last one holds up.

Clues 1-5: The idea that fohat is a Tibetan word is not disproven entirely, but it is implausible, and a corresponding Tibetan root is not found.

Clue 6: Fohat being a Turanian compound is equally implausible. No cognate Altai-Uralic roots were found in current literature, dictionaries or etymological databases.

Clue 7: The first syllable being derived from the Chinese word for Buddha, which is the syllable 佛 (fó), or from the Sanskrit root bhū is both implausible.

Clue 8: The first syllable fo can be traced back to the Chinese character 魄 (pò), meaning “soul”, or “animal soul”. It has a role in Chinese traditional religion and philosophy which is at the basis of the cosmology and divination system of the I Ching.

Having exhausted all of HPB’s clues, a next step could be to find relevant original texts in the field of Chinese traditional religion. This would enable us to gather more information on fohat to be able to shed more light on the many remaining questions. A lot of useful information is already available in Medhurst’s 1847 work, but there will also be modern scholarly works perhaps presenting a more comprehensive picture. ■

© 2023 Ingmar de Boer, published in The Netherlands

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Category: Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Fohat | 2 comments

1
January

The three-tongued flame of the four wicks

By David Reigle on January 1, 2021 at 11:43 pm

The Book of Dzyan, Stanza 7, verse 4, begins:

“It is the root that never dies; the three-tongued flame of the four wicks . . .”

In the commentary on this (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 237), Blavatsky appears to quote a parallel passage from the Egyptian Book of the Dead:

“‘I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal,’ says the defunct. ‘I enter into the domain of Sekhem (the God whose arm sows the seed of action produced by the disembodied soul) and I enter the region of the Flames who have destroyed their adversaries,’ i.e., got rid of the sin-creating ‘four wicks.’ (See chap. i., vii., ‘Book of the Dead,’ and the ‘Mysteries of Ro-stan.’)”

If the defunct really says “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal” in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, this would be a parallel passage of much significance. So, years ago the late Jeanine Miller contacted me to see if I could find this in the improved translations published since Blavatsky’s time. Blavatsky used the 1882 French translation by Paul Pierret, Le Livre des morts des anciens Égyptiens, for her references to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In Pierret’s translation, Blavatsky’s reference to chapter i, line vii, is in the midst of a sentence. I here quote the whole sentence (p. 5):

“Je suis avec Horus ce jour d’envelopper Teshtesh, d’ouvrir la porte au vengeur de l’immobile de coeur

l. 7.  et de rendre mystérieux les mystères de Ro-stau. Je suis avec Horus dans l’acte de pétrir ce bras gauche de l’Osiris qui est à Sekhem; je sors et j’entre dans la demeure des flammes, détruisant les adversaires,

l. 8.  autrement dit les rebelles dans Sekhem.”

Pierret’s French translation was translated into English by Charles H. S. Davis, and published in 1895, titled The Egyptian Book of the Dead. That sentence was rendered into English as (p. 69):

“I am with Horus on this day for covering Teshtesh, for opening the door to the avenger of the god with a motionless heart

7. and for making mysterious the mysteries in Restau. I am with Horus in the act of supporting this left arm of the Osiris who is in Sechem; I go out and enter the blazing-abode, exterminating the opponents,

8. in other words, the rebels in Sechem.”

As may be seen, this is indeed what Blavatsky referred to in her commentary on this stanza from the Book of Dzyan; but the phrase “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal” is not there in either Pierret’s French translation or in its translation into English by Davis. The only reference to flame there is “blazing-abode,” “demeure des flammes.”

Notice that Ro-stau in Pierret’s “mystères de Ro-stau,” Restau in Davis’s “mysteries in Restau,” is Ro-stan in Blavatsky’s “Mysteries of Ro-stan.” This is obviously nothing more than a typographical error in The Secret Doctrine, reading the “u” in Blavatsky’s handwritten Ro-stau as “n.” This was then repeated in The Theosophical Glossary, but without the hyphen: “Rostan. Book of the Mysteries of Rostan; an occult work in manuscript.” As we shall see, other Egyptologists use other variant spellings of this word. More importantly, the “occult work in manuscript” referred to must be the source of the phrase, “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal,” and the source of Blavatsky’s interpretation of it. Contrary to Jeanine Miller’s hopes, the improved translations published since Blavatsky’s time do not have this phrase.

Since Pierret’s 1882 French translation used by Blavatsky, the Egyptian Book of the Dead has been translated a few more times. The most famous of these translations is by E. A. Wallis Budge, published in 1895, with a revised translation in 1913. Despite the popularity of the Budge translations up to the present, Egyptian language studies have progressed much since then, and these have been superseded by what are regarded as the more accurate translations made by Raymond O. Faulkner (1972), and by Thomas George Allen (1974), independently of each other. As is well-known, there is no single Egyptian Book of the Dead, but rather a number of somewhat differing collections of “spells.” There are nearly 200 of these spells. A numbering system for them was introduced by Karl Richard Lepsius in the mid-1800s, and it is still in use by Egyptologists. So it is easily possible to locate the same spell in the different published translations of the various versions.

In the 1972 translation by Raymond O. Faulkner, as reprinted in The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead (University of Texas Press, Austin, Published in Cooperation with British Museum Press, 1985), this passage (with fuller surrounding sentences) is translated as (p. 35):

“Thoth has helped me so that I might be with Horus on the day of the clothing of the Dismembered One and of the opening of the caverns for the washing of the Inert One and the throwing open of the door of the secret things in Rosetjau; so that I might be with Horus as the protector of the left arm of Osiris who is in Letopolis. I go in and out among those who are there on the day of crushing the rebels in Letopolis so that I may be with Horus on the day of the Festival of Osiris; . . .”

In this translation there is no mention of flame. Instead it has “among those who are there.”

In the 1974 translation by Thomas George Allen, The Book of the Dead, or Going Forth by Day (The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, University of Chicago Press), this passage (with fuller surrounding sentences) is translated as (p. 5):

“I was with Horus on the day of wrapping the Dismembered One and opening the pits, of washing the weary-hearted one and secreting the entrance to the secrets of Rosetau. I was with Horus as savior of that left shoulder of Osiris that was in (Letopolis), going into and out of the devouring flame on the day of expelling the rebels from (Letopolis).”

As in Pierret’s translation used by Blavatsky, there is a reference to flame, but nothing about “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal.”

To be more complete, in the 1895 translation by E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani in the British Museum. The Egyptian Text with Interlinear Transliteration and Translation, a Running Translation, Introduction, Etc., this passage (with fuller surrounding sentences) is translated as (pp. 271-272):

“I am with Horus on the day of the clothing of Teshtesh and of the opening of the storehouses of water for the purification of the god whose heart moveth not, and of the unbolting of the door of concealed things in Re-stau. I am with Horus who guardeth the left shoulder of Osiris in Sekhem, and I go into and come out from the divine flames on the day of the destruction of the fiends in Sekhem.”

Budge here adds a footnote on Re-stau: “I.e., ‘the door of the passages of the tomb.’”

In the 1913 revised translation by E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Dead: The Hieroglyphic Transcript of the Papyrus of ANI, the Translation into English and An Introduction, this passage (with fuller surrounding sentences) is translated as (p. 358):

“I am with Horus on the day of dressing Teshtesh. I open the hidden water-springs for the ablutions of Urt-ab. I unbolt the door of the Shetait Shrine in Ra-stau. I am with Horus as the protector (or defender) of the left shoulder of Osiris, the dweller in Sekhem. I enter in among and I come forth from the Flame-gods on the day of the destruction of the Sebhau fiends in Sekhem.”

Budge here adds a footnote on Ra-stau: “Ra-stau is the name given to the entrance to the corridors which led down to the Kingdom of Seker at or quite near to the modern region of Sakkarah.”

The Budge translations refer to “the divine flames,” or “the Flame-gods,” but again, nothing like the phrase “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal.”

The first ever English translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead was made by Samuel Birch, and was included in the 1867 book, Egypt’s Place in Universal History, volume 5. This translation was not used by Blavatsky. In it, this passage (with fuller surrounding sentences) is translated as (p. 162):

“I am with Horus the day of clothing Tesh-tesh [the Nile], to open the door to wash the heart of the meek one, keeping secret the secret places in Rusta. I am with Horus supporting the right shoulder of Osiris in Skhem. I come and go from the Realms of Fire [the Phlegethon]. I expel the wicked [or the opposers] from Skhem.”

None of these translations of the Egyptian Book of the Dead have anything like the phrase, “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal.” Nor do they suggest anything like Blavatsky’s interpretation of this phrase. We must therefore assume that this phrase, and this interpretation, come from the “Book of the Mysteries of Rostan [i.e., Rostau]; an occult work in manuscript.”

Category: Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Parabrahman | 4 comments

31
August

para-brahman

By David Reigle on August 31, 2020 at 3:49 am

This is part of an ongoing glossary of terms relating to the Book of Dzyan.

            The term parabrahman is used in The Secret Doctrine to refer to one of the two aspects under which the “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle” is symbolized, the other aspect then being referred to as mūlaprakṛti. These two terms were adopted from the writings of T. Subba Row as the Advaita Vedānta terms for the two aspects that H. P. Blavatsky had called “absolute abstract motion” or “pre-cosmic ideation,” and “absolute abstract space” or “pre-cosmic substance,” respectively. However, the one reality (the “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle” of The Secret Doctrine) is referred to in Advaita Vedānta as brahman or parabrahman only. The term mūlaprakṛti is rarely used in Advaita Vedānta; and when it is, it is equated with māyā, the illusion of an ever-changing universe that is superimposed on the one changeless brahman. Blavatsky used these two terms because, following Subba Row’s earlier writings (not his later lectures on the Bhagavad-gītā), she thought that this was the Advaita Vedānta teaching: “. . . viewed in the same dual light as the Vedantin views his Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti, the one under two aspects” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 46). This is not the Advaita Vedānta teaching.

            The term brahman is the normal and usual word for the absolute in the Hindu Upaniṣads, and therefore in Vedānta of whatever school. In the Advaita school of Vedānta, brahman is non-dual (advaita), the one only, without a second (“ekam evādvitīyam,” Chāndogya Upaniṣad 6.2.1-2), and without qualities (nirguṇa). When some passages of the Upaniṣads seem to speak of brahman as having qualities (saguṇa), there may arise a need to distinguish brahman as it really is according to Advaita Vedānta, without qualities, from brahman as seeming to have qualities. Therefore we occasionally find the term param brahman, or parabrahman, used in contrast to aparam brahman, or aparabrahman (e.g., Praśna Upaniṣad 5.2). This is not common, since the term brahman is the normal and usual word for the absolute, requiring no qualifier such as param, “higher, highest, supreme,” in contrast to aparam, “lower.”

            As explained by Śaṅkarācārya in his Brahma-sūtra commentary on 4.3.14, brahman is only referred to as higher (param) and lower (aparam) brahman when we attribute to it upadhi-s, “limiting adjuncts,” of name and form, due to wrong knowing (avidyā). The Upaniṣads themselves may and do attribute such names and forms to brahman for the sake of imparting kinds of meditation on brahman. Because of this, the Hindu writings sometimes distinguish brahman as parabrahman, the “higher” brahman, from aparabrahman, the “lower” brahman, to which names and forms are figuratively attributed. The lower brahman is then regarded as īśvara, “God,” or sometimes as Brahmā, the creator god, but not as mūlaprakṛti.

            In Theosophical writings we sometimes see parabrahman defined as “beyond Brahmā,” where Brahmā is the masculine creator deity (H. P. Blavatsky, Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, p. 4). This meaning of parabrahman is not grammatically possible. When the word param is taken as “beyond,” it is preceded by some word declined in the ablative case, meaning “than” that something; literally “higher than,” or less literally “beyond,” that something. We do not have that here. Nor is the word parabrahman understood as “beyond Brahmā” in the Hindu texts. It means simply the “higher brahman,” even though the lower brahman, aparabrahman, can be understood as the masculine Brahmā.

            The Sanskrit word that we write as brahman is the undeclined form. It may be declined in the neuter gender or in the masculine gender. When declined in the neuter nominative singular it is brahma, the absolute. When declined in the masculine nominative singular it is brahmā, the masculine creator god. Without the diacritic mark on the final “a” these words cannot be distinguished. Since English does not use diacritics, there arose the convention of writing the undeclined form brahman to mean the neuter form, the absolute, leaving brahma (without diacritics) to mean the masculine form, the creator god, often capitalized as Brahma. In publications that use diacritics, it would be written as Brahmā. In English language books written before this convention became established, the neuter declined form brahma was often used for the absolute, like it is in the Sanskrit texts themselves. This potentially confusing situation must always be taken into account.

            In Theosophical writings we sometimes even see parabrahman defined as “beyond brahman,” the neuter absolute (G. de Purucker, Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 521), saying that this is “what the Oriental means when he says Parabrahman.” This meaning, too, is not grammatically possible, and there is no warrant for it in the Hindu texts. It is not what the Oriental means when he says parabrahman. Indeed, where the phrase param brahma occurs at the end of the Praśna Upaniṣad, it is followed by: na ataḥ param asti, translated by S. Radhakrishnan as “There is naught higher than that,” or as translated by Charles Johnston, “there is naught beyond.”

            In the Hindu Advaita Vedānta texts, brahman (or parabrahman) is described as “pure consciousness” (cin-mātra). More fully, brahman is described at the beginning of Śaṅkarācārya’s commentary on the Brahma-sūtras as “by nature eternally pure, intelligent, and free, omniscient and endowed with all powers” (nitya-śuddha-buddha-mukta-svabhāvaṃ sarva-jñaṃ sarva-śakti-samanvitam). This is taught in direct contrast to the unconscious pradhāna, “primary substance,” or mūla-prakṛti, “root-substance,” taught in the Hindu Sāṃkhya worldview, this being rejected by Śaṅkarācārya for the very reason that the absolute cannot be unconscious (acetana). In the Theosophical model, following an esoteric Buddhist or Arhat model, the one reality is described as unconscious(ness). These two opposing views are usually taught in Theosophy as merely being two ways of looking at the same thing. In the one place where Blavatsky clearly makes this distinction, she writes:

“We have already pointed out that, in our opinion, the whole difference between Buddhistic and Vedantic philosophies was that the former was a kind of rationalistic Vedantism, while the latter might be regarded as transcendental Buddhism. . . . Buddhist rationalism was ever too alive to the insuperable difficulty of admitting one absolute consciousness, as in the words of Flint—‘wherever there is consciousness there is relation, and wherever there is relation there is dualism.’ The ONE LIFE is either ‘MUKTA’ (absolute and unconditioned) and can have no relation to anything nor to any one; or it is ‘BADDHA’ (bound and conditioned), and then it cannot be called the ABSOLUTE; the limitation, moreover, necessitating another deity as powerful as the first to account for all the evil in this world. Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony admits but of one absolute, indestructible, eternal, and uncreated UNCONSCIOUSNESS (so to translate), of an element (the word being used for want of a better term) absolutely independent of everything else in the universe; a something ever present or ubiquitous, a Presence which ever was, is, and will be, whether there is a God, gods or none; whether there is a universe or no universe; existing during the eternal cycles of Maha Yugas, during the Pralayas as during the periods of Manvantara: and this is SPACE, the field for the operation of the eternal Forces and natural Law, the basis (as our correspondent rightly calls it) upon which take place the eternal intercorrelations of Akâśa-Prakriti, guided by the unconscious regular pulsations of Śakti—the breath or power of a conscious deity, the theists would say—the eternal energy of an eternal, unconscious Law, say the Buddhists.”

(“Editorial Appendix” by H. P. Blavatsky to “The Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man,” by T. Subba Row, from The Theosophist, vol. 3, no. 4, January, 1882, pp. 93-99, reprinted in Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 3, this quote on pp. 422-423.)

            It is useful to be aware of this distinction when studying these things, since the Sāṃkhya teaching of the unconscious pradhāna, “primary substance,” or mūla-prakṛti, “root-substance,” is taken as the primary target for refutation by Śaṅkarācārya in his Brahma-sūtra commentary, the single most authoritative work on Advaita Vedānta. When Blavatsky used the term parabrahman to describe the “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle,” or one aspect under which it is symbolized, she would have been regarding pure consciousness and unconsciousness as merely being two ways of looking at the same thing. For, when speaking of something that is beyond the range and reach of thought, one description may be as adequate (or inadequate) as the other. Nonetheless, how brahman or parabrahman is understood in Advaita Vedānta does not quite match how the one reality is understood in Theosophy. The term parabrahman is a synonym of the Theosophical “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle” only insofar as both refer to the absolute in their respective systems of thought.

Category: Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Parabrahman | No comments yet

27
July

mūla-prakṛti

By David Reigle on July 27, 2020 at 1:57 am

This is part of an ongoing glossary of terms relating to the Book of Dzyan.

            The term mūlaprakṛti is used in The Secret Doctrine to refer to one of the two aspects under which the “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle” is symbolized, the other aspect then being referred to as parabrahman. These two terms were adopted from the writings of T. Subba Row as the Advaita Vedānta terms for the two aspects that H. P. Blavatsky had called “absolute abstract space” or “pre-cosmic substance” and “absolute abstract motion” or “pre-cosmic ideation,” respectively. However, this is not exactly what these two terms refer to in Hinduism, and mūlaprakṛti is not really an Advaita Vedānta term.

            The term mūlaprakṛti is defined in The Secret Doctrine as “the root of Nature” (vol. 1, pp. 62, 136), “the Root of all” (vol. 1, pp. 147, 256, 340), “the ‘root-Principle’ of the world stuff and of all in the world” (vol. 1, p. 522), and “the root of Prakriti” (vol. 2, p. 65). The entry in the Theosophical Glossary shows that this is what Blavatsky thought was the literal meaning of the term: “Mûlaprakriti (Sk.). . . . undifferentiated substance . . . Literally, ‘the root of Nature’ (Prakriti) or Matter” (p. 218). This is not the literal meaning of the term, nor can it be. The term is a Sanskrit compound, consisting of mūla, “root,” and prakṛti, “substance, matter, nature.” In order to mean “the root of nature,” the compound would have to be prakṛti-mūla, not mūla-prakṛti.

            The term mūlaprakṛti is a Sāṃkhya term, despite the fact that Subba Row used it as an Advaita Vedānta term, and Blavatsky adopted it as such from him. It occurs in the third verse of the authoritative Sāṃkhya-kārikā. The standard commentary by Vācaspati-miśra, the Sāṃkhya-tattva-kaumudī, glosses it there as: mūlaṃ cāsau prakṛtiś ceti mūlaprakṛtiḥ, which Ganganatha Jha translates as: “it is that ‘Matter’ which is the ‘Root’.” Grammatically it is, and can only be, a karmadhāraya compound, not a tatpuruṣa compound. This is why it cannot mean “the root of substance,” but can only mean “that substance which is the root,” or simply, “root-substance.”

            The term mūlaprakṛti is found only rarely in Advaita Vedānta texts; and when it is, it is used as a synonym of māyā, “illusion,” or avidyā, “wrong knowing.” The term parabrahman that it is paired with in The Secret Doctrine is not much used in Advaita Vedānta texts, since they almost always simply use brahman for the absolute, the one reality, with no need for any qualifying adjective like para, “supreme” or “highest.” Thus, mūlaprakṛti is paired with parabrahman or brahman only like māyā is paired with brahman, as an illusory something that is not ultimately real because it goes away when brahman is realized through right knowing. It is without beginning, anādi, but not without end.

            The idea that root-substance or mūlaprakṛti is eternal, and therefore could be an aspect of the absolute, is a Theosophical idea and a Sāṃkhya idea, but not an Advaita Vedānta idea. Subba Row strongly advocated that matter or substance is eternal in his articles written in response to the Almora Swami, thus giving an esoteric teaching as if it was the standard Advaita Vedānta teaching. Later, however, in his lectures on the Bhagavad-gītā he reverted to the standard Advaita Vedānta teaching, strongly distinguishing mūlaprakṛti from parabrahman as being only the veil of parabrahman. This was copied in The Secret Doctrine several times (vol. 1, pp. 10, 130, 274, 351, 426, 428, 429, 430, 432, 536) as being the true esoteric teaching.

            Subba Row had stated clearly in his first lecture on the Bhagavad-gītā that mūlaprakṛti is not parabrahman, and this was quoted approvingly in The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, p. 428): “Parabrahmam appears to it as Mulaprakriti. . . . This Mulaprakriti is material to it (the Logos), as any material object is material to us. This Mulaprakriti is no more Parabrahmam than the bundle of attributes of a pillar is the pillar itself; Parabrahmam is an unconditioned and absolute reality, and Mulaprakriti is a sort of veil thrown over it.” Following upon this in The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, p. 629), Blavatsky tells us to draw a deep line in our thought between the one reality and mūlaprakṛti (vol. 1, p. 629): “. . . the One Reality . . . a true spirit of esoteric philosophy . . . the impersonal, attributeless, absolute divine essence which is no ‘Being,’ but the root of all being. Draw a deep line in your thought between that ever-incognizable essence, and the, as invisible, yet comprehensible Presence (Mulaprakriti), . . .”

            Yet, as one of the two aspects under which the one reality is symbolized, The Secret Doctrine makes it clear that no such distinction can be made: “. . . the ONE Immutable—Parabrahm = Mulaprakriti, the eternal one-root” (1.340). “. . . eternal (Nitya) unconditioned reality or SAT (Satya), whether we call it Parabrahmam or Mulaprakriti, for these are the two aspects of the ONE” (1.69). “Absolute, Divine Spirit is one with absolute Divine Substance: Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are one in essence. Therefore, Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance in their primal character are one also” (1.337 fn.). “In its absoluteness, the One Principle under its two aspects (of Parabrahmam and Mulaprakriti) is sexless, unconditioned and eternal” (1.18). Blavatsky used these two terms because, following Subba Row’s earlier writings, she thought that this was the Advaita Vedānta teaching: “. . . viewed in the same light as the Vedantin views his Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti, the one under two aspects.” (1.46). This is not the Advaita Vedānta teaching, but it is the Theosophical teaching.

            The term mūlaprakṛti is not used in Theosophy like in Advaita Vedānta, where it is synonymous with māyā, “illusion,” the few times it occurs there. In Theosophy it is used much more like in Sāṃkhya, where it is one of the two eternal cosmic principles, mūla-prakṛti, “root-substance,” and puruṣa, “spirit,” with one fundamental difference. Theosophy teaches a single, non-dual reality, while Sāṃkhya as now known is a dualistic system, although it may not have always been dualistic. Sāṃkhya is regarded as the oldest philosophical system or worldview (darśana) in India, and its founder, Kapila is traditionally known as the “first knower,” ādi-vidvān. There are references to an old Sāṃkhya in which the absolute is brahman, and puruṣa and prakṛti are merely its two aspects, just like in Theosophy. As such, it makes no difference whether one refers to the absolute as spirit or as substance, since they are only two ways of looking at the same one reality.

            Thus we can have the rather surprising statement in the Mahatma letter (#10, chronological #88): “In other words we believe in MATTER alone, in matter as visible nature and matter in its invisibility as the invisible omnipresent omnipotent Proteus with its unceasing motion which is its life, and which nature draws from herself since she is the great whole outside of which nothing can exist.” This does not at all rule out spirit, since the letter is speaking of living substance. It is matter or substance endowed with life or motion, motion which never ceases even during pralaya when the cosmos is out of manifestation. It is this living substance that was referred to in another Mahatma letter as mūlaprakṛti (#59, chronological #111):

“The One reality is Mulaprakriti (undifferentiated Substance)—the ‘Rootless root,’ the . . . But we have to stop, lest there should remain but little to tell for your own intuitions.”

Category: Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Mulaprakriti | No comments yet

28
June

A Digital Index of The Secret Doctrine

By Ingmar de Boer on June 28, 2020 at 8:35 pm

Studying the SD again intensively for some time, I felt the need for a digital index, containing every word of the text. On the basis of the digital ASCII text edition of the volumes I and II by Theosophical University Press, I have generated a simple index, as well as a list of word frequencies, which might also be useful to other students. I post these files here, including some documentation in the form of my notes.




Category: Anthropogenesis, Cosmogenesis | No comments yet

24
June

Svabhāva as Prima Materia (v. 4)

By Ingmar de Boer on June 24, 2020 at 8:47 am

Introduction

Several of the concepts central to the philosophy of H.P. Blavatsky’s (HPB’s) work The Secret Doctrine, may be defined in terms of “svabhâvât”. Some of these concepts will be listed in this introduction. In the following paragraphs we can have a look at some examples of the use of the term svabhâvât (svabhāva), in relevant scholarly, philosophical and religious works, to see if we can find any resemblance to the concept of svabhāva as it is presented in The Secret Doctrine.

In the Proem to The Secret Doctrine (SD I, 1), in the “archaïc manuscript”, boundless abstract space is symbolised as an immaculate white disk on a dull background. In SD I, 35, abstract space is described as unconditional, and eternal (timeless or independent of time):

“What is that which was, is, and will be, whether there is a Universe or not; whether there be gods or none?” asks the esoteric Senzar Catechism. And the answer made is — SPACE.

In the very first śloka from the Book of Dzyan as presented in The Secret Doctrine, stanza 1 śloka 1 (SD I, 35), abstract space is called the eternal parent:

1. “THE ETERNAL PARENT (Space), WRAPPED IN HER EVER INVISIBLE ROBES, HAD SLUMBERED ONCE AGAIN FOR SEVEN ETERNITIES (a).”

The invisible robes in which the parent is “wrapped” are interpreted in stanza 1 śloka 5 as mūlaprakṛti, the one primordial substance. In stanza 1 śloka 5 (SD I, 40-41) then, abstract space is called darkness:

1.5 DARKNESS ALONE FILLED THE BOUNDLESS ALL (a), FOR FATHER, MOTHER AND SON WERE ONCE MORE ONE, […]

HPB explains in SD I, 41:

When the whole universe was plunged into sleep — had returned to its one primordial element — there was neither centre of luminosity, nor eye to perceive light, and darkness necessarily filled the boundless all.

In stanza 2 śloka 5 (SD I, 60), we find the same identification, and furthermore, darkness is called father-mother, and svabhâvât:

2.5 […] DARKNESS ALONE WAS FATHER-MOTHER, SVABHAVAT, […]

This applies only to the state of pralaya, the sleep of the universe, and svabhâvât may appear in at least two respective stages. The nivṛitti (also incorrectly spelled nirvṛtti) stage is also called pradhāna, when svabhâvât is in darkness, while the pravṛtti stage is called prakṛti, when svabhâvât has become the manifested matter which is at the basis of the various planes of manifestation. Not in each case in HPB’s writings the term pradhāna is used for the unmanifested root of matter, but in volumes I and II of the SD we find it used consistently in this manner. For example in SD I, 257 we find:

the former term (pradhāna) being certainly synonymous with Mulaprakriti and Akasa, […]

Here we see that ākāśa is also identified with mūlaprakṛti, the unmanifested “root of matter”.

1. The Orthography of Svabhâvât

Concerning svabhâvât, Friedrich Max Müller reported the following in 1876 in his Chips from a German Workshop Vol. I. p 278:

The Svâbhâvikas maintain that nothing exists but nature, or rather substance, and that this substance exists by itself (“svabhâvât), without a Creator or a Ruler. It exists, however, under two forms : in the state of Pravritti, as active, or in the state of Nirvritti, as passive.

Daniel Caldwell has suggested that this passage might have been HPB’s source for the term svabhâvât, and that the ending in -ât would indicate the ablative case of svabhāva, meaning “by itself”. If this is true, these two terms would be two forms of the same base word, which is spelled in the current IAST orthography as svabhāva.

2. Svabhāva: Nature or Substance

Based on this identification of svabhâvât as svabhāva, we can look up this term in common dictionaries and start reviewing what was written in the time of HPB in sources she has consulted or might have consulted, which is not always clear. In this last quotation from Müller, he distinguishes two senses of the word svabhāva: “nature” and “substance”. Perhaps he is echoing Brian Houghton Hodgson at this point. In the standard Monier-Williams’ A Sanskrit-English Dictionary (MW), this second sense is not mentioned in the main lemmata for svabhāva and svabhāvāt:

m. own condition or state of being, natural state or constitution, innate or inherent disposition, nature, impulse, spontaneity

m. (…vāt or …vena or …va-tas or ibc.), (from natural disposition, by nature, naturally, by one’s self, spontaneously) ŚvetUp. Mn. MBh. &c.

A specific use of svabhāva or svabhāvāt as a philosophical term in Mahāyāna Buddhist literature as mentioned by HPB is not included in MW. In HPB’s time there were also the dictionaries by Horace Hayman Wilson (whom she held in high regard as a researcher), and later the great Sanskrit-German dictionary by Rudolf Roth and Otto von Böhtlingk, which also do not mention svabhāva as “substance”.

If we look at the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad (ŚvUp, ca. 400 BCE ±100), the oldest extant work where the term svabhāva is mentioned, in ŚvUp 1.2 we find in the discussion on the first cause of things, svabhāva as a possible first cause (tr. Robert Ernest Hume, 1921) :

kālaḥ svabhāvo niyatir yadṛcchā bhūtāni yoniḥ puruṣeti cintyam /
saṃyoga eṣāṃ na tv ātmabhāvād ātmā hy anīśaḥ sukhaduḥkhahetoḥ //

Time (kāla), or inherent nature (sva-bhāva), or necessity (niyati) or chance (yadṛcchā), or the elements (bhūta), or a [female] womb (yoni), or a [male] person (puruṣa) are to be considered [as the cause]; […]

This verse answers the question “kutaḥ sma jātā”, “whence are we born?”, from the previous verse. Again we find svabhāva as “inherent nature” and not as “substance”. Moreover, from the translation it is not clear if svabhāva is intended here as 1. inherent nature of individual entitites (pluralistic) or 2. of entities in general or the universe as a whole. (monistic) In the Book of Dzyan, svabhāva is in principle a monistic concept, as we have seen in the introduction to this article.

3. HPB’s quote from the Anugītā

In the SD, HPB refers to one extant work from the context of Hinduism where svabhāva is used in the sense of “substance”. In SD I, 571 she quotes the Anugītā:

[…] Gods, Men, Gandharvas, Pisâchas, Asuras, Râkshasas, all have been created by Svabhâva (Prakriti, or plastic nature), not by actions, nor by a cause” — i.e., not by any physical cause.

In the 1882 translation of the Anugītā by K.T. Telang, a work HPB has consulted on other occasions, on p. 387 we find what is presumably the source of this quotation:

Gods, men, Gandharvas, Pisâkas, Asuras, Râkshasas, all have been created by nature5, not by actions, nor by a cause.

where note 5 refers to:

5. The original is svabhâva, which Arguna Misra renders by Prakriti.

From her substitution of “nature” by “Svabhâva (Prakriti, or plastic nature)” we may derive that HPB interprets svabhâva here as the term svabhâvât appearing in the Book of Dzyan, which is described as “plastic essence” (SD I, 61), the plastic root of physical Nature (SD I, 98), which in its “active condition” is called prakṛti.

Note 5 refers to the commentary to the Mahābhārata by Arjuna Miśra (16th c.), who, according to the note, renders svabhāva as prakṛti. We can read the original verse in book 14, chapter 50 (Bombay ed. 51), verse 11 of the Mahābhārata, the Anugītā being part of its Aśvamedha parvan:

devā manuṣyā gandharvāḥ piśācāsurarākṣasāḥ
sarve svabhāvataḥ sṛṣṭā na kriyābhyo na kāraṇāt || 14.50.11 ||

Indeed in this verse, “by nature” seems to be an inadequate translation for svabhāva. Although Arjuna Miśra, and HPB, have thought that in this verse svabhāva should be identified with prakṛti, it is still possible that the author has intended “inherent nature” and not “substance”. Just as in the quotation from the ŚvUp, it is not exactly clear here if svabhāva is intended as an individual (pluralistic) or a collective “cause”.

4. The Mahāvyutpatti

In the Mahāvyutpatti (Mv, Toh. 4346), the famous Tibetan-Sanskrit dictionary, a work from a Buddhist context dating back to the first half of the 9th century, the Sanskrit entry for prakṛti (no. 7497) is linked to Tibetan “rang bzhin”, “rang bzhin ngo bo nyid”, and “rang bzhin ngo bo nyid dam rang bzhin.” These three terms are expressions for svabhāva as the “inherent nature” of Mahāyāna Buddhism. The two terms rang bzhin and ngo bo nyid are derived from rang (own, self) and ngo or ngo bo (face), and therefore their primary meaning will be closer to svabhāva as “nature” than to “substance”. The next entry in the Mv, no. 7498, is indeed svabhāva, to which are linked the same three expressions.

No. Sanskrit Tibetan
7497 prakṛti rang bzhin; rang bzhin ngo bo nyid; rang bzhin ngo bo nyid dam rang bzhin
7498 svabhāva rang bzhin; rang bzhin ngo bo nyid; rang bzhin ngo bo nyid dam rang bzhin

This may suggest that at the time the Mv was composed, the terms svabhāva and prakṛti were seen as completely synonymous, by the team of creators of the dictionary, but also by extension by the lotsavas who considered the Mv their golden standard. However, it does not say anything about whether in the Mv svabhāva/prakṛti is considered a pluralistic or monistic concept or perhaps even both.

5. The Svabhāva Mantra

Eugène Burnouf, on p. 393 of his Introduction à l’Histoire du Bouddhisme Indien (1876), notices that “the word Nature does not render at all that which the Buddhists understand as Svabhāva” [tr. IdB]:

They see it at the same time as Nature which exists in itself, absolute Nature, the cause of the world, and as the own Nature of every existence, that which constitutes that it exists.

Here we have the two standpoints, of Mahāyānist monism and Hīnayāna pluralism, combined into one. In connection with the elusive or illusive school of the Svābhāvikas (spelled by Burnouf with the extra macron), Burnouf remarks on p. 395: “When they were asked: Where do existences come from? they answered: Svabhāvāt, ‘from their own nature’ — And where do they go after this life? — Into other forms produced by the irresistable influence of that same nature. […]”.

On pp. 572-3 Burnouf adds:

The second of the two meanings of the word Svabhāva, which I set out in my text, is perfectly demonstrated in a passage of the Pañcakramaṭippaṇī which I think is useful to cite. The yogi must, according to the text of that work, pronounce the following axiom: Svabhāva śuddhaḥ sarvadharmāḥ svabhāva śuddho ‘ham iti. ‘All conditions or all existences are produced from their own nature; I am myself produced from my own nature.’ I believe that this meaning of svabhāva is the most ancient; if, as Hodgson thought, the Buddhists understood by this term the abstract nature, this metaphysical notion may have been added to the word afterwards, of which the natural interpretation is that which is indicated by the axiom I have just cited. It may be useful to remark that taking the participle śuddha, in the sense of ‘complete, accomplished;’ is colloquial in Buddhist Sanskrit.

The ṭippaṇī in question is also known as the Piṇḍīkramaṭippaṇī, which is Parahitarakṣita’s short commentary on the first part of the tantric Nāgārjuna’s Pañcakrama. Both the Pañcakrama and the ṭippaṇī were published by Louis de la Vallée Poussin in 1896, in one volume in the series Études et textes tantriques of Ghent university. On p. 15, lines 5-7 we find this passage. (see the Sanskrit Texts division of the Book of Dzyan web site, at http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/sanskrit-texts-3/sanskrit-buddhist-texts/)

Burnouf’s “axiom” is widely known as a mantra, under various names. It is called Svabhāva Mantra, Śuddha Mantra, or Śūnyata Mantra although this name is also used for another well known mantra. It is part of the sādhanas of quite a number of different traditions. Since the Pañcakrama and Piṇḍīkramaṭippaṇī are (sub-) commentaries to the Guhyasamājatantra, we might expect to find this mantra in the Guhyasamāja root text, but, searching visually several times, I have not been able to find it there. It is however a part of a commonly used daily sādhana of Guhyasamāja. In the Sādhanamālā, which is a later collection of 312 Buddhist ceremonial practices, the mantra is found 30 times. An example of a ceremony is the sādhana of Tārā, which is also studied by Stephan Beyer in The Cult of Tara. The mantra is found there as part of the Four Mandala Offering to Tara, where it is used to purify the location and attributes for the ritual, before the ceremony. (p. 180)

The mantra is also part of long and short versions of the Kālacakra sādhana, and as such it is discussed by David Reigle in his article on Sanskrit Mantras in the Kālacakra Sādhana. It was published in As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kālacakra Tantra in Honor of H.H. the Dalai Lama, where the mantra is found on p. 302. As a source for this mantra, Reigle refers to the Kālacakrabhagavatsādhanavidhiḥ (Toh. 1358). His translation is the following:

Oṃ svabhāvaśuddhāḥ sarvadharmāḥ svabhāvaśuddho ‘ham.

oṃ; Naturally pure are all things; naturally pure am I.

In this translation, svabhāvaśuddhāḥ is interpreted as “pure of nature”, or “pure by nature” instead of Burnouf’s “produced from its/their own nature”.

Lama Thubten Yeshe, in An Explanation of the Shunyata Mantra and a Meditation on Emptiness (in: Mandala, January/March 2009) explains the meaning of this same mantra as follows:

Also, this mantra contains a profound explanation of the pure, fundamental nature of both human beings and all other existent phenomena. It means that everything is spontaneously pure – not relatively, of course, but in the absolute sense. From the absolute point of view, the fundamental quality of human beings and the nature of all things is purity.

Svabhāva is here interpreted by Lama Yeshe as the “fundamental nature” of entities, or absolute reality, called paramārtha or pariniṣpanna in the Book of Dzyan. Ultimate reality or absolute reality is “pure” in the sense that it is the state of matter (mūlaprakṛti/prakṛti) where it is still unmanifested, or as HPB might have called it, non-manvantaric, or nivṛtti.

In the three examples presented here svabhāva is viewed also as absolute reality, paramārtha in Madhyamaka terminology, and not only as conditional reality, saṃvṛtti. Of course in any form of Buddhism, “natural purity” would be associated with “non-ego”, but in a different sense, the term svabhāva is commonly found in Madhyamaka oriented Buddhist writings. For example in the term niḥsvabhāva, often used as a synonym for nairātmya, anātman or “non-ego”, it indicates exactly the opposite, that is svabhāva only as conditional reality, or in HPB’s corresponding terminology, pravṛtti as opposed to nivṛtti.

The Book of Dzyan on the other hand explicitly describes svabhāva as going through the two different stages: 1. nivṛitti, when “darkness alone was […] svabhâvât” (“in paramārtha”, absolute reality), and 2. pravṛtti, when svabhāva is prakṛti, the basic substance of the manifested universe, that is conditional reality.

6. Hodgson’s Essays

On p. 73 of Brian Houghton Hodgson’s Essays on the Languages, Literature and Religion of Nepal and Tibet (1874) we find a list of principles from the “Svabhavika doctrine”, the first of which appears to be a translation of the Svabhāva Mantra:

All things are governed or perfected by Swabháva; I too am governed by Swabháva.

This is again a very different translation, where śuddha is taken as “governed/perfected by”. David N. Gellner responds to this in his 1989 article Hodgson’s Blind Alley? On the So-Called Schools of Nepalese Buddhism, calling it a misunderstanding of the term svabhāvaśuddha, which he translates as “free of essence”.

The “Ashta Sáhasrika” is given by Hodgson as a reference, but I have not found the mantra literally in the text of the Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā. Some similar passages are to be found in the text, of which the following is an example (Edward Conze’s translation p. 250 and Sanskrit from ed. Vaidya p. 211, my (IdB’s) comments in square brackets):

Subhuti: But if, O Lord, as we all know, all dharmas [Skt. sarvadharmāḥ] are by nature perfectly pure [Skt. prakṛtipariśuddhāḥ], […]

The Lord: So it is, Subhuti. For all dharmas [sarvadharmāḥ] are just by (their essential original) nature perfectly pure [Skt. prakṛtyaiva pariśuddhāḥ]. When a Bodhisattva who trains in perfect wisdom […] remains uncowed although all dharmas [Skt. sarvadharmeṣu] are by their nature perfectly pure [Skt. prakṛtipariśuddheṣu], then that is his perfection of wisdom [Skt. prajñāpāramitāyāṃ].

Here we see that instead of svabhāvaśuddha (Reigle: pure by nature) the compound prakṛtipariśuddha (Conze, 2nd ed. 1975: by nature perfectly pure) is used in the same sense, reflecting the semantic agreement between svabhāva and prakṛti.

Further, the Tibetan version in the Derge Kanjur (Toh. 12) shows how the compound was analysed by the lotsavas of the Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā: it was taken as rang bzhin gyis yongs su dag pa, which is “completely pure by nature”, as opposed to “free of essence”.

7. Prasannapadā and Mūlamadhyamakakārikā

In Candrakīrti’s Prasannapadā (PsP), we find a lengthy discussion of the concept of svabhāva. In the 1931 partial edition of Stanisław Schayer, Ausgewählte Kapitel…, in an extensive note on pages 55-57, four different meanings of svabhāva are distinguished (paraphrased IdB):

  1. Svabhāva as “nījam ātmīyam svarūpam”, an “essential” as opposed to “accidental” quality, like the hotness of fire. This is an idea compatible with Hīnayāna pluralism.
  2. Svabhāva as svalakṣaṇa, the own individual mark which is carried by the individual substrate of a dharma. The Hīnayānists are called Svabhāvavādins in the sense that they accept a manyfold of these individual substances (pluralism).
  3. Svabhāva as equivalent of prakṛti, of upādāna [[material cause]] and of āśraya [[basis of perception]], of the unchanging, eternal substrate of all changes. In the Hīnayāna schools, the Vaibhāṣikas accept this view, while the Sautrāntikas agree with the Mādhyamikas at this point, calling a transcendental lakṣya [[characteristic]] completely illusory. [[But being Hīnayāna schools, both of these are considered pluralist.]]
  4. Svabhāvaḥ as “svato bhāvaḥ”, the absolute being, “nirapekṣaḥ svabhāvaḥ”. The universe as “one and whole” is absolute. This idea is not compatible with Hīnayānist pluralism.

In the third and fourth points we may recognise concepts similar, both in a different way, to the svabhāva presented in the Book of Dzyan. In the text of the PsP, chapter XV § 2 (Schayer § 5 p. 63, cp. Vaidya ed. p. 116) the third point is analysed as follows (tr. from German IdB):

yā sā dharmāṇāṃ dharmatā nāma, saiva tatsvarūpam | atha keyaṃ dharmāṇāṃ dharmatā? dharmāṇāṃ svabhāvaḥ | ko ‘yaṃ svabhāvaḥ? prakṛtiḥ | kā ceyaṃ prakṛtiḥ? yeyaṃ śūnyatā | keyaṃ śūnyatā? naiḥsvābhāvyam | kimidaṃ naiḥsvābhāvyam? tathatā | keyaṃ tathatā? tathābhāvo ‘vikāritvaṃ sadaiva sthāyitā | sarvathānutpāda eva

Diese Eigenwesen [[tatsvarūpam]] ist die dharmatā der dharmas. — Und was ist die dharmatā der dharmas? — Der svabhāva der dharmas. — Und was ist dieser svabhāva? — Die prakṛti. — Und was ist diese prakṛti? — Die śūnyatā. — Und was ist diese śūnyatā? — Das naiḥsvābhāvya. — Und was is dieses naiḥsvābhāvya? — Die tathatā, d.h. die Unwandelbarkeit der wahren Beschaffenheit (tathābhāvāvikāritva), das ewige Beharren [in seinem An-sich-Sein] (sadā sthāyitā), das absolute Nicht-entstehen (sarvadānutpāda).

This own essence [[tatsvarūpam]] is the “entitiness” of entities. And what is the “entitiness” of entities? It is the svabhāva of entities. And what is this svabhāva? It is its basic material. And what is this basic material? It is emptiness. And what is this emptiness? It is the fundamental absence of svabhāva. And what is this fundamental absence of svabhāva? It is thusness, that is the unique property of the true being-thus, the eternal fixedness [in its being per se], the absolute non-origination.

To Candrakriti this line of reasoning proves that svabhāva cannot exist as a basic substance in which (or on the basis of which) change is taking place. The reasoning is based on Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (MMK) XV.8, to which this PsP passage is a commentary (tr. Mark Siderits and Shōryū Katsura, 2013):

yady astitvaṃ prakṛtyā syān na bhaved asya nāstitā |
prakṛter anyathābhāvo na hi jātūpapadyate ||

If something existed by essential nature (prakṛti), then there would not be the nonexistence of such a thing. For it never holds that there is the alteration of essential nature.

8. Conclusions

The examples discussed here, from the Anugītā, the Mahāvyutpatti, the Svabhāva Mantra and the Prasannapadā/Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, do not sufficiently show that the term svabhāva has been used, in original Hindu or Buddhist texts, not only in the sense of an “inherent nature”, but also in the sense of “substance”. In the Book of Dzyan it is described primarily as “substance”.

In Buddhism, pluralism is generally associated with Hīnayāna and monism with Mahāyāna. We have seen that in Buddhist texts another distinction of two senses of the word svabhāva may be recognised: in the svabhāva mantra we have found the term svabhāva as “fundamentally pure”, while the part svabhāva in the “doctrine of niḥsvabhāva” is used as exactly the opposite. We can define these two senses of the svabhāva as nivṛtti and pravṛtti respectively. In the Book of Dzyan, svabhāva is described primarily as “monistic”, but going through the nivṛtti and pravṛtti phases of manifestation. This may imply that svabhāva is in these two phases “monistic” and “pluralistic” respectively. •

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23
June

The Great Breath

By Ingmar de Boer on June 23, 2020 at 10:59 am

Motion as an Aspect of the Absolute

In SD I, 43 we find the following statement on the absolute:

The appearance and disappearance of the Universe are pictured as an outbreathing and inbreathing of “the Great Breath,” which is eternal, and which, being Motion, is one of the three aspects of the Absolute — Abstract Space and Duration being the other two.

We could represent the information given here on the absolute in a diagram like this:

Defining the standard circular order as “clockwise”, this diagram becomes an unambiguous representation of the three aspects of the Absolute.

In The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnet (ML) we also find remarks to the effect that the Great Breath, or Motion is eternal for example in ML No. XXII (Barker):

Motion is eternal because spirit is eternal. But no modes of motion can ever be conceived unless they be in connection with matter.

It may be interesting to see that Aristotle formulated thoughts similar to the one in SD I, 43, for example in paragraph 12.1071b of his Metaphysica (translation from W.D. Ross’ 1924 edition):

But motion cannot be either generated or destroyed, for it always existed; nor can time, because there can be no priority or posteriority if there is no time. Hence as time is continuous, so too is motion; for time is either identical with motion or an affection of it. But there is no continuous motion except that which is spatial, of spatial motion only that which is circular.

Now in the diagram and the quotation from the SD, the therm abstract space is mentioned. As a preparation for a deeper analysis of the concept of motion, or great breath in the SD, we could start by investigating the concept of abstraction.

Abstract Space, Noumenon and Phenomenon

The terms noumenon (Gr. νοούμενον) and phenomenon (Gr. φαινόμενον) were typically used by Plato to distinguish between the world of ideas (noumenal) and the sensory world (phenomenal). Another typical location where can find a discussion of these two terms is in Immanuel Kant’s Kritik der Reinen Vernunft. (1781) He uses the terms in relation to the different types of knowledge he distinguishes, a priori knowledge (before perception, pure, “rein”) and a posteriori knowledge (after perceiving, empirical). In the HPB’s Theosophical Glossary (TG) the term noumenon is defined as: “The true essential nature of being as distinguished from the illusive objects of sense”, confirming we are on the right track.

Throughout the SD, these two terms are used in a specific way, in line with Plato, where the abstract unmanifested idea of any manifested phenomenon is its noumenon. The unmanifested stage of the origination of the universe is usually called pralaya and the manifested stage is called manvantara. Other terms for these stages we may encounter are the nivṛtti and pravṛtti stage. These two stages are also indicated by the terms noumenal and phenomenal respectively. An example of this may be found in SD I, 62:

[Esoteric philosophy] divides boundless duration into unconditionally eternal and universal Time and a conditioned one (Khandakala). One is the abstraction or noumenon of infinite time (Kala); the other its phenomenon appearing periodically, as the effect of Mahat (the Universal Intelligence limited by Manvantaric duration).

In the SD, infinite time (kāla) is called duration, as opposed to “broken time” (khandakāla) which is simply called time. In stanza I śloka 2 “Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of duration.” These two, duration and time, relate as a noumenon and its phenomenon. The entire genesis of the universe described in the Book of Dzyan may be seen as the process (if we may call it that) of noumena turning into their respective phenomena. This process is often referred to by the term ideation.

Another example of specific use of word may be seen in this fragment, in the word abstraction. If something is called the noumenon of a certain phenomenon, then is called its abstraction. The word abstract is used quite often in the SD, and it is used in this way in defining several of its central concepts. In the explanation of the first fundamental proposition for example, is spoken of absolute abstract space (SD I, 14):

This “Be-ness” is symbolised in the Secret Doctrine under two aspects. On the one hand, absolute abstract Space, representing bare subjectivity, the one thing which no human mind can either exclude from any conception, or conceive of by itself. On the other, absolute Abstract Motion representing Unconditioned Consciousness.

In the term absolute abstract Space, the word abstract refers to the noumenon, that is the unmanifested abstraction of our manifested space (including its different “levels”). Abstract Space extends infinitely to every possible dimension, while its phenomenal counterpart is limited to the portion which we can perceive through our senses or imagine within the limitations of our mind.

Absolute Time

Realising that the word abstract indicates that we are speaking about the noumenal counterparts of our worldly space, time and motion, as they are in the nivṛtti stage of evolution, the cosmic night, we can ask ourselves why does HPB use this term absolute (the adjective) in relation to space, time and motion, where does it come from, and is it referring to any area of study which could help clarify these fundamental terms in the SD? If we are to trace the origin of the use of the word absolute in this sense, we may see that Isaac Newton in his Principia was the first who used it, applying it to space, place, time and motion, in his first Scholium. Also the term duration is used in the Scholium, which may be seen as another indication that HPB, in using these terms, was most probably referring to this text implicitly.

Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica consists of three separate Books preceded by a Preface, Definitions and Axioms (the Laws of Motion), and followed by a General Scholium. In the three books, applications of the Laws of Motion are demonstrated. At the end of Definitions and Axioms respectively, there are again Scholia where more specific information and discussion on the subject matter is given.

In the Scholium to the Definitions, in the 1999 edition by I. Bernhard Cohen and Anne Whitman, “assisted by Julia Budenz” found on pages 54-61, it is specified what is understood by the basic terms time (1), space (2), place (3) and motion (4). Newton distinguishes absolute and relative time, true and apparent time, mathematical and common time, absolute and relative space, absolute and relative place and absolute and relative motion. Based on the third Latin edition of 1726, first we can set up a table to show the meaning of the attributes of time:

Tempus absolutum, verum, & mathematicum, in se & natura sua sine relatione ad externum quodvis, aequabiliter fluit, alioque nomine dicitur duratio: Relativum, apparens, & vulgare est sensibilis & externa quaevis durationis per motum mensura (seu accurata seu inaequabilis) qua vulgus vice veri temporis utitur; ut hora, dies, mensis, annus.

Tempus absolutum,Relativum,absolute or relative
verum,apparens,true or apparent
& mathematicum,& vulgaremathematical or common
in seest sensibilisin itself or perceived
& natura sua sine relatione ad externum quodvis,& externa quaevis durationis per motum mensurawithout relation to anything external or measured by external movement
aequabiliter fluit,(seu accurata seu inaequabilis)flowing evenly or accurate/inaccurate
alioque nomine dicitur duratio
otherwise called duration

So in the Scholium, duration is described as time which is absolute, true and mathematical, that is, 1. it is “in itself” (noumenal), 2. without relation to anything external and 3. flowing evenly. Modern physics may suggest (for example in the early 20th century through Ernst Mach) that this sort of time does not exist, but apparently this idea is one of the corner stones of Newton’s work. On closer observation however, it will be clear that without this basic idea, the edifice of modern physics would collapse as well.

We could ask outselves now, if Newton’s concept of duration is the same as the one used in the SD, or are they perhaps mutually exclusive. (There is no direct reference to the Principia in the SD on this.) We can now return to SD I, 37 where we find one of the most well-known lines from the Book of Dzyan, describing the state of time in the cosmic night of the universe, and the first line of HPB’s commentary on it:

2. TIME WAS NOT, FOR IT LAY ASLEEP IN THE INFINITE BOSOM OF DURATION (a).

(a) Time is only an illusion produced by the succession of our states of consciousness as we travel through eternal duration, and it does not exist where no consciousness exists in which the illusion can be produced; but “lies asleep.”

The succession of states of consciousness is of course khandakāla, “broken time”, the phenomenon, while eternal duration is kāla, its noumenon. The noumenon is here the true essential nature of time, as opposed to “broken time”, the illusive object of the senses (or limited mind). (TG) HPB’s duration is therefore without relation to anything external or measured by external movement, while “broken time” is perceptual, and therefore dependent on the consciousness of the observer. In this respect this polarity is certainly equal to Newton’s distinguishment of “in itself” and “perceived”, and perhaps also equal to “true” and “apparent”. If we take the terms absolute and relative in their strongest sense they also express unconditional (kāla) and conditional (khandakāla) time.

Speaking of duration however, Newton speaks of “mathematical” time, “flowing evenly” and “accurately”, and later in the Scholium, he states that the difference between absolute and relative time is the “equation of time” (aequatio temporis). This is an astronomical term and method (which the modern translators were not clear enough about in their translation), determining the aritmetic difference between apparent and mean solar time, determining of which was one of the main problems of reckoning time in his days. Newton refers to the “experiment of the pendulum clock”, which was described in Christiaan Huygens’ 1673 work Horologium Oscillatorium (The Pendulum Clock: or geometrical demonstrations concerning the motion of pendula as applied to clocks). Newton uses the same terms “absolute time” and “duration” for the time measured by the pendulum clock and the eclipses of the satellites of Jupiter as for the absolute time which is “in se”, or without relation to anything external or measured by external movement. In his time he had no reason to suspect that many similar differences would be found in the centuries ahead. In this respect HPB’s and Newton’s absolute time are not the same. We may, however, suppose that Newton intended absolute time to be “in se”, in which case he had the same intention as HPB.

If we approach the idea of Newton’s noumenal time in a meditative way, it shows itself as HPB’s primordial aspect of the universe. Vice versa, if we read HPB’s proem to the SD with Newton’s view of duration in mind, as time “flowing equally”, the text becomes much clearer. Another clue may be found in the well-known diagram of meditation which HPB dictated to E.T. Sturdy in 1887 for the benefit of some of her pupils. The first line of this meditative excercise is “First conceive of Unity by expansion in Space and infinite in Time Either with or without self-identification at first”. Further down in the diagram it is said: “Acquisition is completed by conception ‘I am all Space & Time.'” (Spelling and grammar for the two lines are conform the original document.) The exercise is apparently designed to bring our consciousness from the plane of phenomenal space and time, to the state of noumenal, absolute space and time, to enable us to look at ourselves and our actions from this universal perspective.

Absolute Space, Place and Motion

The second point in the Scholium is about Space, where Newton distinguishes again between Absolute and Relative Space. Absolute Space is defined as 1. “natura sua sine relatione ad externum quodvis”, the nature of which is without relation to anything external, and 2. “semper manet similare & immobile”, always remains the same and unmoving. Again the word Absolute is used in the same way as in the SD, it is “in se”, without reference to anything else. Place is the part of space that a body occupies, and the definition of Absolute Place is derived from that of Absolute Space. The third point in the Scholium states (paraphrase): if a Place is described with reference to Absolute Space it is Absolute, otherwise it is Relative. The definition of Absolute Motion is again derived from that of Absolute Place. The fourth point in the Scholium states: Absolute Motion is the change of position of a body from one Absolute Place to another; Relative Motion is change of position from one Relative Place to another.

We may try to compare the terms Motion as they are used in the Principia and the SD. In (another location in) the Principia, Motion is defined as displacement, “translatio corporis”. In the Definitions, “Quantity of Motion” is defined as “a measure of motion that arises from the velocity and the quantity of matter jointly”, which is what we would now call momentum. Newton uses the term “vis insita” (“inherent force”), for the “force of inertia”, which could now be called potential energy. The terms vis viva and vis insita were first used by his contemporary Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz who in his ideas on motion was primarily focussed on energy rather than momentum. As we will see later, the term energy is not used in its modern sense until the first half of the nineteenth century.

In the SD, the ideas of motion, force, momentum and energy are not distinguished as strictly as they are in physics today. For example, the debate on “Modes of Motion“, which we will discuss in our next paragraph, is all about mechanical work, or energy. Later in the SD, the forces of nature are discussed, among which are light, heat, electricity, magnetism, etc. However, from the fact that Motion is preserved during the cosmic night, it may be inferred that HPB’s Motion cannot be Newton’s motion (displacement) or force (cause of change of motion). That leaves us with momentum and energy, since they are both “conserved”, or time-invariant. For the time being we can leave this question undecided, but it may be clear that in the case of Motion, as opposed to Space and Time, the term Absolute Motion in the SD is different from Absolute Motion in Newton’s Principia. Perhaps it is necessary to find out more on the concept of Motion in the SD.

Motion in Late Nineteenth-Century Physics

In a series of lectures in 1842 and 1843 and his book of 1846, The Correlation of Physical Forces, Sir William Robert Grove argued that thinking of for example electricity and magnetism as immaterial “fluids” or imponderabilia as they were called then, was incorrect. An example of such a fluid was “phlogiston”, the hypothetical fluid supposedly responsible for the carrying heat, for example from fire to different objects. Grove proposed that these fluids were actually “affections of matter” and not separate physical entities, and presented the idea that these different affections were quantatively related, or as he defined it, “correlated”. The fluids, imponderabilia and correlations of forces are mentioned many times in the SD. This idea may be considered an early formulation of the first law of thermodynamics, which states that the energy in a closed thermodynamical system is conserved. The concept of energy as a measure of mechanical work was not generally in use until William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) in 1851 published his article On the dynamical theory of heat, were he was able to combine and adapt existing ideas to establish the foundations of thermodynamics. In 1884-1888 however, when HPB was working on the SD, the discussion on the nature of several other phenomena as forces of nature, differentiated from one source was far from being over.

Since the publication in 1868 of John Tyndall’s book Heat Considered as a Mode of Motion, where he showed that heat is in relation to matter “a motion of its ultimate particles”, the idea grew that, besides heat, other phenomena like electricity, magnetism or sound, could perhaps also be considered forms or modes of motion. The term motion indicates here again, that heat may be measured in terms of the quantity of mechanical work which could be produced by it, for example in an ideal heat engine. In many places in the SD, HPB argues against the modes of motion, in favour of the occultist view of intelligent life as the cause behind every manifested physical force. In SD I, 147 we find an illustration of this:

The Occultists […] assert that all the so-called Forces of Nature, Electricity, Magnetism, Light, Heat, etc., etc., far from being modes of motion of material particles, are in esse […] the differentiated aspects of that Universal Motion which is discussed and explained in the first pages of this volume (See Proem).

The Universal Motion HPB speaks of here, is one of the three aspects of the Absolute which we have seen in our earlier quote from SD I, 43. How exactly we should interpret this concept of Motion is perhaps not immediately clear from this, but still this fragment provides us with some interesting directions. Apparently HPB agrees with the idea of many of the scholars of her time that electricity, magnetism, light, heat, etc. may be unified under a larger concept. In our time this is not thought to be completely evident, as a theory unifiying all different types of force, or interactions, is yet to be found. The representation of electricity, magnetism etc. primarily as forces of nature, that is, describing them only in terms of mechanical work, could now be seen as an oversimplification of these complex phenomena. In the modes of motion discussion, the central concept is mechanical work, energy, but it is still unclear if with motion in the SD is meant energy, or perhaps momentum. Important is however that because Motion is seen as an aspect of the Absolute, it is preserved in pralaya. Like Abstract Space, Motion exists in both the nivṛtti and pravṛtti stages of the universe. In more modern terms we could say that this Motion is subject to a conservation law, or is invariant with time.

Six Primary Forces in Nature

To be able to connect the “modes of motion” to other key concepts in the SD, further down the analytical tree, we have to return to stanza IV from the Book of Dzyan, and its commentary (SD I, 86-87), where the term Sons of Fire is explained.

These are all names of various deities which preside over the Cosmo-psychic Powers. […] They are:– “The Sons of Fire” — because they are the first beings […] evolved from Primordial Fire.

In SD I, 88, stanza IV continues:

(2) LEARN WHAT WE, WHO DESCEND FROM THE PRIMORDIAL SEVEN, WE, WHO ARE BORN FROM THE PRIMORDIAL FLAME, HAVE LEARNED FROM OUR FATHERS (a).

[…]

The distinction between the “Primordial” and the subsequent seven Builders is this: The former are the Ray and direct emanation of the first “Sacred Four,” the Tetraktis, that is, the eternally Self-Existent One (Eternal in Essence note well, not in manifestation, and distinct from the universal ONE). Latent, during Pralaya, and active, during Manvantara, the “Primordial” proceed from “Father-Mother” (Spirit-Hyle, or Ilus); whereas the other manifested Quaternary and the Seven proceed from the Mother alone. It is the latter who is the immaculate Virgin-Mother, […]

Please note that in this article we are discussing the second seven, born from the primordial flame, the “Sons of Fire”, and not the primordial seven. This second group is said to be born “from the Mother alone”, which is the immaculate virgin-mother, about which many examples are given in the SD about the mystery of the immaculate birth in different religious and philosophical traditions. One of these examples we find in the Virgin-Mother as Kanya (Shakti), or Durga-Kanya, the sixth sign of the zodiac, which takes us to the passage in SD I, 292, quoted from T. Subba Row’s article The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac, where the six “modes of motion”, the six primary forces in nature, are described as the six shaktis (śakti), summarised in their seventh, which is fohat. In an earlier article, Kāraṇa, the Causeless Cause, we have found that Motion is identical with kāraṇa, and that the terms dzyu and fohat are used in the SD to indicate the nivṛtti and pravṛtti aspects of motion respectively. To not complicate things unneccessarily here, we can refrain from elaborating upon the Virgin-Mother, the six primary forces, the shaktis and fohat.

Now our consciously naive analytical method, of starting out with only the SD volumes I & II and works referred to, then in second place consulting other works by HPB and writings directly connected to the masters of wisdom, and then perhaps in third place other theosophical works, may sometimes surprise us with new information in later stages of our investigation. In this case, in CW XII, 620, the Esoteric Instructions, we find the following:

In The Secret Doctrine it is almost revealed that the “Sons of Fohat” are the personified forces known, in a general way as Motion, Sound, Heat, Light, Cohesion, Electricity (or Electric) Fluid, and Nerve Force (or Magnetism). This truth, however, cannot teach the student to attune and moderate the Kundalini of the Cosmic plane with the vital Kundalini, the Electric Fluid with the Nerve Forces, and unless he does so, he is sure to kill himself; for the one travels at the rate of about 90 feet, and the other at the rate of 115,000 leagues a second. The seven Śaktis respectively called Para Śakti, Jnâna-Śakti, etc., etc., are synonymous with the “Sons of Fohat,” for they are their female aspects. At the present stage, however, as their names would only be confusing to the Western student, it is better to remember the English equivalents as translated above.

This fragment suggests that the seven forces of nature are the ones mentioned, but of course we still do not know for certain their correct relations with the six shakti’s. What we do know, or may derive from it, is that HPB has made our task more difficult than neccessary in the first two volumes of the SD because she, and perhaps her guides, thought that giving out the complete knowledge on this subject might have been too dangerous and confusing at that time. As we know, the Esoteric Instructions were written for circulation among a small group of her pupils, but were in 1897 posthumously published in SD volume III. For our purpose though, with this, we will have enough information to try to connect our findings to the field of contemporary physics in a later stage. We may conclude our analysis with a summary of the six or seven “forces” in the form of a still fragmentary table:

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2
September

Wash, Rinse, Repeat. The Cosmical Cycle of Manifestation-Dissolution. Defined, or Redefined

By Robert Hütwohl on September 2, 2016 at 9:34 pm

“. . . there never was a first Kalpa, nor will there ever be a last one, in Eternity.”1

—H. P. Blavatsky

Georges Lemaître, a Catholic astronomer, physicist and professor, proposed in 1927, based on Einstein’s theory of gravitation, the cosmos was not static and was in fact expanding and therefore could be traced back in time to a single point or primordial atom. This theory eventually became known as the “Big Bang.” If we were able to play the great cosmic-movie, in reverse from today, we would see the currently expanding galaxies eventually moving together or coalescing into a single point.2

The expanse of time as to when the “Big Bang” occurred, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 13.8 billion years.3 The “Big Bang” theory is of course, the physical theory, and cannot accommodate the metaphysical realms, but nevertheless the “as above, so below” correspondence or analogy (the “old Hermetic axiom” as Blavatsky calls it) should have some validity. (However, some clues to the existence of the more subtle realms may lie in that of dark matter and dark energy.4)

Some years ago, upon reading about the cycle of periodicity in The Secret Doctrine, i.e., the Stanzas from the Book of Dzyan,5 sporadically in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (for the ideas of mahā-manvantara, mahā-kalpa and mahā-pralaya, for instance)6 and the Ṛg-veda, I found, after learning about the “Big Bang” theory in my science courses at the University, this science-based theory was highly incongruent and amiss, as I was expecting some correlation with the Ancients and modern science. (I was exposed to Theosophy first before being vulnerable to the onerous science courses which I had to take at the University.)

Recently however, a new cosmical-origins theory has come to light which may appear to approach justifying H. P. Blavatsky’s statement about beginning-less kalpas.

In a scientific paper published last July, “Perfect Quantum Cosmological Bounce,”7 the idea is “the [conventional] big bang” may actually be the result of a preceding “big bang” but based on a modification of the prevailing “big bang” theory due to quantum mechanics. Physicists Steffen Gielen and Neil Turok, have developed a mathematical-cosmological model or simulation which indicates the present universe is the result of a previous universe. Inherent in their theory is periodicity, an endless cycle of manifestation and dissolution, with subsequent manifestations dependent upon the previous collapsed manifested universes.

The predecessor universe would have contracted toward a dense state that marked its big crunch end, and our universe’s big bang beginning. . . . the universe does not completely get destroyed because the effects of quantum mechanics preserves it.8

What is yet to be determined is how long the collapsed state is preserved, which is a critical component of the entire theory and must eventually be resolved.

Their model postulates the present condition of our universe is an expansion from a previous contraction. It is being described as an eternal bounce, built on conformal cyclicity.

The Big Bounce theory states that the universe follows a cycle of contraction and expansion, repeated infinitely. According to this theory, the universe did not begin with a violent explosion, but rather formed as a previous universe expanded or ‘bounced’ back collapsing during the contraction phase of this endless cycle.

One of the main issues that had prevented the Big Bounce theory from securing its validity is that there was no proposed explanation as to how the universe could expand back after its full collapse. The team’s simulation suggests that once the universe reaches its smallest point, the common laws of physics governing our daily environment are abandoned and the rules of quantum mechanics come into play. The effects of quantum mechanics would preserve of the universe, keeping it from destruction and allowing the emergence of another universe like the one we’re in today.

Quantum mechanics saves us when things break down,” explains team member Steffen Gielen, from Imperial College London. “It saves electrons from falling in and destroying atoms, so maybe it could also save the early Universe from such violent beginnings and endings as the Big Bang.

Using quantum mechanics in a computer simulation, the team was able to formulate how the universe could spring back from deflation, even with only radiation and a little matter remaining in it.

The big surprise in our work is that we could describe the earliest moments of the hot Big Bang quantum mechanically, under very reasonable and minimal assumptions about the matter present in the Universe,” said team member Neil Turk [Turok], from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada. “Under these assumptions, the Big Bang was a ‘bounce’, in which contraction reversed to expansion.

What’s next for this simulation is to find out if the entities within the universe, such as galaxies, can come into existence under these circumstances. As technology evolves, the chances that quantum computers could finally catch up with the enigmas of the universe are looking better and better.9

Although this theory has been around for about ten years now, the breakthrough is the theorists have been able to pass through an undefined singularity, not occupying space and time, which is an impossibility. Now, Turok and Gielen have been able to pass over the singularity and out the other side.

Obviously, all these discoveries by science can only address the material cause, but again, but transposed, as below, so above. This model by Gielen and Turok is at its earliest stages and future models will require more powerful quantum computers with which to expand and complete the theory and take in more variables. The Ancient’s have taught, the contraction cycle is equivalent to the manifestation cycle in terms of time or duration. Hopefully this “Big Bounce” theory will incorporate that idea, and I have no doubt it eventually will.

Metaphorically, there must be some highly abstruse system involved in any cycle or Mahā-cycle, similar to the idea of a śiṣṭa (from the Sanskrit verb root, śiṣ, allow to remain or leave a residue) or remainder, no matter what level of consciousness we are describing. It is that śiṣṭa of quantum mechanics which science may have begun to have discovered and I think this is quite amazing. I use the term “śiṣṭa” because, it is these “remainders or latent seeds” which are left on a planet as the life-wave leaves that planet to pass through the round to the next of the other planets within that septenary, and once the life-wave returns again to that former planet, the śiṣṭa-s are responsible for reinvigorating the new cycle or life-wave.

What then, keeps these cycles, as far as we know based on what the Ancients describe, progressing? In the case of a human, we understand karma is a direct motivational factor. Can we then, correspondingly, “as above, so below,” consider cosmic karma as responsible for the cycles of the solar systems, galaxies and universe? There would be no reason to require a cycle to repeat itself unless the fruits of a previous cycle contribute to the grandeur of a future progressive cycle. Science however, does not go that far yet, as it does not recognize karma and can’t even imagine such details of cycles within cycles of interconnectivity beyond the physical. That, is simply too vast and requires too much information from the mental, intuitional and spiritual levels, much less the divine correspondents (i.e., the seven planes of the human is but the physical plane, consisting of seven sub-planes, of the divine). But if this new finding approaches validation, I see science eventually looking to the Ancients for guidance, which is something science rarely ever probably does. That is still a long way in the future. But I do see scientists using ancient information to guide their horses; it is just that they require empirical data to hold the reins of everything.

But, this new scientific model is the most advanced to be developed for almost 100 years.

Science and metaphysics of the Ancients are slowly melding in agreement.10 Although “as above, so below”11 nevertheless applies here, science is helping us to understand the process of the cycles of manifestation and dissolution. Obviously, due to the makeup of the matter involved, science can never empirically discern the metaphysical, but they should be able to eventually approach and prove the existence of the four etheric sub-planes of the higher physical. Over time, proof can be ascertained by various ways towards consciousness operating through the emotional and mental vehicles.12 And, indirectly, science should be able, to determine the phenomena of clairvoyance. But, science’s understanding of SPACE as an infinite extension of an eternal, unchangeable “entity,” or “Eternal Parent” which transcends thought, that may never come to be.

The metaphysics I am referring to, citing only out of many examples, is that from The Secret Doctrine, Proem, one of the fundamental propositions:

(b) The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically ‘the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,’ called ‘the manifesting stars,’ and the ‘sparks of Eternity.’ . . .

Further, we have what I consider the most sublime creation myth or story, other than the most sublime, The Book of Dzyan,13 is that of the Ṛg-veda.14 These hymns originated from the Vedic Ṛiṣis of the 1st sub-race of the Aryan root stock, the 5th. They arrived into northern India or Āryāvarta from the north, last, compared to the 2nd-5th sub-races, for various reasons.

And in the Ṛg-veda, Maṇḍala (Book) X, Sūkta (Hymn) 129 (X.129) in the triṣṭubh meter, consisting of seven mantras or verses, initially describes the state or condition prior to the first great manifestation or mahā-sṛṣṭi. The Hymn is also known as the Nāsadīya Sūkta. I should note, the tenor, poetic beauty, vibration, and content of X.129, though brief and succinct, may be compared to the more extensive and illuminating Stanzas I and II of The Book of Dzyan. In a measure, my sense is the Nāsadīya Sūkta was extracted from The Book of Dzyan, long ago.

The content of the Nāsadīya Sūkta, written by a certain Parameṣṭhī Prajāpati, contains:

“. . . in the seven mantras of this Sūkta we find a complete statement of Vedic metaphysics which is the quintessence of the Ṛigveda. . . . The seed of knowledge lies somewhere in its heart. It is saturated with the fragrance of thought that was in the intuition of the Ṛishis. One may repeat the hymn and breathe its aroma even now. The words are merely symbols which explode as thought advances to more subtle sheaths of Truth. ‘This hymn is the finest effort of the imagination of the Vedic poet, and nothing else equals it.’”15

Out of the approximately seventy-two complete or partial translations of this Hymn since 1805 (H. T. Colbrooke) I am quoting David Reigle’s recent translation, as found in his Creation Stories-The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas Part 2-Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129, the “Hymn of Creation” By David Reigle on February 28, 2013 at 11-41 pm. See sources below for the grammatical and etymological comments.16 The mantras are written in the padapāṭha. That is: a word-by-word breakdown, irrespective of sandhi rules. The Sanskrit padapāṭha verses are listed first, then David’s English translation.

 

nā́sad āsīn nó sád āsīt tadā́nīṃ nā́sīd rájo nó výomā paró yát

kím ā́varīvaḥ kúha kásya śármann ámbhaḥ kím āsīd gáhanaṃ gabhīrám || 1 ||

[1.] [It] was not non-existent, nor was [it] existent then. There was no world, nor sky, [nor] what is beyond. What moved incessantly? Where? In the abode of what? Was [it] water, dense [and] deep?

 

ná mṛtyúr āsīd amṛ́taṃ ná tárhi ná rā́tryā áhna āsīt praketáḥ

ā́nīd avātáṃ svadháyā tád ékaṃ tásmād dhānyán ná paráḥ kíṃ caná̄sa || 2 ||

[2.] There was not death nor life (“non-death”) then. There was no distinguishing sign of night [or] of day. That one breathed without air by [its] inherent power. Other than just that, there was not anything else.

 

táma āsīt támasā gūḷhám ágre ’praketáṃ saliláṃ sárvam ā idám

tucchyénābhv ápihitaṃ yád ā́sīt tápasas tán mahinā́jāyatáikam || 3 ||

[3.] Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning. All this was water without distinguishing sign. That one germ which was covered by the void was born through the power of heat.

 

ká̄mas tád ágre sám avartatā́dhi mánaso rétaḥ prathamáṃ yád ā́sīt

sató bándhum ásati nír avindan hṛdí pratī́ṣyā kaváyo manīṣā́ || 4 ||

[4.] Desire in the beginning came upon that [germ], which was the first seed of mind. Sages, having searched in the heart with inspired thought, found out [desire to be] the link of the existent in the non-existent.

 

tiraścī́no vítato raśmír eṣām adháḥ svid āsī́3d upári svid āsī3t

retodhā́ āsan mahimā́na āsan svadhā́ avástāt práyatiḥ parástāt || 5 ||

[5.] Their cord was extended across. Was there a below? Was there an above? There were seed-placers, there were powers; inherent power below, impulse above.

 

kó addhā́ veda ká ihá prá vocat kúta ā́jātā kúta iyáṃ vísṛṣṭiḥ

arvā́g devá̄ asyá visárjanenā́thā kó veda yáta ābabhū́va || 6 ||

[6.] Who really knows? Who here can say? From where has [it] been born? From where [has come] this manifestation? The gods are later than the manifestation of this [cosmos]. Then who knows from what [it] has come into being?

 

iyáṃ vísṛṣṭir yáta ābabhú̄va yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná

yó asyā́dhyakṣaḥ paramé výoman só aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda || 7 ||

[7.] From what this manifestation has come into being, whether [it] was made or whether not, its overseer who is in the highest heaven, he surely knows; or else [he] knows not.

 

In the seventh verse,17 some translators use the pronoun “he” (Sanskrit, saḥ), while others translate “it” as the subject, depending upon the verb “dadhe” and what form it takes in the sentence and whether an “agency” was involved for the process of creation or manifestation. David Reigle has gone over these particulars. This Hymn should not be mistakenly considered a Hymn of Creation but a Hymn of Manifestation or Periodicity. That is why I prefer to call it the Cosmogonic Hymn. Using the term Creation can imply a Creator, which further implies an anthropomorphic agent, as in the Genesis of the Bible creation story.

Considering the new scientific model, out of the cycle of Periodicity the seeds of a new, future cycle are inherent in the next manifestation cycle, which empowers the continuing cycle. There is no reason to doubt cycles encompass a progressive or evolutionary effect (described by some writers as a spiral cycle). The cycles of the universe, infant and mature galaxies, and solar systems and planets and root-races and all forms of life, cyclically, sṛṣṭi (San.) = “manifestation or letting go” and pralaya = “dissolution or reabsorption,” are uninterrupted and undeterred, if we can rely on the information given to us. The lessor cycles contribute to the greater cycles. Such details are, however, not indicated in the Cosmogonic Hymn in the Ṛg-veda.

The Hindu Vaiśeṣika system, concurs with The Mahatma Letters ( such as letter no. 10)  that an anthropomorphic god is not necessary for the manifestation and dissolution of a “system,” whereby a “system,” can range from an atom, living being, root-race, planet, solar system, galaxy or universe beyond to aditi (the unbound). Although the masses may believe in an anthropomorphic deity, evidence by extensive study has shown this is a figment of the imagination.18

Is the nāsadīya sūkta describing periodicity other than one cycle? No, as further explanation is required. The Proem of The Secret Doctrine indicates this, however. The topic of the big bang repeating itself does also, therefore it would go more with the Proem. The point of the Ṛg-veda verses are that at the beginning, there was (an inherent state of) nothing. Actually, the Proem (b) speaks of periodicity and then nothingness, then periodicity all over again. It says nothing as to whether each successive manifestation is greater than the previous manifestation.

 


Notes:

1Blavatsky, H. P., The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, 368.

 

2 A contrasting theory, the Steady State, as theorized by astronomer Fred Hoyle, argued the universe was static and ever eternal. This theory never won out over the “Big Bang” theory because, over time, it has been proven there is a cosmic microwave background radiation remaining from the original big bang explosion. Hoyle coined the term, Big Bang, out of disrespect to that theory, which eventually stuck. However, behind Hoyle’s argument against the Big Bang theory was his belief that the universe did not have a creator but at the same time could not be described in scientific terms, as it was irrational, since it was eternal.

 

3 The quite capable Hubble Space Telescope, using a certain gravitation lensing  technique, has been able to capture a field of galaxies (called Abell S1063) which are from the very earliest, about one billion years after the “Big Bang.” This is its most astounding feat so far.

And yet, The Book of Dzyan indicates a period of manifestation of 311,040 trillion years (seven eternities)!

 

4 Several excellent works, among many, have come to the forefront, hoping to crack the cosmic veil:

Gleyzes, Jérôme (2016) Dark Energy and the Formation of the Large Scale Structure of the Universe. Switzerland: Springer.

Mazure, Alain (2011) Matter, Dark Matter, and Anti-Matter. In Search of the Hidden Universe. London: Springer.

Panek, Richard (2011) The 4% Universe. Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

 

5 While my hypothesis is still in the formative states, there is evidence, for each root-race and its sub-races, there is a root teacher and a root Creation myth. The earliest Pelasgians, not the later, were the original Keltic peoples or 4th sub-race of the 5th root-race. They had their own teacher, Orpheus and there is a Pelasgian Creation story. The Ṛg-veda is the root text for the 1st sub-race of the 5th root-race, redacted by Vyāsa and the seven Rishis (Ṛṣi-s). I believe The Book of Dzyan, although having begun during the 4th or Atlantean root-race, is the root text for all of Humanity.

 

6 From the stanzas of The Book of Dzyan, Stanza I. “The Night of The Universe. The eternal parent [mother-space], wrapped in her ever-invisible robes [root-matter], had slumbered once again for seven eternities.”

 

7 Gielen, Steffen and Turok, Neil (2016) “Perfect Quantum Cosmological Bounce” in Physical Review Letters, PRL 117, 021301 (2016) week ending 8 July 2016, 1-5. From beginning to end, this paper is full of differential calculus and was not written for the non-professional, unsurprisingly. Since it is in copyright, I cannot supply it as an attachment.

 

8 See: http://futurism.com/new-simulation-supports-the-theory-of-the-big-bounce-instead-of-the-big-bang/

 

9 Big Bang – Or Big Bounce? | Perimeter Institute, dated July 6, 2016 at: https://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/node/101077

 

10 Another example is the recent determination of a new, fifth fundamental force of nature (due to the discovery of a new type of boson subatomic particle) and its possible connection with dark matter (85% of the universe consists of dark matter). This would be a sector outside of the standard model of physics. Further, the dark matter theory is considering that it is a “back door” to the universe. All this is approaching the realm of etheric matter. Recently, Astronomers have discovered a galaxy made of 99.99% dark matter.

 

11 “Everything in the Universe follows analogy. ‘As above, so below;’ Man is the microcosm of the Universe. That which takes place on the spiritual plane repeats itself on the Cosmic plane. Concretion follows the lines of abstraction ; corresponding to the highest must be the lowest; the material to the spiritual. . . .  ‘Physically or constitutionally the mineral monad differs, of course, from the human monad, which is neither physical nor can its constitution be rendered by chemical symbols and elements.’ In short, as the spiritual Monad is One, Universal, Boundless and Impartite, whose rays, nevertheless, form what we, in our ignorance, call the ‘Individual Monads’ of men, so the Mineral Monad—being at the opposite point of the circle—is also One—and from it proceed the countless physical atoms, which Science is beginning to regard as individualized.” The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, 177-8.

“The Universe is worked and guided  from within outwards.  As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth ; and man—the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm—is the living witness to this Universal Law and to the mode of its action.” The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, 274.

The occult or alchemical process from the Smagdarine Tablet of Hermes (Tabula Smaragdina Hermetis) states: “It is true, certain, and without falsehood, that whatever is below is like that which is above; and that which is above is like that which is below . . .” This work is so ancient, the speculation about it predominantly considers it never existed.

The planetary-microcosm relation and analogy to the cosmic-macrocosm process is also found in the human-microcosm (cakras, prāṇas within the nāḍis, etc.) to the cosmic-macrocosm.

This alchemical statement is also found in the Buddhist tantras, particularly the Hevajra Tantra [Part II volume. iv. lines 49cd of the Snellgrove Sanskrit/Tibetan on pages 68-9 and the English translation by Snellgrove on page 105 of Part I volume of Snellgrove, David (1959), The Hevajra Tantra. A Critical Study, Part I. Introduction and Translation. Part II Sanskrit and Tibetan Texts (London: Oxford University Press)]

yoginyā dehamadhyasthaṃ A-kārasamvarasthitaṃ || yathā bāhyaṃ tathādhyātmaṃ samvaraṃ tat prakāśitaṃ  ||49||

a yi rnam paḥi sdom pas gnas || sdom pa de ñid rab tu phye  ||49||

We explain the internal maṇḍala as being comprised in the unity of the sound A which exists at the centre of the yogini’s body, and just as the external maṇḍala (evolves from the seed-syllable), so also does the internal.

 

This is also quoted in Vanaratna’s commentary Rahasyadīpikā on Kṛṣṇācarya’s treatise Vasantatilakā, ed. by Rinpoche and Dwivedi, 1990: 90; in Bhattacharya, B., Ed. (1972) Abhayākaragupta’s Niṣpannayogāvalī, Baroda: Oriental Institute,  4 (only the first pāda of the line); for the reference to the Niṣpannayogāvalī and discussion on the analogical thinking, see: Wayman, Yoga of the Guhyasamājatantra, 62ff.

Likewise, in the Kālacakra-tantra literature we have in the Kālacakra-tantra commentary, Vimalaprabhā 3.57 (vol. II, page 57, lines 18-19 of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies edition) the following verse:

yathā bāhye tathā dehe yathā dehe tathāpare |

[As without, so it is within the body. As in the body, so it is within the other (i.e., the maṇḍala)]

 

trividham maṇḍalam jñātvā ācāryo maṇḍalaṃ likhet ||

[Having understood the three-fold maṇḍala, the teacher should draw the maṇḍala (the macrocosm).]

 

The Kālacakra-tantra contains in chapter I, the cosmogenesis chapter (lokadhātu paṭala) and in chapter II is the anthropogenesis chapter (adhyātma paṭala). They thus work together to cohere and explain the “as above, so below” relating the cosmos (macrocosm) to the human (microcosm).

 

12 Depending upon which nomenclature one prefers to describe the bodies or vehicles of consciousness, there are the kośa-s, upādhi-s and śarīra-s. Thus the etheric body is sometimes referred to as the prāṇamaya-kośa, higher sthūlopādhi, liṅga-śarīra, etc.

 

13 I don’t italicize the title, as we don’t really know its real title, however there is no question to me as to its existence. But my question is how it can be conveyed into a language such as Sanskrit. I think that, however, has already been done and awaits the day, when Humanity is ready for it. From, Annie Besant, D. L. and The Rt. Rev. C. W. Leadbeater, “The Book of the Golden Precepts or Voice of the Silence” in Talks on the Path of Occultism – Vol. II. A Commentary on “The Voice of the Silence:

The book has, however, several peculiarities which she does not there [The Secret Doctrine] mention. It appears to be very highly magnetized, for as soon as a man takes a page into his hand he sees passing before his eyes a vision of the events which it is intended to portray, while at the same time he seems to hear a sort of rhythmic description of them in his own language, so far as that language will convey the ideas involved. Its pages contain no words whatever – nothing but symbols.

 

14 The most recent complete translation, devoid of the Vedic Sanskrit verses and also without grammatical justification, is: Jamison, Stephanie W., Brereton Joel P., Trans. (2014) The Rigveda. The Earliest Religious Poetry of India (3-Volume Set) New York: The University of Texas South Asia Institute and Oxford University Press.

 

15 Agrawala, Vasudeva S. (1983) Hymn of Creation (Nāsadīya Sūkta, Ṛigveda X. 129) (Varanasi: Prithivi Prakashan), viii.

 

16 David Reigle is, as far as I have researched, the only translator who has thoroughly documented his work for the translation process of this sūkta. Grammatically, his work is impeccable. Among the many translations available for the Cosmogonic Hymn, most translators, with a few exceptions, do not justify their work. David has compiled a large number of sources, i.e, Sanskrit and/or English translations. See next footnote. See the series of articles on this website and his: http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/creation-stories-the-cosmogony-acount-from-the-vedas/

 

17 See David Reigle’s articles on the Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas, especially a survey of the Cosmogonic Hymn, listed here chronologically:

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 1: Introduction

By David Reigle on January 27, 2013 at 12:08 am

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129,

the “Hymn of Creation” By David Reigle on February 28, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129,

the “Hymn of Creation” Translation Notes (continued) By David Reigle on March 2, 2013 at 5:33 am

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129,

the “Hymn of Creation” Translation Notes (continued) By David Reigle on March 19, 2013 at 5:03 am

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129,

the “Hymn of Creation” Translation Notes (continued and concluded) By David Reigle

on March 31, 2013 at 5:29 am

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129,

the “Hymn of Creation” Translation Notes (continued and concluded)

By David Reigle on April 2, 2013 at 1:44 am

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 3: Comparison of Ṛg-veda 10.129

with the Book of Dzyan. By David Reigle on April 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

By David Reigle on April 30, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

 

18 An example of an excellent study:

Römer, Thomas. Trans. Raymond Geuss (2015) The Invention of God, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press

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5
October

The Universal Over-Soul

By Ingmar de Boer on October 5, 2013 at 10:13 am

The third fundamental proposition of the secret doctrine (SD
I, 17) postulates “the fundamental identity of all Souls
with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being an aspect
of the Unknown Root”. We might ask ourselves, what exactly
is this Over-Soul, and how can we relate it to other known
concepts in the philosopy of The Secret
Doctrine
?

1. The Over-Soul

The term Over-Soul refers to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay
The Over-soul, first published in 1841, in which he
describes the Over-soul as the source of higher inspiration in
man. From the essay:

The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past
and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is
that great nature in which we rest as the earth lies in the soft
arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-soul, within which
every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all
other; that common heart of which all sincere conversation is the
worship, to which all right action is submission; that
overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and
constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from
his character and not from his tongue, and which evermore tends
to pass into our thought and hand and become wisdom and virtue
and power and beauty. We live in succession, in division, in
parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the
whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every
part and particle is equally related; the eternal
ONE.

In the third fundamental proposition, it is stated that the
Universal Over-Soul is “an aspect of the Unknown
Root”. The Unknown Root is what we have identified with the
Absolute, or space, symbolised by the plane or circumference of
the circle, i.e. the circle without a central point, the
immaculate white disk from the archaic palmleaf manuscript
described in SD I, 1. An aspect of the Root will be one of three
aspects. On the same page the Universal Over-Soul is described as
the “pure Essence of the Universal Sixth
principle”, while the seventh principle is the Root
itself. The principles are counted here from “dense”
to “fine”. On page 19 this sixth principle is
identified with brahmā. On page 13 (footnote), a
fifth universal principle is mentioned, under the name of
āśa, “to which
corresponds and from which proceeds human Manas”.

2. The Universal Soul

The statements on the Universal Soul in The Secret
Doctrine
are very confusing, to say the least. In the third
fundamental proposition we find that the Over-Soul is the sixth
universal principle. In another location in the Proem, SD I, 9-10
we find:

The Occultist […] regards the Adi-Sakti
[…], in her A’kasic form of the Universal Soul — as
philosophically a Maya, and cause of human Maya. But this view
does not prevent him from believing in its existence so long as
it lasts, to wit, for one Mahamanvantara; nor from applying
Akasa, the radiation of Mulaprakriti,* to practical purposes,
connected as the World-Soul is with all natural phenomena, known
or unknown to science.

From this we can distill that the Universal Soul is not the
First unmanifested Logos, but the Second. In SD I, 420 we find a
more unequivocal statement on the Universal Soul:

UNIVERSAL SOUL is not the inert Cause of
Creation or (Para) Brahma, but simply that which we call the
sixth principle of intellectual Kosmos, on the manifested plane
of being. It is Mahat, or Mahabuddhi, the great Soul, the vehicle
of Spirit, the first primeval reflection of the formless CAUSE
[…].

It is clear from this quotation that the Universal Soul is
identical to the Second Logos, the sixth universal principle,
Mahat, the “Universal Mind”. This means that the
Universal Soul is none other than the “Universal
Over-Soul” of Emerson.

3. The Anima Mundi or World Soul

In SD I, 365 and the first footnote on that page, we find
evidence that this principle, which we call here the Second Logos
(here referred to as Brahma), is also identical with Anima Mundi
or the World Soul:

In the Hindu Katakopanishad, Purusha, the
divine spirit, already stands before the original matter, “from
whose union springs the great soul of the world,” Maha-Atma,
Brahma, the Spirit of Life,* etc., etc.**[…]

* The latter appellations are all identical
with Anima Mundi, or the “Universal Soul,” the astral light of
the Kabalist and the Occultist, or the “Egg of
Darkness.”

Then in SD I, 49 (and other locations), we find the statement
that ālaya is the Universal Soul and Anima
Mundi:

In the Yogacharya system of the contemplative
Mahayana school, Alaya is both the Universal Soul (Anima Mundi)
and the Self of a progressed adept.

Whenever HPB uses ālaya, she refers to the Second Logos
(unless otherwise indicated), although on the same page (SD I,
49) she states that the word ālaya has “two or even
three meanings”. In our discussion on Ālaya in the
Laṅkāvatārasūtra Pt. II
, we have argued
what the two or three meanings might be, namely the jāti,
pravṛtti and karman aspects of ālaya.

4. Corrections to Earlier Findings

So, we have to correct two errors in our earlier posts. Part
of the table in Ālaya in the
Laṅkāvatārasūtra Pt. II

was:

Aspect of ālaya 1. jāti 2. pravṛtti
Corresponds to remaining in its original nature evolving
Cosmic Universal Soul Mahat [called Maha-Buddhi], Universal Mind, [Universal
Spiritual Soul]
, Emerson’s Over-Soul, Anima
Mundi

with the remark: “It may be noted that these conclusions
do not in every respect meet the ones from The Three
Logoi
. The differences concern the terms Universal Soul and
Anima Mundi. It will be necessary to clear up these differences
in a later stage.” We know now, that this part of the table
should have looked like:

Aspect of ālaya 1. jāti 2. pravṛtti
Corresponds to remaining in its original nature evolving
Cosmic Universal Soul Mahat [called Maha-Buddhi], Universal Mind, Universal Soul,
Emerson’s Over-Soul, Anima Mundi

In the post entitled The Three Logoi (3), the Universal
Soul is categorized under the Third Logos, while it should have
been under the Second. The corrected text would
be:

  • First Logos, the One, the Ever Unmanifest, represented by
    M
    ūlaprakti, the Plotinic
    and Orphic Hen, Hyparxis, Universal Good, the Christian
    Father-aspect, Divine Will.
  • Second Logos, the manifested Logos, the Logos proper, the
    Verbum, the Plotinic Nous, the Demiurge, HPB’s Anima Mundi,
    Creative Intelligence, Mahat, Universal Mind, Universal Soul,
    Universal Intelligence, Divine Mind, Divine Wisdom, the
    Son-aspect, the Christ, Brahmā, Īśvara,
    Avalokiteśvara (manifested).
  • Third Logos, the Light of the Logos, Fohat,
    Daiviprakṛti, the Plotinic Psuchē, Universal Soul
    (the Plotinic Anima Mundi)
    , the Nous of Anaxagoras, Divine
    Activity, the Holy Ghost.

5. The Sacred Four

In stanza IV, śloka 5 (SD I, 98) the four highest
universal principles are described. Here, the seventh (first)
principle is called darkness, the sixth (second) adi-sanat, the
fifth (third) svâbhâvat, the fourth (fourth) the
formless square. The first three are “enclosed within the
boundless circle”, and together they are called the
sacred four or the tetraktis.

absolute - 8


In the following table, the four highest Universal
(“Cosmic”) principles are summarized, as described in
various sources.

Principle 7th 6th 5th 4th
Proem to the SD the ONE principle, the Absolute, THAT, Sat, Be-ness, SPACE,
the Root, Parabrahman, Brahman (neutrum)
Universal Over-Soul, Universal Soul,
Brahmā
ākāśa  
SD I, 98 (st. IV śl. 5) darkness adi-sanat svâbhâvat formless square
SD II, 596 The Unmanfested Logos Universal (latent) Ideation Universal (or Cosmic) active Intelligence Cosmic (Chaotic) Energy
Cosmological Notes in BL p. 378; spelling cf.
Blavatsky’s Secret Books, p. 64
svayambhuva nārāyaṇa yajña vāc
snyugs dkon mchog nam ‘mkha (Skt. ākāśa) ‘od (Skt. prabhā, āloka)
Latent Spirit Ensoph Universal Mind Virāj, Universal Illusion Cosmic Will
Additional terms Mother-space, the Eternal Parent, Eternal Mother (1886 Ms),
First Logos
Second Logos Father-Mother, Fire-Mist  

Category: Alaya, Anima Mundi, Brahma, Cosmogenesis, Darkness, Logos, Mahat, Rootless Root, Space, Svabhavat, Universal Mind, World Soul | No comments yet

25
May

The Orthography of Sien-Tchan

By Ingmar de Boer on May 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm

In the “Chinese section” of the Book of Dzyan (see SD I, 136-139), in stanza 6, ślokas 1 and 2 we find the term SIEN-TCHAN, in śloka 2 spelled TSIEN-TCHAN, and on page 32 alternatively spelled as SIEN-TCHANG. According to HPB the term refers to “our universe”.

Locations and spellings in the SD:

I, 32 SIEN-TCHANG
I, 32 TSIEN-TCHAN
I, 136 SIEN-TCHAN (our Universe)
I, 137 Sien-Tchan
I, 138 SIEN-TCHAN
I, 139 Sien-Tchan (the “Universe”)

In SD III, 393, cf. CW XIV, 408 we have the spelling Sien-chan, as David and Nancy Reigle noticed in Blavatsky’s Secret Books, in p. 64n1. In this same article, entitled An Unpublished Discourse of Buddha, in a note on the same page, Sien-Chan seems to be identified with Nam-Kha, which is Tibetan for sky, heaven:

* The Universe of Brahmâ (Sien-Chan; Nam-Kha) is Universal Illusion, or our phenomenal world.

In SD I, 23 we have another spelling, in the “night of Sun-chan”, which seems to refer to the night of Brahmâ (SD I, 41), the night of the universe, which is pralaya, see also the post and comments here.

In the Würzburg pre-version of the SD we find still another spelling, “sien-tchen (one universe)”. (e.g. SD Adyar Ed 1993 vol. III, p. 518)

In The Early Teachings of the Masters ed. by Jinarajadasa we also find the spelling Sien-chan, representing the Tibetan word sems can, as the “animated universe”. In the version of this text in Cosmological Notes we find the spelling Sem chan. Sems can is “animated”, or “animated beings”, “sentient beings”, literally meaning something like “having a mind”. It corresponds to the Sanskrit term sattva.

Summing up: we have here already eight different spellings of Sien-Tchan, and most of these look like Chinese words. However, the only spelling which seems to shed some light on this, having a corresponding meaning, is a Tibetan word.

In the Boris de Zirkoff edition of the SD, the spelling of Sien-Tchan is interpreted as Hsien-chan, adding a ninth spelling to our collection. De Zirkoff interpreted this term as Chinese, and converted it to the Wade-Giles standard, apparently without explicit justification. Still, his idea on this might be right, while the connection with Tibetan sems can is wrong.

De Zirkoff’s spelling hsien chan corresponds to pīnyīn spelling xian zhan. Modern dictionaries do not seem to include any words with this combination of syllables, or in fact any other clues, which does not give us any reason to abandon the Tibetan interpretation as “sems can”, however unlikely this interpretation may seem at first sight.

Category: Book of Dzyan, Brahma, Cosmogenesis, Sien-Tchan | No comments yet

25
May

The Orthography of Kwan-Yin-Tien

By Ingmar de Boer on at 3:41 pm

In SD I, 136 (stanza 6, śloka 1), the Boris de Zirkoff edition has Kuan-yin-T’ien for Kwan-Yin-Tien in the original 1888 edition. HPB in her days did not use a standardized spelling for Chinese words, and in the Boris de Zirkoff edition the terms are converted to the Wade-Giles transliteration standard. For example the syllable kwan is spelled kuan according to Wade-Giles. This representation is still ambiguous because the tone information is missing, and furthermore the corresponding character is not uniquely determined. A digit might be placed after the syllable to specify the tone, but a better representation would be to specify the exact the character, to enable the reader to verify the terms using a dictionary.

It is easy to verify the spelling of Kwan Yin, as it is such a widespread term. HPB in SD I, 137 defines Kwan-Yin-Tien as “the melodious heaven of Sound”, the abode of Kwan Yin, and we can derive that the syllable tien signifies “heaven”. De Zirkoff’s rendering t’ien for heaven can be found in a modern dictionary as the character 天, and as a Wade-Giles spelling it seems to be correct.

The modern transliteration standard used in the People’s Republic of China is pīnyīn, which in 1979 has become an ISO standard. The pīnyīn representation would be guān yīn tiān, in modern characters 觀音天.

Category: Avalokiteshvara, Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Kwan-Yin | No comments yet

23
November

Cosmogenesis according to the Surya-siddhanta

By David Reigle on November 23, 2012 at 4:24 am

This is the title of an article published in The Theosophist, vol. 15, 1893, by N. Ramanuja Charri. Although he numbers the verses here translated by him starting with number 1, these verses come from chapter 12 of the Sūrya-siddhānta, where they are numbered 12-32. The file is here attached: “Cosmogenesis according to the Sūrya-siddhānta.”

Category: Cosmogenesis | No comments yet

2
November

The Relevance of Sacred Cosmogony

By David Reigle on November 2, 2012 at 4:46 am

The late Prof. F. B. J. Kuiper thought that cosmogony is “The Basic Concept of Vedic Religion.” In his article of that title, he tells why (History of Religions, vol. 15, 1975, pp. 107-108):

“The key to an insight into this religion is, I think, to be found in its cosmogony, that is, the myth which tells us how, in primordial time, this world came into existence. This myth owed its fundamental importance to the fact that every decisive moment in life was considered a repetition of the primeval process. Therefore the myth was not merely a tale of things that had happened long ago, nor was it a rational explanation of how this world had become what it is now. The origin of the world constituted the sacred prototype of how, in an endlessly repeated process, life and this world renewed themselves again and again.”

Category: Cosmogenesis | No comments yet

9
July

The Three Logoi (3)

By Ingmar de Boer on July 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm

4. Analysis

As we have seen, HPB associates Mahat, the Universal Mind or Intelligence, with the Second Logos. As Cosmic Ideation, we would associate it with the Nous and the world of Ideas of the Plotinic model, corresponding to the Second Logos. The Nous as the creative principle of the universe on the other hand, may be associated with the third aspect, not the second. In the Besant-Leadbeater interpretation the Nous is the creative Mind, corresponding to the Third Logos, Divine Activity. Therefore in this model the Demiurge is associated with the Third Logos, again because the third is the “creative aspect”. Notably, in both models the Dhyan Chohans are connected with the third aspect.

These different views, as we have seen, can be traced to the Plotinic interpretation of the three logoi by HPB, versus the interpretation of Damascius, and subsequently Mead in his Orpheus, and Besant and Leadbeater. Another source for Mead however, was The Secret Doctrine, as it was, naturally, for Besant and Leadbeater. Did Mead, Besant and Leadbeater make a conscious choice to deviate from HPB’s interpretation? We do not have an argumentation from any of them for doing so. Maybe they did not think they were so far removed from HPB’s interpretation? In SD I, 256 we find:

For MAHAT is the first product of Pradhana, or Akasa, and Mahat — Universal intelligence “whose characteristic property is Buddhi” — is no other than the Logos, for he is called “Eswara” Brahma, Bhava, etc. (See Linga Purana, sec. lxx. 12 et seq.; and Vayu Purana, but especially the former Purana — prior, section viii., 67-74). He is, in short, the “Creator” or the divine mind in creative operation, “the cause of all things.”

Pradhāna is associated with he First Logos, cp. Mūlaprakṛti. The first product of pradhāna is the Second Logos. Universal intelligence is the Logos, Īśvara, Brahmā, again the Second Logos, not the Third. In the next phrase the problem becomes apparent: he is the “Creator”, “the divine mind in creative operation”, which could easily be interpreted as the third aspect. It is, confusingly, about the Second Logos, the Divine Mind or Wisdom, and not about fohat, its force, i.e. the Third Logos.

We can see that the cause of misunderstanding here is, that the description of the Second and Third Logoi is not unambiguous. This quote from SD I, 256 is only one example, but this ambiguity occurs repeatedly through the whole text of the SD, making it difficult to reconstruct the model of the triad as it was intended.

5. Synthesis

When we combine the correspondences between the two interpretations, we might come to the following three “definitions”.

1. The First Logos is the ever unmanifest Logos, Divine Will.
2. The Second Logos is the manifested Logos, Divine Wisdom.
3. The Third Logos is described by HPB as the “light of the Logos”, Divine Activity.

I will summarize here, the model presented in The Secret Doctrine, suppleted with the terminology from The Ancient Wisdom and other correspondences found, leaving out the differences which are based on problems of interpretation, as we have been able to show, I hope convincingly, in these posts on the Three Logoi.

1. First Logos, the One, the Ever Unmanifest, represented by Mūlaprakṛti, the Plotinic and Orphic Hen, Hyparxis, Universal Good, the Christian Father-aspect, Divine Will.

2. Second Logos, the manifested Logos, the Logos proper, the Verbum, the Plotinic Nous, the Demiurge, HPB’s Anima Mundi, Universal Soul, Creative Intelligence, Mahat, Universal Mind, Universal Intelligence, Divine Mind, Divine Wisdom, the Son-aspect, the Christ, Brahmā, Īśvara, Avalokiteśvara (manifested).

3. Third Logos, the Light of the Logos, Fohat, Daiviprakṛti, the Plotinic Psuchē, the Nous of Anaxagoras, Divine Activity, the Holy Ghost.

 

Category: Anima Mundi, Avalokiteshvara, Brahma, Cosmogenesis, Daiviprakriti, Demiurge, Fohat, Hypostasis, Logos, Mahat, Mulaprakriti, Nous, Universal Mind, World Soul | 5 comments

9
July

The Three Logoi (2)

By Ingmar de Boer on at 4:59 pm

2. The three logoi in The Secret Doctrine

What comes closest to a definition of the logoi in The Secret Doctrine, is a quote from the 1885 lecture of T. Subba Row, published under the title Notes on the Bhagavad Gita. In SD I, 429 we find:

Metaphysicians explain the root and germ of the latter, according to Mr. Subba Row, as the first manifestation of Parabrahmam, “the highest trinity that we are capable of understanding,” which is Mulaprakriti (the veil), the Logos, and the conscious energy “of the latter,” or its power and light*; or — “matter, force and the Ego, or the one root of self, of which every other kind of self is but a manifestation or a reflection.”

So we have as the triad, according to Subba Row (Notes…, TUP 2nd ed., p. 22):

1. Mulaprakriti,
2. Eswara or Logos,
3. conscious energy of the Logos, which is its power and light.

Subba Row describes Mūlaprakṛti as a “veil over parabrahman”. He identifies the third aspect with the concept of Daiviprakṛti as used in the Bhagavad Gīta, and notes that it “is called fohat in several Buddhist books”.

HPB and Subba Row’s interpretation seems to correspond to Plotinus, who is considered the main representative of the Neo-Platonic system. In this model the Nous is the second hypostasis:

1. To Hen (The One)
2. Ho Nous (Intellect, Spirit, Universal Mind)
3. Hē Psuchē (The World Soul)

Mead in his work on Plotinus (p. 26 and 28) also describes the Nous as the second principle. Proclus, in his Metaphysical Elements, follows Plotinus in this respect: Proposition XX: The essence of soul [Hē Psuchē] is beyond all bodies [To Sōma], the intellectual na­ture [Ho Nous] is beyond all souls, and The One [To Hen] is beyond, all intel­lectual hypostases.

In the Christian tradition, for example in Augustinus’ De Trinitate, we find the same triad:

1. Father, cp. To Hen
2. Son, the Christ, the Word, the Logos, cp. Ho Nous
3. Holy Ghost, cp. the Anima Mundi, World Soul, Hē Psuchē

Contrary to Plotinus however, who identified the Nous with the Demiurge, in the Christian tradition the Father-aspect is identified with the Creator God, as formulated in the first line of the Nicene Creed of 325 (tr. Philip Schaff):

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.

3. The three logoi in The Ancient Wisdom

The introduction to Besant’s The Ancient Wisdom we find a clue as to the origin of the Besant-Leadbeater interpretation. On page 28, reference is made to Orpheus, a study by G.R.S. Mead of 1896 on the theogony of the Orphic religion. In Orpheus the creation of the universe begins with The One. The One Existence is called thrice unknown darkness in the Orphic system. From the darkness comes the primordial triad, with its three hypostases:

1. Universal Good (super-essential),
2. World Soul (self-motive essence),
3. Intellect (Mind).

These three hypostases “appear”, in AW p. 34-35, as the Christian Trinity where the First Logos is the Father, the “fount of all life”, the Second Logos the Son, and the Third Logos the Holy Ghost, the “creative Mind”. The creative Mind, the “noetic” aspect, is presented here as the third aspect.

From Orpheus (p. 93) we learn that the essential characteristics of the Orphic triads are defined by Plato as

1. Bound (hyparxis)
2. Infinite (power)
3. Mixed (noesis, fr. Nous)

In Plato’s dialogue Philebus, these characteristics are summed up by Socrates in a different order: 1. infinite (apeiron), 2. finite (peras) and 3. mixed (meikton). In SD I, 426, HPB states that Porphyry shows that the Monad and the Duad of Pythagoras are identical with Plato’s infinite and finite in “Philebus” — or what Plato calls the ἄπειρον and πέρας, confirming this order. The noetic, μεικτόν, is again in third position.

Mead in his turn in Orpheus refers to Neo-Platonist authors Proclus and Damascius. Damascius’ Difficulties and Solutions of First Principles seems to be Mead’s main source concerning the Orphic metaphysical system. Moreover, HPB has also read this work, and refers to it as “πρώτων ἀρχῶν“. In the First Principles, for example in the French translation of Edouard Chaignet of 1898, we find in § 55 that the third principle, which is the Nous, “is called mixed by Plato” and by “Philolaus and the pythagoreans”. The Three Universal Principles, the proenōma, are called

1. Father, Patēr
2. Power, Dunamis
3. Reason, Nous

We can see that Damascius’ interpretation of the Primordial Triad goes back to Plato’s Philebus. Even earlier, Anaxagoras (and later Aristotle) used the term Nous to denote purely the creative principle in the universe. As such, it could of course also be associated with the third principle.

Continued in part 3

Category: Brahma, Cosmogenesis, Darkness, Demiurge, Fohat, Hypostasis, Logos, Mulaprakriti, Nous | 4 comments

9
July

The Three Logoi (1)

By Ingmar de Boer on at 4:48 pm

H.P. Blavatsky (HPB), in The Secret Doctrine uses the term Logos throughout the text (with capital “L”, and without prior ordinal), usually indicating the so called Second Logos. In The Secret Doctrine each of the three logoi is attributed consistently to one of the three aspects, the hypostases, of what may be called the first cosmological triad of our system. Studying the three logoi in The Secret Doctrine can easily lead to confusion, not only because the subject matter itself is prone to confusion, but also because HPB’s style of writing can at times be very confusing.

In the oevres of Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater on the other hand, the three logoi are more clearly defined, but unfortunately they do not in every respect correspond to the logoi in The Secret Doctrine. In many later theosophical works, and also in many other modern works in the area of spirituality, the three logoi are often introduced without any attempt to definition, while implicitly referring to the relevant works of Besant and Leadbeater.

We could ask ourselves what is the origin of the Besant-Leadbeater interpretation, and how does it correspond to HPB’s version of the logoi? Can we explain the differences? Could we perhaps formulate new air-tight definitions for the three logoi?

1. Some Examples of Differences

There are some clear differences in interpretation, which we could discuss here, illustrated with examples from both Besant’s The Ancient Wisdom (AW) and HPB’s The Secret Doctrine (SD), before trying to go deeper into the foundations of the models.

Example 1: Mahat

In SD II, 468 we have:

[…] it is the Logos Demiurge (the second logos), or the first emanation from the mind (Mahat), […]

Instead, in AW, p.112, we find:

[…] the Great Mind in the Kosmos.  (Mahat, the Third LOGOS, or Divine Creative Intelligence, the Brahmâ of the Hindus, the Mandjusri of the Northern Buddhists, the Holy Spirit of the Christians.) 

HPB in the SD associates Mahat with the Second Logos, Divine Wisdom, the Brahmā of the Hindus, the Son-aspect of the Christians, instead of the Third.

Example 2: Mahat, the Demiurge and Avalokiteśvara

In SD I, 572 we have:

[…] universal Buddhi (the Maha-buddhi or Mahat in Hindu philosophies) the spiritual, omniscient and omnipotent root of divine intelligence, the highest anima mundi or the Logos.

The “Logos” here is the manifested or Second Logos. HPB in the SD identifies the Universal Mind (Mahat) with the Second Logos.

Further in SD I, 110 we have:

Simultaneously with the evolution of the Universal Mind, the concealed Wisdom of Adi-Buddha — the One Supreme and eternal — manifests itself as Avalokiteshwara (or manifested Iswara), which is the Osiris of the Egyptians, the Ahura-Mazda of the Zoroastrians, the Heavenly Man of the Hermetic philosopher, the Logos of the Platonists, and the Atman of the Vedantins.* By the action of the manifested Wisdom, or Mahat, represented by these innumerable centres of spiritual Energy in the Kosmos, the reflection of the Universal Mind, which is Cosmic Ideation and the intellectual Force accompanying such ideation, becomes objectively the Fohat of the Buddhist esoteric philosopher.

The Logos of the (Neo-) Platonists is the Plotinic Second Logos. It is the Demiurge and Avalokiteśvara, and corresponds to Mahat. In SD I, 72n we have, to be sure that HPB does not mean the Third Logos:

But there are two Avalokiteshwaras in Esotericism; the first and the second Logos.

Instead, in AW p. 42 we find:

Then the Third LOGOS, the Universal Mind, […]

Note that in the quotation from SD I, 110, the Anima Mundi (Second Logos), is not equivalent to the Anima Mundi, the World Soul, of the Neo-Platonists, which is the third aspect. This is, of course, to make things easier for us…

Example 3: Brahmā

In SD I, 381n we have:

In Indian Puranas it is Vishnu, the first, and Brahma, the second logos, or the ideal and practical creators, […]

HPB in the SD identifies Brahmā with the Second Logos.

Instead, in AW p. 14-15 we find:

The LOGOS in His triple manifestation is : [..]the Third, Manjusri – “the representative of creative wisdom, corresponding to Brahmâ.”

We could now take a closer look at the “definitions” of the three logoi in both these works, in the next post.

 

Category: Anima Mundi, Avalokiteshvara, Brahma, Cosmogenesis, Creation Stories, Darkness, Demiurge, Fohat, Hypostasis, Logos, Mahat, Mulaprakriti, Nous, Universal Mind, World Soul | No comments yet