The Three Logoi (2)

By Ingmar de Boer on July 9, 2012 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

  • The French 1898 translation of Edouard Chaignet, Problèmes et solutions touchant les premiers principes…, in four volumes, can be found here: http://archive.org/details/problmesetsolut02chaigoog

    Another French work, on the philosopher Damascius, is also found in the Internet Archive: http://archive.org/details/lephilosophedama00ruel

    In English, Damascius’ The Theogonies is found here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/af/af12.htm

    This one could also be of interest: “The G. R. S. Mead Collection”, at http://www.gnosis.org/library/grs-mead/mead_index.htm

  • ChristianvonLahr says:

    The Damascius’ Problems and Solutions translation runs $80. appx on Amazon, down from a list of $99. Might be too rich for a wide audience. Any insights here that add to the Blog would be appreciated.

  • Have not yet bought the Ahbel-Rappe translation. It looks very good though.

  • Nicholas says:

    Ingmar has done much profound analysis. He mentions Damascius’ work on First Principles. A recent translation in English is now available:

    Sara Ahbel-Rappe, Damascius’ Problems and Solutions Regarding First Principles, (New York, 2010) Oxford U. Press


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