FOOTNOTES TO “COSMOGONY AND ANTHROPOLOGY”*
[The Theosophist, Vol. II, No. 6, March, 1881, pp. 133-134.]
“What are we to understand by the name God? . . . Methinks that it would be far more rational to believe that this fictitious personage is a compound of what we would call mother thoughts; of harmonious ideas forming a center of actions and a center of propulsion, a focus of all the other thoughts of which the universe is composed. . . .”
We may be doubtful whether our Brother Cahagnet means by his “Mother Thoughts” the spiritual transcendental essences which Aristotle calls privations and Plato calls forms, species improperly understood and known as ideas; those eternal, immutable essences removed altogether
* [The quoted passages are translations from the original French work by Alphonse Cahagnet, entitled Cosmogonie et Anthropologie.—Compiler.]
from the sphere of sense, and cognizable more by intuition than reason. But whether or not he means that substance of which the world is but the shadow and which gives the latter the little of partial reality it possesses, his definition of the abstract Deity is undoubtedly that of the Vedantins, who define Parabrahm, absolute Intelligence and Force Itself, and hence devoid of either intelligence or force. In such a case his “Mother Thoughts” would under another name take the place of Îśvara, as defined by the modern school of Benares Vedantins, though we doubt that Mr. Cahagnet has the remotest idea of the existence, let alone the philosophy, of Vedantism.
“. . . the great sympathetic law of attractions and aggregations—law divided into a succession of states, forms and different actions, i.e., causing things to succeed, precede, and follow each other.”
This idea besides being the basic principle of the modern Law of Evolution which all the Hindu, Buddhist, and European Theosophists accept in its fundamental teaching, is that of the Heraclitan doctrine in regard to the phenomenal world, that of the “perpetual flow of all things.”
“. . . as a series of thoughts resulting in various modes of appreciating or viewing things are born from one first . . . thought, so the first aggregative potency must have acted in the same manner, and that it could create the material universe, or rather the material state, but in this wise, viz., by unconsciously imposing on it the task to be . . . by a succession of various ways of appreciating or viewing it.”
We do not feel quite sure whether the author adheres to the Aryan doctrine of the negation of the reality of matter, which was also that of Plato, but it does seem as if this conception of the Deity reminds one of the Platonic doctrines of the Cosmos being but “the shadow of The Shadow”; and of the deity of the Eleatics, whose Absolute was not a mere abstraction, a creature of pure fancy, but the totality of the objective universe as discerned by the soul, which itself, as compared with the body, is but a subtler species of matter.
[The author having referred again to what he terms “mother thoughts,” H. P. B. comments as follows:]
Would we not be warranted in thinking that the authors of the Vedas which mention such a legion of deities inferior to, and dependent on, Parabrahm, had also some such “Mother Thoughts” in their spiritual clairvoyance? Hence polytheism or the plurality of gods becomes comprehensible. The anthropomorphisation of these abstract principles is an afterthought; human conception generally dragging down to the level of its own terrestrial, gross perception, every idea, however philosophical and sublime.
“It has been revealed to us . . .”
The author is a spiritist as well as a magnetizer. The revelation must have come either from a clairvoyante, somnambule, or “spirit.” (See Révélations d’Outre-Tombe, Vol. I.)
“. . . the only existing God to be found, as we believe, a deity formed of all, without, therefore being of necessity a pantheistic god.”
We do not see how the inference can be well avoided, though, once we admit of a Deity, the God of the pantheists seems the only reasonable one. True pantheists do not say that everything is God—for they would be fetish-worshippers then; but that God is in everything and the whole in God.
“At the ninth [incarnation] Vishnu becomes more reasonable. He assumes the shape and name of Buddha, a god who had four arms and a divine intelligence.”
It is quite evident that Mr. Cahagnet knows nothing of the Hindu religions, less yet of Aryan philosophy. We have omitted translating a page or two as they are full of inaccuracies. The venerable author having derived his information upon the religions of India from an old book called Religious ceremonies and customs of all the peoples on the globe, by a society of men of Science, and dated
1723,* it becomes clear how he came to mix up the avataras and endow “the Light of Asia”—Gautama Buddha—with four arms. The “men of science,” even in the days of Sir John Williams,† often confounded the son of the king of Kapilavastu with the Scandinavian Odin and many other myths.
* [Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde, etc. Edited by J.-Fr. Bernard and others. Amsterdam: J.-Fr. Bernard, 1723-43, 11 vols. fol. New ed., Paris: Prudhomme, 1807-09, 12 vols. fol. Consists of essays by a large number of scholars.—Compiler.]
† [This is most likely a misprint for Sir William Jones.—Compiler.]