ESOTERICISM OF CHRISTIAN DOGMA
CREATION AS TAUGHT BY MOSES AND THE MAHÂTMANS
ABBÉ ROCA, Honorary Canon
[Le Lotus, Paris, Vol. II, No. 9, December, 1887, pp. 149-160.
Translated from the original French] *
I.—Thanks to the light which is now reaching us from the far East through the Theosophical organs published in the West, it is easy to foresee that the Catholic teaching is about to undergo a transformation as profound as it will be glorious. All our dogmas will pass from “the letter which killeth” to “the spirit which giveth life,” from the mystic and sacramental to the scientific and rational form, perhaps even to the stage of experimental methods.
The reign of faith, or mystery and miracles, is nearing its close; this is plain and was, moreover, predicted by Christ himself. Faith vanishes from the brains of men of science, to make way for the clear perception of the essential truths which had to be veiled at the origin of Christianity, under symbols and figures, so as to adapt them, as far as possible, to the needs and weaknesses of the infancy of our faith.
Strange! It is at the very hour when Europe is attaining the age of reason, and when she is visibly entering upon the full possession of her powers, that India prepares to hand on to us those loftier ideas which exactly meet our new wants, as much from the intellectual, as from the moral, religious, social and other standpoints.
One might believe that the “BROTHERS” kept an eye from afar on the movements of Christendom, and that from the summits of their Himâlayan watch towers, they had waited expectantly for the hour when they would be able to make us hear them with some chance of being understood.
[My admiration increases when I consider that our natural sciences have reached, on the purely physical plane, a development which threatens to become excessive and disastrous, if not so already, and which for that reason calls for effective assistance in order to round, without too many perils, the Cape of Social Tempests, on which the
* [The main portion of this translation is H. P. B.’s own, which she published in Lucifer, Vol. I, January, 1888, pp. 368-74, appending to it a few brief footnotes. Those parts of Abbé Roca’s text which she omitted appear in their proper place within square brackets and have been translated by the Compiler.]
unchecked impetus of material and mental progress may very well wreck our barbarous civilization.]
It is certain that the situation in the West is becoming more and more serious. Everyone knows whence comes the imminence of the catastrophe which threatens us; hitherto men have only evoked the animal needs, they have only awakened and unchained the brute forces of nature, the passional instincts, the savage energies of the lower Kosmos.
Christianity does indeed conceal under the profound esotericism of its Parables, those truths, scientific, religious, and social, which this deplorable situation imperiously demands, but sad to say, sad indeed for a priest, hard, hard indeed for Christian ears to hear, all our priesthoods, that of the Roman Catholic Church equally with those of the Orthodox Russian, the Anglican, the Protestant, and the Anglo-American churches, seem struck with blindness and impotence in face of the glorious task which they would have to fulfil in these terrible circumstances. They see nothing; their eyes are plastered and their ears walled up. They do not discover; one is tempted to say, they do not even suspect what ineffable truths are hidden under the dead letter of their teachings. [What a spectacle they present to the world! Exactly what Christ pointed out beforehand for the consideration of future generations: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” *
So, on the one hand, we have the official and paid colleges to which the transcendental side of phenomena, forces, and laws of nature remain hidden; and, on the other, we have the clerical establishments, also official and paid, to whom the no less transcendental side of the symbols, dogmas, and parables of religion remains equally veiled.]
Say, is it not into that darkness that we are all stumbling, in State and in Church, in politics as in religion? A double calamity forming but one for the peoples, which suffer horribly under it, and for our civilization which may be shipwrecked on it at any moment. May God deliver us from a war at this moment! It would be a cataclysm in which Europe would break to pieces in blood and fire, as Montesquieu foresaw: “Europe will perish through the soldiers, if not saved in time.”
We must escape from this empiricism and this fearful confusion. But who will save us? The Christ, the true Christ, the Christ of
* [Matt., xv, 14-15; Luke, vi, 39].
esoteric science.* And how? Thus: the same key which, under the eyes of the scientific bodies, shall open the secrets of Nature, will open their own intellects to the secrets of true Sociology; the same key which, under the eyes of the priesthoods, shall open the Arcana of the mysteries and the gospel parables, will open their intellects to these same secrets of Sociology. Priests and savants will then develop in the radiance of one and the same light.
And this key—I can assert it, for I have proved it in application to all our dogmas—THIS KEY IS THE SAME WHICH THE MAHÂTMANS OFFER AND DELIVER TO US AT THIS MOMENT. †
There is here an interposition of Providence, before which we should all of us offer up our own thanksgivings. For my part, I am deeply touched by it; I feel I know not what sacred thrill! My gratitude is the more keen since, if I confront the Hindu tradition with the occult theosophic traditions of Judeo-Christianity, from its origin to our own day, through the Holy Kabbala, I can recognise clearly the agreement of the teaching of the “Brothers” with the esoteric teaching of Moses, Jesus, and St. Paul.
People are sure to say: “You abase the West before the East, Europe before Asia, France before India, Christianity before Buddhism. You are betraying at once your Country and your Church, your quality as a Frenchman, and your character as a Priest.” Pardon me, gentlemen! I abase nothing whatever; I betray nothing at all! A member of Humanity, I work for the happiness of Humanity; a son of France, I work for the glory of France, a Priest of Jesus Christ, I work for the triumph of Jesus Christ. You shall be forced to confess it; suspend, therefore, your anathemas, and listen, if you please!
We are traversing a frightful crisis. For the last hundred years we have been trying to round the Cape of Social Tempests, which I spoke of before; we have been enduring, without intermission, the fires, the lightnings, the thunders, and the earthquakes of an unparalleled hurricane, and we feel, clearly enough, that everything is giving way around us; under our feet and over our heads! Neither pontiffs, nor savants, nor politicians, nor statesmen, show themselves capable of snatching us from the abysses towards which we are being, one is tempted to say, driven by a fatality! If, then, I discover, in the
* “The Christ of esoteric science” is the Christos of Spirit—an impersonal principle entirely distinct from any carnalised Christ or Jesus. Is it this Christos that the learned Canon Roca means?— H. P. B.
† The capitals are our own; for these “Mahâtmans” are the real Founders and “Masters” of the Theosophical Society.—H. P. B.
distant East, through the darkness of this tempest, the blessed star which alone can guide us, amidst so many shoals, safe and sound to the longed-for haven of safety, am I wanting in patriotism and religion because I announce to my brethren the rising of this beneficent star?
[What do we know positively? Who can say whether the point in history where we now are is not the one when the great saying of Jesus Christ shall be fulfilled: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John, x, 16). Are we going to make a “stumbling block” of that which in the scheme of Christ is perhaps a “cornerstone” of social construction, “a covenant” and a way to universal concord?] I know as well as you that it was said to Peter: “I will give thee the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, that thou mayest open its gates upon earth”; yes, doubtless, but note the tense of this verb: I will give thee: in the future. Has the Christian Pontiff already received them—those magic Keys? Before replying look and see what Rome has made of Christendom; see the lamentable state of Europe; not only engaged in open war with foreign nationalities, but also exhausting herself in fratricidal wars and preparations to consummate her own destruction; behold everywhere Christian against Christian, church against church, priesthood against priesthood, class against class, school against school, and, often in the same family, brother against brother, sons against their father, the father against his sons! What a spectacle! And a Pope presides over it! And while, all around, men prepare for a general slaughter, he, the Pope, thinks only of one thing—of his temporal domain, of his material possessions! Think you that this state of things forms the Kingdom of Heaven, and say you still that the Pontiff of Rome has already received the Keys thereof?
It is written, perchance, in the decrees of Providence, that these mysterious Keys shall be brought to the brethren of the West by the “Brothers” of the East. Hence it would be Christ himself who would be directing this occult movement in order to realize his own saying:—“I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” [Matt., xvi, 19], by making them pass from the hands of the Mahâtmans into thy hands, O Peter, and the original phenomenon will thus be seen re-enacted: the Magi of the Orient will come a second time to adore Christ, not in the stable among the beasts this time, on the throne of abasement and suffering, but on the Tabor of his transfiguration, in the light of all the sciences and on the throne of his glory. Such is, indeed, the expectation of all the nations; the prophetic East sighs for the tenth incarnation of Vishnu, which shall be the crown of all the Avatars which have preceded it, and the Apocalypse, on its side, announces the appearance of the White Horse which is the symbol of the Christ risen, glorious and triumphant before the eyes of all the peoples of the earth.
This is how I, priest of Jesus Christ, betray Jesus Christ, when I acclaim the wisdom of the Mahâtmans and their mission in the West!
I have spoken of the opportuneness of the hour chosen by them for coming to our help. I must insist upon this point.
[Mark well: should we not say that they have been present among us like invisible witnesses, in the efforts of modern thought, in the work that has been done and which is being followed with enthusiasm in our scientific laboratories, in the minds of our best physicists, of our most expert physiologists, of our ablest chemists? Messrs. Berthelot, Claude Bernard, Dumas, Flammarion, Figuier, Charcot, Pasteur—I could name many more—all touch, each in his own way, on the confines of the sense-perceptible world, on that line which separates the physical from the hyper-physical regions of nature, of the same nature after all, because the “Universe is one,” while being dual, as Henry de May expresses it exceedingly well in his admirable book on the Visible and Invisible Universe.
What Mr. Berthelot wrote in his last work on Chemistry is well known to the public:
“The electric, magnetic, calorific and luminous fluids that were accepted at the beginning of the present century, as being at the basis of electricity, magnetism, heat and light, have indeed no more reality to the physicists of today, than the four elements, Water, Earth, Air and Fire, invented, in the time of the Ionians and of Plato, to correspond with liquidity, solidity, volatility and combustion. These imaginary fluids have had in the history of science an even shorter existence than the four elements; they have disappeared in less than a century and have been reduced to but one, namely, ether. The atom of the chemists and the ether of the physicists, in their turn, seem to vanish already, due to new conceptions which tend to explain everything by phenomena of motion alone.” *
This is doubtless a very great advance, and Mr. Berthelot deserves well of occult science. But let us not be deceived, these findings are not final. They mark a step in advance, one discovery more, but it is not the end. Monsieur Berthelot has not yet reached the goal. He knows that, however. Something more important than that has lately been discovered in America where, in Philadelphia, the inter-atomic force was found, and so named by its discoverer, Mr. Keely, who might as well have called it the interplanetary or inter-astral force, from the very principles of Newton and Kepler whose laws apply as
* M. P. E. Berthelot, Les Origines de l’Alchimie, p. 320.
well to atoms as to the large celestial bodies, in the microcosm as well as in the Macrocosm.* Even the discovery of this new force, however superior it may be to all the other forces, does not furnish the solution to the great problem of the dynamics of the Kosmos.]
“The phenomena of motion,” by means of which men of science claim to explain everything, explain nothing at all, because the very cause of that motion is unknown to our physicists as they themselves admit. “Consider,” say to us the Mahâtmans by the mouth of their Adepts, “that behind each physical energy is hidden another energy, which itself serves as envelope to a spiritual force which is the living soul of every manifested force.”
And thus Nature offers us an infinite series of forces one within another, serving mutually as sheaths, which, as d’Alembert suspected, produce all sensible phenomena and reach all points of the circumference starting from a central point, which is God.
[Materialists are looking for the focus from which motion radiates—where it does not exist, i.e., in its effects. The so-called “Spiritual Christians,” on the other hand, seek it where it is not to be found either, outside of Nature, and, in their abstract speculations, they lose their way in absolutely hollow metaphysics wherein their vain ideas disappear. The First Cause of the world and of all the beings that inhabit it is not extrinsic to the creation; it is immanent in it, as intrinsic as the spirit is to matter which it animates and activates, while remaining perfectly distinct from it.
Distances are not measured in the mental as they are in the physical where they are estimated by the compass and the yardstick; they are determined in the mental by separations like those which distinguish the natural kingdoms from each other, the mineral from the vegetable, the vegetable from the animal, and so forth.]
II.—I can now, after these preliminaries, give an example of the transformation which, thanks to the Mahâtmans, will soon take place in the teaching of the Christian Church. I will take particularly the dogma of the Creation, informing my readers that they will find in a book I am preparing, New Heavens and New Earth, an analogous work on all the dogmas of the Catholic faith.
Matter exists in states of infinite variety, and, sometimes, even of opposite appearance. The world is constituted in two poles, the
* Le Lotus has spoken of this discovery (Oct. 1887) in terms which perfectly agree with the information I have received from another source.
North or Spiritual, and the South or Material pole; these two poles correspond perfectly and differ only in form, that is, in appearance.
Regarded from above, as the Easterns regard it, the universal substance presents the aspect of a spiritual or divine emanation; looked at from below, as the Westerners are in the habit of viewing it, it offers, on the contrary, the aspect of a material creation.
One sees at once the difference which must exist between the two intellectualities and, consequently, between the two civilisations of the East and the West Yet there is no more error in the Genesis of Moses, which is that of the Christian teaching, than there is in the Genesis of the Mahâtmans, which is that of the Buddhist doctrine. The one and the other of these Geneses are absolutely founded on one and the same reality. Whether one descends or ascends the scale of being, one only traverses, in the East from above downwards, in the West from below upwards, the same ladder of essences, more or less spiritualised, more or less materialised, according as one approaches to, or recedes from, Pure Spirit, which is God.
It was, therefore, not worth while to fulminate so much on one side or the other, here, against the theory of emanation, there, against the theory of Creation. One always comes back to the principle of Hermes Trismegistus: the universe is dual, though formed of a single substance. The Kabbalists knew it well, and it was taught long ago in the Egyptian sanctuaries, as the occultists have never ceased to repeat it in the temples of India.
It will soon be demonstrated, I hope, by scientific experiments such as those of Mr. William Crookes, the Academician, that everywhere throughout all nature, spirit and matter are not two but one and that they nowhere offer a real division in life. Under every physical force there is a spiritual or a psychic force: in the heart of the minutest atom is hidden a vital soul, the presence of which has been perfectly determined by Claude Bernard in germs imperceptible to the naked eye. “This soul, human, animal, vegetable or mineral, is but a ray lent by the universal soul to every object manifested in the Kosmos.”
“Corporeal man and the sensible universe, says the theosophical doctrine, are but the appearance imparted to them by the cohesion of the inter-atomic or inter-astral forces which constitute both exteriorly. The visible side of a being is an ever-changing Mâyâ.” The language of St. Paul is in no way different: “The aspect of the world,” he says, “is a passing vision, an image which passes and renews itself continually—transit figura hujus mundi.”*
* [The Vulgate, I Cor., vii, 31 has: Praeterit enim figura hujus mundi —Compiler.]
“The real man, or the microcosm—and one can say as much of the macrocosm—is an astral force which reveals itself through this physical appearance, and which, having existed before the birth of this form, does not share its fate at the hour of death: surviving its destruction. The material form cannot subsist without the spiritual force which sustains it; but the latter is independent of the former, for form is created by spirit, and not spirit by form.”
This theory is word for word that of the “Brothers”and the Adepts, at the same time it is that of the Kabbalists and the Christians of the School of Origen, and the Johannine Church.
There could not be a more perfect agreement.
Transfer this teaching to the genesis of the Kosmos and you have the secret of the formation of the World; at the same time you discover the profound meaning of the saying of St. Paul: “The invisible things of God are made visible to the eye of man through the visible things of the creation,” * a saying so well translated by Joseph de Maistre as follows: “The world is a vast system of invisible things, visibly organised.”
The whole of the Kosmos is like a two-faced medal of which both faces are alike. The materialists know only the lower side, while the occultists see it from both sides at once; from the front and from the back.
It is always nature, and the same nature, but natura naturata from below, natura naturans from above; here, intelligent cause; there, brute effect; spiritual above, corporeal below, etherealised at the North, concreted at the South Pole.
The distinction accepted everywhere in the West down to our own day, as essential and radical, between spirit on the one hand and matter on the other, is no longer sustainable. The progress of science, spurred on as it will be by Hindu ideas, will soon force the last followers of this infantile belief to abandon it as ridiculous.
[Outside of God there is but one and the same substance in the universe (perhaps the Yliaster of Paracelsus or the Sat of the Hermetists) constituted, I say again, with two opposite poles, the North or Spiritual Pole, and the South or Material. Neither the old materialistic school nor the old spiritual school, in the limited sense still attached to those terms according to our former mental categories can defend themselves any longer against the victorious assaults that will be incessantly made upon them by real Theosophists, or more correctly, real Christians.
* [More correctly, in Rom., i, 20, thus: ”For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. . . .”—Compiler. ]
Before our vision there is nothing positive and real except life, everywhere life, nothing but life; since life is in the Word, according to St. John, and the Word is, like God, present in all beings, which do not exist except by him.
Nevertheless—and it is here that the Christian teaching seems to be superior, in its expression at least, to the Hindu teaching—nevertheless, I say, the life which the contingent beings live is not the life of God. In other words, which are those of St. Paul, God is not the motion, the being, the life, within us; but, rather, “we have the motion, the being, the life, in God: in ipso enim vivimus, et movemur, et sumus” (Acts, xvii, 28). This expression, absolutely exact and clear, puts an end to all the fallacious syllogisms of Plotinus, Bruno, Spinoza, and the Stoics of all times.]
Yes, all, absolutely all in the world is life, but life differently organised and variously manifested through phenomena which vary infinitely from the most spiritualised beings, such as the Angels, as well known to Buddhists as to Christians, though called by other names, down to the most solidified of beings, such as stones and metals. In the bosom of the latter, sleep, in a cataleptic condition, milliards of vital elementary spirits. These latter only await, to thrill into activity, the stroke of the pick or hammer to which they will owe their deliverance and their escape from the limbus, of which the Hindu doctrine speaks as well as the Catholic. Here lies, for these souls of life, the starting point of the Resurrection and the Ascension, taught equally by both the Eastern and the Western traditions, but not understood among us.
[The quarryman’s pickaxe, the farmer’s plough, the woodcutter’s axe, the horseshoe, the carriage-wheel, every moment are bringing about these awakenings, en masse; and the fires of our furnaces in reducing ores, decomposing coal and wood, fling into the air whirling clouds of elementary spirits.
Prisoners of wood, of stone, and of iron, enchained, shackled therein like Lazarus in his tomb, they are awaiting the hour when the bonds of their captivity will be severed, and that is how, according to St. Paul, all Nature, pregnant with life and seminal force, groans and sighs for its deliverance and final release from the pains of labor; omnis creatura ingemiscit, et parturit usque adhuc (Rom., viii, 22). It is in the pains of a perpetual delivery.
How have these vital energies been struck with catalepsy and reduced to a state which is neither that of a corpse in the sepulchre nor that of an embryo in the womb, nor even that of the larvae entangled in the thick bonds of matter? Formerly it was a mystery as we said in our seminaries and from the heights of our Christian pulpits; in our days it is a new chapter in biology, as will be seen in the explanation I shall give of the Dogma of the Original Fall according
to the principles of the Hindu teachings and the Kabbalistic teachings of Judeo-Christianity. I need not linger on that here.
The question to be fully understood is, how one single substance (the Yliaster or Sat, the name is immaterial) can be enough for the constitution of all the beings that people the visible and invisible Universe. More or less subtilized at the North Pole, in that which we call Heaven, more or less condensed at the South Pole, in what we call the Earth, or better, Hell, that substance undergoes infinite modifications owing to its passing and repassing through the thousands of alembics, retorts, crucibles, and cuppels, of which the laboratory of that incomparable chemist, called “naturing” Nature, is composed.
Here, the metals, sublimated by fire, are transformed into vapor; there, the same vapors, condensed by cold, rebecome hard bodies.
The organic apparatus, by means of which the spirit acts, differs from one kingdom to another; that is why its action and its effects differ also; truly, spirit aggregates in the mineral, grows with the plants, creeps, walks and runs with the animals, swims with the fishes, flies with the birds; it is the marvellous instinct in the bee, the ant, the beaver, in all the skilful, ingenious species. It passes from the depths to the heights of the entire region of animal life until it reaches full unfolding in the intelligence and genius of man, wherefrom it springs, radiant to the angelic spheres. A new career then opens before him, he ascends the orders which form the nine choirs of angels, and so enters into the harmonious Nirvâna of the Mahâtmans, which is nothing else, I believe, than the bosom of Abraham of the ancient Law, and, since the Gospel, the bosom of the glorious Christ, “that Social-Divine body” of which we are called to constitute the living monads, the organic cells.]
But as they ascend, so the spirits can also descend, for they are always free to transfigure themselves in the divine light, or to bury themselves in the satanic shadow of error and evil. Hence, while time is time, “these ceaseless tears and gnashings of teeth” of which the gospel Parables speak metaphorically, and which will last as long as shall last the elaboration of the social atoms destined for the collective composition of the beatific Nirvâna.
Nature is ever placing under our eyes examples of organic transformations, analogous to those I am speaking of, as if to aid us in comprehending our own destiny. But it seems that many men “have eyes in order not to see,” as Jesus said. See how in order to remove these cataracts, science, even in the West, constantly approaching more and more that of the East, is at work producing in its turn phenomena, which corroborate at once the Parables of the Gospels and the teachings of nature. I will not speak of the Salpêtrière and the marvels of hypnotism in the hands of Monsieur Charcot and his numerous disciples throughout the whole world. There are things which strike me even more.
Monsieur Pictet, at Geneva, is creating diamonds with air and light. This should not astonish those who know that our coal mines are nothing but “stored-up sunlight.” With an even more marvellous industry, do not the flowers extract from the atmosphere the luminous substance of which they weave their fine and joyous garments? And “all that is sown in the earth under a material form does it not rise under a spiritual form,” as St. Paul says? *
The glorious entities, which we call celestial spirits, have themselves an organic form. It is defined in the canons of our dogma, whatever the ignorance-mongers of ultramontanism may pretend. God alone has no body, God alone is pure Spirit—and even to speak thus we must consider the Deity apart from the person of Jesus Christ, for in the “Word made flesh” God dwells corporeally, according to the true and beautiful saying of St. Paul.
And it is because God has no body that he is present everywhere in the infinite, under the veils of cosmic light and ether, which serve as his garment and under the electric, magnetic, inter-atomic, interplanetary, inter-stellar and sound fluids, which serve him as vehicles.
And it is also because God has no created form that the Kabbala could, without error, call him Non-Being. Hegel probably felt this esoteric truth when he spoke, in his heavy and cumbrous language, of the equivalence of Being and Non-Being.
All visible forms are thus the product, at the same time as they are the garment and the manifestation, of spiritual forces. All sensible order is, in reality, an organic concretion, a sort of living crystallisation of intelligent powers fallen from the state of spirituality into the state of materiality; in other words, fallen from the North to the South pole of nature, in consequence of a catastrophe called by Holy Scripture the Fall from Eden. This cataclysm was the punishment of a frightful crime, of an audacious revolt spoken of in the traditions of all Temples and called in our dogma original sin. The primary priesthood of the Christian church has hitherto lacked the light needed to explain this biological phenomenon, which is an ascertained fact of physiology and sociology, as I hope to prove. Questioned on this point, the priests have always replied: It is a mystery. Now there are no mysteries save for ignorance, and the Christ announced that "every hidden thing should be brought to light, and proclaimed on the house-tops”.†
This is why so many new lights, coming from the East and elsewhere, enter scientifically, in our day, into the Christian mind.
* [Paraphrase of I Cor., xv, 53-54.]
† [Paraphrase of Luke, xii, 13 .]
Glory to the Theosophists, glory to the Adepts, glory to the Kabbalists, glory above all to the Hermetists everywhere, glory to those new missionaries whose coming Monsieur de Maistre foresaw, and whom Monsieur de Saint-Yves d’Alveydre lately hailed as the elect of God, charged by him to establish a communion of knowledge and of love between all the religious centres of the earth!
Priests of the Roman Catholic Church, we shall enter in our turn this wise communion of saints, on the day when we shall consent to read anew our sacred texts, no longer in “the dead letter” of their exotericism, but in the “living spirit” of their esotericism, and in the threefold sense which Christian tradition has always canonically recognised in them.
L’ABBÉ ROCA (Chanoine).
Château de Pollestres, France.
This is a very optimistic way of putting it, and if realized would be like pouring the elixir of life into the decrepit body of the Latin Church. But what will his Holiness the Pope say to it?—H. P. B.