Senzar The Mystery of the Mystery Language, Part 1

Masonic, Occult and Esoteric Online Library

Senzar The Mystery of the Mystery Language, Part 1

By John Algeo

What is Senzar

What then is this "mystery language" of HPB's? What kind of "language" is Senzar? Blavatsky says that the Hermetic Philosophers (that is, alchemists) of the Middle Ages

renovated the ancient symbolical language of the high-priests of antiquity, who had used it as a sacred barrier between their holy rites and the ignorance of the profane, and created a veritable Cabalistic slang. This latter, which continually blinded the false neophyte, attracted towards the science only by his greediness for wealth and power which he would have surely misused were he to succeed, is a living, eloquent, clear language; but it is and can become such, only to the true disciple of Hermes. (CW I, 13)

In this passage, Blavatsky is clearly talking about alchemical "jargon" and saying that properly understood it is full of high meaning, and also that it is a renovated form of the "ancient symbolical language," apparently a reference to Senzar. Similarly, Blavatsky says that the Jewish holy writings from the Pentateuch to the Talmud were written

in a kind of Mystery-language, were, in fact, a series of symbolical records which the Jews had copied from the Egyptian and the Chaldaean Sanctuaries, only adapting them to their own national history. (CW, XIV, 170)

Again, what is meant by "mystery language" here is an allegorical or symbolic use of narrative language, such as the biblical narratives of the creation, the fall, the crossing of the red sea, and so on (as interpreted in considerable detail by Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Geoffrey Hodson, and others). Blavatsky makes various references to such symbolism:

... the art of speaking and writing in a language which bears a double interpretation, is of very great antiquity;

... it was in practice among the priests of Egypt, brought from thence by the Manichees, whence it passed to the Templars and Albigenses, spread over Europe, and brought about the Reformation. (quoted from Charles Sotheran, CW, I, 126)

Senzar 3

Senzar, always mysterious ....

The Hierophants and Initiates of the Mysteries in the Secret Schools ... had one universal, Esoteric tongue -- the language of symbolism and allegory. This language has suffered neither modification nor amplification from those remote times down to this day. It still exists and is still taught. There are those who have preserved the knowledge of it, and also of the arcane meaning of the Mysteries; and it is from these Masters that the writer of the present protest had the good fortune of learning, howbeit imperfectly, the said language. Hence her claim to a more correct comprehension of the arcane portion of the ancient texts written by avowed Initiates -- such as were Plato and Iamblichus, Pythagoras, and even Plutarch ... (CW, XIII, 153-54)

As the Egyptian hierophants had their private code of hieratic symbols, and even the founder of Christianity spoke to the vulgar in parables whose mystical meaning was known only to the chosen few, so the Brahmans had from the first (and still have) a mystical terminology couched behind ordinary expressions, arranged in certain sequences and mutual relations, which none but the initiate would observe. (CW V, 296)

It is hard to imagine plainer statements that those just cited. Clearly, the "one universal, Esoteric tongue" is "the language of symbolism and allegory." Blavatsky also speaks of the mystery language as involving ideographs, hieroglyphs, and pictorial representations. She claims that of all the sacred and philosophical works ever written, those whose texts were not already veiled in symbolism have been "copied in cryptographic characters." (I, xxiii-xxiv) Further, she says:

The Secret Doctrine teaches us that the arts, sciences, theology, and especially the philosophy of every nation which preceded the last UNIVERSALLY KNOWN, but not universal Deluge, had been recorded ideographically from the primitive oral records of the Fourth Race, and that these were the inheritance of the latter from the early Third Root-Race before the allegorical Fall. (II, 530)

... placed side by side with the hieroglyphic or pictorial initial version of "creation" in the Book of Dzyan, the origin of the Phoenician and Jewish letters would soon be found out. (CW, XIV, 206)

We have now to speak of the Mystery language, that of the prehistoric races. It is not a phonetic, but a purely pictorial and symbolical tongue. (II, 574)

The last cited statement shows that the Mystery language Senzar is not a spoken language, nor a system of writing that represents such a language, but is "purely pictorial and symbolical." In several places, Blavatsky is quite clear about the sort of thing the mystery language is. It uses written symbols that represent ideas, not the sounds of a language:

Moreover, there exists a universal language among the Initiates, which an Adept, and even a disciple, of any nation may understand by reading it in his own language. We Europeans, on the contrary, possess only one graphic sign common to all, & (and); there is a language richer in metaphysical terms than any on earth, whose every word is expressed by like common signs.(CW, XIV, 10)

HPB's example is the Greek letter "Y", which she says is understood as representing the two paths of virtue and vice, white and black magic, and various other things. Such meanings correlate with the shape of the letter, which suggests the dividing of a way and a forced choice between alternatives. She elaborates the same idea elsewhere:

... all the ancient records were written in a language which was universal and known to all nations alike in days of old, but which is now intelligible only to the few. Like the Arabic figures which are plain to a man of whatever nation, or like the English word AND, which becomes ET for the Frenchman, UND for the German, and so on, yet which may be expressed for all civilized nations in the simple sign "&" -- so all the words of that mystery- language signified the same thing to each man of whatever nationality. There have been several men of note who have tried to re-establish such a universal and PHILOSOPHICAL tongue: Delgarme, Wilkins, Leibnitz ... (-- I, 310)

"Delgarme" is perhaps an error for George Dalgarno. He, Wilkins, and Leibnitz were three important figures in seventeenth-century efforts to design a "universal and philosophical" language. Dalgarno is little known today, but the other two were active in many endeavors.

John Wilkins (1614-72) was bishop of Chester but is best known as the chief founder and first secretary of the British Royal Society. Among his works is an ESSAY TOWARDS A REAL CHARACTER AND A PHILOSOPHICAL LANGUAGE, in which he invented a language and writing system that attempted to classify all reality and represent it unambiguously and rationally; Roget's Thesaurus was later based on Wilkins's classification of ideas.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716), the philosopher and mathematician, was secretary to a Rosicrucian Lodge in Nuremberg (according to the ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, 11th ed., XVI, 385). He wanted to devise a way of symbolizing thought that could be used by people of all languages and that would be free of all the vagueness and ambiguities that ordinary languages abound in, to use for peacefully settling disagreements. The invention of universal, philosophical languages was a pastime, if not an obsession, of the seventeenth century.

It is clear from the foregoing passages that the mystery language is no ordinary spoken language, but is instead a symbolic representation that can be "read," that is, interpreted, in any language whatever. These passages seem to say that it was a kind of ideographic writing, but other of Blavatsky's comments make it appear more general than that. In speaking of Confucius and his interpretation of the hexagrams of the I CHING, Blavatsky says,

... the STANZAS given in our text ... represent PRECISELY THE SAME IDEA. The old archaic map of Cosmogony is full of LINES in the Confucian style, of concentric circles and dots. (I, 441)

The Stanzas are like the symbols of the I CHING, lines and figures, circles and dots. Blavatsky frequently emphasizes the "geometrical" nature of the mystery language:

... it becomes easy to understand how nature herself could have taught primeval mankind, even without the help of its divine instructors, the first principles of a numerical and geometrical symbol language. Hence one finds numbers and figures used as an expression and a record of thought in every archaic symbolical Scripture. (I, 320-21)

From the very beginning of Aeons -- in time and space in our Round and Globe -- the Mysteries of Nature (at any rate, those which it is lawful for our races to know) were recorded by the pupils of those same, now invisible, "heavenly men," in geometrical figures and symbols ... The TEN POINTS inscribed within that "Pythagorean TRIANGLE" are worth all the theogonies and angelologies ever emanated from the theological brain. For he who interprets them -- on their very face, and in the order given -- will find in these seventeen points (the seven Mathematical Points hidden) the uninterrupted series of the genealogies from the first HEAVENLY to TERRESTRIAL man." (I, 612)

One of the keys to this Universal Knowledge is a pure geometrical and numerical system, the alphabet of every great nation having a numerical value for every letter, and, moreover, a system of permutation of syllables and synonyms which is carried to perfection in the Indian Occult methods ... (CW, XIV, 181)

In keeping with such comments on mathematical symbolism, Blavatsky refers to the Stanza's account of cosmic evolution as an "abstract algebraical formula" applicable to all evolutionary processes (I, 20-21).

The preface to The Voice of the Silence describes The Book of the  Golden  Precepts, on which the Voice is based:

The original PRECEPTS are engraved on thin oblongs ... They are written variously, sometimes in Tibetan but mostly in ideographs. The sacerdotal language (Senzar), besides an alphabet of its own, may be rendered in several modes of writing in cypher characters, which partake more of the nature of ideographs than of syllables. ... A sign placed at the beginning of the text determines whether the reader has to spell it according to the Indian mode, when every word is simply a Sanskrit adaptation, or according to the Chinese principle of reading the ideographs. The easiest way, however, is that which allows the reader to use no special, or ANY language he likes, as the signs and symbols were, like the Arabian numerals or figures, common and international property among initiated mystics and their followers. (Voice, 6-7)

Presumably, Blavatsky does not mean that the same script can be read either phonetically or ideographically, making sense both ways. Such a script would be difficult to imagine. Rather she seems to mean that some parts of the PRECEPTS are written in Tibetan or another ordinary language, whereas other parts are written in ideographs or symbolic signs, with an indication to readers of what sort of communication they are about to encounter. That is very much the kind of mixed text she has described the Stanzas of Dzyan  as also containing.

The cipher-like appearance of Senzar is amusingly involved in an affair that gave HPB some pain. In a letter to A.P. Sinnett, Blavatsky answered a charge made against her of being a Russian spy:

Coulomb stole a "queer looking paper" and gave it to the missionaries with the assurance this was a cipher used by the Russian spies(!!) They took it to the Police Commissioner, had the best experts examine it, sent it to Calcutta[,] for five months moved heaven and earth to find out what the cipher meant and -- now gave it up in despair. "It is one of your flapdoodles" says Hume. "It is one of my SENZAR MSS," I answer. I am perfectly confident of it, for one of the sheets of my book with numbered pages is missing. I defy any one but a Tibetan occultist to make it out, if it is this. (Letters of HPB, 76)

Senzar must, then, be capable of looking like a cipher, though it is not what we usually mean by that term.

However, Blavatsky also associates Senzar with the pictographs of the American Indians:

The Red Indian tribes of America, only a few years ago, comparatively speaking, petitioned the President of the United States to grant them possession of four small lakes, the petition being written on the tiny surface of a piece of a fabric, which is covered with barely a dozen representations of animals and birds ... The American savages have a number of such different kinds of writing, but not one of our Scientists is yet familiar [with], or even knows of the early hieroglyphic cipher, still preserved in some Fraternities, and named in Occultism the SENZAR. – (II, 439)

The Indian petition referred to here is similar to the pictograph in as shown in Part one. The fact that Blavatsky refers to Senzar as a "hieroglyphic cipher" should not be given undue weight. HPB did not use terms for languages and writing systems with the precision of a linguist today. The context in which she uses the expression in discussing the Indian pictograph makes it clear that for her terms like HIEROGLYPH and CIPHER simply denote a picture-like form of written communication. All we are safe in concluding from her remark is that Senzar involved a pictorial representation of occult ideas.

In describing the "old book" referred to in Isis Unveiled and said in The Secret Doctrine to have been written in Senzar, Blavatsky says:

One of its illustrations represents the Divine Essence emanating from ADAM like a luminous arc proceeding to form a circle; and then, having attained the highest point of its circumference, the ineffable glory bends back again, and returns to earth, bringing a higher type of humanity in its vortex. As it approaches nearer and nearer to our planet, the Emanation becomes more and more shadowy, until upon touching the ground it is as black as night. (ISIS, I, 1, cited in SD I, xlii)

Is it possible that the "illustration" described here is an example of Senzar, comparable to the Amerindian pictographs?

Senzar is identified with alchemical recipes, scriptural myths and parables, ideographs, visually evocative letter shapes, geometrical figures, ciphers, pictographs, and symbolical drawings. What all of these have in common is not that they are the same or even similar systems of communication, but rather that they are all examples of the symbolical mode of meaning. They are symbols pointing to a reality beyond themselves.

A script that can be read either phonetically or ideographically, and makes sense both ways, is difficult to imagine. Perhaps this description is deliberately mystifying (one of HPB's famous "blinds") and means no more than that a language written in a phonetic script can be used to express archetypal symbolic ideas. In interpreting passages like this, one is never sure whether HPB is using a term in its technical sense or whether she is using it impressionistically for effect.



Masonic Publishing Company

Purchase This Title

Browse Titles
"If I have seen further than
others, it is by standing
upon the shoulders of giants."


Comasonic Logo

Co-Masonry, Co-Freemasonry, Women's Freemasonry, Men and Women, Mixed Masonry

Copyright © 1975-2024 Universal Co-Masonry, The American Federation of Human Rights, Inc. All Rights Reserved.