The Secret Doctrine Vol I

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The Secret Doctrine Vol I

By H.P. Blavatsky

The Four Elements

Metaphysically and esoterically, there is but One Element in Nature, and at the root of it is the Deity; and the so-called seven Elements, of which five have already manifested and asserted their existence, are the garment, the veil, of that Deity, direct from the essence whereof comes Man, whether considered physically, psychically, mentally or spiritually. Four Elements only are generally spoken of in later antiquity, while five only are admitted in philosophy. For the body of Ether is not fully manifested yet, and its noumenon is still the “Omnipotent Father Æther,” the synthesis of the rest. But what are these Elements, whose compound bodies have now been discovered by Chemistry and Physics to contain numberless sub-elements, even the sixty or seventy of which no longer embrace the whole number suspected? Let us follow their evolution from the historical beginnings, at any rate.
The Four Elements were fully characterized by Plato when he said that they were that “which composes and decomposes the compound bodies.” Hence Cosmolatry was never, even in its worst aspect, the fetichism which adores or worships the passive external form and matter of any object, but looked ever to the Noumenon therein. Fire, Air, Water, Earth, were but the visible garb, the symbols of the informing, invisible Souls or Spirits, the Cosmic Gods, to whom worship was offered by the ignorant, and simple, but respectful, recognition by the wiser. In their turn, the phenomenal subdivisions of the noumenal Elements were informed by the Elementals, so-called, the “Nature Spirits” of lower grades.
In the Theogony of Môchus, we find Ether first, and then the Air; the two principles from which Ulom, the Intelligible (νοητ?ς) God, the visible Universe of Matter, is born.763
In the Orphic hymns, the Erôs-Phanes evolves from the Spiritual Egg, which the Æthereal Winds impregnate, Wind being the “Spirit of God,” which is said to move in Æther, “brooding over the Chaos,” the Divine Idea. In the Hindû Kathopanishad, Purusha, the Divine Spirit, already stands before the Original Matter, and from their union springs the great Soul of the World, “Mahâ- tmâ, Brahman, the Spirit of Life”;764 these latter appellations being again identical with the Universal Soul, or Anima Mundi; the Astral Light of the Theurgists and Kabalists being its last and lowest division.
The Elements (στοιχε?α) of Plato and Aristotle were thus the incorporeal principles attached to the four great divisions of our Cosmic World, and it is with justice that Creuzer defines these primitive beliefs as “a species of magism, a psychic paganism, and a deification of potencies; a spiritualization which placed the believers in a close community with these potencies.”765 So close, indeed, that the Hierarchies of these Potencies, or Forces, have been classified on a graduated scale of seven from the ponderable to the imponderable. They are septenary, not as an artificial aid to facilitate their comprehension, but in their real cosmic gradation, from their chemical, or physical, to their purely spiritual composition. Gods with the ignorant masses; Gods independent and supreme; Demons with the fanatics, who, intellectual as they often may be, are unable to understand the spirit of the philosophical sentence, in pluribus unum. With the Hermetic philosopher they are Forces relatively “blind” or “intelligent,” according to which of the principles in them he deals with. It required long millenniums before they found themselves finally, in our cultured age, degraded into simple chemical elements.
At any rate, good Christians, and especially the Biblical Protestants, ought to show more reverence for the Four Elements, if they would maintain any for Moses. For the Bible manifests the consideration and mystic significance in which they were held by the Hebrew Lawgiver, on every page of the Pentateuch. The tent which contained the Holy of Holies was a Cosmic Symbol, sacred, in one of its meanings, to the Elements, the four cardinal points, and Ether. Josephus shows it built in white, the colour of Ether. And this explains also why, in the Egyptian and the Hebrew temples, according to Clemens Alexandrinus,766 a gigantic curtain, supported by five pillars, separated the sanctum sanctorum—now represented by the altar in Christian churches—wherein the priests alone were permitted to enter, from the part accessible to the profane. By its four colours this curtain symbolized the four principal Elements, and with the five pillars signified the knowledge of the divine that the five senses can enable man to acquire with the help of the four Elements.
In Cory's Ancient Fragments, one of the “Chaldean Oracles” expresses ideas about the elements and Ether in language singularly like that of The Unseen Universe, written by two eminent Scientists of our day.
It states that from Ether have come all things, and to it all will return; that the images of all things are indelibly impressed upon it; and that it is the store-house of the germs, or of the remains of all visible forms, and even ideas. It appears as if this case strangely corroborates our assertion that whatever discoveries may be made in our days will be found to have been anticipated by many thousand years by our “simple-minded ancestors.”
Whence came the Four Elements and the Malachim of the Hebrews? They have been made to merge, by a theological sleight of hand on the part of the Rabbins and the later Fathers of the Church, into Jehovah, but their origin is identical with that of the Cosmic Gods of all other nations. Their symbols, whether born on the shores of the Oxus, on the burning sands of Upper Egypt, or in the wild forests, weird and glacial, which cover the slopes and peaks of the sacred snowy mountains of Thessaly, or again, in the pampas of America—their symbols, we repeat, when traced to their source, are ever one and the same. Whether Egyptian or Pelasgian,  ryan or Semitic, the Genius Loci, the Local God, embraced in its unity all Nature; but not especially the four elements any more than one of their creations, such as trees, rivers, mounts or stars. The Genius Loci, a very late afterthought of the last sub-races of the Fifth Root-Race, when the primitive and grandiose meaning had become nearly lost, was ever the representative, in his accumulated titles, of all his colleagues. It was the God of Fire, symbolized by thunder, as Jove or Agni; the God of Water, symbolized by the fluvial bull, or some sacred river or fountain, as Varuna, Neptune, etc.; the God of Air, manifesting in the hurricane and tempest, as Vâyu and Indra; and the God or Spirit of the Earth, who appeared in earthquakes, like Pluto, Yama, and so many others.
These were the Cosmic Gods, ever synthesizing all in one, as found in every cosmogony or mythology. Thus, the Greeks had their Dodonean Jupiter, who included in himself the four Elements and the four cardinal points, and who was recognized, therefore, in old Rome under the pantheistic title of Jupiter Mundus; and who now, in modern Rome, has become the Deus Mundus, the one Mundane God, who is made to swallow all others, in the latest theology, by the arbitrary decision of his special ministers.
As Gods of Fire, Air, and Water, they were Celestial Gods; as Gods of the Lower Region, they were Infernal Deities; the latter adjective applying simply to the Earth. They were “Spirits of the Earth” under their respective names of Yama, Pluto, Osiris, the “Lord of the Lower Kingdom,” etc., and their tellurial character sufficiently proves it. The Ancients knew of no worse abode after death than the Kâma Loka, the Limbus on this Earth.767 If it is argued that the Dodonean Jupiter was identified with Dis, or the Roman Pluto with the Dionysus Chthonius, the Subterranean, and with Aïdoneus, the King of the Subterranean World, wherein, according to Creuzer,768 oracles were rendered, then it will become the pleasure of the Occultists to prove that both Aïdoneus and Dionysus are the bases of Adonaï, or Iurbo-Adonaï, as Jehovah is called in the Codex Nazaræus. “Thou shalt not worship the Sun, who is named Adonaï, whose name is also Kadush and El-El,”769 and also “Lord Bacchus.” Baal-Adonis of the Sôds, or Mysteries, of the pre-Babylonian Jews became the Adonaï by the Massorah, the later vowelled Jehovah. Hence the Roman Catholics are right. All these Jupiters are of the same family; but Jehovah has to be included therein to make it complete. The Jupiter Aërius or Pan, the Jupiter-Ammon, and the Jupiter-Bel-Moloch, are all correlations and one with Iurbo-Adonaï, because they are all one Cosmic Nature. It is that Nature and Power which creates the specific terrestrial symbol, and the physical and material fabric of the latter, which proves the Energy manifesting through it as extrinsic.
For primitive religion was something better than simple preöccupation about physical phenomena, as remarked by Schelling; and principles, more elevated than we modern Sadducees know of, “were hidden under the transparent veil of such merely natural divinities as thunder, the winds, and rain.” The Ancients knew and could distinguish the corporeal from the spiritual Elements in the Forces of Nature.
The four-fold Jupiter, as the four-faced Brahmâ, the aërial, the fulgurant, the terrestrial, and the marine God, the lord and master of the four Elements, may stand as a representative for the great Cosmic Gods of every nation. Although deputing power over the fire to Hephæstus-Vulcan, over the sea to Poseidon-Neptune, and over the Earth to Pluto-Aïdoneus, the Aërial Jove was still all these; for Æther, from the first, had preëminence over, and was the synthesis of, all the Elements.
Tradition tells of a grotto, a vast cave in the deserts of Central Asia, whereinto light pours, through four seemingly natural apertures, or clefts placed crossways at the four cardinal points. From noon till an hour before sunset the light streams in, of four different colours, as averred, red, blue, orange-gold, and white, owing to some either natural or artificially prepared conditions of vegetation and soil. The light converges in the centre round a pillar of white marble with a globe upon it, which represents our earth. It is named the “Grotto of Zarathustra.”
Included under the arts and sciences of the Fourth Race, the Atlanteans, the phenomenal manifestation of the Four Elements, which were justly attributed by these believers to the intelligent interference of the Cosmic Gods, assumed a scientific character. The Magic of the ancient priests consisted, in those days, in addressing their Gods in their own language.
The speech of the men of the Earth cannot reach the Lords. Each must be addressed in the language of his respective Element.
So says The Book of Rules, in a sentence which will be shown pregnant with meaning, adding as an explanation of the nature of that element-language:
It is composed of Sounds, not words; of sounds, numbers and figures. He who knows how to blend the three, will call forth the response of the superintending Power [the Regent-God of the specific Element needed].
Thus this “language” is that of incantations or of mantras, as they are called in India; sound being the most potent and effectual magic agent, and the first of the keys which opens the door of communication between Mortals and Immortals. He who believes in the words and teachings of St. Paul, has no right to pick out from the latter those sentences only which he chooses to accept, to the rejection of others; and St. Paul teaches most undeniably the existence of Cosmic Gods and their presence among us. Paganism preached a dual and simultaneous evolution, a “creation” spiritualem ac mundanum, as the Roman Church has it, ages before the advent of that Roman Church. Exoteric phraseology has changed little with respect to Divine Hierarchies since the most palmy days of Paganism, or “Idolatry.” Names alone have changed, together with claims which have now become false pretences. For when, for instance, Plato put in the mouth of the Highest Principle (Father Æther or Jupiter) the words, “the Gods of the Gods of whom I am the maker, as I am the father of all their works,” he knew the spirit of this sentence as fully, we suspect, as St. Paul did, when saying: “For though there be that are called Gods, whether in Heaven or in Earth, as there be Gods many and Lords many....”770 Both knew the sense and the meaning of what they put forward in such guarded terms.
We cannot be taken to task by the Protestants for interpreting the verse from the Corinthians as we do; for, if the translation in the English Bible is made ambiguous, it is not so in the original texts, and the Roman Catholic Church accepts the words of the Apostle in their true sense. For a proof see St. Dionysius, the Areopagite, who was “directly inspired by the Apostle,” and “who wrote under his dictation,” as we are assured by the Marquis de Mirville, whose works are approved by Rome, and who says, commenting on that special verse: “And, though there are (in fact) they who are called Gods, for it seems there are really several Gods, withal and for all that, the God-Principle and the Superior God ceases not to remain essentially one and indivisible.”771 Thus spoke the old Initiates also, knowing that the worship of minor Gods could never affect the “God Principle.” 772
Says Sir W. Grove, F.R.S., speaking of the correlation of forces:
The ancients when they witnessed a natural phenomenon, removed from ordinary analogies, and unexplained by any mechanical action known to them, referred it to a soul, a spiritual or preternatural power.... Air and gases were also at first deemed spiritual, but subsequently they became invested with a more material character; and the same words πνε?μα, spirit, etc., were used to signify the soul or a gas; the very word gas, from geist, a ghost or spirit, affords us an instance of the gradual transmutation of a spiritual into a physical conception.773
This, the great man of Science, in his preface to the sixth edition of his work, considers to be the only concern of exact Science, which has no business to meddle with the causes.
Cause and effect are, therefore, in their abstract relation to these forces, words solely of convenience. We are totally unacquainted with the ultimate generating power of each and all of them, and probably shall ever remain so; we can only ascertain the normal of their actions; we must humbly refer their causation to one omnipresent influence, and content ourselves with studying their effects and developing, by experiment, their mutual relations.774
This policy once accepted, and the system virtually admitted in the above-quoted words, namely, the spirituality of the “ultimate generating power,” it would be more than illogical to refuse to recognize this quality which is inherent in the material elements, or rather, in their compounds, as present in the fire, air, water or earth. The Ancients knew these powers so well, that, while concealing their true nature under various allegories, for the benefit, or to the detriment, of the uneducated rabble, they never departed from the multiple object in view, while inverting them. They contrived to throw a thick veil over the nucleus of truth concealed by the symbol, but they ever tried to preserve the latter as a record for future generations, sufficiently transparent to allow their wise men to discern the truth behind the fabulous form of the glyph or allegory. These ancient sages are accused of superstition and credulity; and this too by the very nations, which, though learned in all the modern arts and sciences, and cultured and wise in their generation, accept to this day as their one living and infinite God, the anthropomorphic “Jehovah” of the Jews!
What were some of these alleged “superstitions”? Hesiod believed, for instance, that “the winds were the sons of the Giant Typhôeus,” who were chained and unchained at will by Æolus, and the polytheistic Greeks accepted it along with Hesiod. Why should they not, since the monotheistic Jews had the same beliefs, with other names for their dramatis personæ, and since Christians believe in the same to this day? The Hesiodic Æolus, Boreas, etc., were named Kedem, Tzephum, Derum, and Ruach Hayum by the “chosen people” of Israel. What is, then, the fundamental difference? While the Hellenes were taught that Æolus tied and untied the winds, the Jews believed as fervently that their Lord God, with “smoke” coming “out of his nostrils and fire out of his mouth, ... rode upon a cherub and did fly; and he was seen upon the wings of the wind”.775 The expressions of the two nations are either both figures of speech, or both superstitions. We think they are neither; but only arise from a keen sense of oneness with Nature, and a perception of the mysterious and the intelligent behind every natural phenomenon, which the moderns no longer possess. Nor was it “superstitious” in the Greek Pagans to listen to the oracle of Delphi, when, at the approach of the fleet of Xerxes, that oracle advised them to “sacrifice to the winds,” if the same has to be regarded as divine worship in the Israelites, who sacrificed as often to the wind and also especially to the fire. Do they not say that their “God is a consuming fire,”776 who appeared generally as fire and “encompassed by fire”? and did not Elijah seek for the “Lord” in the “great strong wind, and in the earthquake”? Do not the Christians repeat the same after them? Do not they, moreover, sacrifice to this day, to the same “God of Wind and Water”? They do; because special prayers for rain, dry weather, trade-winds and the calming of storms on the seas, exist to this hour in the prayer-books of the three Christian Churches; and the several hundred sects of the Protestant religion offer them to their God upon every threat of calamity. The fact that they are no more answered by Jehovah, than they were, probably, by Jupiter Pluvius, does not alter the fact of these prayers being addressed to the Power, or Powers, supposed to rule over the Elements, or of these Powers being identical in Paganism and Christianity; or have we to believe that such prayers are crass idolatry and absurd “superstition” only when addressed by a Pagan to his “idol,” and that the same superstition is suddenly transformed into “praiseworthy piety” and “religion” whenever the name of the celestial addressee is changed? But the tree is known by its fruit. And the fruit of the Christian tree being no better than that of the tree of Paganism, why should the former command more reverence than the latter?
Thus, when we are told by the Chevalier Drach, a converted Jew, and by the Marquis de Mirville, a Roman Catholic fanatic of the French aristocracy, that in Hebrew “lightning” is a synonym of “fury,” and is always handled by the “evil” Spirit; that Jupiter Fulgur or Fulgurans is also called by the Christians Elicius, and denounced as the “soul of lightning,” its Dæmon;777 we have either to apply the same explanation and definitions to the “Lord God of Israel,” under the same circumstances, or renounce our right of abusing the Gods and creeds of other nations.
The foregoing statements, emanating as they do from two ardent and learned Roman Catholics, are, to say the least, dangerous, in the presence of the Bible and its prophets. Indeed, if Jupiter, the “chief Dæmon of the Pagan Greeks,” hurled his deadly thunder-bolts and lightnings at those who excited his wrath, so did the Lord God of Abraham and Jacob. For we read that:
The Lord thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice. And he sent out arrows [thunder-bolts] and scattered them [Saul's armies]; lightning, and discomfited them.778
The Athenians are accused of having sacrificed to Boreas; and this “Dæmon” is charged with having submerged and wrecked 400 ships of the Persian fleet on the rocks of Mount Pelion, and of having become so furious that all the Magi of Xerxes could hardly counteract him by offering contra-sacrifices to Thetis.779 Very fortunately, no authenticated instance is on the records of Christian wars, showing a like catastrophe on the same scale happening to one Christian fleet, owing to the “prayers” of its enemy—another Christian nation. But this is from no fault of theirs, for each prays as ardently to Jehovah for the destruction of the other, as the Athenians prayed to Boreas. Both resorted to a neat little piece of black magic con amore. Such abstinence from divine interference being hardly due to lack of prayers, sent to a common Almighty God for mutual destruction, where, then, shall we draw the line between Pagan and Christian? And who can doubt that all Protestant England would rejoice and offer thanks to the Lord, if during some future war, 400 ships of the hostile fleet were to be wrecked owing to such holy prayers? What is, then, the difference, we ask again, between a Jupiter, a Boreas, and a Jehovah? No more than this: The crime of one's own next-of-kin, say of one's father, is always excused and often exalted, whereas the crime of our neighbour's parent is ever gladly punished by hanging. Yet the crime is the same.
So far the “blessings of Christianity” do not seem to have made any appreciable advance on the morals of the converted Pagans.
The above is not a defence of Pagan Gods, nor is it an attack on the Christian Deity, nor does it mean belief in either. The writer is quite impartial, and rejects the testimony in favour of both, neither praying to, believing in, nor dreading any such “personal” and anthropomorphic God. The parallels are brought forward simply as one more curious exhibition of the illogical and blind fanaticism of the civilized theologian. For, so far, there is not a very great difference between the two beliefs, and there is none in their respective effects upon morality, or spiritual nature. The “light of Christ” shines upon as hideous features of the animal man now, as the “light of Lucifer” did in days of old. Says the missionary Lavoisier, in the Journal des Colonies:
These unfortunate heathens in their superstition regard even the Elements as something that has comprehension!... They still have faith in their idol Vâyu—the God or, rather, Demon of the Wind and Air ... they firmly believe in the efficacy of their prayers, and in the powers of their Brâhmans over the winds and storms.
In reply to this, we may quote from Luke: “And he [Jesus] arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water, and they ceased and there was a calm.”780 And here is another quotation from a Prayer Book: “O Virgin of the Sea, blessed Mother and Lady of the Waters, stay thy waves.” This prayer of the Neapolitan and Provençal sailors, is copied textually from that of the Phœnician mariners to their Virgin-Goddess Astarte. The logical and irrepressible conclusion arising from the parallels brought forward, and the denunciation of the missionary, is that the commands of the Brâhmans to their Element-Gods not remaining “ineffectual,” the power of the Brâhmans is thus placed on a par with that of Jesus. Moreover, Astarte is shown not a whit weaker in potency than the “Virgin of the Sea” of Christian sailors. It is not enough to give a dog a bad name, and then hang him; the dog has to be proven guilty. Boreas and Astarte may be “Devils” in theological fancy, but, as just remarked, the tree has to be judged by its fruit. And once the Christians are shown to be as immoral and as wicked as the Pagans ever were, what benefit has Humanity derived from its change of Gods and Idols?
That which God and the Christian Saints are justified in doing, becomes in simple mortals a crime, if successful. Sorcery and incantations are now regarded as fables; yet from the Institutes of Justinian down to the laws of England and America against witchcraft—obsolete but not repealed to this day—such incantations, even when only suspected, were punished as criminal. Why punish a chimera? And still we read of Constantine, the Emperor, sentencing to death the philosopher Sopatrus for “unchaining the winds,” and thus preventing ships laden with grain from arriving in time to put an end to famine. Pausanias is derided when he affirms that he saw with his own eyes “men who by simple prayers and incantations” stopped a strong hail-storm. This does not prevent modern Christian writers from advising prayer during storm and danger, and believing in its efficacy. Hoppo and Stadlein, two magicians and sorcerers, were sentenced to death for “throwing charms on fruit” and transferring a harvest by magic arts from one field to another, hardly a century ago, if we can believe Sprenger, the famous writer, who vouches for it: “Qui fruges excantassent segetem pellicentes incantando.”
Let us close by reminding the reader that, without the smallest shadow of superstition, one may believe in the dual nature of every object on Earth, in spiritual and material, in visible and invisible Nature, and that Science virtually proves this, while denying its own demonstration. For if, as Sir William Grove says, the electricity we handle is but the result of ordinary matter affected by something invisible, the “ultimate generating power” of every Force, the “one omnipresent influence,” then it only becomes natural that one should believe as the Ancients did; namely, that every Element is dual in its nature. “Ethereal Fire is the emanation of the Kabir proper; the Aërial is but the union [correlation] of the former with Terrestrial Fire, and its guidance and application on our earthly plane belongs to a Kabir of a lesser dignity”—an Elemental, perhaps, as an Occultist would call it; and the same may be said of every Cosmic Element.
No one will deny that the human being is possessed of various forces, magnetic, sympathetic, antipathetic, nervous, dynamical, occult, mechanical, mental, in fact of every kind of force; and that the physical forces are all biological in their essence, seeing that they intermingle with, and often merge into, those forces that we have named intellectual and moral, the first being the vehicles, so to say, the upâdhis, of the second. No one, who does not deny soul in man, would hesitate in saying that their presence and commingling are the very essence of our being; that they constitute the Ego in man, in fact. These potencies have their physiological, physical, mechanical, as well as their nervous, ecstatic, clairaudient, and clairvoyant phenomena, which are now regarded and recognized as perfectly natural, even by Science. Why should man be the only exception in Nature, and why cannot even the Elements have their Vehicles, their Vâhanas, in what we call the Physical Forces? And why, above all, should such beliefs be called “superstition” along with the religions of old?




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