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THEOSOPHY WORLD -------------------------------------- July, 2003
An Internet Magazine Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy
And its Practical Application in the Modern World
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(Please note that the materials presented in THEOSOPHY WORLD are
the intellectual property of their respective authors and may not
be reposted or otherwise republished without prior permission.)
"Theosophical Classics: Electronic Book Edition"
"Hammering Out Our Character," by B.P. Wadia
"The Mystic Secret of Spring," by Hazel Boyer Braun
"Book Review" T SUBBA ROW COLLECTED WRITINGS,"
by Katinka Hesselink
"ULT Day Letter," by the United Lodge of Theosophists
"The Mysticism of Yogachara Buddhism," by Radhakamal Mukerjee
"Portraits of Theosophists," Part V, by John M. Prentice
"Intuition," by George William Russell
"Satori," Part I, by Christmas Humphreys
"Apollonius of Tyanna, Part XI, by Phillip A Malpas
"The Wonder of a Friend," by Walter Eugene Kent
"The Theosophy of Ammonius Saccas: Founder of the Neo-Platonic
School," by Margaret Smith
> IMPORTANT RULE
> Notes must never be taken of E.S. Teachings either during a
> meeting, or while studying, or from memory at any time. The
> endeavor should be made, through keen interest and attention, so
> to fix the Teachings in the mind that gradually the student will
> be able to recall them, first in general outline, and in respect
> to the most salient points, and then more and more in detail.
> This discipline of the mind and memory is in itself a part of
> our Esoteric training.
> G. de Purucker, THE ESOTERIC PATH: ITS NATURE AND ITS TESTS,
> page 120.
THEOSOPHICAL CLASSICS: ELECTRONIC BOOK EDITION
[Loosely based upon an online announcement by the Theosophical
Publishing House, Manila.]
The following books are now conveniently available on a single
* THE SECRET DOCTRINE (2 vol.)
* ISIS UNVEILED (2 vol.)
* H.P. BLAVATSKY COLLECTED WRITINGS (15 vol.)
* THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT (Chronological Edition)
* THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY
* THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE
* LIGHT ON THE PATH
* LETTERS FROM THE MASTERS OF THE WISDOM (Series I and II)
* THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY
* ESOTERIC BUDDHISM (by A.P. Sinnett)
* TRANSACTIONS OF THE BLAVATSKY LODGE
Every word is pre-indexed, allowing for fast searches of the
13,000 pages of important theosophical writings. One can search
for words or phrases throughout all titles or within individual
or selected titles. One can search for multiple words beginning
with the same letters, like all words starting with "karm."
Search results are identified by book, chapter, or section. They
are ranked according to the frequency of their occurrence.
The major works have page numbers based upon the original
editions. The user can cut and paste passages into standard word
processors. Hours of work can be saved with just a few clicks.
The disk can be ordered from the Theosophical Publishing House,
Manila (www.theosophy.ph) or the Theosophical publishing House,
Wheaton (www.theosophical.org). The price is $24.95 plus
shipping (and tax if applicable).
HAMMERING OUT OUR CHARACTER
By B.P. Wadia
[From THUS HAVE I HEARD, pages 296-98.]
> Character is what God and the angels know of us.
> -- TOM PAINE
The educator and the social reformer of today are asking
questions. How to enable the learner at school and college to
fashion his own character deliberately, scientifically? How to
educate the citizen so that by himself he is able to recognize
his moral responsibilities? How to elevate the political animal
to the status of a moral man accountable for his conduct to his
own conscience? So-called religious education and moral education
have failed as instruments for character-building. Thoreau's
question must find an answer, "How can we expect a harvest of
thought who have not had a seed-time of character?"
If as THE MAHABHARATA points out, the mark of Dharma (Religion,
Law, and Duty) is good conduct, then organized religions, codes
of law, instruction about the performance of duties, have not
succeeded. Why? Parents and teachers who try to build the
characters of the young, or the adults who desire to mould and
reshape their own, do not quite get the significance of a
statement of Froude: "You cannot dream yourself into a character;
you must hammer and forge yourself one."
Emotions play a major part in human behavior. They provide the
motor power for human actions. They imply motion. They move
heavenwards under the impact and influence of the Spirit on the
human mind and we have noble aspirations. Lower desires, on the
other hand, arise from the response of our sensorium to mundane
objects, which now attract, then repel, causing pleasures and
pains and ending in, frustration. The Chinese, Mencius, refers
to this dual nature of our character: "He who attends to his
greater self becomes a great man and he who attends to his
smaller self becomes a small man."
Why are high aspirations necessary for the building of character?
How do low desires affect conduct? What part do Will and
resolutions play in the activity of the emotions? What part,
Thought and knowledge?
Character building and the science of conduct are very amorphous
subjects in the body of modern knowledge. Its devotees do not
know what definite purpose underlies human evolution. Nor do
they suspect that laws of Nature are intelligent expressions of
sub-mundane and super-mundane intelligences. Devas and Devatas,
Powers and Principalities, and Angels and Archangels are not
realities to men of modern knowledge as they were to sages and to
seers of the ancient world.
Our educators can never succeed in formulating the method of
building character or of assigning true values to human conduct
or behavior till they study the ancient doctrine of the existence
of invisible worlds with their denizens and citizens, and the
influence of these on human beings -- infants and adults alike.
The fundamental teachings of the ancient philosophy are:
> (1) Everything in the universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is
> conscious, i.e.., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind
> and on its own plane of perception.
> (2) The universe is worked and guided from within outwards. We
> see that every external motion, act, gesture, whether voluntary
> or mechanical, organic or mental, is produced and preceded by
> internal feeling or emotion, will or volition, and thought or
> mind. As no outward motion or change, when normal, in man's
> external body can take place unless provoked by an inward
> impulse, given through one of the three functions named, so with
> the external and manifested Universe. The whole Kosmos is
> guided, controlled, and animated by almost endless series of
> Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform.
> (3) These Intelligences are dual in character: being composed of
> (a) the irrational brute energy, inherent in matter, and (b) the
> intelligent soul or cosmic consciousness which directs and guides
> that energy.
> (4) Man is a compound of the essences of all those celestial
> Hierarchies, and MAY succeed in making himself, as such,
> superior, in one sense, to any or all of them.
> (5) Man WILL succeed if he knows himself, i.e., his constitution,
> visible and invisible, sensuous, psychic, and spiritual, and then
> endeavors to develop his divine aspirations while starving his
> mundane desires.
To appreciate the greater ideals set forth by Bhishma in THE
ANUSHASANA PARVA, CIV, the aid of the above teachings becomes
essential. Says THE MAHABHARATA:
> Thou shouldst know that conduct is the root of prosperity.
> Conduct is the enhancer of fame. It is conduct that prolongs
> life. It is conduct that destroys all calamities and evils.
> Conduct has been said to be superior to all the branches of
> knowledge. It is conduct that begets righteousness. Conduct is
> the most efficacious rite of propitiating the deities.
THE MYSTIC SECRET OF SPRING
By Hazel Boyer Braun
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, April 1947, pages 193-96, based
upon a report of a lecture given in the Temple at Point Loma
during the 1930's.]
How do we understand the mystic inner life and the operations of
Cosmic Intelligence? Observe the nature of things around us in
minute detail. Universal Nature is repetitive in the majestic
and harmonious movement of life.
At this lovely Springtime Season, we see in the face of nature a
reflection of a grander flow of spiritual energy on higher
planes. We see a secret sway of blossoming spirituality in which
we may play our part if prepared. Say we sat together studying
these flowers in silence this afternoon. Observe their
full-bloomed faces unfolded to the sunlight and their tight-held
buds. If intuitive and mystically inclined, we might read in the
flowers what happens in the constitution of Man, the planets,
solar systems, or even universes. The law of analogy is so
accurate that the flowers, as symbol, would tell us.
There is optimism, a sense of inner peace, and understanding when
we realize that the effort of evolution is towards resurrection.
The urge of the blossoming power in every center of consciousness
and in every kingdom of life brings about a gradual evolutionary
blooming, growing, resurrecting of life.
We have been taught that every grain of sand and every minute
particle of physical life veils a center of divine consciousness
that has and is in process of putting on these garments, souls,
or vehicles in order to learn by becoming. The tempo of
more-material planes of being is more rapid. Higher planes rise
majestically into a slower rhythm. The lower is so far from the
goal that it must hurry. Consider this whimsical suggestion,
thinking of tiny cells flashing into and out of life faster than
we can think, obedient to an inner urge to go higher.
Man translates this urge into activities of the part of his being
in which he centers the driving power of his life. Sages and
seers instruct man to know himself, to recognize this urge and
grasp the ever-widening horizons of consciousness that are his
heritage. Obedient to the divine urge to rise to the Christ part
of his nature, man responds. The range of his consciousness
widens. Hence, he has a slower rhythm. There is that within
capable of absolute knowledge, capable of ranging the Universe in
its visible and invisible realms.
It is important to know ourselves and watch how we respond to the
urge of life. Some translate it into a mad chase after fame and
wealth only to realize that this did not bring true happiness.
It could not. The spiritual urge is yet unfulfilled. Truly, one
reaches the goal only by learning to give, consecrating one's
life on the altar of the greatest of all causes, that of helping
To attain self-conquest, we need guidance. We require the help
of a teacher who has passed through the mystical resurrection and
made the greatest of adventures successfully. The wisdom and
love, the compassionate seership of such a teacher unlocks our
hearts and minds. It is a mystical process.
Were we to wait for natural processes to bring this resurrection,
it would take eons. We would endure the agony of the cross along
with the enduring lifewave of humanity. At any time, we may step
forward and make an inner call for help. If we have the
character to live by this call, we can put our feet on the short
cut. We can find guidance.
Our teacher calls the Universe a Tree of Life with its roots in
the heart of being, its branches the planes of Universal Life,
its fruits -- man and gods -- at once the fruit and the seed. We
often call this tree the cross. Nothing is more important than
knowing about this Cross of Universal Life. Passing from an
unselfconscious god-spark to self-conscious godhood, one brings
into being a dark side and a light side of life. The great
adventure is victory over this cross. The misery we see in the
world is just this.
Two symbols are associated with the cross. One is wings. The
other is the spear or sword. They arouse our imaginations,
directing our thoughts toward the hid wonders of the universe err
we ever pass consciously through them. Plato said Nous alone
furnishes with wings: Nous, the higher mind, the intuitions and
The sword symbolizes the spiritual will that must come into
action. It must come forth to help us successfully resist
temptation to do wrong and be less than we are. Resurrection and
renunciation are vitally related. They form a cross. We find
ourselves when we lose ourselves, but first we must want to! Like
attracts like. Where we center our secret thought, there shall
Know what it means to watch our thoughts. Realize how we
translate this urge of our inner life, an urge that drives us
always. Doing so, we find a helpful key. We come here into the
Temple today seeking light. Here our higher selves are more
consciously at home than they are anywhere else. What would
happen if we stayed for hours? We would have an urge to be on our
way. We have not learned to concentrate on spiritual things so
positively that we can be quiet, still ourselves, and take
instruction. The Teacher cannot walk for us. He can awaken our
minds and stimulate fresh aspirations. Then we must each walk
the path. This is what the Lord Buddha meant when he said in the
closing words of his life, "Brothers, all that is is composite
and transitory, therefore work out your salvation."
In this school of the Universe, we are taught that "the struggle
for the eternal is not in the daring deed nor yet hundreds of
them. It is the calm, unbroken forgetfulness of the lower self
for all time," and in the realization that we each have within us
"that same guide that the Masters possess." By obedience to it,
we may become as they are.
Initiation is the process of man's resurrection, raising him from
manhood to Divinity, the blossoming of Truth. All nature sings
to us of this glory. If you have a garden, you must feel this
wonder of life daily. If we try, we can feel as the flowers do
raising their faces to the morning sun, for we have been flowers.
We have been the stone, the gold, and the diamond as we rose in
the mineral hierarchy. All the secrets of the impersonal lily
and rose are locked up in our nature. When we are more
self-conscious impersonally, we feel the thrill of joy that the
flowers and trees feel. We must identify ourselves with the sun
itself. THE BHAGAVAD-GITA says it is the gate of the paths that
lead to the gods.
We are taught that Initiation involves our digestion of the
truths of the universe. See how important it is. See how noble
and uplifting it is to study Theosophy, the wisdom of the gods.
See how grand it is to spend our evenings studying together these
lofty inspiring truths, thinking of them on waking in the morning
and in our last thoughts in falling asleep. This is the process
of identification with the Great Silence, the Radiant God within
us. It is our hope of blossoming into a Lord of Meditation, a
great power in the Hierarchy of Compassion.
BOOK REVIEW: T. SUBBA ROW COLLECTED WRITINGS
By Katinka Hesselink
[A review of the two-volume work compiled and annotated by Henk
J. Spierenburg, published by Point Loma Publications in 2001 and
When hearing the name Subba Row, the well-read theosophist thinks
of two things. First his comments on THE BHAGAVAD GITA and
second his argument with H.P. Blavatsky on the sevenfold
composition of man. Subba Row was seen in his day as an expert
on Sanskrit literature. His knowledge of the ancient texts was
phenomenal. H.P. Blavatsky considered him her equal in the area
of esoteric knowledge. It wasn’t for nothing that she wanted him
to edit THE SECRET DOCTRINE. He refused because he felt too many
Brahman secrets were being revealed in the book.
In the above, two characteristics of Subba Row’s personality are
clearly shown. They were esoteric knowledge and Brahman pride
and exclusivity. The latter trait eventually made him decide to
leave the Theosophical Society though he kept in touch with
Colonel Olcott till the end of his life. The former
characteristic ensured his continued influence in theosophical
Secretive as he acted, he still wrote extensively for The
Theosophist. Most of these articles are available in the various
versions of THE ESOTERIC WRITINGS OF T. SUBBA ROW published by
the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar (which has recently
reprinted the volume).
In light of Subba Row's esoteric knowledge, this work is very
valuable. Even so, Henk Spierenburg has been able to supersede
this. He found articles and notes from the Theosophist and
letters in the archives in Adyar that had not previously been
published. He found quotes from obscure Sanskrit Texts and
retranslated them. He created a voluminous index included the
meaning of Sanskrit terminology and put the articles in
chronological order. The result is true to the name T. SUBBA
ROW COLLECTED WRITINGS. I should not leave unmentioned the
extensive biography of Subba Row.
Those who expect the volume the BLAVATSKY COLLECTED WRITINGS has
(more than a meter on the bookshelves), will be surprised. In
this case the two volumes add up to a total of 654 pages. The
subjects covered range from the seven rays, the logos, Mahatmas
in Southern India, the charkas, a personal or impersonal God, and
angels. All in all, these two volumes should not be lacking from
the shelves of the serious student of theosophy.
ULT DAY LETTER
By The United Lodge of Theosophists
[Following is a letter to friends and associates of the United
Lodge of Theosophists. This voluntary association of students of
Theosophy exists "to spread broadcast the Teachings of Theosophy
as recorded in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky and W.Q. Judge."
The ULT issued the letter June 21-25, 2003 under the letterhead
of the Los Angeles Lodge (245 West 33rd Street, Los Angeles CA
The first "ULT Day Letter" was written in 1931, just two months
before the republication of ISIS UNVEILED by The Theosophy
Company to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of
H.P. Blavatsky. Since that time, it is hoped that this annual
event has not become an "institution" in any sense beyond its
service as a vehicle to share ideas and note important events
during the year.
The role of The United Lodge of Theosophists is not to call
attention to itself as somehow "special" or unique, nor to
"correct" the perceived faults of others. It is, quite simply,
to provide a means by which inquirers and students can come
together to study Theosophy. The wise counsel, "that government
is best which governs least," might be applied equally to the
affairs of ULT.
The basis for this study is rooted in the Theosophical
philosophy, as an attempt to recognize students as reincarnating
egos, and not just as personalities. This extends to all who
attend or who inquire, regardless of their background, "without
distinction of race, creed, sex, condition, or organization." The
wisdom of this approach requires that no one be put on a
pedestal, no matter how apparently highly advanced or
"spiritual." We try to trust our own intuitions and doubt our own
prejudices, to seek honestly the truth about ourselves and the
world, to use Theosophy as a tool, not as a belief, to remember
that Theosophy needs no interpreters, no priests, no authorities,
and that Truth thrives on unadorned discovery and dialogue, but
withers under convention and orthodoxy.
Lodges exist to make it easier to share these ideas with others,
and as a home for substantive dialogue. The ideal is that great
ideas should be attended to, and that human beings are capable of
self-education. While the form of meetings is subservient to
content, forms of expression can be stumbling blocks. The United
Lodge of Theosophists is therefore at its best when its work is
as transparent as possible, and most susceptible when made to
serve the preconceptions of the accountants of the imagination.
Encouraging in this direction has been the proliferation in
recent years of study classes in THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Students
come together not to "teach" the book, but to gain inspiration
from it and from their fellows. From its study, we come to
regard Truth not as a collection of "facts" but as a harmonic
resonance of consciousness, a hierarchy of principles with which
one can become attuned. Such a "holographic" model of
consciousness connects us with all of life, connects us with each
other and with all movements for the amelioration of suffering
and the well-being of the planet.
A year ago, we had several contributions that shared the
approaches and experiences of students from Lodges and Study
Groups in many areas. Though fewer, the contributions received
during the past year are just as heartening. Three recent
letters from the Jacmel, Haiti Lodge show that their hard work
has paid off handsomely. Their twice-weekly meetings are well
attended, and they have opened their library to students and the
public. They continue to expand both facilities and program, and
their enthusiastic dedication is evident in their letters.
From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "Theosophical Independence"
enters its second year of monthly publication, with student
discussions on the value of the Theosophical philosophy to the
enquiring mind and heart.
Quite literally, in our own backyard, students gathered in Long
Beach, California and at the Los Angeles Lodge, on the
anniversary of HPB's birth, for a series of summer meetings and a
"Fiesta Latina." The Long Beach study group's Friday meeting
filled to overflowing; then Saturday night students joined other
Theosophists and inquirers to hear featured presentations on "The
Tibetan Buddhism of H.P. Blavatsky," and "Tarot and THE SECRET
DOCTRINE." Sunday brought well over a hundred people to Theosophy
Hall, where they met in the auditorium to discuss material in
both English and Spanish. Lunch, music, dance, and conversation
took up most of the afternoon, and all departed with a sense of
Spanish-speaking students are enjoying an ever-growing library of
translated works. Articles of H.P. Blavatsky first published by
The Theosophy Company in pamphlet form are now offered as a book
by Berbera Editores S.A., in Mexico City, Mexico for distribution
throughout the Americas and eventually in Europe. The paperback
work, titled MISTERIOUS DE LOS ESTADOS DESPUES DE LA MUERTE Y
ORTROS ESCRITOS (MYSTERIES ON THE STATES AFTER DEATH, AND OTHER
WRITINGS), is the first of several planned for publication over
the next few years. By sharing publication and distribution
costs, we are able to make Blavatsky's writings available to far
more readers than before.
Collaboration in all things has been shown to be the most
beneficial for individuals and the work, so once again we ask
that students from all over, from Lodges and Study Groups as well
as those geographically isolated, send in contributions to share
their efforts on behalf of Theosophy. While some may find it
difficult and perhaps think it inappropriate to write about their
own work, there is still a great benefit to others who wish to
know more about the larger theosophical community. Therefore, we
look forward to hearing from you during the course of the next
THE MYSTICISM OF YOGACHARA BUDDHISM
By Radhakamal Mukerjee
[From THE ARYAN PATH, November 1936, pages 512-14.]
One of the most subtle doctrines of contemplative Mysticism was
that developed by the Yogachara School of Mahayana Buddhism.
This school developed in India in the fifth century A.D. in the
hands of the two brothers of Gandhara -- Vasuvandhu and Asanga --
who both spent part of their lives in Oudh. The great
characteristic of this Buddhist school of thought is that by the
methods of dialectic a doctrine was reached in which pure
knowledge and mystical ecstasy became inseparable.
H.P. Blavatsky points out in her THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY that:
> There are two Yogacharya Schools, one esoteric, the other
> popular. The doctrines of the latter were compiled and glossed
> by Asamgha in the sixth century of our era, and his mystic
> tantras and mantras, his formularies, litanies, spells and
> mudras, would certainly, if attempted without a Guru, serve
> rather purposes of sorcery and black magic than real Yoga.
Again she says,
> Aryasangha was the Founder of the first Yogacharya School. This
> Arhat, a direct disciple of Gautama, the Buddha, is most
> unaccountably mixed up and confounded with a personage of the
> same name, who is said to have lived in Ayodhya (Oude) about the
> fifth or sixth century of our era, and taught Tantrika worship in
> addition to the Yogacharya system. Those who sought to make it
> popular, claimed that he was the same Aryasangha, that had been a
> follower of Sakyamuni, and that he was 1,000 years old. Internal
> evidence alone is sufficient to show that the works written by
> him and translated about the year 600 of our era, works full of
> Tantra worship, ritualism and tenets followed now considerably by
> the "red-cap" sects in Sikkim, Bhutan, and Little Tibet, cannot
> be the same as the lofty system of the early Yogacharya school of
> pure Buddhism which is neither northern nor southern, but
> absolutely esoteric. Though none of the genuine Yogacharya books
> (the NARJOL CHODPA) have ever been made public or marketable, yet
> one finds in the YOGACHARYA BUHMI SHASTRA of the
> pseudo-Aryasangha a great deal from the older system, into the
> tenets of which he may have been initiated. It is, however, so
> mixed up with Sivaism and Tantrika magic and superstitions, that
> the work defeats its own end, notwithstanding its remarkable
> dialectical subtlety.
According to this idealistic school, all objects are created by
the mind itself. It is the pure idea that is produced as an
external object. Says Vasuvandhu:
> It is knowledge itself that appears as object; all this is only
> idea that appears as object, which in Reality does not exist.
The analogy is drawn from the perception of a picture for denying
the objective value of knowledge.
> In a picture painted according to the rules there are neither
> hollow nor raised parts, and yet one seizes them; thus in the
> imagination there is never duality and yet one seizes it.
Thus in Yogachara all duality in the phenomenon of representation
is banished. There no longer exists either apprehender or
apprehended, as Asanga says, nor the ego and the world. There
remains only a cosmic absolute Vijnana or knowledge that is an
infinite ever-fluent series. All objects in the universe, all
mental constructs, all differentiation of subject and object,
consist of the Alaya-Vijnana, the absolute Cosmic Consciousness.
In THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, Alaya is defined as "the Universal
Soul or Atma, each man having a ray of it in him and being
supposed to be able to identify himself with and to merge himself
There is here an essential similarity with the Atmadvaita of
Sankara. Yet there is also the strong distinctive characteristic
of the Buddhist Vijnanadvaita that pure knowledge which is
anterior to the subject and object and the act of knowledge is
only Becoming. Writes Houan-Tsang:
> As the river struck by the winds gives birth to waves without its
> flow being interrupted, so the Alaya-Vijnana, without a break in
> its perpetual flux, produces temporary thoughts . . . From all
> time, the Alaya-Vijnana flows thus like a river without
When all notions of diversification of the knower, known and
knowledge are banished as fictitious, when the subject and the
object become only aspects of Vijnana or knowledge itself, there
is discovered in the end beneath the phenomena or rather in them
The conception of the Suchness or Absolute Nature of things
(Tathata) is one of the most delicate and profound mystical
notions in the Buddhist philosophy. The Suchness eludes all
definition, and thus as in the Upanishads the Reality is sought
to be defined by an accumulation and balancing of opposite
categories, so also does the Vijnanabadi try to reach an
approximation of Absolute Nature by effacing the distinction
between Being and Not Being, Ideality and Reality, Samsara and
In fact, the Tathata can be apprehended only by a mystical
rapport. It is only in mystical insight that the human being can
pass beyond the distinctions of the ego and the world, beyond all
mental constructs. The Suchness is the strangest, simplest, and
boldest definition of Reality. It defines the indefinable and
inexpressible. It does not lead the mind to any void, because it
is something positive. On the other hand, in an absolutist
idealism that is in ceaseless Becoming, the Suchness is the
permanent, all-comprehensive datum. Only by mystical
illumination could this Suchness be apprehended.
Dharmapala observed that the Suchness is a mere tentative
description adopted only to save one from the error of
identifying it with nothingness. Thus the predicate Bhava or
Existence is pointed. Asanga says of the Suchness:
> It can neither be called existence nor non-existence; It is
> neither "such" nor "otherwise." It is neither born nor destroyed;
> It neither increases nor decreases; It is neither purity nor
> faith. Such is the real lakshana (mark) of the Transcendental
> Truth (Suchness).
The same idea that the true state of Suchness in only born of
mystical illumination when all language or meaning of language is
completely abjured is also evident in Asvaghosa's definition of
> As soon as you grasp that, when totality (universality) of
> existence is spoken of or thought of, there is neither that which
> speaks, nor that which is spoken of; neither that which thinks,
> nor that which is thought of; then you conform to Suchness; and
> when your subjectivity is thus completely obliterated, it is then
> that you may be said to have insight.
It is a familiar experience in the path of mystical insight that
the Reality is reached through a gradual but completed negation
of all attributes and conditions, which betoken relativity and
individuality. In the Upanishadic mysticism, the Reality is
reached through a process of elevated contemplation, which avoids
all relativities and subjectivities as neti, neti (not this, not
this). It is the other; and this negation becomes the
description of the Reality itself.
Unlike any other contemplative mysticism, the Yogachara school
has developed elaborate modes of contemplation in stages and
parts leading up to the transcendent Suchness. This is described
by them as Asamskrita dharma and ought to have its appeal to
modern minds. The stages of consciousness that lead up to
absence of all conditions, i.e., the Samskritas, which like spots
bedim the pure bright mirror of Reality are:
(1) The freedom of akasa, all-comprehensive, limitless
(2) Freedom from all kinds of bodily conditions and attributes
(3) Freedom of effortlessness which is obtained without the aid
(4) Freedom from the motivation of pain and pleasure.
(5) Freedom from the activation of conscious processes.
Such are the stages in the development of mystical insight in its
highest reaches, each stage representing a distinct manifestation
of Reality. At the final, the sixth stage, freedom in the
eternal, unchangeable, and transcendent Suchness is established.
In the Upanishadic mysticism, however, the stress is on
affirmation. The Reality, though likewise absolute,
unconditioned, and indefinable, has a positive aspect as
something eternal and immutable and completely comprising all
things that live, move and disappear into it. In the Upanishadic
description of Reality, the affirmative note dominates over the
negative note, which is stronger in Buddhist mysticism though in
both the dual attitudes exist side by side. As a matter of fact
even in Asvaghosa, the Suchness is conceived in its two aspects:
first trueness as negation (Sunyata) and secondly, trueness as
affirmation (Asunyata). Much more significant than this is the
difference between Upanishadic and Yogachara mysticism arising in
the latter's idea of Reality as a process, a ceaseless Becoming,
a continuous series, akin to the phenomenological tendency of
The Suchness is the message of Silence, the essence of effortless
contemplation. Here thought and vacuation, affirmation and
negation are both baffled. For the transcendent can be neither
posited nor denied. Truth transcends both the affirmation and
the negation of thought.
The mystical height is at once sublime and terrifying. For it
cuts the roots of our flow of life and knowledge. Yet when it is
reached by rare, adventurous souls, it is found as the inmost of
our being and becoming, embracing every being and every thing in
the world in one simultaneous all-comprehensive illumination and
PORTRAITS OF THEOSOPHISTS, Part V
By John M. Prentice
[This is a true sketch of a Theosophist written by the President
of the Australian Section of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena),
from THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, May 1945, pages 221-23.]
His friends in the Lodge, which he joined when he was sixteen,
called him the Seventh Rounder. His acquaintances outside the
Theosophical Society knew him as the Bloodhound because of his
extraordinary sense of smell. This highly developed and quite
unusual faculty enabled him to identify almost any article handed
to him, even when blindfolded, sometimes involving him in acute
To those who knew him well, it was funny to see him take the
measure of a person, an article, or a house by the simple
expedient of inhaling through his nostrils and analyzing his
sense perceptions. After a few almost disastrous experiences, he
learnt to keep these impressions strictly to himself. In a minor
way and as a parlor trick with this unusual ability, he amused
many a party in those far-off days when amusements were less
He took to Theosophy naturally. His mother had been a keen
student of Spiritualism. She had seen many phenomena. She came
into Theosophy when she realized the dead end into which her
studies led. When first contacting LIGHT ON THE PATH, he found
his pathway in life marked out for him. Ever thereafter, he trod
it until the end came for this incarnation.
Later on, he married the daughter of another well-known
Theosophist but cloud and darkness were soon to surround his
pavilion. Sorrow was to fill the lives of both. His elder son,
whom he was never to see after the son's seventh birthday, faced
the same future regarding Theosophy and health. That son died
three years ago, a Fellow of the Theosophical Society at the
early age of twenty-four.
In his youth, he was very proud of his physical fitness, keeping
himself in splendid physical condition by strenuous and constant
exercise. His favorite sport was rowing and he soon found a
place in the racing eight of a famous Club. Straining at his oar
in the trials before an event of unusual and nationwide interest,
he punctured a lung and tuberculosis supervened.
In a far distant part of the continent where climatic and other
conditions offered a reasonable chance of recovery, he took up
life anew, setting up a new home. Two sons were born, adding to
his liabilities. In an effort to ensure their future well being,
because he already felt the hand of death upon him, he entered
into financial dealings that ended in complete disaster.
He moved to another part of the Continent but work and worry
proved too much for him. Very soon, it was necessary to remove
him to a Hospital for Incurables.
At this time, specialists seeking a cure for his ailment, or at
least to combat the disease, were carrying out experiments. The
possible cure involved a series of injections of certain metals
in tincture form. They told him beforehand that the results were
agonizing as well as ugly, involving extreme discomfort of body
and mind. Even so, he offered himself as a human guinea pig
cheerfully, submitting himself to their hands. Only those in
close touch with him knew of the horror through which his
physical body passed.
His mind was always clear. His faith never wavered. His trust
in the Great Law was absolute. Even when pain overcame his iron
will, he strove to suppress its murmurs, insisting the
experiments carry on. He did this hoping his endurance might
save others in time to come, continuing until reaching a point
when bodily resistance could stand no more and he died a martyr's
death. His sense of smell remained, adding his agony as it
revealed his bodily condition to him. This affected him more
than the words of those nursing him.
His friends rallied to him at the end. His great wish was
gratified, which was that fire would purify his worn out body.
The cleansing flame reduced it to its component elements.
There was a great rose bush whose immense crimson-black blossoms
had afforded him a vision of beauty when he was almost too ill to
move. Its wind-blown perfume had alleviated his overworked sense
of smell. After his cremation, friends strew his ashes round it.
His well-worn copy of LIGHT ON THE PATH went to the flames with
his body, together with an etymological dictionary, the study of
which afforded him mental rest, giving him satisfaction when he
was too ill to read long, consecutive passages.
Verily he killed out ambition, yet worked as those work that are
ambitious. He killed out desire of life, yet respected life as
those who desire it. He killed out desire of comfort, yet was as
happy as those are who live for happiness. To those who stood
closest to him and knew him best, he seemed worthy to stand in
the presence of the Masters. He had washed his soul's feet in
the very lifeblood of his heart.
He could not gratify his longing to see his two boys because of
his bodily decay. (They remembered him as a hero, forever
young.) He died with their names on his lips. In some future
age, he will return with a body to match the excellence of his
intellect. Karmic bonds of Love will assuredly bring the three
together again. His younger son, a gallant soldier of the Second
World War, is now a father. It is possible that something of the
quality of his grandfather will make this boy a future leader of
men, and -- better still -- a true Theosophist.
By George William Russell
[From THE CANDLE OF VISION, Chapter XIII, pages 112-19.]
My words do not communicate that sense of divinity which is ever
present in act or thought. Half-articulate and with broken
words, the ecstatic can make us feel the kingdom of heaven is
within him. I choose words with reverence but speak from
recollection, knowing that one day does not utter its own wisdom
Our highest moments in life are often those of which we hold
thereafter the vaguest memories. We may have momentary
illumination yet retain almost as little of its reality as ocean
keeps the track of a great vessel which went over its waters. I
remember incidents rather than moods, vision more than ecstasy.
In those years, thought was turned to the spirit. No duty had
constrained me to equal outward effort yet. Passed away from
myself and long at other labors, how can I now speak of what I
felt then? I came to feel akin to those ancestors of the Aryan in
remote spiritual dawns when Earth first extended its
consciousness into humanity.
In that primal ecstasy and golden age was born that grand
spiritual tradition which still remains embodied in Veda and
Upanishad, in Persian and Egyptian myth. Its tails glimmers with
color and romance over our own Celtic legends. I had but a faint
glow of that which to the ancestors was full light.
Although I could not enter that Radiance they entered, the Earth
seemed to me bathed in ether of Deity. At times, I felt as one
arisen from the dead and made virginal and pure. I felt as one
who renews exquisite intimacies with the divine companion: Earth,
Water, Air, and Fire. To breathe was to inhale magical elixirs.
To touch Earth was to feel the influx of power as with one who
had touched the mantle of the Lord. From whatever it set out,
thought led to the heavenly city forever.
These feelings are incommunicable. We have no words to express a
thousand distinctions clear to the spiritual sense. I tell of my
exaltation to another who has not felt this himself. To that
person, it is as explicable as the joy in perfect health, and he
translates into lower terms what is the speech of the gods to
I began writing desirous to picture things definitely to the
intellect. I wanted to only speak of that over which there could
be reason and argument. I have often been indefinite as when I
had written that earth seemed an utterance of gods, "Every flower
was a thought. The trees were speech. The grass was speech.
The winds were speech. The waters were speech." But what does
that convey? Many feel ecstasy at the sight of beautiful natural
objects. When I refer to a divine world easily, I do not
interpret emotion precisely.
I believe nature is a manifestation of Deity. Because we partake
in the divine nature, all we see has affinity with us. We are as
children who look upon letters before they have learned to read.
To the illuminated spirit, its own being is clearly manifested in
the universe even as I recognize my thought in the words I write.
Everything in nature has intellectual significance. Everything
has relation as utterance to the Thought out of which the
universe was born. Our minds were made in its image. We are the
microcosm of the macrocosm, having in us the key to unlock the
meaning of that utterance.
Because of these affinities, the spirit can interpret nature to
itself swiftly by intuition. This is like where we instinctively
comprehend the character betrayed by the curve of lips or the
mood which lurks within haunting eyes. We react in numberless
ways to that myriad nature about us and within us. We retain for
ourselves the secret of our response, and for lack of words speak
to others of these things only in generalities.
I desire to be precise. I searched memory for some instance of
that divine speech made intelligible to myself. This was so that
I could translate into words which might make it intelligible to
others. Then I recollected something that may be understood at
least if not accepted. It was the alphabet of the language of
Seeking to evolve intellectual order out of a chaos of
impressions, I undertook this exercise of intuition. I wanted to
discover the innate affinities of sound with idea, element,
force, color, and form. As the inner being developed, I found
that it used a symbolism of its own. In the complicated artifice
of our external intercourse with each other, sounds, forms, and
colors have an established significance. They took on new
meanings in the spirit. It was as if the spirit spoke a language
of its own and wished to impart it to the infant Psyche.
If these new meanings did not gradually reveal an intellectual
character, to pursue this meditation, to encourage the
association of new ideas with old symbols would be to encourage
madness. A person may associate a vowel with a certain color or
a color with a definite emotion. Some regard this partial
uprising of ideas as incomplete sanity.
I tried to light the candle on my forehead, peering into darkness
in the belief that the external universe of nature had no more
exquisite architecture than the internal universe of being. The
light could only reveal some lordlier chambers of the soul.
Whatever speech the inhabitant used must be fitting for its own
sphere. I became a pupil of the spirit, trying as a child to
learn the alphabet at the knees of the gods.
Out of the darkness, that whisper of the word "Eon" led me first
to brood upon the elements of human speech. Among the thoughts I
had at the time, there came the thought that speech may
originally have been intuitive.
I discarded the idea with regard to "Eon," but the general
speculation remained. I returned to it repeatedly. Beginning to
brood upon the significance of separate letters, I had related
many letters to abstractions or elements. By seeming chance, I
took down a book from a shelf once again. It was a volume of the
Upanishads. It opened at a page where my eye caught, "the air,
from air fire, from fire water, from water earth came from that
Self." I quote from a distant memory but the words are close
Thinking I had discovered the sound equivalents for the self,
motion, fire, water, and earth, I was excited. The passage
suggested the order of the cosmic evolution of the elements. It
led me to consider if there were any intellectual sequence in the
human sound equivalents of elements and ideas.
I rearranged the roots of speech into their natural order. This
went from throat sounds, through dental, to labials, going from
"A" which begins to be recognizable in the throat to "M" in the
utterance of which the lips are closed.
An intellectual sequence of ideas became apparent. This
encouraged me to try and complete the correspondences arrived at
intuitively. I was never able to do this. Several sounds
failed. I brooded upon them, to suggest their intellectual
affinities. I can only detail my partial discoveries and
indicate where harmonies I found between my intuitions about
language and the roots of speech and in what primitive literature
are intuitions akin to my own.
In trying to arrive at the affinities of sound with thought, I
took letter after letter and brooded upon them. I murmured the
letters repeatedly, watching every sensation in consciousness
intensely, watching every color, form, or idea that seemed evoked
by the utterance.
I was a boy who walked about the roads at night more than thirty
years ago. I murmured letters to myself with the reverence of a
mystic murmuring the Ineffable Name. I was trying to put myself
in the place of my Aryan ancestors, seeking to find as they might
have found the original names for earth, air, water, and fire,
the forces and elements of the nature all about us. Anyone who
knew what I was doing might have questioned my sanity.
Even as in the myth in Genesis, the earliest man named beings. I
invited the Heavenly Man to renew that first speech for me. I
sought the names of the elements, as those who looked up at the
sky knew them. I cried out the name of the fire in the sky from
a God-given intuition.
SATORI, PART I
By Christmas Humphreys
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, May 1949, pages 294-309.]
There can be no Zen without satori. Zen is Satori. All the talk
about Zen is only about it. As a master said, "Satori is the
measure of Zen," and it is, of course, the measure of Buddhism.
For Buddhism springs from the Buddha's satori, or Enlightenment,
and has no meaning without it. The koan, the mondo, the innen,
or incidents are all incidental to Zen, unnecessary to it.
Satori is the goal, the meaning, and the heart of Zen.
We live in a world of discrimination. Satori is the world of
non-discrimination, non-differentiation, of two-ness become
one-ness and yet equally seen as two. Satori is the world of
perpetual now, here, and this, the world of absolute, unimpeded
flow. How do we build a bridge between these two apparently
The intellect will go so far and no further. We may learn more
and more about Zen. We may pile up high mountains of simile,
analogy, and story. Still, we only learn about it. We are not
experiencing Zen. I touch, see, or taste; I feel, be it joy or
fear; I KNOW by the intuition – all these are experience. I know
that I feel; I say that I know; I think that I hear -- all these
are second-hand experience. When I hold up a finger, it is Zen.
When I say that I hold up a finger, the Zen has fled. How do we
keep hold of this living, flowing, immediate experience, of this
sense of perpetual Now?
The means are as many as the efforts of man. The koan and mondo
are two, but scores have attained satori having heard of neither.
Any device that works is good. Men will find a thousand more to
use when needed. All devices empty the self and make a space so
the light of life, the eternal More, may flow. We must empty
everything -- the toys we love, each cherished, loved ideal as
well as each fond offence -- all purpose and desire. The self
has pride and regret of the past. It has fears, boasts, desires
of the moment, and has hopes and ambitions for the days unborn.
We must transcend that self.
Even the approach to the bridge involves enormous effort. "Knock
and it shall be opened unto you" is true. It is also true that
"our whole existence must be thrown down at the door" (LIVING BY
ZEN, MS 4, page 28) or as I would have put it, "thrown AT the
door." The preparation depends on the individual, but is usually
long. As the man is his mind, and the mind is the net result of
its past causes, created in this life and in scores of lives gone
by, the variety of mind seeking satori is nearly infinite. The
effort required is equally various, having in common that "You
yourself must make the effort. (Even) Buddhas do but point the
way." (DHAMMAPADA, v. 276) The preparation may be made in the
monastery or in the world of men.
> When occupations come to us, we must accept them, when things
> come to us, we must understand them from the ground up. If the
> occupations are regulated by correct thoughts, the Light is not
> scattered by outside things, but circulates according to its own
> -- THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, page 57
Indeed the preparations include the acceptance of all limitations
of karma. To refuse to accept them, or anything whatsoever,
perpetuates the division between this and that of which satori is
the end. Yet at the final moment, we must cast away even the
attempt to acquire satori. Alan Watts says,
> The Tao is not brought to birth by deep philosophical
> understanding or by any effort of action or emotion, although it
> is necessary and inevitable that one of these attempts should
> precede the birth. The birth, itself, however, only takes place
> when the futility of the attempt has been fully realized, and
> that realization can only come through making the attempt.
> -- THE LEGACY OF ASIA AND WESTERN MAN, page 106
This is another of countless paradoxes that, like a hedgehog's
prickles, stand erect at the entrance to satori. Another is that
with the approach to satori the mind enormously expands and
contracts at the same time.
"Each single fact of experience is to be related to the totality
of things, for thereby it gains for the first time its meaning."
The part IS the whole and the whole of it. If that is not
difficult enough to understand, the part is greater than the
whole. The whole is complete or finite but the part is
unfinished and therefore infinite. At the same time, the mind
enormously lessens in content, contracting to the needlepoint of
the here and now. Philosophers speak of a lessening of the
not-Self till the self is all, and of a growing of the Self till
the self is squeezed out of existence. Zen does both at once.
What is the oil in the machine for this fearful effort? It is
laughter, lots of laughter. Humor is sanity, a release of
interior tension with a sudden vision of the fun of things.
In the end, we must sever the binding power of words and
concepts. We must learn to use them and let them go.
> [For] what distinguishes Zen conspicuously from other spiritual
> teachings is its assuming perfect mastery of words and concepts.
> Instead of becoming a slave to them, it is aware of the role they
> play in human experience, and assigns them to the place to which
> they properly belong.
> -- LIVING BY ZEN, MS 11, page 17
A monk asked a master, "Show me the way without appealing to
Said the master, "Ask me without using words."
As we approach the shrine of satori, words fall away to silence,
to sudden laughter, or to a biff on the jaw. Yet, curiously
enough, the average student begins by asking questions. When he
realizes that none worth asking can be answered, he falls too
soon to silence. It is then that the master, seeing his audience
tied, as it were, in the knots of the opposites, forces the
"Speak," he cries, "Speak! Speak!" Yet this is a special
speaking. The master wants a sign, any sign, that the student is
freed from the opposites, not tied to them.
Isan sent the master Kyozen a mirror. Kyozen held it before the
monks and said, "Is this Isan's mirror or my own? If you say that
it is Isan's, how is it in my hands? If you say it is mine, has
it not come from Isan? Speak, speak! If not, it will be smashed
None of the audience showed in some way or another that he could
pass between these opposites so Kyozen smashed the mirror.
The approach to Zen is as Alice found when going through the
Looking Glass. It is about as straight as a corkscrew and much
less straight on. It is a retreat from bifurcation or the
division of unity into opposites. Instead of healing duality, it
retreats to a state of mind -- presumably, the preconscious of
Western psychology -- before the intellect split the oneness in
two. As Aldous Huxley says:
> To those who seek first the Kingdom of God, all the rest will be
> added. For those who, like the modem idolaters of progress, seek
> first all the rest in the expectation that (after the harnessing
> of atomic power and the next revolution but three) the Kingdom of
> God will be added, everything will be taken away ... "Our
> Kingdom go" is the necessary and unavoidable corollary of "Thy
> Kingdom come."
> -- PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY, pages 106 and 113
With the Kingdom of Mammon with its "gin, jazz, and politics"
values, all "vulgar thoughts" must go, not only those that were
not expressed in the drawing room until recently, but all thought
and imagination based on dualism.
"Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven." To achieve this end, the koan
is the most famous Zen device.
> The Zen master has by his satori attained a vantage ground from
> which he sallies out to attack the opponent's camp in any
> direction. The vantage ground is not located at any definite
> point in space, and cannot be assailed by concepts or any system
> based on them. The psychologist, philosopher, or theologian of
> any hue falls short of catching him out at his work, for as he
> does not mind contradicting himself, he is out of bounds to any
> rational argument.
> -- LIVING BY ZEN, MS 4, page 5
Having broken the limits of conceptual space and time, the master
is ever at the center of a circle whose center is nowhere and its
circumference everywhere. From such a center, he rushes out to
deal with events as the spider on its famous web.
"Stating this psychologically, anything that happens at the
periphery of human consciousness sends its vibration down to the
Zen center of unconsciousness." This produces in those in whom
the intuition has begun to function, a "Zen sense" that will
lead, as a candle in the darkness, to the feet of a master. He
will guide the student's energies into the cul-de-sac of the
intellect and drive him up to the end.
Whatever the poor monk does with his koan will be wrong. He will
be abused, ignored, sneered at, struck, but will never give up.
If he does, he will not reach satori. If he fights until he
drops, he will, as he rolls on the floor, achieve it. Then, in
the fierce intensity of the mondo, his mind will be sharpened and
sharpened until, by a process of ultra-rapid reasoning, he
transcends all reasoning, and the sparks begin to fly between the
terminals. The bridge so laboriously built, no longer needed, is
just kicked into the stream. Then he jumps.
We in the West are growing used to Kierkegaard and his
existential leap. It is but the jump of Zen. If you wish, you
may be dramatic about it. Drag yourself with the last ounce of
your intellect to the jaws of the abyss. Thought can go no
further. Heaven lies beyond. With the last gasp of the whole
soul's will -- that does not sound right somehow. Meditate on
one of the most famous haiku in Japan:
> The old pond.
> A frog jumps in –
What, then, is satori, which lies at the end of the plop? There
is no answer. As Walt Whitman wrote:
> When I undertake to tell the best, I find I cannot,
> My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots,
> My breath will not be obedient to its organs,
> I become a dumb man.
"The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao." One
cannot hand satori to another. It is personal, not repeatable,
and in no way communicable to others. Can I tell you what I feel
when I listen to Bach's B Minor Mass, or watch Danilova in Lac
des Cygnes, or see the dawn in the Indian desert? We can speak of
the approach and the results of satori, but seldom with profit of
its nature. Even so, we can try.
Enter the world of Buddhist philosophy for a moment and then rush
up the ladder of intellect and jump off.
Both Dr. W. McGovern (in pages 69-72 of INTRODUCTION TO
MAHAYAHA BUDDHISM) and Dr. Suzuki (in THE ESSENCE OF BUDDHISM,
Second Edition, pages 41-45) have described the supreme discovery
of the Kegon school of Buddhism in detail. Literally meaning
"things, things unimpeded," Jijimuge is "the unimpeded
inter-diffusion of all particulars." The intellect can conceive
it, but only the intuition understands.
Ji is things, events, the concrete and particular whereas Ri is
principle, reason, abstract, totality. Ji is discrimination. Ri
is non-discrimination, non-distinction. Ri equates with
shunyata, the Plenum-void, and Ji with rupam, form.
The relationship of Ri and Ji is "perfect, unimpeded mutual
solution" (en-yu-muge). Ri = Ji and Ji = Ri. They are modes or
aspects of an undivided unity. They are mutually in a perpetual
state of suchness.
Now all Ji being Ri, if A = X and B = X, then A = B. A as an
apple and B as a boat are one. This is Rijimuge, the
inter-diffusion of Ji with Ri. The relation between A and B is
still indirect, i.e., via the common denominator, Ri. Thus the
doctrine of Rijimuge, propounded by the Tendai School of
Buddhism, is not the highest conceivable, much less the highest
The Kegon School went further, insisting on direct relation
between all "things." In the Buddhist sense, things are flowing
events or minor whirlpools on the surface of becoming. Rijimuge
seeks the Buddha (the universal) in the individual mind, the body
being the devil whose limitations prison the wings of spirit.
Jijimuge, on the other hand, the final stage of the Kegon School
(and thought can go no further), with its doctrine of the DIRECT
inter-diffusion of all Ji, means finding the Universal Buddha in
every particular thing. The implications of this doctrine are
enormous. In the words of Hindu philosophy, "Thou art THAT," and
all other "thou's" are equally THAT.
So far, the mind can follow with ease. But according to
Jijimuge, all "thou's," or apples or boats, are not only THAT but
DIRECTLY each other, completely and altogether. Two points on
the circumference of a circle, instead of merely looking to the
self-same center, ARE at the center all the time. This means, of
course, that the circle folds up, as it were, into the Void of
the Unmanifest. So it does, and why be fearful at the thought of
The Universe manifests on the cross of Space and Time for a
while. Meanwhile, the circle, whose center is nowhere and its
circumference everywhere, is the field of the world around us.
Though the intellect can just conceive that things are directly
one, they never cease for a moment (still less for the Absolute
Moment) to be, as Zen with a maddening grin points out, their own
incomparable selves. Thus, the apple is an apple none the less
for being a boat, and the boat is a boat for all its apple-ness,
or grandpiano-ness or cup-of-tea-dom.
What is the application of all this? The Zen master dwells on
such a plane when he faces his struggling pupils. The world is
filled with boats and apples, and they see them. He sees them
too. The world is also filled with pairs of opposites, like male
and female, Tory and Labour, raining-like-hell and clear fine
days. They see them all and he sees them too. But he sees them
as the two sides of a coin and is quite indifferent to their
This is not all. Zen is accused of being cold and lacking a
heart. Nothing is more untrue. As already set out, Zen has no
philosophy, but adopts what it chooses of other schools, and uses
it. As Dr. Suzuki says,
> There are two pillars supporting the great edifice of Buddhism,
> MAHAPRAJNA, the Great Wisdom, and MAHAKARUNA, the Great
> Compassion. The Wisdom flows from the Compassion and the
> Compassion from the Wisdom, for in fact the two are one, though
> from the human point of view, we have to speak of them as two.
> -- THE ESSENCE OF BUDDHISM, page 40
In the world of Jijimuge, therefore, when you and I are one, even
though we never cease to be ourselves, why prate of compassion or
love for one's fellow men? Love, as I said to myself when far too
young, is cosmic glue. It sticks together the parts of the whole
until we realize that, being one, they do not need sticking
together. I even wrote a poem that someday love would die when
people realize that, like God, it is a superfluous idea. He who
has glimpsed the sunlight of Jijimuge just KNOWS himself to be
one with all humanity, all things, all life, and acts
accordingly. Those who do not know resort to a God or the
The coming of satori is about as comfortable as an atom bomb in a
> Ever since the unfoldment of consciousness we have been led to
> respond to the inner and outer conditions in a certain conceptual
> and analytical manner. The discipline of Zen consists in
> upsetting this ground-work once for all and reconstructing the
> old frame on an entirely new basis.
> -- INTRODUCTION, page 99
The crisis is usually violent.
> Satori is the sudden flashing into consciousness of a new truth
> hitherto undreamed of. It is a sort of mental catastrophe taking
> place all at once, after much piling up of matters intellectual
> and demonstrative. The piling has reached the limit of stability
> and the whole edifice has come tumbling to the ground when,
> behold, a new heaven is open to full survey.
> -- INTRODUCTION, page 100
The will fuses with the principle of Enlightenment. Weary of the
shackles of thought and feeling, it suddenly throws the last of
its fetters away. The whole being of the man is involved, and
the transformation or "conversion" is complete.
The perceiving "I" is in one sense unaltered. It still sees the
morning paper that it knows so well, and the train to the office
remains the same, but the perceiver and the perceived have merged
into one, and the two-ness of things has gone. The continuum of
sense experience, to resort to modern jargon, is now undivided.
We see the film in one instead of as a series of pictures. The
change is not only psychological, as to our "seeing," but
metaphysical, as to our understanding of all relationship.
The undifferentiated totality of things is, as it were,
understood from inside; the viewpoint is now from the center of
things and not from some ever-changing point on the wheel.
> This state of no-mind exists, as it were, on a knife-edge between
> the carelessness of the average sensual man and the strained
> over-eagerness of the zealot for salvation. To achieve it, one
> must walk delicately and, to maintain it, must learn to combine
> the most intense alertness with a tranquil and self-denying
> passivity, the most indomitable determination with a perfect
> submission to the leadings of the spirit.
> -- PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY, page 86
Aldous Huxley has the paradox right, but does he have the satori
of which the paradox is the only possible expression?
Satori is seeing into one's own Nature and this Nature is not our
own. On the contrary, it is Nature, or if one must add labels to
it, it is Buddha-nature. It does not belong to you or me. It
dwells in what Dr. Suzuki calls "the Absolute Present."
You will remember the story of the wild geese flying overhead.
The master asked, "What are they?"
The pupil answered, "Wild geese, master."
"Whither are they flying?"
"They are all gone now."
The pupil got a tweak on the nose and cried aloud in pain.
"Are they really gone?" asked the master.
The pupil gained satori. To show that he now "understood," he
waited until the master began his sermon in the Zendo, and then
went forward and rolled up the master's mat, which means the end
of the session.
The master left his seat and went to his room. He sent for the
pupil and asked him why he had rolled up the mat.
"My nose does not hurt me any more today," said the pupil.
"How well you understand 'today'," said the master, satisfied.
Commenting upon this, Dr. Suzuki says:
> The birds are in space and fly in time; you look at them and you
> put yourself immediately in space-relations; you observe they are
> flying, and this at once confirms you in the frame of time.
> Thus, you step off the Absolute Present, which means that you are
> no more a free, self-regulating spirit but a mere man,
> karma-fettered and logically-minded.
> -- LIVING BY ZEN, MS III, 14-15
We must see those birds before they enter the realm of birth and
death, the realm of space and time, nor cease to admire them as
the wife calls out that tea is ready. Then only has the skin
fallen off, as a master described his satori, baring the
One-true-substance-only. Nor shall we fail to know when the
moment arrives, for its power is enormous. If Jove wielded a
thunderbolt, it was not more dangerous than Zen.
All this can be paralleled in Europe. Satori is no respecter of
persons and knows nothing of East and West or of Buddhism,
agnosticism, or Christianity. In THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS
EXPERIENCE, William James has collated a large and authentic
collection of such experiences. The Canadian psychiatrist, Dr.
R.M. Bucke, produced in 1901 his famous COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS, in
which the subject was reviewed anew. In modern times, Dr.
Kenneth Walker's DIAGNOSIS OF MAN has again approached the
subject, and the field is too vast to be here surveyed.
APOLLONIUS OF TYANNA, Part XI
By Phillip A Malpas
[The following comes from a series that appeared in THE
THEOSOPHICAL PATH, under Katherine Tingley as Editor and
published at the Point Loma Theosophical Community. It later
appeared in book form under the title TRUE MESSIAH: THE STORY AND
WISDOM OF APOLLONIUS OF TYANA 3 B.C. -- 96 A.D., published by
Point Loma Publications.]
CELEBRATION OF THE MYSTERIES
Landing at the Piraeus, Apollonius found it was the time for the
celebration of the mysteries, when Athens is most crowded with
people from all parts of Greece. There was the usual crowd of
philosophers of all sorts. Some were naked in the hot sun.
Others studied books that they had in their hands. Others
declaimed. Others disputed. They were going away from Athens to
the Piraeus, the seaport. All acknowledged Apollonius as he
approached and returned with him amidst many greetings of joy.
Ten young men ran to meet him in a group. With hands
outstretched to the sacred Acropolis where Minerva reigns, to
witness the truth of their assertion, they told him a strange
"We swear by Minerva," said they, "that we were going down to the
Piraeus with the intention of going over to Ionia!"
Apollonius received them with kindness and congratulated them on
their love for philosophy.
Consider. Here were the mysteries of Athens, the religious
magnet that drew all Greece to their celebration, deserted by
vast numbers of those that loved philosophy about to undertake a
journey to Ionia to see and to hear Apollonius, as though a God
greater than the mysteries were among them. These were not the
rabble but the best men in Greece. The rabble were not
encouraged to go too deeply into the mysteries, and all
barbarians, murderers, magicians, mountebanks, and impious
persons were absolutely excluded. Nero himself, the powerful
Emperor, was excluded on account of the murder of his mother
These were the people who came flocking to Apollonius, more
anxious to meet him than to be initiated -- surely no such thing
had ever come to pass in Greece within the memory of man or of
recorded history. But he gently put them off with a promise to
speak to them at a more convenient time, bidding them mind their
holy rites, as he himself also wished to be initiated. At other
times in history the same has happened, where such a man has
submitted to initiation in rites of which he was master and more
than master, perhaps for the purpose of lifting up their tone to
a more ancient purity. Aesculapius was one in ancient times.
The hierophant was not as the hierophants of old and he had his
weak points. Maybe he was even a little nettled that the
mysteries were slighted for such a man as this Cappadocian, the
Tyanean. He declared that Apollonius was an enchanter, and as
such refused to initiate him.
Apollonius showed no unseemly resentment. He answered wisely:
"You say so," he said, "but you do not consider the most severe
accusation that could be leveled against me, that I know more of
the initiation than yourself. Yet I come to you for initiation
as though you were the wiser." This mild but pertinent reply
pleased the multitude, and the Hierophant changed his tone,
offering to initiate Apollonius, as he "saw that he was wise."
This time the Sage himself declined, saying he would choose his
own time, when the ceremony should be in other hands. He named
the Hierophant who should initiate him, and it actually came
about that the one he named succeeded the one who had called
Apollonius an enchanter, four years later initiating Apollonius
as the latter had prophesied.
At Athens, Apollonius spoke much of sacrifices and emphasized the
special nature of the offerings to each god and the time of day
when the sacrifices should be made and libations offered, also
the hours for prayer to each. In Philostratus's day, 210 A.D.,
there was still a treatise of Apollonius extant in the sage's
native tongue treating of these matters. Such was the gentle and
useful way in which he refuted the accusations of the Hierophant
that he was not a proper man for initiation into the mysteries.
He wrote a text book!
Here also he cured a young man who was possessed without knowing
it. His extravagances of conduct and dress gave rise to much
talk and popular songs, so that when he laughed with loud
stupidity at a saying of the philosopher which seemed at first
sight to be fanciful, Apollonius spoke, not to him, but to the
demon within, bidding it come out and give a visible sign of its
departure. It did this by entering a statue, then making it
totter and fall. The young man rubbed his eyes as though waking
from a dream and stood ashamed before them all, to find him so
much the object of attention and so luxuriously dressed. He
adopted the homely simplicity and plain garb of a philosopher and
lived "after the rules of Apollonius."
Apollonius rebuked with much severity the degradation of the
feasts of Bacchus in Athens. Instead of a manly and divine rite,
these celebrations had become effeminate and even voluptuous, in
which the divine epics and athletic dances of the warriors were
mixed in a degenerated fashion. This is the Bacchus that seems
to have descended in a yet more degraded fashion into the
literature of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, not the
real divine Bacchus, who is as noble a conception as any in the
Greek and Egyptian divine hierarchy.
Another abuse he rebuked was the sport of the gladiatorial
combats, in the theater of the Acropolis. The passion for this
kind of thing was greater then than it was at Corinth in the time
of Philostratus. Burglars, thieves, kidnapers, adulterers, and
men guilty of criminal assaults were bought at high prices and
forced to fight one another. This was the degenerate side of the
passion for public games, which were originally a divine
institution. Apollonius was so disgusted when invited to visit
the theater that he declared the place impure and polluted with
blood. He wrote that he was surprised that the goddess Minerva
had not abandoned her citadel, for if the practice were continued
to the logical conclusion the hecatombs of oxen slain in the
Grand Panathenaean Procession would become hecatombs of men.
[Note that a hecatomb is a sacrifice to the ancient Greek and
Roman gods consisting originally of 100 oxen or cattle.]
That he was DECLARING NATURAL LAW, his power, and his vocation,
is evident when history is studied. This is the exact order of
precedence that has taken place. It has done so notably in
modern times in the last two hundred years of the splendid
civilization of Mexico before the Spanish conquest.
He bade Bacchus depart to the purer air of Citheron, thereby
indicating that the gods cannot or should not live in places made
impure and polluted with blood.
From Athens he went in obedience to the wish of Achilles to the
Thessalians at Thermopylae. When they heard his message they
hastened to reestablish the necessary rites at the tomb of that
great warrior. Here he almost surrounded the tomb of Leonidas
with a little temple. In a dispute as to the highest ground in
Greece, which many thought to be Mount Oeta, visible from there,
he declared that where he stood was the highest ground in Greece,
because the men who died there in defense of liberty made it so,
equal to Mount Oeta and higher than many on Olympus. Ever he
kept to the more spiritual side of things, raising the minds of
his hearers a step above the material. It was the imagery of the
above and the below of the Caucasus.
Visiting all the temples of Greece, the Dodonean, the Pythian
oracles, and the temple of Abae, Apollonius discoursed in public
and reformed the rites in private, attended by priests and his
disciples. He entered the cave of Amphiaraus and Trophonius and
ascended the summit of Mount Helicon where was erected the temple
of the Muses. The mysteries of the Oracle of Trophonius, son of
Apollo, are suggestive of the commencement of Dante's Inferno.
Once when at the Isthmus they heard the sea roaring outside, he
exclaimed, "This neck of land shall or shall not be cut through!"
This cryptic saying was remembered seven years later, when Nero
attempted to cut the Corinth canal between the Adriatic and the
Aegean. Much was done, but failure came at last and the work was
The Emperor showed tremendous energy, but much of it was wasted
on low levels. He became a competitor in the public games, the
Olympic and Pythian contests. At the Isthmian games he won
"victories" over harpers and heralds. At Olympia he was
victorious over tragedians.
THE PHILOSOPHER'S ZEAL FOR APOLLONIUS
At this time Demetrius the Cynic philosopher happened to be in
Corinth. He felt the same zeal for Apollonius as Antisthenes had
done for Socrates, and this he gave as his reason for becoming
one of his disciples, and for recommending to his notice the most
esteemed of his friends, among whom was Menippus the Lycian, a
young man of five-and-twenty years of age, handsome, intelligent,
and with an open manly air. This Demetrius showed himself to be
absolutely independent, and even when banished by the Emperor
Vespasian, derided the punishment and continued to speak with the
utmost frankness. He died a very old man, and Seneca says of
him, "Nature brought him forth to show mankind that an exalted
genius can live securely without being corrupted by the vice of
the surrounding world." Our eulogy shall be grander yet, for he
was faithful to the last.
Seneca, too, was among the philosophers, and what he says is of
the utmost significance. For is it not these individuals who
preserve the world through periods of degeneracy?
Apollonius saved Menippus from the wiles of a soulless woman who
had so bewitched him that he was about to marry her. She seemed
in every way an accomplished woman of society, but Apollonius
declared that she was possessed, and proved it by both
demonstration and making her confess that she was a vampire,
living on young healthy men. She belonged to a class of the
Larvae ("home-woes") and displayed the usual actions when driven
away. There appear to have been no lunatic asylums in Corinth at
that day, so it was natural to find the city, like others, full
of all the various forms of insanity, both apparent and
concealed; the apparent cases in modern times are shut away in
institutions, giving the impression that there are fewer of them.
This case was so well known in Greece that Philostratus feels
obliged to record it from Damis's memoranda, though he seems
reluctant to discuss such matters.
At Olympia ambassadors from Lacedaemon came to request that
Apollonius should visit them. They were so effeminate, their
limbs were so smooth, their hair so scented, their dress so soft,
and their faces shaven so clean that he could find nothing of old
Sparta and the rugged old warriors about them. He wrote to the
Ephori to make a proclamation to restore the old way of life, to
forbid pitch being used at the baths as a depilatory, that the
old glory might revive and Lacedaemon look like itself again.
A rough letter to a soft people, but they did as Apollonius told
them. He wrote again more concisely than the Laconian manner.
"It is the part of men to err, but of ingenious men to
That was high praise from such a man as he.
THE WONDER OF A FRIEND
By Walter Eugene Kent
Walking into the room, I again behold their smiling faces and
Meeting with close friends after so long, I am beaming with
There is such joy in renewed human contact with those who are so
I almost feel as if I again am put in touch with a long-forgotten
part of myself.
This feeling of gentle, benevolent, brotherly warmth is not
fiery, not passionate.
Rather does it represent the state of mind of a freely-given
One beholds friends, there is no need for making impressions, for
A stunning costume, a skillful act, a clever show of words are
What is this magical, yet so common, state that is called
It does not come by one's forceful desires, by one's loud
And it does not come by purchase, from showering another with
So what is it that brings about this wondrous space between
The answer is simple, though at times it is impossible to see.
One does not try anything, and at the same time he tries
There is no formula, no ritual, no dance one can do to fire the
But one still must act; there must be actual experience between
The key lies in love, in love of all of life, in respecting what
One smiles, sits back, relaxes, and enjoys the drama of life.
And when he is so moved, he reaches out and freely expresses
There is no thought of rules, no thought of pattern, no asking
There is a state of consciousness where life is seen as one
Other people are not merely seen as circumstances in one's life;
They are experienced as alive, different, valuable, even
And one relates to them clearly appreciating their unique value.
The paradox is in accepting the special difference in other human
Yet at the same time knowing and loving them as part of oneself.
This outlook will not submit to becoming a pattern; it cannot be
But one can reverently open his eyes and attune his ears to its
What does one do? How does another become one's friend and
One simply remains true to himself and fearlessly bares his heart
Yet at the same time he is absorbed in the wonder of his
friends's smiling faces.
And then the gap is bridged, a new space between friends is
created, there is unity.
THE THEOSOPHY OF AMMONIUS SACCAS: FOUNDER OF THE NEO-PLATONIC
By Margaret Smith
[From THE ARYAN PATH, May 1936, pages 206-12.]
Ammonius Saccas, the real founder of the Neo-Platonic School,
whose teachings given orally, for be himself wrote nothing, were
developed and set down in writing by his disciples, entered into
an inheritance of ideas and beliefs which could be traced back as
far as Socrates. Born in the latter half of the second century
A.D. at Alexandria, Ammonius lived both at a period and in an
environment, which were fully ripe for the reception of the
theosophical doctrine characteristic of his teaching.
Alexandria had been founded as a meeting place for East and West,
and they mingled in its streets, its University, and its temples.
At the time when Ammonius Saccas developed his doctrines, it was
the residence of Greeks, of native Egyptians, of considerable
numbers of Jews, as well as of many strangers from the East: in
religion, the gods of Hellas and of the Nile, in addition to
Christianity, Judaism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism asserted their
Among the Greeks, the Neo-Pythagoreans not only derived their
teachings from Pythagoras, but also combined with them Platonic,
Aristotelian, Stoic, and Epicurean elements, together with
Oriental ideas taken from Persian and Egyptian teachings. Among
the immediate precursors of Ammonius Saccas were Plutarch of
Cheronea (50-120 A.D.) and Numenius the Syrian, who flourished
between 160 and 180 A.D., and who developed the idea of the
The Orphic writings also arose about this time; while orthodox
Christianity was seeking to link its teachings with Greek
philosophy and the Christian Gnostics were developing their
distinctive doctrines, based upon Persian and Neo-Babylonian
mysticism, and influenced by the Hermetic philosophy, the mystery
cults of Thrace, Phrygia, and Samos, and by Indian and Chinese
Theosophy. At the same time, Judaism, through the Kabala and the
teaching of Philo of Alexandria, was assimilating mystical and
The Orphics and Pythagoreans held the doctrine of rebirth,
associated with the idea that the soul, though immortal, had
fallen from its original divine estate. Only by a gradual
process of purification in a series of lives -- a "way" of life,
by which it could die to passion and desire -- and in an
underworld purgatory, could it be freed and once more become
divine as it was before. These Neo-Pythagoreans were ascetics,
while teaching the homogeneity of all being, conceiving of God as
both transcendent and immanent: the One could be manifested in
the many: the many could lose themselves in the One. The
doctrine of emanation, which Ammonius developed, was found in the
Averta as well as in the Jewish Kabala, and in the teaching of
the Jew Philo and the Gnostics, who were especially characterized
by the claim to teach an esoteric knowledge.
Ammonius Saccas, born in an age that was conscious of a deep
religious need and was seeking for release from sensuality
through asceticism, and for salvation through an immediate
intuition of the Supreme Being, was able to incorporate these
elements into a unique system of theosophy, which claimed to be
both an absolute philosophy and an absolute religion.
Little is known of his early life: he was born probably about 175
A.D., and his biographers are agreed that he was the child of
Christian parents and brought up as a Christian but that, after
he came into touch with philosophy, he became independent of any
specific religious faith. He was evidently of humble origin, his
name Saccas or Saccophoros (Sack-Bearer), indicating that he was
a porter, probably engaged in unloading wheat on the Alexandrian
Circumstances must have made it possible for him to study at some
period of his life, and among his teachers have been mentioned
Athenagoras, a Christian Platonist of the second century, and
Clement of Alexandria (150-217 A.D.), who both taught a Christian
philosophy. It is certain that Ammonius had made a close study
of the teaching of Philo, the Hellenic Jew, and of that of
Numenius, a follower of Philo, who combined with the teaching of
the Greeks the wisdom of the Magians, the Egyptians, the
Brahmins, and the Jews. Through these teachers, or through his
own independent study, Ammonius derived his knowledge of Plato
After long study and meditation, Ammonius Saccas began to teach.
He opened a school of philosophy in Alexandria, where he lived in
the University quarter, and became the most famous teacher of
philosophy of the age -- his method, Porphyry tells us, being not
the blind acceptance of books and authors, but the personal
investigation of every problem and the formulation of his own
original views. One of his pupils, Longinus, held to be the
foremost critic of the period, said of Ammonius that he greatly
exceeded his contemporaries in his mental grasp and was one of
the most accomplished scholars of his time, unapproached in the
breadth of his learning.
Ammonius gathered around him a large number of disciples,
including many Christians, since these latter were interested in
his discussion of the different philosophical systems. Together
with the fact that the Greek philosophy was not at this time
committed to polytheism, his Christian upbringing made it
possible for Ammonius to regard Christianity with tolerance, and
to retain certain Christian ideas.
Among these Christian disciples was the famous Origen Adamantius
(185-254 A.D.), who for a long time attended the public lectures
of Ammonius, and Heracles, who was a student under Ammonius for
five years. Other pupils -- Hellenists known to have studied
under Ammonius -- were Longinus (213-273), already referred to,
Olympius of Alexandria, and Antonius. These attended only his
public lectures, which were probably limited to a critical review
of the teaching of the different philosophical schools.
His original teaching was given as an esoteric doctrine to a few
chosen intimate disciples, among who were Plotinus, Erennius, and
a second Origen, who was a pagan. These three chosen followers
entered into a compact not to disclose any of the doctrine that
Ammonius had revealed to them. Either they were anxious to
conserve it for themselves or possibly remained silent in
accordance with a wish expressed by their master. This was not
through any jealousy on account of his own fame, but because of
the nature of the doctrine, which envisaged the possibility of a
higher and more direct relation with the Divine Essence than any
which the philosophic schools had conceived, and one which could
not be discussed before a popular audience.
Of these three, Plotinus was, in all respects, the most
outstanding, and also, undoubtedly, the closest to Ammonius in
temperament and the one most receptive of his teaching.
From the age of twenty, Plotinus had been attracted by
philosophy. He had gone from one to another of the lecturers in
Alexandria, but had found none who could give him what he really
wanted. At last, a friend, realizing his craving for the best
and highest, advised him to go to Ammonius Saccas. After the
first lecture, Plotinus exclaimed, "This is the man for whom I
was seeking," and with Ammonius, he remained continuously for
eleven years, until he reached the age of forty.
It is related that during this period Plotinus made such progress
in philosophy that he became eager to investigate the Persian
methods and the system adopted among the Indians -- a proof that
Ammonius must have indicated the Oriental origin of certain of
his doctrines. Plotinus then settled in Rome -- it may be that
by this time his master was dead. The date of Ammonius's death
is placed by some as early as 241 A.D., by others in 244 or 245
A.D., and by one writer as late as 250 A.D.
For a long time, Plotinus kept to his compact and, in his
intercourse with his associates, revealed nothing of his master's
doctrine, but Erennius broke the agreement and then Origen.
After this, Plotinus, feeling, perhaps, that his long association
with Ammonius fitted him, more than any other, to be his
interpreter to others, began to base his discussions with his
most intimate group of disciples on what he had learnt from
Ammonius, though for ten years still he limited himself to
discussion and wrote nothing. After this period, he betook
himself to writing on the subjects discussed, that is, the
doctrine of Ammonius Saccas.
The form in which we have these teachings is due to Plotinus and
his disciple Porphyry who arranged and systematized them. They
must certainly owe much to the radiant and original genius of
Plotinus himself. Yet, there is little doubt that their ultimate
basis is the original doctrine of Ammonius Saccas, the real
founder of the Neo-Platonic School.
It was of Ammonius that Hierocles (living in the fifth century
A.D.) wrote that he was the first to attach himself to what was
true in the philosophy which preceded him, and, ignoring what was
commonplace, to attain to a thorough knowledge of Plato and
Aristotle, and to unite them in one and the same spirit, thus
bequeathing philosophy "at peace" to his disciples.
Ammonius was no mere eclectic, but a profound and original
thinker, who considered the doctrines that were taught before his
day, accepting what was true in them. He otherwise sought for
truth, at its source, through his own intuition.
The aim of Ammonius Saccas, then, evidently was to reconcile the
doctrines of Plato and Aristotle, while combining them with
Oriental mysticism and theosophy and the ascetic teachings of the
Neo-Pythagoreans. This was so that all might form a higher,
transfigured system, revealing itself especially by the doctrine
of the Absolute One, the identification of the Platonic Ideas
with the Divine Intelligence, the theory of emanations, and the
belief in the return of all to the Supreme Unity. So were
evolved the doctrines of Neo-Platonism, mainly Greek in origin,
but Oriental in spirit, forming the bridge between the ancient
and the modern metaphysics and marking an epoch in the history of
There can be little doubt that the teaching on the Nature of God
that is found in the Enneads of Plotinus is derived directly from
Ammonius. All forms and phases of existence, he teaches, emanate
from the Divine and all strive to return thither. The Divine is
regarded as a Triad, including the One or First-Existent; the
Divine Intelligence, the First Thinker and Thought; and the
Universal Soul, the First and Only Principle of Life.
Above, yet including, all things is the One-and-All, the
Absolute, the Transcendent, Infinite, Unconditioned, Universal
Essence, Unknowable, Ineffable, nowhere yet everywhere: One, yet
manifested in plurality, as the sun by its rays.
> There is a principle that transcends Being: this is the One --
> the One, as transcending Intellect, transcends knowing -- thus
> the One is in truth beyond all statement: the All-transcending
> possesses, alone of all, true being and is not a thing among
> -- ENNEAD, V, 3:12, 13
That One is neither remote from things nor identified with them;
there is nothing containing it, but it contains all: it is the
Good to the universe, in that all things are dependent upon it,
each in its mode. (ENNEAD, V, 5, 9)
From this First Principle -- the Source and Ground of all being,
transcending all known attributes and even the idea of existence,
the One, the Highest Good, the Absolute, -- the first emanation
is the Divine Intelligence, Universal Mind, the World of Ideas,
containing all things immortal, the archetypes of all things in
the phenomenal world, the Overmind, of which all minds partake.
With this Spiritual Universe begins the existence of plurality,
complexity, multiplicity. It is a mediator between man and the
Unknowable One, for it contemplates ceaselessly, and depends upon
the Supreme Being, while it is also the giver of wisdom to the
> The Intellectual stands before the Supreme Beginning in whose
> forecourt, as it were, it announces in its own being the entire
> content of the Good, that which precedes all, locked in unity, of
> which this is the expression already touched by multiplicity.
> -- ENNEAD, V, 9, 2
The Intellectual Principle is the maker and creator of the All,
and when the creature turns itself towards it in contemplation
this contemplative intuition is intelligence. From the
Intellectual Principle emanates the All-Soul, which is the
creator of the material universe, the sensual world, and from it
come forth other souls.
On the subject of the Soul and its nature we have not only the
evidence of Plotinus, but two direct references to the teaching
of Ammonius. Nemesius, Bishop of Emesa, living at the end of the
fourth century, gave one. The other was by Gregory of Nyssa (395
A.D.), which was probably derived from the writings of Erennius,
mentioned above as one of those who were entrusted with the
esoteric teaching of his master. These deal with the immortality
of the soul, which is proved by the fact that it is the unifying
principle of the body and does not suffer change, as the body
does; which gives life, and therefore is not corporeal; which is
nourished by knowledge -- which is not material -- and therefore
it cannot itself be material.
Ammonius had also stated that the soul suffers no change by its
union with the body, but remains distinct from it and is able, in
its contemplation of the Intellectual, to isolate itself from the
body. The teaching of Plotinus agrees with this. (ENNEAD, IV,
The human soul is one with the All-Soul and partakes of the
Divine Life. It has its own distinct individuality. Human
nature, like the Divine Nature, contains three principles, the
first being the Intellectual Principle, which is the true self,
and by the life of virtue, of "sagehood," the Divine Image within
it is revealed and man is able to attain to contemplation of the
The second principle is that of the Reasoning Soul, the principle
of the normal human life, and the third principle is that of
animal life, the irrational soul. When loosed from the body, the
soul goes whither it has tended and deserves to go. Those who
have not attained to freedom must suffer rebirth, but those who
have become emancipated by identifying themselves with the
highest within them, awake FROM the body, not WITH it, and enter
in to dwell "where is Reality and true Being and the Divine, in
God." (ENNEAD, III, 4, 4)
The fall of the soul is due to entering into mortal birth, to the
downward drag of the irrational principle, and to self-will. As
regards the body and the irrational soul, man is entangled in the
chain of physical causation. So long as he allows himself to be
the slave of the senses, he is not free, but in identifying
himself with his higher soul, the true self, he can find freedom.
He has a master, but he is that which is his master. Free will
is shown by right action. By the same way by which it descended,
the soul can reascend to its Source.
> Since your soul is so exalted a power, so Divine, you may be
> assured that by its possession, you are already close to God. In
> the strength of this power, begin to make your way towards Him:
> you have not far to go: there is not much between.
> -- ENNEAD, V, 1, 3
The soul must come to itself by the process of purification, by
asceticism first, and then by the practice of the virtue which
aims at likeness to God and brings the soul near to Him.
> If the eye that adventures the vision be dimmed by vice: if it be
> impure or weak or unable in its cowardly blenching to see the
> uttermost radiance, then it sees nothing. To any vision must be
> brought an eye adapted to what is to be seen and having some
> likeness to it. Never did eye see the sun unless it has first
> become sun-like and never can the soul have vision of the First
> Beauty, unless itself be beautiful.
> -- ENNEAD I, 9
The remedy for the soul is to get rid of desire, to free itself
from the claims of the body and the senses. It may accomplish
the first stage of return and, being cleansed from the evil of
the senses and desire, may be restored to the unity of the
Universal Soul. The soul must ascend still further, to the
Intellectual Principle, after whom, and from whom, Soul is, and
it is carried upwards by the love of Beauty and the love of Good.
There the soul understands its true unity with the All.
> The soul thus cleansed has become all Idea and Reason, wholly
> free of body, intellective, entirely of that Divine order from
> which the wellspring of Beauty rises and all the race of Beauty.
> Hence, the Soul heightened to the Intellectual Principle is
> beautiful to its full capacity. It is just to say that in thus
> becoming good and beautiful, the soul is becoming like to God,
> for from the Divine comes all the Beauty and all the Good in
> -- ENNEAD, I
The soul has not yet attained to the summit, it must ascend still
higher to the final Good, the Vision of the One. Plotinus
> This is for those that will take the upward path, who will divest
> themselves of all that has been put on in the descent -- until,
> having renounced all that is other than God, each in the solitude
> of himself shall behold that solitary dwelling Existence, the
> Apart, the Unmingled, the Pure, on which all things depend,
> towards which all things look, in which they live and move and
> know, the Source of Life and Intellection and Being.
> -- ENNEAD I, 7
But this comes not by expectation nor by action, it is an
All-pervading Presence, realized by the soul, "which has held
itself at rest, looking towards the good and the beautiful alone,
giving up its entire being to that in a perfect surrender, and
now, in tranquility, filled with power, and taking a new beauty
to itself, glowing in the light of that Presence." (ENNEAD I, 5,
The one who has seen this Vision has passed beyond
self-consciousness and has attained to union with the One.
Neo-Platonism, embodying the teachings of Ammonius Saccas, had
its rise in Alexandria. Its influence was felt very soon in all
the provinces of the Roman Empire. It became the inspiration of
philosophers and scientists everywhere. The various tendencies
which showed themselves among the successors of Ammonius are seen
all to depend upon him, while emphasizing each a particular side
of his teaching.
In the Neo-Platonism taught in Rome by Plotinus, the Greek
elements prevailed, and among these the Platonic was prominent.
In the Syrian School, of which Iamblichus was the typical
representative, the Oriental elements found in Pythagorism were
conspicuous, together with an inclination towards theurgic
practices. Finally, in the scholastic Neo-Platonism of Athens
represented by Proclus, who depended mainly upon Plotinus and to
a less degree upon Iamblichus, the Aristotelian element finds the
most prominent place. It was from Proclus that Dionysius, the
so-called Areopagite, derived his Neo-Platonism, which he
Christianized, and from him, in turn, that Neo-Platonism
established its influence in the West.
Thus, it was that Ammonius Saccas, the "God-inspired," from being
a humble carrier of wheat, became, as if by a miracle, the head
of one of the most celebrated schools of philosophy of antiquity.
During more than three centuries, he exercised an immense
influence over the development of the human spirit. This
influence still has its force and is likely to maintain so long
as men seek for Beauty and Goodness and Truth.
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application