If she had lived, she would have undoubtedly left her protest against her friends making a saint of her or a bible out of her magnificent though not infallible writings. I helped to compile her ISIS UNVEILED, while Mr. Keightley and several others did the same by THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Surely we know how far from infallible are our portions of the books, to say, nothing about hers.
-- Henry S. Olcott, OLD DIARY LEAVES, IV, page 429.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 51-54]
When we are asked the question "Do Theosophists pray?" I for one answer Yes and No; it depends upon what the questioner means by prayer. If he means getting down on bended knee and addressing a petition to a god outside of himself, purely imaginary, which the intellect has enormous labor in attempting to conceive of, and therefore which is not instinctive in the human heart as a reality, then we must answer: No, not prayer of that type. That is an abdication of the god within the individual denying its own rights and appealing for help outside itself. That is mere supplication, mere petitioning, a mere begging for benefits. It is purely exoteric.
True prayer is the rich, deep, spiritual humility of the human self envisioning the ineffably grand. It is a yearning to become like the heavenly Father, as Jesus phrased it: yearning to become a son of the Divine. It is almost a command of the man to himself to arise and pass on to higher things, upwards towards the Divine, of which a spark pulsates in every human soul. When we come into sympathetic relationship, into identical vibrational frequency, with this inner heartbeat, this pulsing of the Divine, then our lives are made over; we are completely reformed, we become no longer mere men begging for favors, and thereby weakening ourselves. We begin to recognize our identity with the Divine. Dignity steals over us and enfolds us like a garment. And what prayer is nobler than this: for the son to yearn to become like unto its divine parent?
This is the kind of prayer Theosophists love. I, for my own part, never sleep at night, never arise from my bed in the morning, until at least once I have raised myself and attained the experience. And prayer of this kind is not merely an attitude of mind. It is a way of life, a way of living, clothing him who falls in love with it and follows it, with dignity, enriching his mind with understanding, making him sympathetic to all else that lives.
He prayeth best who loveth best All things both great and small.
Yes, for this is a becoming at one with all around us. It simply means progressively making our consciousness greater, expanding every day a little more, to include a little more, to encompass, to embrace a little more of the world around us. Our consciousness, after this way of prayer, of living, of thinking, of feeling, grows ever larger, until finally some day we shall be in our thoughts and feelings able to encompass the universe. Then no longer shall we be merely men; we shall be god-men, and after we die, we shall take our place with the gods, the cosmic spirits, archangels, angels, powers -- if you like the Christian phrase.
What is the difference between the ordinary man and the genius? The ordinary man is one who lives in the small, circumscribed, shell of personal consciousness; he cannot go beyond it. He has no intuition, no inspirations. The man of genius is the man who has broken this shell. He wanders out in consciousness and feeling to the surrounding universe. He vibrates in synchronous frequency with the universe around him, and then come inspiration and marvelous ideas. He sees, he feels, and men say, "A genius has arisen."
This then is the prayer that we love. It puts us in touch with all things. It gives us qualities that have been latent in us before but now have an opportunity to come out, to evolve, to unroll, to expand. And by true prayer we mean not only enlarging the personal consciousness towards becoming at one with the universal consciousness, but putting this experience into practice. And this is a pleasure just as exquisite: to practice what we preach. Otherwise we are but as tinkling cymbals and the rolling bellow of empty drums -- Vox et praeterea nihil, a voice and nothing more.
When you PRACTICE prayer, then you reinforce your own powers by exercise. What you have yourself felt, you begin to practice. You see the light of understanding flash in the eyes of other men, a new and secret sympathy springing up between man and man. It is a new life-force. Thus this kind of prayer is likewise a way of life. It is likewise science; it is philosophy; it is religion. That kind of prayer we do believe in, and some of us practice it constantly.
We are children of the Infinite, of the Divine. Our Deity is intra-cosmic and yet transcendent, just exactly in the same way as a man is not only his physical body, and not only his mind or his spirit. He is body and feelings and emotions and mind and soul; but above these, he is transcendent; there is something in him which is greater than all this. That is the spark of the Divine, the spark by which man is linked with the Invisible, with Divinity. That spark is the most important, the most powerful element in us. It is the predominating and governing factor in our destiny, and if we want to grow grander and greater and nobler and higher, we have to raise ourselves up towards that spark, we have to raise ourselves by living what we know. Then our life will become grand.
Finally, when practice has become relatively perfect, the vision of genius will steal into the mind. For genius is cosmic wisdom. With genius, understanding grows and grows, and finally we begin to realize that we are not merely a man with perhaps a post-mortem life in heaven or hell, but that our destiny is the destiny of the infinite all: that we are endless, coeval with duration, with cosmic time, that the boundless universe is our home; that we are here on earth merely for a day-night; that this is just a phase in our evolutionary journey upwards and onwards.
Towards this we aspire, for this we pray: an ever-enlarging consciousness by aspiration, by study, by living the life we profess -- an ever enlarging consciousness towards that Ultimate, a unity with the Divine. We pass through all the kingdoms of nature, growing from being a man to becoming a superman, from a superman to a demigod, from demi-godhood to god-hood, to super-godhood, and so on and up the endless ladders of life. What a marvel! What a conception!
That divine spirit of which we speak so glibly -- because it does represent an intuition, an answer to that yearning, that ineffable hunger within every normal man -- we realize that that divinity was but our human conception of something still more wonderful, vaster, that we can never reach an end, that it is growth and advance and enlarging genius of consciousness forever and ever and forever.
Do Theosophists pray? In that way, we try to make our daily lives a prayer in action. We have the Ariadne's thread, we have the key, and we are trying to use it. And do you know what this key is? It is our own god-wisdom. And do you know what the lock is? It is man himself, taking this key. Inserting it into our own consciousness, turning it however slightly, magic streams forth from the slightly open door, from the ineffable mysteries hidden within, drawn from the cosmic font. No man can ever name it. It is nameless. Names but degrade it. Aspiration towards it always and forever -- that is prayer. By living it we grow. What hope and what peace! What increase of understanding comes to the man who from within himself, from his own consciousness, has got the end of the Ariadne's thread. This, in its steadily progressing stages of experience and growth, is what we call Initiation. He who hath ears to hear, let him hear!
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, February 1930, pages 168-73.]
In 1888 H.P. Blavatsky founded a Theosophical magazine and gave it the unexpected title of LUCIFER. In that name was expressed by a single word one of the most important, perhaps the most important, of Theosophical teachings; and her title was a challenge.
As she explains in an article about this name (as also in many other parts of her writings), the theological idea of the Devil or Satan has resulted from confounding together two separate and distinct conceptions, with results disastrous both to the doctrine and to the conduct based thereon. Venus-Lucifer, the Light-Bringer or Redeemer, has been confused with that Devil who is but the personification of our evil desires; and the consequence has been that people, under pretense of warning them against their evil desires, have been taught to fear their aspirations.
The immediate occasion for these remarks and for those which follow is the appearance in an illustrated weekly of a picture of a steel image of the Yezidi 'peacock-god,' under which is written:
The Yezidis, a race scattered over Kurdistan, Armenia, and the Caucasus, worship the redeemed Devil in the semblance of a peacock ... They believe he has regained his place in heaven as the highest of the Archangels.
The same subject is mentioned in THE SECRET DOCTRINE in a quotation from the author of WAR IN HEAVEN, which runs as follows:
Why do the Yezidis, the 'Devil-Worshipers,' worship the 'Muluk-Taoos' -- the 'Lord Peacock' -- the emblem of pride and of hundred-eyed intelligence (and of Initiation also), which was expelled from heaven with Satan, according to an old Oriental tradition?
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 514 fn
In India the war-god Karrtikeya is sometimes represented riding on a peacock -- "the bird of Wisdom and Occult Knowledge, and the Hindu Phoenix" (THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 619).
The following verses illustrate a similar idea:
God said: "I will create a world in the air."
Satan heard and answered: "I will be there!"
God said: "I will make of man a creature supreme!"
Satan answered: "I will destroy Thy splendid dream!"
God said: "I will ordain That thou shalt no longer be!"
Satan answered: "Thou canst not, Lord, for I am a part of Thee!"
-- MARIE CORELLI
Edward Carpenter has a poem in which man wrestles with Satan and is thrown again and again, until at last the man grows so strong by practice that he throws Satan, who thereupon embraces him, calls him his beloved son, and says that he was waiting for this glad day. In FAUST, though Faust himself and Marguerite are the technical hero and heroine, there is another character who commands our admiration and enthusiasm, as there is in PARADISE LOST, whose hero is surely not poor Adam but the magnificent Satan. Milton was a theologian, but he was first and foremost a poet.
Merezhkovsky has written a series of novels "animated by a single master idea, the Pagan-Christian dualism of our human nature." Herbert Trench, who translates his novels, says:
What specially interests Merezhkovsky in the vast spectacle of human affairs is the everlasting contrast between the idea of a God-Man and the idea of a Man-God; that is to say, between the conception of a God incarnate for a while (as in Christ) and the conception of Man himself as God -- gradually evolving higher types of splendid and ruling character which draw after them the generations.
The novelist's own doctrine seems to be that both the Pagan and Christian elements in our nature, although distinct, are equally legitimate and sacred ... He conceives that European civilization has been born of the tremendous conflict between these two main ideas.
In one of these novels a Sage says: "Ah! If thou canst make one the truth of the Titan and the truth of the Galilean, thou wilt be greater than any that have been born of women!"
Has not the Russian romancer here touched the truth? He loves Paganism but is compelled to depict its failure; he despises the so-called Christianity of those times, yet is obliged to admit the truth of the Christ ideal. Neither late Paganism nor early Christianity succeeded, because each was only a half. That is the point. He who can blend them (blend the essential principle in each) into one -- he is a master of Wisdom.
The quotation of these authors does not of course commit us to any other views they may happen to hold, which may be wise or unwise, but are in either case irrelevant.
In Job, Satan appears among the Sons of God and is assigned the duty of developing Job, which he successfully accomplishes. In Isaiah, Lucifer (i.e., 'Light-Bringer') is called "Son of the Morning."
Here is the Theosophical teaching -- a very old one revived. The Verbum, the Word proceeding from 'God,' though One in its essence becomes dual as soon as it enters into Man and that in Man it has a dual manifestation.
"The Logos is passive Wisdom in Heaven, and Conscious, Self-Active Wisdom on Earth," we are taught.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 231
The Logos -- who is WISDOM, but who, as the opponent of ignorance, is Satan or Lucifer at the same time. This remark refers to divine Wisdom falling like lightning on, and quickening the intellects of those who fight the devils of ignorance and superstition.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 230
LUCIFER is divine and terrestrial light, the 'Holy Ghost,' and 'Satan' at one and the same time ... The FALL was the RESULT OF MAN'S KNOWLEDGE, for his "eyes were opened." Indeed, he was taught Wisdom and the hidden knowledge by the 'Fallen Angel,' for the latter had become from that day his Manas, Mind and Self-consciousness. In each of us that golden thread of continuous life ... IS from the beginning of our appearance on this earth ...
And now it stands proven that Satan, or the Red FIERY Dragon, the 'Lord of Phosphorus' (brimstone was a theological improvement), and LUCIFER, or 'Light-Bearer,' is in us: it is our MIND -- our tempter and Redeemer, our intelligent liberator and Savior from pure animalism. Without this principle -- the emanation of the very essence of the pure divine principle Mahat (Intelligence), which radiates direct from the Divine Mind -- we would surely be no better than animals ...
Thus, esoteric philosophy shows that man is truly the manifested deity in both its aspects -- good and evil, but theology cannot admit this philosophical truth.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 513, et seq.
Every student of Theosophy knows that one of its characteristic teachings is that God is IN Man, and Man hence is a potential God; and that in this, Theosophy merely repeats the ancient tenet that 'Christ' is the perfected Man, made God by the full manifestation of his Divine potentialities. But the theologians, at some time or another, removed this God from out of Man, converting Man into a MISERABLE SINNER. This was the great sin of the early Church, by which the true Christianity was converted into a superstition that wrought so much harm.
Now, having made God into an external deity, separate from Man, they had to do the same for Satan. Satan, as shown above, stood for the MIND in Man, that Divine Gift which first 'tempts' him and ends by redeeming him. But now Satan was also made into an external deity or demon; as the God in Man had been made into a great extra-cosmic deity, so Satan was made his adversary. A similar process takes place in all religions when the truth is lost sight of and other things are allowed to creep in. Thus is born in the heart of Man that FEAR of his own God-given faculties that leads him to renounce (yea, even in the name of Christ) all intellect and art, to burn books and destroy temples, and even to refrain from washing and caring for the body.
Theology, in fact, has TWO Gods, Jehovah and Satan, which are worshiped alternately, one on the seventh day, the other on the six remaining days. In its double vision, men become Pagans and Nazarenes, Puritans and Cavaliers, men of religion and men of culture. Man has been made afraid of his own faculties, so that the very animals shame him and he continually falls a victim to those faculties, which he has profaned and turned into vices. He oscillates between austerity and licentiousness; he is a hypocrite. The old 'Pagan Joy,' 'Pagan Serenity,' 'Pagan Confidence,' what has become of them? Must we forever associate them with their own profanations? Can we never have the Pagan Joy and Pagan Purity and Serenity without the license of the last Pagan corruption? (But was that corruption worse than our own today?)
We have not been successful in our attempt to sunder our Divine Self into two halves: Satan is still 'a part of God.' We KNOW that our Mind and our aspirations are God-given and beneficent; we take our theology on sufferance.
The problem of Good and Evil is not such a mystery after all, provided we are content to look at the practical side of it. Evil, for Man, is that which tends to keep him from progressing in Wisdom and Weal -- tends to destroy him -- and Good is that which tends the other way. Evil is ignorance, Good is knowledge; Evil is cowardice, Good is courage. And have we not often shown ourselves cowards in the presence of our God-given faculties? Have we not cowered before them and asked in mercy to be let off, protected from them? Are there not people who, having failed in mastering their lower nature, have recoiled from the struggle and taken refuge in an attitude of noncombatant negative 'goodness?'
Theology talks about the SACRIFICE of Deity in his Son. What was that sacrifice? Was it not that the Son, out of his love, descended into mortal form, imprisoned himself in the clay, in voluntary exile from the light, that through long ages of pilgrimage he might redeem mankind and lead his terrestrial brother up to walk with him on high? 0 Lucifer, Light-Bringer, how art thou fallen from heaven! How has Man used his Divine Guest? What does he do with the beautiful pure Light within him?
Theology speaks of a Savior. The Savior is our God-given Intelligence -- 'Satan!' Whatever else can save Man? What else has ever saved him? Always he has been driven back, as superstition failed, upon his own essential Divinity in its twin manifestation of Wisdom and Divine Compassion. They read history right who discern that the whole purpose of the Divine Powers is to make Man bestir himself and to throw him back upon his own resources. But Man shrinks back and declines the task, until finally circumstances literally force him into the right attitude.
The Divine Power within us -- in other words, our true Self -- is urging us to take the unruly steed of our lower nature into our own strong hands and master him ourselves. The two poles of slavery and license are equally opposed to real liberty, which means freedom to obey the laws of Nature -- of HIGHER Nature. Man is his own Savior; not by his perverse and blundering self-will, but by the Divine Intelligence, which he has power to evoke. Yet this Divine aid comes not in answer to appeals for external aid; it comes through Man's own resolve to exercise it. "Heaven helps those who help themselves," says an old saying; and we remember the fable of the wagoner who fell on his knees in the road and prayed to Hercules to lift his wheel out of the rut, and how Hercules bade him put his own shoulder to the wheel.
The above remarks will not be taken as justifying the spirit of mental anarchism now so prominent in the ephemeral pages of print. For these proclaimers of 'new' doctrines of rebellion against established usages claim license for their personal proclivities; a course which, if adopted, would not only bring them into the greater slavery to passion, but would prove incompatible with the harmony of society. True freedom makes no such loud trumpeting and has no complaint to air. It is the weak man who demands recognition for himself, not the strong man.
Before we demand liberty to exercise what we think to be the law of our nature, let us be sure that this incentive deserves so high a name; for it may turn out to be only passion in a fair disguise. And let us remember that true Love finds its satisfaction in sacrifice. As long as our affections are ATTRACTED, we are slaves to them, no matter how high-sounding a name we may give to the sentiment. But by virtue of our higher nature we possess the power to DIRECT our affections.
The recognized laws of society, though they may bear hard on a few individual cases, are nevertheless wise and beneficent in their general working; for they guard us against the havoc that might be wrought by giving sanction to such headlong things as 'higher affinities.'
Another delusion that might be generated by a careless reading of these remarks is the old fallacy that passion can ever be overcome by indulging it. It is a fire, and grows by what it feeds upon. We have to take our thoughts away from the old desires and fix them on higher ideals, leaving the accumulated force to run down, and exercising patience. Man learns by his falls; but he must not fall down on purpose.
For the confusion over the meaning of the words 'Satan' and 'Lucifer,' Theosophy is not responsible.
Twisted indeed must be the mind that could read into our remarks any semblance of an invitation to yield to passion, when the whole burden of those remarks is an exhortation to overcome passion.
The original meaning of the name 'Satan,' as shown in one of the quotations from THE SECRET DOCTRINE, is the opponent of ignorance, who frees Man from thraldom to his passions; but this is not the same as the Satan who typifies our evil desires. Again it must be repeated -- the confusion was not made by Theosophy. We can only overcome our desires by the exercise of our Will and Intelligence, for by such exercise we do indeed invoke the Divine. What possibilities are in store for Man, when once he can liberate his faculties from thraldom to the senses!
By Phillip A. Malpas
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, March 1930, pages 252-58.]
Scattered about in the ancient literature of all real religions we find the glorious doctrine of man's essential Divinity either delicately hinted at or plainly declared. That it was not more vulgarized was due to the fact that the knowledge and teaching have been profaned and degraded where the knowledge has not been preceded by mental, moral, and spiritual discipline -- the Christ has so very, very often found a cross instead of a throne prepared for it.
Yet there are testimonies enough of the existence of this teaching.
Justin Martyr flourished about the middle of the second century A.D. He may be considered as almost the first of the great patristic writers. Therefore of course, he is sure to say some things that were afterwards pruned away as Christianity solidified and materialized into formalism. And he has been blamed for so doing by 'orthodox' writers of our own day. But that does not in the least affect the fact that he was closer to the fountainhead and more worthy of attention than those who followed. This is what he says:
One article of our faith, then, is that Christ is the first begotten of God, and we have already proved him to be the very Logos [universal reason] of which all mankind are partakers; and therefore those who live according to the Logos are Christians, notwithstanding that they may pass with you for Atheists. Such among the Greeks were Socrates, Heraklitos, and the like: among the barbarians were Abraham, Elias, and many others. Those who have made the Logos or Reason the rule of their action are Christians and men without fear.
This article of the Christian faith has long been forgotten, but was obviously given its due importance in the Christian church less than a hundred years after the death of Paul. Not all the covert and open remarks of modern casuists can upset it though it is very easy to allude to Justin Martyr as a man whose Christianity was not sound, or alternatively to say that any inconvenient thing he said is of "doubtful authenticity."
Not that that matters in the least, for the doctrine was no more Christian in the sectarian sense than it was Pagan. It was universal.
In the eighty-second Psalm the same doctrine is stated, "I have said, Ye are Gods; and all of you are children of the Most High," which is plain enough; but a little curious in the light of the first verse of the same ancient hymn: "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods."
The inference is obvious that since the God in question is only one among the many gods of the Jewish pantheon, using various devices to put himself at their head, and also that men are divine, the writer is clearly of opinion that men have at least the potentiality of equality with the God of the psalms. Even the latter, through Moses, is very careful to avoid bringing too much trouble on himself when, referring to the others, he says categorically, "Thou shalt not revile the gods," as the authorized version has it. I have not a Hebrew Bible at hand, but in translation 'gods' usually means alhim or elohim, and God is the Israelite Ieve or Yahveh, while the 'Most High' is the far superior El-Elion.
In John, x, 34, this passage is utilized by the Galilean Reformer to refute the charge of blasphemy in saying that he was the Son of God. As plainly as words can put it, he says that acting as such, he is such, and implies that as soon as other men act in conformity with their divine nature they will be so, too. For naturally, when the god within is overlaid with sin and selfishness and materiality, he is no longer more than a paralyzed god, or at least a crucified one, hardly recognizable.
Elsewhere it is declared that man is the TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD, and "the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." It is all the same doctrine. Only the temple is too often more like a cenotaph, without even a corpse inside it. But that does not affect the doctrine that the normal man is divine, whatever his outer covering may be, even though the abnormal man can gravitate towards the very opposite of divinity.
After all, however, the Jewish literature is not all antiquity, and it is very often more distorted and veiled than most, to say nothing of corruptions that have crept in.
Yet there were undoubtedly among the Jews a certain number who had so far transcended their national limitations as to have made great progress along the path of universal religion. One such was Josephus, the general and historian. He was evidently a more remarkable man than he chose to show; but he gives unmistakable hints.
As a youth Josephus followed the ascetic courses of more than one mystic sect with the greatest enthusiasm. He was of the highest priestly family-caste and seems to have ended by being as much a Pharisee as anything else, though with greater experience than most Pharisees. He had by his ascetic training acquired the gift of prediction; he used it in the case of Vespasian and thereby obtained favor with the Roman general. Such things were sometimes possible with the ancient Orientals, though hardly suitable to Occidental folk. However, what matters is that he evidently knew things which were not for the multitude and yet were well known to the initiated of various mystic and orthodox sects.
In an outburst of candor at a very critical moment, he says:
The bodies of all men are indeed mortal, and are created out of corruptible matter, but the soul is ever immortal, and is A PORTION OF THE DIVINITY THAT INHABITS OUR BODIES.
-- WARS OF THE JEWS, chap. viii
So much for the doctrine of a Pharisee.
In his TIMAEUS, Plato writes of such deep and such heavily-veiled mysteries, that it is said to be impossible for any but an initiate into those mysteries to fathom them, and most statements therein have to be taken with extreme caution as to their dead-letter. But the statements as to the Divinity of man seem plain beyond question. Scattered here and there, they are readily recognizable. However, it is in the closing lines of the CRITIAS, that wonderful story of Atlantis, that we have a quite unmistakable reference to the doctrine.
Describing the rise and glory of the golden age of Atlantis, Plato arrives at a point where the men of that mighty civilization fell, owing to their gravitation towards the lower side of their dual human nature, ever more towards the animal than to the divine. Man is not fully divine unless he chooses to sublime the animal part of his nature in the alembic of life. The REAL man is divine, but in the body he only too often identifies himself with his false material image.
Tracing the transference of power from Atlantis to the East as a result of karma, i.e., causes set in motion by the Atlanteans themselves, and not from any arbitrary decision of some anthropomorphic deity, Plato says:
For many generations, as long as the NATURAL POWER OF THE GOD SUFFICED THEM, they remained obedient to the laws and kindly affected towards THE DIVINE NATURE TO WHICH THEY WERE ALLIED: for they possessed true and altogether lofty ideas, and practiced mildness united with wisdom, in reference to the casual occurrences of life and towards each other.
Hence, looking above everything except virtue, they considered things present as of small importance, and contentedly bore, as a burden, the mass of gold and other property; nor were they deceived by the intoxication of luxury, or rendered intemperate through wealth: but on the other hand, being sober, they acutely perceived that all these things are increased through common friendship mingled with virtue, and that by too anxiously pursuing and honoring them, these goods themselves are corrupted, and with them (friendship) itself likewise perishes.
To such a mode of reasoning then, and the abiding of such a nature, was it owing that they made all the progress that we before described. But when the divine portion within them became extinct through much and frequent admixture of the mortal nature, and the manners of men began to hold sway, then, through inability to bear present events, they began to exhibit unbecoming conduct and to the intelligent beholder appeared base, destroying the fairest among their most valuable possessions, -- though all the while held by those who were unable to see a true life of happiness based on truth, to be in the highest degree worthy and blessed, though filled with avarice and unjust power.
Zeus, however, the god of gods, WHO RULES ACCORDING TO THE LAWS, and is able to see into such things, perceiving an honorable race in a condition of wretchedness, and wishing to inflict punishment on them, that they might become more diligent in the practice of temperance, collected all the gods into their own most ancient habitation, which indeed, being situated in the center of the whole world, beholds all things that have had a share in generation: and having assembled them, he said,
The CRITIAS here abruptly ends.
Allowing for a few somewhat transparent veils, we have here a plain record that one of the greatest of the Initiates into the Greek Mysteries was well acquainted with the Divinity of Man. The gods and Zeus are, of course, figurative, not really personalities. "Zeus, the god of gods who rules according to the laws," is simply that ruling quality in mankind that generates and suffers karma, the perfect law of action and reaction -- even he is a god within all men.
It is curious to note how the orthodox Christian translators of Plato make him speak of God as if he were referring to the nebulous and composite God of the Christians of our own day. Probably few Europeans reading Plato in translations have failed to picture him as influenced by THEIR idea of 'God.' Yet it is doubtful that Plato ever contemplated any exterior 'God' outside of man individually or of man in the aggregate.
The same thing occurs with the famous Latin sentence quoted a million times in our own century, "Quem deus vult perdere, prius dementat," as "Whom God would destroy, he first makes mad," or "Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad." Long custom has sanctioned these translations, and yet is the meaning not plain that it should be, "Whom the god would destroy, he first makes mad?" This sounds very much like the proposition that the divine part of man deserts one who has brought destruction on himself and what is left is either mad or its equivalent, that is, devoid of all spirituality, as some even exceptionally intellectual men are.
Consider again the famous scripture of the early Gnostics, the Gospel of Valentine, the PISTIS SOPHIA, so much revered by the best Christians of the first centuries of the Common Era as containing the deeper teachings of the one they knew as Jesus. Here is a famous extract from Schwartze's Latin and Greek translation of 1851, page 156:
When therefore Andrew had said these things, the spirit of the Savior was moved in him, and crying out, he said: "How long shall I bear with you, how long shall I tolerate you -- do you not yet understand [with the higher faculties] and are you still ignorant?
For do you not know and do you not understand that YOU ARE ALL ANGELS, AND ARCHANGELS, AND ALL GODS AND LORDS AND ARCHONS OR RULERS, and all the great invisible powers, and all those belonging to the Middle Space, and belonging to all the Regions of those of the Right Hand, and all the great emanations of Light, and all their glory; that you are all from yourselves and in yourselves mutually from one mass and one HYLE or matter, and one being?
And that you are all from one mixed compound, and by the decree of the First Mystery the mixed compound is forced by necessity until all the great ones of the emanations of Light and all their glory have purged the mixture?
And they have purged them not of their own initiative but of necessity, according to the economy of the One and the Same Ineffable. And they have by no means gone through sufferings, and they have by no means suffered changes in the Regions, nor have they at all laid themselves bare, nor poured themselves into different bodies and from one into another, nor have they been in any tribulation; therefore you are the worst dregs of the Treasure, and you are the dregs of these regions that belong to the Right Hand, and you are the dregs of the regions that belong to the Middle Space, and you are the dregs of the invisible ones and of all the archons or rulers -- you are the dregs of all these; and you are in great sufferings and tribulations in being poured into various bodies in the cosmos, and after all these sufferings you have struggled of yourselves, and you have fought, having renounced the whole world and all the matter that is in it, and you have not drawn back your hands from the contest until you found all the mysteries of the Kingdom of Light, which, purging you, restored you to refined light of the highest purity, and have made you pure light.
For this cause therefore I have told you before. Seek that you may find. I have said unto you therefore. You shall seek the Mysteries of the Light which shall purify the body of HYLE or matter and make it into refined Light, extremely pure.
Amen, I say unto you concerning the human race -- because it is of matter, I have torn myself asunder and have brought all the mysteries to these lights that I may purge them, because they are the dregs of all matter of their matter; or else no soul of the whole race of men would have been saved, nor would they have been able to inherit the Kingdom of Light if I had not brought the purifying mysteries to them. For the emanations of Light have no need of the Mysteries, because they are pure; but the human race has need of them, because they are all dregs of matter. For this reason I once said to you: 'They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick,' that is, those who are of the Light have no need of the mysteries, because they are pure lights ... Therefore announce to the whole race of men: 'Cease not to seek by day and night until you have found the purifying Mysteries.'
The above fragment has special interest as not only declaring the inherent Divinity of man, but the way back to its full expression through the Mysteries of Antiquity. Also, for those interested in the New Testament, there is food for thought in the demonstration that even the simplest sentences of the true Gnostic threads in the Gospels have a meaning quite other than the simple dead-letter of the text; which does not mean, however, that anyone is at liberty to put any meaning he likes to any text and say it is the genuine meaning. Quite the contrary: without the Gnostic key, it may be taken for granted that every interpretation is wrong.
Matthew, of course, was a Gnostic, and only the accident of having to leave his school for a time caused him to write the ritual, as even Eusebius says. The step was fatal, for once written, the ritual began to be hardened into a dogma and alternatively corrupted to meet varying views until at last the accepted Gospels differed so widely from the original Hebrew "Matthew" that they were declared by the greatest expert of the Roman Church (Jerome) to be directly opposed to it.
Apollonius of Tyana mentions the doctrine, or rather the life of him by Philostratus does so in his name. His Teacher, the great Indian Sage Iarchas, whom he had met in the Himalayan or Cashmirian retreat of the Sages, was conversing with him.
Apollonius had asked the question "what the Sages thought of themselves?"
larchas replied, "Gods."
"And why Gods?" said Apollonius.
"Because we ARE GOOD MEN," was the answer, which Apollonius considered so replete with wisdom that he afterwards used it in his apology to Domitian.
This is, plainly enough, the doctrine of man's Divinity expressed so gently as to avoid forcing it on the attention of those not prepared to enter into its meaning more deeply than the mere surface.
It would be easy to find many another ancient record of this universal doctrine, though often enough translators who know languages but do not know philosophies have rendered the plainest passages in the crudest fashion.
For an instance see Genesis, vi, 3, where nobody seems to have much idea even now as to what is meant. For hundreds of years we have had the authorized version of the Most High and Mighty Prince, James, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, etc., telling us that "My spirit shall not always strive with man." The Vulgate says it means "My spirit shall not always remain in man." Others say it means "My spirit shall not always be debased in man." (The word "man" in the original is simply "Adam.")
As in a thousand other cases, I suppose the worthy pundits of King James of happy memory made the words mean what they thought they ought to mean rather than what they do mean. It was not in their philosophy to realize and repeat that there is a Divinity within man all the time unless it has been crowded out. But there is the doctrine, plainly enough.
Now philosophy is not of much use unless applied. Supposing that this mislaid doctrine were true. Supposing again that some of us knew it and could realize the divine side of our nature in every detail of life until we were dominated by it alone, and identified ourselves with it. Would not the world be changed in a generation into a real heaven if we could educate children from that high standpoint, giving no encouragement to all the little lower tendencies that are usually allowed to run wild or are positively fostered -- usually in the name of the child's happiness -- until it becomes a nuisance to all? The cruel kindness of yielding to the lower, non-divine tendencies would disappear and with it the fearful responsibility of, someday, somehow, having to pay for it to the last item.
Well, that is the secret of Raja Yoga. Certainly in these days it cannot fully flower in a year or two, but when teachers are striving along that line in their own lives and know what the goal is, the effect on the life of a child in their care is incalculable.
Is not the true knowledge of oneself knowledge of the divine? "Know Thy Self!" said the Teacher of old. He was very wise.
By Francis Angold
[From THE ARYAN PATH, June 1963, pages 226-30.]
Theology, the queen of sciences, is an attempt on the part of man to interpret what he believes to be. An expanding comprehension of the world involved, inevitably, not only an increasing interest in a common source, but an ever extending effort to expound the growing comprehension. To man living in a limited world, or at least a restricted knowledge of his world, the source of his being need appear as only slightly greater than himself. Primitive man finds sufficient comfort in the recognition of a Being, which, while apparently of but small significance to us with greater knowledge of the world, is to him of paramount importance.
We are apt to think of ourselves as being different from the primitive, whereas, in actual fact, we merely represent the development achieved over the centuries. It follows in consequence of the diversity of outlook that the concept of Deity is largely one of human design. It must be understood that the essential human aspect of the matter in no way affects the validity of that which IS. If I am called upon to describe a certain person, I may, after having made the best use of my descriptive faculties, fail to offer a reliable picture of the person concerned. It is equally possible for me to deliberately distort the depiction of the person I am called upon to describe. Under such conditions, the concept formed will either be incomplete or entirely false. Whatever the nature of the concept, the person is in no way affected; it is merely the interpretation that fails. Man, whatever his state of development may be, remains finite and will accordingly experience difficulty in seeking to interpret the Infinite.
The mark of progress is the application of labels. Everything must be classified and neatly pigeonholed for future reference. Progressive man having departmentalized his existence, the Deity he chooses recognize is of necessity but the sum of his efforts: that which is easily explained, and still more conveniently worshipped.
Modern times, or more accurately the times in which we are living, have made us familiar with all manner of aids to successful living. We may by these methods acquire the art of salesmanship, the ability of right thinking, the delights of effective speaking, and a host of other positive attainments, all of which in a word are designed to make the recipient more powerful. Power is a dangerous quality, because in the words of Hazlitt, whereas "The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves."' (POLITICAL ESSAYS, "On the Connection between Toad Eaters and Tyrants.")
Power is a corrupting influence in society; it breeds animosity and generates aggressors. The fact that two world wars have been fought in the first half of the century is a fair measure of civilized man's achievement; his thirst for power. Primitive man was content to leave power in the hands of his Deity, and so satisfied was he with the result that for long missionaries and others making contact with him failed to appreciate his recognition of Deity and in consequence dubbed him irreligious.
Progressive man in his search for conquest, by adding to his own status, has tended to diminish the status of the Deity he chooses to worship. Man in attempting to dominate his fellows has usurped the place of God.
The Church, custodian of all that is spiritual, following the trend of the times, has obediently sought to depict God, the father of all men, not as the Essence of Love, but as the personification of power.
The Reformation, so-called, was but an attempt on the part of a disgruntled section to effect a transference of power. In England an egotistical monarch, taking advantage of a spiritual upheaval, sought to establish a political monopoly. Like all politicians since his time, he denied to his right hand the knowledge of what he sought to accomplish by means of his left hand. Like his successors in the political field, he was prepared, in order to obtain more power, to deny the faith, championship of which had earned for him the title "Defender of the Faith."
The Protestant cause, vainly believing that strength is synonymous with numbers, has been indefatigable in its efforts to extend its sway. Faced with the even greater threat of Communism, the former enemies of the Church make rather ridiculous overtures to the Papacy. State-appointed archbishops, moderators, and egotistical prime ministers crave audience of His Holiness, all in the vain hope that they may present a united front to what they believe to be a common foe. The God enthroned by the Church is a God of power no less, and union lies along one path only, that of submission to the Papal Throne.
The religion which under its many and diverse guises passes for Christianity is no more than church-ianity; it is as far removed from the teaching of Jesus, as is organized religion from the simple practices of primitive man. In spite of all the centuries of misrepresentation, there, within the shadow, standeth God, keeping watch over all His own.
Man can never alter that which IS. The presence of the counterfeit serves to emphasize the existence of the genuine. Behind all the pretences of the false, gleams all the glory of the real. If man is confronted with such a diversity of interpretation, it follows that he will of necessity conjure up all manner of self-conceived ideas as touching the rock whence he is hewn.
It may well be that in every congregation of the faithful there will be as many different concepts of Deity as there are people present. The theologian may expound the intricacies of sectarian and denominational belief. The ecumenical advocate will discover the minimum basis of agreement and wax enthusiastic accordingly. There are even those who care to see beyond the multiplicity of religious expression, and seek a formula for a common religion. Fewer still are they who seek beyond all the multifarious forms of expression to discover the common Source.
Ibsen in his spiritual and metaphysical drama, THE MASTER BUILDER, brings out this concept of Deity. Hilda, in spite of all that has happened, refusing to accept the self-destruction of the Master Builder as important, recognizes only the fact of his achievement. The play closes with the cry of Hilda, "My -- MY Master Builder." To Hilda, the Master Builder is God, and in this concept, we observe a reflection of the dying and rising again of the God of the Sumerians. The Ibsenian drama presents a dying deity, but one who will continue to live in that which he has accomplished. It may well be that the immortality of Deity is no more than that which can be immortalized in brick and stone. Even if this be destroyed, the picture will remain imprinted upon the mind of the beholder; thus its creator will live forever in the imagination of the devotee.
The Ibsenian concept is akin to that of the Chinese, who, while not concerned with a future life, make every effort to ensure that they and their memory are preserved in their offspring. The cult of ancestor worship is designed to ensure that the memory of their forbears is never forgotten by their children. The parents live in the devotion of their descendants, and this perpetuation carries the mind back to an ultimate source of life and being.
We see therefore that Deity is that which exists: the power by whom all creation is nourished and sustained. The precise nature of Deity matters little, the manner of interpretation still less. The content of worship will inevitably be determined by the concept devised or accepted by different people living under different conditions and at different times.
In a mystery novel by a modern writer, I read the following:
He likened the cold moon to the good God, and the river to all the confused and chaotic dreams and strivings that had made the ambition which was his life, and it seemed somehow to comfort him strangely as he reflected that perhaps somewhere, in some heaven, He had been watching him and all that he had done with the same passionless and austere serenity.
-- Pierre Audemars, THE CROWN OF NIGHT
It may seem strange that even a French detective is moved by the natural surroundings in which he is called upon to conduct his investigations, to muse not only upon the existence, but likewise the nature of God.
The presence of the All-Seeing Eye carries us back to the ancient Egyptians who conducted all their dealings beneath its watchful care, a fact attested by its frequent use on the mummy cases of ancient Egypt. The same idea prevails in later times, and a glance at the Lindisfarne Gospels shows St. Matthew at work with a head peeping round the corner. The diligence of the writer is assured by the watchful eye of God.
It is not that man makes his god in his own likeness, but rather that he endeavors to interpret the Infinite in terms which are intelligible to his own finite understanding. In so doing, man does not in any way diminish the greatness of that which IS, but reveals his own inalienable dependence upon that indescribable Source of all being and power.
The Source being such, it remains beyond the power of human definition or material interpretation. In the final analysis, the source of being is spiritual, and accordingly can be approached only through the medium of spiritual understanding. The highest form of religion is that which seeks to lift man from his material surroundings and transport him beyond the realms of time and space to commune unfettered with the Eternal Mind.
A creed is a rod, And a crown is of night; But this thing is God, To be man with thy might, To grow straight in the strength of thy spirit, And live out thy life as the light.
-- Swinburne, HERTHA
By Evelyn Pyne
From LUCIFER, November 15, 1888, pages 224-34.]
What a grand example Nature yields to the artist, the scientist, and the workman! She is never satisfied with her work, but continually varies the detail and alters the type, lest by any chance there should be better means to a given end than she has yet made manifest.
She is continually trying experiments; here an extra petal, there a crimson spot; here a longer hair, there a shorter ear; here she broadens the curve of a bay, there she develops a strip of low-lying land; here she builds up a mountain, there she lowers a precipice; and over all this practical work, she throws the artistic glamour -- the sculptor's grace of outline, the painter's sweetness of color -- and with her mighty hands draws music from everything; from the waves as they fret the shore, from the clouds as they fall in rippling showers, from the rhythmic swing of the wind-blown branches, from the waving of the grass and the corn, from the cadences of falling water, and the soft murmuring of the rivers and little streamlets; yea, even from the fresh young leaves as they smite cymbal-wise together in the laughing spring weather.
Now and again she feels the necessity of expressing this universal music in concrete form, and then she develops the artist as in the flower-world she would develop from the old pink-flowered variety a crimson rose, with an added fragrance, a sweeter grace, and a more subtle charm to indicate the greatest perfection a flower-life could at that time attain to and be to the flowers a representative-rose.
And so, all ages have had their representative men. In every age, one man's mind stands out broadly, as a type of what his time could do, and think, and dream, and suffer; in his work is enshrined its deepest philosophy, holiest religion, highest poetry, and truest science; and to this man, it has fallen -- his sight being clearer, his soul broader, his intellect swifter and more subtle than his contemporaries' -- to rebuke their sins, ridicule their follies, strengthen their combats, brighten their ideal aims, and lift them one step nearer that perfected humanity which he feels, rather than sees, lightening the dim distance of futurity.
It has been said, "Art interprets Nature to man, "but we may go further and say, "Art interprets God to man." Art renders visible the divine beneath its material veil, gathers into a focus all those scattered rays of light which fall obliquely across the darkened chamber of life, and shows that the many-hued prism of existence is but one white radiance of glory set in the dawn of eternity.
It is to the artist then we must look for this representative mind; the priest anointed by God himself to make his ways known unto us; and though a Buddha may shine out through all ages by the exceptional beauty of his life until that life affects us with the mystery of a living poem, or a tangible strain of music, vibrating on the air-waves of humanity forever, yet, for the most part, we need our lessons in concrete form, that form which is beauty, and which Dante tells us "che l'universo a dio fa somigliante."
A poem, a picture, a statue, and lastly, and perhaps most powerfully, a tone-drama, reveal us to ourselves; strike responsive but dormant chords in our nature, and bring those vague spiritual visitations hovering around us from cradle to the grave into direct communication with the spiritual in us, without which they are too liable to "fly forgotten like a dream" and thus fail to react on that life they hallow and glorify. It has always been the task of the greatest minds, those who "knowing most, the most believe," to protest against the unbelief of their Age, whether that unbelief takes the form of word-refining and credulity, or the rougher but more honest absolute denial of spiritual power at all: "nier est facile, it s'agit d'expliquer," says Figuier, and whether we are able to explain or not, the negation of some spiritual power beyond us, yet with whom we at rare intervals hold communion, tends to narrow our humanity and lessen its glory.
We find these representative men set at intervals on the ladder of life to mark the height attained; thus in the record of past ages, humanity rose as high as Plato, or as Shakespeare, and in the future, it be seen that in this nineteenth century, Wagner marks our progress; humanity rose as high as Wagner.
In speaking of Wagner and his teaching, we wish it clearly understood that we shall examine his work from no scientific standpoint, whether his method be true or false to the received theories of composition; whether he fulfils or disobeys the laws of harmony, as laid down by the old Masters, or carries out the axiom of Novalis, "Nur seinen eignenen Gesetzen soll der mensch gehorchen."
All these questions are of no value to our present enquiry; we simply seek to determine his value as a teacher to that great multitude to whom all such questions are as sealed volumes, yet who are none the less influenced by their results. We contend that Art must not be judged by its power over the few priests, but by its broad influence on the many, its effects on the people as shown in thought, life, and conduct. It must penetrate, like Jesus, to the poor and the sinning, and raise, purify, and elevate them.
The art that inspires a school is great possibly, but it is only in its first phase of development. By-and-bye it will leave its narrow bounds, and spring, and spread, and influence the world, or it will dwindle away and die out of knowledge and sight.
"But," it will be asked, "since all Art must begin by inspiring a school, that is, must at first be confined to a few, how distinguish the true from the false -- the Art that shall live from the Art that shall die?" By examining its teaching. If we find THAT based on some universal truth of our nature, and not merely shrouding a passing phase of sentiment in fantastic garb to catch attention, we may feel sure THAT Art will live.
Opposition will but strengthen it, and abuse fall from it like rain from the gleaming wings of the eagle. And these universal truths are ideas of the Infinite, gathered from the contemplation of the finite shadows; in other words, they are the recognition of the One in the many:
The One remains, the many change and pass; Heaven's light for ever shines, earth's shadows fly.
The search amidst the ever-changing flux of BECOMING, for the eternal IS, the true BEING: and to bring this abstract idea into concrete form is the mission of art! It recognizes the fact that life, in itself, has no present; it is but a hopeless glance into the twilight of the past, or the darkness of the future; but it also recognizes as the reverse of this changeful life the steadfastness of eternal being; where neither past nor future exist, but the present is all in all. It strives to find the connecting link between the human and divine, and finds it in what has been taught under a great variety of names with one and the same meaning: "Love," "God," "inspiration," "ecstasy," "self-annihilation," "reason," innate ideas." Numberless are the terms, but the signification is one. We will call it "Love," as the word hallowed by the Christian teaching and elevated to a crowned supremacy by Shelley expresses better to our minds the almost infinite variety contained in the one expression.
Not by ignoring the human, not by denying the divine, neither by asceticism nor sensualism will the truth be reached: with a slight variation of Plato's beautiful myth, we might say the chariot of the soul has two winged horses, the divine and human, and a charioteer called Love, who if he will can drive them safely to the end; but woe to him if in his enthusiasm for the divine he neglects the human and does not insist that the two draw equally. If the one stumble or the other grows restive, the chariot is overturned and ruined. Wise is the charioteer and faithful who knows that on mutual help and support depends the safety of his car, and so cherishes both!
So much for the necessary basis of art; we have now to consider the distinguishing characteristic of the artist. We shall find this to be an universal sympathy, boundless in its stretch, all-embracing in its love. This universal sympathy produces a sensitiveness alive to the smallest influences, whether of nature, art, humanity or God; a sensitiveness not only responding to purely outward influences, but being played upon by and echoing internal impressions, emotions, and ideal passions; a sensitiveness which, from its finely-strung nerves, can imagine or create what others never really comprehend or know; and this creation is merely the excess of sympathy which makes possible the exchange of emotion between the soul of the creator (the artist) and something outside his mind, yet by the power of sympathy inextricably linked TO his mind.
How does he create? By calling out of chaos, order; out of darkness, light; in short, by sympathy with the hidden possibilities lying coiled up in the matter, his soul touches and breathes life into. An artist must see with the hundred eyes of Argus, and hear with worldwide ears; nothing is so small, common, or unclean but to him it can suggest grandeur, rarity, purity!
He creates from a word, an object; and describes it so graphically that though his bodily eyes may never have beheld it, yet his mental ones note every shade, every tint, every tone; thus it is not infrequent to find poets describing minutely things they have never seen, so that they enable others to behold, and realize what, to them, is purely a sympathetic intuition of the possibility lying dormant in Matter.
An artist like Prospero has only to wave his wand, and behold, the reign of magic has begun! A word conjures up an object; a perfume, a passion, and it may be that unknown to himself, he reveals truths of which he believed himself unconscious. The very teaching the language of his art expresses may be unintelligible to him; he may be merely the vehicle for the revelation, as the wind, unknowing its mission, carries the seeds of future forests on its careless wings, or the electric flash is chained for human enlightenment as it swiftly flits through the air.
He will require no teaching per se, either of joy or suffering, for he will hear in himself the depths of personally unfelt sorrow as well as the crowned heights of personally untasted joy. His soul will be like a perfect instrument from which the lightest touch draws music, now sad, now mirthful, now passionate, but music always, that is, truth -- truth to somebody; not perhaps truth to us who criticize, and from the narrowness of our minds call only what we ourselves experience truth; but truth, nevertheless, a deeper truth than we can grasp unless with it we grasp all Nature.
Language in common life seems an unmusical thing enough; a poor, broken-to-harness drudge, with very little beauty or charm left; but note the change when, under the sympathetic hands of the poet, language, leaving the beaten track of commonplace, soars above to the heights of poetry, grand, ennobled, beautiful; the common words fall into chains of jeweled sound, caress the ear, woo the air into their likeness, and behold, the despised drudge is a fair queen, full of grace, cleaving the blue encircling air with a thousand shadows of beauty, interlacing curves of unimaginable tenderness!
A block of stone appears to have little might to move or inspire; but behold under the sympathetic hands of the sculptor, it springs forth an Apollo, a Saint John, or an Aphrodite. The artist in both cases recognized, by the power of sympathy, the possibility hidden in the despised surroundings and drew it forth.
It is from the very depth and grasp of this sympathy that we find so many artists leading solitary lives. The world around them whirls onwards, fearful, and avoiding all great emotions; hiding as much as possible, even from itself, the power latent in its soul, and and only venturing on the dead level of small thoughts, small aims, and small pleasures that lead to content.
This world can never either plunge or mount into the regions familiar to the artist; and so he leaves it, in his highest moods, behind him, and soaring beyond its view, loses sight of the phantoms it pursues so eagerly, yea loses his own identity, which becomes merged in the universal, and thus the highest triumphs of art are gained, and the shadows of Deity falling softly round the artist, wake his nature to active response, until the truth revealed to his soul takes objective manifestation at his hands!
We have thus seen that the basis of art must be a comprehension of the possibilities in life, seen from its two sides, divine and human, and the basis of the artist's nature, an universal sympathy to comprehend and render these possibilities in concrete form. In this age, when one Master teaches an eternal sleep to be the only possible or desirable ending to "life's fitful fever," and another scoffs at all spiritual communication; that is to say, all those feelings and dim experiences which cannot be directly reduced to material sources, as the results of ignorance or incipient madness; it is full time our representative mind should stand forth and say aloud that all may hear.
Behold! He stands amongst us, a crowned king of art, the art that belongs, par excellence, to this nineteenth century; music, that socialistic art, which is as easily understood and enjoyed by the beggar as the king, and even finds an echo in the breasts of those humbler creatures to whose narrowed powers we arrogantly deny the light of reason: music, to whose magic we plead, whenever we wish to move mightily the human heart to inspire it for noble deeds or pure emotions.
Do not our soldiers march to battle, spurred on by music's voice? Are not our religious services dependent on music for the greater portion of their force and influence? Is not our most perfect enjoyment (the opera) derived from music? And, even in the legitimate drama itself, is it not music whose influence is invoked to soften and prepare the mind for the reception of the deep emotions unfolded by the play it is witnessing?
Shakespeare's love of music runs like a sweet melody through all his writings. Carlyle thus expresses its power.
The meaning of song goes deep. Who is there that, in logical words, can express the effect music has on us? A kind of inarticulate, unfathomable speech which leads us to the edge of the infinite, and lets us, for a moment, gaze into that.
Shelley, in most musical words, tells of music's might over his mind:
The cope of heaven seems rent and cloven By the enchantment of thy strain, And on my shoulders wings are woven, To follow its sublime career Beyond the mighty moons that wane Upon the verge of Nature's utmost sphere, 'Till the world's shadowy walls are past and disappear.
And from the edge of that Infinite, to which music has led him, Wagner turns and interprets the life around: he brimmed with its passion, pale with its yearning, with the undying thirst of the age for certainty, for perfect knowledge -- that age which would rather choose to deny the existence of spiritual power than confess it beyond its comprehension, and with passionate zeal seeks to elevate humanity into a religion, yet flings it down into the abyss of Nothingness and oblivion -- that age which, with frantic ardor, preaches Socialism as a creed, yet fulfills it by striving to rob its brothers, and will not, or cannot, comprehend.
Your Fouriers failed, Because not poets enough to understand That life develops from within.
Wagner stands forth, priest of the gospel, revealed in music, and preaches mightily and clearly to all of us; with boundless sympathy for the hopeless struggles and diverse aims of his age, yet clear sight and never-failing grasp of the haven where our storm-tossed barks may ride safely after life's perilous voyage.
The mind of man has conceived, and the voice of man uttered, three gospels, the gospel of hatred and defiance, the gospel of Negation, and the gospel of love. The depths of a man's intellect may be gauged and the worth of his doctrine proved by the gospel he preaches.
Some minds receive all three at different stages of their growth; some, as Voltaire and Byron, never grow beyond the first, and can only teach us to tear the mask of beauty from ugliness and to bury our dead, though with much wailing and gnashing of teeth; some, as Mill and Schopenhauer, remain always true to the gospel of Negation, and their teaching also has great value, inasmuch as it inculcates that calm severity of thought which will utterly deny rather than half believe; but our true prophets, our veritable masters, are those who, whether from heavenly radiance of Nature or hard toil of heart, have cut their way through the "everlasting No" to the glory and brightness of the "everlasting Yea!"
Such minds, piercing below the frippery of popular belief or denial, and setting at its true value the mythology in which an Age has woven the tinted weeds it gathers on the shore of eternity, and the prismatic shells flung there by the receding waters of Time, speak not to one nation or for one Age; but to all nations and for eternity! Such are Shakespeare, the poet-philosopher; Shelley, the sweet singer; and Wagner, the prophet.
Shelley indeed, only reached the land "where music, and moonlight and feeling are one" after much beating of breast, and breaking of pinion against the darkened bars of life's prison house; but Wagner was native there from the first, sweet strains of spiritual music, and star-like radiance shone through, and showed the bars were but imaginary barriers, mere shadowy clouds between spirit and matter; and so, with the perpetual passing of angels, life's rhythmic dance sweeps on, the infinitely great and the infinitely little united in the wondrous mosaic of being:
Stille Ruhn oben die Sterne Und unten die Graber.
If we consider his works, we shall find their texts are all taken from the Gospel of Love. Love he teaches, divine or human, is the one unconquerable, all-saving power. Love the redeemer, as in "Der Fliegende Hollander;" Love the pardoner, as in "Tannhauser;" Love the revealer, as in "Lohengrin;" Love the conqueror, as in the "Ring der Nibelungen"; but there is a continual growth of power, in grasp and expression of the truth taught, from the love that pities to the love that pardons, of the two first dramas, and from faith in possible to the full flood of actual love, sweeping on resistless and boundless as the divinity whose shadow and symbol it is, of the two latter.
No poet (we speak advisedly, for Wagner claims to be a poet, and is one, if piercing to the very heart of life and revealing the essential beneath the external constitute a poet), no poet, save Shakespeare and Shelley, has so completely realized a "disembodied joy," and in this his Art aids him mightily; and when by his magic he holds up to the human the mirror of itself, deeply shadowed and fringed with the spiritual, whence all "disembodied joys" are born, yea, interwoven with it so deftly that to draw the silver thread of inter-penetrant deity frays the web of life into meaningless strands, our spirits float on in "music's most serene dominions," through the air of earth, starless, and tremulous with sighs, until we reach the shining tablelands beyond.
Let us briefly consider the "motif" and treatment of "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin," prefacing our remarks by repeating our leading axioms in this discussion. Art should be individual only so far as the individual typifies the universal; directly Art ceases to perceive the whole in the part, it fails in its mission.
"Tannhauser" opens with the solemn strains of the Pilgrim Song, a holy phrase of great power and beauty, in which is woven the sweet music of earnest prayer and the deep harmony of devotional yearnings; this changes to the wild unearthly music of the Venus-Berg, in which all Nature takes part with desire and passion.
You hear in this wondrous witch-song the joy of the awakening earth on a spring morning, the flowers flushing beneath the sun, the fresh young leaves smiting their little hands together in rapture and praise, the cool plashing of slowly flowing rivers, lily-garlanded; the whisper of the wind amid the reeds and tall irises; the tender lisp of the little streams, the full glory of the bird-chorus, and the music of the human, of the young man, and maiden rejoicing in their beauty and brimmed with the joy of life. The whole tone of this witch-song is one glad cry, "How fair is life! Let us kiss her lips, and drain to the dregs the cup she offers, filled with a sweet strong wine. There is no soul! There is no future! Drink! Enjoy!"
Yet, even as this wild frenzy of passionate life possesses the listening air, we hear the sad refrain. We hear the wail of the sea-bird, half lost in the dash of the hopeless wave on an iron-bound shore; the shriek of the wind-tortured trees on dark stormy nights when everything is hidden in thick blackness and only weird cries tell of the work of devastation.
The roar of the avalanche as it sweeps on, heedless of the anguish it causes, slaying and to slay; and so the pilgrim-song and the witch-music shadow forth the strife of the human and the divine, and the drama of the individual life begins.
Tannhauser has sought the forbidden presence of Venus; the goddess who gives man the swift, wild joys of passion has wooed him from the holy land of song; yet plunged in these bodily pleasures, he is not happy, and at last, calling on Mary, tears away, and finds himself free again. He goes to Rome, but is denied pardon; so-called religion curses him; so-called friendship would slay; only Love, as typified in the sweet, saintly Elizabeth, remains faithful.
She watches and prays; but Tannhauser, stung to madness by the Pope's haughty answer to his plea for pardon -- "Sooner shall this staff blossom than thou be pardoned!" -- strives to find the home of Venus once more. Again the witch-music sounds in his ears, again the old magic begins to tinge everything in his sight, when the name of Elizabeth strikes on his shattered hearing, and like a spell recalls him to his better self, and he struggles away from the sensual glamour that is fast stealing away his senses.
A solemn chant fills the air. Behold a mournful procession, bearing the dead body of Elizabeth! While slowly advancing across the hills march a body of pilgrims from Rome, bearing the joyful tidings that the Pope's staff has blossomed! Tannhauser's sin is pardoned! Falling on his knees by the dead Elizabeth, he loses life, to be in death redeemed by the Love which was stronger than either!
Let us now turn to "Lohengrin." It opens with a picture of cloudland, a summer-day scene; blue stretches of sky, flecked and furrowed by faint fleecy snow-wreaths of cloud, the air is nearly still, tremulous only with light wind voices, that whisper tidings of the coming glory to the listening trees; but lo! as we watch the azure depths above, not clouds, but angels are there, and what we thought the voices of the wind is but the flutter of their snowy pinions making low music to the rhythm of their flight as they bear the mystic cup of life across the world, chanting the solemn Grail-Song, that unuttered music to which life is set.
Then the pictures changes; we are carried into the thick of material life, from of the glow of spirit to the darkness of Matter. Wrong and suffering abound here, as peace and joy there; but still patient endurance, truth, and courage can reach the serene comforters; the spiritual leans down, the material strains upward, and in the light of love finds salvation and joy. But woe to that reckless one who, not content with deep draughts of the mystic cup, must analyze and separate the elixir to find its component parts! It is the fate of Tantalus again, and the rash soul must thirst, and the rash heart hunger in vain!
So Elsa, not content with the mysterious joy, the half-unknown blessings, seeks to reduce it to an ordinary gift, to certify whence it came and whither it goes, and at the instant it has left her, leaving, indeed, the calm of reason and philosophy (the brother), but never the rapture of religion, the faith in the presence of the uncomprehended (the lover), which makes the beauty and magic of life.
We have briefly analyzed these two, but the same fundamental truth is the ground-work of all Wagner's dramas; while in the "Nibelungen" even the very gods themselves are powerless against the might of the Supreme Love! Thus he teaches us the grandest lesson the mind of man is capable of receiving, not by ignoring the human with its needs and weaknesses; not by denying the divine, but by showing how the human may rise beyond itself into the light above by fulfillment of its conditions and loving strife towards the dawn; as the seed is laid in the earth, and rises to the glad sunlight, flushing to a fair flower, not by proud rejection of its lowly resting-place, but by patient development of the germ of life in its heart!
He teaches us to recognize the ONE in the many, in a new and sweeter sense than the old masters taught, the sense of an eternal ever-present spirit that moulds the human many into the divine one, and that eternal Spirit is "Love"; not blind necessity, not iron fate, not stern justice, NOT an avenging deity, but "Love," a spirit that has its dwelling-place in the meanest and -- it may be faintly or it may be powerfully according to the material it works in -- moulds that meanest into some faint likeness of its own eternal beauty.
To Wagner all life is holy and worthy of reverence; we soar with him to heaven, we descend to Hell, we rest in Purgatory, and we roam the earth as surely as if with Dante and Virgil we had indeed accomplished the momentous journey.
Fairyland opens her silvern gates to us; elves dance in the moonlight; the world of soulless spirits, good and evil, floats round us in the air, and like Prospero, we command their attendance and ministry or dismiss them with a wave of our magic wand.
Wagner, like Shakespeare, rejects nothing as too small or mean and fears nothing as too high for his purpose; he has just as perfect comprehension and sympathy (in the sense we have defined) for ugliness as for beauty; passion as Law, Hell as Heaven; and what is far rarer and more precious, he has a perfect comprehension of the regions between the two extremes, where the one imperceptibly melts into the other; the knight on his steed, the minstrel with his inspired song, the shepherd piping amid the hills, the steersman at his post, the pilgrims with their holy chant, the maidens at their spinning, the pure and wronged princess, the dauntless champion of the grail, the tender, loving, self-sacrificing maiden, the jealous, unscrupulous woman, the true-hearted knight, the world-weary Dutchman, the fierce warrior who preferred hell with his beloved to heaven without her, are all equally life-like, all have the same intense humanity and passionate vitality of existence.
His dramas carry us into the very heart of life, with its sharply defined contrasts and conflicting interests, and there is such a wonderful air of reality about his music; people do not there die to a sentimental cavatina, or express their despair in an elegantly cadenced aria!
No, the music is changeful as life itself; where, in reality, speech would rise to the grand and poetical, there we have phrases of sweet, and grand, and pathetic melody; where, in life, the human strains above itself, and becomes god-like in its tragic despair and strife, there the music swells upwards in superhuman grandeur or sinks down in superhuman gloom; but where mean ideas, mean actions, or commonplace speech would exist in life, there we find scant melody, rude phrases, hurried utterances; truly this man has swept away empirical laws as the giant pursuing his way in the morning sunlight sweeps away the cobwebs that bar his path and passes on with a smile!
Wagner (like Shakespeare) writing for all ages, cannot be comprehended fully in one; as it takes innumerable years to ripen humanity to the vintage of a mind like Shakespeare's or Wagner's, so it takes innumerable years to educate mankind to their flavor, but as slow passing time goes on, each moment casts a fairer gleam of light on their pages, and the deep truths enshrined there grow slowly clearer and clearer, until humanity sees (as they did) that the solid wall it had been vainly beating its breast against was but the morning mist, which the sun of progress is melting away.
The age sneers when a prophet tells his visions.
[It continually] culls simples, With a broad clown's back turned broadly to the glory of the stars.
None the less, the prophet is constrained to speak; it is as true now, as of old, that the prophet may not speak of himself, but a power that is above him puts words into his mouth, and though he would curse the ingratitude of the world, yet is he bound to bless by the sacred gift that is alive in his soul!
Wagner proudly styles his dramas "Music of the future," yet they breathe the very spirit of the present, when even art seems seized with that frantic thirst for perfect knowledge, and unceasingly strives for the completed circle, the fully rounded disc, and is ready to sacrifice her own beautiful existence to give life to an art that shall be greater, purer, more perfect than herself; an art which shall, from the renouncement of individual development by all its branches, rise to a grand unity, partaking indeed of the charm of painting, poetry, music, and sculpture, but belonging exclusively to none of them.
Such an art we find shadowed forth in these dramas, and the future historian of the nineteenth century will find, if he wishes to grasp that intangible spirit that colors every action and every thought of the age, he must go to Wagner's music, breathe its fragrance, comprehend its sense, and then the bare, historical facts will take quite other faces for him, and be quite otherwise comprehensible, and his history will be not a dry record of cut-and-dried actions, meaningless to a succeeding age, with different thoughts and aims, but like the plays of Shakespeare, and the music-dramas of Wagner, a gorgeous, many-hued woof, in which the bittersweet of life is inextricably blended, each delicate feeling, each original action, whether good or evil, lending its color and shade, and each dimly-felt intuition, its gleam to the whole, so that it stands forth, glittering and glowing, yet black in its folds, tear-stained at its edges, with flowerlike borders and perfumed fringes, amid which skulls grin and nettles and nightshade mingle.
Wagner has preached his gospel well with no faltering tone and no halting speech, and if it is not fully understood in these days, we should remember that the deeper the water the longer the nets necessary to dredge for its treasures. Any eye can perceive the pebbles hidden in a shallow, brawling stream, but where do the coral and pearl come from? There, or the deep, still ocean?
His teaching, as graven in gleaming letters, on his works, his actions, and probably his thoughts, seem condensed into:
We are spirits, my brothers, and akin to God! Around us the spirit-world hovers; hold out your hands, and you may reach it; open your hearts, and it will fill them with truth and love, and lift them into the light; shut them, and you fall into the starless darkness of material life, made glorious by no dreams, but iron-barred from your kindred, and voiceless, save from your sighs. We seek the completed circle, and behold it is the spiritual alone that can round life's rainbow of passion and anguish into it! You cannot SEE with your minds, but you can, if you will, PERCEIVE with your souls, though the curtain of death be drawn across and a river of tears rolls between!
In that perception, the secret of life lies, and in the expression of that perception is the secret of art.