Spirit, force, and matter, and their relation to creation and human evolution; the theory of the astral light in relation to practical magic and mesmerism, with examples from ancient comparative symbolism
Chapter 5, humbly titled On the Astral Light is actually a sprawling overview of theosophical concepts, almost a miniature version of the secret doctrine in a single chapter – with extensive examples of comparative ancient symbolism. It also deals with the astral light and the practical applications in magic and magnetism as well as aspects of esoteric evolution. Although quite short, this is a very complex chapter that is difficult to summarize, but I suggest that the following sentence taken from the chapter gives an idea of what is the underlying theme behind it:
The first revelation of the Supreme Cause in its triple manifestation of spirit, force, and matter; the divine correlation, at its starting point of evolution, allegorized as the marriage of fire and water, products of electrifying spirit, union of the male active principle with the female passive element, which become the parents of their tellurian child, cosmic matter, the prima materia, whose spirit is ether, the ASTRAL LIGHT! (p.156)
1-Fire and Light Symbolism Ancient and Modern illustrate Universal Force (p.125)
(Universal Ether 128/Chaos 129/World Soul 129/Magnetism 129/Sofia – Holy Ghost 130/Mesmerism 131/Universal Mind 131)
The ancients called it Chaos;
Plato and the Pythagoreans named it the Soul of the World.
According to the Hindus, the Deity in the shape of AEther pervades all things.
It is the invisible, but, as we have said before, too tangible Fluid.
Among other names this universal Proteus — or “the nebulous Almighty,” as de Mirville calls it in derision — was termed by the theurgists “the living fire,”** the “Spirit of Light,” and Magnes.
This last appellation indicates its magnetic properties and shows its magical nature. For, as truly expressed by one of its enemies — [[magos]] and [[magnes]] are two branches growing from the same trunk, and shooting forth the same resultants. (129)
2- Water Symbolism Illustrates Primordial Substance (133)
Alchemists claim that primordial or pre-Adamic earth when reduced to its first substance is in its second stage of transformation like clear-water, the first being the alkahest** proper.
This primordial substance is said to contain within itself the essence of all that goes to make up man; it has not only all the elements of his physical being, but even the “breath of life” itself in a latent state, ready to be awakened. This it derives from the “incubation” of the Spirit of God upon the face of the waters — chaos; in fact, this substance is chaos itself.
From this it was that Paracelsus claimed to be able to make his “homunculi”; and this is why Thales, the great natural philosopher, maintained that water was the principle of all things in nature. (134)
3- Ether in Magic and Science (135)
(Astral light 135/The will in magic 144)
** The akasa is a Sanscrit word which means sky, but it also designates the imponderable and intangible life-principle
- the astral and celestial lights combined together, and which two form the anima mundi, and constitute the soul and spirit of man;
- the celestial light forming his [[nous, pneuma]], or divine spirit, and the other his [[psuche]], soul or astral spirit. The grosser particles of the latter enter into the fabrication of his outward form — the body.
- Akasa is the mysterious fluid termed by scholastic science, “the all-pervading ether”; it enters into all the magical operations of nature, and produces mesmeric, magnetic, and spiritual phenomena.
- As, in Syria, Palestine, and India, meant the sky, life, and the sun at the same time; the sun being considered by the ancient sages as the great magnetic well of our universe.
- The softened pronunciation of this word was Ah — says Dunlap, for “the s continually softens to h from Greece to Calcutta.” Ah is Iah, Ao, and Iao. God tells Moses that his name is “I am” (Ahiah), a reduplication of Ah or Iah. The word “As” Ah, or Iah means life, existence, and is evidently the root of the word akasa, which in Hindustan is pronounced ahasa, the life-principle, or Divine life-giving fluid or medium.
- It is the Hebrew ruah, and means the “wind,” the breath, the air in motion, or “moving spirit,” according to Parkhurst’s Lexicon;
- and is identical with the spirit of God moving on the face of the waters. (140)
4-Universal Substance/Force in Ancient Cosmologies (146)
(Egypt 146/Scandinavia 147/Bible 149/ Book of Jasher 149)
What modern cosmogonist could compress within so simple a symbol as the Egyptian serpent in a circle such a world of meaning? Here we have, in this creature, the whole philosophy of the universe: matter vivified by spirit, and the two conjointly evolving out of chaos (Force) everything that was to be. To signify that the elements are fast bound in this cosmic matter, which the serpent symbolizes, the Egyptians tied its tail into a knot.
There is one more important emblem connected with the sloughing of the serpent’s skin, which, so far as we are aware, has never been heretofore noticed by our symbolists. As the reptile upon casting his coat becomes freed from a casing of gross matter, which cramped a body grown too large for it, and resumes its existence with renewed activity, so man, by casting off the gross material body, enters upon the next stage of his existence with enlarged powers and quickened vitality. 150
5- Evolution in Ancient Myths 152
(World Tree 153/Pyramid 154/Double-sexed creators 156/Trinity 160/Thor and electricity 161)
The trinity in unity is an idea which all the ancient nations held in common.
The three Dejotas — the Hindu Trimurti;
the Three Heads of the Jewish Kabala.* “Three heads are hewn in one another and over one another.”
The trinity of the Egyptians and that of the mythological Greeks were alike representations of the first triple emanation containing two male and one female principles.
It is the union of the male Logos, or wisdom, the revealed Deity, with the female Aura or Anima Mundi — “the holy Pneuma,” which is the Sephira of the Kabalists and the Sophia of the refined Gnostics — that produced all things visible and invisible.
While the true metaphysical interpretation of this universal dogma remained within the sanctuaries, the Greeks, with their poetical instincts, impersonated it in many charming myths. (160)
The following authors and works figure prominently in this chapter:
Alexandre Jacques François Brière de Boismont (1797-1881)
Hallucinations, the Rational History (1853)
Charles Darwin (1808-1882)
On the Origin of the Species (1862)
Thomas Huxley’s Review of Haeckel’s Natural History of Creation (1869)
Samuel Fales Dunlap (1825-1905)
Paul Henri Mallet (1730 – 1807)
Northern Antiquities (1770)