Chapter 7 – Gnosticism, Early Christianity, Buddhism and the Secret Doctrine
This chapter wraps up the historical survey of early Christianity and the pioneering study of the Ophite and Mandaean cosmologies in a bid to rehabilitate the much-maligned Gnostics. The Codex Nazaraeus is now know as the Ginza Rba and was translated into english in 2011. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginza_Rba
The subsequent chapters focus on more specific points raised in previous chapters. Blavatsky’s survey of early Christianity is basically uses specifically selected material of 19th century historians with various critiques and discretely adds some general but concrete historical comments from a more esoteric perspective, developing a comparative/universalist/perennialist perspective, which if fact serves to trace the history of a secret esoteric society who seem to have been very much concerned with the early Christian period. Interestingly, she states that the Essenes gave birth to the Christian gnostics, a view that has become widespread today with the theory that Christian gnosticsim sprung from Jewish Gnosticism, of which we new have much more documentation.
1- Ophites and Mandaen systems (289)
Mandaens 289 / Ophite and Mandaen sytems compared 292 / Seven Sacred Planets 294 / Trinity 295 / Iao 296 / Decimal System 299 /
One by one the tide of time engulfed the sects of the early centuries, until of the whole number only one survived in its primitive integrity. That one still exists, still teaches the doctrine of its founder, still exemplifies its faith in works of power. The quicksands which swallowed up every other outgrowth of the religious agitation of the times of Jesus, with its records, relics, and traditions, proved firm ground for this. Driven from their native land, its members found refuge in Persia, and to-day the anxious traveller may converse with the direct descendants of the “Disciples of John,” who listened, on the Jordan’s shore, to the “man sent from God,” and were baptized and believed. This curious people, numbering 30,000 or more, are miscalled “Christians of St. John,” but in fact should be known by their old name of Nazareans, or their new one of Mendaeans. 289-90
Ophite and Mandaen sytems compared 292
The Serpent, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life, are all symbols transplanted from the soil of India. The Arasa-Maram, the banyan tree, so sacred with the Hindus, since Vishnu, during one of his incarnations, reposed under its mighty shade, and there taught humanity philosophy and sciences, is called the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. Under the protective umbrage of this king of the forests, the Gurus teach their pupils their first lessons on immortality and initiate them in the mysteries of life and death. The Java–ALEIM of the Sacerdotal College are said, in the Chaldean tradition, to have taught the sons of men to become like one of them. To the present day Foh-tchou,* who lives in his Foh-Maeyu, or temple of Buddha, on the top of “Kouin-long-sang,”* the great mountain, produces his greatest religious miracles under a tree called in Chinese Sung-Ming-Shu, or the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life, for ignorance is death, and knowledge alone gives immortality. This marvellous display takes place every three years, when an immense concourse of Chinese Buddhists assemble in pilgrimage at the holy place. 293-94
Lord FERHO — the Life which is no Life — the Supreme God. The Cause which produces the Light, or the Logos in abscondito. The water of Jordanus Maximus — the water of Life, or Ajar, the feminine principle. Unity in a Trinity, enclosed within the ISH AMON.
Second Trinity. (The manifestation of the first.)
- Lord MANO — the King of Life and Light — Rex Lucis. First LIFE, or the primitive man. 2. Lord Jordan — manifestation or emanation of Jordan Maximus — the waters of grace. Second LIFE. 3. The Superior Father — Abatur. Third LIFE.
This Trinity produces also a duad — Lord Ledhoio, and Fetahil, the genius (the former, a perfect emanation, the latter, imperfect).
Lord Jordan — “the Lord of all Jordans,” manifests NETUBTO (Faith without Works).*
First Unity in a Trinity.
IAO — the Ineffable Name of the Unknown Deity — Abraxas, and the “Eternal Spiritual Sun.” Unity enclosed within the Depth, Bythos, feminine principle — the boundless circle, within which lie all ideal forms. From this Unity emanates the
Second Trinity. (Idem.)
- Ennoia — mind. 2. Ophis, the Agathodaemon. 3. Sophia Androgyne — wisdom; who, in her turn — fecundated with the Divine Light — produces
Christos and Sophia-Achamoth (one perfect, the other imperfect), as an emanation.
Sophia-Achamoth emanates Ilda-Baoth — the Demiurge, who produces material and soulless creation. “Works without Faith” (or grace).*
Fourth Century Christianity 303 / Druzes 306 / Druze Initiation 312 / Eastern Secret Societies 315 / Buddhism and Nirvana 319
Fourth Century Christianity 303
The Koinobi lived in Egypt, where Jesus passed his early youth. They were usually confounded with the Therapeutae, who were a branch of this widely-spread society. Such is the opinion of Godfrey Higgins and De Rebold. After the downfall of the principal sanctuaries, which had already begun in the days of Plato, the many different sects, such as the Gymnosophists and the Magi — from whom Clearchus very erroneously derives the former — the Pythagoreans, the Sufis, and the Reshees of Kashmere, instituted a kind of international and universal Freemasonry, among their esoteric societies. “These Rashees,” says Higgins, “are the Essenians, Carmelites, or Nazarites of the temple.”* “That occult science known by ancient priests under the name of regenerating fire,” says Father Rebold, ” . . . a science that for more than 3,000 years was the peculiar possession of the Indian and Egyptian priesthood, into the knowledge of which Moses was initiated at Heliopolis, where he was educated; and Jesus among the Essenian priests of Egypt or Judea; (305)
It is from these descendants that the Sufis, chiefly composed of Persians and Syrians, acquired their proficient knowledge in astrology, medicine, and the esoteric doctrine of the ages. “The Sufi doctrine,” says C. W. King, “involved the grand idea of one universal creed which could be secretly held under any profession of an outward faith; and, in fact, took virtually the same view of religious systems as that in which the ancient philosophers had regarded such matters.”**** The mysterious Druzes of Mount Lebanon are the descendants of all these. Solitary Copts, earnest students scattered hither and thither throughout the sandy solitudes of Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, Palestine, and the impenetrable forests of Abyssinia, though rarely met with, may sometimes be seen. Many and various are the nationalities to which belong the disciples of that mysterious school, and many the side-shoots of that one primitive stock. The secresy preserved by these sub-lodges, as well as by the one and supreme great lodge, has ever been proportionate to the activity of religious persecutions; and now, in the face of the growing materialism, their very existence is becoming a mystery. 306
Eastern Secret Societies 315
And yet the Druzes may be said to belong to one of the least esoteric of secret societies. There are others far more powerful and learned, the existence of which is not even suspected in Europe. There are many branches belonging to the great “Mother Lodge” which, mixed up with certain communities, may be termed secret sects within other sects. One of them is the sect commonly known as that of Laghana-Sastra. It reckons several thousand adepts who are scattered about in small groups in the south of the Dekkan, India. In the popular superstition, this sect is dreaded on account of its great reputation for magic and sorcery. The Brahmans accuse its members of atheism and sacrilege, for none of them will consent to recognize the authority of either the Vedas or Manu, except so far as they conform to the versions in their possession, and which they maintain are professedly the only original texts; the Laghana-Sastra have neither temples nor priests, but, twice a month, every member of the community has to absent himself from home for three days. Popular rumor, originated among their women, ascribes such absences to pilgrimages performed to their places of fortnightly resort. In some secluded mountainous spots, unknown and inaccessible to other sects, hidden far from sight among the luxurious vegetation of India, they keep their bungalows, which look like small fortresses, encircled as they are by lofty and thick walls. These, in their turn, are surrounded by the sacred trees called assonata, and in Tamul arassa maram. These are the “sacred groves,” the originals of those of Egypt and Greece, whose initiates also built their temples within such “groves” inaccessible to the profane.*
Buddhism and Nirvana 319
Except a few impartial archaeologists, who trace a direct Buddhistic element in Gnosticism, as in all those early short-lived sects we know of very few authors, who, in writing upon primitive Christianity, have accorded to the question its due importance. Have we not facts enough to, at least, suggest some interest in that direction? Do we not learn that, as early as in the days of Plato, there were “Brachmans” — read Buddhist, Samaneans, Saman, or Shaman missionaries — in Greece, and that, at one time, they had overflowed the country? Does not Pliny show them established on the shores of the Dead Sea, for “thousands of ages”? After making every necessary allowance for the exaggeration, we still have several centuries B.C. left as a margin. And is it possible that their influence should not have left deeper traces in all these sects than is generally thought? We know that the Jaina sect claims Buddhism as derived from its tenets — that Buddhism existed before Siddhartha, better known as Gautama-Buddha. 321
3- Early Christianity
Buddhism and Essenes 323 / Gnostics and Christianity 324 / Apostolic Succession 325 / Nicolaitans 329 / Christian Folk Customs 331 / Jesus 335 / Pagan maxims and Gospels Compared 338 / Historical Jesus and Buddha 339 / Apollonius of Tyana 341 / / Christianity and Comparative Religion 344
Buddhism and Essenes 323
As a last word, the Christian Gnostics sprang into existence toward the beginning of the second century, and just at the time when the Essenes most mysteriously faded away, which indicated that they were the identical Essenes, and moreover pure Christists, viz.: they believed and were those who best understood what one of their own brethren had preached. In insisting that the letter Iota, mentioned by Jesus in Matthew (v. 18), indicated a secret doctrine in relation to the ten aeons, it is sufficient to demonstrate to a kabalist that Jesus belonged to the Free-masonry of those days; for I, which is Iota in Greek, has other names in other languages; and is, as it was among the Gnostics of those days, a pass-word, meaning the SCEPTRE of the FATHER, in Eastern brotherhoods which exist to this very day. 324
Gnostics and Christianity 324
We have carefully looked over the works of such authors as Payne Knight, C. W. King, and Olshausen, which treat of our subject; we have reviewed the bulky volumes of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Sozomen, Theodoret; and in none but those of Epiphanius have we found any accusation based upon direct evidence of an eye-witness. “They say”; “Some say”; “We have heard” — such are the general and indefinite terms used by the patristic accusers. Alone Epiphanius, whose works are invariably referred to in all such cases, seems to chuckle with delight whenever he couches a lance. We do not mean to take upon ourselves to defend the sects which inundated Europe at the eleventh century, and which brought to light the most wonderful creeds; we limit our defense merely to those Christian sects whose theories were usually grouped under the generic name of Gnosticism. These are those which appeared immediately after the alleged crucifixion, and lasted till they were nearly exterminated under the rigorous execution of the Constantinian law. The greatest guilt of these were their syncretistic views, for at no other period of the world’s history had truth a poorer prospect of triumph than in those days of forgery, lying, and deliberate falsification of facts. 326
Apostolic Succession 325
But before we are forced to believe the accusations, may we not be permitted to inquire into the historical characters of their accusers? Let us begin by asking, upon what ground does the Church of Rome build her claim of supremacy for her doctrines over those of the Gnostics? Apostolic succession, undoubtedly. The succession traditionally instituted by the direct Apostle Peter. But what if this prove a fiction? Clearly, the whole superstructure supported upon this one imaginary stilt would fall in a tremendous crash. And when we do inquire carefully, we find that we must take the word of Irenaeus alone for it — of Irenaeus, who did not furnish one single valid proof of the claim which he so audaciously advanced, and who resorted for that to endless forgeries. He gives authority neither for his dates nor his assertions. This Smyrniote worthy has not even the brutal but sincere faith of Tertullian, for he contradicts himself at every step, and supports his claims solely on acute sophistry. Though he was undoubtedly a man of the shrewdest intellect and great learning, he fears not, in some of his assertions and arguments, to even appear an idiot in the eyes of posterity, so long as he can “carry the situation.” Twitted and cornered at every step by his not less acute and learned adversaries, the Gnostics, he boldly shields himself behind blind faith, and in answer to their merciless logic falls upon imaginary tradition invented by himself. 326
Pagan maxims and Gospels Compared 338
SENTENCES FROM SEXTUS, THE PYTHAGOREAN, AND OTHER HEATHEN.
- “Possess not treasures, but those things which no one can take from you.”
- “It is better for a part of the body which contains purulent matter, and threatens to infect the whole, to be burnt, than to continue so in another state (life).”
- “You have in yourself something similar to God, and therefore use yourself as the temple of God.“
- “The greatest honor which can be paid to God, is to know and imitate his perfection.“
- 5. “What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men” (Analects of Confucius, 76; See Max Muller’s The Works of Confucius).
- “The moon shines even in the house of the wicked” (Manu).
- “They who give, have things given to them; those who withhold, have things taken from them” (Ibid.).
- “Purity of mind alone sees God” (Ibid.) — still a popular saying in India.
VERSES FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT.*
- “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matthew vi. 19).
- “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter unto life maimed, than go to hell,” etc. (Mark ix. 43).
- “Know ye not ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians, iii. 16).
- “That ye may be the children of your Father, which is in Heaven, be ye perfect even as your Father is perfect” (Matthew v. 45-48).
- “Do ye unto others as ye would that others should do to you.”
- “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew v. 45).
- “Whosoever hath, to him shall be given . . . but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away” (Matthew xiii. 12).
- “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew v. 8).
Historical Jesus and Buddha 339
While the mythical birth and life of Jesus are a faithful copy of those of the Brahmanical Christna, his historical character of a religious reformer in Palestine is the true type of Buddha in India. In more than one respect their great resemblance in philanthropic and spiritual aspirations, as well as external circumstances is truly striking. Though the son of a king, while Jesus was but a carpenter, Buddha was not of the high Brahmanical caste by birth. Like Jesus, he felt dissatisfied with the dogmatic spirit of the religion of his country, the intolerance and hypocrisy of the priesthood, their outward show of devotion, and their useless ceremonials and prayers. As Buddha broke violently through the traditional laws and rules of the Brahmans, so did Jesus declare war against the Pharisees, and the proud Sadducees. What the Nazarene did as a consequence of his humble birth and position, Buddha did as a voluntary penance. He travelled about as a beggar; and — again like Jesus — later in life he sought by preference the companionship of publicans and sinners. Each aimed at a social as well as at a religious reform; and giving a death-blow to the old religions of his countries, each became the founder of a new one. 339
Christianity and Comparative Religion 344
The researches of Laboulaye, Anquetil Duperron, Colebrooke, Barthelemy St. Hilaire, Max Muller, Spiegel, Burnouf, Wilson, and so many other linguists, have brought some of the truth to light. And now that the difficulties of the Sanscrit, the Thibetan, the Singhalese, the Zend, the Pehlevi, the Chinese, and even of the Burmese, are partially conquered, and the Vedas, and the Zend-Avesta, the Buddhist texts, and even Kapila’s Sutras are translated, a door is thrown wide open, which, once passed, must close forever behind any speculative or ignorant calumniators of the old religions. Even till the present time, the clergy have, to use the words of Max Muller — “generally appealed to the deviltries and orgies of heathen worship . . . but they have seldom, if ever, endeavored to discover the true and original character of the strange forms of faith and worship which they call the work of the devil.”**** When we read the true history of Buddha and Buddhism, by Muller, and the enthusiastic opinions of both expressed by Barthelemy St. Hilaire, and Laboulaye; and when, finally, a Popish missionary, an eye-witness, and one who least of all can be accused of partiality to the Buddhists — the Abbe Huc, we mean — finds occasion for nothing but admiration for the high individual character of these “devil-worshippers”; we must consider Sakya-muni’s philosophy as something more than the religion of fetishism and atheism, which the Catholics would have us believe it. Huc was a missionary and it was his first duty to regard Buddhism as no better than an outgrowth of the worship of Satan. The poor Abbe was struck off the list of missionaries at Rome, after his book of travels was published. This illustrates how little we may expect to learn the truth about the religions of other people, through missionaries, when their accounts are first revised by the superior ecclesiastical authorities, and the former severely punished for telling the truth. 345