The esoteric traditions of the West: part I

An old article from my ‘Theosophical period’, but still republished, since it opens for the ‘series’ about the esoteric systems of the West.

Early times

To make a start with these series about the esoteric tradition(s) from the west I will go back a long way in time, even before ‘our periode’, the times of Atlantis and farther back. The best basis to build on is the quite well-known (and controversial) theory of the globes and races of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (often abbreviated to HPB) (1831-1891) which she wrote down in her monumental work “The Secret Doctrine” from 1888*1.

In short the theory says that evolution goes in steps of seven. The earth passes through seven stages which HPB depicted by seven globes. They are not really interesting for this article though. It does become interesting when is mentioned that on each globe humanity also passes through seven stages, which are called the “root-races”. These root-races are again divided in seven races, those in subraces, families, etc. Both the globes and the races that be shown in a diagram as you see on the right. The first globe or root-race may be very spiritual, but is on the very beginning of its evolution. Slowly but surely she descends into matter, striding along the path of evolution. Phase D is the most material phase halfway the evolutionary path. From then on it is forward and upward.
In part II of her “The Secret Doctine” (p6) HPB gives names to the root-races of our current globe D to make talking about them a bit easier. The first root-race becomes the “self-born”, living on the “imperishable, holy land”. The names for the later root-races already sound more familiar: “Hyperboreans”, “Lemurians”, “Atlantians” and “(Indo-)Aryans”.

Homo cogito, the thinking man

I am not going to write about every single root-race. First of all this doesn’t add much to the purpose of this story, secondly it is very hard to find any descent information about the earlier civilisations. Fortunately the information and the level of interest for this article come together at the Lemurian race. This is because in the third race “thinking descended over humankind”. HPB describes this as the inhabiting of human bodies by “Manasaputras” (SDII 260), which word means as much as that ‘beings of thinking’ (Manas=thinking, putra=being). The beginning of thinking is a nice stage in evolution to continue this article.

HPB writes that the Lemurians fell in bad habbits while a small number of others walked the evolutionary path faster than average*2 (GLII 317). These were to be the future guides of mankind. Because of the misuse of the largest part of the population, Lemuria is destroyed by disasters of fire and water (earthquakes and volcano eruptions verses heavy and long rain and floods). How I would want to, I can’t tell you much about Lemuria or it’s inhabitents. It is the time of Atlantis from where the information is a bit easier to find.

Atlantis

According to G. de Purucker (1874-1942) about every 4.320.000 a new root-race comes into being*3. When the transition from Atlantis to our fifth root-race took place about 10.000 years ago, the destruction of Lemuria already happened quite a while back. Something that should be mentioned though, is that different root-races overlap for massive amounts of time. In fact, they just very slowly go over into eachother, the older one slowly extinquishing. Also the destruction of Lemuria didn’t take place over a night. But it must be quite save to say that the first clear sign of the Atlantic race could be detected about four million years ago. The knowledge that was gained in Lemuria was taken to Atlantis.

However Atlantis already was a lot more physical/material than Lemuria, it is still hard to imagine what the land and its inhabitents looked like. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) describes in his “Geheimwissenschaft In Umriss”*4 with a dizzying amount of details the history of humankind, information he gathered through “mental spectating” (Steiner was born clairvoyant). He describes the bodies of the Atlantians as delicate and week, flexible and plastic and they were very expressive and an expression of the mental/spiritual development of its owner. The less developed, the bigger the body and the larger the limbs. Most Atlantians were enormous and grotesq (p 194/5), which means that the spiritual development of the largest part of the Atlantic population left much to be desired. In the mentioned book Steiner describes how the farthest developed Lemurians were allotted with thinking with help of “Luciferian beings” (the Manasaputras of Blavatsky) and how the difference between sleep and the waking state came forth. Also Steiner wrote that the ‘body of life’ wasn’t yet totally attached to the physical body which gave the Atlantians a certain ‘spiritual freedom’, especially in their sleep. Some of them managed to bind themselves with spiritual beings which speeded up their evolution quite drastically. These Atlantians can be called the first initiated and soon became the leaders of the Atlantic nations.

The Luciferian influence caused an individualisation under the human beings and the physical bodies of the Atlantians slowly started to become more physical/material. Less developed who were students of the iniated started their own experiments and power-loving iniated started to use their forces for selfish purposes. This was only halfway the Atlantic periode, but surely the beginning of the end.

After Atlantis

Steiner describes how many disasters tortured the earth and because large parts of land came under water, people moved to higher places, especially to what we now call Europe, Asia and Afrika. The contact with the spiritual world was cut-off more and more and the giants extinguished while the Atlantic race was replaced by the Aryan. Steiner wrote that already in Atlantis there were seven oracles (or mystery-schools) of which the “Christus-oracle” was the most important. Just after the Atlantic periode the leader of this “Christus-oracle” found it necessary to lead his followers away from the rapidly degenerating rest of the human kind. He migrated to central Asia with them where he taught his seven best followers the secrets of the “Christus- oracle” and the other oracles and sent them out in the world as the first spiritual leaders. Most of them went to India because the people who lived there were still most susceptible for their teachings. This may be the reason why many people place the cradle of humanity in the area.

The second post-Atlantic periode, Steiner describes as the periode of Zoroaster/Zarathustra. This was a long long time before the religious reformer who took the same name around 700BC. Still the ‘well-known’ Zarathustra belonged to the Zarathurstrian tradition that started with the ‘original Zarathustra’. This tradition had as aim to teach human kind the difference between good and evil, spirit and matter, etc. The almost extinct Zoroastrianism (founded by the ‘pseudo-Zarathustra) is still known to us as an extremely dualistic religion. The Persians had an interesting mythology in which the so called “Devs” played a big role. Also there were “Peris” who were giants, just as the Devs, but not as gigantic. Unfortunately not too many Zoroastrian texts have made it to our time, but I want to point to one “Yasna” from the fairly well-known “Gathas of Zarathustra”*5: “May the Depraved with his evil doctrine not destroy the world for the second time.” (45.1). As we will see furtheron many post-Atlantic mythologies refer to Atlantis and the great flood.

Back to Steiner and his history of humanity. The third post-Atlantic periode is the one that took place in little Asia and northern Afrika. Of course this refers to a few civilisations that get quite a lot of attention nowadays: the Chaldean, Babylonean, Assyrian and Egyptian civilisations.
Human kind lost more and more senses and the contact with the spiritual world faded even more. Development became more focused on the senses that we still have today and the physical world. The great leader of this periode -by the way- is Thoth/Hermes, but also this time the Thoth and Hermes that we think off today is merely a faint remnant of the original leader, but again still a great leader and in the same tradition. This second Thoth/Hermes will be dealt with in great length in these series.
As you may know, the Sumerian mythology is full of references to Atlantis and the flood. The best-known Mesopotamian (to use a few terms through eachother) myth is the epos of Gilgamesh which speaks about the man of the same name. Most likely the half-godly Gilgamesh was an Atlantian himself. One of the stones that are left of the Gilgamesh-epos is called the “flood-stone” (depicted on the bottom of this article). This photo will also make it quite clear to you why there are so many holes in our Gilgamesh-epos… But, let me give you a few Mesopotamian quotes to make my point: “after the flood, the whole of humanity was turned to clay” (turned more physical?) (Gilgamesh-epos, stone XI). The myth of Atrarchis describes how the gods created men to do their dirty work, but they start to get annoyed by the noise that these humans make. First they sent a few plagues down, but eventually they take care of their creating by whiping them away in a great flood. Also there is an ‘epos of creation’ which speaks of creating, destruction and recreation6. The Babylonians also had a theory involving races. The first race was a “zalmat gagnadi” (“dark race”) and called “Adami”. The second race was a light race, called the “Sarku”.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any Egyptian myths refering to the flood or Atlantis. It seems there there is a myth about the four sons of Horus (and I am not talking about the four sons to who the organs are offered before embalseming), but in general there aren’t really that many Egyptian myths available. What may be interesting to mention -by the way- is that most likely the Egyptians were not Atlantic people, which may explain the absence of Atlantic mythology. For a long time scientists have broken their brains over the question how such a flourishing civilisation came falling out of the sky. After reading the above you may say: “simple, they were Atlantians fleeing from the water”, but recently quite definate proof has been gathered that it is quite contrary to that. Some Sumerian tribes have probably wandered around for a while, ended up in northern Afrika and found the Nile-delta a nice place to establish. The Sumerians already had some time to build up their civilisation and when you have a good comparison, you can see quite clear resemblances between the Sumerian and early-Egyptian civilisations7. Anyway, it is not for this article to dive into that too deeply.

Let me shortly finish the Steiner story by mentioning that the fourth post-Atlantic civilisation was the Greek-Latin and the fifth our current one. This goes nicely paralel to Blavatsky’s subraces of the fifth root-race.

Other referrals to the flood

It remains a tough job to find information about Atlantis to write something what we would call “history”. The only name -for example- that I have found is that of Thevelat who was “born wise” but let his people to a demise. This is shortly mentioned in the end of the first part of HP Blavatsky’s first grand-opus “Isis Unveiled”8. Plato (428-347BC) writes a few things about Atlantis9 in his “Timaeus” and “Critias”, but also here nothing that we would give the name “history”. In “Phaedrus” he is said to mention a winged human race.

In better known texts we also find referrals to the flood. The Bible refers to it for example (see Genesis 6:5) and the (Atlantic) giants are mentioned in Genesis 6:4. With some effort we can even filter Blavatsky’s race-theory out of Genesis. In Genesis 1:26 we read that man was created “after our likeness”, when Eve is created in Genesis 3:20/21 mankind is lifted in “skirts of skin” (I don’t know the official English translation) and after that we are suddenly “one ours”.

An apocryphical (not unrecognised) but still quite known book is the Ethiopian “Book of Enoch” which is a strange blend of different writers from the times of the Old Testament to the New Testament. It tells the story of Enoch who must have been an Atlantian, because he was the grandfather of Noach (see LVX 1) who we of course know from the Bible. The book describes how angels in the form of animals form other animals (LXXXVI, the fall), how the giants were created because of actions of the fallen angels (VII 1-), speaks extensively of the flood and the destruction of the giants (for example XVI, 1), tells how Noach is warned by the angel Uriel (X 1,2) and gives a clear explanation for the reason the earth was destroyed: “And a command has gone forth from the presence of the Lord concerning those who dwell on the earth that their ruin is accomplished because they have learnt all the secrets of the angels, and the violence of the Satans, and all their powers -the most secret ones- and all the power of those who practise sorcery, and the power of witchcraft, and the power of those who make molten images for the whole earth” (LXV 6)10. The quoted book seems to have a Gnostic11 tendency, but also often seems very ‘evangelic’.

Then again another better-known book, the Islamitic ‘bible’ “Qor’an”. I couldn’t find any unambigious references to Atlantis or the flood, but verse 15 of chapter 29 (the Al-Ankabut) is definatly worth citing: “Truly, we sent Noach to his people, and he remained among them a thousand years minus fifty years. And the flood overtook them when they were sinfull.”12

Of course I could also quote some Eastern texts, but we are talking about the West here, so I don’t. What may be worth mentioning is that the oldest scriptures that we know, the Veda’s and the books of Manu from the far East, don’t refer to the flood once. The book of Manu (I 35) mentioned ten “Prajapatis” or great saints, but stops after Visavat, the father of Vaisvata or the Noach of the Hindus13. This gives the idea that these text were actually written before the flood, which would make them the only Atlantic texts that we have.

For the rest of the series

In the ‘third part’ of “The Secret Doctrine” HP Blavatsky writes: “The mysteries were given to the chosen when most Atlantians were on their way falling in sin too deeply” (p 288). There are much more referrals to the fact that the mystery-school were first founded in Atlantis. As mentioned before Rudold Steiner said that seven oracles came from Atlantis to our world. Mystery schools were founded in the East and in Egypt and it is the western branch that will be dealt with later in these series.

notes:
1 I used my Dutch 1988 printing by the “Theosophical University Press Agency”. For a short explanation see page 434-436 of the original English paging;
2 A small but very nice book is that of another Theosophe (Grace F. Knoche) called “The Mystery Schools Through The Centuries”;
3 Another Theosoph, see “Foundation Source Of Occultism” p184 (of my Dutch version at least);
4 My Dutch book is called “De Wetenschap Van De Geheimen Der Ziel” (1998 uitgeverij vrij geestesleven p 189-220). However some people say that this is the Steiner standard work, I have no idea what is the English version of it…;
5 The Gathas are of the few scriptures that made it to our time. I used a very nice Dutch translation with some additional info (1995 mirananda, by j. de vries);
6 A nice little book (but not when you want to read the whole stories!) is “Mesopotamian mythology” of H Mc Call from the series “Legenden uit een ver verleden” (1997 tirion) ;
7 See for example “The Ancient Egyptians, Religious Beliefs And Practises” van AR David, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1982;
8 First released in 1875, my Dutch translation is from 1995 (ankh-hermes) see page 758;
9 It is said that Plato was the first to use the name “Atlantis”, but this isn’t a Greek word, not does it have a Greek root!! So where did he get it from? I don’t have any works of Plato myself, so I can’t give you any page numbers. Information mostly from HPB;
10 After the reprint of the English translation by RH Charles from 1912 (Oxford at the Clarendon Press);
11 Gnosticism will be dealt with in depth lateron;
12 From my Dutch translation 1994 (The Oriental & Religious Publishing Organisation) by the Ahmadiyya Society;
13 Information from “Isis Unveiled (see note 8) part II p 512;
14 A third part for “The Secret Doctrine was planned but HPB did not live to make it. The mentioned book is a collection of writings and speeches collected by Annie Besant and in 1980 published again in Dutch by the Dutch Theosophical Society with help of Mirananda publishing.

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