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Types of Ancient Spiritual Practitioners and Practices

THERE are persons whose minds would be incapable of appreciating the intellectual grandeur of the ancients, even in physical science, were they to receive the most complete demonstration of their profound learning and achievements.” (ISIS UNVEILED, 1877, Vol. 1, pg. 461.)

“Lo, warrior! now the cross of Red
Points to the grave of the mighty dead;
Within it burns a wondrous light,
To chase the spirits that love the night.
That lamp shall burn unquenchably
Until the eternal doom shall be.” (…)
“No earthly flame blazed e’er so bright.” (SIR WALTER SCOTT)

“The whole question of phenomena rests on the correct comprehension of old philosophies. Whither, then, should we turn, in our perplexity, but to the ancient sages, since, on the pretext of superstition, we are refused an explanation by the modern?” (ISIS UNVEILED, 1877, Vol. 1, pg. xi.)


CHRISTIAN, or C h r e s t i a n. — The vocabulary and parlance belonged to the oracular Temples. The Greek term Chrēstos (χρηστός), is the earlier Gnōstic form of Christōs, redacted by the Christians, and has a significance with the temples of initiation and oracles. It is traced to the fifth century B.C.E, and was used by Aeschylus the Greek tragedian, Herodotus the historian of Halicarnassus, and other ancient Greek scholars. A Chrēstés was one that explained oracles (“a prophet and soothsayer”); a Chrēstian, was the “seat (offering to, for) the oracle”; a Chrēsterios was one whom served an oracle, or a god. The Marcionites held above their doorway to a Church, the oldest known Christian inscription, dating from 318 C.E., which contained the word Chrēstos. The Marcionites themselves, called Jesus Christ, Isū Chrēstos. Justin Martyr, in his Apology, used the term Chrēstians to apply to his fraternal brethren. In an Erythrean Sybil, it states, “IESOUS CHREISTOS THEOU HUIOS SOTER STAURUS.” This literally means “Iesus, Christos, God, Son, Saviour, Cross,” and this is in BCE. Suetonius the historian, spelt Chrest with a “u,” as in Chrestus, referring to the descent of the soul.  Chrēstos, applied to a disciple on probation, i.e., a candidate for hierophantship. When the chrēstos surpassed the purificatory process, the Chrēstos transformed into a Christōs (“anointed,” hence “purified”), i.e., a Soter. Chrēstos meant a good, beautiful, or pure man. The Chréstes, Christés, or Christōs signifies the Purifier. Iēsous is the Chrēstos, or “man of sorrow” in the NEW TESTAMENT drama. This personality of the literary character Jesus is the prototype of every candidate, and their evanescent personality. The term is used by the Christians, which would be to say from their standpoint, that by virtue of just physical baptism, a man has attained mergence with the SPIRIT, or i.e., liberated through the gnōsis of The God. “The earliest Christian writer, Justin Martyr, in his first Apology calls his co-religionists Chréstians. It is only through ignorance that men call themselves Christians instead of Chréstians,” says Lactantius (lib. iv., cap. vii.). The terms Christ and Christians, spelt originally Chrést and Chréstians, were borrowed from the Temple vocabulary of the Pagans. Chréstos meant in that vocabulary a disciple on probation, a candidate for hierophantship. When he had attained to this through initiation, long trials, and suffering, and had been ‘‘anointed’’ (i.e., “rubbed with oil”, as were Initiates and even idols of the gods, as the last touch of ritualistic observance), his name was changed into Christos, the “purified”, in esoteric or mystery language. In mystic symbology, indeed, Christés, or Christos,meant that the “Way”, the Path, was already trodden and the goal reached ; when the fruits of the arduous labour, uniting the personality of evanescent clay with the indestructible INDIVIDUALITY, transformed it thereby into the immortal EGO. (…) Paul, the Initiate, knew this, and meant this precisely, when he is made to say, in bad translation : ‘‘I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. iv.19), the true rendering of which is . . . ‘‘until ye form the Christos within yourselves,” but the profane who knew only that Chréstés was in some way connected with priest and prophet, and knew nothing about the hidden meaning of Christos, insisted, as did Lactantius and Justin Martyr, on being called Chréstians instead of Christians. Every good individual, therefore, may find Christ in his “inner man” as Paul expresses it (Ephes. iii. 16,17), whether he be Jew, Mussulman, Hindu, or Christian. Kenneth Mackenzie seemed to think that the word Chréstos was a synonym of Soter, “an appellation assigned to deities, great kings and heroes,” indicating ‘‘Saviour,’’—and he was right” (Blavatsky, Helena P. 1892. Theosophical Glossary, pg. 83-84.).

“If called upon to explain the names IESOUS CHREISTOS, the answer is: study mythology, the so-called “fictions” of the ancients, and they will give you the key. Ponder over Apollo, the solar god, and the “Healer,” and the allegory about his son Janus (or Ion), his priest at Delphos, through whom alone could prayers reach the immortal gods, and his other son Asclepios, called the Soter, or Savior. Here is a leaflet from esoteric history written in symbolical phraseology by the old Grecian poets.

The city of Chrisa (now spelt Crisa), was built in memory of Kreusa (or Creusa), daughter of King Erechtheus and mother of Janus (or Ion) by Apollo, in memory of the danger which Janus escaped. We learn that Janus, abandoned by his mother in a grotto “to hide the shame of the virgin who bore a son,” was found by Hermes, who brought the infant to Delphi, nurtured him by his father’s sanctuary and oracle, where, under the name of Chresis Janus became first a Chrestis (a priest, soothsayer, or Initiate), and then very nearly a Chresterion, “a sacrificial victim,”  ready to be poisoned by his own mother who knew him not, and who, in her jealousy, mistook him, on the hazy intimation of the oracle, for a son of her husband. He pursued her to the very altar with the intention of killing her — when she was saved through the pythoness, who divulged to both the secret of their relationship. In memory of this narrow escape, Creusa, the mother, built the city of Chrisa, or Krisa. Such is the allegory, and it symbolizes simply the trials of Initiation.

Finding then that Janus, the solar God, and son of Apollo, the Sun, means the “Initiator” and the “Opener of the Gate of Light,” or secret wisdom of the mysteries; that he is born from Krisa (esoterically Chris), and that he was a Chrestos through whom spoke the God; that he was finally Ion, the father of the Ionians, and, some say, an aspect of Asclepios, another son of Apollo, it is easy to get hold of the thread of Ariadne in this labyrinth of allegories. It is not the place here to prove side issues in mythology, however. It suffices to show the connection between the mythical characters of hoary antiquity and the later fables that marked the beginning of our era of civilization. Asclepios (Esculapius) was the divine physician, the “Healer,” the “Savior,” [Soter] as he was called, a title also given to Janus of Delphi; and IASO, the daughter of Asclepios, was the goddess of healing, under whose patronage were all the candidates for initiation in her father’s temple, the novices or chrestoi, called “the sons of Iaso.” (Vide for name, Plutus, by Aristoph. 701).” (Helena Blavatsky, The Esoteric Character of the Gospels, Part II)


“All real Lovers of Divine Wisdom and Truth had, and have a right to the name.”


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxviii: THEOSOPHISTS. — “In the mediaeval ages it was the name by which were known the disciples of Paracelsus of the sixteenth century, the so-called fire-philosophers or Philosophiper ignem. As well as the Platonists they regarded the soul [[psuche]] and the divine spirit, nous, as a particle of the great Archos — a fire taken from the eternal ocean of light.” In Porphyry’s day, theosophists were viewed as practical operators in Theurgy. Modern Theosophy is the renaissance of ancient spiritualism. H.P.B. states, that “Theosophy is Archaic Wisdom-Religion, as taught by Masters and Magi, Sages and Hierophants, Prophets and Philosophers, to the Elect — undisguised by symbols. It is Spiritual Knowledge, reasoned out and corroborated by personal experience. Diogenes Laertius traces Theosophy to an epoch antedating the dynasty of the Ptolemies. But, in fact, Theosophy is much older.” “Theosophy is the exact science of psychology, so to say; it stands in relation to natural, uncultivated mediumship, as the knowledge of a Tyndal stands to that of a school-boy in physics. It develops in man a direct beholding; that which Schelling denominates “a realization of the identity of subject and object in the individual”; so that under the influence and knowledge of hyponoia man thinks divine thoughts, views all things as they really are, and finally, “becomes a recipient of the Soul of the World…”

“Ancient Theosophists claimed, and so do the modern, that the infinite cannot be known by the finite — i.e., sensed by the finite Self — but that the divine essence could be communicated to the higher Spiritual Self in a state of ecstasy. This condition ἕνωσις (henosis) can hardly be attained, like hypnotism, by ‘physical and chemical means‘” (Key to Theosophy). 


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xlii: THEURGIST. — “From [[theos]], god, and [[ergon]], work. The first school of practical theurgy in the Christian period was founded by Iamblichus among the Alexandrian Platonists; but the priests attached to the temples of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia, and who took an active part in the evocations of the gods during the Sacred Mysteries, were known by this name from the earliest archaic period. The purpose of it was to make spirits visible to the eyes of mortals. A theurgist was one expert in the esoteric learning of the Sanctuaries of all the great countries. The Neoplatonists of the school of Iamblichus were called theurgists, for they performed the so-called “ceremonial magic,” and evoked the “spirits” of the departed heroes, “gods,” and Daimonia ([[daimonia]], divine, spiritual entities). In the rare cases when the presence of a tangible and visible spirit was required, the theurgist had to furnish the weird apparition with a portion of his own flesh and blood — he had to perform the theopoea, or the “creation of gods,” by a mysterious process well known to the modern fakirs and initiated Brahmans of India. This is what is said in the Book of Evocations of the pagodas. It shows the perfect identity of rites and ceremonial between the oldest Brahmanic theurgy and that of the Alexandrian Platonists (…)

The school of Iamblichus was distinct from that of Plotinus and Porphyry, who were strongly against ceremonial magic and practical theurgy as dangerous, though these two eminent men firmly believed in both. “The theurgic or benevolent magic, the Goetic, or dark and evil necromancy, were alike in preeminent repute during the first century of the Christian era.” But never have any of the highly moral and pious philosophers, whose fame has descended to us spotless of any evil deed, practiced any other kind of magic than the theurgic, or benevolent, as Bulwer-Lytton terms it. “Whoever is acquainted with the nature of divinely luminous appearances [[phasmata]] knows also on what account it is requisite to abstain from all birds (animal food), and especially for him who hastens to be liberated from terrestrial concerns and to be established with the celestial gods,” says Porphyry.

Though he refused to practice theurgy himself, Porphyry, in his Life of Plotinus, mentions a priest of Egypt, who, “at the request of a certain friend of Plotinus (which friend was perhaps Porphyry himself, remarks T. Taylor), exhibited to Plotinus, in the temple of Isis at Rome, the familiar daimon, or, in modern language, the guardian angel of that philosopher.”

The popular, prevailing idea was that the theurgists, as well as the magicians, worked wonders, such as evoking the souls or shadows of the heroes and gods, and doing other thaumaturgic works by supernatural powers.”

Theurgy (θεουργία) was claimed to result in the communication or rather interaction between the Elements or Intelligences in the world of incorporeal being, with those initiated mortals whom by merit were fit for the process.


Theosophical Encyclopedia. 2006. TPU, pg. 242: FIRE PHILOSOPHERS. — “A term applied to H e r m e t i c i s t s, A l c h e m i s t s and R o s i c r u c i a n s who regard FIRE as the symbol of Deity. The latter is said to be the source of atoms and the force that energizes them. Fire, according to Robert Fludd, the Rosicrucian, is triple in its nature: a visible flame, an invisible astral fire, and Spirit. The triple nature is true also of the other elements.” “”I place Agni, the source of all beings, the father of strength” (iii., 27, 2), a clear and identical idea which prevailed so much in the doctrines of the Zoroastrians, the Magians, and the mediaeval fire-philosophers. Agni is god of fire, of the Spiritual Ether, the very substance of the divine essence of the Invisible God present in every atom of His creation and called by the Rosicrucians the “Celestial Fire.” (…) The a l c h e m i s t s, k a b a l i s t s, and students of mystic philosophy will find therein a perfectly defined system of Evolution in the Cosmogony of a people who lived a score of thousands of years before our era. They will find in it, moreover, a perfect identity of thought and even doctrine with the Hermetic philosophy, and also that of Pythagoras and Plato.

In Evolution, as it is now beginning to be understood, there is supposed to be in all matter an impulse to take on a higher form — a supposition clearly expressed by Manu and other Hindu philosophers of the highest antiquity. The philosopher’s tree illustrates it in the case of the zinc solution. The controversy between the followers of this school and the Emanationists may be briefly stated thus: The Evolutionist stops all inquiry at the borders of “the Unknowable”; the Emanationist believes that nothing can be evolved — or, as the word means, unwombed or born — except it has first been involved, thus indicating that life is from a spiritual potency above the whole” (Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxi.).


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxvii: OCCULTIST. — One who studies the various branches of occult science. The term is used by the French kabalists (See Eliphas Levi’s works). Occultism embraces the whole range of psychological, physiological, cosmical, physical, and spiritual phenomena. From the word occult, hidden or secret; applying therefore to the study of the Kabala, astrology, alchemy, and all arcane sciences.


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxvii: MYSTICS. — “Those initiated. But in the mediaeval and later periods the term was applied to men like Boehme the Theosophist, Molinos the Quietist, Nicholas of Basle, and others who believed in a direct interior communion with God, analogous to the inspiration of the prophets.”


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxiii: HERMETIST. — “From Hermes, the god of Wisdom, known in Egypt, Syria, and Phoenicia as Thoth, Tat, Adad, Seth, and Sat-an (the latter not to be taken in the sense applied to it by Moslems and Christians), and in Greece as Kadmus. The kabalists identify him with Adam Kadmon, the first manifestation of the Divine Power, and with Enoch. There were two Hermes: the elder was the Trismegistus, and the second an emanation, or “permutation” of himself; the friend and instructor of Isis and Osiris. Hermes is the god of the priestly wisdom, like Mazeus.”


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxiii: HIEROPHANT. — “Discloser of sacred learning. The Old Man, the Chief of the Adepts at the initiations, who explained the arcane knowledge to the neophytes, bore this title. In Hebrew and Chaldaic the term was Peter, or opener, discloser; hence, the Pope, as the successor of the hierophant of the ancient Mysteries, sits in the Pagan chair of “St. Peter.” The vindictiveness of the Catholic Church toward the alchemists, and to arcane and astronomical science, is explained by the fact that such knowledge was the ancient prerogative of the hierophant, or representative of Peter, who kept the mysteries of life and death. Men like Bruno, Galileo, and Kepler, therefore, and even Cagliostro, trespassed on the preserves of the Church, and were accordingly murdered.

Every nation had its Mysteries and hierophants. Even the Jews had their Peter — Tanaim or Rabbin, like Hillel, Akiba,* and other famous kabalists, who alone could impart the awful knowledge contained in the Merkaba. In India, there was in ancient times one, and now there are several hierophants scattered about the country, attached to the principal pagodas, who are known as the Brahma-atmas. In Thibet the chief hierophant is the Dalay, or Taley-Lama of Lha-ssa.** Among Christian nations, the Catholics alone have preserved this “heathen” custom, in the person of their Pope, albeit they have sadly disfigured its majesty and the dignity of the sacred office.”


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxiii: INITIATES. — “In times of antiquity, those who had been initiated into the arcane knowledge taught by the hierophants of the Mysteries; and in our modern days those who have been initiated by the adepts of mystic lore into the mysterious knowledge, which, notwithstanding the lapse of ages, has yet a few real votaries on earth.”


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxviii: PYTHIA, or Pythoness. — “Webster dismisses the word very briefly by saying that it was the name of one who delivered the oracles at the Temple of Delphi, and “any female supposed to have the spirit of divination in her — a witch,” which is neither complimentary, exact, nor just. A Pythia, upon the authority of Plutarch, Iamblichus, Lamprias, and others, was a nervous sensitive; she was chosen from among the poorest class, young and pure. Attached to the temple, within whose precincts she had a room, secluded from every other, and to which no one but the priest, or seer, had admittance, she had no communications with the outside world, and her life was more strict and ascetic than that of a Catholic nun. Sitting on a tripod of brass placed over a fissure in the ground, through which arose intoxicating vapors, these subterranean exhalations penetrating her whole system produced the prophetic mania. In this abnormal state she delivered oracles. She was sometimes called ventriloqua vates,* the ventriloquist-prophetess.

The ancients placed the astral soul of man, [[psuche]], or his self-consciousness, in the pit of the stomach. The Brahmans shared this belief with Plato and other philosophers. Thus we find in the fourth verse of the second Nabhanedishtha Hymn it is said: “Hear, O sons of the gods (spirits) one who speaks through his navel (nabha) for he hails you in your dwellings!”

Many of the Sanscrit scholars agree that this belief is one of the most ancient among the Hindus. The modern fakirs, as well as the ancient gymnosophists, unite themselves with their atman and the Deity by remaining motionless in contemplation and concentrating their whole thought on their navel. As in modern somnambulic phenomena, the navel was regarded as “the circle of the sun,” the seat of internal divine light.** Is the fact of a number of modern somnambulists being enabled to read letters, hear, smell, and see, through that part of their body to be regarded again as a simple “coincidence,” or shall we admit at last that the old sages knew something more of physiological and psychological mysteries than our modern Academicians? In modern Persia, when a “magician” (often simply a mesmerizer) is consulted upon occasions of theft and other puzzling occurrences, he makes his manipulations over the pit of his stomach, and so brings himself into a state of clairvoyance. Among the modern Parsis, remarks a translator of the Rig-vedas, there exists a belief up to the present day that their adepts have a flame in their navel, which enlightens to them all darkness and discloses the spiritual world, as well as all things unseen, or at a distance. They call it the lamp of the Deshtur, or high priest; the light of the Dikshita (the initiate), and otherwise designate it by many other names.”


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxiv: KABALIST. — “from קַבָּלָה‎‎, KABALA; an unwritten or oral tradition. The kabalist is a student of “secret science,” one who interprets the hidden meaning of the Scriptures with the help of the symbolical Kabala, and explains the real one by these means. The Tanaim were the first kabalists among the Jews; they appeared at Jerusalem about the beginning of the third century before the Christian era. The Books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Henoch, and the Revelation of St. John, are purely kabalistical. This secret doctrine is identical with that of the Chaldeans, and includes at the same time much of the Persian wisdom, or “magic.””


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxiv: MAGE, or Magian. — “from Mag or Maha. The word is the root of the word magician. The Maha-atma (the great Soul or Spirit) in India had its priests in the pre-Vedic times. The Magians were priests of the fire-god; we find them among the Assyrians and Babylonians, as well as among the Persian fire-worshippers. The three magi, also denominated kings, that are said to have made gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh to the infant Jesus, were fire-worshippers like the rest, and astrologers; for they saw his star. The high priest of the Parsis, at Surat, is called Mobed, others derived the word from Megh; Meh-ab signifying something grand and noble. Zoroaster’s disciples were called Meghestom, according to Kleuker.”


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxiv: MAGICIAN. — “This term, once a title of renown and distinction, has come to be wholly perverted from its true meaning. Once the synonym of all that was honorable and reverent, of a possessor of learning and wisdom, it has become degraded into an epithet to designate one who is a pretender and a juggler; a charlatan, in short, or one who has “sold his soul to the Evil One”; who misuses his knowledge, and employs it for low and dangerous uses, according to the teachings of the clergy, and a mass of superstitious fools who believe the magician a sorcerer and an enchanter. But Christians forget, apparently, that Moses was also a magician, and Daniel, “Master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers” (Daniel, v. II). The word magician then, scientifically speaking, is derived from Magh, Mah, Hindu or Sanscrit Maha — great; a man well versed in the secret or esoteric knowledge; properly a Sacerdote.”


VVITCH. — The term “Witch” in old Anglo-Saxon glossaries, is tied to wicce, meaning “pythoness, divinatricem. As in this, in early forms, it referred to specific kinds of magical craft. In the Laws of Ælfred (c.890), wicce is seen as the craft of women — “wise (skilled) women in the art of magic”; and in the old German, wiccan (a verb), meant “to practice witchcraft.” Wicca by the time of the “Three Kings of Cologne” (c. 1400), was translated, (Gr.) “magi.” (See Goetia and Witchcraft: Origin of the “Witch” and Magic“Witchcraft was originally associated with spiritual practices but got a bad reputation at the hands of European and American orthodox Christians. Hence its present dictionary definition attributes to it “the exercise of supernatural powers” or “the use of sorcery or magic.” It is assumed that witches are in league with evil spirits or the Devil. However, the practice originally referred to priests (usually called “wizards” or “warlocks”) and priestesses (“witches”) of the old religion in Europe who discharged many functions in the community, such as farmers, doctors, or lawyers” (Theosopedia, Witchcraft. online).


Blavatsky, H.P., Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxvii: MYSTERIES. — “Greek teletai, or finishings, as analogous to teleuteia or death. They were observances, generally kept secret from the profane and uninitiated, in which were taught by dramatic representation and other methods, the origin of things, the nature of the human spirit, its relations to the body, and the method of its purification and restoration to higher life. Physical science, medicine, the laws of music, divination, were all taught in the same manner.”

ORACULAR THEOPNEUSTY. — Oracular (adj.), or oracle (n.). Latin. oraculum. “divine announcement,” “message from a god; expressed by divine inspiration; by agency or medium of a god; the place where divine utterances are given.” Theopneusty. “divine inspiration.” Oracular Interpretation. (MINVRA)

ORACULAR CHRISTIANITY. — a Hellenic Restoration. A term constructed to define a re-interpretation of CHRISTIANITY, inspired by Theosophist, James M. Pryse. It uses the original concepts, or solely the jargon of the oracular tradition, Mystery cults, and HELLENIC SCHOOLS.” (MINVRA)

“The gods exist, but they are not what the hoi polloi, the uneducated multitude suppose them to be. He is not an atheist who denies the existence of the gods whom the multitude worship, but he is such who fastens on these gods the opinions of the multitude.”



PAGAN GODS. — This term gods is erroneously understood by most of the reading public, to mean idols. The idea attached to them is not that of something objective or anthropomorphical. With the exception of occasions when “gods” mean either divine planetary entities (angels), or disembodied spirits of pure men, the term simply conveys to the mind of the mystic — whether Hindu Hotar, Mazdean Mage, Egyptian hierophant, or disciple of the Greek philosophers — the idea of a visible or cognized manifestation of an invisible potency of nature. And such occult potencies are invoked under the appellation of various gods, who, for the time being, are personating these powers.

Thus every one of the numberless deities of the Hindu, Greek, and Egyptian Pantheons, are simply Powers of the “Unseen Universe.” When the officiating Brahman invokes Aditya — who, in her cosmic character, is the goddess-sun — he simply commands that potency (personified in some god), which, as he asserts, “resides in the Mantra, as the sacred Vach.” These god-powers are allegorically regarded as the divine Hotars of the Supreme One; while the priest (Brahman) is the human Hotar who officiates on earth, and representing that particular Power becomes, ambassador-like, invested with the very potency which he personates.” (Isis Unveiled. 1877. Vol. 1., pg. xxxviii.)

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