Theosophical and Illuminatist Adoration of Wisdom & Education | “Hiraf” Article on Rosicrucians and Illuminati

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Illuminati, Occult Philosophy, Theosophy

Blavatsky Hopes Truth will Prevail

So do we

“They worship Hermes (WISDOM) most of gods. And they swear an oath by Him alone, and say that they were born from Hermes (WISDOM).”—Herodotus, Thrace: The Getai and the Trausians, Bk 5.7; see Robert B. Strassler, The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories, pg. 368 and The Liberator-God in Ancient Religion: Salvation and Resurrection of the Initiated and Albert Pike ponders on Lucifer in Morals and Dogma.

WISDOM AND LEARNING IS TRULY THE ADORATION OF THE WISE and Initiated among the ancient thinkers of our interest. H.P.B. declares, that it is the first duty of the true scientist and theosophist to enlighten Humanity. James Morgan Pryse says of Athena in his Commentary on chapters from Luke and Matthew in The Restored New Testament (Pryse 40), that “courage is one of the essential virtues of the aspirant, who must with dauntless energy force his way through the dark and hostile psychic planes of life which have to be traversed before the divine realm is reached; and the realm itself belongs only to him who can become its conqueror. But the occult teachings are imparted to him, by those who know, only as he may merit them; he will receive no more than his rightful wage, and he can gain nothing by compulsion or artifice. The neophyte is very apt to overestimate his own merits, and imagine therefore that he is entitled to more than he is receiving; also the craving for knowledge may cause him to lose sight of the fact that wisdom comes, not from listening to the words of others, but from the unfolding of the inner faculties. Athena, who was fabled to have sprung from the head of Zeus, was the Goddess of War as well as of Wisdom; for whoever has wisdom wields power.”

We find in time, many groups, societies, schools, etc., claiming to profess to teach wisdom. So as they, and we, have adopted once again, the Pallas Athena, or Minerva in the Roman tradition, “as a patron of knowledge and the arts.” It sounds sophisticated, but what of that true wisdom we profess is taught by them, and us modern students? We are told in “The Secret School of Wisdom: The Authentic Rituals and Doctrines of the Illuminati”, that when first considering the design of a signet for the Minerval degree of the Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt thought of a flawny tawny owl before a starry sky, “together with the motto ‘Quantum est, quod nescimus’ (How much it is that we do not know).” (Markner and Wäges 18) The idea of a little owl was inspired by a page in a famous baroque collection of emblems, Nucleus emlematum selectissimorum (1611), and as a pun on the etymology of vigilance, regarding the significance of nocturnal contemplation in the regular assemblies of the Minervals in the order.

“Etched by the Dutch artist and publisher Chrispijin de Passe, the pictura was accompanied by a distich by the German author Gabriel Rollenhagen that might be translated as ‘He who carefully studies the words of the wise is derservedly considered a learned man’. (Markner and Wäges19)

What does this tell us? It tells us a history of men and women, putting forth effort and creativity to bring about the realization of these ideas in society and among themselves, through their schools, or fraternities. Effort, not miracle (or a reliance on a miracle).

There is the private club of the Bohemian club; the fraternity of male artists and musicians — Schlaraffia club before them in Bohemia; and “orders” of past centuries that venerate, and establish the ancient Athenian Owl of Minerva, or Pallas Athena as their emblem, motto, and even model of their goals: fostering the arts, sincere friendship among men, etc. While these secret societies venerate the Athenian owl as the ultimate symbol of wisdom, I find this adoration frankly superficial (see Terry Melanson’s Owl of Wisdom: Illuminati, Bohemian Club, Schlaraffia, James Gordon Bennett Jr.), despite intrigues believing these clubs to be secret propaganda societies, and means of espionage, &c. It has nothing truly to do with OCCULTISM as we theosophists are ultimately concerned with. While fostering education and sincere friendship among men is greatly needed in our day, this is normal to secular society.

The ideas of these clubs on the face of things are mild, and people are often too caught up in the illusions of their symbolic nature, that excite in us intrigue and gossip. There is not a single citizen among us reading who does not know of the “Illuminati conspiracy,” bringing it up in humorous and casual conversation. But, what has humanity learned and acquired in real knowledge, regarding the underlying influences of this Owl veneration, i.e., the adoration of wisdom — the WISDOM of God, rather than mere worldly knowledge? It is the central religious idea of the Mysteries, the worship of that God whom the LIBERATION OF SOULS were expected, and the hopes of the PURIFICATION and IMMORTALITY of the soul. “Breathing lies the quick-moving LIFE, heaving yet firm, in the midst of its abodes. The LIVING ONE walks through powers of the dead: the Immortal is the brother of the mortal” (Vedic Hymn). We say, these persons have the true teaching that lay at the fundamental basis of the origin of primitive (does not mean inferior) religious thought; and they possess the keys to the future of its advancement for the minds of those who can understand. Yet, to understand takes effort. If the mass of Humanity scoffs at such knowledge, and doubts, it has been because they have been taught to.

Yes, there are persons that have throughout the times possessed the proofs man so desperately prays for, which the Churches and established religions discourage, or lack; and the orthodox go in their jealousy, rage, thumping, vengefulness, and accusations with their Bible: ‘they worship Lucifer, the devil!’ ‘the lie of Satan,’ ‘Heresy,’ etc., and the people believe their priestly masters, and rebuke us and whisper controversies. Yet, the knowledge is for Man, and out of love for Humanity, to help pick them up!

In A Few Questions to Hiraf (1875), that H.P. Blavatsky wrote in the Spiritualist Scientist to the author of the article “Rosicrucianism,” she uses the term ILLUMINATI numerous times. In what manner? H.P.B. uses the term, (1) when comparing Jesus and Shakyamuni (she calls them “spiritual Illuminati”) to Kongzi, or Confucius; and (2) in reference to the Wise Men of Chaldea, India, Persia and Egypt, each respectively.

She refers to the Paracelsists as an Illuminati, e.g., that “if the primitive Rosicrucians learned their first lessons of wisdom from Oriental masters, not so with their direct descendants, the fire-philosophers or Paracelsists; for in many things the Cabala of the latter Illuminati proves to be degenerated into a twin sister of the Jewish.” This term should only refer to spiritual societies of persons skilled (adept) in the secret (occult) sciences, and never to political representatives, who clearly do not study these things nor care for it; or else it is simply worship and mythologization. Additionally, these histories are not directly linked to the Bavarian Illuminati, or Order of Perfectibilists, so there is no need for the “Illuminati conspiracy” anymore. Find a different name. The words of H.P.B. in Hiraf, ring like bells of war and courage to us mere intrigued students, and is the attitude we should have this moment. How can we know of the true history and origins of such lineages and secret societies?

H.P.B. speaks of Arthur Edward Waite’s work in The Real History of the Rosicrucians and answers:

“It is not surprising that Mr. Waite should have satisfied himself that the Rosicrucians have no sort of claim to the reverence and admiration in which scholars and mystics have held them up to the present time. But these conclusions will form only one more of other proofs to students of esotericism, that the task of writing a true and real history of a secret occult society from its records, where such exist, is an impossibility. For even when such societies left reliable information of their pursuits, aspirations, and beliefs—the language employed has always been of such a character as to baffle entirely the ordinary exoteric reader, whether he were historian, literateur, or scientist. Such literature can be interesting only to the student on the track of esoteric knowledge, or to one who has in a great measure acquired the meaning conveyed for himself in other ways. This method of giving to the world, as it were, the proceeds, of life-long research in the realms of unseen Nature, has been adopted by alchemists, magicians, priests, and hierophants from all ages. None but those who were sufficiently steadfast in the cause of truth could read and understand what was thus written.” (H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Volume 8, p. 253)

She began Hiraf, by warning of the difficulties of Occultism, but explains its significance within the picture of History:

Among the numerous sciences pursued by the well-disciplined army of earnest students of the present century, none has had less honors or more scoffing than the oldest of them — the science of sciences, the venerable mother-parent of all our modern pigmies. Anxious, in their petty vanity, to throw the veil of oblivion over their undoubted origin, the self-styled, positive scientists, ever on the alert, present to the courageous scholar who tries to deviate from the beaten highway traced out for him by his dogmatic predecessors, a formidable range of serious obstacles.

As a rule, Occultism is a dangerous, double-edged weapon for one to handle, who is unprepared to devote his whole life to it. The theory of it, unaided by serious practice, will ever remain in the eyes of those prejudiced against such an unpopular cause, an idle, crazy speculation, fit only to charm the ears of ignorant old women. When we cast a look behind us, and see how, for the last thirty years, modern Spiritualism has been dealt with, notwithstanding the occurrence of daily, hourly proofs which speak to all our senses, stare us in the eyes, and utter their voices from “beyond the great gulf,” how can we hope that Occultism, or Magic, which stands in relation to Spiritualism as the Infinite to the Finite, as the cause to the effect, or as unity to multifariousness, how can we hope, I say, that it will easily gain ground where Spiritualism is scoffed at? One who rejects a priori, or even doubts, the immortality of man’s soul can never believe in its Creator, and blind to what is heterogeneous in his eyes, will remain still more blind to the proceeding of the latter from Homogeneity. In relation to the Cabala, or the compound mystic textbook of all the great secrets of Nature, we do not know of anyone in the present century who could have commanded a sufficient dose of that moral courage which fires the heart of the true adept with the sacred flame of propagandism — to force him into defying public opinion, by displaying familiarity with that sublime work. Ridicule is the deadliest weapon of the age, and while we read in the records of history of thousands of martyrs who joyfully braved flames and faggots in support of their mystic doctrines in the past centuries, we would scarcely be likely to find one individual in the present times, who would be brave enough even to defy ridicule by seriously undertaking to prove the great truths embraced in the traditions of the Past.” (Blavatsky, H.P., A Few Questions to Hiraf, Spiritual Scientist, Boston, July 15 and 22, 1875)

The “difficulties of Occultism,” is not a thing separate from religious and spiritual advancement in its truest sense. Realize, that in that passage, H.P.B. understands and uses the term Spiritualism, not to apply to the American and European Spiritualism of her day, but to what she identified it with, when she refers to the “ancient theosophists.” H.P. Blavatsky expresses high hopes, that the Truth will in time show, and we ought to take it into account. We quote her closing remarks in full for its value and honesty:

As it is, the real, the complete Cabala of the first ages of humanity is in possession, as I said before, of but a few Oriental philosophers; where they are, who they are, is more than is given me to reveal. Perhaps I do not know it myself, and have only dreamed it. Thousands will say it is all imagination; so be it. Time will show. The only thing I can say is that such a body exists, and that the location of their Brotherhoods will never be revealed to other countries, until the day when Humanity shall awake in a mass from its spiritual lethargy, and open its blind eyes to the dazzling light of Truth. A too premature discovery might blind them, perhaps forever. Until then, the speculative theory of their existence, will be supported by what people erroneously believe to be supernal facts. Notwithstanding the selfish, sinful opposition of science to Spiritualism in general, and that of the scientists in particular, who, forgetting that their first duty is to enlighten Humanity, instead of that, allow millions of people to lose themselves and drift about like so many disabled ships, without pilot or compass, among the sandbanks of superstition; notwithstanding the toy-thunderbolts and harmless anathemas hurled around by the ambitious and crafty clergy, who, above all men, ought to believe in spiritual truths; notwithstanding the apathetic indifference of that class of people who prefer believing in nothing, pretending the while to believe in the teachings of their churches, which they select according to their best notions of respectability and fashion; notwithstanding all these things, Spiritualism will rise above all, and its progress can be as little helped as the dawn of the morning or the rising of the sun. Like the former, will the glorious Truth arise among all these black clouds gathered in the East; like the latter, will its brilliant light pour forth upon awakening humanity its dazzling rays. These rays will dissipate these clouds and the unhealthy mists of a thousand religious sects which disgrace the present century. They will warm up and recall into new life the millions of wretched souls who shiver and are half frozen under the icy hand of killing skepticism. Truth will prevail at last, and Spiritualism, the new world’s conqueror, reviving, like the fabulous Phoenix out of the ashes of its first parent, Occultism, will unite for ever in one Immortal Brotherhood all antagonistic races; for this new St. Michael will crush for ever the dragon’s head — of Death!

I have but a few words more to say before I close. To admit the possibility of anyone becoming a practical Cabalist (or a Rosicrucian, we will call him, as the names seem to have become synonymous) who simply has the firm determination to “become” one, and hopes to get the secret knowledge through studying the Jewish Cabala, or every other one that may come into existence, without actually being initiated by another, and so being “made” such by someone who “knows,” is as foolish as to hope to thread the famous labyrinth without the clue, or to open the secret locks of the ingenious inventors of the mediaeval ages, without having possession of the keys. If the Christian New Testament, the easiest and youngest of all the Cabalas known to us, has presented such immense difficulties to those who would interpret its mysteries and secret meanings (which, were they only once studied with the key of modern Spiritualism, would open as simply as the casket in Aesop’s fable), what hope can there be for a modern Occultist, learned only in theoretical knowledge, to ever attain his object? Occultism without practice will ever be like the statue of Pygmalion, and no one can animate it without infusing into it a spark of the sacred Divine Fire. The Jewish Cabala, the only authority of the European Occultist, is all based on the secret meanings of the Hebrew scriptures, which, in their turn, indicate the keys to them, by signs hidden and unintelligible to the uninitiated. They afford no hope for the adepts to solve them practically. The Seventh Rule of the Rosicrucian “who became, but was not made” has its secret meaning, like every other phrase left by the Cabalists to posterity, in writing. The words: “The dead letter killeth,” which Hiraf quotes, can be applied in this case with still more justice than to the Christian teachings of the first apostles. A Rosicrucian had to struggle ALONE, and toil long years to find some of the preliminary secrets — the A B C of the great Cabala — only on account of his ordeal, during which were to be tried all his mental and physical energies. After that, if found worthy, the word “Try” was repeated to him for the last time before the final ceremony of the ordeal. When the High Priests of the Temple of Osiris, of Serapis, and others, brought the neophyte before the dreaded Goddess Isis, the word “Try” was pronounced for the last time; and then, if the neophyte could withstand that final mystery, the most dreaded as well as the most trying of all horrors for him who knew not what was in store for him; if he bravely “lifted the veil of Isis,” he became an initiate, and had naught to fear more. He had passed the last ordeal, and no longer dreaded to meet face to face the inhabitants from “over the dark river.”

The only cause for the horror and dread we feel in the presence of death, lies in its unsolved mystery. A Christian will always fear it, more or less; an initiate of the secret science, or a true Spiritualist, never; for both of the latter have lifted the veil of Isis, and the great problem is solved by both, in theory and in practice.

Many thousand years ago the wise King Solomon declared that “There is nothing new under the Sun,” and the words of this very wise man ought to be repeated till the farthest ends of time. There is not a science, nor a modern discovery in any section of it, but was known to the Cabalists thousands of years since. This will appear a bold and ridiculous assertion, I know; and one apparently unconfirmed by any authority. But I will answer that where truth stares one in the face, there can be no other authority than one’s senses. The only authority I know of, lies scattered throughout the East. Besides, who would ever dare, in the ever-changing, ever-discovering Europe, or adolescent America, to risk proclaiming himself as an authority? The scientist, who was an authority yesterday, becomes by the mere lucky chance a contemporary discoverer, a worn-out hypothesist. How easily the astronomer of today forgets that all his science is but the picking up of crumbs left by the Chaldaean astrologists. What would not modern physicians, practitioners of their blind and lame science of medicine, give for a part of the knowledge of botany and plants — I won’t say of the Chaldaeans — but even of the more modern Essenians. The simple history of the Eastern people, their habits and customs, ought to be a sure guarantee that what they once knew, they cannot have totally forgotten. While Europe has changed twenty times its appearance, and been turned upside down by religious and political revolutions and social cataclysms, Asia has remained stationary. What was, two thousand years ago, exists now with very little variation. Such practical knowledge as was possessed by the ancients could not die out so soon with such a people. The hope of finding remnants even of such wisdom as Ancient Asia possessed, ought to tempt our conceited modern science to explore her territory.

And thus is it that all we know of what we profess and live upon, comes to us from the scorned, despised Occultism of the East. Religion and sciences, laws and customs — all of these, are closely related to Occultism, and are but its result, its direct products, disguised by the hand of time, and palmed upon us under new pseudonyms. If people ask me for the proof, I will answer that it does not enter my province to teach others what they can learn themselves with very little difficulty, provided they give themselves the trouble to read and think over what they read. Besides, the time is near when all the old superstitions and the errors of centuries must be swept away by the hurricane of Truth. As the prophet Mohammed, when he perceived that the mountain would not come to him, went himself towards the mountain, so Modern Spiritualism made its unexpected appearance from the East, before a skeptical world, to terminate in a very near future the oblivion into which the ancient secret wisdom had fallen.” (Blavatsky, H.P., A Few Questions to Hiraf, Spiritual Scientist, Boston, July 15 and 22, 1875)

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