The Initiates’ Tower of Babel and Jargon: Mystery-Language of Symbolism and Allegory
Helena P. Blavatsky asserts (not argues) there existed in antiquity ‘one knowledge and one language,’ but became limited to a few, and this knowledge was denied to subsequent generations (see Collections from The Secret Doctrine: Gleanings on the Mysteries and the Language of Mythology or Light on the Trans-Himalayan Occultists and Origins of Kabbalism – an echo of Lost Chaldean Wisdom). The universal, Esoteric tongue, she explains, is the language of symbolism and allegory.
The Tower of Babel is a Biblical myth, and one of many preserving the idea and memory in a story. Hence, forgetting the literal tale of an angry Semitic deity striking down a tower of disobedient people, which many people do believe was an historical event, the main point here that concerns our affairs is this MYSTERY-LANGUAGE she speaks of, which this sacerdotal language of the Initiates of the mysteries derives from. There are ample proofs and good hypotheses made of the latter few to no scholars delve into. It is described in much more ways, but it was not a sacred language of a religion or of individual cultures like Latin, Hebrew, etc., but was the common possession of nascent humanity before language properly developed. A division occurred, and it became the language of the unconscious. Here, it is important for any sensible person to understand, rather than alone view with suspicion and haste, that initiated adepts are precisely “initiated” not because of earning a degree (as in Masonry) or a badge of recognition; but because the only way the language could be understood truly is through actual graduation of the MAN, of the Mind. The initiated adepts translated it into public exoteric languages of the conscious mind.
Language can be expression, linguistic or non-linguistic: Pictographs; Sound and Light between Artifacts; the communication between Natural Objects: Flowers and Trees; Ideographs, Phonograms; Figurative Language (Parables, Allegory, etc); or Literal Speech (French, English, etc). It is further interesting understanding this from a fundamentally, based upon the Theoretical Occultism of Theosophy, when speaking and writing of the existence of a ‘Speech of the Gods,’ and how the GODS and ELEMENTS communicate. The mystery language is a symbolic use of many different forms, and not a singular form. The Middle Age hermetic philosophers (the alchemists), H.P.B. states here, knew of and renovated the ancient symbolic language of the ancient priests, and constructed a Kabbalistic slang from it. It was further mixed with Christian jargon; and the reasons being, were to 1) make it difficult to trace; 2) to protect; and 3) obscure, or blind false neophytes, disciples or students. Alone, a true disciple of Hermes can understand, it is said. Blavatsky believes, that one day, the mystery-language will become one again for the whole of humanity in future cycles. This did not mean a written language, since all languages need not be written.
“…the art of speaking and writing in a language which bears a double interpretation, is of very great antiquity; … it was in practice among the priests of Egypt, brought from thence by the Manichees, whence it passed to the Templars and Albigenses, spread over Europe, and brought about the Reformation.” (quoted from Charles Sotheran, CW 1:126)
“As the Egyptian hierophants had their private code of hieratic symbols, and even the founder of Christianity spoke to the vulgar in parables whose mystical meaning was known only to the chosen few, so the Brahmans had from the first (and still have) a mystical terminology couched behind ordinary expressions, arranged in certain sequences and mutual relations, which none but the initiate would observe.” (CW 5:296)
“The Hierophants and Initiates of the Mysteries in the Secret Schools had one universal, Esoteric tongue—the language of symbolism and allegory. This language has suffered neither modification nor amplification from those remote times down to this day. It still exists and is still taught. There are those who have preserved the knowledge of it, and also of the arcane meaning of the Mysteries; and it is from these Masters that the writer of the present protest had the good fortune of learning, howbeit imperfectly, the said language. Hence her claim to a more correct comprehension of the arcane portion of the ancient texts written by avowed Initiates—such as were Plato and Iamblichus, Pythagoras, and even Plutarch…” (CW 13: 153-54)
see Blavatsky, Collected Writings.
In the article Tetragrammaton, H.P.B. discusses the “SEVEN MYSTERIES OF WISDOM,” and her personal approach to disputes between occultists. In this article, she explained, that there was a higher conception of the ultimate reality, than the Jehovistic concept, and that she holds to that. She is addressing an issue between esotericists arguing over a specific facet of a mystery they have intuited, or discovered within the varying systems, e.g., some systems have the traditional triple constitution of man, and others have four, five, seven, and nine. Theosophists have explained the reasons for this, and reconciled, and solved such confusions between schools. Blavatsky encourages students ought to help each other, and it’s hard to master the seven languages.
“…all the ancient records were written in a language which was universal and known to all nations alike in days of old, but which is now intelligible only to the few like the Arabic figures which are plain to a man of whatever nation, or like the English word and, which becomes et for the Frenchman, und for the German, and so on, yet which may be expressed for all civilized nations in the simple sign &–so all the words of that mystery language signified the same thing to each man of whatever nationality. There have been several men of note who have tried to re-establish such a universal and philosophical tongue: Delgarme, Wilkins, Leibnitz…”
Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, p. 310
“The same remarkable elasticity of interpretation is afforded in the esoteric texts of other nations. Each symbol and glyph having seven keys to it, it follows that one party may be using one key to any subject under dispute, and then accuse another student, who is using another key of deliberate misinterpretation.
Such is not my policy however. In esoteric matters I would rather seek conciliation than quarrel over mistakes made, whether real or imaginary; because the CAUSE and the triumph of truth ought to be dearer to a true Occultist and Theosophist than petty successes over disputants.
No one occultist, if he is true to his colours, can give out the meaning of all the “Seven Mysteries of Wisdom”—even if he himself is acquainted with all—which would be a marvel, indeed. For those “Seven Mysteries” in toto are known thoroughly only to the “MASTERS OF WISDOM”; and those Masters would hardly indulge in polemical discussions whether in newspaper or periodical. What is the use then of losing time and power over proving that one facet of the diamond shines with more light and brilliancy than its sister facet instead of uniting all the forces to draw the attention of the profane to the radiance of the jewel itself? We students of the sacred science ought to help each other, encourage research and profit by our mutual knowledge, instead of unprofitably criticizing it to satisfy personal pride. This is how I look at it: for otherwise our enemies, who started by calling us humbugs on the sole strength of their sectarian and materialistic prejudices and bigotry, will be justified in reiterating their accusation on the ground of our mutual denunciations.
Materialism is raising its ghastly head higher than ever.
Knowledge, one of the scientific papers of London, gives us a foretaste of what is in store for the occultist. While reviewing the Kabbalah Unveiled, it is loud in proclaiming “the extraordinary intellectual vagaries of the Hebrew commentators on their scriptures.” It crushes under the weight of its materialist contempt the idea from Dr. Ginsburg’s “Essay on the Kabbalah“—that the mysteries of being were “taught by the Almighty himself to a select company of angels, who formed a theosophic school in Paradise!” and winds up by a tremendous point of mocking admiration, in parenthesis (!). This, on page 259 of Knowledge, Sept. 1, 1887. On page 245, Mr. Edward Clodd offers us, instead of the teachings of the “Theosophic angels,” those of the Darwinists of the Haeckelian School. Having surveyed “a vast field” in Kosmos, “the limits of which shade into the unlimited on all sides,” this anti-Kabbalistic champion of modern science ends his “vagaries” by the following startling enunciation:
We began with the primitive nebula, we end with the highest forms of consciousness; the story of creation is shown (!?) to be the unbroken record of the evolution OF GAS INTO GENIUS (!!!).
This shows how we stand with the men of modern science and how much we need all our forces to hold the materialists at bay.
One word more and I have done. I am repeatedly asked to show my authority—book, page and verse—for the esoteric doctrine of the “Septenary.” This is like saying to one in the midst of a desert prove to me that water is full of infusoria when there is no microscope to be got. Better than any one, those who make such a claim upon me, know that outside of the few places where secret MSS. are stored for ages, no esoteric doctrines were ever written and plainly explained; otherwise they would have lost long ago their very name. There is such a thing as an “unwritten” Kabbala, as well as a written one, even in the West. Many things are orally explained, and always have been. Nevertheless, hints and allusions to it are numerous and scattered throughout the exoteric scriptures, and the classification depends, of course, on the school that interprets it, and still more upon personal intuition and conception. The question is not whether there are three, five or seven colours in the rays of the spectrum, for every one knows there are in fact and nature, but one—the colourless white. And, though Science discerns very plainly seven prismatic rays as clear as are the seven notes in the scale; yet, one has heard of very great men of science who insisted there were only four or five until it was found out that they were colour-blind.”
Blavatsky, H.P., Tetragrammaton, Theosophist, November, 1887