The Seven Portals
Fragments from the Book of the Golden Precepts
FRAGMENT III Seven Portals
1. “Upādhyāya, the choice is made, I thirst for Wisdom. Now hast thou rent the veil before the secret Path and taught the greater Yāna. [Mayayana, the Big Path; a term for the Hinduized Buddhism of Tibet.—Ed.] Thy servant here is ready for thy guidance.”
This fragment again appears to be intended to follow on immediately after the last, and yet the chela says to the guru that the choice is made. Obviously it does not refer to the great choice referred to in Fragment II, verse 88. One is inclined further to suspect that Madame Blavatsky supposes Mahayana and Hinayana to refer in some way or other to the two Paths previously discussed. They do not. Madame Blavatsky’s method of exegesis, in the absence of original information, was to take existing commentators and disagree with them, her standard being what the unknown originals ought, in her opinion, to have said. This method saves much of the labour of research, and with a little luck it ought to be possible to discover subsequently much justification in the originals as they become known. Madame Blavatsky was justified in employing this method because she really did know the subject better than either commentator or original. She merely used Oriental lore as an Ostrich hunter uses the skin of a dead bird. She was Ulysses, and the East her Wooden Horse. [Maha (great) and Hina (little) are quite meaningless epithets, only serving to distinguish Hinduized Tibetan Buddhism from canonical Cingalese-Burmese-Siamese Buddhism.—Ed.]
2. ’Tis well, Srāvaka. I Prepare thyself, for thou wilt have to travel on alone. The Teacher can but point the way. The Path is one for all, the means to reach the goal must vary with the Pilgrims.
It is here admitted that there are many ways of reaching the same end. In order to assist a pupil, the Teacher should know all these ways by actual experience. He should know them in detail. There is a great deal of pious gassing about most Teachers—it is very easy to say “Be good and you will be happy,” and I am afraid that even this book itself has been taken as little better by the majority of its admirers. What the pupil wants is not vague generalizations on virtue, not analyses of Nirvana and explorations in Hindu metaphysics, but a plain straightforward statement of a practical character. When a man is meditating and finds himself interfered with by some particular class of thought, he does not want to know about the glory of the Buddha and the advantages of the Dhamma and the fraternal piety of the Sangha. He wants to know how to stop those thoughts arising, and the only person who can help him to do that is a Teacher who has been troubled by those same thoughts, and learnt how to stop them in his own case. For one Teacher who knows his subject at all, there are at least ten thousand who belch pious platitudes. I wish to name no names, but Annie Besant, Prentice Mulford, Troward, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and so on, down—right down—to Arthur Edward Waite, immediately occur to the mind. What does not occur to the mind is the names of people now living who know their subject from experience. The late Swami Vivekananda did know his. Sabapaty Swami did so. Sri Parananda Swami did so, and of course above all these stands Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya. Outside these, one can think of no one, except the very reticent Rudolf Steiner, who betrays practical acquaintance with the Path. The way to discover whether a Teacher knows anything about it or not is to do the work yourself, and see if your understanding of him improves, or whether he fobs you off in your hour of need with remarks on Virtue.
3. Which wilt thou choose, O thou of dauntless heart? The Samtan of “Eye Doctrine,” four-fold Dhyāna, or thread thy way through Pāramitās, six in number, noble gates of virtue leading to Bodhi and to Pragnyā, seventh step of Wisdom?
It must not be supposed that the Paths here indicated are all. Apparently the writer is still harping on the same old two Paths. It appears that “fourfold Dhyana” is a mere extension of the word Samtan. There are, however, eight, not four, four of these being called Low and four High. They are defined in Rhys-Davids’ “Buddhism,” 174-6.
The Buddha just before his death went through all these stages of meditation which are described in the paragraph here quoted:
“Then the Blessed One addressed the Brethren, and said: ‘Behold now, brethren, I exhort you, saying, “Decay is inherent in all component things! Work out your salvation with diligence!”’
“This was the last word of the Tathagata!
“Then the Blessed One entered into the first stage of deep meditation. And rising out of the first stage he passed into the second. And rising out of the second he passed into the third. And rising out of the third stage he passed into the fourth. And rising out of the fourth stage of deep meditation he entered into the state of mind to which the infinity of space is alone present. And passing out of the mere consciousness of the infinity of space he entered into the state of mind to which the infinity of thought is alone present. And passing out of the mere consciousness of the infinity of thought he entered into a state of mind to which nothing at ah was specially present. And passing out of the consciousness of no special object he fell into a state between consciousness and unconsciousness. And passing out of the state between consciousness and unconsciousness he fell into a state in which the unconsciousness both of sensations and of ideas had wholly passed away.“
What rubbish! Here we have a man with no experience of the states which he is trying to describe; for Prof. Rhys-Davids, many though are his virtues, is not Buddha, and this man is attempting to translate highly technical terms into a language in which those technical terms not only have no equivalent, but have nothing in the remotest degree capable of being substituted for an equivalent. This is characteristic of practically all writing on Eastern thought. What was wanted was a Master of some Occidental language to obtain the experiences of the East by undertaking the practices of the East. His own experience put into words would then form a far better translation of Oriental works on the same subject, than any translation which a scholar might furnish. I am inclined to think that this was Blavatsky’s method. So obvious a forgery as this volume only contains so much truth and wisdom because this is the case. The Master—alike of Language and of Experience—has at last arisen; it is the Master Therion—The Beast—666—the logos of the Æon—whose Word is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”
4. The rugged Path of four-fold Dhyāna winds on uphill. Thrice great is he who climbs the lofty top.
5. The Pāramitā heights are crossed by a still steeper path. Thou hast to fight thy way through portals seven, seven strongholds held by cruel crafty Powers—passions incarnate.
The distinction between the two Paths is now evident; that of Dhyana is intellectual, or one might better say, mental, that of Paramita, moral. But it may well be asked whether these Paths are mutually exclusive, whether a good man is always an idiot and a clever man always a brute, to put the antithesis on a somewhat lower plane. Does anyone really think that one can reach supreme mental control while there are ‘seven cruel, crafty powers, passions incarnate,’ worrying you? The fact is that this dichotomy of the Path is rather dramatic than based on experience.
6. Be of good cheer, Disciple; bear in mind the golden rule. Once thou hast passed the gate Srotāpatti, “he who the stream hath entered”; once thy foot hath pressed the bed of the Nirvānic stream in this or any future life, thou hast but seven other births before thee, O thou of adamantine Will.
The author does not state what is meant by the “golden rule.” A Srotāpatti is a person in such a stage that he will become Arhan after seven more incarnations. There is nothing in Buddhism about the voluntary undertaking of incarnations in order to help mankind. And of course the talk about “Nirvanic bliss” is misleading when one reflects that this quality of bliss or Ananda arising with the first Jhana, has already disappeared, never to return, in the second. The whole question of Nibbana is hopelessly entangled with moonshine metaphysic and mis-interpretation and false tradition. It must be remembered that Nibbana is merely the Pali, the vulgar dialect, for the Sanskrit NIRVANA, and that Nirvana is a state characterizing Moksha, which is the liberation resulting from Nirvikalpa-Samādhi. But then Moksha is defined by the Hindus as unity with Parabrahman; and Parabrahman is without quantity or quality, not subject to change in any way, altogether beyond Manvantara and Pralaya; and so on. In one sense he is pure Atman.
Now the Buddhist rejects Atman, saying there is no such thing. Therefore—to him—there is no Parabrahman. There is really Maha Brahma, who is (ultimately) subject to change, and, when the Karma which has made him Maha Brahma is exhausted, may be reincarnated as a pig or a Pisacha. Consequently Moksha is not liberation at all, for Nirvana means cessation of that which, after however long a period, may change. This is all clear enough, but then the Buddhist goes on and takes the word Nibbana to mean exactly that which the Hindus meant by Nirvana, insisting strenuously that it is entirely different. And so indeed it is. But if one proceeds further to enquire, “Then what is it?” one finds oneself involved in very considerable difficulty. It is a difficulty which I cannot pretend to solve, even by the logic which obtains above the abyss. I can, however, exhibit the difficulty by relating a conversation which I had with Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya in November, 1906, while I was staying with him in his Monastery outside Rangoon. I was arguing that result was the direct effect of the work of the student. If he went on long enough he was bound to succeed, and he might reasonably infer a causal connection between his work and its result. The Bhikkhu was not unwilling to admit that this might be so in such elementary stages as Jhana, but with regard to the attaining of Arhat-ship he argued that it depended rather on universal Karma than on that created by the aspirant. Avoiding metaphysical quibbles as to whether these two kinds of Karma are not identical, he figured the situation in this manner. There are two wheels, one of which is the whey of Nibbana, and the other that of the attainment of the Adept. These two wheels only touch at one point. Now the Arhat may reach the circumference of his wheel, that is, the summit of his attainment, as often as he likes, but unless he happens to do so at the moment when that point touches the wheel of Nibbana, he will not become an Arhat, and it is therefore necessary for him to remain at that summit as long as possible, in fact always, in order that bye and bye—it might be after many incarnations of perfection—these two might coincide. This perfection he regarded not as that of spiritual experience, but as the attainment of Sila, and by Sila he meant the strict observance of the rules laid down by the Buddha for the Bhikkhu. He continued that the Buddha had apparently attached far more importance to virtue than to any degree of spiritual attainment, placing the well-behaved Bhikkhu not only above the gods, but above the greatest Yogis. (It is obvious, to the Buddhist, that Hindu Yogis, however eminent, are not Arhats.) He said that the rules laid down for Bhikkhus created the conditions necessary. A good Bhikkhu, with no spiritual experience, had at least some chance, whereas the bad Bhikkhu or Non-Bhikkhu, although every form of Samadhi was at his fingers’ ends, had none. The point is very important, because on this theory the latter, after all his attainments, might pass through all the Dhyana-Lokas and through the Arupa-Brahma-Lokas, exhaust that Karma, be reincarnated as a Spirochætes Pallida, and have to begin over again. And the most virtuous Bhikkhu might be so unfortunate as to fall from Virtue the millionth part of a second before his point on the circumference of the sphere was going to touch that of the wheel of Nibbana, regain it two millionths of a second later, and thus find Arhatship indefinitely postponed.
I then said: O most excellent expounder of the good Law, prithee explain to me the exact difference between this Doctrine and that which we heard from Shri Parananda that the attainment of Samadhi, though it depended to some extent upon the attainment of the Yogi, depended also upon the grace of the Lord Shiva, and that Yoga did us all no good unless the Lord Shiva happened to be in a good temper. Then the Bhikkhu replied in a dramatic whisper, “There is no difference, except that it is not Buddhism.” From this example the Student will understand that he had better not worry about Nibbana and its nature, but confine himself to controlling his thoughts.
7. Look on. What seest thou before thine eye, O aspirant to Godlike Wisdom?
8. “The cloak of darkness is upon the deep of matter; within its folds I struggle. Beneath my gaze it deepens, Lord; it is dispelled beneath the waving of thy hand. A shadow moveth, creeping hike the stretching serpent coils … It grows, swells out and disappears in darkness.”
In this passage a definite vision is presented to the Lanoo. This can be done by an Adept, and sometimes it is a useful method.
9. It is the shadow of thyself outside the PATH, cast on the darkness of thy sins.
This charming poetic image should not be taken literally.
10. “Yea, Lord; I see the PATH; its foot in mire, its summit lost in glorious light Nirvānic. And now I see the ever narrowing Portals on the hard and thorny way to Gnyċna.”
This continues a vision which resembles, only too painfully, the coloured prints of the Broad and Narrow Ways so familiar to those unfortunates whose business takes them through Paternoster Row.
11. Thou seest well, Lanoo. These Portals head the aspirant across the waters on “to the other shore.” Each Portal hath a golden key that openeth its gate; and these keys are:
The expression “the other shore” is particularly unfortunate, owing to its associations in English minds with the hymn usually known as “The sweet bye and bye.” It is a metaphor for which there is little justification. Nirvana is frequently spoken of as an island in Buddhist writings, but I am not familiar with any passage in which the metaphor is that of a place at the other end of a journey. The metaphor moreover is mixed. In the hast verse he was climbing a ladder; now he is going across the waters, and neither on ladders nor in journeys by water does one usually pass through Portals.
- DĀNA, the key of charity and hove immortal.
- SHĪLA, the key of Harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for Karmic action.
- KSHĀNTI, patience sweet, that nought can ruffle.
- VAIRĀGYA, indifference to pleasure and to pain, illusion conquered, truth alone perceived.
- VĪRYA, the dauntless energy that fights its way to the supernal TRUTH, out of the mire of lies terrestrial.
- DHYĀNA, whose golden gate once opened heads the Narjol toward the realm of sat eternal and its ceaseless contemplation.
- PRAGNYĀ, the key to which makes of a man a God, creating him a Bodhisattva, son of the Dhyānis. Such to the Portals are the golden keys.
(Subsection I.) Charity and love are here used in their technical sense, Agape. “Love is the law, love under will.” Both Agape and Thelema (will) add to 93, which identifies them qabalistically. This love is not a sloppy feeling of maudlin sentimental kindness. The majority of people of the Christian Science, Theosophical, New Thought type, think that a lot of flabby thoughts, sending out streams of love in the Six Quarters, and so on, will help them. It won’t. Love is a pure flame, as swift and deadly as the lightning. This is the kind of love that the Student needs.
(Subsection II.) The “key” here spoken of has been thoroughly explained in Thien Tao in Konx Om Pax, but there is a peculiar method, apart from this plane, and easily understood by the equilibrium by which things can be done which bear no fruit. And this method it is quite impossible to explain.
The nearest I can come to intelligibility, is to say that you get very nearly the same sort of feeling as you do when you are making yourself invisible.
Shila is in no way connected with the charming Irish colleen of the same name.
(Subsection III.) The “patience” here spoken of seems to imply courage of a very active kind. It is the quality which persists in spite of all opposition. It must not be forgotten that the word “patience” is derived from Patior, I suffer. But, especially with the ancients, suffering was not conceived of as a purely passive function. It was keenly active and intensely enjoyable. There are certain words today still extant in which the original meaning of this word lingers, and consideration may suggest to the Student the true and secret meaning of this passage, “Accendat in nobis Dorninus ignem sui amoris et flammam æternæ caritatis,”I a phrase with the subtle ambiguity which the classics found the finest form of wit.
(Subsection IV.) This indifference is very much the same as what is usually spoken of as non-attachment. The Doctrine has been rediscovered in the West, and is usually announced as “Art for Art’s sake.” This quality is most entirely necessary in Yoga. In times of dryness the “Devil” comes to you and persuades you that if you go on meditating or doing Pranayama, or whatever it is you may be at, you will go mad. He will also prove to you that it is most necessary for your spiritual progress to repose. He will explain that, by the great law of action and reaction, you should alternate the task which you have set out to do with something else, that you should, in fact, somehow or other change your plans. Any attempt to argue with him will assuredly result in defeat. You must be able to reply, “But I am not in the least interested in my spiritual progress; I am doing this because I put it down in my programme to do it. It may hurt my spiritual progress more than anything in the world. That does not matter. I will gladly be damned eternally, but I will not break my obligation in the smallest detail.” By doing this you come out at the other end, and discover that the whole controversy was illusion. One does become blind; one does have to fight one’s way through the ocean of asphalt. Hope and Faith are no more. All that can be done is to guard Love, the original source of your energy, by the mask of indifference. This image is a little misleading, perhaps. It must not be supposed that the indifference is a cloak; it must be a real indifference. Desire of any kind must really be conquered, for of course every desire is as it were a string on you to pull you in some direction, and it must be remembered that Nirvana lies (as it were) in no direction, like the fourth dimension in space.
(Subsection V.) “Virya” is, etymologically, Manhood. It is that quality which has been symbolized habitually by the Phallus, and its importance is sufficient to have made the Phallus an universal symbol, apart altogether from reasons connected with the course of nature. Yet these confirm the choice. It is free—it has a will of its own quite independent of the conscious will of the man bearing it. It has no conscience. It leaps. It has no consideration for anything but its own purpose. Again and again this symbol in a new sense will recur as the type of the ideal. It is a symbol alike of the Beginning, the Way and the End. In this particular passage it is however principally synonymous with Will, and Will has been so fully dealt with in Book 4, Part II, that it will save trouble if we assume that the reader is familiar with that masterpiece.
(Subsection VI.) This, too, has been carefully described in Book 4, Part I.
There is a distinction between Buddhist ‘Jhana’ and Sanskrit ‘Dhyana,’ though etymologically the former is a corruption of the latter.
The craze for classification which obsesses the dual minds of the learned has been peculiarly pernicious in the East. In order to divide states of thought into 84 classes, which is—to their fatuity!—an object in itself, because 84 is seven times twelve, they do not hesitate to invent names for quite imaginary states of mind, and to put down the same state of mind several times. This leads to extreme difficulty in the study of their works on psychology and the like. The original man, Buddha, or whoever he may have been, dug out of his mind a sufficient number of jewels, and the wretched intellectuals who edited his work have added bits of glass to make up the string. The result has been that many scholars have thought that the whole psychology of the East was pure bluff. A similar remark is true of the philosophy of the West, where the Schoolmen produced an equal obfuscation. Even now people hardly realize that they did any valuable work at all, and quote their controversies, such as that concerning the number of angels who can dance on the point of a needle, as examples of their complete fatuity and donnishness. In point of fact, it is the critic who is stupid. The question about the angels involves the profoundest considerations of metaphysics, and it was about these that the battle raged. I fancy that their critics imagine the Schoolmen disputing whether the number was 25 or 26, which argues their own shallowness by the readiness with which they attribute the same quality to others. However, a great deal of mischief has been done by the pedant, and the distinctions between the various Jhanas will convey little to the Western mind, even of a man who has some experience of them. The question of mistranslation alone renders the majority of Buddhist documents, if not valueless, at least unreliable. We, however, taking this book as an original work by Blavatsky, need not be bothered by any doubts more deadly than that as to whether her command of English was perfect; and in this treatise, in spite of certain obvious sentimentalities and bombasticisms, we find at least the foundations of a fairly fine style. I think that what she says in this subsection refers to a statement which I got from my Guru in Madura to the effect that there was a certain point in the body suitable for meditation, which, if once discovered, drew the thought naturally towards itself, the difficulty of concentration consequently disappearing, and that the knowledge of this particular point could be communicated by the Guru to his approved disciples.
(Subsection VII.) We now find a muddle between the keys and the gates. The first five are all obviously keys. The last two seem to be gates, in spite of the statements in the text. We also find the term Bodhisattva in a quite unintelligible sense. We shall discuss this question more fully a little later on.
The Dhyanis are gods of sorts, either perfect men or what one may cali natural gods, who occupy eternity in a ceaseless contemplation of the Universe. The Master of the Temple, as he is in himself, is a rather similar person.
Narjol is the Path-Treader, not a paraffin-purgative.
13. Before thou canst approach the last, O weaver of thy freedom, thou hast to master these Pāramitās of perfection—the virtues transcendental six and ten in number—along the weary Path.
We now get back to the Paramitas, and this treatise is apparently silent with regard to them.I Does any one regret it? It isnÕt the Path that is weary: it is the Sermons on the way.
14. For, O Disciple! Before thou wert made fit to meet thy Teacher face to face, thy MASTER light to light, what wert thou told?
The old trouble recurs. We cannot tell quite clearly in what stage the Disciple is supposed to be with regard to any given piece of instruction.
15. Before thou canst approach the foremost gate thou hast to learn to part thy body from thy mind, to dissipate the shadow, and to live in the eternal. For this, thou hast to live and breathe in all, as all that thou perceivest breathes in thee; to feel thyself abiding in all things, all things in SELF.
In verse 13 we were told to master the Paramitas before approaching the last gate. Now the author harks back to what he had to do before he approached the first gate, but this may be regarded as a sort of a joke on the part of the Guru. The Guru has a weary time, and frequently amuses himself by telling the pupil! that he must do something obviously impossible before he begins. This increases the respect of the pupil for the Guru, and in this way helps him, while at the same time his air of hopelessness is intensely funny—to the Guru. So we find in this verse that the final result, or something very like it, is given as a qualification antecedent to the starting point; as if one told a blind man that he must be able to see through a brick wall before regaining his eyesight.
16. Thou shalt not let thy senses make a playground of thy mind.
Following on the tremendous task of verse 15 comes the obvious elementary piece of instruction which one gives to a beginner. The best way out of the dilemma is to take verse 15 in a very elementary sense. Let us paraphrase that verse. “Try to get into the habit of thinking of your mind and body as distinct. Attach yourself to matters of eternal importance, and do not be deluded by the idea that the material universe is real. Try to realize the unity of being.” That is a sensible and suitable instruction, a kind of adumbration of the goal. It harmonizes emotional and intellectual conceptions to—that which subsequently turns out not to be reality.
17. Thou shalt not separate thy being from BEING, and the rest, but merge the Ocean in the deep, the drop within the Ocean.
This too can be considered in an elementary light as meaning: “Begin even at once to destroy the sense of separateness.”
18. So shalt thou be in full accord with all that lives; bear love to men as though they were thy brother-pupils, disciples of one Teacher, the sons of one sweet mother.
It now becomes clear that ah this is meant in an elementary sense, for verse 18 is really little more than a statement that an irritable frame of mind is bad for meditation. Of course anybody who really ‘bore love,’ etc., as requested would be suffering from softening of the brain. That is, if you take ah this in its obvious literal sense. There is a clean way of Love, but it is not this toshy slop treacle-goo.
19. Of teachers there are many; the MASTER-SOUL is one, Ālaya, the Universal Soul. Live in that MASTER as ITS ray in thee. Live in thy fellows as they live in IT.
Here the killing of the sense of separateness is further advised. It is a description of the nature of atman, and atman is, as else where stated, not a Buddhist, but a Hindu idea. The teaching is here to refer everything to atman, to regard everything as a corruption of atman, if you please, but a corruption which is unreal, because atman is the only real thing. There is a similar instruction in Liber Legis: “Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing”; and you are urged not to “confound the space-marks,” saying: “They are one,” or saying, “They are many.”
20. Before thou standest on the threshold of the Path; before thou crossest the foremost Gate, thou hast to merge the two into the One and sacrifice the personal to SELF impersonal, and thus destroy the “path” between the two—Anta-karana.
Here is again the confusion noted with regard to verse 15—for the destruction of the lower manas implies an attainment not less than that of a Master of the Temple.
21. Thou hast to be prepared to answer dharma, the stern law, whose voice will ask thee first at thy initial step:
22. “Hast thou complied with the rules, O thou of lofty hopes?
“Hast thou attuned thy heart and mind to the great mind and heart of ah mankind? For as the sacred River’s roaring voice whereby all Nature-sounds are echoed back, so must the heart of him ‘who in the stream would enter,’ thrill in response to every sigh and thought of all that lives and breathes.”
Here is another absurdity. What is the sense of asking a man at his initial step if he has complied with all the rules? If the disciple were in the condition mentioned, he would be already very far advanced. But of course if we were to take the words
“The threshold of the Path”
“The foremost gate”
as equivalent to Srotapattia, the passage would gain in intelligibility. But, just as in the noble eightfold Path, the steps are concurrent, not consecutive, so, like the Comte de Saint Germain, when he was expelled from Berlin, one can go through all the seven Gates at once.
23. Disciples may be likened to the strings of the soul-echoing Vinā; mankind, unto its sounding board; the hand that sweeps it to the tuneful breath of the GREAT WORLD-SOUL. The string that fails to answer ’neath the Master’s touch in dulcet harmony with ah the others, breaks—and is cast away. So the collective minds of Lanoo-Shravakas. They have to be attuned to the Upādhyāya’s mind—one with the Over-Soul—or, break away.
This is a somewhat high-flown description—it is little more than an advocacy of docility, a quiet acceptance of the situation as it is, and an acquiescence in the ultimate sublime purpose. The question of the crossing of the abyss now arises, and we reach a consideration of the Brothers of the Left Hand Path.
24. Thus do the “Brothers of the Shadow”—the murderers of their Souls, the dread Dad-Dugpa clan.
“The Brothers of the Shadow” or of the Left Hand Path are very carefully explained in Liber 418. The Exempt Adept, when he has to proceed, has a choice either to fling himself into the Abyss by all that he has and is being torn away, or to shut himself up to do what he imagines to be continuing with his personal development on very much the original lines. This hatter course does not take him through the Abyss; but fixes him in Daath, at the crown of a false Tree of Life in which the Supernal Triad is missing. Now this man is also called a Black Magician, and a great deal of confusion has arisen in connection with this phrase. Even the Author, to judge by the Note, seems to confuse the matter. Red Caps and Yellow Gaps alike are in general altogether beneath the stage of which we have been speaking.’ And from the point of view of the Master of the Temple, there is very little to choose between White and Black Magic as ordinarily understood by the man in the Street, who distinguishes between them according as they are helpful or hurtful to himself. If the Magician cures his headache, or gives him a good tip on the Stock Exchange, he is a White Magician. If he suspects him of causing illness and the like, he is Black. To the Master of the Temple either proceeding appears blind and stupid. In the lower stages there is only one way right, and all the rest wrong. You are to aspire to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, and of course to do any other things which may subserve that one purpose; but nothing else. And of course it is a mistake, unless under very special circumstances, to perform any miracles, on the ground that they diminish the supreme energy reserved for the performance of the Main Task. It will be remembered that the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is attributed to Tiphareth, while the Exempt Adept is in Chesed; how is it then that a Black Magician, a Brother of the Left Hand Path, can ever reach that grade? The answer is given in the eleventh Æthyr; when the Exempt Adept reaches the Frontier of the Abyss, his Holy Guardian Angel leaves him, and this is the one supreme terror of that passage. It seems extraordinary that one who has ever enjoyed His Knowledge and Conversation should afterwards fall away into that blind horror whose name is Choronzon. But such is the case. Some of the problems, or rather, mysteries, connected with this are too deep to enter upon in this place, but the main point to remember is this, that in the Outer Order, and in the College of Adepts itself, it is not certain to what end any one may come. The greatest and holiest of the Exempt Adepts may, in a single moment, become a Brother of the Left Hand Path. It is for this reason that the Great White Brotherhood admits no essential connection with the lower branches affiliated to The Order. At the same time, The Brothers of the A∴ A∴ refuse none. They have no objection to any one claiming to be one of Themselves. If he does so, let him abide by it.
25. Hast thou attuned thy being to Humanity’s great pain, O candidate for hight?
Thou hast? … Thou mayest enter.
Yet, ere thou settest foot upon the dreary Path of sorrow, ‘tis well thou shouhd’st first learn the pitfalls on thy way.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It appears as if the condition of entering the Path was the Vision of Sorrow, and of course the present Commentator might be inclined to support this theory, since, in his own experience, it was this Vision of Sorrow which caused him to take the First Great Oath. He had suddenly presented to him the perception of the Three Characteristics. This is fully narrated in Book 4, Part IV. It is also evident that aspiration implies dissatisfaction of some sort. But at the same time I do not think that in all cases it is necessary that this dissatisfaction should be so conscious and so universal as appears to be implied in the text.
26. Armed with the key of Charity, of love and tender mercy, thou art secure before the gate of Dāna, the gate that standeth at the entrance of the path.
27. Behold, O happy Pilgrim! The portal that faceth thee is high and wide, seems easy of access. The road that heads therethrough is straight and smooth and green. ‘Tis hike a sunny glade in the dark forest depths, a spot on earth mirrored from Amitābha’s paradise. There, nightingales of hope and birds of radiant plumage sing perched in green bowers, chanting success to fearless Pilgrims. They sing of Bodhisattva’s virtues five, the fivefold source of Bodhi power, and of the seven steps in Knowledge.
28. Pass on! For thou hast brought the key; thou art secure.
The row of dots in the text (after verse 25) appears to imply complete change of subject, though on other occasions it did not do so. I have already explained one of the technical meanings of Dana, and undoubtedly the Path seems attractive at this stage. One thinks of the joyous reception into the Company of Adepts. One goes almost as a boy goes to meet his first sweetheart.
But there is here another allusion to the beginnings of Meditation, when everything seems so simple and straightforward, and withal so easy and pleasant. There is something intensely human about this. Men set out upon the most dangerous expeditions in high spirits.
29. And to the second gate the way is verdant too. But it is steep and winds up hill; yea, to its rocky top. Grey mists will over-hang its rough and stony height, and be dark beyond. As on he goes, the song of hope soundeth more feeble in the pilgrim’s heart. The thrill of doubt is now upon him; his step less steady grows.
Following the last comment a description of this Path refers to the beginning of ‘dryness’ in the course of Meditation.
30. Beware of this, O candidate! Beware of fear that spreadeth, like the black and soundless wings of midnight bat, between the moonlight of thy Soul and thy great goal that loometh in the distance far away.
This passage also appears to have reference to the early life of the Student—hence he is specially warned against fear. Fear is, of course, the first of the pylons through which one passes in the Egyptian system. It is important then to arrange one’s life in such a way that one never allows one thing to interfere with another, and one never makes trouble for oneself. The method given in “Thien Tao” is the best to employ.
31. Fear, O Disciple, kills the will and stays all action. If lacking in the Shīla virtue—the pilgrim trips, and Karmic pebbles bruise his feet along the rocky path.
The objection to fear is not only the obvious one. Fear is only one of the things which interfere with concentration. The re-action against fear leads to over-boldness. Anything which interferes with the perfect unconscious simplicity of one’s going leads to bruises. Troubles of this kind may be called Karmic, because it is events in the past which give occasion for trouble.
32. Be of sure foot, O Candidate. In Kshānti’s essence bathe thy Soul; for now thou dost approach the Portal of that name, the gate of fortitude and patience.
We now come to the third gate. Notice that this is a further confusion of the Portal with the Key. As previously said, patience here implies rather self-control, a refusal to accept even favours until one is ready for them.
33. Close not thine eyes, nor lose thy sight of Dorje (the Svastika); Māra’s arrows ever smite the man who has not reached Vairāga.
“Close not thine eyes” may refer to sleep or to ecstasy, perhaps to both. Dorje is the whirling power which throws off from itself every other influence.
Vairaga is a very definite stage in moral strength. The point is that it is one’s intense longing for ecstasy which makes one yield to it. If one does so, one is overwhelmed with the illusion, for even the highest ecstasy is still illusion. The result, in many cases, of obtaining Dhyāna is that the workers cease to work. Vairaga is an indifference approaching disgust for everything. It reminds one a good deal of the Oxford Manner. Cambridge men have this feeling, but do not think other people worth the trouble of flattering.
34. Beware of trembling. ‘Neath the breath of fear the key of Kshānti rusty grows: the rusty key refuseth to unlock.
The word “trembling” seems to imply that it is giddy ecstasy which is referred to, and the “fear” here spoken of may perhaps be the Panic Fear, possibly some feeling analogous to that which produces what is called psychical impotence.
35. The more thou dost advance, the more thy feet pitfalls will meet. The path that leadeth on, is lighted by one fire—the light of daring, burning in the heart. The more one dares, the more he shall obtain. The more he fears, the more that light shall pale—and that alone can guide. For as the lingering sunbeam, that on the top of some tall mountain shines, is followed by black night when out it fades, so is heart-light. When out it goes, a dark and threatening shade will fall from thine own heart upon the path, and root thy feet in terror to the spot.
It is true that the further one advances the more subtle and deadly are the enemies, up to the crossing of the Abyss; and, as far as one can judge, the present discourse does not rise above Tiphareth. I am very sorry to have to remark at this point that Madame Blavatsky is now wholly obsessed by her own style. She indulges, much more than in the earlier part of this treatise, in poetic and romantic imagery, and in Miltonic inversion. Consequently we get quite a long passage on a somewhat obvious point, and the Evil Persona or Dweller of the Threshold is introduced. However, it is a correct enough place. That Dweller is Fear—his form is Dispersion. It is in this sense that Satan, or rather Samael, a totally different person, the accuser of the Brethren, is the Devil.
36. Beware, Disciple, of that lethal shade. No light that shines from Spirit can dispel the darkness of the nether Soul unless all selfish thought has fled therefrom, and that the pilgrim saith: “I have renounced this passing frame; I have destroyed the cause; the shadows cast can, as effects, no longer be.” For now the last great fight, the final war between the Higher and the Lower Self, hath taken place. Behold, the very battlefield is now engulphed in the great war, and is no more.
The quotation is only proper in the mouth of a Buddha, from whom it is taken. At this point the Higher and Lower Selves are united. It is a mistake to represent their contest as a war—it is a wedding.
37. But once that thou hast passed the gate of Kshānti, step the third is taken. Thy body is thy slave. Now, for the fourth prepare, the Portal of temptations which do ensnare the inner man.
We are now on a higher plane altogether. The Higher and Lower Selves are made One. It is that One whose further progress from Tiphareth to Binah is now to be described.
38. Ere thou canst near that goal, before thine hand is lifted to upraise the fourth gate’s latch, thou must have mustered all the mental changes in thy Self and slain the army of the thought sensations that, subtle and insidious, creep unasked within the Soul’s bright shrine.
It is the mental changes and the invading thoughts which distress us. These are to be understood in a rather advanced sense, for of course thought must have been conquered earlier than this, that is to say, the self must have been separated from its thoughts, so that they no longer disturb that self. Now, however, the fortress walls must be thrown down, and the mind slain in the open field.
39. If thou would’st not be slain by them, then must thou harmless make thy own creations, the children of thy thoughts unseen, impalpable, that swarm round human kind, the progeny and heirs to man and his terrestrial spoils. Thou hast to study the voidness of the seeming full, the fulness of the seeming void. O fearless Aspirant, look deep within the well of thine own heart, and answer. Knowest thou of Self the powers, O thou perceiver of external shadows? If thou dost not—then art thou lost.
The way to make thoughts harmless is by the equilibrium of contradictions—this is the meaning of the phrase, “Thou hast to study the voidness of the seeming full, the fulness of the seeming void.” This subject has been dealt with at some length in “The Soldier and the Hunchback” in Equinox I(I), and many other references are to be found in the works of Mr. Aleister Crowley.
A real identification of the Self with the Not-Self is necessary.
40. For, on Path fourth, the lightest breeze of passion or desire will stir the steady light upon the pure white walls of Soul. The smallest wave of longing or regret for Māyā’s gifts illusive, along Antakarana—the path that lies between thy Spirit and thy self, the highway of sensations, the rude arousers of Ahankāra (the faculty that makes the illusion called the Ego)—a thought as fleeting as the lightning flash will make thee thy three prizes forfeit—the prizes thou hast won.
The meaning is again very much confused by the would-be poetic diction, but it is quite clear that desire of any kind must not interfere with this intensely intellectual meditation; and of course the whole object of it is to refrain from preferring any one thing to any other thing. When it says that “A thought as fleeting as the lightning flash will make thee thy three prizes forfeit—the prizes thou hast won,” this does not mean that if you happen to make a mistake in meditation you have to begin all over again as an absolute beginner, and yet, of course, in any meditation the occurrence of a single break destroys, for the moment, the effect of what has gone immediately before. Whenever one is trying for cumulative effect, something of this sort is true. One gets a sort of Leyden Jar effect; but the sentence as it stands is misleading, as she explains further on in verse 70—“Each failure is success, and each sincere attempt wins its reward in time.”
41. For know, that the ETERNAL knows no change.
Here again we have one subject “THE ETERNAL,” and one predicate “the knower of no change”; the Hindu statement identical with the Buddhist, and the identity covered by crazy terminology. X = A says the Hindu, Y = A says the Buddhist. X = Y is furiously denied by both, although these two equations are our only source of information about either X or Y. Metaphysics has always been full of this airy building. We must postulate an Unseen behind the Seen; and when we have defined the Unseen as a round square, we quarrel with our fellow-professors who prefer to define it as a quadrilateral circle. The only way to avoid this is to leave argument altogether alone, and pay attention only to concentration, until the time comes to tackle mental phenomena once for all, by some such method as that of Liber 474.
42. “The eight dire miseries forsake for evermore. If not, to wisdom, sure, thou can’st not come, nor yet to liberation,” saith the great Lord, the Tathāgata of perfection, “he who has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors.”
“The eight dire miseries” are the five senses plus the threefold fire of Lust, Hatred and Dullness. But the quotation is not familiar. I feel sure He did not say “sure.”
43. Stern and exacting is the virtue of Vairāga. If thou its Path would’st master, thou must keep thy mind and thy perceptions far freer than before from killing action.
The English is getting ambiguous. The word “killing” is, I suppose, an adjective implying ‘fatal to the purpose of the Student.’ But even so, the comment appears to me out of place. On this high Path action should already have been made harm less; in fact, the second Path had this as its principal object. It is very difficult to make out what the Authoress really wants you to do.
44. Thou hast to saturate thyself with pure Ālaya, become as one with Nature’s Soul-Thought. At one with it thou art invincible; in separation, thou becomest the play ground of Samvritti, origin of all the world’s delusions.
This means, acquire sympathy with the universal Soul of Nature. This Soul of Nature here spoken of is of course imagined as something entirely contrary to anything we really know of Nature. In fact, it would be difficult to distinguish it from a pious fiction. The only reason that can be given for assuming the Soul of Nature to be pure, calm, kind, and ah the other tea-party virtues, is Lucus a non lucendo. To put it in some kind of logical form, the Manifested is not the Unmanifested; therefore the Manifested is that which the Unmanifested is not. Nature, as we know it, is stupid, brutal, cruel, beautiful, extravagant, and above all the receptacle or vehicle of illimitable energy. However by meditation one comes to a quite different view of Nature. Many of the stupidities and brutalities are only apparent. The beauty, the energy, and the majesty, or, if you prefer it, the love, remain undeniable. It is the first reversed triangle of the Tree of Life.
What is said of “Samvritti” is nonsense. The Vrittis are impressions or the causes of impressions. Samvritti is simply the sum of these.
45. All is impermanent in man except the pure bright essence of Ālaya. Man is its crystal ray; a beam of light immaculate within, a form of clay material upon the lower surface. That beam is thy life-guide and thy true Self, the Watcher and the silent Thinker, the victim of thy lower Self. Thy Soul cannot be hurt but through thy erring body; control and master both, and thou art safe when crossing to the nearing “Gate of Balance.”
Here we have Alaya identified with Atman. The rest of the verse is mostly poetic nothing, and there is no guide to the meaning of the word “Soul.” It is a perfectly absurd theory to regard the body as capable of inflicting wounds upon the Soul, which is apparently the meaning here. The definition of Atma gives impassibility as almost its prime condition.
From the phrase “control and master both” we must suppose that the Soul here spoken of is some intermediate principle, presumably Nephesh.
46. Be of good cheer, O daring pilgrim “to the other shore.” Heed not the whisperings of Māra’s hosts; wave off the tempters, those ill-natured Sprites, the jealous Llamayin in endless space.
This verse may be again dismissed as too easily indulgent in poetic diction. A properly controlled mind should not be subject to these illusions. And although it may be conceded that these things, although illusions, do correspond with a certain reality, anything objective should have been dismissed at an earlier stage. In the mental struggles there should be no place for demons. Unless my memory deceives me, that was just the one trouble that I did not have. The reason may possibly have been that I had mastered all external demons before I took up meditation.
47. Hold firm! Thou nearest now the middle Portal, the gate of Woe, with its ten thousand snares.
No explanation is given as to why the fifth should be called the “middle Portal” of seven.
48. Have mastery o’er thy thoughts, O striver for perfection, if thou would’st cross its threshold.
From here to verse 71 is the long description of this fifth gate, the key to which (it will be remembered) was Virya—that is, energy and will, Manhood in its most secret sense.
It seems rather useless to tell the Student to have mastery over his thoughts in this verse, because he has been doing nothing else in all the previous Gates.
49. Have mastery o’er thy Soul, O seeker after truths undying, if thou would’st reach the goal.
The pupil is also told to have mastery over his Soul, and again there is no indication as to what is meant by “Soul.”
Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya once remarked that Theosophists were rather absurd to call themselves Buddhists, as the Buddhist had no Soul, and the Theosophist, not even content with having one, insisted on possessing seven different kinds.
If it means Nephesh, of course this ought to have been mastered long ago. It probably means Neshamah. If we take this to be so, the whole passage will become intelligible. In the beginning of progress we have the automatic Ego, the animal creator or generator of Nephesh in Yesod, the lowest point of the Ruach, and the marriage between these is the first regeneration. Nephesh is Syrinx, and Yesod is Pan. Nephesh is the elemental Soul which seeks redemption and immortality. In order to obtain it, it must acquire a Soul such as is possessed by men. Now the elemental is said to be afraid of the sword with its cross hilt, of the Cross, that is to say of the Phallus, and this is what is called Panic fear, which, originally an individual thing, is applied to a mob, because a mob has no Soul. A very great many elementals are to be found in human form today; they are nearly always women, or such men as are not men. Such beings are imitative, irresponsible, always being shocked, without any standard of truth, although often extremely logical; criminal without a sense of right and wrong, and as shameless as they are prudish. Truth of any kind frightens them. They are usually Christian Scientists, Spiritualists, Theosophists, or what not. They reflect the personality of a man with extraordinary ease, and frequently deceive him into thinking that they know what they are saying. Levi remarks that ‘the love of such beings by a Magus is insensate and may destroy him.’ He had had some. This doctrine is magnificently expounded in Wagner’s Parsifal. The way to redeem such creatures is to withstand them, and their Path of Redemption is the Path of Service to the man who has withstood them. However, when at the right moment the crucified one, the extended one, the Secret Saviour, consents to redeem them, and can do so without losing his power, without in any way yielding to them, their next step is accomplished, and they are re-born as men. This brings us back to our subject, for the lower man, of whom we are still speaking, possesses, above Yesod, five forms of intellect and Daath their Crown.
We then come to another marriage on a higher plane, the redemption of Malkuth by Tiphareth; the attaining of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
The next critical step is the sacrificing of this whole organism to the Mother, Neshamah, a higher South which is as spiritually dark and lonely as Nephesh was materially. Neshamah is beyond the Abyss, has no concern with that bridal, but to absorb it; and by offering the blood of her Son to the All-Father, that was her husband, she awakes Him. He, in His turn, vitalizes the original Daughter, thus competing the cycle. Now on the human plane this All-Father is the true generative force, the real Ego, of which all types of conscious Ego in a man are but Eidola, and this true creative force is the Virya of which we are now speaking.
50. Thy Soul-gaze centre on the One Pure Light, the Light that is free from affection, and use thy golden Key.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This Virya is the one pure hight spoken of in this verse. It is called “free from affection.” It creates without desire, simply because it is its nature to create. It is this force in one’s self of which one must become conscious in this stage.
51. The dreary task is done, thy labour well-nigh o’er. The wide abyss that gaped to swallow thee is almost spanned
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It should be noticed that this verse has rows of dots both above and below it. There is a secret meaning to verse 51 which will be evident to anyone who has properly understood our comment on verse 49. The highest marriage, that between Neshamah and Chiah, is accomplished—again, after another manner!
52. Thou hast now crossed the moat that circles round the gate of human passions.
By “human passions” must be understood every kind of attraction, not merely gross appetites—which have been long ago conquered, not by excluding, but by regulating them. On the plane of mind itself all is in order; everything has been balanced by its opposite.
53. Thou hast now conquered Māra and his furious host.
The seeker has now passed through the Abyss where dwells Choronzon whose name is Legion. All this must be studied most carefully in Liber 418.
54. Thou hast removed pollution from thine heart and bled it from impure desire. But, O thou glorious Combatant, thy task is not yet done. Build high, Lanoo, the wall that shall hedge in the Holy Isle, the dam that will protect thy mind from pride and satisfaction at thoughts of the great feat achieved.
Here again is one of those unfortunate passages which enables the superficial to imagine that the task of the Adept is to hunger strike, and wear the blue ribbon, and give up smoking. The first paragraph of this verse rather means that filling of the cup of Babalon with every drop of blood, which is explained in Liber 418.
The higher Ego—”Holy Isle”—is not the thinking self; it is the “Dwarf-Self,” the self which is beyond thinking. The aspirant is now in fact beyond thought, and this talk of building high the wall or dam is too much like poetry to be good sense. What it means is, “Beware lest the reawakened Ego, the Chiah, should become self-conscious, as it is liable to do owing to its wedding with Neshamah.”
Or, shall we say, with Nephesh? For the organism has now been brought to perfect harmony in all its parts. The Adept has a strong, healthy, vigorous body, and a mind no less perfect; he is a very different person from the feeble emasculate cabbage chewing victim of anæmia, with its mind which has gained what it calls emancipation by forgetting how to think. Little as it ever knew! Not in such may one find the true Adept. Read Liber Legis, Chap. II, verse 24, and learn where to look for hermits.
55. A sense of pride would mar the work. Aye, build it strong, lest the fierce rush of bathing waves, that mount and beat its shore from out the great World Māyā’s Ocean, swallow up the pilgrim and the isle—yea, even when the victory’s achieved.
We now perceive more clearly the meaning of this passage. Just as the man, in order to conquer the woman, used restraint, so also must this true Soul restrain itself, even at this high stage, although it gives itself completely up. Although it creates without thought and without desire, let it do that without losing anything. And because the surrender must be complete, it must beware of that expansion which is called pride; for it is destroying duality, and pride implies duality.
56. Thine “Isle” is the deer, thy thoughts the hounds that weary and pursue his progress to the stream of Life. Woe to the deer that is overtaken by the barking fiends before he reach the Vale of Refuge—Dhyāna-Mārga, “path of pure knowledge” named.
Once more the passage harks back to the Abyss where thoughts prevail. It is another poetic image, and not a good one. Extraordinary how liable this unassailable Alaya-Soul is to catch cold! It isn’t woe to him; it’s woe to YOU!
57. Ere thou canst settle in Dhyāna-Mārga and call it thine, thy Soul has to become as the ripe mango fruit: as soft and sweet as its bright golden pulp for others’ woes, as hard as that fruit’s stone for thine own throes and sorrows, O conqueror of Weal and Woe.
More trouble, more poetic image, more apparent sentimentality. Its true interpretation is to be found in the old symbolism of this rearrange of Chiah and Neshamah. Chiah is the male, proof against seduction; Neshamah the female that overcomes by weakness. But in actual practice the meaning may be explained thus,—you yourself have conquered, you have become perfectly indifferent, perfectly energetic, perfectly creative, but, having united yourself to the Universe, you become acutely conscious that your own fortunate condition is not shared by that which you flow are. It is then that the adept turns his face downwards, changes his formula from solve to coagula. His progress on the upward path now corresponds exactly with his progress on the downward path; he can only save himself by saving others, for if it were not so he would be hardly better than he who shuts himself in his black tower of illusion, the Brother of the Left Hand, the Klingsor of “Parsifal.”
58. Make hard thy Soul against the snares of Self; deserve for it the name of “Diamond-Soul.”
Here is another muddle, for the words “Soul” and “Self” have previously been used in exactly the opposite meaning. If any meaning at all is to be attached to this verse and to verse 59, it is that the progress downwards, the progress of the Redeemer of the Sun as he descends from the Zenith, or passes from the Summer Solstice to his doom, must be a voluntary absorption of Death in order to turn it into life. Never again must the Adept be deceived by his impressions, though there is that part of him which suffers.
59. For, as the diamond buried deep within the throbbing heart of earth can never mirror back the earthly lights, so are thy mind and Soul; plunged in Dhyāna-Mārga, these must mirror nought of Māyā’s realm illusive.
It is now evident that a most unfortunate metaphor has been chosen. A diamond is not much use when it is buried deep within the throbbing heart of earth. The proper place for a diamond is the neck of a courtesan.
60. When thou hast reached that state, the Portals that thou hast to conquer on the Path fling open wide their gates to let thee pass, and Nature’s strongest mights possess no power to stay thy course. Thou wilt be master of the sevenfold Path; but not till then, O Candidate for trials passing speech.
That we have correctly interpreted these obscure passages now becomes clear. No further personal effort is required. The gates open of themselves to the Master of the Temple.
61. Till then, a task far harder still awaits thee: thou hast to feel thyself ALL-THOUGHT, and yet exile all thoughts from out thy SOUL.
The discourse again reverts to another phase of this task of Vairāga. It is just as in the ‘Earth-Bhavana,’ where you have to look at a frame of Earth, and reach that impression of Earth in which is no Earthly quality, “that earth which is not earth,” as the Qabalah would say. So on this higher plane you must reach a quintessence of thought, of which thoughts are perhaps debased images, but which in no way partakes of anything concerning them.
62. Thou hast to reach that fixity of mind in which no breeze, however strong, can waft an earthly thought within. Thus purified, the shrine must of action, sound, or earthly light be void; e’en as the butterfly, o’ertaken by the frost, falls lifeless at the threshold— so must all earthly thoughts fall dead before the fane.
Again another phase of this task. Complete detachment, perfect silence, absolute will; this must be that pure Chiah which is utterly removed from Ruach.
63. Behold it written:
“Ere the gold flame can burn with steady light, the lamp must stand well guarded in a spot free from wind.” Exposed to shifting breeze, the jet will flicker and the quivering flame cast shades deceptive, dark and ever-changing, on the Soul’s white shrine.
This familiar phrase is usually interpreted to mean the mere keeping of the mind free from invading thoughts. It has also that secret significance at which we have several times already hinted.
These unfortunate poetic images again bewilder us. Blavatsky’s constant use of the word “Soul” without definition is very annoying. These verses 63 and 64 must be taken as dealing with a state preliminary to the attainment of this Fifth Gate. If the lance shakes in the hand of the warrior, whatever the cause, the result is fumbling and failure.
64. And then, O thou pursuer of the truth, thy Mind-Soul will become as a mad elephant, that rages in the jungle. Mistaking forest trees for living foes, he perishes in his attempts to kill the ever-shifting shadows dancing on the wall of sunlit rocks.
This verse explains the state of the mind which has failed in the Abyss—the student becomes insane.
65. Beware, lest in the care of Self thy Soul should lose her foothold on the soil of Deva-knowledge.
66. Beware, lest in forgetting SELF, thy Soul lose o’er its trembling mind control, and forfeit thus the due fruition of its conquests.
These two verses seem to mean that any attention to Self would prevent one crossing the Abyss, while in the event of any inattention to Self the mind would revolt. In other words, “Soul” means Neshamah, and it is important for Neshamah to fix its attention on Chiah, rather than on Ruach.
67. Beware of change! For change is thy great foe. This change will fight thee off, and throw thee back, out of the Path thou treadest, deep into viscous swamps of doubt.
The only difficulty in this verse is the word “change.” People who are meditating often get thrown off by the circumstances of their lives, and these circumstances must be controlled absolutely. It should, however, also be taken to refer to any change in one’s methods of meditation. You should make up your mind thoroughly to a given scheme of action, and be bound by it. A man is perfectly hopeless if, on finding one Mantra unsuccessful, he tries another. There is cumulative effect in all mystic and magical work; and the mantra you have been doing, however bad, is the best one to go on with.
68. Prepare, and be forewarned in time. If thou hast tried and failed, O dauntless fighter, yet lose not courage: fight on and to the charge return again, and yet again.
Verse 68 confirms our interpretation of these verses.
69. The fearless warrior, his precious life-blood oozing from his wide and gaping wounds, will still attack the foe, drive him from out his stronghold, vanquish him, ere he himself expires. Act then, all ye who fail and suffer, act like him; and from the stronghold of your Soul, chase all your foes away—ambition, anger, hatred, e’en to the shadow of desire—when even you have failed.
70. Remember, thou that fightest for man’s liberation, each failure is success, and each sincere attempt wins its reward in time. The holy germs that sprout and grow unseen in the disciple’s soul, their stalks wax strong at each new trial, they bend like reeds but never break, nor can they e’er be lost. But when the hour has struck they blossom forth
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
But if thou cam’st prepared, then have no fear.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
These verses explain the cumulative effect of which we spoke. It is very hard to persist, because very often we seem to make no progress. There is the water on the fire, and nothing whatever appears to be happening. But without warning it suddenly boils. You may get the temperature to 99° and keep it at 99° for a thousand years, and the water will not boil. It is the last step that does the trick.
One remark in this connection may be useful: “A watched pot never boils.” The student must practice complete detachment—must reach the stage when he does not care two pence whether he attains or not, while at the same time he pursues eagerly the Path of attainment. This is the ideal attitude. It is very well brought out in Parsifal. Klingsor, on having his error pointed out to him, said “Oh, that’s quite easy,” took a knife, and removed all danger of his ever making the same mistake again. Returning, full of honest pride in his achievement, he found himself more ignominiously rejected than before. Ultimately the sacred lance is brought back into the Hall where is the Grail, and there, at the right moment, not moved by desire, not seduced by cunning Kundry, but of his own nature, the sacrifice may be accomplished.
So, as previously explained, it is important not to keep on worrying about one’s progress; otherwise all the concentration is lost, and a mood of irritability rises, work is given up, and the student becomes angry with his Teacher. His Mind-Soul becomes as a mad elephant that rages in the jungle. He may even obtain the Vision of the Demon Crowley. But by persistence in the appointed Path, by avoiding disappointment through not permit ting the fiend Hope to set its suckers on your Soul, by quietly continuing the appointed discourse in spite of Mara and his hosts, the wheel comes full circle, the hour strikes, the talipot palm blossoms, and all is fun and feasting, like Alice when she got to the Eighth Square.
It is my daily prayer that I may be spared to write a complete commentary on the extremely mystical works of the Rey. C. L. Dodgson.
Please note the two lines of dots for the last paragraph of this verse. It is that final scene of Parsifal, which words are unfitted to express.
71. Henceforth thy way is clear right through Vīrya gate, the fifth one of the Seven Portals. Thou art now on the way that leadeth to the Dhyāna haven, the sixth, the Bodhi Portal.
72. The Dhyāna gate is like an alabaster vase, white and transparent; within there burns a steady golden fire, the flame of Pragnyā that radiates from Ātmān.
Thou art that vase.
73. Thou hast estranged thyself from objects of the senses, traveled on the “Path of seeing,” on the “Path of hearing,” and standest in the light of Knowledge. Thou hast now reached Titikshā state.
O Narjol, thou art safe.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In these three verses the passage to the sixth Gate is made clear. There is no longer any struggle, there is but the golden fire within the alabaster vase, and thou art that vase. Mate and female are again interchanged. Above Chiah and Neshamah is Yechidah, and in the lower aspect of that, one has again become the receptacle of the Infinite, not that which penetrates the Infinite.
There are two formulæ of making two things one. The active formula is that of the arrow piercing the rainbow, the Cross erected upon the Hill of Golgotha, and so on. But the passive formula is that of the cup into which the wine is poured, that of the cloud which wraps itself around Ixion. It is very annoying to hear that the Narjol is safe. This is Œdipus-Complex. Why not “Safe in the arms of Jesus”? Devil fly away with this ‘eternal rest‘ stuff! Give me a night’s rest now and again; a dip into the tao, and then—off we go again!
74. Know, Conqueror of Sins, once that a Sowani hath cross’d the seventh Path, all Nature thrills with joyous awe and feels subdued. The silver star now twinkles out the news to the night-blossoms, the streamlet to the pebbles ripples out the tale; dark ocean-waves will roar it to the rocks surf-bound, scent-laden breezes sing it to the vales, and stately pines mysteriously whisper: “A Master has arisen, A MASTER OF THE DAY.”
There is a further terrible confusion between the personal progress of the man, and his progress in relation to his incarnations.
It cannot be too clearly understood that these things are altogether different. Blavatsky’s attempt to mix up Hinduism and Buddhism is productive of constant friction. The first Path in Dhyana has nothing whatever to do with being a Srotapatti. It is perfectly clear that you could be Master of the eight Jhanas with no more hope of becoming a Srotapatti than a Pwe-dancer.
However, this is an extremely poetical description of what happens on the seventh Path.
You must notice that there is a certain amount of confusion between the Paths and the Portals at the end of them. Apparently one does not reach the seventh Gate till the end of the treatise. “A Master of the Day” is said to refer to the Manvantara, but it is also an obvious phrase where day is equivalent to Sun.
75. He standeth now like a white pillar to the west, upon whose face the rising Sun of thought eternal poureth forth its first most glorious waves. His mind, like a becalmed and boundless ocean, spreadeth out in shore less space. He holdeth life and death in his strong hand.
It is interesting to notice that he is still in the West. This is the penultimate stage. He is really now practically identical with Mayan himself. He has met and conquered the maker of illusion, become one with him, and his difficulty will then be so to complete that work, that it shall be centred on itself, and leave no seed that may subsequently germinate and destroy all that has been accomplished.
76. Yea, he is mighty. The living power made free in him, that power which is HIMSELF, can raise the tabernacle of illusion high above the gods, above great Brahm and Indra. Now he shall surely reach his great reward!
The temptation at this point is to create an Universe. He is able: the necessity of so doing is strong within Him, and He may perhaps even imagine that He can make one which shall be free from the Three Characteristics. Evelyn Hall—an early love of mine—used to say: “God Almighty—or words to that effect— has no conscience”; and in the tremendous state of mind in which He is, a state of Cosmic priapism, He may very likely see red, care nothing for what may result to Himself or His victim, and, violently projecting Himself on the Akasa, may fertilize it, and the Universe begin once more.
In Liber I. seems as if this must be done, as if it were part of the Work, and Liber Legis, if I understand it aught, would inculcate the same. For to US the Three Characteristics and the Four Noble Truths are lies—the laws of Illusion. Ours is the Palace of the Grail, not Klingsor’s Castle.
77. Shall he not use the gifts which it confers for his own rest and bliss, his well-earn’d weal and glory—he, the subduer of the Great Delusion?
It is now seen that He should not do this, although He is able. He should on the contrary take up the burden of a Magus. This whole passage will be found in much clearer language in Liber One, Equinox VII.
78. Nay, O thou candidate for Nature’s hidden lore! If one would follow in the steps of holy Tathāgata, those gifts and powers are not for Self.
It should be noticed that this is not quite identical with the way in which the Master of the Temple detaches the being that was once called “Self” to fling it down from the Abyss that it may ‘appear in the Heaven of Jupiter as a morning star or as an evening star, to give light to them that dwell upon the earth.’ This Magus is a much stronger person than the Master of the Temple. He is the creative force, while the Master is merely the receptive. But in these verses 78, 79, 80, it might be very easily supposed that it was merely a recapitulation of the former remarks, and I am inclined to think that there is a certain amount of confusion in the mind of the Author between these two grades. She attained only the lower. But careful study of these verses will incline the reader to perceive that it is a new creation which is here spoken of, not a mere amelioration.
The only really difficult verse on this interpretation is 86. There is a lot of sham sentiment in this verse. It gives an entirely false picture of the Adept, who does not whine, who does not play Pecksniff. All this business about protecting man from far greater misery and sorrow is absurd. For example, in one passage H. P. B. explains that the lowest hell is a man-bearing Planet.
There is a certain amount of melancholia with delusions of persecution about this verse. Natural, perhaps, to one who was betrayed and robbed by Vittoria Cremers?
79. Would’st thou thus dam the waters born on Sumeru? Shalt thou divert the stream for thine own sake, or send it back to its prime source along the crests of cycles?
It is here seen that the ideal proposed by the Author is by no means rest or immobility. The Path, or rather the Goal, is symbolized as a swift and powerful stream, and the great mystery is revealed that the Path itself is the Goal.
“Were the world understood
Ye would see it was good,
A dance to a delicate measure.”
This is also the doctrine indicated in all the works of Fra Perdurabo. You can see it in Liber 418, where, as soon as a certain stage is reached, the great curse turns into an ineffable blessing. In The Book of Lies, too, the same idea is stated again and again, with repetition only unwearying because of the beauty and variety of the form.
“Everything is sorrow,” says the Buddha. Quite so, to begin with. We analyze the things we deem least sorrow, and find that by taking a long enough period, or a short enough period, we can prove them to be the most exquisite agony. Such is the attempt of all Buddhist writers, and their even feebler Western imitators. But once the secret of the universe is found, then everything is joy. The proposition is quite as universal.
80. If thou would’st have that stream of hard-earn’d knowledge, of Wisdom heaven-.born, remain sweet running waters, thou should’st not leave it to become a stagnant pond.
Here we have the same thesis developed with unexpected force. So far from the Path being repose, the slightest slackening turns it stagnant.
81. Know, if of Amitābha, the “Boundless Age,” thou would’st become co-worker, then must thou shed the light acquired, like to the Bodhisattvas twain, upon the span of all three worlds.
The same doctrine is still further detailed, but I cannot give the authority by which Blavatsky speaks of Kwan-shi-yin as a Bodhisattva. It will become abundantly evident in the comment to verse 97 that Blavatsky had not the remotest idea as to what a Bodhisattva was and is. But it is quite true that you have to shed light in the manner indicated if you are going to live the life of a Magus.
82. Know that the stream of superhuman knowledge and the Deva-Wisdom thou hast won, must, from thyself, the channel of Ālaya, be poured forth into another bed.
Still further develops the same doctrine. You have acquired the supreme creative force. You are the Word, and it must be spoken (verse 83). There is a good deal of anticlimax in verse 83, and a peculiarly unnecessary split infinitive.
Blavatsky’s difficulty seems to have been that although she is always talking of the advance of the good Narjol, he never seems to advance in point of view. Now, on the threshold of the last Path, he is still an ordinary person with vague visionary yearnings! It is true that He wishes the unity of ah that lives, complete harmony in the parts, and perfect light in the whole. It is also true that He may spend a great deal of time in killing or other wise instructing men, but He has not got at all the old conception. The ordinary Buddhist is quite unable to see anything but details. Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya once refused to undertake the superintendence of a coconut plantation, because he found that he would have to give orders for the destruction of vermin. But (with the best feeling in the world) he had to eat rice, and the people who cultivated the rice had to destroy a lot of vermin too. One cannot escape responsibility in this vicarious way. It is peculiarly silly, because the whole point of Buddha’s position is that there is no escape. The Buddhist regulations are comparable to orders which might have been, but were not, because he was not mad, given by the Captain of the “Titanic” to caulk the planks after the ship had been cut in two.
83. Know, O Narjol, thou of the Secret Path, its pure fresh waters must be used to sweeter make the Ocean’s bitter waves—that mighty sea of sorrow formed of the tears of men.
84. Alas! when once thou hast become like the fixed star in highest heaven, that bright celestial orb must shine from out the spatial depths for all—save for itself; give light to all, but take from none.
It is incomparably annoying to see this word “Alas!” at the head of this verse as a pure oxymoron with the rest of the text. Is stupid, unseeing selfishness so firmly fixed in the nature of man that even at this height he still laments? Do not believe it. It is interesting here to note the view taken by Him who has actually attained the Grade of Magus. He says: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. It may be those three perfections of my Sambhogakaya Robe, but the fact is that one has reached a stage when the Path becomes almost meaningless. The illusion of Sorrow has been exposed so ruthlessly that one can hardly realize that one, or anyone else, can ever have been in such a silly muddle. It seems so perfectly natural that everything should be just as it is, and so right, that one is quite startled if one contemplates the nature of one’s Star, which led one into these “grave paths.” The only “wrong” is the thinking about anything at all; this is of course the old “Thought is evil” on a higher plane. One gets to understand the Upanishad which tells us how The Original It made the error of contemplating itself, of becoming self-conscious; and one also perceives the stupendous transcendentalism concealed in the phrase of The Book of the Law: “Enough of Because! Be he damned for a dog!” This Universe—the IO PAN PAN and the OIMOI TALANOI too—is a Play of Our Merry Lady. It is as natural to have all this heavy stuff about the Weary Pilgrim’s Bleeding Feet, and the Candidate for Woe, and all that, as it is for Theseus and Hippolyta to decide that Pyramus and Thisbe may amuse them. The Public will then kindly excuse the Magus if He be of a nature, and in a mood, to decline to take the tragedy too seriously, and to mock the crude buffooneries of Bottom. Perhaps it would be better taste in Him to draw the curtains of His box. But it is at least His pleasure to reward the actors. Love is the law, love under will.”
85. Alas! when once thou hast become tike the pure snow in mountain vales, cold and unfeeling to the touch, warm and protective to the seed that sleepeth deep beneath its bosom—’tis now that snow which must receive the biting frost, the northern blasts, thus shielding from their sharp and cruel tooth the earth that holds the promised harvest, the harvest that will feed the hungry.
Surely a better image would have been the Mother, and does the Mother complain or rejoice? It is also a bad image, this of the snow. Is snow in any way incommoded by the biting frosts, the northern blasts?
86. Self-doomed to live through future Kalpas, unthanked and unperceived by man; wedged as a stone with count less other stones which form the “Guardian Wall,” such is thy future if the seventh Gate thou passest. Built by the hands of many Masters of Compassion, raised by their tortures, by their blood cemented, it shields mankind, since man is man, protecting it from further and far greater misery and sorrow.
Comment has already been made upon this verse.
87. Withal man sees it not, will not perceive it, nor will he heed the word of Wisdom … for he knows it not.
Here indeed is the only sorrow that could seem, even for a moment, likely to touch the Adept. It is rather annoying that the great prize offered so freely to men is scorned by them. But this is only if the Adept fall for one moment to the narrower view, accept the conventional outlook on the universe. If only he remember that very simple and elementary instruction that the Magician must work as if he had Omnipotence at his command and Eternity at his disposal, He will not repine.
88. But thou hast heard it, thou knowest all, O thou of eager guileless Soul … and thou must choose. Then hearken yet again.
This verse introduces the climax of this treatise.
89. On Sowan’s Path, O Srotāpatti, thou art secure. Aye (sic), on that Mārga, where nought but darkness meets the weary pilgrim, where torn by thorns the hands drip blood, the feet are cut by sharp unyielding flints, and Māra wields his strongest arms—there lies a great reward immediately beyond.
It is not at all clear to what stage of the Path this refers. In verse 91 it appears to refer to the Dhyana Path, but the Dhyana Path has been described in entirely different terms in verses 71 to 73, and it is certainly a quite bad description of the condition of Srotapatti.
I think the tragic note is struck for effect. Damn all these tortures and rewards! Has the Narjol no manhood at all?
90. Calm and unmoved the Pilgrim glideth up the stream that to Nirvāna leads. He knoweth that the more his feet will bleed, the whiter will himself be washed. He knoweth well that after seven short and fleeting births Nirvāna will be his.
Here is again a totally un-Buddhistic description.
It appears to me rather a paraphrase of the well-known
“Sweeping through the gates of the New Jerusalem,
Washed in the Blood of the Lamb.”
91. Such is the Dhyāna Path, the haven of the Yogi, the blessed goal that Srotāpattis crave.
Again the confusion of the attainment of the Student with regard to spiritual experience, and his attainment with regard to his grade. There is connection between these, but it is not a close and invariable one. A man might get quite a hot of Samadhi, and still be many lives away from Srotapatti.
92. Not so when he hath crossed and won the Āryahata Path.
From here to verse 95 is description of this last Path which heads to the last Gate.
93. There Klesha is destroyed for ever, Tanhā’s roots torn out. But stay, Disciple … Yet, one word. Canst thou destroy divine COMPASSION? Compassion is no attribute. It is the Law of LAWS—eternal Harmony, Ālaya’s SELF; a shoreless universal essence, the light of everlasting Right, and fitness of all things, the law of Love eternal.
Here again is apparently a serious difficulty. The idea of Klesha, here identified with Love of worldly enjoyment, seems to put one back almost before the beginning. Is it now only that the almost-Arhat no longer wants to go to the theatre? It must not be interpreted in this low sense. At the same time, it is difficult to discover a sense high enough to fit the passage. With Tanha it is easier to find a meaning, for Madame seems to identify Tanha with the creative force of which we have spoken. But this is of course incompatible with the Buddhist teaching on the subject. Tanha is properly defined as the hunger of the individual for continuous personal existence, either in a material or a spiritual sense.
With regard to the rest of the verse, it certainly reads as if yet again Blavatsky had taken the sword to a Gordian knot. By saying that Compassion is no attribute she is merely asserting what is evidently not true, and she therefore defines it in a peculiar way, and I am afraid that she does so in a somewhat misleading manner. It would be improper here to disclose what is presumably the true meaning of this verse. One can only commend it to the earnest consideration of members of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis, the IX○ of the O.T.O.
94. The more thou dost become at one with it, thy being melted in its BEING, the more thy Soul unites with that which IS, the more thou wilt become COMPASSION ABSOLUTE.
This verse throws a little further light upon its predecessor. COMPASSION is really a certain Chinese figure whose names are numerous. One of them is BAPHOMET.
95. Such is the Ārya Path, Path of the Buddhas of perfection.
This closes the subject.
96. Withal, what mean the sacred scrolls which make thee say?
“Om! I believe it is not all the Arhats that get of the Nirvānic Path the sweet fruition.”
“Om! I believe that the Nirvāna-Dharma is entered not by ah the Buddhas.”
Here, however, we come to the question of the final renunciation. It is undoubtedly true that one may push spiritual experience to the point of complete attainment without ever undertaking the work of a Dhamma-Buddha, though it seems hard to believe that at no period during that progress will it have become clear that the Complete Path is downwards as well as upwards.
97. Yea; on the Arya Path thou art no more Srotāpatti, thou art a Bodhisattva. The stream is cross’d. ‘Tis true thou hast a right to Dharmakāya vesture; but Sambhogakāya is greater than a Nirvānī, and greater still is a Nirmanakāya—the Buddha of Compassion.
Here once more we perceive the ignorance of the Author with reference to all matters of mystic terminology, an ignorance which would have been amusing indeed had she hived ten years hater. A Bodhisattva is simply a being which has culminated in a Buddha. If you or I became Buddhas to-morrow, then ah our previous incarnations were Bodhisattvas, and therefore, as there shall not be a single grain of dust which shall not attain to Buddhahood, every existing thing is in a way a Bodhisattva. But of course in practice the term is confined to these special incarnations of the only Buddha of whom we have any such record. It is, therefore, ridiculous to place Srotapatti as a Soul of inferior grade to Bodhisattva. Buddha did not become a Srotapatti until seven incarnations before he attained to Buddhahood.
The hast part of the verse and the long note (of which we quote the gist) are nonsense. To describe a complete Buddha as “an ideal breath; Consciousness merged in the Universal Consciousness, or Soul devoid of every attribute,” is not Buddhism at all, and is quite incompatible with Buddhism.
98. Now bend thy head and listen well, O Bodhisattva—Compassion speaks and saith: “Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?”
Now thou hast heard that which was said.
Again we descend to the anticlimax of a somewhat mawkish sentimentality. Again we find the mistake of duality, of that opposition between self and others which, momentarily destroyed even in the most elementary periods of Samadhi, is completely wiped out by progress through the grades. The Path would indeed be a Treadmill if one always remained in this Salvation Army mood.
99. Thou shall attain the seventh step and cross the gate of final knowledge but only to wed woe—if thou would’st be Tathagata, follow upon thy predecessor’s steps, remain unselfish till the endless end.
Thou art enlightened—Choose thy way.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The anti-climax is now complete. Knowledge is by no means the last step. Knowledge has been finished with even by the Master of the Temple, and all this question of wedding woe, remaining unselfish till the endless end, is but poetic bombast, based upon misconception. It is as puerile as the crude conceptions of many Christian Sects.
100. Behold, the mellow Light that floods the Eastern sky. In signs of praise both heaven and earth unite. And from the four-fold manifested Powers a chant of love ariseth, both from the flaming Fire and flowing Water, and from sweet-smelling Earth and rushing Wind.
Hark! … from the deep unfathomable vortex of that golden light in which the Victor bathes, ALL NATURE’S wordless voice in thousand tones ariseth to proclaim!
JOY UNTO YE, O MEN OF MYALBA.
A PILGRIM HATH RETURNED BACK
“FROM THE OTHER SHORE.”
A NEW ARHAN IS BORN.
Peace to all Beings.
Here, however, we get something like real poetry. This, and not the Pi-Jaw, should be taken as the key to this Masterpiece.
Love is the law, love under will.
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