No doubt but ye are the people and wisdom shall die with you.
JOB xii. 2.
But wisdom is justified of her children.
MATTHEW xi. 19.
It is the privilege as also occasionally
the curse of editors to receive numerous letters of advice, and
the conductors of Lucifer have not escaped the common lot.
Reared in the aphorisms of the ages they are aware that "he
who can take advice is superior to him who gives it," and
are therefore ready to accept with gratitude any sound and practical
suggestions offered by friends; but the last letter received does
not fulfill the condition. It is not even his own wisdom, but
that of the age we live in, which is asserted by our adviser,
who thus seriously risks his reputation for keen observationby such acts of devotion on the altar of modern pretensions.
It is in defense of the "wisdom" of our century that
we are taken to task, and charged with "preferring barbarous
antiquity to our modern civilization and its inestimable boons,"
with forgetting that "our own-day wisdom compared with the
awakening instincts of the Past is in no way inferior in philosophic
wisdom even to the age of Plato." We are lastly told
that we, Theosophists, are "too fond of the dim yesterday,
and as unjust to our glorious (?) present-day, the bright noon-hour
of the highest civilization and culture"!!
Well, all this is a question of taste. Our correspondent is welcome
to his own views, but so are we to ours. Let him imagine that
the Eiffel Tower dwarfs the Pyramid of Ghizeh into a mole-hill,
and the Crystal Palace grounds transform the hanging gardens of
Semiramis into a kitchen-garden if he likes. But if we are seriously
"challenged" by him to show "in what respect our
age of hourly progress and gigantic thought" a progress
a trifle marred, however, by our Huxleys being denounced by our
Surgeons, and the University ladies, senior classics and wranglers,
by the "hallelujah lasses" is inferior to the ages
of, say, a hen-pecked "Socrates and a cross-legged Buddha,"
then we will answer him, giving him, of course, our own personal
Our age, we say, is inferior in Wisdom to any other, because it
professes, more visibly every day, contempt for truth and justice,
without which there can be no Wisdom. Because our civilization,
built up of shams and appearances, is at best like a beautiful
green morass, a bog, spread over a deadly quagmire. Because this
century of culture and worship of matter, while offering prizes
and premiums for every "best thing" under the
Sun, from the biggest baby and the largest orchid down to the
strongest pugilist and the fattest pig, has no encouragement to
offer to morality; no prize to give for any moral virtue. Because
it has Societies for the prevention of physical cruelty to animals,
and none with the object of preventing the moral cruelty practiced
on human beings. Because it encourages, legally and tacitly, vice
under every form, from the sale of whiskey down to forced prostitution
and theft brought on by starvation wages, Shylock-like exaction,
rents and other comforts of our cultured period. Because, finally,
this is the age which, although proclaimed as one of physical
and moral freedom, is in truth the age of the most ferocious moral
and mental slavery, the like of which was never known before.
Slavery to State and men has disappeared only to make room
for slavery to things and Self, to one's own vices
and idiotic social customs and ways. Rapid civilization, adapted
to the needs of the higher and middle classes, has doomed by contrast
to only greater wretchedness the starving masses. Having leveled
the two former it has made them the more to disregard the substance
in favor of form and appearance, thus forcing modern man into
duress vile, a slavish dependence on things inanimate, to use
and to serve which is the first bounded duty of every cultured man.
Where then is the Wisdom of our modern age?
In truth, it requires but a very few lines to show why we bow
before ancient Wisdom, while refusing absolutely to see any in
our modem civilization. But to begin with, what does our critic
mean by the word "wisdom"? Though we have never too
unreasonably admired Lactantius, yet we must recognize that even
that innocent Church Father, with all his cutting insults anent
the heliocentric system, defined the term very correctly when
saying that "the first point of Wisdom is to discern that
which is false, and the second, to know that which is true."
And if so. what chance is there for our century of falsification,
from the revised Bible texts down to natural butter, to put forth
a claim to "Wisdom"? But before we cross lances on this
subject we may do well, perchance, to define the term ourselves.
Let us premise by saying that Wisdom is, at best, an elastic word
at any rate as used in European tongues. That it yields no clear
idea of its meaning, unless preceded or followed by some qualifying
adjective. In the Bible, indeed, the Hebrew equivalent Chokmah (in Greek, Sophia) is applied to the most dissimilar
things abstract and concrete. Thus we find "Wisdom"
as the characteristic both of divine inspiration and also of terrestrial
cunning and craft; as meaning the Secret Knowledge of the Esoteric
Sciences, and also blind faith; the "fear of the Lord,"
and Pharaoh's magicians. The noun is indifferently applied to
Christ and to sorcery, for the witch Sedecla is also referred
to as the "wise woman of En-Dor." From the earliest
Christian antiquity, beginning with St. James (iii, 13-17), down
to the last Calvinist preacher, who sees in hell and eternal damnation
a proof of "the Almighty's wisdom," the term
has been used with the most varied meanings. But St. James teaches
two kinds of wisdom; a teaching with which we fully concur. He
draws a strong line of separation between the divine or noëtic "Sophia" the Wisdom from above and the terrestrial,
psychic, and devilish wisdom (iii, 15). For the true Theosophist
there is no wisdom save the former. Would that such an one could
declare with Paul, that he speaks that wisdom exclusively only
among them "that are perfect," i.e., those initiated
into its mysteries, or familiar, at least, with the A B C of the
sacred sciences. But, however great was his mistake, however premature
his attempt to sow the seeds of the true and eternal gnosis
on unprepared soil, his motives were yet good and his intention
unselfish, and therefore has he been stoned. For had he
only attempted to preach some particular fiction of his own, or
done it for gain, who would have ever singled him out or tried
to crush him, amid the hundreds of other false sects, daily "collections"
and crazy "societies"? But his case was different. However
cautiously, still he spoke "not the wisdom of this world"
but truth or the "hidden wisdom . . . which none of
the Princes of this World know (I Corinth. ii.) least of all the archons of our modern science. With regard to "psychic"
wisdom, however, which James defines as terrestrial and devilish,
it has existed in all ages, from the days of Pythagoras and Plato,
when for one philosophus there were nine sophistae, down to our modern era. To such wisdom our century is welcome,
and indeed fully entitled, to lay a claim. Moreover, it is an
attire easy to put on; there never was a period when crows refused
to array themselves in peacock's feathers, I if the opportunity
But now as then, we have a right to analyze the terms used and
inquire in the words of the book of Job, that suggestive allegory
of Karmic purification and initiation rites: "Where shall
(true) wisdom be found? Where is the place of understanding?"
and to answer again in his words: "With the ancient is wisdom and in the length of days understanding" (Job
xxviii, 12 and xii, 12).
Here we have to qualify once more a dubious term, viz: the word
"ancient," and to explain it. As interpreted by the
orthodox churches, it has in the mouth of Job one meaning; but
with the Kabalist, quite another; while in the Gnosis of the Occultist
and Theosophist it has distinctly a third signification, the same
which it had in the original Book of Job, a pre-Mosaic
work and a recognized treatise on Initiation. Thus, the Kabalist
applies the adjective "ancient" to the Manifested WORD or LOGOS (Dabar) of the forever concealed
and uncognizable deity. Daniel, in one of his visions, also uses
it when speaking of Jahve the androgynous Adam Kadmon. The Church
man connects it with his anthropomorphic Jehovah, the "Lord
God" of the translated Bible. But the Eastern Occultist
employs the mystic term only when referring to the reincarnating
higher Ego. For, divine Wisdom being diffused throughout the infinite
Universe, and our impersonal HIGHER SELF being an integral part of it, the atmic light of the latter
can be centered only in that which though eternal is still individualized i.e., the noëtic Principle, the manifested God within each
rational being, or our Higher Manas at one with Buddhi. It is this collective light which is the "Wisdom that
is from above," and which whenever it descends on the personal
Ego, is found "pure, peaceable, gentle." Hence, Job's
assertion that "Wisdom is with the Ancient," or Buddhi-Manas. For the Divine Spiritual "I," is alone eternal,
and the same throughout all births; whereas5 the "personalities"
it informs in succession are evanescent, changing like the shadows
of a kaleidoscopic series of forms in a magic lantern It is the
"Ancient," because, whether it be called Sophia, Krishna,
Buddhi-Manas or Christos, it is ever the "first-born"
of Alaya-Mahat, the Universal Soul and the Intelligence
of the Universe. Esoterically then, Job's statement must read:
"With the Ancient (man's Higher Ego) is Wisdom, and in the
length of days (or number of its re-incarnations) is understanding."
No man can learn true and final Wisdom in one birth; and every
new rebirth, whether we be reincarnated for weal or for woe, is
one more lesson we receive at the hands of the stern yet ever
just schoolmaster KARMIC LIFE.
But the world the Western world, at any rate knows nothing of
this, and refuses to learn anything. For it, any notion of the
Divine Ego or the plurality of its births is "heathen foolishness."
The Western world rejects these truths, and will recognize no wise men except those of its own making, created in its
own image, born within its own Christian era and teachings. The
only "wisdom" it understands and practices is the psychic,
the "terrestrial and devilish" wisdom spoken of by James,
thus making of the real Wisdom a misnomer and a degradation.
Yet, without considering her multiplied varieties, there are two
kinds of even "terrestrial" wisdom on our globe of mud the
real and the apparent. Between the two, there is even for the
superficial observer of this busy wicked world, a wide chasm,
and yet how very few people will consent to see it! The reason
for this is quite natural. So strong is human selfishness, that
wherever there is the smallest personal interest at stake, there
men become deaf and blind to the truth, as often consciously as
not. Nor are many people capable of recognizing as speedily as
is advisable the difference between men who are wise and those
who only seem wise, the latter being chiefly regarded as
such because they are very clever at blowing their own trumpet.
So much for "wisdom" in the profane world.
As to the world of the students in mystic lore, it is almost worse.
Things have strangely altered since the days of antiquity, when
the truly wise made it their first duty to conceal their knowledge,
deeming it too sacred to even mention before the hoi polloi. While the mediæval Rosecroix, the true philosopher,
keeping old Socrates in mind, repeated daily that all he knew
was that he knew nothing, his modern self-styled successor announces
in our day, through press and public, that those mysteries in
Nature and her Occult laws of which he knows nothing, have never
existed at all. There was a time when the acquirement of Divine
Wisdom (Sapientia) required the sacrifice and devotion
of a man's whole life. It depended on such things as the purity
of the candidate's motives, on his fearlessness and independence
of spirit; but now, to receive a patent for wisdom and adept-ship
requires only unblushing impudence. A certificate of divine wisdom
is now decreed, and delivered to a self-styled "Adeptus" by a regular majority of votes of profane and easily caught
gulls, while a host of magpies driven away from the roof of the
Temple of Science will herald it to the world in every marketplace
and fair. Tell the public that now, even as of old, the genuine
and sincere observer of life and its underlying phenomena, the
intelligent co-worker with nature, may, by becoming an expert
in her mysteries thereby become a "wise" man, in the
terrestrial sense of the word, but that never will a materialist wrench from nature any secret on a higher plane and you will
be laughed to scorn. Add, that no "wisdom from above"
descends on any one save on the sine quâ non
condition of leaving at the threshold of the Occult every atom
of selfishness, or desire for personal ends and benefit and you
will be speedily declared by your audience a candidate for the
lunatic asylum. Nevertheless, this is an old, very old truism.
Nature gives up her innermost secrets and imparts true wisdom
only to him, who seeks truth for its own sake, and who craves
for knowledge in order to confer benefits on others, not on his
own unimportant personality. And, as it is precisely to this personal
benefit that nearly every candidate for adept-ship and magic
looks, and that few are they, who consent to learn at such a heavy
price and so small a benefit for themselves in prospect the really
wise Occultists become with every century fewer and rarer.
How many are there, indeed, who would not prefer the will-o'-the-wisp
of even passing fame to the steady and ever-growing light of eternal, divine knowledge, if the latter has to remain, for all
but oneself a light under the bushel?
The same is the case in the world of materialistic science, where
we see a great paucity of really learned men and a host of skin-deep
scientists, who yet demand each and all to be regarded as Archimedes
and Newtons. As above so below. Scholars who pursue knowledge
for the sake of truth and fact, and give these out, however unpalatable,
and not for the dubious glory of enforcing on the world their
respective personal hobbies may be counted on the fingers of
one hand: while legion is the name of the pretenders. In our day,
reputations for learning seem to be built by suggestion on the
hypnotic principle, rather than by real merit. The masses cower
before him who imposes himself upon them: hence such a galaxy
of men regarded as eminent in science, arts and literature;
and if they are so easily accepted, it is precisely because of
the gigantic self-opinionated and self-assertion of, at any rate,
the majority of them. Once thoroughly analyzed, however, how many
of such would remain who truly deserve the appellation of "wise"
even in terrestrial wisdom? How many, we ask, of the so-called
authorities" and "leaders of men" would prove much
better than those of whom it was said by one "wise"
indeed "they be blind leaders of the blind"? That the
teachings of neither our modern teachers nor preachers are "wisdom
from above" is fully demonstrated. It is proved not by any
personal incorrectness in their statements or mistakes in life,
for "to err is but human," but by incontrovertible facts. Wisdom and Truth are synonymous terms, and that
which is false or well-known representative of the Church of England,
that the Sermon of the Mount would, in its practical application,
mean utter ruin for his country less than three weeks; and if it is no less true, as asserted by a literary critic of science,
that "the knell of Charles Darwinism is rung in Mr. A.R.
Wallace's present book,"1 an event already
by Quatrefages then we are left to choose between two courses.
We have either to take both Theology and Science on blind faith
and trust; or, to proclaim both untrue and untrustworthy there
is however, a third course open: to pretend that we believe
in both at the same time, and say nothing, as many do; but
this would be sinning against Theosophy and pandering to the prejudices
of Society and that we refuse to do. More than this: we declare
openly, quand mëme, that not one of the two, neither
Theologist nor Scientist, has the right in the face of this to
claim, the one that he preaches that which is divine inspiration,
and the other exact science; since the former enforces that,
which is on his own recognition, pernicious to men and states i.e.
the ethics of Christ; and the other (in the person of the eminent
naturalist, Mr. A. R. Wallace, as shown by Mr. Samuel Butler)
teaches Darwinian evolution, in which he believes no longer; a
scheme, moreover, which has never existed in nature, if
the opponents of Darwinism are correct.
Nevertheless, if anyone would presume to call "unwise"
or "false" the world-chosen authorities, or declare
their respective policies dishonest, he would find himself promptly
reduced to silence. To doubt the exalted wisdom of the religion
of the late Cardinal Newman, of the Church of England, or again
of our great modern scientists, is to sin against the Holy Ghost
and Culture. Woe unto him who refuses to recognize the World's
"Elect." He has to bow before one or the other, though,
if one is true, the other must be false; and if
the "wisdom" of neither Bishop nor Scientist is "from
above" which is pretty fairly demonstrated by this time then
their "wisdom" is at best "terrestrial, psychic,
Now our readers have to bear in mind that note of the above is
meant as a sign of disrespect for the true teachings of
Christ, or true science: nor do we judge personalities
but only the systems of our civilized world. Valuing freedom of
thought above all things as the only way of reaching at
some future time that Wisdom, of which every Theosophist ought
to be enamored, we recognize the right to the same freedom in
our foes as in our friends. All we contend for is their claim
to Wisdom as we understand this term. Nor do we blame, but rather
pity, in our innermost heart, the "wise men" of our
age for trying to carry out the only policy that will keep them
on the pinnacle of their "authority"; as they could
not, if even they would, act otherwise and preserve their prestige with the masses, or escape from being speedily outcast by
their colleagues. The party spirit is so strong with regard to
the old tracks and ruts, that to turn on a side path means deliberate
treachery to it. Thus, to be regarded now-a-days as an authority
in some particular subject, the scientist has to reject nolens
volens the metaphysical, and the theologian to show contempt
for the materialistic teachings. All this is worldly policy and
practical common sense, but it is not the Wisdom of either
Job or James.
Shall it be then regarded as too far fetched, if, basing our words
on a life-long observation and experience, we venture to offer
our ideas as to the quickest and most efficient means of obtaining
our present World's universal respect and becoming an "authority"?
Show the tender regard for the corns of every party's hobbies,
and offer yourself as the chief executioner, the hangman, of the
reputations of men and things regarded as unpopular. Learn, that
the great secret of power consists in the art of pandering to
popular prejudices, to the World's likes and dislikes. Once this
principal condition complied with, he who practices it is certain
of attracting to himself the educated and their satellites the
less educated they whose rule it is to place themselves invariably
on the safe side of public opinion. This will lead to a perfect
harmony or simultaneous action. For, while the favorite attitude
of the cultured is to hide behind the intellectual bulwarks of
the favorite leaders of scientific thought, and jurare in verba
magistri, that of the less cultured is to transform themselves
into the faithful, mechanical telephones of their superiors, and
to repeat like well-trained parrots the dicta of their
immediate leaders The now aphoristical precept of Mr. Artemus
Ward, the showman of famous memory "Scratch my back, Mr.
Editor, and I will scratch yours" proves immortally true.
The "rising Star," whether he be a theologian,
a politician, an author, a scientist, or a journalist has to
begin scratching the back of public tastes and prejudices a hypnotic
method as old as human vanity. Gradually the hypnotized masses
begin to purr, they are ready for "suggestion." Suggest
whatever you want them to believe, and forthwith they will begin
to return your caresses, and purr now to your hobbies, and pander
in their turn to anything suggested by theologian, politician,
author, scientist, or journalist. Such is the simple secret of
blossoming into an "authority" or a "leader of
men"; and such is the secret of our modern-day wisdom.
And this is also the "secret" and the true reason of
the unpopularity of Lucifer and of the ostracism
practiced by this same modern world on the Theosophical Society:
for neither Lucifer, nor the Society it belongs to, has
ever followed Mr. Artemus Ward's golden precept. No true Theosophist,
in fact, would consent to become the fetish of a fashionable doctrine,
any more than he would make himself the slave of a decaying
dead-letter system, the spirit from which has disappeared for
ever. Neither would he pander to anyone or anything, and therefore
would always decline to show belief in that in which he does not,
nor can he believe, which is lying to his own soul. Therefore
there, where others see "the beauty and graces of modern
culture," the Theosophist sees only moral ugliness and the
somersaults of the clowns of the so-called cultured centres. For
him nothing applies better to modern fashionable society than
Sydney Smith's description of Popish ritualism: "Posture
and imposture, flections and genuflections, bowing to the right,
curtsying to the left, and an immense amount of male (and especially
female) millinery." There may be, no doubt, for some worldly
minds, a great charm in modern civilization; but for the Theosophist
all its bounties can hardly repay for the evils it has brought
on the world. These are so many, that it is not within the limits
of this article to enumerate these offspring of culture and of
the progress of physical science, whose latest achievements begin
with vivisection and end in improved murder by electricity.
Our answer, we have no doubt, is not calculated to make us more
friends than enemies, but this can be hardly helped. Our magazine
may be looked upon as "pessimistic," but no one can
charge it with publishing slanders or lies, or, in fact, anything
but that which we honestly believe to be true. Be it as
it may, however, we hope never to lack moral courage in the expression
of our opinions or in defense of Theosophy and its Society. Let
then nine-tenths of every population arise in arms against the
Theosophical Society wherever it appears they will never be able
to suppress the truths it utters. Let the masses of growing Materialism,
the hosts of Spiritualism, all the Church-going congregations,
bigots and iconoclasts, Grundy-worshippers, aping-followers and
blind disciples, let them slander, abuse, lie, denounce, and publish
every falsehood about us under the sun they will not uproot
Theosophy, nor even upset her Society, if only its members hold
together. Let even such friends and advisers as he who
is now answered, turn away in disgust from those whom he addresses
in vain it matters not, for our two paths in life run diametrically
opposite. Let him keep to his "terrestrial" wisdom:
we will keep to that pure ray "that comes from above,"
from the light of the "Ancient."
What indeed, has WISDOM, Theosophia the Wisdom "full of mercy and good fruits, without
wrangling or partiality and without hypocrisy" (James iii,
17) to do with our cruel, selfish, crafty, and hypocritical
world? What is there in common between divine Sophia and the improvements
of modern civilization and science; between spirit and the letter
that killeth? The more so as at this stage of evolution
the wisest man on earth, according to the wise Carlyle, is but
a clever infant spelling letters from a hieroglyphical, prophetic
book, the lexicon of which lies in eternity."
Lucifer, September, 1890
H. P. Blavatsky
1 See "The Deadlock of Darwinism," by Samuel
Butler, in the Universal Review for April, 1890. back to