Life on our planet is a major school full of difficulties where human beings are being trained, through self-induced efforts and individual experiences, to conquer the sort of knowledge- wisdom that will make them approximate to the level of perfection. Man receives exoteric knowledge through his senses and reason. But, through initiation, he is also given inner knowledge after he becomes ripe morally and mentally.
Exoteric knowledge is in the least worthless because thanks to senses and reason man fashions and perfects his psychological and physical qualities constituting the frame and habitat of his soul. His psychological and physical body is the glass through which the soul observes our worldly things and it is by them that it will give expression to its presently latent spiritual powers in the future.
It is an even harder way that man acquires inner knowledge as such acquisition necessarily requires steadfast contemplation of inner life outpacing senses while it also requires mind control. A sage is one who has transcended the world of senses and desires since the veil of fallacy and oblivion in him has been raised and he has managed to see eternal Truth. He is the one who has conquered knowledge related to the inner causes of phenomena, to universal
laws and their applications as eternal Constants in Nature.
According to Plato, who classifies science in the domain of exoteric knowledge, there must be a superior and more concrete potentiality in science which he calls dialectic. And he adds that “such knowledge would differ from other current sorts of knowledge” in two ways:
a) It would consider all initial scientific deductions as mere starting points for the discovery of further fundamental propositions, that …. are strictly self-luminous and evident (involving no assumptions) as the real “principle of all things”. Having discovered that principle (or aggregate of such principles) it would go on to procure conclusions that would follow logically.
b) In this process there would be no turning to a sense originating imagination. The twofold process of ascent to “the first principle of everything” and re-descent would proceed “through ideas to ideas and finish with Ideas” (VI, 511 b-c). We could say that “dialectic” would revoke the postulates of all existing sciences “by the destruction of assumptions” (Z 533c), because through dialectic are brought forward even more fundamental truths. The role of dialectic, which is superior even to mathematics, is to guide directly to the vision of Good, which, being the supreme Idea, is the ultimate end in philosophical study.
“These sciences treat their assumptions as first principles and, though compelled to use reason and not sense- perception in surveying their subject-matter, because they proceed in their investigations from assumptions and not to a first principle, they do not exercise intelligence on it, even though with the aid of a first principle it is intelligible” (“The Republic”, 511 c-d, Glaucon).
On the grounds of this assumption-free postulate, which is the being of Self –Existence over anything sensible and mental, stands Great Knowledge telling us that:
Human life is a cyclic journey from the invisible world of the Soul to the visible world of physical life, its purpose being, as the Theosophical teachings tell us, for us to realize the origin of our existence, to become aware that we are expansions of spiritual forces and the product of inner causes.
During recurring cycles of birth and death, man progressively learns how to distinguish the temporarily sensible from the everlasting, developing and organizing in the mean time those inner powers that help bridge his passage from the finite to the immortal.
Ancient Wisdom maintains that this is the only purpose for our being here on earth, a purpose sustained by laws, compelling individual life to get educated and progress in life. Such are the laws of Necessity. They are known as laws of Karma and Reincarnation. Karma is the law restoring to its original equilibrium and harmony everything shaken by the will of the individual, through unintelligible to us wisdom and justice. And the law of periodic cyclic movement, known as Reincarnation, is the one restoring the human soul into a human body in the same conditions so that man can learn by repetition, which is the mother of learning, to wish and practice only what is in tune with Universal Harmony.
Therefore, for our spiritual perfection to be attained, apart from the laws of Necessity, the law of Grace or Compassion holds good, as well. This law provides mankind with Spiritual knowledge which is the emanation of Divine Thought and reaches us thanks to a host of spiritual leaders, sages and great initiates. It is they who convey and disseminate it throughout nations and human races in occult teachings and religions. Their mission is to keep reminding man of his divine descent, his purpose in life and to show him how he can regain his emanation cradle.
Spiritual Hierarchy indicates to us the ways to transcend the personal self through a) Inner Knowledge b) worship, devotion – religion c) dialectic- meditation and d) service and giving, in every aspect of life.
The four paths guiding the human soul from shadow onto light have a single direction; the soul’s unison with the Divine source wherefrom it has sprung. The purpose is one and common to all, it is only the methods that vary.
The Path of Gnosis or Yoga of Gnosis, Gnana Yoga, deriving from “gna” which means applied knowledge of the esoteric sciences, pertains to those in whom supersedes the element of clear intelligence and transcendental meditation. While the worshipper identifies himself with the Supreme through devotion and ardent love, the Gnostic does so via spiritual intuition and dialectic. A Gnostic can afford to delete old idols, old faiths, earlier notions, prejudices and desires related to the present world. He will have to be determined to pursue his actual freedom.
Freedom (in Greek “eleftheria” deriving from the word “eleftho”) is presence of consciousness in a new state of things, different from a previous one. Process to freedom is the progressive passage of human consciousness through various life formations set up by its temporal needs and aspirations. The more consciousness gets rid of the restrictions of personal desires and tastes, the freer it becomes from its fetters. Thus, the abolition of idols and attachments so far concerning all things in life liberates the Gnostic from a previous life-formation and introduces him to another one. By means of such a process in which coexist profound meditation, virtue and vision, the follower of Gnosis – Wisdom approaches the realm of Ideas and apprehends his real being, Universal Nature and his relation with It.
Knowledge – Wisdom is an esoteric teaching present on our planet ever since the appearance of intelligent human beings. It is the metaphysical teaching based on the Divine Principle wherefrom souls emanate. It relates to universal orderliness that results in the laws of nature, the presence of spiritual forces and Angelic beings, in the contrast between Good and Evil, in the causes of life and death, in the purpose of human life. It informs us of the invisible spiritual cradle wherefrom we all come and with which our linking is presently inactive. Knowledge is the tool for man to get to know who he really is, why he exists on earth and what his future will be.
In ante-diluvian times of old, Wisdom – Religion was a single combination of Knowledge and religion. As time went by the more mankind was entangling itself in the veils of selfishness and cunning and the farther it got away from its spiritual nature, knowledge – wisdom and religion were disunited. They became two distinct systems of approaching the Divine, the one system i.e. religion, dogmatically believing in it without inquiring further and the other one i.e. knowledge, believing in it after thorough scrutiny.
Spiritual Knowledge was hidden away in the mystic centers of our planet, at the beginning of the Fifth Root Race, following the submersion of the very last part of Atlantis. It was known only by initiates who have kept safeguarding its lighted torch, teaching the selected few only what was comprehensible.
It was meant for the Aryan race to discover Spiritual Knowledge through individual effort and personal strain. Man’s first concern is to get his lower nature trained so that it obeys his higher, spiritual one and therefore it is only after he has been morally and mentally evaluated that the great initiates can entrust him with the occult secrets. For the Fifth Race intelligent man initiation is the gradual opening of consciousness and its development into self-consciousness only by his proper choice, inclination, effort and purification.
For its most part, Indian thought is an expression of inner knowledge, yet one not stuck to theory but a vivid religious faith and day-to-day practice. A distinct feature of Indian philosophy is the pursuit of the metaphysical unity through a multiplicity of Divine expressions. Vedas, Upanishads, Vedanta, Samkya, Bhagavat- Gitta all convey the message that there is a spiritual Self which humans can get to know through virtue and contemplation.
The Upanishads visionary says “become aware of Self” and Socrates teaches “know thyself”. The Indian thinkers’ metaphysical pursuit of “That” which “once known, everything becomes known” is very similar to the pursuit of the Eleatic School (Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zinon) searching for a reality underlying material phenomena.
Brahma, according to Adwaita (non-dualism), is ONE, second to none. The world is nothing but its appearance. Souls are individual so long as they ignore (a mind-soul network) their true nature consubstantial with Brahma. Ignorance can be overcome only by Knowledge.
The soul is neither born with the body nor does it pass away with it. The soul migrates from life to life and the reason for this migration is ignorance. Knowledge frees the soul from the cycle of suffering and reunites it with Self. And this is supreme Knowledge.
The process of human soul awareness and redemption is conducted through a) study under proper guidance, b) conviction acquired by sound thinking and reasoning and c) unremitting self-concentration.
To Sankara, the famous monistic, he who will study self-knowledge, i.e. the knowledge of Self, ought to be free from passions, a man of high aspirations and virtue. Convictions are important but equally important are character and conduct.
Hermetic philosophy is the knowledge –wisdom passed down by Hermes Trismegistus. His name stands for a number of sages who conveyed spiritual knowledge prior to historical times.
Typical of the Hermetic writings is concern for the salvation of the soul, transcendence of senses, and an intense mysticism urging man to unite with the Supreme employing his own powers. These texts mainly relate to Logos which reveals to the student his capacity to attain absolute Nous, the supreme god, through knowledge. And surely, knowledge is not a product of science but all that is revealed through initiation and directly acquired by the student himself as he experiences it in devotion and meditation.
Pythagoras, the greatest among initiates, offered the world the knowledge of calculating, geometry, the heliocentric system, the existence of the soul and its rebirth. He taught soul redemption and its liberation from the confinement of the body through the knowledge of numbers – that represent the partaking of the primary forces in the formation of the world – and the practicing of virtue. He was among the first, historically at least, who showed to the world the metaphysical realities as revelations were made, in his days, only during mysteries and even then very sparingly.
Plato taught that Good is the ultimate target of knowledge and that pursuit of true wisdom is effective when the bonds joining the soul to the body are let loose. In “The Republic” he says that “the entire life of a philosopher should be devoted to study and preparation for death”; because death and its aftermath is a copy of the cycle of the soul from the world of phenomena to that of causes; that the soul reaching this world returns from another world where people go when dying which is an age long doctrine, an Orphic one to be precise, because alternation of contrasts such as birth and death is a mere application of the law of opposites and of the overall physical law of cyclic reiteration.
He goes on adding that a Unit underlies multiplicity and that everything existing in the world is a crude and ephemeral replica of the Ideas – Archetypes emanating from the Unit (One). And the way for man to approach One, that is to climb from multiplicity to the Unit, is to vision the Ideas i.e. Justice, Good, Beauty. The ultimate objects of our study can be grasped through none of our senses, since the body prevents us from conceiving reality. For as long as we are inside the body, we approach the supreme Good depending on the degree of the soul’s self-concentration and our capacity to detach its attention from the body patiently awaiting the moment God will deem right for the completion of our redemption. (“Phaedo- Plato, man and his work” by A. E. Taylor)
To Plato the soul is a permanent and divine element, whereas the body is subject to change. The attainment of “divinity”, “theomorphy” (godlikeness) is in store for anyone who led the uppermost of the three lives, the life of the “lover of wisdom” resolutely. (“The Republic”).
“The capacity of knowledge is innate in each man’s mind and the organ by which he learns is like an eye which cannot be turned from darkness to light unless the whole body is turned; in the same way the mind as a whole must be turned away from the world of change until its eye can bear to look straight at reality and at the brightest of all realities which is what we call the Good” (“The Republic”, 518 b-c, on recollection)
To Plato, Good is the peak in the hierarchy of Ideas. It is the “unconditional Principle” giving Being the faculty of sense and rendering all forms transparent for the sake of the visioning soul.
Gnostics were the philosophers who taught inner knowledge during the first three centuries A.D. round the Mediterranean basin. That was the period when spiritual knowledge was flourishing at the Theosophical School of Alexandria, its pioneers being Ammonius Sakkas, Clement of Alexandria and Pantainos. At the same time, in his teachings, the great Origen was laying the foundations of Christian religion while he, himself, was excommunicated by the Church on account of his belief in the doctrine of Reincarnation.
Contrary to the Church Fathers who believed in the Personal God and Christ, the Gnostics accepted the Impersonal Principle, Christ as Principle and Gnosis. They recognized that their teachings were but repetitions of the earlier ones.
Three schools were founded, those a) of Alexandria b) of Ephesus and c) of the Ofites. Subject-matter of their teaching was the soul, the “Christ” principle in it, redemption through knowledge, comparison of religions and mystic traditions. It is held that the Gnostic movement was a continuation of the Essene community which had been per se a continuation of the Pythagorean community. And that the body of Jesus’ disciples was the link between the earlier and more recent Gnostic groups.
In the East, Mystic or Spiritual Knowledge is called the Book of Life and consists of four sections:
1. Gnana Vidya, knowledge concerning the occult powers awakened in nature at the employment of certain religious rites.
2. Maha – Vidya, the “great knowledge”, the Cabbalists’ magic.
3. Guhya – Vidya, the knowledge of the mystic powers of Sound produced in Mantras. Their effect depends on the rhythm and melody chosen. It is a chanting rite based on the knowledge of the Forces of nature.
4. Atma – Vidya, a term translated as “Knowledge of the Soul” which is true wisdom.
This last one, Atma – Vidya, is the broadest of all as it deals with Knowledge of Self and, therefore, includes all previous sections, while the three former ones deal with the world of forces existing in matter. It is knowledge pertaining to metaphysics and our physical substance (hypostasis). It also pertains to all forces from the most spiritual to the most material ones and the relation between these forces and man.
This Esoteric Gnostic teaching on what lies beyond is also called Metaphysics, Esotericism, Occultism and Theosophy.
The succession of great men who taught on Knowledge has been a long, continuous and uninterrupted one. There have always existed, are existing and will ever exist Disciples of knowledge on the planet. And even though it is not feasible to mention all of them in the context of this article, it would be, none the less, a serious omission not to refer to the Modern Theosophical Movement of the previous century.
We are talking about the Movement that restored Spiritual Knowledge in the West.
Exponent of the Movement was H. P. Blavatsky, a wise woman, who says in the preface to the “Secret Doctrine” “I have here made only a nosegay of culled flowers and have brought nothing of my own but the string that ties them”.
What is this nosegay actually made of? Nothing but inner knowledge as given by the initiates of humanity in the course of time, in the East and West.
The occult history of the soul, its relation with the Divine Principle, the ways of manifestation, the laws governing the universe, the Beings that govern the universe bringing these laws into manifestation, cosmic principles, forces and planes, the occult history of humanity and the way it evolves, ante- diluvian civilizations, Masters of Wisdom, religions, initiations and metaphysical philosophies are dealt with in the Theosophical texts bearing the writer’s signature, but they also include her Masters’ wisdom.
Introducing as an axle the One Monadic Principle from which the world and everything in it periodically emanates, the writer clearly points out to the student that on the foundations of unity of all manifestation there lie the ethics of coexistence, respect to one another and the periodic restoration of everything back to the Primary Source.
The soul becomes the pilgrim in Universe and inside various species and bodies gains experience, knowledge and capacities supported by the infallible laws of Periodicity and Equity. Little by little, through individual efforts it develops the powers bequeathed to it as God’s daughter and, this accomplished, it becomes “godlike” (according to Plato).
The “Secret Doctrine” is considered to be the present-day ark of inner knowledge, a doctrine put down in writing. It is a piece of work convincing us of the existence of the Spiritual Lords since such work cannot be of human inspiration. And it substantiates inner knowledge indisputably for two main reasons: a) esoteric theories and positions mentioned in the texts have been verified and are continuously being verified by science and b) the teaching concurs with world religions and metaphysical views, beliefs, visions and teachings of all those who got to know it under conditions of trial, virtue and contemplation.
In the course of initiation, no initiate’s vision is accepted unless first checked and corroborated by the visions of other visionaries. Such visions are evaluated as correct evidence when produced under the appropriate conditions of sensual restraint, mental obedience and spiritual contemplation. A sage, a great initiate is one who has perfected his physical, mental, psychic and spiritual nature to the maximum possible degree. It follows that he can absorb eternal Truth and covey fragments of it to mankind.
Soul experiences are far broader than the spheres wherein logic resides. For knowledge, acquired at moments of vision, free from the restrictions of grammar and lower mind, to be expressed are needed images, myths, allegories and abstract philosophical concepts presented in such a way as to become comprehended and assimilated by ordinary people.
Spiritual Knowledge is the message from the world of Spirit to the personal soul which is wrapped in the veils of fallacy and oblivion. Knowledge is the elixir which, be it drop by drop, impregnates human nature and helps its spiritual model bloom.