The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary, by Karl Eckartshausen, , at sacred-texts.com
It is necessary, my dear brothers in the Lord, to give you a clear idea of the interior Church; of that illuminated Community of God which is scattered throughout the world, but which is governed by one truth and united in one spirit.
This enlightened community has existed since the first day of the world's creation, and its duration will be to the last day of time.
This community possesses a School, in which all who thirst for knowledge are instructed by the Spirit of Wisdom itself; and all the mysteries of God and of nature are preserved in this School for the children of light. . . . Perfect knowledge of God, of nature, and of humanity are the objects of instruction in this school. It is from her that all truths penetrate into the world, she is the School of the Prophets, and of all who search for wisdom, and it is in this community alone that truth and the explanation of all mystery is to be found. It is the most hidden of communities yet possesses members from many circles; of such is this School. From all time there has been an exterior school based on the interior one, of which it is but the outer expression. From all time, therefore, there
has been a hidden assembly, a society of the Elect, of those who sought for and had capacity for light, and this interior society was called the interior Sanctuary or Church. All that the external Church possesses in symbol ceremony or rite is the letter expressive outwardly of the spirit of truth residing in the interior Sanctuary.
Hence this Sanctuary composed of scattered members, but tied by the bonds of perfect unity and love, has been occupied from the earliest ages in building the grand Temple through the regeneration of humanity, by which the reign of God will be manifest. This society is in the communion of those who have most capacity for light, i.e., the Elect. The Elect are united in truth, and their Chief is the Light of the World himself, Jesus Christ, the One Anointed in light, the single mediator for the human race, the Way, the Truth, and the Life—Primitive light, wisdom, and the only medium by which man can return to God.
The interior Church was formed immediately after the fall of man, and received from God at first-hand the revelation of the means by which fallen humanity could be again raised to its rights and delivered from its misery. It received the primitive charge of all revelation and mystery; it received the key of true science, both divine and natural.
But when men multiplied, the frailty of man and his weakness necessitated an exterior society
which veiled the interior one, and concealed the spirit and the truth in the letter. Because many people were not capable of comprehending great interior truth, and the danger would have been too great in confiding the most Holy to incapable people. Therefore, interior truths were wrapped in external and perceptible ceremonies, so that men, by the perception of the outer, which is the symbol of the interior, might by degrees be enabled safely to approach the interior spiritual truths.
But the inner truth has always been confided to him who in his day had the most capacity for illumination, and he became the sole guardian of the original Trust, as High Priest of the Sanctuary.
When it became necessary that interior truths should be enfolded in exterior ceremony and symbol, on account of the real weakness of men who were not capable of bearing the Light of Light, then exterior worship began. It was, however, always the type and symbol of the interior, that is to say, the symbol of the true homage offered to God in spirit and in truth.
The difference between spiritual and animal man, and between rational and sensual man, made the exterior and interior imperative. Interior truth passed into the external wrapped in symbol and ceremony, so that sensuous man could observe, and be gradually thereby led to interior truth. Hence external worship was symbolically typical of interior truths, and of the true relationship between man
and God before and after the Fall, and of his most perfect reconciliation. All the symbols of external worship are based upon the three fundamental relations—the Fall, the Reconciliation, and the Complete Atonement.
The care of the external service was the occupation of priests, and every father of a family was in the ancient times charged with this duty. First fruits and the first born among animals were offered to God, symbolizing that all that preserves and nourishes us comes from Him; also that animal man must be killed to make room for rational and spiritual man.
The external worship of God would never have been separated from interior service but for the weakness of man which tends too easily to forget the spirit in the letter, but the spirit of God is vigilant to note in every nation those who are able to receive light, and they are employed as agents to spread the light according to man's capacity, and to revivify the dead letter.
Through these divine instruments the interior truths of the Sanctuary were taken into every nation, and modified symbolically according to their customs, capacity for instruction, climate, and receptiveness. So that the external types of every religion, worship, ceremonies and Sacred Books in general have more or less clearly, as their object of instruction, the interior truths of the Sanctuary, by which man, but only in the latter days, will be
conducted to the universal knowledge of the one Absolute Truth.
The more the external worship of a people has remained united with the spirit of esoteric truth, the purer its religion; but the wider the difference between the symbolic letter and the invisible truth, the more imperfect has become the religion; even so far among some nations as to degenerate into polytheism. Then the external form entirely parted from its inner truth, when ceremonial observances without soul or life remained alone.
When the germs of the most important truths had been carried everywhere by God's agents, He chose a certain people to raise up a vital symbol destined by Him to manifest forth the means by which He intended to govern the human race in its present condition, and by which it would be raised into complete purification and perfection.
God Himself communicated to this people its exterior religious legislation, He gave all the symbols and enacted all the ceremonies, and they contained the impress, as it were, of the great esoteric truth of the Sanctuary.
God consecrated this external Church in Abraham, gave commandments through Moses, and it received its highest perfection in the double message of Jesus Christ, existing personally in poverty and suffering, and by the communication of His Spirit in the glory of the Resurrection.
Now, as God Himself laid the foundation of the
external Church, the whole of the symbols of external worship formed the science of the Temple and of the Priests in those days, because the mysteries of the most sacred truths became external through revelation alone. The scientific acquaintance of this holy symbolism was the science to unite fallen man once more with God, hence religion received its name from being the science of rebinding man with God, to bring man back to his origin.
One sees plainly by this pure idea of religion in general that unity in religion is within the inner Sanctuary, and that the multiplicity of external religions can never alter the true unity which is at the base of every exterior.
The wisdom of the ancient temple alliance was preserved by priests and by prophets.
To the priests was confided the external,—the letter of the symbol, hieroglyphics. The prophets had the charge of the inner truth, and their occupation was to continually recall the priest to the spirit in the letter, when inclined to lose it. The science of the priests was that of the knowledge of exterior symbol.
That of the prophets was experimental possession of the truth of the symbols. In the interior the spirit lived. There was, therefore, in the ancient alliance a school of prophets and of priests, the one occupying itself with the spirit in the emblem, the other with the emblem itself. The priests had
the external possession of the Ark, of the shewbread, of the candlesticks, of the manna, of Aaron's rod, and the prophets were in interior possession of the inner spiritual truth which was represented exteriorly by the symbols just mentioned.
The external Church of the ancient alliance was visible, the interior Church was always invisible, must be invisible, and yet must govern all, because force and power are alone confided to her.
When the divine external * worship abandoned the interior worship, it fell, and God proved by a remarkable chain of circumstances that the letter could not exist without the spirit, that it is only there to lead to the spirit, and it is useless and even rejected by God if it fails in its object.
As the spirit of nature extends to the most sterile depths to vivify and preserve and cause growth in everything susceptible to its influence, likewise the spirit of light spreads itself interiorly among nations to animate everywhere the dead letter by the living spirit.
This is why we find a Job among idolators, a Melchizedek among strange nations, a Joseph with the Egyptian priests, a Moses in the country of Midian, as living proofs the interior community of those who are capable of receiving light was united
by one spirit and one truth in all times and in all nations.
To these agents of light from the one inner community was united the Chief of all agents, Jesus Christ Himself, in the midst of time as royal priest after the order of Melchizedek.
The divine agents of the ancient alliance hitherto represented only specialised perfections of God; therefore a powerful movement was required which should show all at once—all in one. A universal type appeared, which gave the real touch of perfect unity to the picture, which opened a fresh door, and destroyed the number of the slavery of humanity.
The law of love began when the image emanating from wisdom itself showed to man all the greatness of his being, vivified him anew, assured him of his immortality, and raised his intellectual status to that of being the true temple for the spirit.
This Chief Agent of all, this Saviour of the World and universal Regenerator, claimed man's whole attention to the primitive truth, whereby he can preserve his existence and recover his former dignity. Through the conditions of His own abasement He laid the base of the redemption of man, and He promised to accomplish it completely one day through His Spirit. He showed also truly in part among His apostles all that should come to pass in the future to all the Elect.
He linked the chain of the community of light among the Elect, to whom He sent the spirit of
truth, and confided to them the true primitive instruction in all divine and natural things, as a sign that He would never forsake His community.
When the letter and symbolic worship of the external Church of the ancient alliance had been realised by the Incarnation of the Saviour, and verified in His person, new symbols became requisite Tor external use, which showed us through the letter the future accomplishment of universal redemption.
The rites and symbols of the external Christian Church were formed after the pattern of these unchangeable and fundamental truths, announcing things of a strength and of an importance impossible to describe, and revealed only to those who knew the innermost Sanctuary.
This Sanctuary remains changeless, though external religion receives in the course of time and circumstances varied modification, entailing separation from the interior spirit which can alone preserve the letter. The profane idea of wishing to "secularize" all that is Christian, and to Christianise all that is political, changed the exterior edifice, and covered with the shadow of death all that was interior light and life. Hence divisions and heresies, and the spirit of Sophistry ready to expound the letter when it had already lost the essence of truth.
Current incredulity increased corruption to its utmost point, attacking the edifice of Christianity in its fundamental parts, and the sacred interior
was mingled with the exterior, already enfeebled by the ignorance of weak man.
Then was born Deism; this brought forth materialism, which looked on the union of man with superior forces as imaginary; then finally came forth, partly from the head and partly from the heart, the last degree of man's degradation—Atheism.
In the midst of all this, truth reposes inviolable in the inner Sanctuary.
Faithful to the spirit of truth, which promised never to abandon its community, the members of the interior Church lived in silence, but in real activity, and united the science of the temple of the ancient alliance with the spirit of the great saviour of man—the spirit of the interior alliance, waiting humbly the great moment when the Lord will call them, and will assemble his community in order to give every dead letter external force and life.
This interior community of light is the reunion of all those capable of receiving light as Elect, and it is known as the Communion of Saints. The primitive receptacle for all strength and truth, confided to it from all time—it alone, says St Paul, is in the possession of the science of the Saints.
By it the agents of God were formed in every age, passing from the interior to the exterior, and communicating spirit and life to the dead letter as already said.
This illuminated community has been through
time the true school of God's spirit, and considered as school, it has its Chair, its Doctor, it possesses a rule for students, it has forms and objects for study, and, in short, a method by which they study.
It has, also, its degrees for successive development to higher altitudes.
The first and lowest degree consists in the moral good, by which the single will, subordinated to God, is led to God by the pure motive of willing with and to Jesus Christ, which it does through faith. The means by which the spirit of this school acts are called inspirations.
The second degree consists in the rational intellectuality, by which the understanding of the man of virtue, who is united to God, is crowned with wisdom and the light of knowledge, and the means which the spirit uses to produce this is called interior illumination.
The third and highest degree is the entire opening of our inner sensorium, by which the inner man perceives objectively and really, metaphysical verities. This is the highest degree when faith passes into open vision, and the means the spirit uses for this are real visions.
These are the three degrees of the school for true interior wisdom—that of the illuminated Society. The same spirit which ripens men for this community also distributes its degrees by the co-action of the ripened subject.
This school of wisdom has been forever most
secretly hidden from the world, because it is invisible and submissive solely to divine government.
It has never been exposed to the accidents of time and to the weakness of man. Because only the most capable were chosen for it, and the spirits who selected made no error.
Through this school were developed the germs of all the sublime sciences, which were first received by external schools, then clothed in other forms, and hence degenerating.
This society of sages communicated, according to time and circumstances, unto the exterior societies their symbolic hieroglyphs, in order to attract man to the great truths of their interior.
But all exterior societies subsist through this interior one giving them its spirit. As soon as external societies wish to be independent of the interior one, and to transform a temple of wisdom into a political edifice, the interior society retires and leaves only the letter without the spirit. It is thus that secret external societies of wisdom were nothing but hieroglyphic screens, the truth remaining inviolable in the sanctuary so that she might never be profaned.
In this interior society man finds wisdom and with her—All—not the wisdom of this world which is but scientific knowledge, which revolves round the outside but never touches the centre (in which is contained all strength), but true wisdom and men obeying her.
All disputes, all controversies, all the things belonging to the false cares of this world, fruitless discussions, useless germs of opinions which spread the seeds of disunion, all error, schisms, and systems are banished. Neither calumny nor scandal are known. Every man is honoured. Satire, that spirit which loves to make its neighbour smart, is unknown. Love alone reigns.
Want and feebleness are protected, and rejoicings are made at the elevation and greatness which man acquires.
We must not, however, imagine this society resembles any secret society, meeting at certain times, choosing its leaders and members, united by special objects. All societies, be what they may, can but come after this interior illuminated circle. This society knows none of the formalities which belong to the outer rings, the work of man. In this kingdom of power all outward forms cease.
God himself is the Power always present. The best man of his times, the chief himself, does not always know all the members, but the moment when it is the Will of God that he should accomplish any object, he finds them in the world with certainty to work for that purpose.
This community has no outside barriers. He who may be chosen by God is as the first, he presents himself among the others without presumption, and he is received by the others without jealousy.
If it be necessary that real members should meet together, they find and recognise each other with perfect certainty.
No disguise can be used, neither hypocrisy nor dissimulation could hide the characteristic qualities of this society, they are too genuine. All illusion is gone, and things appear in their true form.
No one member can choose another, unanimous choice is required. All men are called, the called may be chosen, if they become ripe for entrance.
Any one can look for the entrance, and any man who is within can teach another to seek for it; but only he who is fit can arrive inside.
Unprepared men occasion disorder in a community, and disorder is not compatible with the Sanctuary. This thrusts out all who are not homogeneous.
Worldly intelligence seeks this Sanctuary in vain, fruitless also will be the efforts of malice to penetrate these great mysteries; all is undecipherable to him who is not ripe, he can see nothing, read nothing in the interior.
He who is ripe is joined to the chain, perhaps often where he thought least likely, and at a point of which he knew nothing himself.
Seeking to become ripe, should be effort of him who sees wisdom.
But there are methods by which ripeness is attained, for in this holy communion is the primitive storehouse of the most ancient and original
science of the human race, with the primitive mysteries also of all science. It is the unique and really illuminated community which is absolutely in possession of the key to all mystery, which knows the centre and source of all nature and creation. It is a society which unites superior strength to its own, and counts its members from more than one world. It is the society whose members form a theocratic republic, which one day will be the Regent Mother of the whole World. *
21:* I can't but think here that the words interior and exterior are transposed in translating from the original German to the French from which I translate it, but I put it as I find in the text of the very valuable edition to which I have access.—I. de S.
29:* Capitals are rarely employed. I always quote them, but occasionally use them in other places when the sense requires them, so as not to confuse the cases and genders, for instance, esprit evidently requires to be written occasionally Spirit, not spirit.