Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, , at sacred-texts.com
Remember, my son, that there is only one God, the sovereign master and principle of all things, and that the Brahmins should worship Him in secret; but learn also that this is a mystery, which should never be revealed to the vulgar herd:otherwise great harm may befal you.(Words spoken by the Brahmins upon receiving a candidate for initiation according to Vrihaspati.)
p. 12 p. 13
It is not to the religions writings of antiquity, such as the Vedas, the Zend-Avesta, or the Bible, that we are to look for an accurate expression of the highest thought of the period.
Written to be read, or rather chanted, in the temples, upon great festivals, and framed mainly with a view to priestly domination, these books of the law were not intended to make known to common people the secrets of a science which occupies the leisure moments of the priests and initiated.
"Bear in mind, my son," said the Hindu Brahmin to the neophyte, "that there is but one God, the sovereign master and principle of all things, and that every Brahmin should worship him in secret. Learn also that this is a mystery which should never be revealed to the vulgar herd; otherwise great harm may befal you."
We constantly meet with a similar prohibition in Manu.
The primitive holy syllable, composed of the three letters A, U, M, and comprising the Vedic trinity, should be kept secret (Manu, book xi., sloca 265).
These three letters symbolize all the initiatory secrets of the occult sciences.
The honover, or primordial germ, is defined in the Zend-Avesta as follows:
"The pure, the holy, the prompt Honover, I tell. you plainly, O wise Zoroaster! existed before the sky, before the sea, before the earth, before the animals, before the trees, before fire, son of Ormuzd, before the pure man, before the deous, before the whole world; it existed before there was any substance"should it not be explained, in its essence, to the magi alone? The common people cannot even know of the existence of this venerated name under penalty of death or madness.
The ancient Cabalists received a similar prohibition in the following passage from the Mishna:
"It is forbidden to explain the history of creation to two persons: or even the history of the Mercabaor, the history of the chariot, treating of the attributes of the unrevealed beingto one alone, unless he is a wise and intelligent man, in which case it is permitted to intrust to him the headings of the chapters."
We are indebted to Mr. A. Frank, of the Institute, the eminent Hebraist, for an explanation of this curious passage of the Jewish Cabala. It will be seen that he confirms the opinion that we have just expressed, that an accurate interpretation of the beliefs of the sacerdotal castes and of the initiated, is not to be found in the works the multitude were allowed to see.
"Evidently this cannot refer to the text of Genesis, or that of Ezekiel, where the prophet describes the vision he saw upon the banks of the Chebar."
"The whole Scriptures, so to speak, were in every body's mouth. From time immemorial, the most scrupulous observers
of tradition had deemed it their duty to go through it, at least once a year, in the temple. Moses himself is constantly recommending the study of the law, by which he always means the Pentateuch. Esdras, after the return from the Babylonish captivity, read it aloud before the assembled people. The prohibition, which we have just quoted, cannot possibly refer to the history of the creation or to Ezekiel's vision, which any one might seek to explain himself, or to interpret to others. It refers to an interpretation, or rather to a known, secretly taught doctrineto a science, whose forms, as well as principles, were fixed, since we know how it was divided and that it was separated into chapters, each of which was preceded by a heading. Now, it is to be noted that Ezekiel's vision is totally unlike this; it contains a single chapter and not severalthe first one in the works attributed to that prophet."
We see also that this secret doctrine contains two parts, which are not considered equally important, for one could be taught to two persons, while the whole of the other could never be divulged to any one person, even in case of compliance with the severity of the required conditions.
If we are to believe Maïmonides, who was a stranger to the Cabala, though he could not deny its existence, the first half, entitled The History of the Genesis or Creation, taught the science of nature. The second, entitled Mercaba or the history of the chariot, contained a treatise on theology. This is the accepted opinion of all Cabalists.
Here is another fact which shows the same thing, not less conclusively.
"The Rabbi Jochanan said, one day, to the Rabbi Eliezer: 'Let me teach you the Mercaba.' The latter answered him: 'I am not old enough for that.' When he had grown old, the Rabbi Jochanan died, and after a while the Rabbi Assi came in his turn: 'Let me teach you the Mercaba,' said he; he replied: 'If I had thought myself
worthy, I would already have learned it from the Rabbi Jochanan, your master.'"
This shows that, in order to be initiated into the mysterious science of the Mercaba, an eminent position and exalted intellect were not all that were required. The candidate must also have reached a certain age, and even when that condition, which is also observed by modern Cabalists, had been complied with, he did not always feel sure of possessing intellect or moral strength enough to assume the burden of the fearful secrets, which might endanger his religious convictions and the material observances of the law.
Here is a curious example, taken from the Talmud itself, in allegorical terms, of which it afterward gives an explanation.
According to the teachings of the masters, there were four who entered into the garden of delights, and their names are as follows: Ben Asaï, Ben Zoma, Acher, and Rabbi Akiba.
Ben Asaï was over-inquisitive and lost his life. We may apply to him this verse of Scripture: What a precious thing in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Ben Zoma also looked, but he lost his reason. His fate justifies the sage's parable: Did you find honey? eat enough to suffice you, for fear that if you take too much your stomach may reject it.
Acher committed ravages among the plants.
Lastly, Akiba entered quietly and came out quietly; for the saint, whose name be blessed, had said: "Spare this old man! he is worthy to serve with glory."
It is hardly possible to construe this passage literally, or to suppose that it refers to a material vision of the splendors of another life, for there is no example in the Talmud of the use of the very mystical language here employedas applied to paradise, How can, we allow, besides, that
the contemplation, during life, of the powers who wait upon the elect in heaven, should have caused the loss of life or reason, as in the case of two of the persons mentioned in this legend.
We agree, with the most esteemed authorities of the synagogue, that the garden of delights, which the four doctors entered, was merely that mysterious science before spoken of"terrible for weak intellects, since it often leads to insanity."
We have a reason for giving this long extract in full; apart from the support it lends to our theory, it enables us to show the intimate connection that exists between the doctrines of the ancient Jewish Cabalists and those of the Hindu votaries of the Pitrisor spirits. The latter, indeed, as we shall soon see, only admitted old men to initiation, and their scientific book, the Agrouchada-parikchai, as well as the books of the early cabalistsThe Account of the Creation and the Mercaba, and finally, The Zoharis divided into three parts, treating:
First.Of the attributes of God.
Second.Of the world.
Third.Of the human soul.
In a fourth part, the Agrouchada-parikchai sets forth the relations of universal souls to each other, and indicates the modes of evocation by means whereof the Pitris may be induced to manifest themselves to men, and teach them everlasting truth, according to the higher or lower degree of perfection to which they may, individually, have attained through their good works.
The works of the Jewish Cabala, and especially the Zohar, do not contain this fourth part. (Not that the Cabalists deny that these disembodied souls can enter into relations with those souls which have not yet laid aside their fleshly envelope.) The evocation of the soul of Samuel, by the witch of Endor in the presence of Saul, as well as of numerous other biblical apparitions, are sufficient to show
that the belief existed. But they made it the subject of an initiation, and these terrible secrets were only taught by word of mouth in the mysterious recesses of the temples.
It was not the study of God or the world which drove weak intellects into madness, as mentioned in that passage of the Talmud before spoken of, but rather the cabalistic practice of evocation in the supreme initiation.
"Whoever," says the Talmud, "has learned this secret and keeps it vigilantly, in a pure heart, may reckon upon the love of God and the favor of men; his name inspires respect; his science is in no danger of being forgotten, and he is the heir of two worldsthat we live in, and the world to come."
How can we know the secrets of the world to come, except by communicating with those who live there already.
We shall see that the Zohar of the Cabalists, and the Agrouchada-parikchai of the Hindus, profess the same ideas as to the primordial germ or God, the world and the soul. We incline, therefore, to the belief that we are correct in thinking that the practises openly taught by the Hindus, were also taught, so to speak, by word of mouth, by the ancient Thanaïms of Judaism.
We find Indian pagodas, indeed, where the fourth part of the Agrouchada is separated from the three others, and forms, so to speak, a book by itself, which would lead to the supposition that it was revealed last and only to a small number of adepts.
We may add that the Cabalists of Judea and the votaries of the Pitris in India, used the same expression to designate the adepts of the occult sciences:
"He has entered the garden of delights."
No doctrinal work upon these matters has come down to us from the Egyptians or the ancient Chaldeans, but the fragmentary inscriptions we do possess show that a higher initiation also existed among both. The great name, the
mysterious name, the supreme name, which was known only to Ea, was never to be uttered.
Thus, there is no doubt that the initiation in ancient times did not consist of a knowledge of the great religious works of the age, such as the Vedas, the Zend-Avesta, the Bible, etc., which everybody studied, but rather of the admission of a small number of priests and savants to an occult science, which had its genesis, its theology, its philosophy, and its peculiar practices, which it was forbidden to reveal to the vulgar herd.
India has preserved all the manuscript treasures of its primitive civilization. The initiated have never abandoned any of their old beliefs or practices.
It is, therefore, in our power to lift the veil completely from the Brahminic initiations.
After comparing the philosophical doctrines of the adepts of the Pitris with those of the Jewish Cabalists, we shall go on to show the relations or connection between the initiated of other nations and the initiated of the Hindu pagodas.