Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, , at sacred-texts.com
We have seen that the mysteries taught in the Indian pagoda comprised three degrees of initiation, in each of which a probation of twenty years was required before being promoted to a higher grade.
The writers on the Cabala have not given us all the secrets of their interior discipline, but there is no doubt that the Hebraic initiation also included several categories.
It is well known, according to the Talmud, that the ancient Hebrews had three names to express the idea of God.
The first, which was composed of four letters, was taught to all who came for instruction to the temple.
With regard to the second and third, which consisted of twelve and forty-two letters respectively, the following are the words of Maimonides:
"Sages taught the name of twelve letters to their sons and disciples; but when the number of the ungodly had increased, it was intrusted only to the most discreet among the priests, and they repeated it in a low tone to their brethren, while the people were receiving the benediction."
The name of forty-two letters was the most sacred of all mysteries. It contained the great secret of the universal soul, and stood for, if we may so express it, the highest degree of initiation.
"It was only taught," says the author whom we have just quoted, "to a man of recognized discretion, of mature age, not addicted to anger or intemperance, a stranger to
vanity, and gentle and pleasant with all with whom he was brought into contact."
"Whoever," says the Talmud, "has been made acquainted with this secret and vigilantly keeps it in a pure heart, may reckon upon the love of God and the favor of men; his name inspires respect; his knowledge is in no danger of being forgotten, and he is the heir of two worlds, that in which we live, and the world to come."
These three classes of persons, viz.:
First, the disciples, who were taught the name consisting of four letters:
Second, the priests, who studied that of twelve letters; and
Third, the elders, to whom alone the secret of the forty-two letters was revealed,
seem to us to correspond very closely to the three grades of initiation in India.
It is worthy of remark, according to the last quotation from the Talmud, that the elders who are in possession of this most sacred mystery, are invested with supreme power, not only in the present world but in the world of invisible spirits.
In the Zohar, in the Sepher Jeszirah, in the Guemara, and in the Mischna we are constantly meeting with the prohibition to divulge the secrets of the Mercaba, or creation, to anybody except,
"Men who are invested with the highest dignity and who are known for their extreme prudence."
"Whose heart," according to the original expression, "is filled with anxiety and alarm."
From a text which we quoted in the first chapter of the first part of this work, it appears that a distinguished position, with respect to intellect and accomplishments, was not all that was required from him who aspired to a knowledge of these mysteries, but that he must also have arrived at a certain age.
The Rabbi Jochanan one day said to the Rabbi Eleazar: "Let me teach you the history of the Mercaba." The latter answered, "I am not old enough for that." When he had grown old enough, the Rabbi Jochanan was dead. Some time afterward, the Rabbi Assi said to him in his turn, "Let me teach you the history of the Mercaba." He replied: "If I had deemed myself worthy, I should have learnt it before, from the Rabbi Jochanan, your master."
Though we may not be able to point out the special practices observed by those who had been initiated into the mysteries of the Jewish Cabala, as they were promoted from one degree to a higher, owing to the silence of their traditions and written works upon that subject, still, we have reason to think, at any rate, that as in India there were three degrees of initiation.