Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, , at sacred-texts.com
The Jewish Cabala is not the only philosophical system in ancient times which closely resembles the Brahminical doctrine.
According to Plato, the universe was an emanation from the Supreme Being, created by the Word, or Son, and was a mere reproduction of the eternal types contained in the divine wisdom; like the Hindus he believes in the preexistence of the soul, and metempsychosis, and like them he secretly instructed those who had been initiated in doctrines of which those he popularly taught gave but a faint idea.
If we may apply that expression to him, the philosopher of Egina was what we should call in modern times, an eclectic.
He taught his disciples, in a smaller compass, the traditions of human wisdom, which had been handed down from age to age to his time, by means of the mystic initiations in the temples.
We are positively told so by Proclus, in the following passage:
Ἁπάσαν μὲν τοῦ Πλάτωνος φιλοσοφίαν, καὶ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐκλάμψαι νομίζω, κατὰ τὴν τῶν κρειττόνων ἀγαθοειδῆ βουλήσιν τῆς τε ἄλλης ἁπάσης ἥμας μετόχοος κατέστησε
[paragraph continues] τοῦ Πλάτωνος φιλοσοφίας, καὶ κοινωνοὺς τῶν ἐν ἀποῤῥήτοις παρὰ των αὐτου πρεσβυτέρων μετείληφε.
There are so many points of analogy between the philosophy of the Alexandrian school, or Neo-platonism, and the Hindu doctrines which we have just been investigating, that we cannot avoid the conclusion that the former was derived from that inexhaustible Oriental fountain. Moreover, it claims, itself, to have sprung from the mysterious traditions of Asia.
Its idea of God is that he is the Great All, from which everything proceeds, and to which everything tends. He is all and everything is in him.
He is unity, τὸ ἕν;
He is the ineffable, ἀῤῥητός;
He is the unknown, ἀγνωστός.
According to Plotinus and his school, the Trinity is an emanation from unity, exactly as held by those who believe in the Pitris.
It receives the following names, taken from its attributes:
τὸ ἕν το αγαθὸν, unity or, in other words, the good.
Νοῦς, the soul of the world, or the universal spirit.
Ψυκὴ τοῦ παντός, τῶν ὅλων, the demiourgos, or the creator.
The resemblance between the two systems is not confined, however, to a single point. Each member of this trinity begets, in its turn, a special trinity, and the mission of the three trinities that spring from them, is to produce unceasingly and to perpetuate in this world, first, the good; second, the intelligence or the vital principle; and third, the work of creation.
Under more mystical names they are precisely similar to the three trinities of the Brahmins and the Cabalists. According to the Neo-platonists the Supreme Being,
with its various symbolic transformations, is a vast and everlasting source, from which are constantly springing those universal races which, through the love of the husband for his spouse, of the unity for the intelligence, are provided with all the different attributes and are thereby impelled to ascend unceasingly, through successive transformations, until they arrive at unity itself.
"By a movement like that of an endless chain about a wheel," as the Book of the Pitris says.
Between the Trinitarian systems of Christianity and those of the Hindus, of the Cabalists, and of the Neo-platonists, the numerous points of similarity are obvious at a glance, and we can readily see the source from which the founders of that religion have derived their revelation.
We say founders, though that is not the proper name to apply to the authors of the four gospels, whose idea it was to create a tradition of their own, for it is now well settled that Christianity, which is as old as the temples of Egypt and the pagodas of India, is a symbolic synthesis of all the beliefs of antiquity.
Scholars living in the primitive ages of the church were not so easily misled. In the third century, the illustrious Manichean, Faustus, wrote these words, which we commend to the attention of all those who have made the life of Jesus the theme of romantic study:
"Everybody knows that the gospels were actually written neither by Jesus Christ nor by his personal disciples, but were carried along by tradition, and long after their time were written by unknown people, who, correctly supposing that their word would not be taken as to things that had not come under their personal observation, placed at the head of these traditional statements the names of the apostles or of apostolic men contemporaneous with them." (Faustus.)
The Council of Nice, under the presidency of Constantine, that odious and criminal despot, whose praises have
been sung by all the writers of the Church, indeed created a Catholicism, as a means of discipline, which was entirely different from primitive Christianity.
In very guarded language, Franck expresses a similar opinion in the following words:
"Have we not every reason in the world to look upon the Cabala as a precious relic of the religious philosophy of the East, which was transported to Alexandria and became mingled with the teachings of Plato, and whose influenceunder cover of the usurped name of Denys, the AreopagiteBishop of Athens, who was converted and consecrated by Saint Paulwas felt in the mysticism of the middle ages?"
To the question, What is, then, this religious philosophy of the East, whose influence is apparent in the mystic symbols of Christianity? we answer as follows:
The philosophy, of which we find traces among the Magi, the Chaldeans, the Egyptians, the Hebrew Cabalists, and the Christians, is identical with that of the Hindu Brahmins, who believed in the Pitris.
There is one argument in favor of this opinion which is absolutely conclusive, and that is this: Among all ancient countries, India is the only one that possesses the whole of this philosophy, so much so, indeed, that if it were desired to reconstruct it from materials obtained from other sources than the immortal thinkers of the banks of the Ganges, it would be necessary to borrow them at second hand, here and there, from the various quarters wherever found, from Plato, from the Cabala, from the Alexandrian school, from the Magi, and from Christianity.
On the other hand, the high antiquity of the mighty work performed in India is opposed to the supposition, even for an instant, that the Brahminical philosophy was formed of pieces and fragments taken from these different systems, which, being posterior to the Vedas and Manuthat nobody disputeswere not, as admitted even by those who
hold most firmly to the opposite view, born upon the soil where we now find them.
If the Cabala, if Magism, Plato, the Alexandrian school, and Christianity did not derive their doctrines from original sources, if, on the contrary, we find them in the remotest ages in the philosophical works of ancient India, not as isolated facts but as a complete collection of beliefs, dogmas, and mysteries, which go to make up the whole of what is called the Brahminic civilization, have we not every reason to maintain that they came originally from the country of the Vedas?
It is easy to trace through the ages the path of these lofty speculations. From India they made their way into Persia and Chaldea, both by means of emigration and natural infiltration. It is sufficient to compare the traditions of the Boun-Dehesh and the Zend-Avesta with those that have been the object of our study, in order to recognize their similarity, only the system of the Parsecs and of the ancient Chaldeans is less philosophical than that of the mother country, and concedes to the dews and evil spirits a much greater degree of importance than that which is recognized by the Indian theory, as possessed by the Devas and Pisatchas.
We shall have to descend to the superstitions of vulgar Brahminism, we shall have to go to the religion of the Soudra, in order to find a like severity of conflict between the spirits of good and the spirits of evil. Parseeism and Chaldeaism are a mixture of the gross superstitions of the Hindu populace and of the philosophical conceptions of the Brahmins.
This reminds us of the following lines, which we quote from Amniance Marcellinus and which are confirmed by Agathias.
"The King Hytaspes, having penetrated as far as certain retired places in Upper India, came to some solitary groves, whose silence seem to be favorable to the profound
thoughts of the Brahmins. There they taught him, as far as they possibly could, the pure sacrificial rites, and the causes of the movement of the stars and the universe, a part of which he communicated to the Magi. The latter have transmitted these secrets from father to son, together with the science of predicting the future. Since then, during a long succession of ages until now, there have arisen a multitude of Magi, belonging to the same race, who have devoted themselves to the service of the temple and the worship of the Gods."
Egypt, which had never forgotten its early traditions, was constantly drawing new life and vigor from the study of the scientific movement of Upper Asia.
Moses of Chorenus, who lived five centuries before the present era, bears witness to this, in the most positive manner, in the following passage:
"The ancient Asiatics had a multitude of historical works which were translated into Greek, when the Ptolemies established the Alexandrian library and encouraged literary men by their liberality, so that the Greek language became the depositary of all the ancient learning."
It is evident from all this, first, that people in ancient times did not live a more isolated life from each other, as regards the philosophical and religious sciences, than they do now. Second, that there was a large collection of traditions, of which ancient India was the principal source. Third, that a close connection existed between the teachings of the Brahmins and the systems of the Magi, the Chaldeans, the Cabalists, the Platonists, and the philosophers of the Alexandrian School, whose sect called therapeutæ kept alive the traditions which afterward became those of Christianity.
By the careful study and comparison of the old civilizations we thus acquire a knowledge of the general drift and tendency of the human intellect in those times, without
regard to the warring claims of rival sects or the conflicting pretensions of individual pride.
There is not a fact, not a belief, not a discovery, that is independent of tradition, and those who, in order to display their singularity and to make a particular place for their special studies, are constantly meeting with conceptions which lay claim to originality and are said to have borrowed nothing from any that have preceded them, are unmindful of the laws of history and of the evolution of the human mind.