SUBBA ROW, T. The Virgin of the World [review by T. Subba Row]. Review by T. Subba Row, with answers by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, and the answer to them by T. Subba Row.
Information: Review by T. Subba Row of the publication of The Virgin of the World (The Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistos. Anna Bonus Kingsford and Edward Maitland. A translation of Hermetic manuscripts. Introductory essays (on Hermeticism) and notes by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland. George Redway, London, 1885. Also in Madras: P. Kailasam Brothers; Spiritualistic Book Depot, 1885. 154 pp.), with answers to this review by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, and again the answer by T. Subba Row. This review, together with the mentioned answers, was published in: The Theosophist, Vol. VII, November 1885, pp. 95-98, December 1885, pp. 143-158; reprinted by Tukaram Tatya in A Collection of Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row Garu, F.T.S., B.A., B.L., Bombay 1895, pp. 213-226; also by C. Jinarãjadãsa in Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row, TPH, Madras 1895 (first edition), 1931 and 1980 (revised and enlarged edition), 575 pp. (pp. 226-244); and also in T. Subba Row Collected Writings, compiled and annotated by Henk J. Spierenburg, Point Loma Publications, San Diego, 2001, Volume II, 654 pp. (pp. 365-389).
Read below the complete texts:
[Number of the pages in the TPH’s edition, 1931 and 1980.]
The Virgin of the World
[review by T. Subba Row]
This is the title of a recent publication in English of some of the books generally attributed to Hermes. The first book however is the only part of the publication to which this heading is strictly appropriate. Two philosophical discourses named “Asclepios on Initiation” and “Definitions of Asclepios” and a few fragments of Hermetic philosophy are added to it, with two introductory Essays by Mr. Maitland and Dr. Kingsford, which are very interesting and instructive.
It will be a most interesting study for every occultist to compare the doctrines of the ancient Hermetic philosophy with the teachings of the Vedantic and Buddhist systems of religious thought. The famous books of Hermes seem to occupy with reference to the Egyptian religion the same position which the Upanisads occupy in Aryan religious literature. As there were forty-two provinces in ancient Egypt, and the body of Osiris was cut up into forty-two pieces, so there were forty-two books of Hermes. This, however, is not the number of the Vedas nor of their sub-divisions, as Mr. Maitland seems to suppose. This number is one of the characteristic features of Egyptian mysticism, and
veils a profound truth. It has nothing to do with the number of stars in any particular constellation, as some Egyptologists have imagined. So long as these investigators of the Egyptian religious doctrines erroneously believe that they are based on the signs of the Zodiac, the motions of the heavenly bodies, or the appearances of particular groups of stars, it will be impossible for them to penetrate into the profound depth of their meaning. These books of Hermes, if they can be discovered, will no doubt put an end to all speculations. But Hermes said, “O Sacred Books of the Immortals, ye in whose pagers my hand has recorded the remedies by which incorruptibility is conferred, remain for ever beyond the reach of destruction and of decay, invisible and concealed from all who frequent these regions, until the day shall come in which the ancient heaven shall bring forth instruments worthy of you, whom the Creator shall call souls.”
This passage has a double meaning, applicable alike to the works of the Divine Hermes and the human Hermes; and the time is yet distant when the true Hermetic philosophy and the ancient civilization of Egypt will be revived in the natural course of evolutionary progress. The works that are now being published as Hermetic, however, do not appear to be the real Hermetic books which were so carefully concealed, though they contain fragments of true Hermetic philosophy coloured by Grecian thought and mythology, and The Virgin of the World was probably based on
some Egyptian compilation professing to be one of the Hermetic books. It is curious to notice that in it we find Isis informing Horus that the animal signs were placed in the Zodiac after those of human form, which would be the case when the equinoctial point was at the beginning of Gemini. Moreover, as will be shown further on, the main doctrines taught by the discourse are in harmony with the religious doctrines of Ancient Egypt. But the prominent references to Zeus, Kronos, Ares, and Aphrodite unmistakably show that it can in no wise be considered as one of the ancient Hermetic books. In the context in which such names occur, Hermes would no doubt have referred to the corresponding deities of Egyptian mythology. By referring to page 9 it will be seen that the writer identifies Hermes with Mercury, which no ancient Egyptian properly acquainted with his ancient philosophy would have done. Hermes is “cosmic thought”, as is stated in another part of this discourse. Strictly speaking he is the universal mind in his divine aspect, and corresponds with Brahmã in the Hindu religion. Just as the Vedas and the Upanisads are said to have originated from Brahmã before the evolution of the manifested Cosmos, the Egyptians declared that their religious books originated from the Divine Hermes. Hermes, like Brahmã, is represented (p. 10) as taking part in creation. Such being the case, it will be erroneous from the Egyptian standpoint to represent him as Mercury. Hermes is further spoken of as the teacher and initiator
of Isis, though in one place the Great Master and the Ruler of the Universe addresses the mysterious goddess as the soul of his soul and the holy thought of his thought. Isis, the great Cosmic Virgin, is the sixth principle of the Cosmos. She is the generative power of the universe – not Prakriti, but the productive energy of Prakriti – and as such she generates ideation in the universal mind. Even in her human incarnation she cannot properly be placed in the position of a pupil of Hermes. The human incarnation of Isis is not the descent of soul into matter, as is the case with the rape of Persephone. Curiously enough in referring to this incarnation in her discourse to Horus, Isis speaks thus: – “The Supreme God (…) at length accorded to earth for a season thy father Osiris and the great goddess Isis.” Who then is this Isis who addresses Horus? Possibly the term Isis was applied to every incarnated soul, as the term Osiris was applied to every departed spirit in the later times of Egyptian history; but even this supposition will be found inconsistent with some portions of the dialogue under consideration. The author of the book, whoever he was, did not comprehend in its true light the mysterious connection between Isis and Hermes, and, trying to imitate the tone and form of the real Hermetic dialogues (which were repeated during the times of initiation only) according to the traditions current in his time, wrote the dialogue under review in the form in which it is now presented to the public. Before proceeding to notice in detail
the doctrines inculcated in this book it is necessary to point out that Persephone is not the Cosmic Virgin, and cannot be represented as such from the standpoint of Hermetic philosophy. This title is only applicable to the great Isis, and not to every soul which is encased in matter and which ultimately manifests itself as the spiritual intelligence of man. The Cosmic Virgin is the maiden mother of the manifested Universe and not the Virgin mother of incarnated Christ (Spirit).
Isis occupies in the cosmos or macrocosm the same position which the soul that has fallen into the clutches of matter occupies in the microcosm. Isis the mother of the Logos manifested in the Cosmos, as the soul is the Virgin mother of the regenerated spirit; Isis is the mother of Adonais, while the incarnated soul is the mother of Christ: but the former alone is entitled to be called the Cosmic Virgin, and not the latter. In our humble opinion the Cosmic Virgin is not the Virgin manifested in the Cosmos, but the Virgin mother of the Cosmos. The contrast is not between the Virgin of the Cosmos and the “perpetual maid of heaven,” but between the macrocosmic Virgin and the microcosmic Virgin. Consequently in the discourse of the Cosmic Virgin to her divine son, we find a general account of cosmic evolution, and not a mere description of the descent of soul into matter. It must be remembered in this connection that the human incarnations of Isis and Osiris should not be taken as mere allegorical representations of the incarnations of the spirit. They were
placed on quite a different footing by the ancient Egyptian writers; and in this very discourse Isis said that she would not and dared not “recount this nativity” and “declare the origin” of the race of Horus. The so-called myth of Osiris is the great central mystery of Egyptian occultism, and has probably a closer relation with the appearance of Buddha than has usually been imagined. It must further be stated here that the Greek God Dionysos has no proper position to occupy in the Egyptian Pantheon. Dr. Kingsford speaks of the “incarnation, martyrdom and resuscitation of Dionysos Zagreus” in the essay prefixed to this book. She says that “the spirit of Dionysos was regarded as of a specially divine genesis, being the son of Zeus by the immaculate Maiden Kore-Persephoneia (…)”. If so, Dionysos is the seventh principle in man, the Logos that manifests itself in the microcosm. But we are informed at the end of the essay that “Osiris is the microcosmic sun, the counterpart in the human system of the macrocosmic Dionysos or Son of God”. This latter statement is clearly inconsistent with what has gone before, and is evidently the result of misconception – a misconception generally prevalent in the minds of the Western Hermetic students regarding the real position of Osiris – and an attempt to interpret the higher mysteries of the Egyptian religion by the mythological fables of ancient Greece, which, though elegant and refined in form, bear
no comparison whatever to the allegories of the ancient Egyptian writers in point of occult significance.
There is a remarkable passage on p. 34 of the book under consideration which, if closely examined, may throw some light on the subject. Isis informs Horus that “on high dwell two ministers of the Universal Providence; one is the guardian of the Souls, the other is their conductor, who sends them forth and ordains for them bodies. The first minister guards them, the second releases or binds them, according to the Will of God”. The real position and duties of Osiris may perhaps be gathered from this significant paragraph. It will not be very difficult to ascertain the name of the other minister, who has a nearer relationship with the Macrocosmic Sun than Dionysos, from a careful examination of the religious doctrine of Egypt. But as it is the business of the Sphinx to propose riddles, not to solve difficulties on such subjects, nothing more can be said in this connection. Buddha and Samkarãcãrya may perhaps disclose the real mystery of these two ministers.
Some of the important doctrines taught by Isis in this discourse will be examined by the light of Hindu and Buddhistic philosophy in the next issue of the Theosophist.
THE SOLAR SPHINX.
Most of the important doctrines explained to Horus by his divine mother are in perfect harmony with the corresponding teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism, as will be seen from the following explanations. Horus represents the regenerated spirit of man, and it is to
him that the Cosmic Virgin unveils herself and reveals the mysteries of human existence.
In tracing the evolution of the physical man Isis commences by giving an account of the origin of the spiritual monad. God, it would appear, took out of himself such essence as was necessary, and “mingling it with an intellectual flame, he combined with these other materials in unknown ways; and having, by the use of secret formulae, brought about the union of these principles, he endowed the universal combination with motion. Gradually in the midst of the protoplasm glittered a substance more subtle, purer and more limpid than the elements from which it was generated. (…) He called it self-consciousness”. The name given to it is very appropriate; it is the germ of prajña, the point of consciousness, the monad which ultimately evolutes the human being. This explanation is similar to that given by alchemists of the composition of the philosopher’s stone. Mercury, described as Sivaviryam by the Hindus, is considered by the alchemists as the essence of God while the intellectual flame is represented by sulphur. The mysterious salt is the other material spoken of in the above account, and it is the azoth that begins to glitter in the composition. This has a profound significance, and gives a clue to the solution of that perplexing problem – the nature and origin of consciousness. Isis points out that myriads of souls were thus formed, and that they were authorized to take part in the creation of the material world and
the lower organisms, and were forbidden to transgress certain limits assigned to their action. In course of time however they rebelled, and with a view of imprisoning them in organisms and thereby curtailing their power and freedom, God convened a meeting of the celestials and asked them “What they could bestow upon the race about to be born?” Sun, Moon, Kronos (Saturn), Zeus (Jupiter), Aries (Mars), Aphrodite (Venus), and Hermes (Mercury) responded to this call and promised to invest human nature with various qualities, intellectual and emotional, good and bad, peculiarly appertaining to the nature of the donors; and Hermes constructed organisms out of the existing material for the monads to inhabit. Thus was formed the man before his fall. With the transition from simple self-consciousness to the plane of mind and its varied activities there came then a change of Upãdhi also, from a mere center of force to an astral body. While the spiritual monad is evolver by God himself, the latter Upãdhi is represented as the work of subordinate powers.
There yet remained one more step of descent into matter. The souls perceived the change in their condition and bewailed their fate; hopes of a better and happier future were held out to them, and it was further pointed out that if any of them should merit reproach they would be made to inhabit abodes destined to them in mortal organisms. In spite of this warning the necessity for a further degradation of the spiritual monad
soon arose. Man as an astral being was in a transition stage; and this condition was not such as could be permanently to control and restrain their action were likely to produce evil results. The genius of the law of Karma soon arose from the earth in the form of Momos and pointed out to Hermes the evil results which would inevitably follow if mankind were allowed to remain in their then condition. The wisdom of Hermes soon designed “a mysterious instrument, a measure inflexible and inviolable, to which everything would be subject from birth even to final destruction,” and which would be the bond of created entities – in short, the inexorable law of Karma. The instrument forthwith operated, it would seem, as Karmic impulses were already being generated by men, owing to the very mental qualities with which he was invested, and the consequence was that souls were incorporated. This is the summary of the account given by Isis of the gradual evolution of the Kãrana Śarĩra, Sŭksma Śarira, and Sthŭla Śarĩra. The constitution of these Upãdhis was also to a certain extent indicated, as well as the nature of the conscious energy and its functions manifested in and through the said Upãdhis. This three-fold division of a human being is in agreement with the Vedantic classification of the various Upãdhis.
Man thus left encased in matter, with his internal light altogether clouded and obscured, began to grope in the dark. Without a guide, a teacher and enlightener,
mankind developed tendencies which if left unchecked would lead to a still lower level of existence. Confusion and discord reigned supreme. Even the very elements could not bear the presence of man. Loud were the complaints made by the whole of nature against the moral and spiritual chaos that prevailed. It was found that if left to himself man would be unable to liberate his soul from the trammels of matter and attain to salvation. As long as he remained a trinity merely he would remain an imperfect being. It was necessary to convert this trinity into a quaternary. This condition of things had to be remedied, and “forthwith God filled the Universe with His divine voice: ‘Go’, said He, ‘Sacred offspring, worthy of your father’s greatness; seek not to change anything, nor refuse to my creatures your ministry.’”
This divine Voice is the Logos – the seventh principle in man. He is the real Ĩśvara of the Vedantins and the Saviour of mankind. Through Him alone can salvation and immortality be secured by man; and the end and object of all initiation is to ascertain His attributes and connection with humanity, realize His sacred presence in every human heart, and discover the means of transferring man’s higher individuality, purified and ennobled by the virtuous Karma of a series of incarnations, to His feet as the most sacred offering which a human being can bestow.
God further found it necessary to send a teacher and a ruler to mankind to disclose to them the laws of initiation
and point out the way to reach their own Logos. In spite of the presence of Ãtma in his own heart, man might remain ignorant of that sacred presence unless the veil of ignorance were removed from his eyes by a spiritual teacher. To meet this necessity God thought of sending down into the world such a teacher, and made the following promise to the complaining elements:
“I will send you an efflux of myself, a pure being who shall investigate all actions, who shall be the dreadful and incorruptible judge of the living: and sovereign justice shall extend its reign even into the shades beneath the earth. Thus shall every man receive his merited deserts.”
This efflux manifested itself as Osiris and his female counterpart Isis.
This nativity, the mystery of which Isis refuses to disclose even to Horus, does not however correspond with the nativity of Christ.
Christ or Christos is the divine voice or Logos which manifests itself in every man; and the biblical narrative of Christ is an allegorical account of every regenerated spirit generally. It is not the historical value of the biblical account which is of importance to mankind in general, but its philosophical and occult significance, as asserted by Dr. Kingsford and Mr. Maitland. But it will be erroneous to look upon the incarnation of Buddha or this nativity of Osiris and Isis in the same light as that of Christ. Every Buddha
is also a Christ; but every Christ is not a Buddha. Every man may become a Christ and identify himself with Christ, but it is not open to every man to develop into a Buddha. Every true Kabalist knows that Christ is the son of man, and not Ennoia the primitive man; or to express the same thing in Buddhist phraseology, Christ is a Bodhisattva and not a Buddha. It must be remembered that by the term Christ I do not refer to any particular individual, but to the spiritual entity with reference to which the Bible account has its philosophical importance. The germ of a Bodhisattva is in every man, but not the germ of a Buddha; hence when a Buddha is evolved by humanity in the course of its progress, his appearance will become a matter of historical importance. The appearance of Osiris was placed on the same footing, and was looked upon in the same light by the Egyptian initiates. Osiris is not the Logos, but is something higher than the Logos. The Logos itself has a soul and a spirit as everything else has which is manifested; and there is nothing unreasonable in supposing that Osiris or Buddha may represent the soul of the Logos. The Sphinx cannot and dare not say anything more on the subject. The reader may find a very interesting and instructive commentary on the foregoing statements in the second volume of Isis Unveiled.
We will now proceed with the account of Isis. The reign of order and justice commenced with the appearance of Isis and Osiris; who, amongst other
things, taught mankind the secrets of the occult science and the sacred mysteries of initiation. After finishing their work on earth the divine couple were recalled by “the inhabitants of heaven”.
After having thus traced the descent of spirit into matter and indicated the provision made by God for securing salvation to mankind, Isis proceeds to give replies to certain questions put to her by Horus. The first question relates to royal or kingly souls. The royalty herein referred to is spiritual royalty. Now and then men like Buddha, Shamkaracarya, Christ, Zoroaster and others have appeared on earth as spiritual development and elevation of moral character they stand at such an enormous height above the level of ordinary humanity as to lead mankind into the belief that they are special incarnations of divinity. This popular belief however is not endorsed by Isis, whose way of accounting for the appearance of such men is in harmony with the teachings of occult science. She explains to Horus that “souls destined to reign upon the earth descend thither for two causes. There are those who in former lives have lived blameless, and who merit apotheosis; for such as these royalty is a preparation for the divine state. Again there are holy souls, who for some slight infringement of the interior and divine Law receive in royalty a penance whereby the suffering and shame of incarnation are mitigated. The condition of these in taking a body resembles not that of others; they are
as blessed as when they were free”. If this reply of Isis is properly understood and accepted by the generality of people, sectarian strife, discord and bigotry will almost cease to exist.
There are differences, it would appear, among these royal souls, due to the nature of the angels and genii who assist them. The reader must not suppose that these powers are elementals; they are the guardians of the souls, whose teaching and guidance the souls follow, as declared by Isis. It is this guardian angel of the soul which is the Kwan-yin of the Buddhist and the Citkalã of the Hindus.
“How are souls born male or female?” asks Horus; and Isis answers thus: “There are not among them either males or females: this distinction exists only between bodies, and not between incorporeal beings. But some are more energetic, some are gentler; and this belongs to the air in which all things are formed. For an airy body envelopes the soul (…)”. It is hardly necessary to state that the air referred to is the anima mundi – astral light – and that the airy body is the astral body of man. The next question answered by Isis relates to the various degrees of spiritual enlightenment seen amongst men.
The real difference between a man who has spiritual vision and discernment, and another who does not possess these faculties, is not to be found in the inmost nature of the soul; just as the clearness of
vision depends, not on the latent perceptive faculty of the soul or mind, but upon the nature of the organ of vision and the tunics in which it is developed, the clearness of spiritual or clairvoyant perception depends, not on the nature of the soul, but on the condition and nature of the Upãdhis in which it is placed.
Consequently all progressive development consists in the improvement of the Upãdhis; the soul is perfect from the beginning and undergoes no alteration during the course of evolution.
Isis further proceeds to point out differences in national character, physical, intellectual and spiritual, amongst the various races inhabiting the globe, and attributes them to differences in climate and position of their respective countries. The reference to the constellation Ursa Major has a mystic significance. The ancient Hindus calculated the period of one of their secret cycles with reference to the movements of the stars composing this constellation; and this cycle is related to the evolution of the various races and sub-races on the globe.
Speaking of the agencies which cause “in living men during long maladies an alteration of discernment ‘of reason’ even of the soul itself,” Isis points out “that the soul has affinity with certain elements and aversion for others” and that therefore its functions are sometimes disturbed and affected by changes in either the physical or the astral body.
The last chapter of the treatise under review contains the explanations of Isis regarding existence in Devachan or Svarga.
Isis says that there are several regions between the earth and heaven, adapted to varying degrees of spiritual development, wherein “dwell the souls who are freed from bodies and those who have not yet been incorporated”. These regions correspond to the various Devalokas (each Devagana has a separate loka) spoken of in Hindu books, and the rŭpa and arŭpa lokas of the Buddhists. The two mysterious ministers alluded to in the former part of this article exercise, it would seem, certain powers of supervision and control over the condition of the various Devachanees in accordance with the law of Karma. This law is set in motion by two energies described as memory and experience. The former “directs in nature the preservation and maintenance of all the original types appointed in Heaven”. This refers to the record of Karma preserved in astral light. “The function of Experience is to provide every soul descending into generation with a body appropriate thereto.” It is needless to state that it is a correct rationale of the doctrine of Karma from the Buddhist and Hindu standpoint.
There is nothing more of importance to consider in this treatise. The points already referred to show that the same main doctrines of the ancient wisdom religion underlie every exoteric creed whether ancient or modern. It is not true, as Mr. Herbert Spencer says, that the
only statement with reference to which all the nations in the world agree in the matter of religious belief is that there is an unknown and unknowable Power in the universe. The religious history of humanity shows that there are a number of doctrines regarding the origin, the nature and the ultimate destiny of the human soul, highly philosophical and complicated, which form the foundation of every exoteric religion and which have influenced the religious sentiments of mankind from time immemorial. How are we to account for these beliefs? Have they any inherent special connection with human nature as it is? Or are they the outcome of a divine revelation during the infancy of the human race, whose influence has survived the vicissitudes of so many civilizations? If neither of these hypotheses is acceptable to the mind of a modern agnostic, can the evolution of these doctrines from a few simple ideas which are common to humanity in general be explained by the operation of known psychological laws? If the latter hypothesis is tenable, how is it that these products of human experience have not undergone any change in spite of great improvements in material civilization and mental culture?
It is not my object now to undertake a discussion of the above subject and offer my own solutions of the problem; I only beg to call the reader’s attention to this important question, and request him not to lose sight of it in meditating on the origin and history of religious belief amongst mankind, and the possibility of
discovering a common platform on which the followers of the various religions on the globe may take up their stand with brotherly love and affection, forgetting the petty differences of their exoteric dogmatic creeds. The Sphinx does not think it necessary to say anything about the contents of the short philosophical dissertations appended to The Virgin of the World as they seem to contain more of Grecian speculation than of Egyptian wisdom.
THE SOLAR SPHINX.
[Answers by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland,
with another answer by T. Subba Row]
To the Editor of The Theosophist
(From Anna Kingsford)
In your remarks upon my prefatory essay to the Virgin of the World, you assert that Persephone cannot be regarded as the Kosmic Virgin. She was, however, undoubtedly so regarded by all the neo-Platonic school, whose exponent, Thomas Taylor, in his Dissertation of the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, quotes largely from Greek Hermetic authors to prove this very point. I wish that my reviewer, before committing himself to the statement he has made on page 97 of the November number of The Theosophist, had made himself familiar with this standard work, and also with certain passages of Proclus, Olympiodorus, the Orphic hymns, Claudian, Apuleias, and other accredited and classic authorities, from all of which it is abundantly clear that the mythos of the rape of Persephone, the theme of the Mysteries, represented the descent into Matter, or Generation, of the Soul, and that the title “Kore Kosmou” was throughout the whole mythos attributed to Persephone, the daughter of Demeter or supermundane Intelligence.
Isis never represented the soul or sixth Principle (third) of the universe, but the eighth sphere; not properly a Principle, but an influence. Passages from the best authors are cited in my essay to prove this fact, and many more can be adduced. If, as is certain, Isis was identified with the Moon, and wore as an ensign the double horns of Selene, it is placed beyond doubt that she symbolized the Occult Power of Increase and Decrease, Good and Evil, and cannot possibly, therefore, be identified with the Soul whom she rejoices or afflicts according to an inflexible law. I cannot in the least understand your reviewer’s reference to the Egyptian pantheon in connection with Dionysos-Zagreus. No pretence is made in my essay or elsewhere in the work, that Dionysos occupied such a place, although, of course, he had his correspondence therein. But the whole of my exposition follows the Greek mysteries, and deals with their presentations. That Dionysos-Zagreus personified in these mysteries the seventh principle (Hermetically, the Fourth) in the universe – that is – the Divine and vitalizing Spirit, is no surmise or assumption of mine, but an undoubted fact, placed beyond controversy by the authorities already mentioned. This Dionysos-Zagreus (Dιóvooς Xθóvιoς [Dionysos Chthonios]) the mystic Dionysos, must not be confounded with the later god, identical with Bacchus, the son of Semele. I will only add that there is no such inconsistency in my essay as your reviewer charges on me. Dionysios represents the Spirit or Seventh Principle (Fourth) whether
macrocosmically, and as such, has been identified with Osiris, the Egyptian presentation of the same Principle. And Persephone is alike, in both aspects, greater and lesser, the Soul. But the Greek Mysteries dealt ostensibly with the macrocosmic presentation of the divine drama, and with its individual meaning by implication only. Hence Persephone is generally taken to signify the Soul in her larger acceptation, as “Kore Kosmou” and hence also, her son Dionysos represents rather the son of God in the World than the son of God in Man.
And, in this connection, in order further to elucidate the function and position of Isis in the macrocosm as it is expounded by Hermetists and neo-Platonists, I may add that her counter-partal analogy in the microcosm, or individual, is found in the Genius, – the guardian angel of Christian Theosophy. This Genius is good or bad, helpful or hindering, bright or dark, favorable or hostile, according to the state of grace (Karma) which the Soul has acquired. The Genius sheds upon the Soul the light derived from her own celestial Sun (see pp. 88 and 89 of the Perfect Way).
In the Discourse accompanying the allegory of the “Virgin of the World,” I understand Isis to represent the Illuminatrix or Revealer; Osiris, the Saviour or Redeeming Principle; and Horos, the Initiate – offspring of a good “Karma” or state of Grace, and Divine Influx, by which parentage is exactly described the generation of every true “Jesus”.
I must content myself with a simple expression of dissent from your reviewer’s appreciation of the relation existing between the Mysteries of Egyptian and of Grecian origin. No doubt I feel somewhat strongly on this point, because my own instruction and illumination in mystic doctrine have been obtained chiefly through the splendid arcana which I cannot, without regret, find characterized by your reviewer in a sentence evidently intended to disparage them, as “mythological fables”.
Christmas, 1885 ANNA KINGSFORD, M.D., F.T.S.
To the Editor of The Theosophist
(From Edward Maitland)
SIR, – In thanking you for the notice of this book in the November Theosophist, I wish to correct a misapprehension caused by your reviewer’s statement that the books now being published do not appear to be the real Hermetic books. The misapprehension in question consists in the impression that this statement is made in contradiction of the position taken up by me. Whereas, the fact is it correctly describes that position, the only conclusion to which I have committed myself in the point being “that the doctrine contained in the Hermetic books is in part, at least, a survival from the times of ancient Egypt, and therein really Hermetic”. I have not said a word to imply that I considered them the work of Trismegistus himself, or that the term Hermetic
meant other than a certain school or system of doctrine, originating, so far as the Western World is concerned, in Egypt, and bearing the name of Hermes Trismegistus, a name which has long been, for the Western world, a synonym for the intellectual principle.
Your reviewer’s expression “misconception generally prevalent in the minds of the Western Hermetists” seems to me unfortunate as constituting an affirmation that the “Western Hermetists” are not rightly instructed concerning their own doctrine. Whereas all that your reviewer can possibly be in a position to affirm is that there is a divergency of view between his system and that of the West. That there may be and probably is such a divergency we “Western Hermetists” are quite ready to admit. But we are not ready to admit that the error, if any, lies with us. Rather do we hold, and believe, that the revival of occult knowledge now in progress will some day demonstrate, that the Western system represents ranges of perception, which the Eastern – at least as expounded in the pages of the Theosophist – has yet to attain.
P.S. – Allow me to state, in justice to my fellow-editor and myself, that the responsibility for the defective title-page and table of contents does not rest with us, these not having been submitted to us prior to publication.
To the Editor of The Theosophist
(From T. Subba Row)
SIR, – Kindly permit me to say a few words with reference to the two letters sent by Dr. Kingsford and Mr. Maitland in connection with my review of the Virgin of the World.
If my critics had borne in mind that the subject-matter of my review was the Virgin of the World and not their introductory essays on Hellenic mysteries, they would no doubt have refrained from making all the irrelevant statements which their letters contain. There were but two specific references to these introductory essays in my article. One of my objections remains altogether unanswered, and the explanation given with reference to the other throws no additional light on the real question at issue as the following remarks will show.
The Virgin of the World was published though not as a genuine work of Hermes himself, yet as a treatise on Egyptian mysteries. In reviewing it, therefore, I found it necessary to examine it by the light of Hermetic science and not by that of Grecian philosophy. With reference to the title of the Hermetic fragment under consideration, I made the following statement in my article – “(…) it is necessary to point out that Persephone is not the Cosmic Virgin and cannot be represented as such from the standpoint of Hermetic philosophy.” Dr. Kingsford objects to this statement on the authority of various writers on Grecian philosophy. If Grecian writers have bestowed this title on Persephone, it is no proof whatever that Egyptian writers did the same thing. Persephone might be the Kore Kosmou of the Hellenic mysteries, but she was not the Cosmic Virgin of the Egyptians. It will even be difficult to find the corresponding goddess of the Egyptian Pantheon. It cannot even be contended that the Virgin of the World not being a genuine Egyptian book, but a work written by some Grecian author, to some extent according to Egyptian models, the title in question might have been used according to the conceptions of Grecian writers in general. For, under such a supposition, there would be no connection whatever between the contents of the book and the title chosen for it. There is no special reference whatsoever to Persephone or any corresponding goddess in the treatise as we find it at present. The only female deity who figures prominently in it is Isis. Under these circumstances it would have been extremely absurd on my part if I had put on the title in question the construction now contended for by my critic and tried to force into the teachings of Isis by means of strained interpretations and farfetched analogies any ideas relating to the position of Persephoneia in Grecian mysteries. I beg to state further that the description, when judged by itself and not in connection with the usage of any particular class of writers, is more appropriate to the Egyptian Isis than to the Grecian Persephone.
It is my humble opinion that my critic has misconceived the position of the Egyptian Isis. What
is really meant by saying that Isis represented “the Eighth sphere” it is not easy to understand. She further says that Isis is not a principle but an influence. In spite of my critic’s assurance to the contrary, I am unable to find any authority for these assertions in her introductory essay. Though the word principle is now rejected as inapplicable, yet I find in p. 27 of the said essay that Isis is “a principle” represented by the Kabbalists under the figure of Malkuth or the Moon. The reason assigned for disproving my statement that Isis represented the 6th principle of the Cosmos is stated as follows: “If, as is certain, Isis was identified with the moon, and wore as an ensign the double horns of Selene, it is placed beyond doubt that she symbolized the occult power of Increase and Decrease, Good and Evil, and cannot possibly therefore be identified with the soul whom she rejoices and afflicts according to an inflexible Law.” To begin with, what proof is there that Isis was identified with the moon by Egyptian writers? There is no use in saying that Grecian writers identified her with Diana or Artemis. When the question whether Grecian writers rightly or wrongly interpreted the Hermetic doctrines of ancient Egypt is under discussion, it is improper solely to rely on their statements. The sign of the Crescent is no proof that Isis represents the moon. This symbol, which has a profound significance to every true occultist, is associated with a very large number of male and female deities in the Hindu religious philosophy; but not one of
them is on that account ever confounded with the moon. Isis has not got all the attributes of Diana or Artemis. She was never represented as a huntress, for instance with a bow and arrows in her hands. Another Egyptian goddess – the Divine Neith – had these attributes. But Neith was clearly a Solar Deity in the Egyptian doctrine. It would be extremely unsafe for a student of comparative mythology to infer the identity of two deities belonging to the mystical conceptions of two very different nationalities from the mere fact that they have some similar attributes. Even admitting that the moon was a symbol of Isis, how does it follow from it that Isis was considered by the Egyptians as “the occult power of increase and decrease, good and evil”? The description itself conveys no definite idea, and there is no evidence to show that the Egyptians attached any such significance to the moon in their writings. Even supposing that the chain of inference is so far sound and that this influence called Isis rejoices and afflicts the soul, how is it shown thereby that Isis is not the Cosmic soul or the 6th principle of the Universe? Does Isis or the law of Karma afflict and rejoice the 6th principle or the spiritual intelligence of the Cosmos? If it does, it requires no doubt a “range of perception” which the Eastern system “has yet to attain” to comprehend the meaning of this statement. If it does not, the whole argument is simply worthless. The law of Karma and its influence is as much a manifestation of the energies of the Cosmic 6th principle as every other in all the
Universe; and the rejoicings and sufferings of the soul encased in matter do not disprove the real and genuine claims of Isis to be regarded as the spiritual soul of the Cosmos.
I did not say and did not mean to insinuate in my articles that Dr. Kingsford made any incorrect statements as regards Dionysos Zagreus as is now alleged. I simply pointed out in my article that Dionysos as contrasted with Osiris had no place in the Egyptian Pantheon to preclude the possibility of any misconception that might otherwise arise regarding the real position of Osiris from certain passages in the introductory essay: and I must further state now that if Osiris is to be left out of account Dionysos has no correspondence in the Egyptian Pantheon.
The inconsistency pointed out in my article is in no way removed by the explanation now given. I beg to call the reader’s attention to the following passages in the introductory essay in this connection.
1. “(…) The incarnation, martyrdom and resuscitation of Dionysos Zagreus.”
2. “For, Osiris is the microcosmic sun, the counterpart in the human system of the macrocosmic Dionysos or Son of God. So that these authors who confound Isis with Demeter, equally and quite comprehensibly confound Osiris with Dionysos (…)”.
3. “The Hermetic books admit three expressions of Deity; first, the supreme, abstract, and infinite God, eternally self-subsistent and unmanifest; secondly, the
only Begotten, the manifestation of Deity in the universe; thirdly, God in man, the redeemer, or Osiris.”
Comparing these various statements with each other we find Dionysos, described as the macrocosmic sun or the only Begotten Son of God manifested in the Universe, undergoing incarnation, martyrdom and resuscitation as if he were the incarnated spirit. It is now asserted that Dionysos represents the spirit or 7th principle, whether macrocosmically or microcosmically. If so he is identical with Osiris as is virtually admitted. Why then was it stated in the introductory essay that some authors confounded Dionysos with Osiris and Isis with Demeter? If one and the same principle is alike the Logos manifested in the Cosmos and the Logos manifested in man, what foundation is there for the three expressions of Deity above described? If the Greek mysteries dealt ostensibly with the macrocosmic presentation of the Divine Drama, and with its individual meaning by implication only as is now asserted, this statement is altogether at variance with the following statements in the introductory essay: “The Greek mysteries dealt only with two subjects, the first being the Drama of the rape and restoration of Persephone; the second that of the incarnation, martyrdom and resuscitation of Dionysos Zagreus.” It cannot, surely, be contended that these form the subject-matter of the macrocosmic presentation of the Divine Drama; and we are further informed that the Hellenic Mysteries dealt only with these two subjects.
If so, the presentation is pre-eminently if not entirely microcosmic, and the macrocosmic position assigned to Dionysos and the difference pointed out between him and Osiris in the introductory essay by reason of such position, is out of place in the Grecian mysteries. Any number of difficulties may be pointed out in the position assumed by Dr. Kingsford, and the explanation now offered is likely to make matters worse.
As regards the guardian angel of Christian Theosophy, I find it necessary to state that this guardian angel is not the counterpart of Isis. If Isis is not a principle but a mere influence as stated by my critic, it is difficult to understand how this influence can discharge the duties assigned to, and be invested with, the attributes of a guardian angel In the Christian doctrine.
With reference to Dr. Kingsford’s letter I have only to state further that I did not use the expression cited for the purpose of disparaging the Grecian mystical doctrines. According to ordinary usage the expression in question was the only one which I could use to indicate that part of the Grecian literature which dealt with mystical and occult subjects. But my convictions are equally strong that there is a greater depth of occult significance in the allegorical fables of Egypt than in those of Greece, and that it will be extremely unjust to the Egyptian doctrine to interpret it in accordance with Hellenic notions.
Mr. Maitland’s letter requires but very few words in reply. He makes no attempt to justify his assertion
that the number of the Vedas or their sub-divisions is 42, but raises a discussion which is altogether irrelevant and unnecessary. I do not see how he can hold me responsible for any misapprehension that might have arisen from his own words. Mr. Maitland seems to think that I have no right whatever to speak of the misconceptions regarding the Hermetic doctrine that seem to exist in the minds of the so-called “Western Hermetists,” because the said doctrine is “their own doctrine,” and it must therefore be presumed that they know all about it. If, by Hermetic doctrine Mr. Maitland simply means the doctrine now professed by the so-called “Western Hermetists” of the present day, there is some reason for the assertion made. But the expression is generally applied to the occult philosophy and the mystical doctrines of the ancient Egyptians, and when I spoke of the misconceptions regarding the Hermetic doctrine in my review, I had this system of philosophy in view and not any other doctrine to which my critic might apply the expression.
But if Mr. Maitland goes to the length of saying that the Hermetic doctrine of the ancient Egyptians can be claimed by the Western Hermetists “as their doctrine”, I am bound to reject such a claim as simply absurd. The real Hermetic doctrine is far more closely connected with the Eastern systems of occult science than with the Western. A considerable portion of it has long ago disappeared from the West entirely. The old Hermetic doctrine dealt with various systems of
initiation. There were mysteries of Isis, of Osiris, of Hermes, of Neith, of Amen-ra and various others divided into distinct groups. A few of the doctrines only belonging to the mysteries of Isis and Osiris came to the West through Hebrew, Grecian and other sources considerably modified. The other parts of the true Hermetic doctrine were altogether lost to the West.
Under such circumstances it is highly desirable that “Western Hermetists” should be a little more tolerant and discreet. Mr. Maitland’s reference to The Theosophist is entirely out of place in the present discussion. I must confess that I have as yet seen very little of this Western wisdom which is somewhere stored up in Europe. Possibly it has very wide ranges of perception not yet attained by Eastern systems as Mr. Maitland is pleased to state.
But as these ranges of perception have very little to do with the Virgin of the World or my review of the same, or with the introductory essays appended to it, it is unnecessary to enter into any controversy with Mr. Maitland on this subject.
THE SOLAR SPHINX.
Originally published online by Anna Kingsford.Com. Archived on Katinka Hesselink Net in March 2010 so it will remain accessible.