Initiates are sure to come into the company of the gods.
– SOCRATES in the Phaedo
In the first number of the Revue Theosophique in the initial portion of the fine lecture of our brother and colleague, the erudite Correspondent-Secretary of the T.S. Hermes, we read in the footnote (fn. 2, p. 23 ):
We designate under the term Initiate every seeker in the possession of the elementary principles of the Occult Science. One must beware lest he confuse this term with that of Adept, which indicates the highest degree of elevation to which the initiate may attain. We have in Europe many Initiates. I do not think that there exist any adepts as in the Orient.
Foreign to the genius of the French language, not even having at hand a dictionary of etymology, it is impossible for me to say if this double definition is authorized in French except in the terminology of the Free-Masons. But in English, as in the sense that usage has sanctioned among Theosophists and occultists in India, these two terms have a sense absolutely different from the one given by the author. I mean to say that the definition as given by M. Papus to the word Adept is the one which applies to the word Initiate and vice-versa.
I would never have thought of correcting this error – in the eyes of Theosophists at least – if it had not threatened in my opinion to throw into the minds of the subscribers to our Revue, very regrettable confusion in the future.
As I was the first one to employ these two adjectives (qualificatifs) in a sense entirely opposed to the meaning lent to them by Masons and M. Papus there would certainly result some equivocations (quiproquos) which must be avoided at all costs. Let us understand ourselves first if we want to be understood by our readers.
Let us halt at a fixed and invariable definition of the terms which we employ in Theosophy; because otherwise instead of order and clarity, we would only bring a greater confusion into the already existing chaos of the ideas of the profane world.
Not being cognizant of the reasons which caused our wise brother to use said terms in the manner that he uses them, I take to task the "Sons of the Widow" who use the terms in a sense entirely the reverse of the true sense.
Everybody knows that the word "Adept" comes from the Latin Adeptus. This term is derived from the two words, ad "of" and Apisci "to pursue" (Sanskrit ap).
An Adept would then be a person versed in a certain art or science acquired in one manner or another. It follows that this qualification can be applied as well to an adept in astronomy as to an adept in the art of making pâtés de foies gras (chopped liver); a shoemaker as a perfumer, the one versed in the art of making boots, the other in the art of chemistry – are "adepts.'
As to the term Initiate, it is quite another matter. Every Initiate must be an adept in occultism; he must become one before being initiated in the Great Mysteries. But every adept is not always an Initiate. It is true that the Illuminati used the term Adeptus in speaking of themselves, but they did so in a general sense – e.g., in the seventh degree of the order of the Rite of Zimmendorf. Thus were used the terms Adeptatus, Adeptus Coronatus in the seventh degree of the Swedish rite; and Adeptus Exemptus in the seventh degree of the Rosie-Cross. This is an innovation of the Middle Ages. But no real Initiate of The Great (or even the Lesser) Mysteries, is called in the classical works Adeptus, but Initiatus in Latin, and Epopte in Greek. These same Illuminati treated as Initiates only those of their brothers who were more instructed than the others in the mysteries of their Society. It was only the less instructed among them who had the name Mystes and Adeptes inasmuch as they were as yet only admitted to the inferior degrees.
Let us pass now to the term "initiate."
Let us first say that there is a great difference between the verb and the substantive (substantif) of this word. A professor initiates his pupil into the first elements of a certain science, a science in which the student may become adept, that is, versed in its specialty. On the other hand, an adept in occultism is first instructed in the religious mysteries, after which, if he is lucky enough not to succumb during the terrible trials of initiation, he becomes an INITIATE. The best classical translators invariably render the Greek by this phrase: "Initiated in the Great Mysteries"; for this term is synonymous with Hierophant, "he who explains the sacred mysteries." Initiatus among the Romans was equivalent to the term Mystagogus and both were absolutely reserved for the one who in the Temple initiated others into the highest mysteries. He represented, therefore, figuratively, the Universal Creator. None dared pronounce this name before the profane. The place of the "Initiatus" was to the Orient, where he was seated, a globe about or suspended from his neck. The Free-Masons tried to imitate the Hierophant-lnitiatus in the person of their "Venerables" and Grand Masters of the Lodges.
But does the cowl make the monk?
It is to be regretted that they did not content themselves with this sole profanation.
The substantive French (and English) "initiation" being derived from the Latin word initium, commencement, the Masons with more respect for the dead letter that kills than for the spirit which gives life have applied the term "initiate" to all their neophytes or candidates – to the beginners – in all the Masonic degrees – the highest as well as the lowest.
Yet they knew better than anyone that the term Initiatus pertained to the 5th and to the highest degree of the order of the Templars; that the title Initiate in the mysteries was the 21st degree of the metropolitan chapter in France; in the same manner as that of the Initiate in the profound mysteries indicated the 62nd degree of the same chapter. Knowing all this, they nevertheless applied this title, sacred and sanctified by its antiquity, to their simple candidates – the infants (bambins), among the "Sons of the Widow." But because the passion for innovations and modifications of all kinds accomplished for the Masons what an occultist of the Orient regards as a veritable sacrilege, is this a reason for the Theosophists to accept their terminology?
We, disciples of the Masters of the Orient, have naught to do with modern Masonry. The real secrets of symbolical Masonry are lost – as Ragon so well proves. The keystone (clef de voûte), the central stone of the arch built by the first royal dynasties of the Initiates – ten times prehistorical – found itself shaken since the abolition of the last mysteries. The work of destruction, or rather of strangling and choking commenced by the Cæsars, was finally achieved in Europe, by the Church Fathers. Imported once more, since, from the sanctuaries of the Far East, the sacred stone was cracked and finally broken into a thousand pieces.
On whom shall the blame for this crime fall?
Shall it be on the Free-Masons, the Templars especially – persecuted, assassinated and violently divested of their annals and written statutes? Shall it be on the Church, which having appropriated the dogmas and rituals of primitive Masonry, passed them off as its own travestied rites, as the sole TRUTH and resolved smother the latter?
Be that as it may, it is no longer the Masons who have all of the truth whether we place the blame on Rome or the insect Shermah1 of the famous temple of Solomon which modern Masonry vindicates as base and origin of its order.
For decades of thousands of years the genealogical tree of the sacred science which the peoples possessed in common, was the same – for the temple of this science is ONE and is built on the unshakeable rock of primitive truths. But the Masons of the last two centuries preferred to divorce themselves from it. Once again, and this time applying the practice to the allegory, they broke the cube, itself divided into twelve parts.They have rejected the real stone for the false, and whatever they did with the first – their angular stone – it was certainly not according to the spirit that gives life but according to the dead letter that kills.
Is it again the Worm Samis (alias the "insect Shermah") which the traces on the rejected stone had already misled the "builders of the Temple" who gnawed the same lines? But this time what was done was done with full knowledge. The builders must have known the total2 by heart to judge by the thirteen lines or five surfaces.
No matter! We faithful disciples of the East prefer to all these stones a stone that has naught to do with all the other mummeries of the Masonic degrees.
We will adhere to the Eben Shatijah (having another name in Sanskrit), the perfect cube which while containing the delta or triangle, replaces the name of the Tetragrammaton of the Kabalists, by the symbol of the incommunicable name.
We willingly leave to the Masons their "insect"; while hoping for them that modern symbology which marches at such rapid pace, will never discover the identity of the Worm Shermah-Samis with Hiram Abif – which would be embarrassing enough.
However, and upon reflection, the discovery would not be without its useful side and not lacking in great charm. The idea of a worm that would be at the head of the Masonic genealogy and of the Architect of the first temple of the Masons, would also make of this worm the "father Adam" of the Masons, and would only render the "Sons of the Widow" the dearer to the Darwinists. This would re-approach them to modern Science, which only looks for proofs of Nature to fortify the theory of Haeckelian evolution. What would it matter to them, after all, once they have lost the secret of their true origin?
No one need decry this assertion which is a well attested fact. I allow myself to remind Messrs. the Masons who might read this, that as regards esoteric Masonry almost all the secrets have disappeared since Elias Ashmole, and his immediate successors. If they seek to contradict us, we will, like Job, tell them, "Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own books testify against thee." (XV, 6).
Our greatest secrets once upon a time were taught in Masonic Lodges, the world over. But their Grand Masters and Gurus perished one after the other; and all that remained written in secret manuscripts – like the one of Nicholas Stone, for instance, destroyed in 1720 by some scrupulous brothers – was put to the fire and annihilated between the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries, in England, as well as on the Continent.
Why this destruction?
Certain brothers in England whisper to each other that this destruction was the consequence of a shameful pact entered into by certain Masons and the Church. An aged "brother," great kabalist, has just died here, whose grandfather, a celebrated Mason, was the intimate friend of Count St. Germain, when the latter was sent, it is said, by Louis XV, to England in 1760, to negotiate peace between the two countries. Count St. Germain left in the hands of this Mason certain documents concerning the history of Masonry and containing the keys of more than one incomprehensible mystery. He did this under the condition that these documents would become the secret inheritance of all his descendents who became Masons. These papers profited two Masons, the father and the son, the one who just died, and will profit no one else in Europe. Before his death, the precious documents were entrusted to an Oriental (a Hindu) whose mission it was to deliver them to a certain person who would come to fetch them at Amritsa, city of Immortality. It is also secretly said that the celebrated founder of the Lodge of the Trinosophes, J. M Ragon, was also initiated into many mysteries in Belgium by an Oriental – and there are some who assert that he knew in his youth Count St. Germain. This explains, perhaps, why the author of the "Tuileur General De La Maçonnerie," or Manual of the Initiate, asserted that Elias Ashmole was the real founder of modern Masonry. Nobody knew better than Ragon the extent of the loss of Masonic secrets, as he himself well says: "It is of the essence and nature of the Mason to search for the light wherever he thinks he can find it," announces the circular of the Grand Orient of France. "In the meanwhile," he adds, "the Mason is given the glorious title of Child of Light and is left enveloped in obscurity." (Cours Philosophique, etc., p. 60.)
Thus, if as we think, M. Papus has followed the Masons his definition of the terms Adept and Initiate, he was wrong, for one does not turn towards "obscurity" when one is himself in a ray of light. Theosophy has invented naught, said nothing new, only faithfully repeating the lessons of the highest antiquity. The terminology, introduced fifteen years ago in the T.S., is the true one, for in each case its terms are a faithful translation of their Sanskrit equivalents, almost as old as the last human race. This terminology could not be modified, at this hour, without the risk of introducing in Theosophical teachings a chaos as deplorable as it is dangerous for their clarity.
Let us remind ourselves especially of these words so true of Ragon:
Initiation had India for a cradle. She has preceded the civilization of Asia and Greece, and in polishing the spirit and the customs of the peoples, she has served as a base for all the laws, civil, political and religious.
The word Initiate is the same as dwija, the "twice-born" Brahman. That is to say that initiation was considered as birth into a new life or as Apulius says, "it is the 'resurrection into a new life', 'novam vitam inibat'."
Aside from this, M. Papus' lecture on the Seal of the Theosophical Society is admirable, and the erudition that he displays is most remarkable. The members of our Fraternity owe him sincere thanks for explanations that are as clear and just as they are interesting.
Revue Theosophique, April, 1889
H. P. Blavatsky
1 From a Jewish tradition, the stones that served to build the temple of Solomon (an allegorical symbol taken literally of which an actual edifice was made) were not cut and polished by hand of man but by a worm named Samis created by God for this purpose, These stones were miraculously transported on the spot where the temple was to rise and cemented henceforth by the angels who raised the Temple of Solomon. The Masons have introduced the Worm Samis in their legendary history and call the "insect Shermah."
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2 This total is composed of a bisected isosceles triangle – three lines – the side of the cube being the base: two squares diagonally bisected having each a perpendicular line toward the center – six lines; two straight lines at right angles; and a diagonally bisected square – two lines: total thirteen lines or five surfaces of the cube.
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