From Cosmos to Chaos
The term Religion derives from the Latin Religio, and is composed by two different roots, res, i.e. “thing”, and the verb ligo, “to tie”. In this context it is not clear the real meaning of res, thing. It seems that res has been used to define all the citizens and the public goods included in the State apparatus. The State, in fact, was considered as a sacred entity, public ceremonies as rituals, public service as priesthood. The contacts with the Gods were mostly maintained trough the State, the public deeds and the state magistracies.
In the article “Religion and Dharma” we have described the main points of difference between the two concepts. However there is another aspect that sharply divides the Western Religions and the Hindū Dharma. In Hindū Dharma at every social and intellectual level it is well known what is mokṣa, the fourth and supreme aim (puruṣārtha) of human life. And no Hindū ignores that mokṣa means Liberation from saṃsāra.
In Archaic Greece anyone who was not satisfied of the narrow aims and means of religious exoterism, had to applay to a sanctuary of some Mysteries to be initiated. There, the mystagogue ritually prepared the aspirant to initiation, prescribing him purifications, fasts and other preliminary rituals.
With the previous short articles we intended to provide the traditional hindū readers with the first critical tools to understand the general situation of Western Civilization. Further details will be provided with next contributions, in this case referred to a particular field or period. By gathering this information, our readers will be able to dissolve the intricate knots that make Western Civilization so difficult to understand…
There is a “Holy Land” par excellence, which is the prototype for any other. That spiritual centre, to which the other sacred lands are subject, is the seat of the Primeval Tradition, or Sanātana Dharma, from which all the other Traditions, in dhārmika or religious shape, have derived adapting themselves to a time, to a place and to a mankind.
The Greek poet Hesiod has been the first to hand down the most important information about the ancient western mythology. He wrote that during the Golden Age men lived without suffering anguish, misery and old age. They fed on the fruits that the earth spontaneously offered in abundance. Human beings were born directly from the earth and there was no sexual generation.
Before addressing the subject of ancient Greek civilization and its religion, let us point out some notes that explain its general characteristics. We start exposing some aspects of the dark side of this civilization that corresponds to its Antlantidean component. This preface is necessary considering that these features have negatively influenced the whole Western civilization until contemporary times.
The "bright side" of Greek civilization is the result of positive adjusts due to the Hyperborean influence on Greek society of Atlantean origin. Ancient Greek historians, in fact, tell the several mysterious visits to Greece by Hyperborean emissaries coming from the North.
Esoterism, the Mysteries: In ancient Greece, from immemorial time, esoterism, the initiatic dominion, had the form of Mysteries. As already explained in the third article in this series (3- Initiation and Mysticism), Mystery means something incommunicable, as well as myste, the initiate, has the same meaning and etymological origin of muni, the one who remains silent.
Pythagoras was born in 570 a. C. in Samos, the easternmost among the Greek Islands, important site of commercial and cultural exchanges. His works have been lost. The information about his life and his teachings comes from later authors who handed down what they knew about him mostly by oral traditions and by some written texts lost over the time.
Plato (428/427 B.C.) was born in Athens from an illustrious noble family: His father was descendant of Codrus, the last King of Athens and his mother of Solon. Therefore he had an aristocratic education. He had Socrates as teacher and, in his works he transmitted the thought and the personality of the philosopher. However, Socrates cannot be considered Plato's dīkṣāguru, because he always refused to be initiated to the Mysteries.
In conclusion of this series of articles concerning the ancient Greek Civilization we give a brief description of the two Epic Poems that de facto became its sacred texts. Greek literature begins in the 8th century B. C. with these Epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, attributed to the blind poet Homer, about whom we have little information. Probably he was born in Chios, where a guild of bards (kavi), called Homerids, had been active for many centuries.
In 337 B.C. Philip the II, King of Macedonia, seized the whole Greece, taking it away from the Persian hegemony. Macedonia was a small kingdom located north of Greece, considered by the Hellenes as a barbarian country. The great military and administrative ability of its ruling dynasty led Macedonia to become a colossal Empire. Alexander the Great, son of Philip the II, defeated the Persians and the Egyptians arriving to conquer all the territories from Greece, to the Nile and the Indus rivers.
In ancient Greek, gnosis (γνῶσις, read gnòsis) meant the knowledge reached through the initiation path of the Mysteries. The word is related to the saṃskṛta term jñāna both in etymology and purport. Therefore, it was synonymous with sophia (σοφία, read sofìa), wisdom or sapience. However, gnosis also had the sense of the intellectual and discriminative method used to attain wisdom and, in this sense, it can be well rendered in saṃskṛta as Brahmavidyā. Therefore, the Gnostes (γνώστης, read gnòstes, sskr .jñāni) was a man who, having been prepared theoretically by philosophy and after having been initiated into the Mysteries, had attained real knowledge through intellectual inquiry (jñānaśakti vicara), rather than through sacrificial rituals or devotion.
When the Greeks conquered and destroyed Troy with fire, Æneas had escaped it taking with him both the images of protective Deities of the city and the simulacra of the Ancestors. After crossing the sea among a thousand dangers, the Trojan prince landed on the shore of Latium, a region of central Italy.
In antiquity, Rome was ruled by seven Kings, characters participating in both mythical and historical reality. In fact, they are comparable in many ways to the seven Manus of the past, since each one of them brought a different legislation to the state. These rulers are reminiscent of the seven ṛṣi and the seven planets for the different sciences that were developed during their reigns. The last King, Tarquinius Superbus, has gone down in history for his cruelty and tyranny.
With the name of Celts, we identify a group of tribes that, around 1000 BC, descended from the north and expanded into Scotland, England and Ireland and, from there, over a good part of continental Europe. The name of these similar populations comes from the name of the priestly caste that characterized them with their doctrines. Celta, as Chaldean and Culdean was therefore the name of all the categories of priests.
The Sumerians arrived in the South Mesopotamia (current Iraq) around 4000 BC. According to their written sources, they arrived by sea from the East. The populations that they found and subjugated in that area were the Semitic branch of the Sea Peoples, which we have already found as heirs of the degenerate Atlantean civilization. The Sumerian civilization was the first that in western Asia used a form of writing, first in a pictographic form, then in a stylized cuneiform alphabet.
As mentioned in the previous chapter, the Bible of the Jews identifies with the Law (Tōrāh), composed of first five Books (Greek Πεντάτευχος, Pentateuch) attributed to Moses, but certainly elaborated soon after returning to Palestine, i.e. after 520 BC. Only at a later time, a new part called the Prophets was added to the initial nucleus: these chapters, written around the 3rd century BC, are dedicated to the predications and deeds of the prophets (Nevi‘ìm).
In the popular use the binomial “Jesus Christ” has become a sort of name and surname. Nothing is more wrong: Christ in Greek means “anointed King”. It is therefore the exact translation of the Hebrew word Messiah (Heb. māšīāḥ), and it indicates the function of Jesus to the eyes of his disciples. The King who became such by inheritance or acclamation, had to be confirmed by the Temple priests (Heb. kohen, Sskr: pujārī) with the anointing ritual.
On Easter Sunday, some disciples went to visit the tomb of Jesus and found it empty. The body had disappeared, leaving only the bandages with which it had been wrapped. Consequently, the disciples proclaimed the resurrection of Christ from the afterworld. They proclaimed that this miracle, unique in the history of humanity, was the sign of a renewed bond between God and men: the “New Covenant”.
As we have already stated, Westerners are obsessed with temporal becoming. For this reason, they are unable to consider the facts for what they are. They must consider them only in the historical perspective, as if history were able to explain its meaning. The Hebrew part of the Bible, known as the Old Testament, is the history of the Jewish people and. The Christian part of the Bible, the New Testament, is the history of Jesus and his direct disciples. The events that followed the death Jesus and his burial are very enigmatic.
After the Spirit took possession of their hearts, the apostles and the disciples of the Christ began to wander villages and cities performing miraculous healings. Often once again possessed, they spoke languages they did not know. They were not the only ones. In Palestine, that period was marked by turmoil, violence and religious fanaticism and everywhere social agitators proclaimed new prophets or Messiah, preaching the collapse of the Roman Empire, the advent of the Kingdom of Israel over the whole earth and the coming of the end of the world.
In the epistles, St. Paul shows good knowledge of the Greek Mysteric doctrines. In particular, like the Pythagoreans and the Platonists, in the human aggregate he distinguished three levels: the gross body (ὕλη, read hỳle, the substance), the soul (ψυχή, read psykhé) and the spirit (πνεῦμα, read pnéuma). In this way, depending on the preponderance of one level on the others, he divided human beings into three categories: carnal, psychic and pneumatic (I Corinthians, 15.44).
As previously described in chapter XIX of this series, the Roman Empire, as an institution, was an initiatic hierarchy that overlapped the Republic, without altering the structure of the latter. The Emperor was the supreme head of the army and, at the same time, was the Grand Master of chivalric initiations. However, only a patrician could become Emperor and, as such, he was also the head of both the priestly initiatic hierarchy and the hierarchy of the exterior priesthood. The first magisterial power corresponded to Rex Sacrorum, King of the sacred, as for example the sacrificial affairs; the second charge was that of Pontifex Maximus…
The barbarian populations, fleeing before the push of the Huns proceeding from the East, sought refuge in the westernmost Roman provinces. In this way the Eastern Roman Empire suffered much less the invasions by the Anglo-Saxon peoples. For the Western Roman Empire, the barbarian invasions represented a universal flood, a real pralaya that ended the glorious historical cycle of Roman rule, which lasted for more than twelve centuries. The invasions were catastrophic: the splendid Latin civilization was struck to the ground, the cities were devastated and burned, the population exterminated, the houses, the temples, the churches, the palaces, looted.
Maewyin Succat, later known as St. Patrick, was born around 385 AD in Britain. His father Calpurnius was a Roman patrician and his mother Conchessa a Briton woman of Druidic priestly descent. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Scots pirates and brought to Ireland. During the period of captivity he became fascinated by the green island and its proud inhabitants.
The Franks were distinguished for their warrior and strategic abilities, and not only for the courage and the ruthlessness typical of the other barbarian peoples of Germanic descent. They were first mentioned by Tacitus who placed them in the region corresponding to the present Belgium, Holland and Rhineland. Throughout the period between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, the Franks exercised a continuous pressure on the Gaul-Roman frontier, often reporting military successes having quickly learned from the imperial army the refined Roman art of war.
With the coronation of Charlemagne, not only did the Roman Empire re-emerged on the surface of the diluvial waters of the barbarian invasions, but also the title of Imperator, which designated the head of the Roman military initiatic organization. As already mentioned in the preceding chapters, Augustus was the founder of the Empire. Under his direction, the initiatic structure of the equites was conveniently laid over the former Republican institutions with the purpose of preserving them. Thus, the head of the chivalry initiatic hierarchy directly assumed ad interim the supreme power of the State, which the exterior political institutions were no longer able to exercise.
Charlemagne (742-814) began structuring the Empire on the basis of the Roman military initiatic organization, an undertaking that was completed by Emperor Henry II the Saint, of the dynasty of Saxony (978-1024). Society was divided into four classes: priests, nobles, free men and servants. The monks were not considered part of the clergy, being in all respects outside and above the divisions of Christian-Latin society.
We must now dedicate a few words to the historical chronicle necessary to explain the great changes that preceded the collapse of Tradition in the West. Following the custom of the earlier Frankish rulers, Charlemagne divided his dominions into three parts. His son Pepin (or Carloman) received the Kingdom of Italy, which included all the domains that had previously belonged to the Lombards and to the Byzantines. as well as, the Patrimony of St. Peter and the Kingdom of Burgundy that were both direct vassals.
The deposition in the year 887 of Charles III the Fat, severely invalid, represents the conclusion of the Carolingian dynasty. The Empire, thus, entered a stalemate due to the imperial vacancy. Historians in general, accustomed to joyfully welcoming “revolutions” on every occasion, consider this event a historical turning point from which the Empire underwent a radically change. Nothing could be falser. During those seven decades, the feudal system was consolidated according to the principles established since the time of Charlemagne.
Rivers of ink have been written on the subject we are about to present. Unfortunately, the prejudicial hatred against Tradition, which has since dominated Western thought, has given it a partisan description. Sometimes, in the interpretation of facts, reality has been overturned. For this reason, we will try to offer a traditional revision, which reflects what really happened. As we said in the previous chapter, the restoration of the Latin Church was an initiative of the Empire for the salvation of Christendom. The chosen instrument was the institution of the monastic orders. Until then, monasticism consisted of cœnobia and hermitages that were completely autocephalous.
The first important sees of Christianity were those of Jerusalem, Rome, Alexandria of Egypt and Antioch of Syria. These wealthy cities of the Roman Empire had become the residence of the most influential bishops St. James, brother of Jesus the Christ and chief of the Church, was bishop in Jerusalem. This was the main and most prestigious seat as it was the city destined to be the capital of the Messiah and the place where his martyrdom was set to take place.
The serious disturbances of the Imperial Ecumene caused by the reckless reforms of Catholicism promoted by the popes of the 11th century caused unpredictable consequences. These are the protagonists of such ruin: the popes of the early 11th century were largely puppets or exponents of the Counts of Tusculum family. Of plebeian origins, they intermarried with the rival Roman patrician family of the Crescencii, becoming increasingly influential in Rome. They became the schemers behind the papal election and the dismissal of the imperial popes. Sergius IV, born Boccadiporco (i.e. Pig Snout!) (1009-1012), son of a cobbler, was the first of the long list of popes imposed by the Tusculum.
The events that occurred during the 11th century had important repercussions on the civil structure of Latin Christianity. The feudal system, which had shaped the structure of the Empire on the hierarchy of the initiatic paths of the warrior caste, had entered in crisis. The Roman Catholic Church, restored by the will of the Emperors, became the main rival of the Holy Roman Empire on the political and secular levels.
From the historical point of view, the novels of both the Round Table and the Grail suggest an underground current that emerged at a given moment. Soon, however, it retracted to become invisible, almost as if an obstacle or an imminent danger had been felt. In fact, these novels appeared in a short period of time between approximately the last quarter of the twelfth century and the end of the first quarter of the 13th century, a period marked by the first decline of the tradition in Europe.
The whole Arthurian narrative is an allegory, whose knots must be solved by interpreting the symbols. So far, we have described the adventures of the Round Table as the normal turn of events in the course of the life of knights. To be clearer, the aspiring knight arrives at the presence of King Arthur and presents his nobility by birthright, specifying his father’s name and lineage. He then sets firth his request to receive the knightly initiation. The King then either keeps him close by his side or entrusts him to some other castellan, earl, duke or King, who is well-known for his knowledge on the art of chivalry.
Who were in reality the authors of the novels of King Arthur and the Holy Grail? They were poets who belonged to a category usually known as troubadours. They were all of noble or clerical-monastic descent. As already demonstrated, the troubadours were the initiatic knightly brotherhood of the Faithful of Love. At the beginning they were errant knights, but towards the middle of the 12th century they were integrated in the ranks of monastic-knightly Orders, in particular among the Templars and the other branches derived from the Order of the Temple.
Troubadours and Faithfuls of Love used to write sonnets, songs and ballads in rhyme. They communicated with each other in a hidden way, responding in kind (literally “responding in rhymes”). The answer was recognizable as it reproduced exactly the same pattern of rhymes of the received message. We report as an example, two well-known exchanges among Faithfuls of Love of the Florentine school of the thirteenth century
Guido Guinizzelli was master (sskrt. guru) to a young Florentine aristocrat, Guido de’ Cavalcanti (1255-1300). Blessed with a strong personality, acute intelligence and wisdom, Cavalcanti succeeded Guido Guinizzelli in the magisterium (sskrt. gurutva). A group of young troubadours formed around him; among them there was Ser (Eng. Sir) Durante son of Alighiero degli Alisei, better known as Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). The latter soon became the most important rhymer and due to the perfection of his poetry, universal wisdom and elevate doctrine, he has to be acknowledged as the greatest exponent of the medieval Christian initiation.
Since no one had been able to explain his spiritual situation, Dante began pondering over the meaning of his swings of mood, so erratic and contradictory. With an introspective investigation, he lucidly described his persistently alternating shifts of attraction and repulsion for Beatrice-Holy Wisdom. With a burning desire, Love constantly drove him to meet his Dame.
At the end of The New Life, Dante declared that he had reached the “admirable vision”. That work is the account of his inner journey, starting from the initiatic rebirth to the ever higher inner experiences, cadenced by periods symbolically represented by the number nine, up to the actual realization of the level of perfect master. On the other hand, the “admirable vision” corresponds to the universalization of such individual perfection.
Dante predicted that two popes, who that time were still alive, were destined to hell. They were Boniface VIII and Clement V. The former was the most fanatical supporter of the temporal supremacy of the Church over the Emperor, the kings and princes of western Christianity; the grey eminence behind the papacy of his predecessor, Celestine V. Boniface played an important role in inducing that mild and shy pope to abdicate. In this way, with a rigged conclave, he took over the power from Celestine, who had returned to hermit life. However, dubious of Celestine’s sincere renunciation and fearful of a possible reaction from his supporters, he threw him in imprison where he eventually died.
Since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 AD) and the consequent anti-Roman revolt of Bar Kokhba (132-135 AD), Jewish esotericism had remained alive in the communities of the Diaspora. Gnosticism and Neoplatonism had exerted an influence only on the community of Alexandria in Egypt which, after the Arab invasion of the mid-seventh century, moved largely to Byzantium.
Certainly, it is not easy to define exactly what was meant by Hermetism over the centuries. In fact, depending on the periods and traditional areas, this term has taken on different meanings. As it has al-ready been pointed out, all the traditions that flourished in the West have had a predominantly cosmo-logical imprint. Prisoners of the unsurpassed conditions of time and space, they have been marked pro-foundly by continuous changes. Therefore, even in the case of Hermetism, we cannot ignore the his-torical perspective in order to appreciate its consecutive adaptations.
Until the 11th century, the only Hermetic text preserved in western Christianity since the Hellenistic era was the Asclepius, a Latin version of the Greek original attributed to Apuleius of Madaurus. The text deals mainly with the rituals that the ancient Egyptian priests carried out to charge the images of their gods with the powers of the corresponding stars. As long as the tradition of ancient Egypt had survived, there is nothing to complain about the validity of those rites, which resemble the ones used for the animation of icons (sskrt. prāṇa pratiṣṭhā) still used in India today.