Chaldeans, or Kasdim. At first a tribe, then a caste of learned Kabbalists. They were the savants, the magians of Babylonia, astrologers and diviners. The famous Hillel, the precursor of Jesus in philosophy and in ethics, was a Chaldean. Franck in his Kabbala points to the close resemblance of the “secret doctrine” found in the Avesta and the religious metaphysics of the Chaldees. (Theosophical Glossary, from Isis Unveiled 1:xxviii)

“The word ‘Chaldean’ does not refer merely to a native or an inhabitant of Chaldea, but to ‘Chaldeism,’ the oldest science of astrology and occultism. And in that sense the Zoroastrians are the true heirs to Chaldean wisdom . . .” (from “Zoroastrianism in the Light of Occult Philosophy”)

“The oldest religions of the world—exoterically, for the esoteric root or foundation is one—are the Indian, the Mazdean, and the Egyptian. Then comes the Chaldean, the outcome of these—entirely lost to the world now, except in its disfigured Sabeanism as at present rendered by the archæologists; then, passing over a number of religions that will be mentioned later, comes the Jewish, esoterically, as in the Qabbālāh, following in the line of Babylonian Magism; exoterically, as in Genesis and the Pentateuch, a collection of allegorical legends.” (SD 1:10)

“The Chaldean Scriptures [are] the elder sister and instructress, if not the fountainhead of the Mosaic Bible, the basis and starting-point of Christianity.” (SD 1:xxvi)

“If the results [of comparative study] show that neither the New nor even the Old Testament borrowed anything from the more ancient religion of the Brāhmins and Buddhists, it does not follow that the Jews have not borrowed all they knew from the Chaldean records, the latter being mutilated later on by Eusebius. As to the Chaldeans, they assuredly got their primitive learning from the Brāhmins, for Rawlinson shows an undeniably Vedic influence in the early mythology of Babylon; and Col. Vans Kennedy has long since justly declared that Babylonia was, from her origin, the seat of Sanskrit and Brāhmin learning.” (SD 1:xxxi)

Qabbalah (Heb.). The ancient Chaldean Secret Doctrine . . . An occult system handed clown by oral transmission; but which, though accepting tradition, is not in itself composed of merely traditional teachings, as it was once a fundamental science, now disfigured by the additions of centuries, and by interpolation by the Western Occultists, especially by Christian Mystics. It treats of hitherto esoteric interpretations of the Jewish Scriptures, and teaches several methods of interpreting Biblical allegories. . . . (Theosophical Glossary)

Sabianism. The religion of the ancient Chaldees. The latter believing in one impersonal, universal, deific Principle, never mentioned It, but offered worship to the solar, lunar, and planetary gods and rulers, regarding the stars and other celestial bodies as their respective symbols. (Theosophical Glossary)

Key Texts

Chaldean Book of Numbers (not extant)

Volume I. of Isis begins with a reference to “an old book” . . . The “very old Book” is the original work from which the many volumes of Gyü-dé [rgyud sde] were compiled. Not only this latter and the Sifrā Diṣnīʿūṯā but even the Sēfer Yəṣīrāh, the work attributed by the Hebrew Qabbālists to their Patriarch ʾAḇrāhām (!), the book of Shū-jīng, China’s primitive Bible, the sacred volumes of the Egyptian Thōth-Hermēs, the Purāṇas in India, and the Chaldean Book of Numbers and the Pentateuch itself, are all derived from that one small parent volume. (SD 1:xlii-xliii)

. . . the Chaldean Book of Numbers, the original of which, if now extant, is certainly not to be found in libraries, as it formed one of the most ancient Books of Hermes, the number of which is at present undetermined. (Isis Unveiled 1:32-33)

We are not aware that a copy of this ancient work is embraced in the catalogue of any European library; but it is one of the “Books of Hermes,” and it is referred to and quotations are made from it in the works of a number of ancient and mediaeval philosophical authors. Among these authorities are Arnoldo di Villanova’s “Rosarium philosoph”; Francesco Arnolphim’s “Lucensis opus de Iapide”; Hermes Trismegistus’ “Tractatus de transmutatione metallorum,” “Tabula smaragdina,” and above all in the treatise of Raymond Lulli, “Ab angelis opus divinum de quinta essentia.” (Isis Unveiled 1:254)

The “Zohar” is, if possible, more occult than the Books of Moses; to read the “Book of Concealed Mystery” one requires the keys furnished by the genuine “Chaldean Book of Numbers,” which is not extant. (SD 2:626)

It is certain that Ibn Gebirol based his doctrines upon the oldest Kabalistic sources, namely, the “Chaldean Book of Numbers,” as well as some no longer extant Midrashim, the same, no doubt, as those used by Moses de Leon. (SD 2:461)

See also: The Hermetic Book of Numbers or Book of the Keys (see Egyptian Mysteries)

Chaldean Oracles

Collection of the Chaldean Oracles, by Thomas Taylor
Collection of the Chaldean Oracles, by Thomas Taylor (rearranged)

Echoes from the Gnosis: The Chaldæan Oracles, by G.R.S. Mead


Selected Articles, Commentaries, etc.