One of the purposes of the Theosophical Society is to pursue the comparative study of religions, with a view to making clear the inherent spiritual truths which underlie all religions. Few books offer a more promising field for this method than does the Apocalypse, known in English as “The Revelation of Saint John the Divine.” Taken alone, this book is an almost insoluble enigma, so much so that it has been more than once proposed that it should be excluded from the canon of scripture. But taken together with other works of the same class, of which there are some in every religion, its enigmas are found to resolve themselves, yielding clear and valuable spiritual truths.
The first motive of the Apocalypse is John’s vision of the Logos. And we shall do well to keep in mind that “the Logos” is peculiarly John’s expression for the Divine Man. Not only is this so in the opening passage of the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God . . . And the Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and peace;” but John uses the same phrase in the Epistles: “That which was in the beginning . . . the Logos of Life; and the Life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal Life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;” and we find the same expression in the Apocalypse: “And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Logos of God.” This bears out, what we have ample reason for believing, that the Gospel, the Epistles and the Apocalypse are all the work of the same seer, the “beloved disciple” John.
John was not the originator of this expression: the Logos. It is generally admitted that he took it from Philo Judaeus (circa B.C. 20—A.D. 50) of Alexandria, who in turn found it used by the Stoics and Plato. Philo was one of those who, like Plutarch, Synesius and Iamblichus, was strongly tinged with the Egyptian spirit; and John’s use of this expression, the Logos, brings him into touch with the mystical life of Egypt. In his philosophical, and we may add eminently theosophical writings, Philo develops the teaching of Plato, that all manifested things have their divine originals, their prototypes, which Plato called Ideas. Philo called these same divine originals, or principles, Logoi, and taught, with Plato, that the world-process consists in the orderly manifestation of these Logoi, under the forms of created things with which we are familiar. Philo further taught that these Logoi were summed up in a single collective Life, the host of the Logoi, to which, as a unity, he gave the name Logos. This collective Logos, Host of the divine Thought, stands above the manifested world, and through the Logos the eternal Deity works and becomes manifest.
John teaches exactly the same thing: “The Logos was in the beginning with God; all things came into being through the Logos.” And John further recognizes his Master, Jesus, as being the incarnation of the Logos, the manifestation of the divine Man in human form. This teaching of the incarnation of the divine Man is as old as our knowledge. There is no period of which we have a record, where we do not find exactly the same doctrine, in almost identical terms. It was taught in Egypt long before the time of the First Dynasty. It was taught in the Euphrates valley, among the Sumerians, whom we may call the ancient Chaldeans. It was taught in the hymns of the Rig Veda, and in all later periods of Indian religion. The Logos became incarnate in two ways: primordially, in the divine manifestation which we call the world; and subsequently, in certain divine personages, who bore the message of Divinity to the world.
We therefore find that the main theme of the Apocalypse is this world-old doctrine of the Logos, the divine Thought, the divine Man, both as the collective Spirit above life, and as specially made manifest in the incarnation of the Master, Jesus. Further, the theme of the Apocalypse is John’s own vision of the Logos; a divine event, or series of events, through which he entered into the consciousness of the Logos, or became conscious of the Logos; and the Apocalypse is the record of the truths which were thus made known to him. John’s own words are:
“I, John, who also am your brother . . . was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great Voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book . . . And I turned to see the Voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen . . .”
John is further told that the “seven stars” are the spirits of the seven churches, and that the “seven candlesticks” are the seven churches; or, as we may say, the “seven stars” are seven powers or principles of the Logos, and the “seven candlesticks” or “seven churches” are the embodied or manifested forms of these principles. This symbolism is carried out with great beauty and consistency, in the addresses to the seven churches. In each case, one title or attribute of the Logos is mentioned, and with it is associated a certain spiritual power to be gained by overcoming a defined barrier or obstacle.
Thus we have, first, the aspect of the Logos as “he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand.” With this is associated the virtue, patience, and the sin, inconstancy; and finally the reward of victory: “to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
The second aspect of the Logos is, “the first and the last, which was dead and is alive;” the virtue, endurance of tribulation; the sin, blasphemy; the reward: “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” And there follows a noteworthy phrase, to which we shall return: “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”
The third aspect of the Logos is, “he that hath the sharp sword with two edges;” the virtue is “fidelity even in Satan’s seat;” the sin is false understanding, “which thing I hate;” the reward is: “to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”
The fourth aspect of the Logos is, “the son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;” the virtue is charity, pure love; the sin is lust; the reward, “he that overcometh, to him will I give power over the nations.”
The fifth aspect of the Logos is, “he that hath the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars;” the virtue is purity; the sin, defilement, a false life—“thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead;” the reward is: “he that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”
The sixth aspect of the Logos is, “he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David (‘the beloved’), he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and that shutteth, and no man openeth”; the virtue is fidelity, “thou hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name”—“hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown”; the sin is lying and deceit; the reward, “him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out, and I will write upon him the name of my God, and my new name.”
The seventh aspect of the Logos is, “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;” the virtue is earnest repentance, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” The renewal of life, the transformation, the transfer of allegiance called “repentance,” is further symbolized thus: “thou sayest I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” It is impossible not to be struck with the resemblance to the more familiar passage, in the Sermon on the Mount: “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”
Following this suggestion, it will be profitable to compare in detail the sevenfold regeneration above associated with the seven aspects of the Logos, not only with the Sermon on the Mount, but also with other tracts of regeneration, such as the Seven Portals, in The Voice of the Silence. Enough has been said to make it clear that we are concerned with a new birth from above, which brings immortality, initiating the new-born into a spiritual life, where he is spoken of as “clad in white raiment,” and having a “new name,” whereby he is made known to “the Father and his angels.”
Let us for a moment draw a comparison with the teaching of Paul, who says:
“I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth); such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth); how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
No doubt it was in the light of the spiritual experience here referred to, that Paul was able to describe the great regeneration, in the well-known passage:
“There are also celestial bodies, and terrestrial bodies: . . . So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a psychic body; it is raised a spiritual body . . . the first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven . . . Behold I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”
In the Apocalypse, John is writing of the same transformation from the psychical body to the spiritual body, “the new man, the Lord from heaven.” John considers this transformation as accomplished in seven degrees, which he associates with seven powers of the Logos. The fruit of victory is immortality, in a spiritual realm, which he, like Paul, speaks of as paradise.
After the “Address to the seven churches,” John records a further vision of the Logos:
“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first Voice which I heard was as it were a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.
“And immediately I was in the Spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
“And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the Seven Spirits of God.
“And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four Lives, full of eyes before and behind. . . . And the first Life was like a lion, and the second Life was like a calf, and the third Life had a face as a man, and the fourth Life was like a flying eagle. And the four Lives had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
“And when those Lives give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord , to receive glory and honour and power; For thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
These last word s show that John’s teaching of the creative Logos is exactly that of the mystical religions of Egypt and the East.
One cannot fail to be struck with the recurrence of the number seven: the seven stars, seven lamps, seven spirits, seven seals. It is interesting to note that the attendants of the Logos, the Four Lives, and four and twenty elders, again make four groups of seven. It is further said that the four angels stand “on the four corners of the earth,” thus associating the Four Lives with the four cardinal points, like the Four Maharajas, in Eastern mysticism. We shall, therefore, have, as the divine hierarchy around and beneath the Logos, four groups of seven, associated with north, south, east and west; one of the Four Lives being the regent of each group. This vision of the divine hierarchy in seven ascending degrees, up to the Logos, is in complete harmony with Eastern teachings.
A later chapter beautifully supplements this description of the divine hierarchy:
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
“And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the Four Lives, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying:
“Amen: Blessing, and Glory, and Wisdom, and Thanksgiving, and Honour, and Power, and Might, be unto our God for ever and ever, Amen.
“And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Master, thou knowest.
“And he said to me, These are they which have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
John is evidently here describing the assembly of those who have passed through the great transformation; who have been reborn from above; who have passed from the psychical to the spiritual body; purifying the psychic body, and thus “washing their robes in the blood of the Lamb,” the spiritual power and life of the Logos, “for the blood is the life.” This is the same symbolism as that of certain Buddhist ascetics, who wear red robes “of the color of the sunset.”
We can clearly see, therefore, that the main theme of the Apocalypse is the great life of the Logos, in its sevenfold glory, typified by the seven powers above enumerated between the two Amens; and John is primarily concerned with a description of regeneration, initiation into the life of the Logos, and consequent admission into the company of the divine hierarchy, in its seven degrees, under the Four Lives. Those who are thus admitted wear “white robes,” they are immortal, and “go no more out”; and all tears are wiped away from their eyes. We cannot fail to recall the words: “Before the eyes can see, they must be incapable of tears:” strongly suggested also by the words recorded by John: “Anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see.”
There is also a close analogy between the words: “Before the soul can stand in the presence of the Masters, its feet must be washed in the blood of the heart,” and the regenerate whose robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and who stand before the throne, in the presence of the elders.
The symbolism used by John in describing the sevenfold Logos and the Four Lives was not created by him. We find it used some centuries before our era by Ezekiel. And in Ezekiel we also have a noteworthy suggestion as to the source from which he in his turn drew it: “in the land of the Chaldeans, by the river of Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” This carries us back to the region described in Genesis: “Babylon, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, and Shinar,” names well known in the ancient history of the Euphrates and Tigris valleys.
Ezekiel thus describes his vision:
“I looked, and behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. And everyone had four faces, and everyone had four wings . . . their wings were joined one to another . . . as for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side: and they four had the faces of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle . . . and as for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures, and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning. And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning . . .
“And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creatures was as the color of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above . . .
“And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward. I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
“And as the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
“And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake. And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.”
Here again we are reminded of the words: “Before the soul can stand . . .”
In the book of Daniel, we have yet another description of the same vision. Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel, and like him shared the captivity “in the land of the Chaldeans.” We are further told that Daniel was chosen, as a child “in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science,” to be taught “the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.”
We find Daniel’s vision thus described:
“In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon (circa B.C. 555), Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the words. Daniel spake and said:
“I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another . . .
“And I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened . . .
“I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame . . .
“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
“And I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body (or, sheath), and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things . . .”
Some twenty years later, “in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia” (circa B. C. 534), Daniel saw another vision, as he was “by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel (Tigris)”:
“I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: his body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude . . . When I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face was toward the ground. And behold, an hand touched me . . . and he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright . . . and, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my Master, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength. For how can this servant of my Master talk with this my Master? . . . then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, and he said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my Master speak; for thou hast strengthened me.”
One cannot fail to be struck with the likeness of this vision to that which John records perhaps six centuries later: “one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the front, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle . . .” And John’s vision of him whose “hairs were white like wool, as white of snow,” is evidently one with Daniel’s vision of “the Ancient of days, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool.”
This title, the Ancient, is also well known in the Indian books of wisdom: “the immemorial Ancient,” “the Ancient, the Seer,” are phrases used for the Logos in the Bhagavad Gita.
There is yet another source of the same symbolism: the Book of Enoch. That this book was familiar to the disciples of Jesus, we learn from the epistle which immediately precedes the Apocalypse, the Epistle of Jude, the brother of James. Jude writes:
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
The Zohar also, one of the ancient books of the Kabbala of the Hebrews, speaks of the Book of Enoch, considering it a genuine mystical book of high antiquity.
The name of Enoch is known to us primarily from the early chapters of Genesis, where we are told that Enoch lived “three hundred sixty and five years, and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” This mystical personage, who is evidently connected with the cycle of the solar year, belongs to the period before the Deluge; and as the story of the Deluge is admittedly Chaldean in origin, we may well hold that Enoch also takes us back to ancient Chaldea.
For centuries, the Book of Enoch was missing. Nothing was known of it beyond the mention by Jude, the references in ancient Kabbalistic works, and somewhat more recent quotations by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and a few other early ecclesiastical writers.
In the year 1773, however, the book of Enoch was rediscovered by the traveller Bruce, in the ancient Christian kingdom of Abyssinia, which was converted in the fourth century, and retains many Egyptian and Coptic traditions. The Abyssinians claim to be the descendants of Hebrews who emigrated in the days of Solomon, and at the fall of Jerusalem, and they have undoubtedly a very ancient literary and religious tradition. The book of Enoch thus recovered contains the passage quoted by Jude, practically word for word as he gives it; and also many passages quoted, or alluded to, by the ecclesiastical writers just mentioned . It is, therefore, undoubtedly the genuine ancient scripture, which was in the hands of the disciples of Jesus: The name “Enoch” in Hebrew means “Initiation,” and the masters of the Kabbala always regarded the book of Enoch as a genuine book of the mysteries. In 1821 a translation of the book of Enoch was made by Archbishop Laurence. In Chapter XIV, we read:
“A vision thus appeared to me. Behold, in that vision clouds and a mist invited me; agitated stars and flashes of lightning impelled and pressed me forwards, while winds in the vision assisted my flight, accelerating my progress. They elevated me aloft to heaven. I proceeded, until I arrived at a wall built with stones of crystal. A vibrating flame surrounded it, which began to strike me with terror. Into this vibrating flame I entered; and drew nigh to a spacious habitation built also with stones of crystal. Its walls too, as well as pavement, were formed with stones of crystal, and crystal likewise was the ground. Its roof had the appearance of agitated stars and flashes of lightning; and among them were cherubim of fire in a stormy sky. A flame burned around its walls; and its portal blazed with fire. When I entered into this dwelling, it was hot as fire and cold as ice. No trace of delight or of life was there. Terror overwhelmed me, and a fearful shaking seized me. Violently agitated and trembling, I fell upon my face.
“In the vision I looked, and behold there was another habitation more spacious than the former, every entrance to which was open before me, erected in the midst of a vibrating flame. So greatly did it excel in all points, in glory, in magnificence, and in magnitude, that it is impossible to describe to you either the splendor or the extent of it. Its floor was on fire; above were lightnings and agitated stars, while its roof exhibited a blazing fire.
“Attentively I surveyed it, and saw that it contained an exalted throne; the appearance of which was like that of frost; while its circumference resembled the orb of the brilliant sun; and there was the voice of the cherubim. From underneath this mighty throne rivers of flame issued. To look upon it was impossible.
“One great in glory sat upon it: whose robe was brighter than the sun, and whiter than snow. No angel was capable of penetrating to view the face of Him, the Glorious and the Effulgent; nor could any mortal behold Him. A fire was flaming around Him. A fire also of great extent continued to rise up before Him; so that not one of those who surrounded Him was capable of approaching Him, among the ten thousands and ten thousands who were before Him. And He required not holy counsel. Yet did not the sanctified, who were near Him, depart far from Him either by night or by day; nor were they removed from Him.
“I also was so far advanced, with a veil on my face, and trembling. Then the Lord with his own mouth called me, saying, Approach hither, Enoch, at my holy word. And He raised me up, making me draw near even to the entrance . . .”
We cannot fail to recall the words of John: “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple.” Equally close to the words of John is Enoch’s description of the tree of life: “the fruit of this tree shall be given to the elect . . .”
Very wonderful also is Enoch’s vision of the habitation of the saints, who, with the angels, and the holy ones,
“were entreating, supplicating, and praying for the sons of men; while righteousness like water flowed before them, and mercy like dew was scattered over the earth. And thus shall it be with them for ever and ever.
“And at that time my eyes beheld the dwelling of the elect, of truth, faith and righteousness. Countless shall be the number of the holy and the elect, in the presence of God for ever and for ever. Their residence I beheld under the wings of the Lord of spirits. All the holy and the elect sang before him, in appearance like a blaze of fire; their mouths being full of blessings, and their lips glorifying the name of the Lord of spirit. And righteousness incessantly dwelt before him.
“There was I desirous of remaining, and my soul longed for that habitation. There was my portion before; for thus had I prevailed before the Lord of spirits. At that time I glorified and extolled the name of the Lord of spirits with blessings and with praise; for he has established it with blessing, and with praise, according to the will of the Lord of spirits. That place long did my eyes contemplate. I blessed and said, Blessed be he, blessed from the beginning for ever. In the beginning, before the world was created, and without end is his knowledge.
“What is this world? Of every existing generation those shall bless thee who do not sleep in the dust, but stand before thy glory, blessing, glorifying, exalting thee, and saying, The holy, holy, Lord of Spirits, fills the whole world of spirits.
“There my eyes beheld all who, without sleeping, stand before him and bless him, saying, Blessed be thou, and blessed be the name of God for ever and ever. Then my countenance became changed, until I was incapable of seeing.
“After this I beheld thousands of thousands, and ten thousands of ten thousands, and an infinite number of people, standing before the Lord of spirits.
“On the four wings likewise of the Lord of spirits, on the four sides, I perceived others, besides those who were standing before him. Their names, too, I know; because the angel who proceeded with me, declared them to me, discovering to me every secret thing.
“Then I heard the voices of those upon the four sides magnifying the Lord of glory.
“The first voice blessed the Lord of spirits for ever and ever.
“The second voice I heard blessing the Elect One, and the elect who suffer on account of the Lord of spirits.
“The third voice I heard petitioning and praying for those who dwell upon earth, and supplicate the name of the Lord of spirits.
“The fourth voice I heard expelling the impious angels, and prohibiting them from entering into the presence of the Lord of spirits, to prefer accusations against the inhabitants of the earth.
“After this I besought the angel of peace, who proceeded with me, to explain all that was concealed . . .”
One more passage from the book of Enoch, which closely resembles the passage quoted from Daniel:
“There I beheld the Ancient of days, whose head was like white wool, and with him another, whose countenance resembled that of man. His countenance was full of grace, like one of the holy angels. Then I inquired of one of the angels who went with me, and who showed every secret thing, concerning this Son of man; who he was; whence he was; and why he accompanied the Ancient of days:
“He answered and said to me, This is the Son of man, to whom righteousness belongs; with whom righteousness has dwelt; and who will reveal all the treasures of that which is concealed: for the Lord of spirits has chosen him; and his portion has surpassed all before the Lord of spirits . . .
“And I beheld the Ancient of days, while he sat on the throne of his glory, while the book of the living was opened in his presence, and while all the powers which were above the heavens stood around and before him . . .”
This is exactly like the passage quoted from Daniel; and it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the book of Enoch, as it is very much fuller and more complete, is the source of the imagery of Daniel, and the older of the two. It has the same strong Chaldean color which we have already noted in Ezekiel and Daniel, and we are justified in saying that all the substance of these books came from the same ancient Chaldean source. Behind Chaldea stands yet more ancient Egypt.
The Second Death
In the address to the Spirits of the Seven Churches, which was discussed at some length in the preceding paper of this series, there is one very perplexing expression which we had to pass lightly over at the time, promising to return to it. This expression is “the Second Death.” It occurs in the address to the Spirit of the Church of Smyrna, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. . . .” (ii, 11.)
The same phrase recurs toward the close of the Apocalypse, in a passage of sombre splendor:
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the Second Death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (xx, 11-15.)
This is recapitulated a little further on, where we are told that the wicked “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the Second Death.” (xxi, 8.) But the central passage concerning the Second Death is undoubtedly the following:
“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him up a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed for a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the Second Death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth. . . .”
It happens that this striking expression, the “Second Death,” is very familiar in another region of religious literature: that of the older Brahmanas, which correspond in character to parts of the greatest Upanishad, the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad. We shall not try to fix their date, further than to say that they are centuries older than the Apocalypse from which we have been quoting. Here is a characteristic passage from the Shatapatha Brahmana:
“Yonder burning Sun is, doubtless, no other than Death; and because he is Death, therefore the creatures that are on this side of him die. But those that are on the other side of him are the gods, and they are, therefore, immortal . . . whosoever goes to yonder world not having escaped that Death, him he causes to die again in yonder world. . . . He who knows that release from Death in the Fire-sacrifice, is freed from the Second Death.” (SB ii, 3, 3, 7-9.)
We can already see a close analogy with the passage of the Apocalypse. The Brahmana clearly implies that there is a spiritual regeneration, which it speaks of as the Fire-sacrifice, and which makes men immortal, bringing them into the divine presence. This symbol strongly reminds us of the baptism “with the holy spirit and fire,” or the Pentecostal tongues of flame. The Brahmana further teaches that those who have not passed through the Fire-sacrifice are subject not only to Death, but, later, to a Second Death. The Fire-sacrifice here parallels the “first resurrection”—“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the Second Death hath no power.”
A few more passages from the Brahmanas. For example, we find the question: “What is done here in the altar, whereby the sacrificer conquers the Second Death?” (SB x, 1, 4, 14.) Or again: “Now hunger ceases through food, thirst through drink, evil through good, darkness through light, and death through immortality; and, in truth, whosoever knows this, from him all these pass away; he conquers the Second Death, and attains to perfect Life.” (SB x, 2, 6, 19.) This picture of those from whom hunger and thirst and evil and darkness have passed away, and who have passed through the Fire-sacrifice into immortality, strongly reminds us of the passage of the Apocalypse, previously quoted: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more. . . .”
We get further insight into the symbol of the Fire-sacrifice from such a passage as this:
“The mystic import of this Fire-altar is Vach (Logos); for it is with Vach it is built. Now this Vach is yonder Sun, and this Fire-altar is Death: hence, whatsoever is on this side of the sun, all that is held by Death; and he who builds it on this side thereof, builds it as one held by Death; and he surrenders his own self unto Death; but he who builds it there above, conquers the Second Death. . . .” (SB x, 5, 1, 1-4.)
Vach, it should be remembered, is the Logos, the divine Word. It has two symbols: the Sun in the heavens, and Fire on the altar. Both these symbols take us back to most ancient Chaldea, in the far Sumerian days. And this twofold representation of the Logos, the great creative Power, has its parallel in man. There is the divine, creative Power in our immortal nature; there is also the creative flame in our manifested, personal lives. He who builds the altar for the creative flame in the personal, mortal nature becomes subject to the Second Death. He who builds the altar for the creative Fire in his spiritual nature, conquers the Second Death, and becomes immortal. Or, to quote again from the Brahmana:
“Whosoever knows this, conquers the Second Death, and Death has no more dominion over him . . . he attains all Life, and becomes one of the divinities.” ( SB x, 16, 5, 8.)
We are beginning to see that a very clear idea, and a very splendid one, is hidden in the quaint imagery of the Brahmana. We may raise the veil a little more, by bringing for comparison such a passage as this:
“Those that are mortal, he causes to pass into birth again from out of the immortal womb; and, verily, whosoever thus knows, or he for whom, knowing this, this sacrificial rite is performed, wards off the Second Death of the Fathers, and the sacrifice is not cut off for him.” (SB xii, 9, 3, 12.)
We shall return in a moment to this strange phrase, the “Second Death of the Fathers.” Meanwhile, let us complete the subject by quoting two more sentences from the Brahmana.
“He finds Mitra (the Solar Lord) and his is the kingdom, he conquers the Second Death and gains all life, whosoever, knowing this, performs this sacrifice.” (SB xi, 4, 3, 20.)
“He is freed from the Second Death, and attains to community of being with the Eternal.” (SB xi, 5, 6, 9.)
The Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad contains several passages of precisely similar import. They do not, however, add anything to what we have already quoted. But there are other passages in this, the greatest of the Upanishads, which shed a flood of light on the whole subject. We noted the strange phrase: “the Second Death of the Fathers,” and promised to return to it. This we shall now do.
The phrase, “the Fathers,” brings us to that celebrated passage in the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, which relates how the young Brahman Shvetaketu came to the Rajput king, Pravahana, who asked him a series of questions on the mystery of life and death. The boy could not answer, and returning, reproached his father for not instructing him.
The father, hearing the questions, declared that he himself did not know the answers, but invited his son to go with him to the king, to learn. The son refused, but the father went. And to him the answers of the questions were revealed. From these answers, the following passage is taken:
“The man is born. He lives as long as he lives. And so, when he dies, they take him to the Fire, and there the bright Powers offer the man as a sacrifice. From this sacrifice, the spirit of man is born of the color of the Sun.
“They who know this thus, and they who, here in the forest, worship faith and truth, are born into the flame; from the flame they go to the day, from the day to the bright fortnight, from the bright fortnight to the summer, from the summer to the world of the gods, from the world of the gods to the Sun, from the Sun to the lightning; them, become as the lightning, a Spirit, Mind-born, leads into the worlds of the Eternal. In these worlds of the Eternal they dwell supreme, and for them there is no return.
“But they who, by sacrifice, gifts and penance, win their worlds, are born in the smoke; from the smoke to the night, from the night to the dark fortnight, from the dark fortnight to the winter, from the winter to the world of the Fathers, from the world of the Fathers to the lunar world. They, gaining the lunar world, become food; and just as the lunar lord waxes and wanes, so they are there consumed. And when the time has come round, they descend to the ether, from the ether to the air, from the air to rain, from rain to the earth, and so are born again of woman, and come forth into the world. Thus they return again.”
These are the two paths, Path of the Gods and Path of the Fathers. Those who, spiritually regenerate, full of aspiration and truth, have recognized the divine Spirit within themselves while yet in life, go by the Path of the Gods. They ascend through the flame, the day, the light, the Sun, to the world of the Eternal. And for them there is no return. But those who, self-seeking, barter with the gods by sacrifices, penances and gifts, seeking for selfish blessings in return, go by the Path of the Fathers, the lunar way. From the smoke of the pyre, they go to night and darkness, and thence to the lunar world. There they wax and wane, and in due time descend again to this world, re-entering it through the gates of birth.
We should say, nowadays, that there are a series of ascending planes above the material; that these planes are twofold, or have each two poles, a positive and a negative. These are symbolized thus: of the first plane above the material, “flame” is the positive pole, “smoke” is the negative; of the next, “day” is the positive pole, “night” is the negative; of the next, the “bright fortnight” is the positive pole, the “dark fortnight” is the negative; of the next “summer” is the positive pole, “winter” is the negative; on the positive side, the culmination is the solar world, leading to the world of the Eternal; on the negative side, the culmination is the lunar world, from which the path leads back again, through the same planes, to this material world.
This is, of course, in a sense symbolism; but it is very transparent symbolism. The Sun, as everywhere through the ancient books of the Mysteries, standing for the Logos, while the Moon stands for the psychic realm, which shines by reflected light, drawing all its glow from the Spiritual world above it.
So that this archaic teaching tells us that those who have passed through the spiritual rebirth, and have risen from the Fire, in color like the Sun, ascend through plane after plane, always dwelling at the positive pole, until they are ushered into the world of the Eternal, and become one with the Logos, the Divine Life of the Eternal. For them there is no return.
But those who have followed the psychic way, the way of selfish bartering with gods; who have not passed through the great self-sacrifice, ascend at death through the etheric planes, clinging always to the negative pole of each plane; and, reaching the psychic paradise, they wax and wane. The force of aspiration in them expands to enkindle their paradise. But when this force is exhausted, they must descend again, returning to this world to be born of an earthly mother, and so falling again under death’s dominion. This is magnificently expressed by king Death himself, in another Upanishad:
“Death said: ‘The better is one thing, the dearer is another; these two bind a man in opposite ways. Of these two, it is well for him who takes the better; he fails of his object, who chooses the dearer.
“’The better and the dearer approach a man; going round them, the sage discerns between them. The sage chooses the better rather than the dearer; the fool chooses the dearer, through lust of possession.
“’Thou indeed, pondering on dear and dearly loved desires, O Nachiketas, hast passed them by. Not this way of wealth hast thou chosen, in which many men sink.
“’Far apart are these two ways, unwisdom and what is known as wisdom. I esteem Nachiketas as one seeking wisdom, nor do manifold desires allure thee.
“’Others, turning about in unwisdom, self-wise and thinking they are learned, fools, stagger, lagging in the way, like the blind led by the blind.
“’The Great Beyond gleams not for the child, led away by the delusion of possessions. ‘This is the world, there is no other’, he thinks, and so falls again and again under my dominion.’”
This strongly reminds us of the words of St. Paul: “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: Death hath no more dominion over him.” And perhaps at this point we may derive additional light from Paul, and from his teaching as to the psychic and spiritual bodies, as he explains the matter to the Corinthians. (I Cor. xv.)
Paul is concerned with the new birth, the birth from above. He approaches the question by describing the psychic body—the middle nature—and its relation with the spiritual nature above it. For Paul, the psychic nature is the vehicle of egotism and passion; it is the field of what he calls “the mood of the flesh”; the desires of the flesh being mirrored in the mind, and setting up a series of passional reactions, which are foreign to natural, animal life. We may instance drunkenness as characteristically psychic in this sense; as being the pursuit of a sensation, a mode of feeling, which has no parallel in natural, animal life, and which cannot conceivably be considered an expression of natural animal life. Much of what passes for sex feeling is equally psychic, equally apart from natural animal life; and sex sensationalism of this type shows its true character by its voluntary sterility, something which has no existence in natural animal life. It is this perverted growth of the psychic body which is described as the Fall, and a fall from pure animal life it unquestionably is. St. James “the Lord’s brother” expresses his opinion of this force reflected in the middle nature, when he denounces “the wisdom that is from beneath, earthly, psychical, devilish.”
Paul has said much of the psychic nature. He proceeds to describe the gradual undermining of the psychic nature, and its supersession by the spiritual: “It is sown in weakness, it is raised in strength; it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown a psychic body, it is raised a spiritual body.” And this new-born spiritual body he calls “the new man, the Lord from heaven.” This is, of course, exactly the regeneration from above with which the Upanishads are perpetually occupied, and which we saw described as the Fire-sacrifice in the Brahmanas. This regeneration is precisely that Path of the Gods, which man mounts as “a spirit, of the color of the Sun,” and at whose summit he becomes one with the Logos, and enters the Eternal. And such a one, the Upanishads tell us, “has conquered the Second Death.”
Now if we turn to the passages first quoted from the Apocalypse, I think we shall find ourselves driven—irresistibly driven—to the conclusion that the Apocalypse and the Upanishads are talking about exactly the same thing, and mean exactly the same thing by the Second Death. Both depict a spiritual birth which endows him who has passed through it with present immortality, making of him a divine being, the conscious dweller in immortal worlds. The imagery is almost identical, and the teaching is perfectly clear and convincing.
If we are right, it remains only to consider the condition of those who have not passed through the birth from above, who have not, in the words of the Brahmana, offered the Fire-sacrifice. The Indian teaching is perfectly plain, and is set forth again and again, in the sacred books of all periods. Stated briefly, the teaching is, that the middle nature, which with St. Paul we may call the psychic body, gains a certain spiritual light by reflection from above; and that, at death, it is drawn upwards by this spiritual force. It enters a dream-world which is sometimes called the “lunar paradise,” and to which the Tibetan Buddhist books give the name of Devachan. In this dream-paradise it reaps a reward for all good deeds, its sum of aspiration acting as a force which builds up a dream-state of rest and refreshment; while, on the other hand, the strongly earthly part of the passional nature enters a latent condition, becoming for a long period quiescent. But in due time the force of aspiration, the sum of power it represented, becomes exhausted, and the psychic body sinks back towards material life. The passional energies, from being latent, become once more active, and a new bodily birth takes place.
Is not this most probably the meaning of the passage of the Apocalypse, which describes the dead who have not been spiritually reborn, have not passed through “the first resurrection,” and who are depicted as dwelling in some middle condition for “a thousand years”? And is not the latency of the passional nature, as taught in the Indian sacred books, exactly similar to the “binding of Satan for a thousand years”?—the later reassertion of the passional nature on reincarnation further corresponding with the release of Satan for a season? If we are right, and the weight of analogy at all points seems irresistible, then we are justified in saying that John, in what he says of the mysterious Second Death, is simply repeating the world-old teaching of the two paths, Path of the Gods and Path of the Fathers,—which is the esoteric form of the teaching of Reincarnation, as it was handed down carefully veiled in the Mysteries.
When we turn to the scene of Judgment described by the beloved disciple, we are reminded this time not of India so much as of Egypt. We are all familiar with the broad outlines of the Egyptian teaching; of Osiris represented as Judge of the Dead, seated with his assessors in the hidden world; of the Soul being brought before him, and its deeds being weighed in the immortal scales against the image of Truth. It is exactly in the spirit of John’s description of the judgment. Further, we know that, where the soul was wholly pure and free from stain, it went at once to the happy solar divinities, corresponding to the “world of the Eternal,” in the Indian Mystery Teaching. The soul which was part pure and part impure went to different regions of the hidden world, for further discipline and development. The soul that was wholly impure suffered miserably for a period, and was then annihilated.
This third fate, of the soul found wholly impure, is also taught in the Indian books. If we translate into Paul’s terminology of the spiritual and psychic bodies, we should have to say that, in such a case, the consciousness was concentrated wholly in the lower psychic nature, busied exclusively with sensual images and selfish ends, and reflecting nothing at all of the divine consciousness from above. In such a case, at death, there is no spiritual aspiration to draw the psychic life upward toward the spirit; it has voluntarily detached itself from the spirit. Yet there remain certain force elements in it, “the undying worm, the fire not quenched,” and these must work themselves out to their conclusion in the desolate midworld of psychic life. This is that “outer darkness,” that “sea of brimstone,” in which the corrupt psychic body finally burns itself away. This is the Second Death in the full sense, and from it there is no resurrection. This terrible destruction only overtakes the psychic self, however, when there is not an atom of spirituality, of aspiration, left. So long as there is the faintest spark, it may one day be fanned into a strong and purifying flame, so that the soul may be saved as by fire.
We hold, therefore, that we are justified in believing that John was completely conversant with this teaching of the Two Paths, as it was taught esoterically in the Mysteries of Egypt and India; and that he is exactly following the ancient mystical teaching, in the passages which we quoted at the outset, concerning the Second Death. This Second Death had two meanings; or rather, the same phrase was used to cover two truths, the whole being carefully veiled. The first truth was, that the partially pure soul, after having dwelt in a paradise of reward for a season, died again out of paradise, to be reborn in this material world. The other meaning of the Second Death is that to which we have referred above: it is the fate of the psychic self which is wholly impure and brutal; and which is slowly disintegrated in the lower astral world, returning as dust to dust, as ashes to ashes. But we shall be wise to turn our thought rather to the other path, the Path of the Gods, along which ascends the spirit in color like the sun, to enter the immortal world of the Eternal; to reign, as John says, “a priest unto God.” We may well conclude with a sentence or two of what Plutarch tells us of the Mysteries of Osiris, whom we have seen represented popularly as Judge of the Dead:
“The vestments of Osiris are of one uniform shining color. For as He is a first Principle, prior to all other beings, and purely intelligent, he must ever remain wholly pure. . . . By Osiris we are to understand those faculties of the Universal Soul, such as intelligence and reason, which are, as it were, the supreme lords and directors of all good.”