Selections from Cahagnet’s Cosmogonie et Anthropologie (“Cosmogony and Anthropology: or Deity, Earth and Man Studied by Analogy”) | Notes by H.P.B.

[Note: for background, see “Another Distinguished Fellow”]

God, According to the Teachings of the Professors of Religion, and God, According to Human Reason.

What are we to understand by the name God?

We have to understand by it that it is an individualization which men felt the necessity of creating; the individualization of Intelligence and of Force, which have produced, developed and preserved in eternal activity all things we see, as well as those which are within the scope of any of our senses . . . Methinks that it would be far more rational to believe that this fictitious personage is a compound of what we would call mother thoughts; of harmonious ideas forming a center of actions and a center of propulsion, a focus of all the other thoughts of which the universe is composed. . . .

. . . we say that the merit of the term mother thoughts which we offer in its [i.e. the name of God’s] stead, is that is combines the spiritual with the material states; localized, individualized and harmonized all things we see, and then preserves them in a succession of different states!

But some might argue, this deity as defined by you, this Intelligence of all intelligences, this Force of all the forces,1 this manifestation of the spiritual and material life, did it act but in the first instance, or does it still act as it did then?

1. We may be doubtful whether our Brother Cahagnet means by his “Mother Thoughts” the spiritual transcendental essences which Aristotle calls privations and Plato calls forms, species improperly understood and known as ideas; those eternal, immutable essences removed altogether from the sphere of sense, and cognizable more by intuition than reason. But whether or not he means that substance of which the world is but the shadow and which gives the latter the little of partial reality it possesses, his definition of the abstract Deity is undoubtedly that of the Vedantins, who define Parabrahm, absolute Intelligence and Force Itself, and hence devoid of either intelligence or force. In such a case his “Mother Thoughts” would under another name take the place of Īśvar, as defined by the modern school of Benares Vedantins, though we doubt that Mr. Cahagnet has the remotest idea of the existence, let alone the philosophy, of Vedantism.

Does it, in short, keep on producing eternally? We can answer the question but by analogy, and, basing ourselves upon the means employed by our globe in its phenomenon of reproduction. These appliances have all their defined objective points, which represent the goal to reach; they are all subject to the great sympathetic law of attractions and aggregations—law divided into a succession of states, forms and different actions, i.e., causing things to succeed, precede, and follow each other.2

2. This idea besides being the basic principle of the modern Law of Evolution which all the Hindu, Buddhist, and European Theosophists accept in its fundamental teaching, is that of the Heraclitan doctrine in regard to the phenomenal world, that of the “perpetual flow of all things.”

The close analogy between the material works of this Intelligence and those of man, leads us to confess our inability to understand any other possible mode of action. Hence, it forces us to admit that, as a series of thoughts resulting in various modes of appreciating or viewing things are born from one first (instinctive, or chaotic and undefined) thought, so the first aggregative potency must have acted in the same manner, and that it could create the material universe, or rather the material state, but in this wise, viz., by unconsciously imposing on it the task to be (take its various forms) by a succession of various ways of appreciating or viewing it.3

3. We do not feel quite sure whether the author adheres to the Aryan doctrine of the negation of the reality of matter, which was also that of Plato, but it does seem as if this conception of the Deity reminds one of the Platonic doctrines of the Cosmos being but “the shadow of The Shadow”; and of the deity of the Eleatics, whose Absolute was not a mere abstraction, a creature of pure fancy, but the totality of the objective universe as discerned by the soul, which itself, as compared with the body, is but a subtler species of matter.

 To be what?—the reader may ask.

That which this Intelligence without doubt combined, as it seems to have given to everything that which is useful to it individually and useful to all; and to have placed every atom in its right place in order to avoid a general cohesion. It would seem thence, that this Intelligence must have combined its aggregating conceptions, through and with the help of the mother thoughts above-named; and that we offer (since it could not combine personally). These mother thoughts had united for the purpose we must think4 . . . To admit that it could have been otherwise is to lay down a proposition which our reason would have to reject. . . .

4. Would we not be warranted in thinking that the authors of the Vedas which mention such a legion of deities inferior to, and dependent on, Parabrahm, had also some such “Mother Thoughts” in their spiritual clairvoyance? Hence polytheism or the plurality of gods becomes comprehensible. The anthropomorphisation of these abstract principles is an afterthought; human conception generally dragging down to the level of its own terrestrial, gross perception, every idea, however philosophical and sublime.

. . . we say, that it appears more rational to believe and admit that it is the “thoughts” which constitute all the visible life, every thing existing, and which govern themselves and one over the other by hierarchic order, than an ideal being who answers but poorly to this immense task of universal ruling. . . . It has been revealed to us5 that the constituents and all nature are so arranged in strata of thoughts which are respectively active and passive (agent et patient), i.e.  influencing mutually each other, in order that from the highest and strongest to the lowest and weakest of groups, all should contribute to the universal harmony, and that, this is the only existing God to be found, as we believe, a deity formed of all, without, therefore, being of a necessity a pantheistic god.6 . . .

5. The author is a spiritist as well as a magnetizer. The revelation must have come either from a clairvoyante, somnambule, or “spirit.” (See  Revelations beyond the grave [Révélations d’Outre-Tombe], Vol. I.)

6. We do not see how the inference can be well avoided, though, once we admit of a Deity, the God of the pantheists seems the only reasonable one. True pantheists do not say that everything is God—for they would be fetish-worshippers then; but that God is in everything and the whole in God.

 . . . The professors of religions will, as a matter of course, reject the above proposition, for being what they are,—funeral undertakers of Reason, their gods must bring them in profit and honour. What are these gods? If we search for them in the days of the most hoary antiquity we will find by puppets which with the help of strings, are made to move and speak by parties interested in their glorification. Let us but throw a glance at the god worshipped in days of old by 700 millions of believers—the Brahma, the oldest of all the known gods. We will see this God, this focus of intelligence, incarnating himself in Vishnu—we do not know why . . .

At his fourth incarnation, he becomes a monster half-man, half-lion . . . At the fifth . . . a prince who tortured his people, and makes him ask for mercy . . . The sixth, seventh and eighth incarnations, or avatars, are of the same character.

At the ninth, Vishnu becomes more reasonable. He assumes the shape and name of Buddha, a god who had four arms and a divine intelligence.7 . . . Man, such are thy gods! Those of Moses, of the pagans, of Christianity, Loyola, and hundreds of others, are they any more reasonable or acceptable? We think not. Let us then cast aside all such stories of human fancy and give ourselves up to a more serious study.

7. It is quite evident that Mr. Cahagnet knows nothing of the Hindu religions, less yet of Aryan philosophy. We have omitted translating a page or two as they are full of inaccuracies. The venerable author having derived his information upon the religions of India from an old book called Religious ceremonies and customs of all the peoples on the globe, by a society of men of Science, and dated 1723, it becomes clear how he came to mix up the avataras and endow “the Light of Asia”—Gautama Buddha—with four arms. The “men of science,” even in the days of Sir John Williams, often confounded the son of the king of Kapilavastu with the Scandinavian Odin and many other myths.