Translation Selections by Alexander Wilder | Notes by H.P.B.


(Continued from No. 22 [July, 1881])

Iamblichus: A Treatise on the Mysteries

A New Translation, by Professor Alexander Wilder, F.T.S.

Part I.

III. You say that, “first, the existence of the deities is to be taken for granted.” It is not proper to speak in this manner. The knowledge of the gods is innate, and pertains to the very substance of our being. It is of a higher nature than judgment and choosing, and precedes both speech and demonstration. . . .

. . . it is not proper to concede this point as though it was a thing which it is possible not to grant, nor even to assent to it as an equivocal matter. It is always established in energy as a distinct Idea. Nor is it even permissible to examine it as having authority to judge and determine. We are enclosed in it, or, rather, we are filled by it, and we have all that we are in this knowing of the deity.

I have the same thing to say to you in regard to the superior orders which came next after the deities. I am speaking of the tutelary spirits or demons,1 of heroes or half-gods, and of souls that have not been tainted by the conditions of life on the earth.2 . . .

1. Called by the mediaeval Kabalists—Planetary Spirits, and in the Hindu philosophy—Devas.

2. “By the conditions of life” on our Earth, and only so far as they have not reached it. No Planetary Spirit (and each human “Soul”—rather Spirit at the beginning of new Pralaya or the periodical resurrection to objective and subjective life of our universe—limited, of course, to our planetary System—is a planetary pure and formless Spirit) can avoid the “Cycle of Necessity.” Descending from, and re-ascending to the first starting point, that junction in the Infinity where Spirit or Purusha first falls into Prakriti (plastic matter) or that primordial and yet formless cosmic matter which is the first out-breathing of the Infinite and Changeless Universal Soul (the Parabrahm of the Vedantins), the Planetary Spirit has to take shape and form and live successively in each of the spheres—our own earth included—which compose the great Maha Yug, or the Circle of Existences, before he can lead a conscious Ego-life. Alone the “Elementals”—those half-blind Forces of Nature—say the Kabalists—which are the coruscations of matter and of the rudimentary minds of the descending “spirits” who have failed on their downward way—have not yet lived but will live some day on earth. The esoteric philosophies of both the eastern and western initiates, whether Greek or Hindu, Egyptian or Hebrew, agree on the whole. Whenever they seem to clash, it will be always found due rather to the difference of terms and mode of expression than to any essential difference in the systems themselves.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]

IV. You ask: “What are the peculiarities of the higher Orders, but which they are distinguished from each other?” If you mean by “peculiarities” certain specific differences under the same Order which are indicated by diverse qualities, as the rational and irrational under the animal order, this is the answer. We do not admit at all of any such difference in entities that have neither a participation nor a contrast of substance to make them equal, nor derive their composition from a common indefinite principle and a particular defining characteristic. But if you conjecture that the peculiarity is a certain simple condition defined in itself, as in superior and inferior natures, which differ both in the entire substance and in all the outcome, you have the rational conception of the peculiarities. These peculiarities, having been evolved entirely from entities always existing,3 will be in all particulars distinct and simple. . . .

3. The Maha-Pralaya or the Universal Dissolution occurring at the end of every “Day of Brahmâ” is followed by a Universal Rebirth at the end of the “Night of Brahmâ” which corresponds in length of period to the “Day.” It is the beginning of such a rebirth that is considered by the vulgar minds as the “creation” of the world, whereas it is but one of the number of successive existences in an infinite series of re-evolutions in the Eternity. Therefore, as Spirit and Matter are one and eternal, the one being thrown into objectivity by the other, and none capable of asserting itself per se to our sensual perceptions unless linked together, these “Entities” have “always” existed.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]

[Note: The translation by Wilder was continued in four installments in The Theosophist; see July, September, October, 1881 and August, 1882. September, 1881, is the only instance with notes by H.P.B. These selections of the translation were copied from The Platonist. The complete translation was later published in full as Theurgia, or, The Egyptian Myesteries by Iamblichos.]