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THE GREAT REVELATION
WE despair of ever knowing the origin of the universe, its aim, its laws, or its intentions; and we end by doubting whether there be any. It were wiser very humbly to confess that we are not able to conceive them. It is probable that, if the universe to-morrow were to yield us the key of its riddle, we should be as incapable of understanding how to use it as is a dog to whom we show the key of a clock. In revealing its great secret to us, it would teach us hardly anything; or at least the revelation would have but an insignificant influence upon our life, our happiness, our ethics, our efforts, and our hopes. It would soar at such heights that no one would perceive it; at most it would disencumber the sky of our religious illusions, leaving only the infinite void of the ether in their place.
For that matter, there is no saying but that we once possessed this revelation. It is highly possible that the religions of nations which have disappeared, such as the Lemurians, the Atlanteans and many others, were aware of it and that we have discovered its remains in the esoteric traditions that have come down to us. It must not indeed be forgotten that there exists, side by side with the outward, scientific history, a secret history of mankind which derives its substance of legends, myths, hieroglyphics, strange monuments and mysterious writings from the hidden meaning of the primitive books. One thing is certain, that, though the imagination of those who interpret this occult history is often venturesome, all that they declare is not to be despised and deserves to be examined more seriously one day than has hitherto been done.
The essence of this esoteric revelation is very well summed up by M. Marc Saunier, a disciple of Fabre d'Olivet and Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, in his book, La Légende des symboles.
"The Initiates," he says, "have always regarded each continent as a being subject to the same laws as man. For them, the minerals constitute its skeleton, the flora its flesh, the fauna its nerve-cells and the human races the grey matter of its brain. This continent itself is but an organ of the earth, wherein each man is treated as a thinking cell and whereof the thought is represented by the sum of human thoughts. The earth itself is but an organ of the solar system, which in turn is considered as an individual; and our solar system thus becomes merely an organ of another being of the infinite, whose heart would appear in the star Alpha in Aries. And lastly, by a final synthesis, we come to the Cosmos, which expresses the general sum of all things, in a being whose body is the world and whose thought is the universal intelligence, exalted by the religions to the rank of a deity."
The basis of their doctrine is plainly evolutionistic. Each continent has merely transformed, in its own time and according to its own ideal, the seeds which came from the Hyperborean tracts; and man is but the result of an animal evolution. For the rest, they borrow it in part from the Hindus, thus anticipating by many thousands of years the latest hypotheses of our modern science.
But, without loitering in these shifting sands, let us go direct to clear and reliable sources. We possess, in the sacred and secret books of India, of which we know only an infinitesimal part, a cosmogony which no European conception has ever surpassed. It would not be correct to say that it attained, at the first endeavour, the ultimate limits beyond which the mind of man could not venture without dissolving in the infinite, for it was the work of centuries of which we do not know the tale; but it indisputably preceded all the others, its birth was earlier than anything that we know and, at the beginning of all things, it exceeded in grandeur all that we have learnt and all that we can imagine.
It was the first, for instance, long before our historic periods, to give us a dizzy yet concrete idea of the infinity of time.
The Book of Manu teaches us that twelve thousand years of mortals are but a day and a night to the gods; their year, therefore, consisting of three hundred and sixty days, numbers 4,320,000 years. A thousand years of the gods make but one of Brahma's days, that is to say, 4,320,000,000 human years, representing the total life of our globe; and Brahma's night is of equal duration. Three hundred and sixty of these days and nights make one of this god's years; and a hundred of these years constitute one of his lives, that is to say; the duration of the universe, which is represented by the formidable figure of 311,090,000,000,000 years. After this he begins a new life. At present we have not yet attained the noon of Brahma's actual day nor half the life-time of our terrestrial globe.
To complete this outline of the stupendous chronology of the Vedas, I continue to profit by some notes received from my war-time godson, who has a thorough knowledge of this unduly neglected science. For the rest, it will be seen that chronology and cosmogony are here in intimate connection:
"The day of Brahma (4,320,000,000 years) is divided into fourteen lives of Manu, consisting alternately of seven Manvantaras and seven Pralayas. The word Manvantara signifies the interval between two Manus: one of these appears in the dawn and the other in the twilight of this period of terrestrial activity. The morning Manu gives the Manvantara its name and the evening Manu presides over the Pralaya, that is to say, the period of dissolution, or negative status quo, death, sleep, or inertia, as the case may be, which divides two waves of life.
"Universal evolution is a chain without beginning or end, each link of which in turn appears and disappears in our field of consciousness. Brahma himself dies only to be reborn. But for the sovereign of the worlds, as for a random star or the least of organized creatures, there is death and dissolution only from the individual point of view. Darkness is the ransom to be paid for light, the evening balances the morning, age is the price of youth and death the reverse of life. In reality, however, all evolution is at the same time continuous and discontinuous; the Manvantaras and Pralayas are at once simultaneous and successive; each individual life is engendered by its elemental double and engenders its residual double. Every decline of life in a given place coincides with an increase of being in a corresponding place and proceeds by means of a rebirth in a fresh place. Fundamentally, there is no individual life. We are at once ourselves and another, ourselves and several others, ourselves and all others, ourselves and the Universe, ourselves and infinity.
"The evolution of our terrestrial globe is an infinitesimal cycle of this universal evolution, corresponding merely with a day and a night of Brahma, and is divided into fourteen cycles, each consisting of a Manvantara and a Pralaya. The cycle of organic evolution upon our solidified globe represents only one of these subdivisions, that is to say, the radius of the organic sphere is only a fourteenth part of the radius of the mineral sphere. Mineral evolution is manifestly continuous from the formation of the globe to its dissolution. If, between the periods of geological activity, there exists a Pralaya of any kind, this latter, despite the etymology of the word, must be not a dissolution, which would be perfectly inconceivable from the logical and scientific point of view, but a period of inertia or abatement, of which the hypothesis is readily admissible and of which the glacial periods, occurring in the very course of the present Manvantara, afford us an example. In the earlier cycles of Manu, the earth passed in succession through the various stages of condensation which science regards as igneous and which correspond with the ethereal, gaseous and liquid evolution of the elements, During these long periods, the life of the present existed potentially in the soul of the earth and actually on other globes than ours."
But we will proceed no further with this outline, which would become so complicated as to be inextricable. Let us remember simply the magnificent doctrine of the reincarnation, which is the most ancient reply, the only decisive and, no doubt, the most plausible reply, to all the problems of justice and injustice, the immortal torture of mortals, and its corollary, the law of Karma, which, as my godson so truly says, "is the most wonderful of ethical discoveries: it represents abstract liberty and is enough to enfranchise the human will from any superior or even infinite being. We are our own creators and the sole captains of our fate; no other than ourselves rewards or punishes us; there is no sin, but only consequences; there is no morality, but only responsibilities. Now Buddha taught that, merely by virtue of this sovran law, the individual must be reborn to reap what he has sowed; and this certainty of rebirth was enough to neutralize the horror of death."
Is all this nothing more than imagination, than the dreams of brains more ardent than our own, the hallucinations of ascetics which amaze the young and the immobility or the echo of immemorial traditions bequeathed by other races, or by races anterior to man and more spiritual? It is impossible to decide; but, whatever its origin, it is certain that the monument whereof we have seen but a corner of the pedestal is prodigious and that it has not a human aspect. All that we can say is that our modern sciences, notably archaeology, geology and biology, confirm rather than invalidate either of these revelations.
But this is not the question for the moment. Let us suppose that one of these revelations, for instance, that of the sacred books of India, were true, incontestable and scientifically proved by our researches; or that an interplanetary communication or a declaration of some superhuman being no longer permitted us to doubt its authenticity: what influence would such a revelation have upon our life? What would it transform in our life, what novel element would it add to our morality or our happiness? No doubt it would work but a very slight change. It would pass too high above us; it would not descend to our level; it would not touch us; we should lose ourselves in its immensity; and upon the whole, knowing everything, we should be neither happier nor wiser than when we knew nothing.
Not to know what he has come upon this earth to do: that is man's great and everlasting torment. Now we must perforce admit that the actual truth of the universe, if some day we learn it, will probably be very similar to one or other of those revelations which, while appearing to teach us everything, teach us nothing at all. It will at least possess the same inhuman character. It will necessarily be as unlimited in both space and time, as abysmal, as foreign to our senses and our brain. The more tremendous, the more majestic the revelation, the greater chance will it have of being true; but also, the more remote from us it is, the less will it interest us. We can hardly hope to escape from this discouraging dilemma: those revelations, explanations or interpretations which are too petty will not satisfy us, because we shall instinctively feel them to be insufficient; while those which are too great will pass us by too far to affect us.
It nevertheless seems desirable that this revelation of the sacred books of India should be authentic and that our knowledge, still so slight, so unimportant, so timid and so incoherent, should gradually confirm, as indeed it unwittingly does daily, certain points scattered through the boundless immensity of this immemorial truth.
It would in any case, even if it did not succeed in affecting us directly, possess the advantage of enlarging our horizon, which is narrower than we suppose, until it embraces infinity; of studding this infinity with magnificent landmarks; of animating it, peopling it, filling it with wonderful faces, making it a living, perceptible, almost comprehensible thing.
We all know that we dwell in infinity; but this infinity is, for us, only a bare and barren word, a black and uninhabitable void, a formless abstraction, a lifeless expression, to which our imagination can give only a momentary vitality, at the cost of a tiring, solitary, unskilful, unassisted, ungrateful and unfruitful effort. We hold ourselves, in fact, pent in this terrestrial world of ours and in our brief historic ages; and at the most we raise our eyes, from time to time, towards the other planets of our solar system and project our thoughts, which are discouraged from the beginning, as far as the nebulous periods that preceded man's advent on our globe. More and more deliberately we are directing the whole activity of our intelligence upon ourselves; and, by a regrettable optical illusion, the more it restricts its field of action, the deeper we believe it to be probing. Our thinkers and philosophers, fearing lest they should stray as their predecessors did before them, no longer concern themselves with any but the least disputable aspects, problems and secrets; but, if these are the least disputable, they are also the least sublime; and man, in his quality as a terrestrial animal, becomes the sole object of their investigations. The scientists, on the other hand, are accumulating minor data and observations whose weight is stifling them; yet they no longer dare to thrust them aside or open them out, so as to ventilate them by some general law, some salutary hypothesis, for those which they have hitherto ventured to advance have been pitiably contradicted, one after the other, and scouted by experience.
Nevertheless, they are right to act as they do and to continue their investigations according to their narrow and restricted methods; but we are entitled to observe that, the closer they believe that they have drawn to a fugitive truth, the greater are their uncertainty and confusion, the more precarious, imaginary and insufficient seem the foundations upon which they based their confidence and the more fully do they perceive the immense distance that still divides them from the least of life's secrets. As one of the most illustrious of them, Sir William Grove, prophetically remarked:
"The day is fast approaching when it will be confessed that the Forces we know are but the phenomenal manifestations of Realities we know nothing about, but which were known to the Ancients and by them worshipped."
This, indeed, is what we are bound to think if we study slightly this primitive revelation, this ancient wisdom and what has grown out of it. Man once knew more than he now knows. He was ignorant perhaps of the enormous mass of petty details which we have observed and classified and which have enabled us to subdue certain forces which he never thought of turning to account: but it is probable that he understood better than we do their nature, their essence and their origin.
The higher civilization of humanity, which history traces back tentatively to five or six thousand years before Christ, is perhaps far more ancient; and, without admitting, as has been asserted, that the Egyptians kept astronomical records through a period of six hundred and thirty thousand years, we may consider it as established that their observations embraced two precessional cycles, two sidereal years, or fifty-one thousand, seven hundred and thirty-six solar years. Now they themselves were not initiators but initiates, who derived all that they knew from a more ancient source. It was the same with the Semites, in the matter of their primitive books and their Kabbalah; and the Greeks, among whom all those who really taught us something about the origin and constitution of the world and its elements, about nature and divinity, mind and matter, men such as Hesiod, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Plato and the Neo-Platonists, were likewise initiates, that is to say, they were men who, having travelled in Egypt or India, had drunk of the same one and immemorial spring. Our prehistoric religions, Scandinavian or Germanic and the Druidism of the Celts, those of China and Japan, of Mexico and Peru, despite numerous deformations, were also derived from the same source, even as our great western metaphysics, which preceded our modern materialism, with its somewhat sordid outlook, and notably the metaphysics of Leibnitz, Kant, Schelling, Fichte and Hegel have approached it and, more or less unconsciously, slaked their thirst at it.
It is therefore certain that through the Greeks, through the Bible, through Christianity, which is its last echo, for the author of the Apocalypse and St. Paul were initiates, we are all steeped in this revelation; that there is not and never has been any other; that it is the great human or superhuman revelation; and that consequently it would be right and salutary to study it more attentively and more profoundly than we have hitherto done.
Where does the source of this revelation lie? We place it in the east because nearly everything that we know about it is found in the sacred books of India. But it is almost certainly of western or rather Hyperborean origin and dates back to those wonderful vanished Atlanteans, whose last Protoscythian colonies flourished over eleven thousand years ago and whose existence can no longer be denied.
Remember that famous passage in Plato:
"One day, when Solon was conversing with the priests of Sais on the history of the remote ages, one of them said:
" 'O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children! . . . There is not an opinion, not a tradition of knowledge among you that is old. . . . You know nothing of that noble race of heroes of whom you are a remnant. . . . Nine thousand years, as our annals record, have elapsed since what I am about to tell you. . . . The most famous of your actions was the overthrow of the island of Atlantis, which lay over against the Pillars of Hercules, was greater than Libya and Asia put together and was the passage to other islands and to a great ocean whereof the Mediterranean Sea was but a harbour; and within the Pillars the empire of Atlantis reached in Europe to Tyrrhenia and in Libya to Egypt. This mighty power was arrayed against Egypt and Greece and all the Mediterranean countries. Then your city did bravely and won renown throughout the earth. For, risking her own existence, she repelled the invader and gave liberty to all the nations within the Pillars. Soon after, earthquakes arose and floods; and your warlike race was swallowed up by the earth; and the island of Atlantis also disappeared in the sea.' "
This page in the Timaeus is the first glimpse that history properly so-called affords of the immense chaos of the antediluvian period. Modern researches and discoveries have confirmed it step by step. To quote Roisel, who devoted a remarkable book to the Atlanteans, a work less well-known than those of Scott Elliott and Rudolf Steiner, but one that does not admit of the slightest doubt:
"It is proved that, long before the historic ages, the Atlanticans had acquired a marvellous science whose elements mankind is hardly beginning to reconstitute and whose mighty relics are found in ancient Gaul, Egypt, Persia, India and the central portion of the American continent. More than ten thousand years before our era, they knew the precession of the equinoxes, the slow changes which many stars experience in their courses and the thousand secrets of nature. They had processes of which modern industry has not yet fathomed the mysteries."
The outcome of these studies is that humanity never underwent a disaster to be compared with the disappearance of Atlantis. It will perhaps need thousands of years to repair that loss and to reascend to the level of a civilization which had certainties of which we laboriously glean the scattered remnants, regarding the origin and movements of the universe, the energy of matter, the unknown forces of this and other worlds, the life beyond the grave and a social organization and political economy similar to those of the bees. Nothing could better prove the uselessness of man's effort than this unparalleled loss, if we did not strive to hope in spite of all.
A nation of wonderful metallurgists, who had discovered the means of tempering copper for which we are still seeking, a nation of fabulous engineers, whose geometry, as Professor Smyth tells us, began where Euclid's ends, they lifted and transported to enormous distances, by mysterious methods, rocks weighing fifteen hundred tons and strewed the world with those fantastic moving stones known as "mad stones" and "stones of truth," stones weighing five hundred tons and so ingeniously poised on one of their corners that a child can move them with its finger, whereas the united impetus of two hundred men would be incapable of overturning them, stones which, from the geological point of view, never belong to the spot where they are found. A nation of explorers who had traversed and colonized the whole surface of the earth, a nation of scholars, mathematicians and astronomers, they appear to have been above all things ruthless rationalists and logicians, endowed with, so to speak, a metallic brain, the lateral lobes of which were much more highly developed than ours. They applied their incomparable faculties exclusively to the study of the exact sciences; and the sole object of their energies was the conquest of truth. But the study of the invisible and the infinite, under their powerful scrutiny, itself becomes an exact science; and the main idea of their cosmogony, by virtue of which everything issues from the ocean of cosmic matter or from the boundless waves of the eternal ether, soon to return and to reemerge, disfigured and overladen with numberless myths by the imagination of their degenerate descendants or settlers: this main idea forms the base of every religion. It is improbable that man will ever discover one to equal it or replace it.
It is in the sacred books of India that we find the surest and most plentiful traces of this cosmogony or of this revelation. Less than a century ago, men were almost wholly unaware of the existence of these sacred books. Their interpreters have taken two different paths. On the one hand, scholars whom we may describe as official have supplied translations of a certain number of texts, which might also be called official, texts which they do not always understand and which their readers understand even less. On the other hand, initiates, genuine or pretended, with the assistance of adepts of an occult fraternity, have suggested a new and more impressive interpretation of these same texts or of others still more secret. They still, rightly or wrongly, inspire a certain distrust. We are obliged to admit the authenticity and the antiquity of certain traditions, of certain primitive and essential writings, though it is impossible to assign an approximate date to them, so completely are they merged in the mists of the prehistoric ages. But they are almost incomprehensible without keys and commentaries; and it is here that our doubts and hesitations begin. A large number of those commentaries are likewise very ancient and in their turn need keys; others appear to be more recent; lastly, others seem to be contemporary; and it is often difficult to draw a dividing line between that which may well exist in the original and that which the interpreters believe to exist in the original or which they more or less deliberately add to it. Now the most striking, the most impressive and in any case the most lucid part of the doctrine is often contained in the commentaries.
Next, as I have observed, comes the question of the keys, which is intimately connected with the foregoing. These keys are more or less workable and command more or less respect; sometimes they seem fanciful or arbitrary; they are delivered only with curious precautions, singly and grudgingly; and they are apt to unlock several superimposed meanings. And all this is accompanied by fantastic reticences, by so-called dangerous or terrible secrets, withheld at the decisive moment, and by revelations which, it is contended, cannot be communicated until many centuries have elapsed. Doors through which we were about to pass are slammed in our faces just as we were at last catching a glimpse of a long-promised horizon; and behind each of them hides a supreme initiate, a still living master, the sacred guardian of the ultimate mysteries, who knows all things, but can or will say nothing.
Observe, moreover, that a host of more or less intelligent illuminati, of elderly women and unbalanced spinsters, of simple-minded people who accept, blindly and off-hand, that which they do not understand, of discontented, unsuccessful, vain or crafty persons who fish in troubled waters, in a word, all the usual suspect mob that gathers round any more or less mysterious doctrine, science or phenomenon, has discredited these first esoteric interpretations, of which the very source is none too clear. Lastly, let us add that the burning of the famous library of Alexandria, in which all the knowledge of the east was amassed, the destruction in the sixteenth century, under the Mogul Akbar, of thousands of Sanskrit volumes, the systematic and merciless demolition, especially during the first few centuries of the Church and in the Middle Ages, of all that referred or alluded to this dreaded and embarrassing revelation, have deprived us of our best means of control. The adepts, it is true, assert on the other hand that the true texts, as well as the ancient commentaries which alone enable them to be understood, still exist in the secret crypts and subterranean libraries of Thibet or the Himalayas, libraries of books more innumerable than any which we possess in the west, and that they will reappear in a more enlightened age. It is possible, but in the meanwhile they are of no help to us.
Be this as it may, what we have is enough to perplex us greatly; and the control allowed by the fragments which have been saved from historic antiquity absolutely removes all suspicion of more or less recent fraud or deception in respect of the essentials. Moreover, any fraud or deception of this nature seems hardly possible and would be so ingenious that we should be obliged to marvel at it as a phenomenon almost as remarkable as that whereof it would be seeking to give the illusion; and we should have to admit that the mind of man has never insinuated itself so far into the infinity of time and space, or into the origin of things, and has never risen to such heights. Had this revelation profited by all the attainments of our latter-day science and thought, it could not have furnished us with theories more satisfactory, more logical, more coherent, more plausible, more synthetic, or worthier of the infinity which they strive to embrace and often seem to attain, on the rhythm of the eternities, the ebb and flow of the eternal Becoming, the never-ending cycle and the periodic existences of the ego, the birth, movement and evolution of the worlds, the divine breath and the intelligence that animate it, on Maya, the eternal illusion of ignorance, the struggle for life, natural selection, the gradual development and transformation of stars and men, the functions and energies of the ether, immortal and infallible justice, the intermolecular and fantastic activity of matter, on the nature of the soul and the existence of the vast, nameless power that governs the universe, in a word, on all the riddles that assail and all the mysteries that overwhelm us.
But, let us hasten to repeat it, there could not seriously be any question of fraud, because the texts or traditions that might be regarded with suspicion are corroborated by other texts, such as the sacred inscriptions of Egypt, which no one thinks of contesting. At most we may come upon a few passages antedated by the imprudent zeal of adepts or commentators, a few interpolations which merely embroider the majestic lines. Taking it as a whole, we have to do with a revelation which dates back infinitely farther than all that we have called the prehistoric ages, wherefore it is legitimate that our astonishment should be unbounded.
Very good, it will be said, this interpretation of the universe, this anthropocosmogenesis is the loftiest, the most spacious, the most wonderful, the most unassailable that has ever been conceived; it teems in every part with human thought and imagination; but what is it all based upon? When all is said, we have here only magnificent hypotheses, boldly disguised as authoritative, dogmatic and peremptory declarations, but every one incapable of verification. This is the objection which I myself put forward, a little hastily, in one of the early chapters of Our Eternity.
It is indeed undeniable that we shall not for some time to come, that perhaps we shall never know the truth about the origin and the end of the universe or any of the other problems which these declarations profess to solve. But it is curious to note that science, despite itself, is daily drawing nearer to one or other of these declarations and that it is unable to set aside or to contradict any of them. There is for example, a certain study of the genesis of the elements, by the well-known chemist, Sir William Crookes, which unconsciously becomes plainly occultist, while the discovery of the radioactivity of matter reproduces precisely the theory of vortices of the initiate Anaxagoras. It is the same, mutatis mutandis, with the function attributed to the ether, the latest, indispensable postulate of our scientists. It is the same with the supreme and essential functions of certain minute glands of which modern medicine is only now beginning to rediscover the importance and which probably hold hidden the primordial secrets of life: the thyroid gland, which directs growth and intelligence; the suprarenal gland, which governs the unconscious muscle that is the heart; and the pineal gland, the most mysterious of all, which brings us into relation with the unknown worlds. It is the same again with astronomy, when the manifest insufficiency of our so-called cosmic laws, notably that of gravitation, propounds a host of questions which only the cosmogony of the east is able to answer. But this would require a long enquiry, which I am not qualified to undertake.
For the rest, nothing obliges us to accept these declarations as dogmas. There is no question here of a religion which imposes upon us its blind faith, its Credo quia absurdum. We are quite entitled to regard them as mere hypotheses, as immense, incomparable antediluvian poems, of which the Mosaic Genesis is but a disfigured fragment. But, even as hypotheses or poems, it must be admitted that they are prodigious, that we have nothing better, nothing more probable to set against them and that, in view of their incontestable antiquity, of their prehistoric origin, they seem really superhuman.
Must we admit, as the occultists contend, that they come to us from beings superior to man, from more spiritual entities, living under unknown conditions, who occupied our earth or the neighbouring planets before our coming; from a Lemuro-Atlantean civilization which, in its megalithic monuments, has left indelible traces in the memory of the peoples and on the face of our earth? It is quite possible; but here again we are free to await the confirmations of Hindu, Egyptian, Chaldean, Assyrian and Persian archaeology, which on this point, as on so many others, has not spoken its last word.
I am well aware that this revelation, as apparently all those which may be made in the course of time, dates back to and ends in the unknowable, the insoluble mystery of divinity, of being, or existence; and it necessarily stops short before the barrier of this unknowable, which is as impenetrable and impregnable as a cliff that is infinite in every dimension and formed of a single block of black diamond. There is nothing to be done; we can but halt; we cannot even seek to outflank it, to approach it from the other side, for the other side, if we could reach it, would necessarily be like the side in front of us, seeing that the non-existence of everything would be just as inexplicable, just as incomprehensible as its existence. It is true that, in the secret recesses of the doctrine, the universe and all that it contains is known as Maya, that is to say, the eternal illusion, so that the two irreconcilable mysteries unite in a still greater mystery which man's intelligence can no longer approach.
Fundamentally, the primitive riddle, the primordial mystery not being elucidated, all the rest illumines only the steps that lead from comparative knowledge to absolute ignorance. It will probably be the same with all the revelations that may address themselves to man's intelligence so long as he continues on this planet, for this intelligence doubtless has limits which no effort can enlarge. But in the meantime it is certain that these steps, which lead to nothing, nevertheless, at the first onset and from the earliest days led him to the highest point which his intelligence has attained or can hope to attain. The most ancient explanation embraces straightway all the attempts at explanation that have hitherto been offered. It harmonizes the positivism of science with the most transcendental idealism; it accepts matter and spirit; it reconciles the mechanical impulsion of atoms and worlds with their intelligent guidance. It gives us an unconditioned divinity, "a causeless cause of all the causes," worthy of the universe which is this divinity itself and of which all the divinities that have succeeded it in all our religions are but scattered, mutilated and unrecognizable members. It offers us, lastly, in its law of Karma, by virtue of which each being undergoes in his successive lives the consequences of his actions and gradually purifies himself, the loftiest, justest and most unassailable, the most fertile, consoling and hopeful moral principle that could ever be proposed to man. Because of all this it appears worthy of investigation, respect and admiration.
This respect and admiration, however, do not militate against our liberty to choose or reject many things, or to reserve them while we wait for further light. When we are told, for instance, that the Cosmos is guided by an infinite series of hierarchies of sensient beings, each having a mission to fulfil, which are the agents of the Karmic and Cosmic laws; when it is added that each of these beings was a man in an earlier Manvantara, or is preparing to become one in the present or in a future Manvantara, that they are perfected men, or nascent men, and that, in their higher and less material spheres, they do not differ morally from terrestrial human beings save in that they do not possess the sense of personality and of emotional nature; when, lastly, we are assured that what we call unconscious Nature is in reality a complex of forces manipulated by semi-intelligent beings (Elemental) directed by the High Planetary Spirits (Dhyani-Shohans), whose total forms the Word Manifest of the non-manifest Logos and constitutes at the same time both the intelligence of the universe and its immutable law, we can do homage to the ingenuity of these speculations, as to that of thousands of others which perhaps embrace the truth more closely than our best and most recent scientific hypotheses; we are free to take what we please from them and to leave what we please. All this, I grant, is by no means proved, is not verified, or cannot be verified, save in certain details, whereas the great fundamental outlines will probably always escape the control of our unequipped intelligence. But what we must, I repeat, admire without reserve is the prodigious spiritual edifice offered by the sum total of this revelation, the immense intellectual effort which, since the dawn of humanity, has attempted to unravel the unfathomable chaos of the origin, structure, progress, direction and end of the universe and which appears to have succeeded to this extent, that hitherto nothing has been found that equals it, or is not inspired by it or, often unconsciously, returns to it.
I said in the first part of this essay that too lofty a revelation, even were it incontestable, would have hardly any influence upon our life, that it would change little in it, that it would occur too far from us in the immensity of space and that it would not sink into our hearts and minds. Was it thus with that of which we are now speaking, which is the only truly superhuman and yet acceptable and almost unassailable revelation that we have had? Yes and no, according to the point of view which we take up. All that it contains of too great a character, except its notion of eternity, has not really modified our ideas, has not permeated into our habits. It has not even profoundly affected the peoples who have handed it down to us and who, abandoning any endeavour to understand it, have transformed it into a barbarous and monstrous anthropomorphic polytheism. It is more or less the same everywhere. All the religions, from the pagan religions of China and Japan, Gaul and ancient Germany, Mexico and Peru, down to Christianity with its variants and its offshoots, have issued from it; but all have not been able to live and govern men, save by disfiguring and mutilating it, by dwarfing it to the lowest stature of the souls of their time, by altering it beyond recognition. It is therefore highly probable that matters would be the same with any other and greater revelation, if such were possible, even though this had all the signs of a divine, direct, authentic, indubitable, irrefutable, irrecusable revelation, in a word, with that which we are still awaiting without daring to hope for it.Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.