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The Chaldæan Oracles

FRAGMENTS AND COMMENTS.

THE PURIFYING MYSTERIES.

But this can be accomplished only in the perfected body, or rather “perfect body”; therefore, with regard to visions of the lower powers, operated by the daimones, Proclus tells us:

The Gods admonish us not to look upon them before we are fenced round with the powers brought to birth by the Mystery-rites:

Thou should'st not look on them before the body is perfected; [for] ever do they fascinate men's souls and draw them from the Mysteries.

(K. 55; C. 150)

The lower visions were to be turned from in order that the higher theophanies, or manifestations of the Gods, might be seen. But this could be accomplished only by an orderly discipline. And so Proclus writes:

For in contemplation and the art of perfectioning, that which makes the Way Above safe and free from stumbling blocks for us, is orderly progress. At any rate, as the Oracles say:

Never so much is God estranged from man, and, with Living Power, sends him on fruitless quests -

(K. 56; C. 183)

As when, in disorder and in discord, we [try to] make the Ascent to the most divine heights of contemplation or the most sacred acts of Works - as it is said, “with lips unhallowed and unwashen feet.”

 

THE FIRE-GNOSIS.

Proclus further tells us that the first preliminary of this truly sacred cultus is that we should have a right intuition of the nature of the Divine, or, in the graphic words of the Oracles, a “Fire-warmed intuition” (K. 56):

For if the mortal draw nigh to the Fire, he shall have Light from God.

(K. 53; C. 158)

There must, however, be no rush or hurry, but calm steadfast perseverance, for it is all a natural growth. Therefore is it said that:

For the mortal man who takes due time the Blessed Ones are swift to come into being.

(K. 56; C. 158)

This, however, does not mean to say that the man should be slow; for:

A mortal sluggish in these things spells the dismissal of the Gods.

(K. 56)

This is explained by an interesting passage of Damascius, who, speaking of the mysterious “instrument” the iynx, writes: “When it turns inwards, it invokes the Gods; and when outwards, it dismisses those it has invoked.” Mystically this seems to mean that when the “whirl” - or vortex “instrument” of consciousness, or the one-sense “perfect body” - turns inwards, theophanies, or manifestations of the Gods, appear; and when it turns outward, to the physical, they disappear .

 

THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE GODS.

In themselves the Gods have no forms, they are incorporeal; they, however, assume forms for the sake of mortals, as Proclus writes:

For though we [the Gods] are incorporeal:

Bodies are allowed to our self-revealed manifestations for your sakes.

(K. 56; C. 106)

This self-revelation, which in one mode signifies the selection of some image in the seer's own mind, and in another connotes the seeing by one's own light, pertains to the mystery of that monadic Light which transcends the three lower (empyrean, ætherial and hylic) planes or states (K. 31). And Simplicius further informs us (K. 57), quoting from Proclus:

This, he says, is the Light which first receives the invisible allotments of the Gods, and for those worthy makes manifest in itself the self-revealed spectacles. For in it, he says, according to the Oracle:

The things that have no shape, take shape.

(K. 57; C. 114)

This seems to be the Astral Light proper, “cosmic” and not personal. To this interpretation of Proclus’, however, Simplicius objects that, according to the Oracles, the impressions of typical forms, or root-symbols, and of the other divine visions, do not occur in the Light, but are rather made on the æther (C. 113). We, however, need not labour the point further than to remark that Proclus had wider personal experience of those things than Simplicius. The things seen in the Great Light were true, for this Light constituted the Plane of Truth, whereas the ætherial was a reflection, and was further conditioned by the personality of the seer. Proclus, therefore, tells us that:

The Gods [i.e., presumably the Oracles] warn us to have understanding of “the form of light that they display.”

(K. 57; C. 159).

In another passage Proclus refers to the mystic experience of these theophanies on the empyrean plane, where shapes of fire are assumed:

The tradition of these [visions] is handed on by the mystagogy of the tradition of the Gods; for it says:

When thou hast uttered these [? words of power], thou shalt behold either a fire [? flame] resembling a boy, dancing upon the surface of the waves of air [? æther]; or even a flame that hath no shape, from which a voice proceeds; or [yet] a wealth of light around the area [of sight], strident, a-whirl. Nay, thou shalt see a horse as well, all made of fire, a-flash with light; or yet again a boy, on a swift horse's back astride - a boy clad all in flame, or all bedecked with gold, or else with nothing on; or even shooting with a bow, and standing on horse-back.

(K. 57; C. 198)

With the above may be compared the symbolic visions in A Mithriac Ritual (pp. 27, 32); we have here evidently to do with the same order of experiences, and so also in the following four verses:

If thou should'st oft address Me, thou shalt behold all things grow dark, for at that hour no Heaven's curved dome is seen; there shine no Stars; Moon’s light is veiled, Earth is no longer firm; with Lightning flash all is a-flame.

(K. 57; C. 196)

In connection with the idea underlying the phrase “a flame that hath no shape, from which a voice proceeds,” of the last fragment but one, we must take the lines:

But when thou dost behold the very sacred Fire with dancing radiance flashing formless through the depths of the whole world, then hearken to the Voice of Fire.

(K. 58; C. 199)

 

THE THEURGIC ART.

But to reach this pure and formless vision was very difficult; for all kinds of false appearances and changing shapes could intervene. These had to be cleaned from the field of vision, for they were held to be due to impure presences, or, as we should prefer it, to the impurities of the man’s own lower nature. On this subject our Oracles (though more probably it is an interpolation from a Theurgic tradition) had instruction, as we learn from the curious fragment:

But when thou dost perceive an earthward daimon drawing nigh, make offering with the stone mnouziris, uttering [the proper chant].

(K. 58; C. 196)

What this stone may have been, we have no knowledge. To “make offering” with a stone can mean nothing else than to put it into the fire, and this should connect with alchemy. Mnouziris is a barbarum nomen.

The chant, or mantra, would also consist of barbara nomina (native names), concerning which Psellus quotes the famous lines that are generally referred to our Oracles, but which, for reasons of metre, could not have stood as part of the poem:

See that thou never change the native names; for there are names in every nation, given by the Gods, possessed of power, in mystic rites, no language can express.

In this Theurgy, or “Divine Work,” moreover, certain symbols, or symbolic figures, were employed, for Proclus says (K. 58) that the Oracles “call the angular points of the figures the compactors.”

 

THE ROYAL SOULS.

But Theurgy was not for all; it was the Royal Art, and could be practiced with spiritual success only by those whom the Trismegistic writers (H. iii. 125) would have called Royal Souls. Their nature is set forth in the following verses, preserved by Synesius:

Yea, verily, indeed, do they at least, most happy far of all the souls, pour down to Earth from Heaven; most blest are they with fates [lit., threads] no tongue can tell, as many as are born from out Thy Radiant Self, O King, and from the Seed of Zeus Himself, through strong Necessity.

(K. 58; C. 86)

This is evidently a reference to the Race, the Sons of God. (See The Gnostic Crucifixion, pp. 48 ff.). So also does the Orphic initiate declare: “My Race is from Heaven.”

There may be some slight doubt as to whether the above fragment is from our poem, for Synesius does not say from what source he takes his quotation; but short of the precise statement everything is in favour of its authenticity, and especially the following from the same philosophic and mystical Bishop:

 

THE LIGHT SPARK.

Let him hear the sacred Oracles which tell about the different ways. After the full list of inducements [or promptings] that come from Home to cause us to return, according to which it is within our power to cause the inplanted Seed to grow, they continue:

To some He gave it to receive the Token of the Light, to others, even when asleep, He gave the power of bearing Fruit from His own Might.

(K. 59; C. 165)

The “Token of Light” is evidently the “Symbol” that the Father implants in souls. It is the Seed of Divinity the Light-spark, that gradually flames forth into the Fire. This Light-spark was conceived of as a seed sown in good soil that could bear fruit, thirty, or sixty or a hundred fold, as the Christianized Gnosis has it.

And so in the Excerpts from the lost work of the Christian Gnostic Theodotus, made by the Church Father Clement of Alexandria, we read (K. 59):

The followers of the Valentinian doctrine declare that when the Psychic Body hath been enformed, into the Elect Soul in sleep the Masculine Seed is implanted by the Logos.

If the soul can pronounce its own true Word (Logos), utter its Sound, and, so create by itself symbols, then may the man hope really to understand what his consciousness may catch from the highest spheres. But even if his soul cannot do this, even while it is unaware of its surroundings, and without this creative power, it is still possible that it may be able to catch some of the Strength and Might (not Light) of the Father-Mind, and thus be inspired to conceive some true ideas.

The re-generated soul is said to become a “Five-fold Star,” as we learn from the Mithriac Ritual (p. 24), and also from Lydus (De Mens., 23.6), who tells us that: “The Oracle declares that souls, when restored to their former nature by means of this Pentad, transcend Fate.”

For Theurgists are not counted in the herd subject to Fate.

(K. 59; C. 185)

And so also Proclus tells us that: “We should avoid the multitude of men that go ‘in herds,’ as says the Oracle.”

The “herd” has, so to speak, got only one “over-soul” between them - they do not yet stand alone; or, rather, they have a soul each, and only one “over-mind” between them.

Those of the “herd” are the “processions of Fate” of the Trismegistic writings (H. iii 273); while those who have perfected themselves are freed from the Wheel of Fate and become Angels or Gods. Speaking of the man who is truly devoted to sacred things, Proclus quotes an Oracle which says:

Alive in power he runs, an Angel.

(K. 60)

 

THE UNREGENERATE.

On the contrary, the unregenerate is characterized as:

Hard to turn, with burden on the back, who has no share in Light.

(K. 60)

While concerning those who “lead an evil life,” Proclus tells us that the Oracles declared:

For as for them they are no great way off from Dogs irrational.

(K. 60)

Of such a one it is said:

My vessel the Beasts of the Earth shall inhabit .

(K. 60; C. 95)

Compare with this the Gnostic Valentinian doctrine, as summarized by Hippolytus:

And this material man is, according to them, as it were an inn, or dwelling place, at one time of the soul alone, at another of the soul and daimonian existences, at another of the soul and words (logoi), which are words sown from Above - from the Common Fruit of the Plērōma (Fulness) and Wisdom - into this world, dwelling in the body of clay together with the soul, when daimons cease to cohabit with her.

(F., p. 352)

And also the Basilidian doctrine, as summarized by Clement of Alexandria:

The Basilidians are accustomed to give the name of appendages [or accretions] to the passions. These essences, they say, have a certain substantial existence, and are attached to the rational soul, owing to a certain turmoil and primitive confusion.

Onto this nucleus other bastard and alien natures of the essence grow, such as those of the wolf, ape, lion, goat, etc. And when the peculiar qualities of such natures appear round the soul, they cause the desires of the soul to become like to the special natures of these animals, for they imitate the actions of those whose characteristics they bear.

(F., pp. 276, 277)

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