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The Sources of Sacred Writings by Manly P. Hall

IN spite of human prejudice to the contrary, there is but one religion and one truth, and all the great faiths of the world are parts or fragments of the Ancient Wisdom. The Scriptures of the world are the written records devised both to preserve and at the same time to conceal the secrets of the forty-nine branches of the Eternal Law. It naturally follows that there is a certain interdependence between religious writings. To understand any one sacred book completely it is necessary to also understand all other sacred books.

It has been difficult for human beings to accept this truth, and for lack of interreligious understanding there has been very little religious understanding. Each man, clinging to his own book, hugging to his heart his own fragment of the law, has believed that there is a peculiar virtue in proclaiming a part and denying the rest.

Bibles, so-called, are collections of inspired writings and the recording of ancient oral traditions. They are accumulated over immense periods of time and can usually be traced to the lore of preceding civilizations. Built up from earlier fragments, they should never be regarded as revelations in the sense of being delivered in toto to any individual by some divine being. The revelation factor is generally limited to interpretation—some illumined individual, contemplating sacred matters, perceives some deeply concealed value, and by placing special emphasis upon this new aspect comes to be regarded as a religious founder.

Among ancient peoples, sacred writings were reserved for the contemplation of initiated priests and were not available to the laity. The priests interpreted such parts of the Scriptures as applied to the problems of the occasion. The populace, gathered before the temple, received their spiritual instruction from initiates of the priestly orders who stood upon the porch of the holy house and solemnly expounded the laws. These priests were equipped with the keys to the Scriptural allegories by which they were enabled to unlock the profounder parts of the spiritual tradition. After the decline of the Mysteries, when the sacred books fell into the hands of the profane, the subtler values were lost.

The Vedas, the sacred books of the ancient Aryan Hindus, appear to be the oldest of Scriptural writings and the source of most of the sacred books now venerated throughout the world. The religious traditions of the ancient Hindus are of incredible antiquity. The traditions of these people indicate that the laws and institutes of the gods were revealed to the progenitors of the Aryans in the highlands of the Himalaya mountain country nearly a million years ago. The migration of the Aryan tribes, first southward and then westward, resulted in the establishment of several sub-races and cultures. The migrating tribes carried with them the sacred traditions of their ancient gods. With the development of writing, the records passed from the memories of priests and scribes to the more permanent and impersonal media of stone, clay and papyrus.

From the Vedas poured forth the streams of religious tradition which, flowing into various nations down through the ages, appear in the course of time as the single source of the numerous Scriptural writings of the world. Great saints and sages interpreting this ageless wisdom wrote their commentaries or re-stated in the terms of their own day the Vedic lore and the sacred tradition. In China, Lao-Tze and Confucius were the interpreters, and their writings have become Scripture. In India, Buddha was the great Emissary. In Persia, it was Zoroaster. In Egypt, Akhnaton and Hermes. In Greece, Orpheus, Pythagoras and Plato. In Syria, it was Moses, and later Jesus.

According to the teachings of the old Initiates, the spiritual tradition was likened to a flame burning forever upon the altars of the gods. The flame was divided into seven flames, and these in turn were again divided into seven, the result being forty-nine fires or the forty-nine spiritual revelations, called in the Cabala of Moses the forty-nine gates of the law. Thus out of the One Eternal Truth came forth the Seven World Religions, each in turn divided into seven lesser parts—altogether constituting the Divine Wisdom.

The Christian Bible is the principal sacred book of the Western world. It is usually divided into two parts, and occasionally into three parts by the insertion between the Old and New Testaments of the Apocrypha or “doubtful books.” The Old Testament sets forth the secret doctrine in Israel: It is a Cabalistic book, almost unintelligible without the assistance of certain commentaries. The New Testament derives its teachings from the Essene mystics of Syria, the Mithraic cultists of Persia, the Seraphic Rites of the Egyptians, the Simonean Gnosis, also of Syria, and the Neo-Platonism of Alexandria. The unknown authors of the Gospels were of course men learned in the comparative religious systems of their day; it is futile at this time to engage in speculation or controversy as to the identity of these writers. It is sufficient to say that they possessed a working knowledge of the Secret Doctrine, and purposefully contrived to conceal this knowledge in what is made to appear an historical narrative of the life and works of an individual.

Like the Christian revelation, the Old Testament in the Mosaic tradition sets forth under the guise of history an elaborate metaphysical system derived directly from the older Egyptian lore, indirectly from Chaldea, Phoenicia and India. Moses was an initiate of the secret schools of Egypt, and the Pentateuch, usually ascribed to Moses, is the surviving remnant of the most profound teachings.
It is quite unlikely that the Pentateuch has descended to the present time in anything resembling its original form. There is considerable evidence that the true books of Moses were lost in the night of time.

But, whatever the case, it is certain that the Ancient Wisdom, although somewhat distorted in form, still survives in the Old Testament writings. And too, that it can be extracted therefrom with the aid of certain keys and patient illumined research.

A reasonable interpretation of the Biblical writings is one based upon a system of cross reference in which all the great schools of ancient religion and philosophy are considered as one composite structure. Thus each system is interpreted in the light of the others. As each religion has been built up from innumerable older beliefs, the understanding of these various background beliefs is absolutely essential. The gaps in one system, where the tradition has been mutilated or lost, can be filled in from other systems of similar tradition.

If the work is painstakingly done the result is a complete picture by which the student is able to comprehend the correct meaning of obscure passages and fill in perplexing vacancies. The important thing is to be sure that the building-in is done from the same stream of tradition as the religion that is being reconstructed.

BIBLICAL THEORY OF CREATION

THE cosmogony of the Jews is derived directly from the Chaldean and Egyptian. This has been proved beyond any question of doubt by the discovery of cuneiform tablets, much older than the Jewish Bible, which contain many of the stories set forth in the opening chapters of Genesis. It is quite possible that the Old Testament originally contained a much more amplified account of the creation, but certainly it is still possible to make much more of the Book of Genesis than the average churchman has accomplished. With the aid of the Jewish and Cabalistic commentaries, Genesis is amplified into a rational account of the beginning of the universe—far more vital, significant and impressive than the accepted theological version. A great scholar observed in the last century that Christian theology, and of course he included Jewish cosmogony, was the only system believed by the more advanced races of the earth to insist that God made the universe out of nothing.

THE GODS. The Book of Genesis opens with a simple and dramatic statement which has been Anglicized into the most impressive sentence in English literature:
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

This verse seemingly presents no problem, but the more a searching student thinks about it the more fully he will realize that into ten words has been compressed a cosmic process involving hundreds of millions of years of time and innumerable complicated mysteries. Only an elaborate commentary can make this verse partly intelligible to the human mind entirely ignorant of divine and cosmic procedures.
We must first define the word GOD as it is used in this case and throughout the first chapter of the Bible. The word in Hebrew is not God, or Jah, or Jehovah, but ELOHIM. God is a reverent but entirely insufficient word to convey the true meaning of Elohim. Most important to be considered are two facts. First, in Hebrew, Elohim is an androgynous term inferring a combination of male and female attributes.

Second, the word, by its termination, is plural. Actually therefore the word ELOHIM means “the male-female creators,” representing a host or at least a group of powers and not, under any condition, a single personal entity.

The words “heaven and earth” are also misleading, through inadequate translation. By heaven and earth should be understood a superior and inferior condition; a separation of qualities, not a division of place. The average reader will think of heaven as the firmament and earth as the planet; and this interpretation will destroy entirely the significance of the verse. It would be better to interpret heaven and earth as spirit and matter, or the subtle and the gross, in the sense of vibration or qualities of life and vitality.

The words “In the beginning” also present difficulties. The wise student will interpret them as “from that which is first” or “in eternal principles” or “that which was in the beginning.”

This leaves only the word “created”, and here again misunderstanding is almost inevitable. The human mind customarily conceives creation as the making of something that is new. But if we think about it, we will realize that in creating any physical thing creation is only a new pattern made up of already existing factors. Thus if a man creates a picture he requires the aid of paints and brushes and canvas; the creation is the inward inspiration which applies these instruments for the release of an idea. Creation in this verse thus implies Formation, or Manifestation, the arranging of ever-existing elements into new patterns to be the vehicles of purpose.

With these thoughts in mind, let us read again the verse according to a fuller understanding of its meaning:

From the eternal principles and essences the androgynous creator-gods manifested forth the positive and negative aspects of Being.
Having thus clarified interpretation, we can bring to bear upon it such commentary matter from ancient Jewish beliefs as will reveal the full significance of the verse.

The Jewish mystics recognized an eternal, definitionless Principle which they denominated MN SOPH, the Boundless. From the Egyptians they derived the teaching that this Boundless One possessed three intrinsic aspects or attributes being Life, and Light. These three as one, and that ONE formless, ageless, and changeless, was the true GOD whose most perfect symbol was SPACE—the source and ultimate of all things.

Periodically, according to great cycles, SPACE caused to emerge from its own nature, Primordial Unity—the objectification of Being, Life, and Light. This first manifestation was called the Opened Eye and was designated by the Cabalists KETHER, the Crown of the Eternal Glory. MN SOPH, the Absolute, was life in suspension. KETHER, the first-born of the Absolute, was life in expression.

Within the nature of Kether was manifested polarity which is the foundation of activity. The polarities were called ABBA, the father, and AIMA the mother. Abba was the positive manifestation of spirit as force, energy, and power. Aima was the negative manifestation of spirit as matter, substance, and receptivity. From the union of Abba and Aima, energy and substance, was produced form.

According to the Cabalists, the ELOHIM, or the creator-gods, were the progeny of the union of life and matter. It was the Elohim in turn, moving in Space, who brought forth the mundane universe over which they ruled.

By mundane is meant not the physical worlds but the metaphysical system, of which the physical creation is the lowest or seventh part. This first manifestation or agitation was equivalent to the conception of the universe in all its parts—like the planting of a seed from which was to grow the worlds. It is the first motion in the Absolute.

The comparison in other religious systems checks and justifies the speculations of the Jewish mystics. In the Northern Tibetan system the meditations of Adi Buddha, universal consciousness, produces the seven Dhyani Buddhas or the seven modes of consciousness by which the world is formed. In the teachings of the Persians the Supreme Nature, Ahura Mazda, manifested the Amesha-Spentas who become the Formators of the lower worlds. In the Egyptian Hermetic teachings the Elohim are the Governors, the Cosmocratores. In the ancient Egyptian system they were the Ammonian Artificers, the servants of Ptah who fashions the Egg of the Universe upon a potter’s wheel. The ELOHIM are also the seven Cabin of Samothrace; the seven rays upon the golden crown of the Gnostic Lion; the sacred seven, the unwritten vowels which together make up the name of the manifested divinity, the seven colors of the spectrum, the seven days of creation, the seven seals of Revelation. The eternally recurring septenary, by which art, music and physics are bound together, are the ELOHIM, the seven Breaths that move upon the Deep.

Extract from How to Understand Your Bible by Manly P. Hall.

 
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