An Esoteric Cosmology
II. The Mission of Manicheism
26 May 1906, Paris
The purpose of this lecture is to expand and deepen what was said in the preceding lecture.
The difference between Occult Brotherhoods before and after Christianity is that before the advent of Christianity their chief mission was to guard the sacred tradition; afterwards, it was to form and mould the future. Occult science is not abstract and dead but active and living.
Christian occultism is derived from the Manicheans whose founder, Manes, lived on the Earth three hundred years after Jesus the Christ. The essence of Manichean teaching relates to the doctrine of Good and Evil. In ordinary thought, the Good and the Evil are two irreducible qualities, one of which — the Good — must destroy the other — the Evil. To the Manicheans, however, Evil is an integral part of the cosmos, collaborating in its evolution, finally to be absorbed and transfigured by the Good. The great feature of Manicheism is that it studies the function of Evil and of suffering in the world.
To understand the development of humanity, it must be viewed in its whole range. Only so can we see its high ideal. To believe that an ideal is not necessary for action is a great error. A man without ideals is a man without power. The function of an ideal in life is like that of steam in an engine. Steam comprises in a small area a vast expanse of ‘condensed space’ — hence its tremendous power of expansion. The magic power of thought is of the same nature. Let us then rise to the thought of the ideal of humanity as a whole, guided by the thread of its evolution through the epochs of time.
Systems like that of Darwin are also seeking for this guiding thread. The grandeur of Darwinian thought is not disputed, but it does not explain the integral evolution of man. It only sees the lower, inferior elements. So it is with all purely physical explanations which do not recognise the spiritual essence of man's being. Theories of evolution based entirely on physical facts, attribute to man an animal origin because science has established that in fossilised man the brow is lacking. Occultism, knowing that physical man is but an expression of etheric man, sees something very different. At the present point of time, the etheric body of man has practically the same form as his physical body, although extending a little beyond it. But the farther back we go in history, the greater is the difference in size between the etheric head and the physical head. The etheric head is found to be much larger. Especially was this so in the period of earthly development which precedes our own. The men living at that time were Atlanteans. Geologians, indeed, are beginning to discover traces of ancient Atlantis, of the minerals and flora of this ancient continent now submerged under the ocean that bears its name. Traces of man himself have not yet been discovered but that is only a matter of time. Occult prophecies have always preceded authentic history.
The frontal part of the human head began to develop in the European races which followed those of Atlantis. The focus-point of consciousness in the Atlanteans lay outside the brow, in the etheric head. Today it lies within the physical head, a little higher than the nose.
Nifelheim or Nebelheim (the land of mists) in Germanic mythology is the country of the Atlanteans. In that age the Earth was hotter and still enveloped by vaporous clouds. The continent of Atlantis was destroyed by a series of deluges, as a consequence of which the terrestrial atmosphere cleared, — Then and only then came the blue sky, the storm, rain, the rainbow. That is why the Bible says that when Noah's Ark had come to rest, the rainbow, the “bow in the cloud” was a new token of alliance between God and man.
The ‘I’ of the Aryan race could only be consciously realised when the etheric body was centralised in the physical brain. Not until then could man begin to say: ‘I.’ The Atlanteans spoke of themselves in the third person.
Darwinism has made many errors in regard to the differentiation expressed by the races actually existing on the Earth. The higher races have not descended from the lower races; on the contrary, the latter represent the degeneration of the higher races which have preceded them. Suppose there are two brothers — one of whom is handsome and intelligent, the other ugly and dull-witted. Both proceed from the same father. What should we think of a man who believed that the intelligent brother descends from the idiot? That is the kind of error made by Darwinism in regard to the races. Man and animal have a common origin; the animals represent a degeneration of the one common ancestor, whose higher development comes to expression in man.
This should not give rise to pride, for it is only thanks to the lower kingdoms that the higher races have been able to develop.
Christ washes the feet of the Apostles. That is a symbol of the humility of the Initiate in face of his inferiors. The Initiate owes his existence to those who are not initiated. Hence the deep humility of those who truly know in face of those who do not. The tragic aspect of cosmic evolution is that one class of beings must abase themselves in order that the other may rise. In this sense we can appreciate the beauty of Paracelsus' words: “I have observed all beings — stones, plants, animals — and they seem to me nothing but scattered letters, man being the word, living and whole.”
The animals are crystallised passions.
In the course of human and animal evolution the inferior descends from the superior.
The contradictions in man, the way in which the elements mingle in him, constitute his karma, his destiny.
Just as man has wrested himself from the animal so will he wrest himself from evil. But never yet has he passed through a crisis as severe as that of the present age.
The evil and the good are still within man just as in days of yore the animals were within him.
The aim of Manicheism is to sublimate men to be redeemers.
The Master must be the servant of all.
True morality flows from an understanding of the mighty laws of the universe.