Pythagorean Doctrine of the Potentialities of Numbers

Poor chance for a "philosopher" to step into the shoes of a learned philologist and presume to correct his errors! We would like to see what sort of a reception the most learned Hindu scholar in India would have from the educated public of Europe and America, if he should undertake to correct a savant, after he had sifted, accepted, rejected, explained, and declared what was good, and what "absurd and childish" in the sacred books of his forefathers. That which would finally be declared "Brahmanic misconceptions," by the conclave of European and especially German savants, would be as little likely to be reconsidered at the appeal of the most erudite pundit of Benares or Ceylon, as the interpretation of Jewish Scripture by Maimonides and Philo-Judaeus, by Christians after the Councils of the Church had accepted the mistranslations and explanations of Iren^us and Eusebius. What pundit, or native philosopher of India should know his ancestral language, religion, or philosophy as well as an Englishman or a German? Or why should a Hindu be more suffered to expound Brahmanism, than a Rabbinical scholar to interpret Judaism or the Isaian prophecies? Safer, and far more trustworthy translators can be had nearer home. Nevertheless, let us still hope that we may find at last, even though it be in the dim future, a European philosopher to sift the sacred books of the wisdom-religion, and not be contradicted by every other of his class.

Meanwhile, unmindful of any alleged authorities, let us try to sift for ourselves a few of these myths of old. We will search for an explanation within the popular interpretation, and feel our way with the help of the magic lamp of Trismegistus — the mysterious number seven. There must have been some reason why this figure was universally accepted as a mystic calculation. With every ancient people, the Creator, or Demiurge, was placed over the seventh heaven. "And were I to touch upon the initiation into our sacred Mysteries," says Emperor Julian, the kabalist, "which the Chaldean bacchised respecting the seven-rayed God, lifting up the souls through Him, I should say things unknown, and very unknown to the rabble, but well known to the blessed Theurgists."* In Lydus it is said that "The Chaldeans call the God IAO, and Sabaoth he is often called, as He who is over the seven orbits (heavens, or spheres), that is the Demiurge."+

One must consult the Pythagoreans and Kabalists to learn the potentiality of this number. Exoterically the seven rays of the solar spectrum are represented concretely in the seven-rayed god Heptaktis. These seven rays epitomized into Three primary rays, namely, the red, blue, and yellow, form the solar trinity, and typify respectively spiritmatter and spirit-essence. Science has also reduced of late the seven rays to three primary ones, thus corroborating the scientific conception of the ancients of at least one of the visible manifestations of the invisible deity, and the seven divided

* Julian, "In Matrem," p. 173; Julian, "Oratio," v., 172. f Lyd., "De Mensibus," iv., 38-74; "Movers," p. 550; Dunlap, "Saba," p. 3.

into a quaternary and a trinity.

The Pythagoreans called the number seven the vehicle of life, as it contained body and soul. They explained it by saying, that the human body consisted of four principal elements, and that the soul is triple, comprising reason, passion, and desire. The ineffable WORD was considered the Seventh and highest of all, for there are six minor substitutes, each belonging to a degree of initiation. The Jews borrowed their Sabbath from the ancients, who called it Saturn's day and deemed it unlucky, and not the latter from the Israelites when Christianized. The people of India, Arabia, Syria, and Egypt observed weeks of seven days; and the Romans learned the hebdomadal method from these foreign countries when they became subject to the Empire. Still it was not until the fourth century that the Roman kalends, nones, and ides were abandoned, and weeks substituted in their place; and the astronomical names of the days, such as dies Solis (day of the Sun), dies Lun% (day of the Moon), dies Martis (day of Mars); dies Mercurii (day of Mercury), dies Jovis (day of Jupiter), dies Veneris (day of Venus), and dies Saturni (day of Saturn), prove that it was not from the Jews that the week of seven days was adopted. Before we examine this number kabalistically, we propose to analyse it from the standpoint of the Judaico-Christian Sabbath.

When Moses instituted the yom shaba, or Shebang (Shabbath), the allegory of the Lord God resting from his work of creation on the seventh day was but a cloak, or, as the Sohar expresses it, a screen, to hide the true meaning.

The Jews reckoned then, as they do now, their days by number, as, day the first; day the second; and so on; yom ahad; yom sheni; yom shelisho; yom rebis; yom shamishi; yom shishehi; Yom Shaba.

"The Hebrew seven ynw, consisting of three letters, S. B. O., has more than one meaning. First of all, it means age or cycle, Shab-ang; Sabbath row can be translated old age, as well as rest, and in the old Coptic, Sabe means wisdom, learning. Modern archeologists have found that as in Hebrew Sab iw also means gray-headed, and that therefore the Saba-day was the day on which the "gray-headed men, or 'aged fathers' of a tribe, were in the habit of assembling for councils or sacrifices."*

"Thus, the week of six days and the seventh, the Saba or Sapta-day period, is of the highest antiquity. The observance of the lunar festivals in India, shows that that nation held hebdomadal meetings as well. With every new quarter the moon brings changes in the atmosphere, hence certain changes are also produced throughout the whole of our universe, of which the meteorological ones are the most insignificant. On this day of the seventh and most powerful of the prismatic days, the adepts of the "Secret Science" meet as they met thousands of years ago, to become the agents of the occult powers of nature (emanations of the working God), and commune with the invisible worlds. It is in this observance of the seventh day by the old sages — not as the

* "Westminster Review", Septenary Institutions; "Stone Him to Death."

resting day of the Deity, but because they had penetrated into its occult power, that lies the profound veneration of all the heathen philosophers for the number seven which they term the "venerable," the sacred number. The Pythagorean Tetraktis, revered by the Platonists, was the square placed below the triangle; the latter, or the Trinity embodying the invisible Monad — the unity, and deemed too sacred to be pronounced except within the walls of a Sanctuary.

The ascetic observance of the Christian Sabbath by Protestants is pure religious tyranny, and does more harm, we fear, than good. It really dates only from the enactment (in 1678) of the 29th of Charles II., which prohibited any "tradesman, artificer, workman, laborer, or other person," to "do or exercise any worldly labor, etc., etc., upon the Lord's day." The Puritans carried this thing to extremes, apparently to mark their hatred of Catholicism, both Roman and Episcopal. That it was no part of the plan of Jesus that such a day should be set apart, is evident not only from his words but acts. It was not observed by the early Christians.

When Trypho, the Jew, reproached the Christians for not having a Sabbath, what does the martyr answer him? "The new law will have you keep a perpetual Sabbath. You, when you have passed a day in idleness, think you are religious. The Lord is not pleased with such things as these. If any be guilty of perjury or fraud, let him reform; if he be an adulterer, let him repent; and he will then have kept the kind of Sabbath truly pleasing to God. . . . The elements are never idle, and keep no Sabbath. There was no need of the observance of Sabbaths before Moses, neither now is there any need of them after Jesus Christ."

The Heptaktis is not the Supreme Cause, but simply an emanation from Him — the first visible manifestation of the Unrevealed Power. "His Divine Breath, which, violently breaking forth, condensed itself, shining with radiance until it evolved into Light, and so became cognizant to external sense," says John Reuchlin.* This is the emanation of the Highest, the Demiurge, a multiplicity in a unity, the Elohim, whom we see creating our world, or rather fashioning it, in six days, and resting on the seventh. And who are these Elohim but the euhemerized powers of nature, the faithful manifested servants, the laws of Him who is immutable law and harmony Himself?

They remain over the seventh heaven (or spiritual world), for it is they who, according to the kabalists, formed in succession the six material worlds, or rather, attempts at worlds, that preceded our own, which, they say, is the seventh. If, in laying aside the metaphysico-spiritual conception, we give our attention but to the religio-scientific problem of creation in "six days," over which our best biblical scholars have vainly pondered so long, we might, perchance, be on the way to the true idea underlying the allegory. The ancients were philosophers, consistent in all things. Hence, they taught that each of these departed worlds, having performed its physical evolution, and reached — through

* "Di Verbo Mirifico."

birth, growth, maturity, old age, and death — the end of its cycle, had returned to its primitive subjective form of a spiritual earth. Thereafter it had to serve through all eternity as the dwelling of those who had lived on it as men, and even animals, but were now spirits. This idea, were it even as incapable of exact demonstration as that of our theologians relating to Paradise, is, at least, a trifle more philosophical.

As well as man, and every other living thing upon it, our planet has had its spiritual and physical evolution. From an impalpable ideal thought under the creative Will of Him of whom we know nothing, and but dimly conceive in imagination, this globe became fluidic and semi-spiritual, then condensed itself more and more, until its physical development — matter, the tempting demon — compelled it to try its own creative faculty. Matter defied SPIRIT, and the earth, too, had its "Fall." The allegorical curse under which it labors, is that it only procreates, it does not create. Our physical planet is but the handmaiden, or rather the maid-of-all-work, of the spirit, its master. "Cursed be the ground . . . thorns and thistles shall it bring," the Elohim are made to say. "In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." The Elohim say this both to the ground and the woman. And this curse will last until the minutest particle of matter on earth shall have outlived its days, until every grain of dust has, by gradual transformation through evolution, become a constituent part of a "living soul," and, until the latter shall reascend the cyclic arc, and finally stand — its own Metatron, or Redeeming Spirit — at the foot of the upper step of the spiritual worlds, as at the first hour of its emanation. Beyond that lies the great "Deep" — A Mystery!

It must be remembered that every cosmogony has a trinity of workers at its head — Father, spirit; Mother, nature, or matter; and the manifested universe, the Son or result of the two. The universe, also, as well as each planet which it comprehends, passes through four ages, like man himself. All have their infancy, youth, maturity, and old age, and these four added to the other three make the sacred seven again.

The introductory chapters of Genesis were never meant to present even a remote allegory of the creation of our earth. They embrace (chapter i.) a metaphysical conception of some indefinite period in the eternity, when successive attempts were being made by the law of evolution at the formation of universes. This idea is plainly stated in the Sohar: "There were old worlds, which perished as soon as they came into existence, were formless, and were called sparks. Thus, the smith, when hammering the iron, lets the sparks fly in all directions. The sparks are the primordial worlds which could not continue, because the Sacred Aged (Sephira) had not as yet assumed its form (of androgyne or opposite sexes) of king and queen (Sephira and Kadmon) and the Master was not yet at his work."*

The six periods or "days" of Genesis refer to the same metaphysical belief. Five such ineffectual attempts were

* Idra Suta, "Sohar," book iii., p. 292 b. The Supreme consulting with the Architect of the world — his Logos — about creation.

made by the Elohim, but the sixth resulted in worlds like our own (i.e., all the planets and most of the stars are worlds, and inhabited, though not like our earth). Having formed this world at last in the sixth period, the Elohim rested in the seventh. Thus the "Holy One," when he created the present world, said: "This pleases me; the previous ones did not please me."+ And the Elohim "saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day." — Genesis i.

The reader will remember that in Chapter IV. an explanation was given of the "day" and "night" of Brahma. The former represents a certain period of cosmical activity, the latter an equal one of cosmical repose. In the one, worlds are being evolved, and passing through their allotted four ages of existence; in the latter the "inbreathing" of Brahma reverses the tendency of the natural forces; everything visible becomes gradually dispersed; chaos comes; and a long night of repose reinvigorates the cosmos for its next term of evolution. In the morning of one of these "days" the formative processes are gradually reaching their climax of activity; in f Idra Suta, "Sohar," iii., 135 b. If the chapters of Genesis and the other Mosaic books, as well as the subjects, are muddled up, the fault is the compiler's — not that of oral tradition. Hilkiah and Josiah had to commune with Huldah, the prophetess, hence resort to magic to understand the word of the "Lord God of Israel," most conveniently found by Hilkiah (2 Kings, xxiii.); and that it has passed still later through more than one revision and remodelling is but too well proved by its frequent incongruities, repetitions, and contradictions.

the evening imperceptibly diminishing the same until the pralaya arrives, and with it "night." One such morning and evening do, in fact, constitute a cosmic day; and it was a "day of Brahma" that the kabalistic author of Genesis had in mind each time when he said: "And the evening and the morning were the first (or fifth or sixth, or any other) day." Six days of gradual evolution, one of repose, and then — evening! Since the first appearance of man on our earth there has been an eternal Sabbath or rest for the Demiurge.

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