Ten Mythical Avatars of Vishnu

"And now again re-enter into the golden egg of His Thought, the germs of all that exist, as the divine Manu tells us. During His peaceful rest, the animated beings, endowed with the principles of action, cease their functions, and all feeling (manas) becomes dormant. When they are all absorbed in the Supreme Soul, this Soul of all the beings sleeps in complete repose, till the day when it resumes its form, and awakes again from its primitive darkness."*

If we now examine the ten mythical avatars of Vishnu, we find them recorded in the following progression:

1. Matsya-Avatar: as a fish. It will also be his tenth and last avatar, at the end of the Kali-yug.

2. Kurm-Avatar: as a tortoise.

4. Nara-Sing: as a man-lion; last animal stage.

5. Vamuna: as a dwarf; first step toward the human form.

6. Parasu-Rama: as a hero, but yet an imperfect man.

7. Rama-Chandra: as the hero of Ramayana. Physically a perfect man; his next of kin, friend and ally Hanouma, the monkey-god. The monkey endowed with speech. +

8. Christna-Avatar: the Son of the Virgin Devanaguy (or Devaki) one formed by God, or rather by the manifested Deity Vishnu, who is identical with Adam Kadmon.} Christna is also called Kaneya, the Son of the Virgin.

* "The Sons of God"; "The India of the Brahmans," p. 230. f May it not be that Hanouma is the representative of that link of beings half-man, half-monkeys, which, according to the theories of Messrs. Hovelacque and Schleicher, were arrested in their development, and fell, so to say, into a retrogressive evolution?

J The Primal or Ultimate Essence has no name in India. It is indicated sometimes as "That" and "This." "This (universe) was not originally anything. There was neither heaven, nor earth, nor atmosphere. That being non-existent resolved 'Let me be.' " (Original Sanscrit Text.) Dr. Muir, vol. v., p. 366.

9. Gautama-Buddha, Siddhartha, or Sakya-muni. (The Buddhists reject this doctrine of their Buddha being an incarnation of Vishnu.)

10. This avatar has not yet occurred. It is expected in the future, like the Christian Advent, the idea of which was undoubtedly copied from the Hindu. When Vishnu appears for the last time he will come as a "Saviour." According to the opinion of some Brahmans he will appear himself under the form of the horse Kalki. Others maintain that he will be mounting it. This horse is the envelope of the spirit of evil, and Vishnu will mount it, invisible to all, till he has conquered it for the last time. The "Kalki-Avataram," or the last incarnation, divides Brahmanism into two sects. That of the Vaihnava refuses to recognize the incarnations of their god Vishnu in animal forms literally. They claim that these must be understood as allegorical.

In this diagram of avatars we see traced the gradual evolution and transformation of all species out of the ante-Silurian mud of Darwin and the ilus of Sanchoniathon and Berosus. Beginning with the Azoic time, corresponding to the ilus in which Brahma implants the creative germ, we pass through the Paleozoic and Mesozoic times, covered by the first and second incarnations as the fish and tortoise; and the Cenozoic, which is embraced by the incarnations in the animal and semi-human forms of the boar and man-lion; and we come to the fifth and crowning geological period, designated as the "era of mind, or age of man," whose symbol in the Hindu mythology is the dwarf — the first attempt of nature at the creation of man. In this diagram we should follow the main idea, not judge the degree of knowledge of the ancient philosophers by the literal acceptance of the popular form in which it is presented to us in the grand epical poem of Maha-Bharata and its chapter the Bhagavad-Gita.

Even the four ages of the Hindu chronology contain a far more philosophical idea than appears on the surface. It defines them according to both the psychological or mental and the physical states of man during their period. Crita-yug, the golden age, the "age of joy," or spiritual innocence of man; Treta-yug, the age of silver, or that of fire — the period of supremacy of man and of giants and of the sons of God; Dwapara-yug, the age of bronze — a mixture already of purity and impurity (spirit and matter) the age of doubt; and at last our own, the Kali-yug, or age of iron, of darkness, misery, and sorrow. In this age, Vishnu had to incarnate himself in Christna, in order to save humanity from the goddess Kali, consort of Siva, the all-annihilating — the goddess of death, destruction, and human misery. Kali is the best emblem to represent the "fall of man"; the falling of spirit into the degradation of matter, with all its terrific results. We have to rid ourselves of Kali before we can ever reach "Moksha," or Nirvana, the abode of blessed Peace and Spirit.

With the Buddhists the last incarnation is the fifth. When Maitree-Buddha comes, then our present world will be destroyed; and a new and a better one will replace it. The four arms of every Hindu Deity are the emblems of the four preceding manifestations of our earth from its invisible state, while its head typifies the fifth and last Kalki-Avatar, when this would be destroyed, and the power of Budh — Wisdom (with the Hindus, of Brahma), will be again called into requisition to manifest itself — as a Logos — to create the future world.

In this diagram, the male gods typify Spirit in its deific attributes while their female counterparts — the Sakti, represent the active energies of these attributes. The Durga (active virtue), is a subtile, invisible force, which answers to Shekinah — the garment of En-Soph. She is the Sakti through which the passive "Eternal" calls forth the visible universe from its first ideal conception. Every one of the three personages of the exoteric Trimurti are shown as using their Sakti as a Vehan (vehicle). Each of them is for the time being the form which sits upon the mysterious wagon of Ezekiel.

Nor do we see less clearly carried out in this succession of avatars, the truly philosophical idea of a simultaneous spiritual and physical evolution of creatures and man. From a fish the progress of this dual transformation carries on the physical form through the shape of a tortoise, a boar, and a man-lion; and then, appearing in the dwarf of humanity, it shows Parasu Rama physically, a perfect, spiritually, an undeveloped entity, until it carries mankind personified by one god-like man, to the apex of physical and spiritual perfection — a god on earth. In Christna and the other Saviours of the world we see the philosophical idea of the progressive dual development understood and as clearly expressed in the Sohar. The "Heavenly man," who is the

Protogonos, Tikkun, the first-born of God, or the universal Form and Idea, engenders Adam. Hence the latter is god-born in humanity, and endowed with the attributes of all the ten Sephiroth. These are: Wisdom, Intelligence, Justice, Love, Beauty, Splendor, Firmness, etc. They make him the Foundation or basis, "the mighty living one," yhla , and the crown of creation, thus placing him as the Alpha and Omega to reign over the "kingdom" — Malchuth. "Man is both the import and the highest degree of creation," says the Sohar. "As soon as man was created, everything was complete, including the upper and nether worlds, for everything is comprised in man. He unites in himself all forms" (iii., p. 48 a).

But this does not relate to our degenerated mankind; it is only occasionally that men are born who are the types of what man should be, and yet is not. The first races of men were spiritual, and their protoplastic bodies were not composed of the gross and material substances of which we see them composed now-a-day. The first men were created with all the faculties of the Deity, and powers far transcending those of the angelic host; for they were the direct emanations of Adam Kadmon, the primitive man, the Macrocosm; while the present humanity is several degrees removed even from the earthly Adam, who was the Microcosm, or "the little world." Seir Anpin, the mystical figure of the Man, consists of 243 numbers, and we see in the circles which follow each other that it is the angels which emanated from the "Primitive Man," not the Sephiroth from angels. Hence, man was intended from the first to be a being of both a progressive and retrogressive nature. Beginning at the apex of the divine cycle, he gradually began receding from the centre of Light, acquiring at every new and lower sphere of being (worlds each inhabited by a different race of human beings) a more solid physical form and losing a portion of his divine faculties.

In the "fall of Adam" we must see, not the personal transgression of man, but simply the law of the dual evolution. Adam, or "Man," begins his career of existences by dwelling in the garden of Eden, "dressed in the celestial garment, which is a garment of heavenly light" (Sohar, ii., 229 b); but when expelled he is "clothed" by God, or the eternal law of Evolution or necessarianism, with coats of skin. But even on this earth of material degradation — in which the divine spark (Soul, a corruscation of the Spirit) was to begin its physical progression in a series of imprisonments from a stone up to a man's body — if he but exercise his WILL and call his deity to his help, man can transcend the powers of the angel. "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" asks Paul (1 Corinthians, vi. 3). The real man is the Soul (Spirit), teaches the Sohar. "The mystery of the earthly man is after the mystery of the heavenly man . . . the wise can read the mysteries in the human face" (ii., 76 a).

This is still another of the many sentences by which Paul must be recognized as an initiate. For reasons fully explained, we give far more credit for genuineness to certain Epistles of the apostles, now dismissed as apocryphal, than to many suspicious portions of the Acts. And we find corroboration of this view in the Epistle of Paul to Seneca. In this message Paul styles Seneca "my respected master," while Seneca terms the apostle simply "brother."

No more than the true religion of Judaic philosophy can be judged by the absurdities of the exoteric Bible, have we any right to form an opinion of Brahmanism and Buddhism by their nonsensical and sometimes disgusting popular forms. If we only search for the true essence of the philosophy of both Manu and the Kabala, we will find that Vishnu is, as well as Adam Kadmon, the expression of the universe itself; and that his incarnations are but concrete and various embodiments of the manifestations of this "Stupendous Whole." "I am the Soul, O, Arjuna. I am the Soul which exists in the heart of all beings; and I am the beginning and the middle, and also the end of existing things," says Vishnu to his disciple, in Bhagavad-Gita (ch. x., p. 71).

"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. . . . I am the first and the last," says Jesus to John (Rev. i. 6, 17).

Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva are a trinity in a unity, and, like the Christian trinity, they are mutually convertible. In the esoteric doctrine they are one and the same manifestation of him "whose name is too sacred to be pronounced, and whose power is too majestic and infinite to be imagined." Thus by describing the avatars of one, all others are included in the allegory, with a change of form but not of substance. It is out of such manifestations that emanated the many worlds that were, and that will emanate the one — which is to come.

Coleman, followed in it by other Orientalists, presents the seventh avatar of Vishnu in the most caricatured way.* Apart from the fact that the Ramayana is one of the grandest epic poems in the world — the source and origin of Homer's inspiration — this avatar conceals one of the most scientific problems of our modern day. The learned Brahmans of India never understood the allegory of the famous war between men, giants, and monkeys, otherwise than in the light of the transformation of species. It is our firm belief that were European academicians to seek for information from some learned native Brahmans, instead of unanimously and incontinently rejecting their authority, and were they, like Jacolliot — against whom they have nearly all arrayed themselves — to seek for light in the oldest documents scattered about the country in pagodas, they might learn strange but not useless lessons. Let any one inquire of an educated Brahman the reason for the respect shown to monkeys — the origin of which feeling is indicated in the story of the valorous feats of Hanouma, the generalissimo and faithful ally of the hero of Ramayana,+ and he would soon be disabused of the erroneous idea that the Hindus accord deific honors to a monkey-god. He would, perhaps, learn — were the Brahman to judge him worthy of an

* Coleman's "Hindu Mythology."

f The siege and subsequent surrender of Lanka (Isle of Ceylon) to Rama is placed by the Hindu chronology — based upon the Zodiac — at 7,500 to 8,000 years B.C., and the following or eighth incarnation of Vishnu at 4,800 B.C. (from the book of the Historical Zodiacs of the Brahmans).

explanation — that the Hindu sees in the ape but what Manu desired he should: the transformation of species most directly connected with that of the human family — a bastard branch engrafted on their own stock before the final perfection of the latter.* He might learn, further, that in the eyes of the educated "heathen" the spiritual or inner man is one thing, and his terrestrial, physical casket another. That physical nature, the great combination of physical correlations of forces ever creeping on toward perfection, has to avail herself of the material at hand; she models and remodels as she proceeds, and finishing her crowning work in man, presents

* A Hanoverian scientist has recently published a work entitled Ueber die Auflosung der Arten dinck Naturliche Zucht Wahl, in which he shows, with great ingenuity, that Darwin was wholly mistaken in tracing man back to the ape. On the contrary, he maintains that it is the ape which has evolved from man. That, in the beginning, mankind were, morally and physically, the types and prototypes of our present race and of human dignity, by their beauty of form, regularity of feature, cranial development, nobility of sentiments, heroic impulses, and grandeur of ideal conceptions. This is a purely Brahmanic, Buddhistic, and kabalistic philosophy. His book is copiously illustrated with diagrams, tables, etc. He says that the gradual debasement and degradation of man, morally and physically, can be readily traced throughout the ethnological transformations down to our times. And, as one portion has already degenerated into apes, so the civilized man of the present day will at last, under the action of the inevitable law of necessity, be also succeeded by like descendants. If we may judge of the future by the actual present, it certainly does seem possible that so unspiritual and materialistic a body as our physical scientists should end as simia rather than as seraphs.

him alone as a fit tabernacle for the overshadowing of the Divine spirit. But the latter circumstance does not give man the right of life and death over the animals lower than himself in the scale of nature, or the right to torture them. Quite the reverse. Besides being endowed with a soul — of which every animal, and even plant, is more or less possessed — man has his immortal rational soul, or nous, which ought to make him at least equal in magnanimity to the elephant, who treads so carefully, lest he should crush weaker creatures than himself. It is this feeling which prompts Brahman and Buddhist alike to construct hospitals for sick animals, and even insects, and to prepare refuges wherein they may finish their days. It is this same feeling, again, which causes the Jain sectarian to sacrifice one-half of his life-time to brushing away from his path the helpless, crawling insects, rather than recklessly deprive the smallest of life; and it is again from this sense of highest benevolence and charity toward the weaker, however abject the creature may be, that they honor one of the natural modifications of their own dual nature, and that later the popular belief in metempsychosis arose. No trace of the latter is to be found in the Vedas; and the true interpretation of the doctrine, discussed at length in Manu and the Buddhistic sacred books, having been confined from the first to the learned sacerdotal castes, the false and foolish popular ideas concerning it need occasion no surprise.

Upon those who, in the remains of antiquity, see evidence that modern times can lay small claim to originality, it is common to charge a disposition to exaggerate and distort facts. But the candid reader will scarcely aver that the above is an example in point. There were evolutionists before the day when the mythical Noah is made, in the Bible, to float in his ark; and the ancient scientists were better informed, and had their theories more logically defined than the modern evolutionists.

Plato, Anaxagoras, Pythagoras, the Eleatic schools of Greece, as well as the old Chaldean sacerdotal colleges, all taught the doctrine of the dual evolution; the doctrine of the transmigration of souls referring only to the progress of man from world to world, after death here. Every philosophy worthy of the name, taught that the spirit of man, if not the soul, was preexistent. "The Essenes," says Josephus, "believed that the souls were immortal, and that they descended from the ethereal spaces to be chained to bodies."* In his turn, Philo Jud^us says, the "air is full of them (of souls); those which are nearest the earth, descending to be tied to mortal bodies, naAiv^po^ouai auQig, return to other bodies, being desirous to live in them."+ In the Sohar, the soul is made to plead her freedom before God: "Lord of the Universe! I am happy in this world, and do not wish to go into another world, where I shall be a handmaid, and be exposed to all kinds of pollutions."} The doctrine of fatal necessity, the everlasting immutable Law, is asserted in the answer of the Deity: "Against thy will thou becomest an embryo, and

* "De Bel. Jud." vol. ii., 12. f "De Somniis," p. 455 d. J "Sohar," vol. ii., p. 96.

against thy will thou art born."§ Light would be incomprehensible without darkness, to make it manifest by contrast; good would be no good without evil, to show the priceless nature of the boon; and so, personal virtue could claim no merit, unless it had passed through the furnace of temptation. Nothing is eternal and unchangeable, save the Concealed Deity. Nothing that is finite — whether because it had a beginning, or must have an end — can remain stationary. It must either progress or recede; and a soul which thirsts after a reunion with its spirit, which alone confers upon it immortality, must purify itself through cyclic transmigrations, onward toward the only Land of Bliss and Eternal Rest, called in the Sohar, "The Palace of Love," ronx ^TH; in the Hindu religion, "Moksha"; among the Gnostics, the "Pleroma of eternal Light"; and by the Buddhists, Nirvana. The Christian calls it the "Kingdom of Heaven," and claims to have alone found the truth, whereas he has but invented a new name for a doctrine which is coeval with man.

The proof that the transmigration of the soul does not relate to man's condition on this earth after death, is found in the Sohar, notwithstanding the many incorrect renderings of its translators. "All souls which have alienated themselves in heaven from the Holy One — blessed be His Name — have thrown themselves into an abyss at their very existence, and have anticipated the time when they are to descend on

§ "Mishna" "Aboth," vol. iv., p. 29; Mackenzie's "Royal Masonic Cyclopedia," p. 413.

Come and see when the soul reaches the abode of Love. . . The soul could not bear this light, but for the luminous mantle which she puts on. For, just as the soul, when sent to this earth, puts on an earthly garment to preserve herself here, so she receives above a shining garment, in order to be able to look without injury into the mirror, whose light proceeds from the Lord of Light. "t Moreover, the Sohar teaches that the soul cannot reach the abode of bliss, unless she has received the "holy kiss," or the re-union of the soul with the substance from which she emanated — spirit. All souls are dual, and, while the latter is a feminine principle, the spirit is masculine. While imprisoned in body, man is a trinity, unless his pollution is such as to have caused his divorce from the spirit. "Woe to the soul which prefers to her divine husband (spirit), the earthly wedlock with her terrestrial body," records a text of the Book of the Keys.}

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