East Meets West:
Towards a Global Mysticism
It is as a rose blooming, ever so serene. Though because a man becomes wounded by her thorns, is she any less beautiful? Is she evil because she has thorns? Or is she just a rose?
Much is determined by personal experience. And that's about all we're made of. Therefore, when this Ageless Wisdom begins to get filtered down through human consciousness, it gets colored by it as well -- with all its idiosyncrasies. And that is what makes up the seeming differences on the Path. But oddly enough, it's also what makes it so enjoyably resilient -- in any shape or form. It's what every artist knows by heart -- that substance is nothing without style.
So let's begin Part 3 by examining the various styles through which Ageless Wisdom manifests. In order to do this most effectively, we need to elaborate on origins.
Ageless Wisdom has no origin because it is ageless. The different ways by which it's revealed to humanity, however, do have origins. And this particular creation myth has many versions. Yet it's still the same story.
One Path: Three Great Traditions
Dion Fortune reminds us, "Readers of esoteric literature will be aware that there are many different schools of occultism, and will find that the teachings and symbolism employed in all are fundamentally the same; so much so that by a mere translation of the terminology the initiate of one is enabled to understand the scriptures of another. Nevertheless, these schools are not identical, for although the form is the same owing to their common origin, the force that animates them is entirely different owing to the circumstances of their foundation." [i]
The common origin of these schools, according to Dion Fortune, was the lost continent of Atlantis. It is not the purpose of this article to discuss whether or not such a continent existed -- you can do your own research and form your own conclusions regarding that. I'm just the storyteller here. And this is the story as it was evidently told to her.
As this version of the story goes, there were three great cataclysms that shook Atlantis before it finally sank into the sea, coinciding with three major emigrations. The emigrations were led by what you could call the "high priests and priestesses" of this advanced civilization -- highly awakened initiates who took with them their sacred books and teachings. These initiates gained their knowledge from something called "Manus." Manus are not human, though they are supposed to be closer to us than any other life form. Again, I'm not going to talk about Manus in depth. You can read Dion Fortune's book for more detail about them. But isn't this starting to sound a little familiar? Whether it's angels, UFOs, gods, deities, dakinis, whatever -- in all the different versions of this story across the world, a nonhuman element plays a vital role. However, I have to give it to Fortune for being quite explicit in her description of the Manus, their functions, and the role they played in awakening the spiritual consciousness of prehistoric humanity. I've never read anything that goes back that far and in as much detail, so it makes her work very interesting indeed.
Briefly, these Manus operated under the different aspects or keynotes of the rays of the Sun which all came together in the Great Sun Temple in Atlantis. The three emigrations were colored by three major Manus and their specializations roughly corresponding to Love, Wisdom, and Power. The first emigration traveled across the north of what we know as Europe and Asia, and was responsible for such megalithic sites as Stonehenge. Research has established that Stonehenge predates the Druids. [ii] However, it is interesting to note that central to much Celtic mythology, Druidic lore, and the Grail Mysteries, is a reference to the Great Ones who came from across the sea. Merlin, for instance, was supposed to have been taught by one. At any rate, this first emigration supposedly ended up in Southeast Asia, where it came into contact with remnants of a more ancient magic associated with the lost continent of Lemuria. The Power aspect ruled this emigration, and according to Fortune, was the basis of what she calls "primitive cults" who work mainly with forces belonging to the "astral plane" or etheric levels of existence. Shamanistic practices utilizing animal or blood sacrifice are expressions of this force. Its influence can also be seen in the Bon religion that predated and had a significant impact on the development of Tibetan Buddhism.
The second emigration went in the same direction, but more southerly due to the advancing polar ice. Ironically, it landed in the Himalayan region, and gave rise to all those schools that have that spiritual center as their source of inspiration. The Wisdom Manu was behind this movement and planted the seeds for its development in the Eastern Mystery Traditions. Of course this Wisdom energy mingled with the Power energy that was already established; its elements most recognizable in the Eastern sects that are more shamanistic and tantric in nature. "Yet for the most part a remarkable degree of purity has been maintained in the inner Orders, and some of the profoundest knowledge in the world is guarded in its mountain strongholds," writes Fortune. [iii] But not for long -- ha, ha! More on that later. But back to the story.
Last but not least, we have the invasion of the Love bugs -- the final emigration that had for its major task the socialization of humanity with the ideals of "brotherhood" and compassion. Here we have the foundation for all the Western Mystery Schools and the major theme running through the story of Jesus. These folks headed south and landed in Egypt, settling mainly in the Middle East and Mediterranean Basin. From this area arose the mysteries associated with ancient Egypt, Greece, and Israel. As Fortune describes, "The Tyrian and Grecian Mysteries admit that their adepts were trained in the Egyptian temples; from the Tyrian we know that the Hebrew tradition derived its renaissance, and from the Grecian Mysteries grew that Gnosis which translated the spiritual concepts of Christianity into the language of the intellect; and from the Gnosis, crushed as it was by the Christian Church after the power had passed into the hands of those who knew nothing but the outer form of the truth they held, arose that long line of intellectual mystics who kept the fire alight in Europe and whom later generations have called the Alchemists." [iv]
Fortune doesn’t talk about a westward emigration -- it sounds like all the boats crossed the Atlantic to the east and south. So she doesn’t explain how the mystery traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas came about. If scholars are correct in saying that these people originated in Asia and came across the land bridge across the Bering Sea, that could explain the striking similarities between their shamanistic practices and those of the first emigration from Atlantis who filtered down into the Asian plateau. Yet we have the ancient civilizations of the Maya and Inca in Central and South America, whose spiritual practices and architecture bear greater resemblance to those of the settlers from the Third Emigration in ancient Egypt. Many of these indigenous Americans also speak about their ancestors coming from across the sea. The Book of the Hopi refers to a third world that was destroyed by a flood. Spider woman guided their people to safety where they could build the next world. [v]
There may well be a good, practical reason why all these early indigenous peoples, including the pagan tribes in Europe, worshiped nature and placed highest importance on protecting and respecting the Earth. One version of the legend says that although Atlantis may have been an advanced civilization, there were those who misused the power of the Sun Temple -- and that abuse led to the destruction of their land, much like what we could do with atomic power today. Could this be the reason why our native brothers and sisters so revere the Earth? Perhaps they have some dim racial memory of an actual occurrence as reflected in their myths.
At any rate, Fortune might have been giving us a clue when she wrote: "American occultism will never come into its own until it ceases to import its systems from Europe and India, but goes back along the line of its own tradition, picking up the aboriginal contacts, and daring to bend them to its own evolutionary purposes. It must seek the contacts of the Sun Temple of Atlantis through the Maya tradition. Egypt has no message for the United States. Americans can learn esoteric philosophy and science from the Western tradition, just as Europeans can learn from the Eastern tradition, but the initiatory forces cannot be conveyed across the Atlantic or the Pacific. Some day there will come an American who will pick up the ancient Maya contacts, adapt them to modern needs, and express their forces in an initiatory ritual which shall be valid for the civilization to which he belongs." [vi]
I've thought long and hard about what she says there, and the first thing that immediately came to mind was the works of Carlos Castaneda. In the past few decades, much research and analysis has gone into his books; perhaps the most revealing being the work of Edward Plotkin who has documented the similarities between the complex teachings of the Yaqui sorcerer, Don Juan, and the more esoteric tenets of Tibetan Buddhism, such as Tantra and Dzogchen. [vii]
However, for the most part, I do not believe that Fortune is accurate in her assessment of esotericism in the United States. Though highly knowledgeable and insightful as her writings undoubtedly are, they partially reflect some of the social biases of her time and of the British mindset in particular. For instance, she talks about certain races and cultures being better suited for certain mystical paths than others by virtue of the differences in their genetic makeup, metabolism, environment, and so on.
For one, this presumption fails to recognize that most Anglo-Saxon Americans have their roots in Europe. This heritage alone makes accessible to them the Western Mystery Traditions. Regarding the differences in temperament between the European races and Asian races, she states, "The Eastern forces require very purified and rarefied vehicles for their operation, and therefore the primitive aspects of the nature have to be pruned away. The Western forces are much stronger and more drastic in their action, because they take hold of the primitive aspects and use them for their own ends, sublimating the base metal into gold, not precipitating the gold from the ether. You may enable yourself to receive wireless signals beyond normal range either by increasing the power of the transmitting apparatus or the sensitivity of the receiving apparatus. The Western method employs the former, the Eastern the latter. . . Meditation and asceticism will bring the Eastern chela to the foot of his Master, but the Western initiator, working in the much denser material conditions of that civilization, has to employ ritual to get his results -- rituals that very few Eastern bodies could stand. The meditative methods of the East will not get results in the West unless the vitality is lowered, and it is a very risky thing to attempt to handle high potencies on a lowered vitality; nor will the aspirant fare well in the rush and drive of our civilisation." [viii]
While this might have been true at the beginning of the 20th century, it is hardly applicable in the new millennium. And this is not theory -- we are beginning to see proof, particularly in the results that some Westerners are obtaining through their study of certain Eastern traditions, particularly Tibetan Buddhism.
75 to 100 years ago, the Eastern methods were best adapted to what the Eastern lifestyle was back then -- highly reclusive, hierarchical, completely in slow motion (if in motion at all) and without the distractions and stresses of a growing, industrialized civilization. As Fortune says, "If you wish to follow the yogi methods you must lead the yogi life; if you do not, you will break down." [ix]
In the West, we can't go into a cave and meditate for three years. We have business to tend to. And in the 1960s and 70s, many first generation western "dharma" students from the United States and Europe who went to Asia to study, were confronted with this problem even then. What these pioneers had to contend with and endure in order to learn this stuff well enough to first translate it and then adapt it to make sense to Western minds, and then God forbid -- even make it applicable to Western lifestyle, is much underrated and unappreciated in my opinion. I'm talking about people like Lama Surya Das (aka Jeffrey Miller), Joan Halifax, Robert Thurman, and Tsultrim Allione, just to name a few. Hats off to them -- I recommend their works highly. It was through exposure to their work -- particularly that of Lama Surya Das -- that I began to see the parallels between the Eastern esoteric schools and the Western schools that I've been trained in.
In fact, these Western dharma pioneers have been so successful at what they’re doing over here, that it is causing some individuals who know better to minimize if not outright dismiss the value and equal effectiveness of our Western mystery traditions. But I'm not ready to digress there just yet. And when I do, I won't spend much time there because the purpose behind this series is not to divide -- but to bring together.
Speaking of getting together, that was the major difficulty confronting Western aspirants during the past two millenniums, and one of the major reasons why the West does not have a great body of esoteric literature like the East, comparatively speaking. Esoteric Christianity teaches that Jesus accepted and taught reincarnation. In fact, many of the ancient manuscripts of the early Roman church asserted the same. Church and State being essentially one back then, the process was particularly subject to corruption by the power hungry. By the last council of Constantinople in 869, A.D., the church had rewritten scripture and strictly banned the teachings of the esoteric truths that gave Christianity its spark to begin with. [x] This was one of the ugliest and most formidable experiments in social control, the effects of which still linger today. Those who shared the Ageless Wisdom had to go into hiding or else suffer merciless persecution and often death.
Therefore, the flame was kept alive in secret societies like the Merovingians, Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Alchemists, Troubadours, Knights of the Grail, Celtic Church and so on. Like their pagan brothers and sisters who were manifesting the mandates of the Love Ray Manu through nature contacts and polytheistic mysticism (e.g. Celtic and Nordic tribes), they had a rich oral tradition, because writing down these words was always risky. Any documents could be used as evidence of "witchcraft." Yet at the same time, much subtlety and many of the finer points are lost after generations of oral transmission. Because this was not just an art -- it was an experimental science.
Scientific methods and results must be preserved. Someone had to start writing it down. Therefore, what was written down was done so in a manner that did not make the truth completely obvious. So we find these silly stories and myths, medieval cartoons, and Tarot cards that make absolutely no sense to the casual observer -- not to mention the openly esoteric manuscripts of the 18th and early 19th centuries fraught with deliberate blinds. But those who knew, knew, and could decipher the secret symbols, extrapolate their meanings and associations, and communicate in a language that evolved into a tradition so richly diverse, highly individualized and truly visionary -- that it eventually gave birth to one of the most profound experiments of the Love Ray Manu in the history of humankind -- democracy -- the United States of America - the greatest legacy of the Western Mystery Tradition. [xi]
Who are the current bearers of the secret flame in the world today -- both East and West? Find out in Part 4.
Judy Kennedy, aka Wayward Muse
(originally published on Themestream, 12/00
Author retains full copyright.
[i] Dion Fortune, The Esoteric Orders and Their Work, Lewellyn Publications, 3rd printing, 1971, p.45.
[ii] Jean Markale, The Druids: Celtic Priests of Nature, Inner Traditions International, 1999. Also see Ancient Nature Consciousness, part 1: Druidism by Van Waffle, a good introductory article and resource guide on this subject.
[iii] Id., p.48.
[v] Frank Waters, Book of the Hopi, Penguin Books, 1963. See also, The Hopi Myth of Creation and American Indian Creation Myths for more information regarding flood legends.
[vi] Dion Fortune, Sane Occultism, Samuel Weiser, 1967, p.168.
[vii] See also, Daniel Noel, ed., Seeing Castaneda: Reactions to the "Don Juan" Writings of Carlos Castaneda, Perigee Books, 1976; Tomas, Creative Victory: Reflections on the Process of Power from the Collected Works of Carlos Castaneda, Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1995; and the excellent web site http://www.nagual.org
[viii] Fortune, The Esoteric Orders and Their Work p. 53.
[x] Vera Stanley Alder, The Finding of the Third Eye, Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1973, (first published 1938).
[xi] Dr. Paul Foster Case, The Great Seal of the United States: Its History, Symbolism and Message for the New Age, Builders of the Adytum, Ltd., 1976 (first published 1935). See also, http://www.bota.org/
Back to Apprentice Weavers