Doctrines Of Initiation

OUR friend F. Ch. Barlet has written a very interesting article upon this subject, which we will quote in extenso. Our readers will then see the exactitude with which his conclusions harmonize with our own.


Amongst the ancients the scientific men were also the sages, such as Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle; in modern times, on the contrary, science and wisdom are unsuccessfully seeking for each other, or struggling in mortal conflict over the religious question. That such a separation is against nature is easily seen by the study of those Positivist philosophers whose extensive learning and p. 254

admirable efforts to build up a synthesis of scientific wisdom merit high rank in the modern intellectual world. Whilst their fundamental aphorism is that nothing is attainable by man beyond the world of phenomena, their works display an increasing though unintentional tendency to cross the limits which they seek to impose upon themselves, for they axe led by that nature which they love, and which in its final manifestations they know better than any one else. We may compare them to insects imprisoned behind a window; in despair they beat themselves against the glass, clearly seeing the sunbeam which should lead them to the source of all light, yet unable to follow it beyond the invisible wall of their prison. On the other hand, the Spiritualists are outside, free, and as it were lost in the luminous ocean, wandering without a compass, unable to find the guiding sunbeam which is the despair of the Positivists.

However, one school exists which promises to guide the one, to free the other, and to direct each student towards the centre of Truth so ardently desired; an unknown school, little frequented, like every transcendent degree, although its masters have always given proofs of considerable learning—the school of Theosophy, a positive spiritualism preserved for ages in the ancient mysteries, transmitted with more or less purity by the Kabbalists, Mystics, Templars, Rosicrucians, and Freemasons, often degenerate, like every other doctrine prematurely divulged, yet hidden at the root of every religion, and carefully perpetuated in a few unknown sanctuaries, chiefly situated in India.

The secret of Theosophy, in the, reconciliation between science and metaphysics, lies in a certain practical development of those human faculties which are best fitted to extend the limits of reliable knowledge. Let us first try to understand this possibility.

An attentive examination of any scientific method, however positive it may be, proves that there is no evidence or certainty save in axioms, and that the fragile and changeable scaffolding of our sciences, built upon this immovable basis, is entirely due to intuition, of which observation and experience are only instruments.

But the field of direct perception in which intuition exerts itself is capable of extension; this fact is now demonstrated by the phenomena of hypnotism and magnetism, the torments of our modern sciences; for by them the limits of opaque matter, of space and time, are suppressed in variable but incontestable degrees.

But still, in this realm of transcendental faculties the perception is not always so reliable as the unvarying certainty which characterizes an axiom; for amongst the hypnotizable or magnetizable subjects, the material lucidity presents a number of gradations which are reproduced in the intellectual order, and which vary between the fancies of a disordered imagination and the sublime revelations of healthily inspired genius.

We do not therefore exceed the possibilities given by the reliable evidence of observation and experience, when we assert that the physical or intellectual perception of the human being is capable of extending beyond the limits of ordinary judgments and sensations; and that in the transcendental regions which it can attain it is susceptible of more or less certitude in its impressions. This assertion opens new fields for human knowledge, an hierarchy of new immediate causes, and the prospect of an indefinite progress in science.

Now Theosophy inspires man with the enthusiasm p. 256

which enables him to draw near to these transcendent regions of perception, whilst it guards him from illusion, through the forces and the new beings which he will meet there: it is this instruction which constitutes Initiation.

The slight sketch which will now follow will at least give some idea of the principles by which Religion and Philosophy, Wisdom and Science, are united in Theosophy. Any defects which the reader way find in it must be attributed to want of skill on the part of the student who has undertaken it.

Initiation comprises two different but united sections. The Theory of the resources and necessities of his enterprise, which the neophyte always receives as an inheritance which leaves him absolute liberty of thought--and the Practice in which he exercises, under the direction of his masters, the physical, intellectual, and moral self-control which will render him an Initiate.

The Theory, the primary instruction of Theosophy, is a preliminary definition, consisting almost exclusively of the contents of the Theosophical publications; but a student should not fancy himself one of the Initiate because he possesses these public works; the knowledge of them is an excellent preparation, but nothing more.

This theory is found scattered throughout a number of more or less well-known and accessible books; but there are very few of them which explain it as a whole, simply and methodically enough to satisfy a beginner. This first difficulty, chiefly due to the actual state of many minds, which will not admit regular instruction, also p. 257

corresponds to the numerous varieties of intelligence which examine them. Some, previously opened to theosophical doctrines, approach every detail with equal profit to themselves; others, on the contrary, who cannot at first accept them as a whole, willingly examine them by means of a secondary door which especially suits them, but which often forces them to make enormous digressions through our sciences and philosophies. The first steps are consequently very varied, and they require guidance from some more advanced brother, who is capable of discerning the intellectual and moral state of the neophyte.

This is why no work on the subject can be especially recommended here. An excellent bibliography of theosophic works will be found in the Traité Élémentaire de Science Occulte, by Papus. We now add to it an excellent list of a series of studies, long but reliable, which will form a gradual transition from Positivism to Theosophy:

For facts. Study: Richet, d'Assier, Liebault, Philipps, Dupotet, Reichenbach, Mesmer, &c.

Hypothesis of the whole: Comte, Stuart Mill, Bain, Ribot, Spencer, Taine, &c.

Philosophers: Du Prel, Hartmann, Schopenhauer, Hegel. Great profit can then be derived from older works: Spinoza, Leibnitz, and even from the ancients: Aristotle, Plato, the Neoplatonists, the Pythagorists; then the modern mystic scientists: Wronski, Fabre d'Olivet, Lucas, &c.

The student will then fully understand Theosophy.

This series will, however, require further modifications, according to the character and the scientific aptitudes of the student. We must also point out some features of the theory, which are necessary for the comprehension of our principal subject; the reader must only remember that this explanation is entirely due to the author of this article, and he must not impute any of its errors to Theosophy itself.

Our positive sciences give the last formula of the visible world in the following words-There is no matter without force: no force without matter.

An indisputable but incomplete formula, unless the following commentary be added to it-

1. The combination of what we call Force and Matter present, itself in various proportions, from that which is called materialized Force (rocks, minerals, simple chemical bodies), to subtilized Matter or Matter-Force (a grain of pollen, spermatozoid, the electric atom). Matter and Force, although we cannot isolate them, therefore present themselves as the extreme and opposing mathematical limits (or contrary signs) of a series of which we see only a few medium terms, abstract but indubitable.

2. The terms of this series, that is to say, the substances of nature, are never stable; Force, which is characterized by infinite mobility, sways essentially inert matter from one pole to the other, as though it were drawn by a continual current, while it retorts by a counter-current, which leads it back to its inert condition. For instance, an atom of phosphorus borrowed by a vegetable from the mineral phosphates, becomes the element of a human cerebral cellule (subtilized matter), then through disintegration falls back into the inert mineral kingdom.

3. The movement resulting from this unstable equilibrium p. 259

is not disorganized; it presents a series of chained harmonies which we call Laws, and which are synthetized in our eyes in the supreme law of Evolution.

One conclusion is forced upon us: This harmonious synthesis of phenomena is the eminent manifestation of what we call a will.

Therefore, according to positive science, the visible world is the expression of a will which manifests itself by the unstable but progressive equilibrium of Force and Matter.

It is represented by this quaternary--

I. WILL (simple origin). III. FORCE (Elements of this polarized Will). II. MATTER.

IV. THE VISIBLE WORLD (The result of their unstable, dynamic equilibrium).

The positive method will not allow us to pause there, we must analyze the Will in its turn. We will abridge this analysis here, for the reader will easily master it with the aid of the treatises on psychology; it leads through the two opposing terms of affirmation and negation to a new superior, apparently simple cause, the Idea, which analysis again decomposes into consciousness and unconsciousness, gradually remounting to its furthest limit, the absolute term, the One, both conscious and unconscious, affirmative and negative, force and matter, nameless, incomprehensible to man.

Let us designate this supreme term by A, and the material atom by Q, we shall then have, according to our analysis, the following series of hierarchized quaternaries as a representation of the Universe p. 260

(3) Consciousness (2) Unconsciousness (The Transcendent)

(4) IDEA Intelligible World

(9) Force (8) Matter Visible World

(10) Kosmos (Positive, Science) Q

The extreme terms, a and ro, Spirit and Matter, equally incomprehensible to human intelligence in their infinite grandeur and infinite littleness, i are not only linked together by invariable intermediate chains, but they also make an incessantly descending movement from one to the other, in which the Spirit becomes Matter by the successive disintegrations which express the Idea, the Will, and Kosmos. This constitutes the creation.

But since, as our sciences prove to us, the Kosmos itself is in a state of evolutive movement, and since according to their teachings this movement clearly inclines towards a progressive synthesis, which spiritualizes the living being by entering more and more into its composition, the preceding scheme expresses but one half of the Universe, the one which descends. We must now add to it a second half, which restores the atom, ro, to its opposing principle a, through the progressive synthesis of individual lives. This is Progress, the sequence of Creation.

Thus the Universe appears to us like a circular current, in which the flow is necessarily inverse in the two opposing arcs: from the positive pole a to the negative pole w the p. 261

current descends—this is Involution, the descent of the Spirit into Matter; from the negative pole ro to the positive pole a the current re-ascends--this is Evolution, the spiritualization of Matter. We shall describe it presently.

Let us then infer for man--

The evidence of our sciences shows him to be upon the ascending arc, already far from the negative pole, since he is at the head of the three kingdoms of the terrestrial world. He thus belongs to the visible world of the Universe; the imposing monument of science is a proof of the position which he also occupies in the intellectual world; but at the same time his errors, his doubts, the enormous deficiencies in his knowledge, and his passions, sufficiently prove that he is no longer master in this sphere, as he is in the inferior world. As to the divine world, he conceives it, presses towards it; but if be attain it, it will be by faith rather than by science.

Man is then a being who in his re-ascension has reached the middle region, and even the centre of that region; his place is in the centre of the ascending are, between the superior and the inferior beings of creation, ruling the one, ruled by the others, midway between the Angel and the Beast. A situation inevitably painful through the equality of the two opposing forces, which retard his ascension; he has come to a dead stop, which must be overcome by a special effort.

At the present time Initiation is the instrument which facilitates the development of the human butterfly. We shall soon understand of what it consists.

The Ancients, with the usual force of their synthetic genius, have symbolized the whole of Involution and Evolution by a sequence of twenty-two figures, full of hidden significations, which the occultists name the Twenty-two Great Arcana.

Taking the ten first as a description of Involution, we find in the others the successive phases of Initiation, such as they are depicted in the twelve hours (or sentences) which form the Nuctemeron attributed to Apollonius of Tyana. These we shall now enumerate.

To be perfectly clear we must first return to Evolution for one moment.

In fact its analysis is not completed by the ten terms which have led us to the Kosmos, the dynamic equilibrium of Force and Matter. This Kosmos can be analyzed in its turn as two principles which, according to all the sciences, are conflicting in every movement of matter: the Active and Passive (male and female of organizations, acid and basis of chemistry, the opposing poles of electricity, &c.). Completely inert matter is only found in their absolute equilibrium in the unsiezable pole exactly opposed to the a--the ro of the Universe.

The occultists have represented this 4th tetractys, of which the Kosmos is the first term (the tetractys of the inferior world, infera, hell), by the 11th, 12th, and 13th arcana, the Kosmos being its first term. The arcanum which bears the generally dreaded number 13 requires further notice. It is called DEATH and RESURRECTION, and it represents absolute Inertia, only found in Death; but here Involution stops and Evolution commences, for the equilibrium of the two principles, active and passive, is never prolonged.

This would seem to contradict the preceding remark, p. 263

that the description of Initiation, that is to say, of the re-ascension, opens with the 10th arcanum, and not with the 14th. This however is not so, because in Involution the being should retrace in an inverse sense, to complete the synthesis, every stage by which the a has been disintegrated in the course of its Involution. Man is the actual result of a work of this kind anterior to his present state, but of this work which has raised him from the ro to the stage of Will he is quite unconscious; at first he was subjected to it under the fatal pressure of pure Force only, then of instinct, desires, and passions; his previous evolution is therefore unknown to him, and yet how can he master any of these worlds without knowing them all? His first work in Initiation must therefore be to re-descend to his first steps in Evolution, to become acquainted with all the degrees, all the forces, and all the beings that he has passed through, to penetrate the roots of life to death itself, and to learn to dominate them all.

We shall see presently that this is not a figurative assertion; the Neophyte cannot attain any reliable voluntary exercise of the transcendental faculties without first obtaining the mastery, over the forces which would produce illusion, which would threaten his life itself; without reaching Inertia and conquering it. Like the Christ, the model of regenerate man, he must expire upon the cross and rise again the third day; that is to say, after descending, the three last steps represented by the 11th, 12th, and 13th arcana, into the depths of hell, there to discover Death and to overcome him.

This fully understood, we will describe the twelve hours or phases of Initiation.

The 10th arcanum, the first hour of the series, corresponds with the stage which man has reached at the present time. The symbol of this arcanum is the Sphinx, which guarded the entrance to the Egyptian world; the Neophyte descended between its paws into the tunnel which led to the sanctuary, through a series of tests, the image and noviciate of the descent which we have just mentioned.

This is then the hour of preparation; it separates the common life from the transcendental life; in it the student learns the work that he must undertake, and prepares himself for it. Let us see in what way.

The human head of the Sphinx, the centre of the intelligence, says to the Neophyte: "First acquire the Knowledge which shows the goal, and lights the way to it." This is the theoretic instruction mentioned above.

Its bull's thighs, the image of the rough, persevering labour of the agriculturist, say to him: "Be strong and patient in thy work."

Its lion's paws say to him: "Thou must brave all, and defend thyself against every inferior force."

Its eagle's wings say to him: "Thou must will to raise thyself towards the transcendent regions, which thy soul already approaches."

The riddle attributed to the Greek Sphinx, and the answer required for it, are an equally expressive image of man, and his aim. He is the animal that in the morning (that is to say, in the infancy of humanity) goes on four feet (4 being the number of realization, expresses matter and its instincts, the visible world); at noon (that is to say, in the maturity of his humanity) he walks upon two feet (2, the number of opposition, the image of science, of its contradictions, its doubts, and of p. 265

the intelligible world); and in the evening (when the day is nearly over) walks upon three feet (3, the number of the divine world, in which the Trinity gives the solution of all the oppositions, of all the antinomies, by the superior term, the harmonious synthesis of the two adverse terms).

Apollonius describes the same hour in these words: "Here the Neophyte praises God, utters no injurious words, inflicts no more pain," which means that his theoretic knowledge of the Creation is increased, and that he practises self-control. We will now pause and examine the consistency of these various prescriptions.

We have seen that man, having reached the ascending are, has become the object of dispute between the inferior forces of inertia, which he has traversed under the impulse of instinct, and those active forces which draw him upwards; we have noticed that the struggle must now be decided by the intervention of the Will, sufficiently developed by Evolution, and sufficiently free too exert its influence on one side or on the other: man can therefore decide either for the inferior forces of disintegration, or for the superior ones of synthesis, under the names of Good and Evil. And truly evil for him if he redescend, for he will meet the terrors of decomposition, of Death. Good, on the other hand, if be ascend, for he will enjoy the realization of his natural aspirations, the knowledge of the Creation and dominion over it.

Now where is the index of the forces of inertia in the human organization?--In instinct, in the passions. Where, on the other hand, is the index of the active forces?--In moral energy, in Virtue.

Where is the index of the forces of disintegration, which lead to inertia in the human organization?--In the tendency to isolation, in egoism. Where, on the other p. 266

hand, is the index of the integrant forces?--In the tendency to joint responsibility, to altruism, in Fraternity.

The transcendent world is therefore open to whoever has sufficient Will (or even artificial impulsion) to triumph over the forces which guard it; but woe to that man who approaches it with a passionate and selfish heart; with lowered head he will fall back into the current of decomposition, where he will be dissolved. Nature destroys all Evil; it is the law of selection!

Only the man whose heart is full of charity can raise himself to the true destination of the human being in the region of Principles.

This is why the Sphinx prescribes, with the persevering will of the Bull, the courage of the Lion against the forces of the passions; and why Apollonius commands reserve and fraternity, with the Gospels which place self-control at the foundation of all Law.

Such then, with the aid of knowledge, is the preparation for Initiation; we shall soon see the importance of these precepts.

The Neophyte, sufficiently exercised in these preliminaries of the first hour, then descends the three lower steps as follows--

ARCANUM XI.: Strength.

Second hour of Apollonius: "The abyss offire--the virtues of the stars close as a crown through the dragons and the, fire" (the magnetic chain).

The Neophyte learns to distinguish universal Force and its double current, positive and negative, in his own p. 267

organization. The application of this knowledge will be found in the two following hours-

ARCANUM XII.: The Great Work.

Third hour of Apollonius: "The serpents, the dogs, andfire"

The first manifestation of force applied externally to inert matter for affecting transmutations; this is Alchemy. The Neophyte having attained this step in practice must be ready morally to make a complete sacrifice of his personality; in the language of the alchemists, he must have destroyed his fixed nature by fire so as to, volatilize it.


Fourth hour of Apollonius: "The Neophyte wanders in the sepulchres, and it will injure him; he will experience horror and fear of visions; he should devote himself to magic and to geotie" 1

This is Necromancy, the application of Force to the domination of inferior living beings: Elemental, or organisms ready to synthetize themselves, and Elementary, remains of the dead, on the way to disorganization.

Morally, the Neophyte should die to ordinary life, to enter the spiritual life; the celestial man will he born from the corpse of the terrestrial man.

The foundations of the Universe are now reached; the Neophyte touches the extremity of the terrestrial aura, the sublunar atmosphere which surrounds every planet, like the reservoir of the elements of its life; he has now reached a terrible moment, when he must lose the earth p. 268

to launch out into the ocean of space; a formidable crisis, to which two periods are consecrated.

The first is transitory.

ARCANUM XIV.: The two Urns (the terrestrial and celestial fluids).

Fifth hour of Apollonius: "The waters above the heavens."

Here the Neophyte learns the flow of the astral currents in the planetary aura, just as in the second hour he acquired a preliminary knowledge of Force, before exposing himself to it in the following hour.

ARCANUM XV.: Typhon (the electric whirlwind).

Sixth hour of Apollonius: "Here one must remain quiet, immovable through fear."

Unprotected the Neophyte exposes himself to the double and formidable fluid-current of celestial space, by which the ignorant or imprudent is carried away without mercy, but which raises the strong man who has purified himself. Silence, prudence, courage!

According to your deserts you will be enraptured like St. Paul, or you will expose yourself either to madness, to the spiritualization of evil, or to sorcery. This is the Sabbat or the Ecstasy!

The reader cannot pay too much attention to this solemn monument of practical occultism, so well described in Lytton's novel Zanoni under the name of the Dragon of the Threshold; it is the formidable danger which necessitates so many secrets. This threshold is reached by many artificial paths: the hachich, narcotics, hypnotics of every kind, the practices of spiritual mediums;

but woe to him who attempts to pass it before he has triumphed in the long and laborious preliminary preparation! His fate is foretold in the next arcanum.

ARCANUM XVI.: The Lightning-struck Tower.

Seventh hour of Apollonius: "Fire comforts every living creature, and if some priest, himself a pure man, purloin and use, it, if he blend it with holy oil, consecrate it, and then anoint some ailing limb, with it, the malady will be cured."

The irresistible current has touched the man who exposed himself to its vortex on the terrestrial heights; if he The impure be is threatened with disorganization more or less complete, according to his intellectual or moral unworthiness, and his energy (incoherent mysticism, folly, death, or complete disintegration, represented by the genius of evil, the Devil)!

If, on the contrary, he be worthy of the higher regions, this baptism of fire renders him one of the Magi; the sources of terrestrial life are at his disposition; he becomes a Therapeut.

Having reached this point, he will then learn to know the celestial spheres progressively as he knows the terrestrial one, and to dominate them; three hours are consecrated to this exploration-ARCANUM XVII.: The Star of the Magi. Eighth hour of Apollonius: "The astral virtues of the elements, of seed of every kind."

This is the region of the principles of the solar system: in it life becomes clear; its distribution from the solar centre to all the planets, and their reciprocal influences, p. 270

are understood in all their details, in what the occultists name the Correspondences. The Initiate is then master of Astrology in every branch of the science, in the widest meaning, of its acceptation.

ARCANUM XVIII.: The Twilight. Ninth hour of Apollonius: "Nothing is finished here."

The Initiate now extends his perceptions beyond our solar system, "beyond the Zodiac"; he is in sight of the Infinite; he touches the limits of the intelligible world; the divine light commences to show itself, the object of new terror and danger.

ARCANUM XIX.: The Resplendent Light.

Tenth hour of Apollonius: "The gates of heaven are open, and man is born again, docile in the lethargic sleep."

The Idea appears to the regenerate soul of the Initiate, or, in the language of the Occultist, the spiritual sun will rise for him; he will by a new regeneration enter the Divine World, in which man dies no more.

Two steps remain before the highest human destinies can be accomplished-ARCANUM XX.: The Awakening of the Dead.

Eleventh hour of Apollonius: "The Angels, the Cherubim, and the Seraphim fly with rustling wings; there is joy in heaven, the earth rises, and the Sun, which issues from Adam."

This is the hierarchy of the Divine world, which appears upon new earths and new heavens. The Initiate will not pass through death again; henceforth he will live eternally.

ARCANUM XXII.: The Crown of the Magi. Twelfth hour of Apollonius: "The cohorts offire rest." Nirvana! Complete return to a. Let us recapitulate these twelve hours of the initiation.

0.--Preliminary studies and tests.

1.--Transcendent study of the Visible World. Inferior Manifestations:

1. Preliminary study of Force.

2. Application to the inert world.

3. Application to the animate elementary world.

Transitory phase:

1. View of the superior forces.

2. Entrance into the ultra-terrestrial world.


Higher regions:

1. Application of the higher forces to the terrestrial life.

2. The forces in the solar system.

3. The forces of the whole Universe.

II.--Study of the Intelligible World. On the borders of the Infinite.






(Therapeutics) (Astrology)

Arcanum X.

Arcanum XI.

Arcanum XII.

Arcanum XIII.

Arcanum XIV.

Arcanum XV.

1st hour

2nd hour

3rd hour

4th hour


5th hour

6th hour


Arcanum XVI.

Arcanum XVII. Arcanum XVIII. Arcanum XIX.

7th hour

8th hour 9th hour 10th hour

III.--Study of the Divine World. Divine hierarchies

Arcanum XX.

11th hour

Nirvana! Arcanum XXII. 12th hour p. 272

Need we add how much effort and time (years, lives, often centuries) are required for each of these hours, how few there are who pass even the first steps?

And what can we expect from their knowledge? The hope of indefinite progress towards the realization of our most radiant hopes, the desire to attain at least those first realizations, so that we may derive from them the assurance of the others; confidence in the instruction of those whom we recognize for masters already far advanced; lastly, the certainty that in these fruitful doctrines we shall find the salvation of our suffering societies, as well as the most longed-for individual happiness. And these desires, this confidence, are felt after the first preliminary studies.

To succeed, we need undertake but one work at first, that which the Sphinx depicts to us: moral and intellectual preparations. But only the man who seriously undertakes them can know what immense and persevering efforts they exact! May this rough glimpse of them inspire the reader with the desire and the courage to devote himself to them with all the ardour of Hope!


260:1 The first a, One and infinitely great; integration of Q. The second ro, a multiple composed of an infinite number of infinitely tiny elements; analysis of a.

267:1 The magic which evokes the evil genii who injure man--A.P.M.

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