Reflection 5

Mysteries of God, Cosmos, Humanity, week 5

Reflection: realizing purification


The subtitle of this book is: realizing the plan of God. This may evoke associations of a terribly long, tiring and painful process. Such a reaction is completely understandable from a dialectical or 3D consciousness, because from experience we know that it takes a lot of time, attention, energy and often also great sacrifices to carry out an ambitious plan in such a way that it is realized in the sensory perceptible world with the desired quality.

From a spirit-soul consciousness, however, a completely different picture emerges because the plan of God is far beyond time and space. When Jesus’ disciples ask their master when the Kingdom will come, he replies, ‘The coming of the Kingdom is not to be expected in the future. No one will say: “Look, here it is” or “Look, there it is”. No, the Kingdom has already expanded over the earth and people do not see it’ (The gospel of Thomas, logion 113).

Divine grace is abundant and is constantly seeking opportunities to flow into human beings, but humanity as a whole continues to make frantic efforts to shut itself off from it as much as possible. And they succeed dramatically well in doing so. If you look around you objectively in your environment and you become aware of what is happening in the world, you will have to determine that much is definitely not good and can rightfully be called ‘evil’. It is widely recognized that the world and humanity are seriously ill and that healing and also sanctification are very much needed. Where does evil originate?

The ideas of the Persian prophet Zarathustra or Zoroaster concerning healing and sanctification have had a great influence in history. He developed a monotheistic religion, Zoroastrianism, in which the one good sun god Ahura Mazada is worshipped. The origin of that religion, unlike most other religions of that time, is not a nature religion in which God is seen and revered as a Santa Claus showering people with desirable gifts, but as an authentic gnostic-inspired religion focused on the transformation of humanity.

Zarathustra does not regard the sun primarily as anindispensable and powerful force of nature, but rather as a symbol for the invisible spiritual Sun that enables inner growth and renewal (see hymn 8). According to him, a less powerful god of evil, Ahriman, emerged from the one good God. Thus humanity is wedged between the power of good and the power of evil and faces the challenge of choosing the power of good. How is it possible that evil comes from good? We read
about this in the Aquarian Gospel.

Disharmonious mixture

‘All created things have colours, tones and forms of their own;  but certain tones, though good and pure themselves, when mixed, produce inharmonies, discordant tones. And certain things, though good and pure, when mixed, produce discordant things, yea, poisonous things, that men call evil things. So evil is the inharmonious blending of the colours, tones, or forms of good. Now, man is not all-wise, and yet has will of his own. He has the power, and he uses it, to mix God’s good things in a multitude of ways, and  every day he makes discordant sounds, and evil things. And every tone and form, be it of good, or ill, becomes a living thing, a demon, sprite, or spirit of a good or vicious kind’.
(The Aquarian Gospel 39:12-16)

The Persian prophet Mani (216-276) connected the insights of Zarathustra with the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ. He founded the gnostic religion of Manichaeism, which was a
world religion from about the fourth to the thirteenth century. Two testimonies of Mani are presented in hymn 9.

Manichaeism flourished not only in Iran and the Arabian Peninsula but also in countries around the Mediterranean, in Central Asia and even in China. Quite a few texts of the Manicheans have been preserved. The ideas of the Manicheans were incorporated in a renewed form in medieval gnostic movements such as the Bogomils in the Slavic countries in the Balkans and the Cathars, especially in the south of France. The famous theologian, philosopher and church father Augustine of Hippo (354-430) from North Africa was a member of the Manicheans for ten years. This very intellectual sage belonged to the exoteric circle and was never included in the esoteric
circles of that movement. At one point he turned away from Manichaeism and argued strongly against it. Partly as a result of his actions, gnostic-oriented movements have been labeled heretical and then literally fought with fire and sword for centuries by order of the church of Rome of that time. Many gnostic movements have perished in this way, but the gnosis remained because it is immortal and is always looking for new ways to manifest and become liberating.

Characteristic of the Manichean view of man and the world is the existence of two realms that both express themselves in humanity: the light kingdom of the spirit and the dark realm of matter. Man cannot perceive the light realm with his limited senses because these senses are part of the realm of darkness. However, according to Mani, man has an encapsulated ‘germ
of light’ in his heart which, if receptive to them, can vibrate along with the forces from the light realm and thus absorb and process the impulses from that realm. As a result, a person changes and can leave the realm of darkness and return to the realm of light.

Seen from below, that is from the perspective of persons who have been touched inwardly and suffer physically, psychologically and spiritually in the world of fragmentation, the Manichean idea of the two realms or nature orders is not so weird at all. They experience a large gap between what they are now and what they could be in their inner being. That dualism between darkness and light brings forth the desire and the tension that are necessary to undergo an inner change and so become part of the realm of light.

The invariably good

Seen from above, that is to say from the perspective of the inwardly renewed person who lives from the all-encompassing unity – as symbolized by Hermes Trismegistus – there are not two completely different, separated realms or fields. According to him, everything is connected to everything else. Absolute darkness does not exist for him: what people call darkness is for him only a place where there is very little light. This is also more or less the view that is expressed in the Corpus Hermeticum. In the tenth book, Hermes Trismegistus teaches his disciple Asclepius about the invariably good that knows no opposite, that is the absolute good or the only good, and also speaks about the relative good that people regard as the opposite of evil.

‘The Good, Aesclepius, is exclusively in God, or rather: God is The Good, in all eternity. That is why The Good is necessarily the cause and essence of all motion and of all genesis: nothing exists that is without The Good. The Good, in perfect equilibrium, is surrounded by a static force of manifestation: it is the entire plenitude, the primordial fount, the origin of all things. When I call that which sustains everything good, I mean The Good, which is absolute and eternal.
All the other qualities occur in all beings, in the smalt as well as in the large, in each of them in a specific way, and even in the world, the greatest and most powerful in all manifested life: for all that
has been created is full of suffering, because genesis itself involves suffering. Where there is suffering, The Good is certainly absent. Where The Good is, there is certainly no suffering whatsoever.
Wherever day is, there is no night, and wherever night is, there is no day. That is why The Good cannot dwell in what has been created, but only in the non-created. But since all matter participates in the non-created, it is also part of The Good.
In this sense the world is good: insofar as it likewise brings forth all things it is, as such, good. But in all other respects it is not good, being also subject to suffering, and changeable, and the mother of
creatures subject to suffering. Human standards of goodness are obtained by comparison with evil. What is not evil beyond measure is here considered to be good, and what here is held to be good is the smallest part of evil. Therefore, it is impossible, here, for what is good to be free from contamination by evil. What is good, here, is affected by evil and ceases to be good. Thus, this good deteriorates into evil. That is why The Good is in God alone; yes, God is The Good.
In men, Aesclepius, The Good can be found only in name but nowhere as a reality. In fact, that is impossible, for The Good cannot find a place in a material body which on all sides is stifled by afflictions and arduous exertion, grief and desire, passion and delusion, and images of the senses.  The Beautiful and The Good are not to be found within those who are of the world. All things
perceptible to the eyes are chimera, resembling shadows. But that which transcends the senses approaches most closely the essence of the Beautiful and The Good’.
(Corpus Hermeticum 10:1,4,5,6,10)

In Greek mythology, Asclepius is the god of medicine and healing. He is often depicted with a staff around which a snake coils. The staff is primarily the symbol for the serpent fire in the spine, in which the forces of consciousness circulate. The snake refers to death and rebirth. Many snakes have deadly venom in their jaws, and they crawl out of their old, crystallized skin when they have formed a new skin. The socalled aesculapian staff or Staff of Asclepius has been a symbol for medical doctors for many centuries.

We can see Asclepius as a personification of the candidate on the spiritual path who has joined the mesoteric circle or inner school because he wants to become a healer in the most extensive sense of the word: for himself and for others. In order to be able to heal others, he must first be healed himself. And complete healing is possible only through rebirth by Water and Fire.
From the teachings of Hermes to Asclepius quoted above, we can deduce that our biological body and our personality are not part of the only-good because we were created and therefore participate in suffering.

However our bodies and our personalities have also arisen from domains beyond the senses: those of the soul and those of the spirit. Therefore if you desire to participate in the only-good, in which there is certainly no suffering, you will have to pay attention to the worlds of the soul and the spirit. The main problem however is that you have no knowledge about that. And if you do suspect it, and perhaps even long for it, you do not succeed in finding enough time for it because all your focus and energy go to the things of the sensory perceivable world and its astral counterpart.

Hermes invites his pupils to free themselves from the impurity of nature. It is virtually impossible to go that spiritual path alone, in your own strength. Therefore there have always been enlightened teachers and spiritual schools to assist those people who were ripe for the inner path; not only teaching their pupils, but also encouraging them to strive for inner renewal and providing them with the necessary light power.

Urge for self-maintenance and self-realisation

Everyone can experience an urge for self-maintenance and a drive for self-realization. They form a valuable and necessary impetus for development but can often become a goal in itself and then lead to the growth of qualities that form great barriers on the spiritual path. In the Middle Ages these barriers were referred to as the seven deadly sins: pride, laziness, envy, anger, lust, gluttony and avarice. These aspects are in sharp contrast to the seven classical virtues of the Catholic tradition: wisdom, righteousness, moderation, courage, faith, hope and
love. Love is usually considered to be the highest and the most powerful of these virtues (see hymns 11 and 12).

The pupil within the exoteric circle who has extensive knowledge about an authentic spiritual tradition and wants to go the way of godliness is faced with the task of freeing himself from the deadly sins and other obstructive conditioning. Not by fighting them, but by elevating oneself inwardly and becoming aware of what is going on within himself. Then he goes from the exoteric circle into the mesoteric circle, from the outer school into the inner school, from the Tat phase to the Asclepius phase. In the first book of the Corpus Hermeticum, called Pymander or Poimandres, Hermes describes this process of inner death as an ascent through seven different spheres of heaven, which were later associated with the seven classic planets: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

‘In this way man travels further upwards, across the cohesive power of the spheres; to the first circle he yields the power to increase and decrease; to the second circle the proficiency in evil and the artifice that has become impotent; to the third circle the now impotent error of desire; to the fourth circle the vanity of ostentation of the ruler, who can no longer be satisfied; to the fifth circle the godless recklessness and insolent thoughtlessness; to the sixth circle the attachment to riches that has been put out of action; to the seventh circle the lie that continually sets its snares.
Then, when he has stripped himself of that which issued from the power of the spheres, he enters the eighth nature, in possession of nothing but his own power and sings, with all those who are there,
hymns of praise to the Father and all rejoice with him because of his presence’. (Corpus Hermeticum 1:63-64)

The 14th book of the Corpus Hermeticum entitled ‘The secret sermon on the mount concerning rebirth and the vow of silence’ looks at the purifications that must take place in a person who goes the liberating gnostic path in a different way. It shows that the hermetic gnosis is not a coherent and strictly-defined philosophical system, but that in Hermeticism there are always different attempts to say something about experiences that cannot actually be expressed in words. Therefore in Hermeticism as in all other esoteric traditions, frequent use is made of symbols.

The mountain as symbol

The symbol of the mountain refers to, among other things, being elevated inwardly, gaining an overview, receiving esoteric instruction and being initiated. Several great wisdom teachers are known to have climbed a mountain with their closest disciples in order to teach them the mysteries that were not intended for the general public. For example, Krishna and Hermes gave a speech on a mountain, and the Sermon on the Mount attributed to Jesus is found in chapters 5, 6, and 7 of the Gospel of Matthew. In this gospel we read, among other things: ‘Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it’ (Matthew 7: 13-14).

Tat has gone through the narrow gate and is one of the few to find the way that leads to eternal life. He has gone through a thorough preparation and asks his teacher Hermes if he can take the next step in his process. ‘I have detached myself from the world and have made myself inwardly strong against the world’s delusion. So would you please now complete what is lacking in me, just as you promised me, and teach me about rebirth, either by word of mouth or by means of a mystery’.
(Corpus Hermeticum 14:3)

Hermes then replies that the re-born person will be like a god, a divine son, all in all, and equipped with all powers. He adds that such things cannot be taught and advises that Tat will be able to experience the rebirth himself when he is ripe for it. This requires Tat to calm the sensory activities of his physical body and to cleanse himself from the irrational chastisements
of matter. Tat is then greatly amazed because he thinks he has no more vices, because he does not recognize them in himself. Does he not comply with the generally applicable rules? He doesn’t hurt a fly, does he? Isn’t he an exemplary pupil who behaves as may be expected from him? Hermes then says that Tat has numerous and terrifying vices, which he later associates with the twelve signs of the zodiac referring to them as: ignorance, sorrow, intemperance, desire, injustice, greed, deceit, envy, guile, anger, thoughtlessness and malice.

Hermes does not list these ‘castigators’ to accuse Tat or to blame him for anything, for they concern vices that are present in all people since they are formed from parts of the earth and
even of the universe: from star dust. Now that Tat has decided to go an inner path, it is essential that he becomes aware of the vices that live within him. He might well be in control of them, but again and again they subtly express themselves, so subtly, that he usually isn’t even aware of them.

When we experience and suffer our own vices, our natural tendency is to tackle and fight them. Of course certain results can be achieved with this attitude, but the cause is not removed. When certain vices are controlled, other vices resurface. Such methods, which progress from the ego, are not in accordance with the gnostic path: we cannot nullify our ego with our ego. We need to recognize and acknowledge our castigators of chastisement and make room for the Light to neutralize them. In a symbolic form this is beautifully expressed in paragraph 83 of The Gospel of Philip.

The root of evil

‘Let each one of us dig down after the root of evil which is within one, and let one pluck it out of ones heart from the root. It will be plucked out if we recognize it. But if we are ignorant of it, it takes root in us and produces its fruit in our heart. It masters us. It takes us captive, to make us do what we do not want; and what we do want we do not do. It is powerful because we have not recognized it. While it exists it is active’ (The Gospel of Philip 83).

When the root of evil is brought to light within you, so when you become aware and allow light forces to start circulating within you, then your natural self-preserving barriers dissolve. Such purifications by what is called ‘the living water’ do not happen overnight; it concerns a process of many years. It is not difficult to accomplish that process in itself, because it is mainly about listening to and following the inner voice. If as a result of an inner touch you make room for the Other in you and pay attention to it, the immortal man will express itself more and more powerfully within you so that your mortal personality is less and less controlled by self-maintaining obstacles, such as the urge to possess and the drive for power and ambition.

The person who has been touched inwardly becomes more clearly aware that there is an original and immortal one living within him. That is why Pymander, the indwelling spirit,
says to Hermes, who is in a state of contemplation, ‘Of all the creatures in nature, only man is dual, namely, mortal as to thebody and immortal as to the essential Man’ (Corpus Hermeticum

The classic seventeenth-century Rosicrucians therefore emphasized in their manifestos that man is a microcosm, a cosmos (that is: order or ornament), which is a reflection of the macrocosm. A manuscript from the thirteenth century with texts by Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) contains a drawing of the original, immortal man or Adam Kadmon, who envelops the mortal man (see image 9, left). The writings of this multifaceted, decisive and productive mystic clearly show that she intensively experienced the transformative effect of the spirit fire within herself (see, for example, hymn 10). We can say the same about the British physician, physicist and mystic Robert Fludd (1574-1637). The title page of his book shows a symbolic representation of man as a microcosm, including the four temperaments of man, the twelve signs of the zodiac and the spheres of the seven planets (see image 9, right).

As above so below
In the seventeenth century there was not yet a sharp distinction between what we now know as astronomy, astrology and astrosophy. All these forms of star wisdom were classified as sciences and arts. It was not until the enlightened eighteenth century that astrology and astrosophy were considered unscientific because they no longer fit in with the new paradigms of the evolving natural sciences. Astrology and astrosophy are largely based on symbolic thinking, on establishing and using corresponding aspects that exist between what happens in the macrocosm and in the microcosm, according to the hermetic principle: as above, so below.

Most astrologers agree that there is a relationship between the twelve signs of the zodiac and the seven classical planets, as shown in the ‘cosmogram’ in the left part of image 10, which
also shows which planets rule the seven major chakras of man. Chakras are energy transformers, invisible to the ordinary eyes; they form the connection between the etheric body
and the astral body of the human personality. They regulate the energetic household in such a way that all natural life processes can take place in the correct manner.

It is not necessary to be familiar with the functioning of the chakras in order to go the gnostic path, but some knowledge about them can contribute to a better understanding of the purification that takes place in a person who walks the gnostic path. Initially the chakras are of an energetic nature (mental, astral and etheric), but eventually, and sometimes very quickly, they also manifest themselves in the physical body in the form of changes in the brain, the serpent fire, the internal secretion, the nerve fluid and the blood.

In his book ‘The coming new man’   J. van Rijckenborgh has extensively described the process of renewal in a person who goes the gnostic path. That renewal begins with the budding of the rose, the awakening of the slumbering spiritual core of the heart of every human being: the spirit-spark. If the pilgrim pays sufficient attention to this new activity, then at some point the new soul can be born in the fourth cranial cavity of the head sanctuary, in the open space behind the frontal bone. A concentration of gnostic light forces arises there, which then descends into the left strand of the sympathetic nervous system, thereby purifying the activity of the chakras: first the brow chakra, then successively the throat chakra, the heart chakra, the solar plexus chakra, the sacral chakra and the root chakra.

This downward energy flow is similar to the decline in hell as mentioned in the apostolic creed. The light forces neutralize the karma that is for a large part located in the sacral plexus at the extremity of the spinal cord, which corresponds to the planet Saturn. When the karmic influences are neutralized – in biblical terms, when sins are forgiven – ascension to heaven follows. The stream of gnostic light force then rises up through the right strand of the sympathetic nervous system, thus committing the chakras to their high purpose, until eventually the seventh chakra, the crown chakra, is ignited and the person concerned can rightly be called the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

If we combine this general description with what Hermes says in the fourteenth book of the Corpus Hermeticum about the expulsion of the twelve castigators by the ten forces, we arrive at
the symbolic graphic representation in the right part of image 10.

The ten forces are the seven manifested rays of the Spirit – the Holy Seven Spirit of which the seven classical planets are a lower reflection – plus the three non-manifested rays of the Spirit of which the three mystery planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are a lower reflection. Together they are the ten Sephiroth that compose the tree of life from the Kabbalah

Through the activity of the ten forces or Sephiroth, the seven properties of the new human being develop. Hermes refers to them as: knowledge, joy, temperance, self-control, righteousness, magnanimity and truth. What matters now is that the gnostic person allows himself to be played as a musical instrument by the ten forces; he allows that he, as a righteous
man, praises the Lord with his ten-string instrument (Psalm 92:4). Hermes assures us that we are well able to endure the necessary purification processes as outlined if we are open to
warnings and reprimands.

‘Souls that have become foul and unclean in their very nature can be made bright again only by being plunged in misery, and remaining long in that condition, and undergoing it again and again.
How many times gold in which there is much alloy must be put into the fire again, before it comes forth pure and bright! How many times a bent rod must be heated in the fire, before it is made straight! How many times wheat must be passed through the sieve again, before the refuse that is mixed with it, and by which it is spoiled, is removed! And how many times defiled and rusted souls must undergo all manner of misery, before they recover right reason and are changed back to their
primal purity!
How much better is the sweetness of honey than the bitterness of aloes, no one can know unless he has tasted both …; and even so, the soul cannot know how much better is the sweetness of happiness than the bitterness of misery, unless it has tasted both, and thereby learnt to know both. How great is the difference between the man who scorns and rejects a thing after he has tried and tasted it, and the man who draws near to it for the first time, desiring to try and taste it’.
(Admonition of the Soul, Chapter 7)