In 1863, T. H. Huxley published Man’s Place in Nature to demonstrate that man is but an animal lacking any higher or transcendent quality.
Microcosm and Macrocosm
Valentin Tomberg explains that “initiation” properly means “knowledge of the beginning”. This implies that there are actually two initiations:
- Hermetic Initiation is the conscious experience of the initial microcosmic state.
- Pythagorean Initiation is the conscious experience of the initial macrocosmic state
Hermetic initiation is achieved when the initiate descends into the depths of the human being, i.e., becomes aware of himself as the image and likeness of God, as the Intellect. This requires an alchemical transformation, i.e., a real change of substance.
Pythagorean initiation is achieved by a “rapture”, a going out of oneself (rather than within), so that the macrocosmic, or heavenly, layers reveal themselves. The initiate becomes conscious of the musical and mathematical structure of the macrocosm.
The Natural Law of Life
In order to get to the beginning, the initiate must start from his present position. Therefore, the initiate studies the inner structure of consciousness in order to penetrate to the beginning (i.e., Eden). We also need to study the structure of the universe and man’s place in it, in order to transcend it (i.e., Paradise). Unlike profane cosmology which studies the quantitative properties of the objects in relation to each other, esoteric cosmology describes the universe qualitatively, as it relates to consciousness.
This is what Boris Mouravieff tries to do, by drawing on the resources of the Western Tradition. Because of the dual situation, man’s existence has two primary purposes:
- As part of the whole, he serves the aims of the cosmos.
- As an isolated individual, he can pursue his own aims.
The General Law refers to the cosmic forces that tend to keep man in his place in nature, that is, as part of organic life on earth, the same as the plants and animals. This is what makes Huxley’s thesis plausible, even “obvious” to educated men of our day. This is the result of the forgetting of Being, i.e., that the natural world is one link in a Chain of Being.
Examples of the General Law:
- Hunger: the toil necessary to assure our subsistence, not to mention the satisfaction of other desires.
- Sex: sexual instinct and its consequences in procreation and parenthood.
- Fear: fear of death, injury, destitution, etc.
Such motivations take up most, if not all, of man’s time and energy. A dispassionate and objective search for truth, the very definition of Intelligence, becomes nearly impossible. On the contrary, the definition of intelligence becomes inverted to mean that the man who is most successful in addressing these aspects of the General Law is regarded as the most intelligent.
Hence, the goals of achieving financial security, raising a family, becoming healthy, and the like, are regarded as the most important. Even religious sensibilities and political opinions are oriented primarily to those goals. I don’t think I need to provide specific examples as they are so commonplace; on the contrary, it would be difficult to provide examples from politics and religion of achieving higher goals.
In the scheme of nature, life becomes an incessant series of minor battles:
- Seeking the pleasant while avoiding the unpleasant
- Loving what feels good and hating what feels bad
- Desire followed by delight at its satisfaction or frustration
- Fear of the worst while hoping for the best
The life of bourgeois happiness is summed up in winning those battles. Nevertheless, there are still occasions for heroic actions, since life presents so many challenges.
- It takes courage to face up to and overcome difficult situations
- The hope of success overcomes the fear of failure
Sometimes boundary situations may be so overwhelming, that a man or woman becomes aware of something higher. For them, exoteric religion may be the vehicle for transcendence.
Now this situation is entirely lawful, since if everyone escaped from the General Law, it would mean the end of the world. That is why esoterism is only for the few who are both capable of understanding its principles and have the opportunity to pursue it.
Macrocosmic initiation is the realization that the natural life is not the whole story. The human being is not only natural but is also a person, transcending nature. The notion that the natural world is all that exists is considered “realistic”. Success is measured in the satisfaction of desires and the reduction in the causes of fear. This is considered “life affirming” (although not necessarily in the Nietzschean sense) in opposition to the “life denying” attitude of ascetical practices to minimize the impact of the forces of the General Law.
If survival is the goal of the natural life, then salvation and liberation are the goals of a higher life. Frithjof Schuon, expanding on Rene Guenon, gives us the examples of the Noble Man and the Holy Man as the fulfillment of the latter two goals.
The Noble Man
The noble man is one who dominates himself. The noble man is one who masters himself and loves to master himself; the base man is one who does not master himself and shrinks in horror from mastering himself. The noble man always maintains himself at the centre; he never loses sight of the symbol, the spiritual gift of things, the sign of God, a gratitude that is both ascending and radiating. The noble man is naturally detached from mean things, sometimes against his own interests; and he is naturally generous through greatness of soul. [Esoterism as Principle and as Way]
The Holy Man
Transcending oneself: this is the great imperative of the human condition; and there is another that anticipates it and at the same time prolongs it: dominating oneself. The noble man is one who dominates himself; the holy man is one who transcends himself. Nobility and holiness are the imperatives of the human state.
Intelligence, since it distinguishes, has the faculty of perceiving proportions. The spiritual man integrates these proportions into his will, into his soul and into his life. All defects manifest a lack of proportion; they are errors that are lived.
To be spiritual means not to deny with one’s ‘being’ what one affirms with one’s ‘knowledge’, that is to say, what is accepted by the intelligence. Truth lived: incorruptibility and generosity. [Islam and The Destiny of Man]
To be followed up with the Ray of Creation.