This is part 2 of our review of The Cosmic Revelation by Bede Griffiths.
Griffiths next tries to relate the Vedic Revelation to Biblical Revelation. Biblical history is punctuated with a series of covenants. The first one was God’s covenant with Adam, which just means “man”. Since God was revealed to all mankind, Griffiths calls it the Cosmic Covenant. It origin is in Paradise, which is that state where man is in harmony with (1) nature and (2) God.
This harmony has been broken. For example, ecological issues reflect the disharmony of man with nature. Wars, crime, conflict, etc., is the lack of harmony of man with man. Finally, there the communion with God has been lost. The loss of the primordial harmony is called Original Sin. Salvation, then, is the restoration of that primordial harmony.
The next covenant was with Noah, from whose descendants all the nations of the world arose. As the father of mankind, this was a re-expression of the Cosmic Covenant. Thus, all the valid Traditions are rooted in that covenant. There are righteous pagans in the Bible, such as Enoch.
Griffiths then turns to Melchizedek, the pagan priest and king of Salem. In his conversation with Abraham, Melchizedek appeals to the “most high God, the creator of heaven and earth.” Griffiths takes this to mean that there was a revelation to the pagans, specifically mentioning the Amerindians and the Hindus. He makes the interesting point that Christ was a priest in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Hebrew priests starting with Aaron.
Griffiths provides scriptural support for this claim. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we read that there are two sources of revelation to the pagans.
- The creation of the world. Paul writes, “His invisible nature is made known by the visible things He has made.” (Romans 1:20)
- Within the Heart of man. Again, Paul writes, “The Pagans who have not the law of Moses have a law written in their hearts: their conscience accusing or perhaps excusing them until the day when God will judge the world by Jesus Christ.” (Romans 2:14)
In other words, these are the revelations of the macrocosm and the microcosm, and are relatable to the Pythagorean and Hermetic initiations described by Valentin Tomberg in Letter VI.
The Sky Father
Early man had not acquired the habit of abstract thought, as his mode of thinking was more intuitive. As was pointed out earlier, he saw the physical, the psychological, and the spiritual worlds in their integrated wholeness. Mircea Eliade, in Patterns of Comparative Religion, shows how primitive man could come to an almost total understanding of God simply by looking at the sky. Griffiths summarizes it this way:
Consequently, when he [early man] looked up at the sky, the sky was a revelation to him. It was not merely the physical phenomenon which we see; to him the sky had a psychological meaning and a spiritual meaning. It revealed the creator present in his creation.
Therefore, there are several things to be intuited.
- The sky is vast and infinitely above us. This is a revelation of God.
- The sky has no apparent limit, unlike all other objects we experience. The sky is all-embracing, without limit, revealing the idea of infinity.
- Everything in the world is changing. Life arises and dies, the sun rises and sets, the seasons change, etc. Yet the sky is unchanging, just like God.
- There is an order in the sky, so by analogy there is a Cosmic Order.
Griffiths gives examples of how the image of God as immense, infinite, eternal, the source of order, providence and fear, arises, based on the experience of nature (e.g., rain -> providence, thunder -> fear). We have discussed several times the method of Hermetic meditation in order to recover that primordial state. Also, learn to use the analogy of being to see the connectedness between the physical, psychological, and spiritual worlds.
The Vedas mention the ancient God “Dyaus Pita”, or literally “Sky Father”. In Greek that becomes “Zeus Pater”, then in Latin, “Dios Pater”, or “Jupiter”. Hence we see, through philology, how the Hyperborean migrations related to each other. So, when Jesus starts his prayer with “Our Father in the Sky”, we see a reference to that most ancient revelation. (“Heaven” simply means “sky”; this is clearer in other languages.)
Angels and Cosmic Powers
Although our world conception has been devitalized in the modern world through the materialization of our ideas of heaven and earth, as late as the Middle Ages, men believed that God ruled the world through the angels, or “cosmic powers”. The angels were present in all creation, especially the stars, sun, moon, and the “host of heaven.” “The sky was not simply a material thing, it was the abode of the gods, the manifestation of the Supreme Spirit, the Supreme Father, who ruled over all.” Griffiths emphasizes that we have not “progressed” beyond that understanding; rather, the modern view is actually a devolution. He then uses the following example from Hinduism, the highest expression of the cosmic revelation.
There we have the worship of God through the power of nature. The devas, literally “the shining ones,” are these cosmic powers manifesting themselves in the whole creation. In Hinduism the supreme Reality is known as Brahman, and this Brahman, the One Being, manifests himself in the devas, the gods, the powers which rule the creation.
Hence, there is the hierarchy, or chain, of Being just as the Medievals believed. This hierarchy starts with the Supreme Being who transcends all, then the devas, the powers of nature, man with intelligence and sense, and finally the world below him. The difference is that this understanding has been lost in the West.
Griffiths next goes into some detail about the Hindu mode of worship. Apparently his order developed what he calls the “Indian rite” of the mass. First, water is used to symbolize purification. Then there is the bread and wine, which represent the fruits of the earth and the work of human hands. Flowers are place around them to signify that the sacrifice is at the centre of the universe. Then they incense the gifts and wave fire as the flame of burning camphor. Christ, then, is the sacrifice of the whole creation to the Father.
The Presence of God
Griffiths offers a helpful interpretation of the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, as three forms of God. Vishnu as preserver pervades the whole universe. Thomas Aquinas describes how God is in creation this way:
- “God is in the whole creation by His power, because He sustains everything by his power.” The Hindus call this power “Shakti”.
- Since there is no “spatial” component in God, He does no exercise his power at a distance. Hence, he is in everything by His Presence. But not in the sense that everything is a “part” of God, who has no parts. Rather, He is present in His essence.
Once again, we have lost this sense of the presence of God, as totally pervaded by God. Several years ago, a woman told me she envisaged God as like a “gas”; of course, that is simplistic yet I was struck at the time that it indicated some level of understanding of that pervading presence.
The Triple Character of God
Griffiths lists these as the triple character in God:
- Nirguna Brahman. That is without qualities, without attributes, beyond everything which can be conceived.
- Saguna Brahman. Goa with attributes, conceived as Creator, Lord, Saviour.
- Atman. This is God dwelling in each person as his own inner spirit.
In Christian terms, the first is the Father, the Source, the Beyond (Nirguna Brahman). That Father manifests Himself in the Son, or the Word, the self-manifestation of God (Saguna Brahman). Finally God is present in man’s innermost sprit, the Spirit go God (Atman).
Griffiths is not trying to convert anyone to Hinduism, or a crypto-Hinduism, but rather he uses it as a tool to recover our own past.