Rosicrucian Writings Online


THE
THOUGHT OF THE MONTH

THE GREAT WHITE BROTHERHOOD
 
By THE IMPERATOR
[Ralph M. Lewis]
 
PART I
 
[From The Rosicrucian Digest January 1943]
 
 
ALL the sources of the wisdom which mankind cherishes and preserves are not known. Some still remain a challenging and intriguing mystery. The threads of much of our knowledge are lost in the obscurity of antiquity. We can rightly presume that it is time alone which conceals their beginnings from us. It is, however, more than strange that paralleling general events of the past, the causes of most of which are clearly indicated, are also certain "sudden appearances" of a new wisdom, that is, an elaborately developed system of thinking, and even sciences. Why, for example, are kings of thousands of years ago, their dynasties, their rise and fall in power, often precisely chronicled, and, a transcendental wisdom of the same era seems to have a spontaneous, unheralded, unexplained origin?
 
Men, as history relates, have been often so endowed Cosmically with inner vision and encyclopedic minds that they, as individuals, have become virtual fountains of wisdom from which virgin ideas flow. Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, Plato, and Aristotle, are but a few of these geniuses of antiquity. The world is content to accept them as the authors of that which they expounded, since in comparatively modern times there have been others who, as individuals, have also greatly advanced learning by their singular efforts and intelligence. Such revelations may be explained physiologically by saying that the individuals had a peculiar configuration of the cortical areas of their brains, a special grouping of their brain neurons. Mystically, on the other hand, they may be heralded as recipients of an intuitive knowledge, that is, that they were channels through which the Consciousness of God flowed, to mingle with their mortal minds. Nevertheless, revelation or intuition does not explain the mysterious initial appearance of a great wisdom had by a people.
 
Wisdom may be said to be an applied knowledge, a knowledge which has been refined by usage amounting to a skill. Wisdom, therefore, is not revealed but is developed over a period of time from concepts which, in their simple form, may have originally flashed into the consciousness of man. There are numerous examples of such wisdom appearing like bright stars on the horizon of those civilizations which history records. However, such learning did not drop from heaven. Men somewhere, at some time, by the sweat of their brows, unearthed it in human experience, no matter how sudden its apparent appearance. It may have taken centuries or even ages to develop it to the degree of perfection it had when it first came to the attention of the masses of men. During such an interim, it was either secreted from most men, or else it was lost through some cataclysmic upheaval, to be rediscovered and disclosed in its perfected whole. Obviously, profane or general history knows not the source of such wisdom, or it would be factually related.
 
To cite a specific example, the Great Pyramid of Gizeh, generally conceded to have been erected during the reign of Pharaoh Cheops about 2900 B. C., is not alone a stupendous edifice but a monument, as well, to a tremendous learning possessed by its builders. It is, we may say, a symposium of numerous arts and sciences. It reveals, in its engineering and its precise measurements, a masterful knowledge of mathematics and of physics. Further, the location, or rather its orientation in relation to the land surface of the earth, shows a knowledge of the geography of the earth far beyond the borders of Egypt. Since it is also contended, with merit, that the apex of the Pyramid was used for astronomical observation, that then is one more application of the wisdom its great mass represents.
 
Any school boy knows that the Egyptians are renowned for their learning in antiquity, but what is not often realized is that less than a century and a half before the Great Pyramid of Gizeh was begun, many of the arts and sciences used in its construction, and which it symbolizes, were unknown. There are no evidences that, 150 years before, the Egyptians had any knowledge of masonry which permitted them to quarry the hard stone, such as that of which the Great Pyramid was constructed, nor are there evidences of the variety of tools and instruments needed for such construction. Further, the precise exactitude as found in the measurements of the Great Pyramid is not to be found in any other structures previously erected. Certainly if higher mathematics was known previously, to the extent that it was commonly used in the construction of the Great Pyramid, it would have been employed in other enterprises.
 
It is not explanatory to state that such knowledge could have been conceived within the period of a century and a half preceding the Great Pyramid, because we have been able to accomplish seeming miracles in a like time during our period. All that we have and are now doing today is founded upon those basic principles or points of knowledge that have come down to us. Certainly we will admit that it is easier to evolve the use of fractions in arithmetic from simple addition and multiplication than it is or must have been to conceive and develop arithmetic from a very beginning. It is far easier, for further example, to be able to expand into a beautiful literature from a simple vocabulary than to begin to relate human ideas to vocal sounds for the first time. It was, therefore, impossible for the Egyptians to have conceived and developed the knowledge and wisdom employed in the building of the Great Pyramid in 150 years.
 
Such wisdom must have spread to Egypt at that time from some remote land, or was released in Egypt in that period by whoever was preserving it from a distant past. If it came from some other area of the world, any achievements there, the result of it, must have been destroyed or remnants of such a great culture would be known to us today, and it would far antedate Egyptian civilization. That such wisdom may have survived the complete destruction by nature of a civilization and a land in which it prevailed, has been a persistent legend for centuries, with increasing possibilities of its becoming fact in the near future. Not only did Plato in his dialogues refer to a land beyond the "Pillars of Hercules" that sank beneath the sea, and of which Solon was said to have been informed by Egyptian priests, but the ancient Egyptians themselves in their writings made reference to such a strange land. In a hieroglyphic inscription that has come to light is a tale thousands of years old, relating how an ancient mariner, upon becoming lost at sea, finally came upon a remote land far to the East and in a great sea. Upon it were a strange people possessing great wealth and marvelous achievements.
 
However, wherever such great wisdom may have originated, it is certain that those who knew it and were accustomed to it would make every sacrifice to preserve it. Men may be diverse in character and in many things of which they and their lives are composed, but there is usually something, some influence or interest, that will bind them into groups. Love of such wisdom, and the desire to preserve it, would be a bond. Moreover, they would revel in expounding it. They would thus be inclined to exclude themselves from the profane, disinterested world, and build themselves an environment conducive to their great love, and there work in an atmosphere of culture.
 
Such a place for such a society or brotherhood of men has often been an ideal as well as a fact in history. Sir Francis Bacon in his book "The New Atlantis" refers to a "House of Wisdom" on a remote island where thinkers congregated in secrecy to dedicate themselves to the search for truth and the furtherance of knowledge. In the "Fama Fraternitatis," great historical epistle of the Rosicrucians, the allegorical legend therein relates that Christian Rosenkreutz and his associates erected a "Domus Spiritus Sancti" (House of Holy Spirit) in which they could elaborate on and prepare for dissemination the knowledge which they had acquired in their journey eastward. Consequently, it is not just presumption to say that this wisdom reached Egypt in some enigmatic way, and was cloistered by a brotherhood, to be used when it could give the greatest impetus to mankind.
 
The Hebrews have such a tradition, and in fact, an actual literary work which they profess is of that secret wisdom. It is known as the Kabbalah. Kabbalah is a Hebrew word meaning "tradition." There still are a great many among the Hebrews who maintain that beside the written law, the Bible, or the spoken law, the Talmud and Midrash, the Hebrews also possessed an equally divine and secret teaching of great antiquity. Such teaching must never be written down or spoken except to those initiated. It is declared by them that the Lord told Moses, "These things shalt thou disclose, and these shalt thou hide." The Kabbalah, therefore, is to them the voice of the secret wisdom. It may strain the credulity of some to believe that God imparted such wisdom direct from Moses; but that the ancient Hebrews were a repository for such a secret wisdom is not to be disputed, and the true Kabbalah is excellent evidence.
 
The Kabbalah, during the middle ages, was perverted into a gibberish of symbols and words purporting to give man some magical control of nature, the power to perform miracles, in fact. Even today, much of what is issued as the Kabbalah is of that nature. However, the main doctrines of the true Kabbalah attempt to explain the relation of God to His world. It may be emphatically said that the authentic Kabbalah is a work of philosophy trying to explain the origin of things. The oldest book of the Kabbalah is the "Sepher Yetzirah" or Book of Creation. It is said that its author, that is, its compiler really, was Abraham. There is no reason to doubt this, since so many of the Hebrew legends that have persisted have eventually been corroborated by archaeological discoveries.
 
The most important Kabbalah book which seeks to explain the secret wisdom is the "Sepher Dizeniantha," the Book of Concealed Mystery. It opens with the words, "This is the book of the equilibrium of balance." Philosophically, this means that the work seeks to reconcile the contraries, to harmonize the differences between the various conditions in nature or within man, thereby producing harmony. Equilibrium or balance is, after all, a mitigating of imposing stresses or strains, and in balance is found perfect living and understanding. There is also reason to believe that this secret wisdom of the Hebrews emanated from the same source as that possessed by the Egyptians. However, the Hebrews emphasized certain aspects of it to those whom they initiated in their brotherhood.
 
Among the Israelites the belief prevailed that before the conquest of Palestine, all their peoples, their tribes were slaves in Egypt until freed by Moses. However, this is a mooted question. In fact, it is possible that some of the tribes were never in Egypt. The renowned twelve tribes fall into four groups. They are severally connected by descent from four women to whom they traced their ancestry. These are the Leah group, the Rachael group, Zilpah (she being Leah's handmaiden), and the Bilhah group (the latter being Rachael's handmaiden).
 
According to Biblical literature and historical fact, after the fall of Israel, Shalmaneser, a king of Assyria, transported the majority of the inhabitants to small towns in Media, the people of which were the progenitors of the Persians. With these tribes went their customs and beliefs. In such an enforced migration were members of the brotherhood who preserved within their consciousness the concealed mysteries, possibly little of which had at that time been reduced to writing. According to one rabbinical writer, some tribes were placed in the desert on the way to Media near the Red Sea. However, it has since been established that confusion between Ethiopia and India existed in the minds of some ancient writers and geographers.
 
Tradition relates that some of the tribes were lost, and some found their way into India and located on the banks of the Ganges. One early Christian writer journeyed into India, claiming to have reached the river Sambation. There, he relates, he found a number of Jews who dressed in silk and purple. They were ruled by seven kings, and lived a most orderly and cultured existence, possessing an unusual knowledge. However, the river Sambation often referred to in rabbinical literature, appears to be a myth. There is no exact location of it, and in such tales it has been placed in areas far remote from each other. It is undoubtedly an allegory representing a line of transition, a change in place and in thought, just as we today use the phrase, "Crossing the Threshold of the future." Pliny, ancient historian, said the Sambation ran for six days and stopped on the seventh, giving further evidence that it was a symbolism of some kind.
 
Native Afghans, nevertheless, identify themselves with the lost ten tribes. They declare that Nebuchadnezzar, Chaldean king who destroyed Jerusalem, banished them into the mountains of that region. They further state that they maintained a correspondence with the Arabian Jews. Ethnologists point out their markedly Jewish appearance. It must also be mentioned that the Mohammedans recognize the claims of the Afghans that they are descendants from the Israelites. Investigations also tend to prove that high-class Hindus, including all Buddhists, are descendants of the Sythians, one of the ten lost tribes. Buddhism, according to some very early reports, is but a fraudulent development of Old Testament doctrines, and an esoteric wisdom brought to India by some of the ten tribes. It is interesting to further note that the Kareens of Burma, because of their Jewish appearance and their name for God ("Ywwah"), are identified with the lost tribes as well.
 
According to further arcane records, slowly some of the wandering tribes migrated northeastward from India into the mountain fastness and thence across the desert wastes of China, and over the frozen land of Siberia to the Bering Sea. There, ancient accounts relate, they then crossed from Asia at that point to North America. Slowly they then passed down the coasts of the Western World, some permanently locating in various regions, to eventually reach the Andes of South America. It is held that they formed the early civilizations of the Western World, such as the Toltecan, Mayan, Aztec, and Incan.
 
Early Spanish travellers claimed that in Peru they met natives who recited the "Shema" (short passages from the Pentateuch) in Hebrew, and who said through an interpreter that they were Israelites descended from the tribe Reuben. Another fact often pointed out to corroborate the relationship of the Incan religion to the religious customs of the Israelites is that the Incan high priests only were allowed to enter the innermost holy temple. This custom, however, it can be easily seen, might have originated in a logical manner with a people and have no direct connection with the religious customs of any other. The more sacred the precincts of a temple, the more admittance to it would be confined to just those who ministered to the spiritual needs of a people, namely, the priests. However, even William Penn concurred with the opinion that the American Indians were descendants of the lost tribes.
 

(To Be Continued)
  

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