The Sabian Orientation
The Invisible Fellowship
In addition to the written record of the occult tradition there is also the oral, or that which cannot take on the character of history or scientific report because on the one hand there is a lack of common and pertinent experience in which to anchor the communication and because on the other there is no possibility of normal verification for the facts involved. Thanks to its special nature the oral tradition has come to be known as occult knowledge. It frequently is unreliable, since there are inescapable accretions or distortions from time to time, but its contribution may be very wonderful in view of its unlimited freedom from censorship at the hands of unimaginative and entrenched prejudice. The resurgence of Spiritualism in the past century has encouraged a flood of psychically derived materials, and has built up a superficial and spurious authority for the mass of unverified detail added to the unwritten account of arcane developments and their spiritual opportunity. The repetition of incidents and ideas of monotonous similarity has created a false sense of confidence in what the single mind obtains by way of psychic outreach through its unaided resources. Existing of their own weight the notions have pyramided themselves and exhibited the phenomenon common in creative fiction when a writer feels that his story actually is writing itself. All real discrimination is destroyed, and it becomes impossible to distinguish a symbolical from a literal significance. Myth comes to be taken very naïvely, or as an actual report of events. This development has hurt the truly valid claims of Western occultism for serious consideration in the modern world.
Under the Solar Mysteries there must be a ramification out into verifiable human experience in direct proportion to every inreaching participation in higher or essentially spiritual realization. Otherwise the consciousness will be quick to lose itself in its own disconnections or in the pyramiding of its illusions of the moment. For any genuine occult work there must be the ecclesia or assembly of the many for the sake of the growth and development of each one among them. It was in the light of this inescapable necessity that the Sabian ideal of the present generation had to become a group rather than an individual effort, once its author approached the limits of his personal outspread in gaining the needed verification of his esoteric insights. And by the same token the Sabian aspirant must work in quadrangles at the proper stage in his seeking, and must have a healing ministry or a task out in the world at the next point in his ultimate self-fulfillment. With this background of understanding it is possible to pick up an important thread of Solar Mystery orientation.
Once upon a time—as a fairy tale begins, and as any story should start if it comes from purely occult sources and in consequence lacks historical verification in any conventional sense—there was a congenial group of young priests who served the Memphite hierarchy in lower Egypt. In their generation an Atlantean occultism was widespread, not only across northern Africa but through the Mesopotamian lands where it was due to have a significant ripening and on over the Indus where it had met the gradual sweep westward of the emerging and vital masses of the new or Aryan root race. And it seems that these neophytes of the great temple had developed a taste for sitting at the river's edge and there discussing philosophical points. They were quite unaware of the fact that they were rushing in where the angels would fear to tread. Metaphysical speculation was a rarity at any point on the globe, possibly because the languages of some four or more millenniums before Christ did not facilitate anything of the sort. But in the fresh enthusiasm of their years they had become sensitive to a difficulty of the greatest psychological import. Indeed and in time they succeeded in making it articulate enough to interest some of their elders in their discussions, and to draw on the oral or nonverbal tradition which even then was far from inconsiderable in its resources.
For today's reader the matter necessarily must be put in words and forms of the late second millennium after Christ. Briefly they had come to realize that man is a generalizing animal perhaps above all else but yet lives his span so quickly, and comes to his end with so complete a cancellation of whatever substance or capacity of generalized realization he has built up within himself, that what should be his real nature has often had no chance to become any part of him at all. Superficially of course, and in every age, it is a commonplace for an individual to find himself facing death at just about the point when he has learned to live. And in the case of those equipped to serve their time and generation to an extent that may happen but once in a century or so it would appear a senseless waste. The younger participants in the talks at Memphis felt the challenge growing on them slowly. They felt a compulsion to do something about this.
To many it truly will seem a fairy tale that some six thousand years ago there was not even the slightest notion of any survival of personal consciousness after death, or for that matter the faintest conception whatsoever on any individual's part that he of and in himself actually was an entity in his own right. He was his family or his kind, and he acted in and of them at all points. In the languages then spoken there was no way to think or speak of an inner self as something discrete or as capable of any sort of introspection that people could know today. Concepts of things could not be put together creatively or imaginatively because there was no way of taking them apart in the mental operations to be found in Atlantis and its colonial expansion. There was a high civilization at times, but always as a class-structured edifice of services directed upward by what now would be identified as tyranny because it was in no way interested to share the least of rewards in a downgoing compassion. Many forces of nature and powers of the living organism were known and harnessed, but there was not the faintest flicker of the human ingenuity released when abstractions can be manipulated in their own context. Generalization did not begin with Atlantean experience, according to the occult tradition and its account of the evolution of the mind known to modern psychology. Instead it was a later Aryan light that brought the new realizations, and in the meanwhile made them possible in a sort of spiritual anticipation as the savage hordes of greater potential began to spill out of the Asian highlands.
As the oral tradition goes the young priests, in their free exchange of insights by the river, began to grapple with the vision of an individual survival and with the need of the race as a whole to have a better lot than the satisfaction of its animality or the cultivation of an intensified debauchery. It was beyond these Atlantean minds to realize that destiny must be the conscious creation of man if it is to be something that really can be said to be his, rather than something he merely suffers. But there was the sense of an unrealized and actually immortal potential. Therefore, as a step toward understanding the epochal project inaugurated at that time in the Nile valley, it may be well to bring the consideration back to the twentieth century and to an analysis of the four possible types of immortality.
First is the impersonal immortality carried to its uttermost extreme in popular versions of Oriental philosophy. Everything is of the basic reality from which it has come through the universal emanation, and in time it will return to its origin in a completion of the cycle of its being. In man there is by this conception a divine spark around which his incarnations are formed and dissolved, and in final course the infinite speck of light that has established his existence will have rejoined the eternal flame. Meanwhile all that has participated in his experience has gone back to its own in similar fashion. Anything that can be said to be the individual in particular definition is transient and worthless in ultimate perspective. Hence it detaches itself and slips away quite properly, even as it has been gathered and held in possession in equally casual fashion. Man as taken in contrast with God is nothing, except in terms of what he derives from God, and at the end it is right that he should return it all to God and thereupon be fulfilled in his nothingness. The rewards of life come from an obedience to the negations by which all idea of good is surrendered to that splendid completeness of a total good in which only itself can share.
This point of view is the naïve recognition of self as uncompromisingly part and parcel of an all-self, and the rejection of every contrary notion as an invitation to the pain of not-belonging or to the pyramiding of bitter frustrations. With the individual who does not rationalize it philosophically it is the desire to surrender, or what is dramatized tellingly by Sigmund Freud in his later work under the figure of Thanatos in the Greek myths. In simplest manifestation it is craving for death or at least for exemption from further self-effort. It is the acceptance of end in an assimilation of personal completions to some total climax of reality. In a paradoxical sort of fashion it is the set of mind, relative to its own nature and continuity, that can be said to be the false rationalization of the earlier and mindless root races of man. In its more sophisticated aspect, as it survives into the epochs where mind comes into manifestation, it is that lean on the infinite regression in the thinking process against which a seeker under the Solar Mysteries is cautioned more than any other one fallacy. In everyday or practical life it is the wish of the individual to return to the womb, or to be assured in the possession of an essentially absolute security. In these aspects the conception does man a very great disservice, as should be obvious enough.
When seen as a constructive contribution to effective self-realization the concept of impersonal immortality is the acceptance of a complete integrity for everything that is, thanks to everything's own act of continuity through the total cycle of its existence, and a consequent insistence on the all-important principle of myob or the minding of one's own business along with a rigorous determination to permit all else to mind its own as well. It is the power at the root of the passive resistance employed by Mahatma Gandhi and his followers to win India's independence, or of the sanction that all man-made law must have if it is to be enforceable. In the age and culture to which the young priests of Memphis belonged some six millenniums ago it was the prevailing if wholly subconscious realization of itself by human mentality. In its slow and over-all maturation the mind potential had yet to become individualized for any but the most exceptional person. In the terms of Sabian keywords the first of the four types of illimitable reality can perhaps best be described for today's purposes as the immortality of content or of substance.
The second of the four types is the biological immortality that alone had any actuality in human experience at the threshold of the present or Aryan root race. The conception has long been dramatized for all men through the ancestor worship found in the earliest roots of practically every religion. The veneration of the blood line is the first possible form of loyalty to the clan, and for ages the patriarchal society was the only successful form of organization for the human community. Sometimes the development was matriarchal, but whether with masculine or feminine dominance both privilege and obligation were seated in the inheritance. Selfhood was the genetic integrity that not only could demonstrate itself from infancy to senility but that also could offer a broader satisfaction for the instincts and passions demanding their expression without benefit of more than very rudimentary reasoning capacity. The fulfillment of the individual through the body's ability to reproduce itself was brought to particular historical emphasis in the Hebrew faith, in which the need for male issue to perpetuate the line led to such an idea as the levirate requirement that a man give a deceased brother a son by the proxy impregnation of the widow. Important to Christianity is the fact that out of the sense of a necessity for this continuity in the more personal elements of being, such as have created and preserved the family solidarity or tribal cohesiveness for so long, has come the identification of deity as a father in the over-all or ideal dimension of human well-being.
Nature worship, or the acceptance of the continuousness of life in the figure of a corresponding divine motherhood, has presented the same insight of the necessity that existence be cradled in continuity if there is to be any actuality of selfhood. On this side of the coin, however, the realization has turned to the extension of experience in spatial rather than temporal terms. As man could feel himself a participant in some pattern of relationship with the entities and objects surrounding him, even at a relatively mindless stage of evolution, he could act confidently in the business of being himself. The phenomenon is illustrated by children in parallel play, where rapprochement can be seen to develop through the operation of the imitative instinct. And yet it has not been until most recently that a Mary Baker Eddy could see with remarkable intuitive perception what Plato certainly had not been able to make clear more than two millenniums before, namely, that the mother principle is of the essence of God in an important fashion of its own. The idea involved at this point is simple, but none the less a difficulty because completely unfamiliar. Enunciated as a stark denial of reality to matter, it not only has outraged common sense but has made a false statement of itself.
A start toward understanding here is possible if it can be said that it is the embryo that establishes the womb in which it will be made manifest, as a literal fact no less true than the reverse relationship. Then perhaps the material world can be conceived as the handiwork of the Creator, not as He stands on the outside in a sense and commands it to come into being through a successiveness of cause and effect, but rather as a miracle of timeless cooperation with His creatures. The world's actual reality takes shape in an illimitable potentiality of itself as each of these creatures in its own absolute independence at core proceeds to dictate the nature of a personal milieu for its own particular outreaching. The general concordance so often mistaken for a cosmic order superimposed on the whole of creation from without thereupon is revealed as the godhead made manifest from within through the living or ever-adjusting matrix of the creativity available to all. It is Mother-God or nature as responsive to man beyond his fondest expectation, if he will but have it so. Deity thus becomes fulfillment as well as authority, and the distinction has little parallel to the division of labor represented by gender and seen in the superficial emphasis of matriarchal as in contrast with patriarchal. Man has long learned to know God through source and succession, and for long ages and through his ramification of experience in everyday vicissitudes he has learned also to recognize the powers of nature and perhaps indeed to worship them. But while he has grown to some achievement of spiritual liberation on the one side he has tended to cling to his bondage on the other.
The youthful Memphite priests of long ago would be fundamentally in sympathy with the biological immortality as a necessity for the health of a human society. They were close to the hieratic succession in the temple, and the authority of a superior who held office until death and ordained his successor with a laying on of hands. None the less their discussions at the river's edge had strengthened a realization that the transmission of a carefully preserved knowledge or wisdom individually from mind to mind as a spiritual birthright was an invitation to sterility of insight, and here again was a problem to be faced. Today an idle or pointless worship of the past has become a very obvious betrayal of the future. There are few who cannot realize that too great a dependence on established values and venerable symbols can cancel every quickening of life or actual realization of the present in its limitless opportunity and promise. Each man has a heritage that is ever the key to his character, and ever also a very rich endowment if only he brings it to account. This means a utilization of background, rather than any surrender to its compulsions. In consequence a fundamental requirement of the Solar Mysteries is the very genuine respect for personality, or an acceptance of the unimpeachable integrity of all personal roots in experience. The blood is the life, as the Hebrew scriptures explain with probably a very much more literal reference, and the line of life meanings and involvements the aspirant comes to treasure will be the measure of his illumination. In terms of the Sabian keywords there is here the immortality of the culture or of form.
The third of the four types is the social immortality that can be identified most usefully for the moment as the biological continuity of mind in the aspects of self-orientation and self-direction. According to a secular or materialistic point of view it is the ideal or rational ordering of things. It has its most effective nonoccult dramatization in the idea popularized by Isaac Newton through his statement that whatever he achieved was a result of standing on the shoulders of giants who had gone before him. In giving a further instrumentation to the living power or actual continuance of previous and exceptional contributions to human knowledge and culture he was providing an example of the occult doctrine of reincarnation as this has its general acceptance in essence if not in terminology, that is, he was demonstrating the continuity of individual achievement within the matrix of society. Of importance to the aspirant at this point is not the possible cyclic rebirth of a given personality from time to time, but rather the continuance of any or every type of particular activity or accomplishment through which any conscious entity must express its existence to have any recognizable or discrete manifestation.
Obligation and opportunity become the twin facets of conscious existence, with personal survival a relatively minor issue for the moment. Here is the basis for the psychological insights of the occult tradition. Its complementary doctrines of karma and dharma are its promulgation of the principles involved, with the one defining man's social involvement and the other his fidelity to selfhood. They emphasize the fact that man must establish and adjust his relationships with his fellows continually and with unlimited modification, whether he is pleased to do this or not. The aspirant comes to know the necessities of his initiations-to-be through a continual perfecting of skills and understanding for the sake of those with whom he may have his everyday contacts. As he achieves the constancy or certainty of self-realization, such as in its ultimate manifestation is his eternal character or universal being, he is both creating the shoulders on which others may stand and learning to hold them erect and steady. Meanwhile there are evils in this emphasis on the interdependencies among men from the delusions of importance that come from a premature or incompetent assimilation to self of the achievements and merits of others on to the insensate lust for power by which an individual will seek to assimilate even more of other reputation or capacity to the structure of his own immediate being. Out of unlimited frustrations likely to develop will come needlessly antisocial and perhaps even criminal acts with which every human society has to deal.
In the case of the young priests at Memphis toward the end of the Atlantean period it is probable that the experience with the compatibility of temple life was responsible very largely for the development of their insights and for the remarkable depth of their thoughts. While with all the warmth of their companionship in priestly dedication they had found no answer to the problem of a continuity in any personal consciousness beyond death they yet, through their exchange of ideas, had become very sensitive to the efficacy of a group awareness or of a continual sharing of realization. They had discovered that the communication of the arcane knowledge need not be all of one mind to another but instead could be of many thinkers in close association. They also must have seen that by working collectively to maintain the conscious insights they actually were creating a greater wisdom far beyond the powers of formulation or comprehension possessed by any single individual. Here could have been the seeds of modern scientific method, and very possibly the historical beginning of what occultists usually term the Great White Lodge. In any case there was a recognition of procedures followed to this day by the Brothers in the course of each of their incarnations. In terms of the Sabian keywords what here is brought to spiritual significance is the immortality of the potential or of activity.
The fourth of the four types is the personal immortality that has remained a highly esoteric conception despite all the efforts to explain it in everyday terms to long generations of spiritually-minded people. In consequence it has been recognized principally in the form of widespread and popular distortions. In Eastern religions and in much superficial Western occultism a literalistic notion of reincarnation brings an individual back to earth in endless life after life in a psychologically unchanging substance of himself, putting on and taking off a vehicle of flesh as a suit of clothes and ever suffering and causing others to suffer as he somehow is transformed from something he is into perhaps a better something he is not. The unrealized fallacy is in failing to remember that what a person is will always be a continuance of his characteristic actions and reactions, and that for these there must be the essentially unbroken experience of acting and reacting in that particular continuity. The seductive analogy of sleep is not pertinent, any more than of a lacuna in attention, since in those cases no destruction of the organism is involved. A new body is not the same and obviously never could be the same as a sustainment for an experience to be picked up just where it was dropped on this most literal of levels. And of course and by the same token there is not even the remotest possibility of an equally necessary reproduction of the context of personal expression that has conditioned it and been conditioned by it in turn. Any actuality of ordinary memory surviving from a past life requires the successive circumstances to be exceptionally repetitive as in the case of a child's early return. For this phenomenon, however, there is some evidence of convincing order.
Christianity in general has escaped the difficulties arising with the acceptance of a literalistic chain of rebirths for the everyday personality by refusing to admit that anything of the kind is possible. Unhappily problems of an equal or greater sort have been raised with the conception of a soul not only created out of nothing at the threshold of embodiment but yet endowed most illogically at death with an on-going in the hypothetical reality of a nonphysical world. The line usually drawn between a first existence in a tangible organic form and a later one of wholly transcendental nature is an overemphasis of the Cartesian dualism of flesh and spirit, and similarly the common belief that existence framed in matter or in everyday time-and-space relationships is fundamentally evil is a survival of Gnostic ideas. Here of course is the old notion that whatever is remote or different is better. The farther pastures are the greener. And despite whatever anything may be, it should be something else. In consequence it often is assumed that man need not take too much responsibility for the inadequacies of daily life.
Personal immortality is acceptance rather than surrender, however, or is the phenomenon of selection by conscious choice as a transcendence of what otherwise would be either inevitable act under compulsion or uncontrolled reaction through conditioning. It is in no way a product of birth. Rather it involves a continuousness of rebirth or a constant choosing of the facets of reality from which to be born again and again in a growing complex of opportunity. Death has no sting because by the same token, and as a result of equally free choice, the individual is dying out of this and that whenever usefulness comes to an end or whenever fulfillment no longer has its signature in worthy works. The beginning in the body and the departure from the flesh, in a given span of focus among men on a physical level, progressively seem a minor punctuation in what has been coming to be of the major import. The person is less and less himself in the commonplace perspective as he becomes supremely what he is in the undying view of the initiate. Everyday life defines him in his own terms, and finds him blessed or not in the years of his incarnation, but to himself as he is quickened within himself the definition is through that which endures far more in other lives than his own. This is the implication of the Servant Songs in Isaiah, and the heart of Solar Mysteries discipline through all the generations.
The impersonal illimitability of the first type of immortality may now perhaps be seen to be no more than a dramatization of the basic integrity of existence. This cosmic integrity instruments the necessary degree of infinite regression through which all things may retract into their undifferentiated potentials whenever they are dismissed from conscious experience, and through which also everything needful for any experiencing entity from least to highest evolvement is ever at hand for its use when it is incarnate in a knowable reality. Meanwhile man as a creative manifestation of consciousness forever finds himself always at a center of evolution or self-emanation in the complex of embodiment serving him, and this is his biological immortality in terms of his character. And no less does he discover himself at the point of convergence in his interests and affairs that similarly marks his social immortality, or brings the total of his skills and functional capacities to significance in his relationships with his fellows. It is this many-faceted orientation of himself in selfhood that is cradled at a focus of convenience in time and space, and that is framed in the cosmic totality made understandable in the occult tradition through the mathematical interrelations charted so brilliantly by the periods and worlds, the races and vehicles and the related insights. As the aspirant makes the esoteric realizations his own he loses every inhibition that might hold him unnecessarily to the passions and impulses of an earlier or mindless humanity. His personality is immortal because through the proper management of himself and his world he can be what he wants to be, do what he wants to do, go where he wants to go and have what he wants to have. This is the popular affirmation of self-potential in the Sabian presentation of the Solar Mysteries. In terms of the Sabian keywords the bringing of all divine potentialities so uncompromisingly to a core in self is an immortality of consciousness or of the absolute.
Where then is ultimate reality in the occult tradition? It is where it always has been, right at hand ready either (1) to use with profit to self and everybody else or (2) to be permitted to administer limitation and frustration.
What then has the occult tradition done to truth? Nothing, except to show that the mind's expectation may embrace all experience in a greater understanding.
And is God still given His proper place in the consideration by the occultist? Certainly, since His works are seen only as they are in full accord with His nature, and since His nature after all is known by men only as the knowing eliminates every possible separation or destructive self-centeredness among them.
As the story of the Memphite priests goes, it was in their old age when the great insight came to them. With the dawning of the new light in their reasoning they quickened to what would be so very obvious in afterview. If men in actuality are what they do, as must be true of everything ultimately, were not their actions and reactions really of their inner consciousness rather than of their outer flesh and its mechanisms of sense and surface reasoning? And if an immortal inwardness could be made possible in some fashion without the time-and-space embodiment and consequent fixities of orientation, would that not be the answer to the inescapable waste of thought and reflection that followed from the early cancellation of outer personality or essentially sensual awareness through physical death?
They had made the problem articulate through their agony of speculation. Now they could ask if the association together in the exercise of a common and higher realization could not somehow offer a species of substitute embodiment. In a sense they had been experiencing this very miracle of organic or creative communion in their unbroken meetings, and at times it had seemed to them that they were experiencing an aliveness of an initiate sort or something singularly independent of the bodies in which they held their individual focus of being. Within the periphery of their unified aspiration they were strangely at one, and this at-oneness might well become a new sort of physical vehicle. It could be perpetuated if a dedicated group of men such as themselves could undertake the task. It then could serve any personality of high or illuminated potentiality as a bridge from one incarnation to another.
With the recognition of the powers of a projective consciousness, whether in this or some other fashion, man achieved the idea of vicarious atonement and so of vicarious attainment as well. Abraham would give perhaps the first historical dramatization of the principle in its one aspect when he discovered he could offer up the lamb in lieu of his own son Isaac. Fifteen centuries or more later the whole world would be taught that any person permitting an unembodied and consciously immortal Jesus to dwell within him would partake of the magic of God's ever-single or necessarily-of-one and so only begetting. Today the conventional and ecclesiastical emphasis still remains on the one side of the coin, and stresses salvation or affirms the gain to the individual who enters into the consciousness of the Saviour. The avatar himself, however, pointed out that the gathering together of two or three in his name, that is, in recognition of his act of living immortally as the archetypal divine offspring, was a condition of his presence and so by implication and as a matter of necessity the means through which his conscious or personal continuance was instrumented. In this and perhaps most simply can be seen the nature and function of the invisible fellowship described in the light of the oral tradition of certain of its origins long millenniums ago. In modern occultism it preserves a historical continuity of the great Lodge of initiates, and under the Sabian administration of the Solar Mysteries and thus in more immediate compass it is shared with the seeker. But he first of all must be willing to dedicate himself to facilitating the vicarious embodiment of the Great Ones in this manner, as need and opportunity arise, and also and in doing so he must aspire to an ultimate and enduring contribution for which he may require such a service in turn.
The Arcane Instruction
Man's thoughts require language, and its symbols rise from the material and tangible living that begins for him with his birth and that has been and will continue to be anchored in the collective potentialities of all men. The thinking process is the very essence of power and self-fulfillment, and in consequence an unchanging truth to be recognized through the mind is conceived as that which in its gaining might well elevate man to God's stature. In the old myths it was necessary for divine intelligence to head off the ambitious human creature when there seemed a likelihood he would eat of the forbidden tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, or when he made his great challenge in the erection of the Tower of Babel. Actually, with his foundation in solid experience, there is no limit to the heights the seeker may reach.
The occult tradition has met the rational aspiration of mankind, arising as the root races evolved beyond their mindless beginnings, with the conception of an Eternal Wisdom. The functional if hardly literal changelessness of this is dramatized rather commonly by designating it the ancient wisdom and identifying its roots in early human speculation, or in a time when the mind's insights were not handicapped by the greater sophistication of later cultures. Moreover the backward view is able to maintain a better perspective, thanks to the remoteness of the prejudices and unessential side issues characterizing the prior ages during which the ideas were given their initial formulation. What is preserved for mankind in this fashion, whether in written or oral form, is not a body of information in any usual sense. It is not a compilation of principles and details of technical instruction such as can be gained through a process of attention and retained in memory through the language in which they are expressed. The words it is necessary to use are always involved too intimately in various segments of the culture with all the momentary or shifting distortions, and in consequence through the millenniums the arcane instruction has been not so much a proposition of verbal exposition as of a curious sort of incidental illustration.
With the development of the Solar Mysteries the Eternal Wisdom has been presented to the aspirant as primarily something in which he participates, and this not only is the mode of expression employed in the wording of the Sabian neophyte pledge but is the essence of the apparently haphazard way in which he is asked to browse through the lesson materials at the start of his Sabian affiliation. By participation is meant a contribution of knowing in equal measure to what is gained by way of occult insights. The content by which principles are given flesh and life is supplied by the seeker. The arcane knowledge is that which at all times is expanded beyond the delimitations of a time-and-space or physical world, and hence and also that which only in some literal context will have the definite substance or sharp statement of the sort demanded in modern education. When esoteric realizations are all dressed up with the trappings of erudition, or are crowded into neat formulas of magical pretense for a popular appeal, they are at once frozen into the crystallizations of the culture. Their broader scope or enduring reliability is lost, and occultism itself loses repute. What the aspirant gains ultimately under the Solar Mysteries is not a great mass of restricted information but rather a facility for manipulating or directing the components of experience. He is equipped to produce results precisely as he envisions them, and to apply the least of his efforts to worth-while end. Most simply the concern is with method as perfected through a discipline of mind or the process of initiation.
Arcane instruction in consequence cannot encourage any overbalanced attention to ideas, or the rational side of man's nature. Under Sabian auspices it is presented as at root the cabala, and in the great tradition a cabalistic competency is said to require the perfect mating of poetry and philosophy as such was exemplified in the life and works of Ibn Gabirol. Madame Blavatsky has given early and important testimony to the unique role of this eleventh-century thinker in the rise of Western occultism, and it is on his formulations that the Sabian project has put its more individual foundations. He ranks high among the world's poets, and in the light of his example the Sabian rituals have been given a basic lyrical emphasis through the wide variety of verse form employed. His Fons Vitae or Source of Life is coming to have increasing academic recognition for its contribution to general philosophy. His centralization of reality at the core of experience, making it ever a construct of the process of being, is the key to the whole shaping and refinement of Sabian realizations. In view of the cabalistic necessity the aspirant is asked to culture his capacity both to produce and to appreciate beauty in parallel to his development of the power of clear thinking.
The Sabian lessons are intricately cabalistic in the sense that their contents are ordered and their presentation tempered to cultivate a creative complementation of heart and head, or a blending of the senses and the reason into each other. Thus a student at length may become a true participant in the Eternal Wisdom. The newcomer, however, may be in a hurry to get to the goal, and thereupon find the materials hard beyond all endurance. Hence he has to be told that this follows only when he fails to employ them as directed, that is, from the start seeking an experience that builds on his own psychological resources. It is essential that he realize the real adventure of his quest very early, and thereby begin to catch the dramatic overtones of the ideas with which he has now begun to work. These are of the magic of the poetry, and a sensitiveness to them is strengthened through the rituals.
The general presentation of the Sabian materials follows two major modes of approach to the arcane knowledge. Both of these have been characteristic of the occult tradition through the ages, and not only are they equally effective but each provides an enlightening demonstration of the values to be found in the other. The first and most common of the procedures is the uncovering of hidden meanings and implications in the sacred texts and secular classics of the world. Writings that have come out of high inspiration and often exceptional genius at the beginning, and that have been preserved and usually reworked from time to time with at least an equivalent skill and appreciation as they gain a response from human hearts and minds over the generations and centuries, tend to establish themselves as an articulation of the racial mind. Thus they offer a means for rehearsing the venerable experience, or participating in the overtones of esoteric realization, in a way quite impossible through any mere verbal communication. A large part of the some three thousand Sabian lessons expound and illustrate the procedure. They provide the aspirant with an immense breadth of application, and so every chance for a personal quickening unconditioned by the current prejudices. His orientation is in a span of many millenniums.
The second and parallel approach to the Eternal Wisdom in a modern Western occultism is more on the spatial side, and is a participation in the process through which the sacred scriptures and secular classics have an origin in the first place. In the less common instance it is wholly original authorship, such as can have valid recognition only in long afterview, but for the major part it is a contemporary reworking of texts for a better or more convenient dramatization of meanings and implications. The reclothing of insights in a vernacular tongue helps facilitate a deepened present experience with the enduring realizations that actually constitute the racial mind. It gives a dramatic immediacy of understanding that perhaps is not achieved as easily through the writings of more established historical roots. Thus in possible substitution for the Jewish and Christian Bibles, the Koran or the Bhagavad-Gita and other scriptures of the East there are the Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Flavius Philostratus out of the Roman world (in translation, New York, Putnam, 1912), the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1830), the Oahspe compilation of John Balloe Newbrough (Los Angeles, Kosmon Press, 1882), the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ by Levi H. Dowling (Los Angeles, Leo W. Dowling, 1907), and on beyond any practical enumeration. A complete recasting of New Testament account is found in such a gem of insight as The Apocalypse Unsealed by James M. Pryse (New York, John M. Pryse, 1910).
The approach has been employed in the Sabian work, producing what has been designated conveniently as a recension of text, in the case of the 82d Psalm, chapter 44 of Isaiah and chapters 1-3 of Ezekiel. The paraphrased sections were needed for the rituals, and they will be found in the latter pages of this manual. On a larger scale in the Sabian project is the interpretation of the entire book of Daniel as a preservation in masked form of a traditional Chaldean Book of Initiation, and a complete paraphrase of the whole illustrates the hypothesis.
The Arcane Dedication
Immortality consists of a living without beginning or end, and in consequence it is necessary for the individual aspirant (1) to establish the roots of his personal awareness anciently enough in the evolution of the race to endow himself with the stature he needs for his aspiration and (2) to project the branches of his faith far enough into the future to fulfill all possibilities of divine consummation. By the same token the Sabian Assembly in undertaking to sustain the initiatory progress of the seeker must activate (1) an unbroken continuity of group consciousness from a phase of human experience back sufficiently in racial development to embrace the beginnings of all who may seek unfoldment under its auspices and (2) an uncompromising or total and impartial respect for every possible aspect of man's self-expression now to be found or yet to be made manifest. Because the initiate-to-be and his invisible fellowship must serve each other equally and in an identity of creative potential if the Sabian project as a whole is to have any spiritual actuality, or is to remain a valid initiatory body under the Solar Mysteries, the tie to original source must be ever beyond question. Obviously any attempt to locate this too definitely in objective global history would be defeated through its literalism. What constitutes eternity is not so much the absence of beginnings and endings as a creative and free sustainment in what is both prior and subsequent adequately for a given manifestation. Eternal reality provides a functional zero in duration, or a practical comprisement in successiveness from which time never needs to be projected in either direction. Here is the proposition kept simple in general occultism by presenting all ultimates of progress as circular or cyclic. And also and by the same token the concept of absolute integrity as poise at the core of itself involves the parallel convergence or convenience of all-potentiality in space relations. The term in the esoteric tradition for this point of unimpeachable reference in which any given manifestation has its dynamic self-impetus under any and all possibilities of existence, with never a relationship that can be conceived behind or beyond it in any sense, is laya center and it has been given preliminary description in the opening section of this manual.
The concept actually identifies no more than the illimitability of interweaving realities throughout all existence, but it is this phenomenon of spiritual independences in mutual sustainment that constitutes the higher or one-and-only reality forever eluding language. Thus the initiate increasingly becomes a laya center for the new and truly eternal destiny of himself, as well as of all with whom he may share its inner and absolute stability, and the invisible fellowship of the Sabian project and of the Lodge by which it is chartered is a laya center of which these others are all a special manifestation without in any way compromising their identity or its own. In lesser outer dimension but fully a part of the whole in an equal absoluteness are the projects of all the workers in the occult tradition. As each of these develops a characteristic task of spiritual potentiality, in which he may fulfill himself, he constitutes himself a laya center for the eternal contribution through its accomplishment. The foundation of all Sabian work in consciousness is effort directed to the spiritual sustainment of the vision in its various details, and this means the maintaining and strengthening of these superficially mysterious zero functions through a continuous rehearsal of the differentiations of experience for which they serve as causeless origin. In Sabian usage the term is not restricted to primeval points of source, since an absoluteness of beginning is recognized as the basis of all true choice. The fact that this absolute of self-act may be found in the smallest or most immediate context no less than in one of immeasurable remoteness reveals the spiritual source at the core of everything.
A life elevated to the level of avatars and adepts becomes more the laya center of a group reality than the individual of immortal personality that establishes and strengthens it from incarnation to incarnation. It develops the outer poise and universality of realization characterizing the great souls everywhere. In time there may be uncounted millions who will find a peace and an enlightenment for themselves by dwelling within its potentiality, and in this they may gain the salvation promised by most religion. To varying degrees the less evolved seeker becomes a species of incarnation of the more exalted one, and thus helps provide the illuminated server with the vicarious embodiment he can use in his higher self-sustainment for performing the tasks to which he is dedicated. The faithful are saved because they are enabled to live an eternal plussage of selfhood, and in doing so to help others to do as much in turn. And under the Solar Mysteries this is fellowship rather than a hierarchy.
The Masters or Brothers are men who have developed and held an immortality by a continuous maintenance of conscious personality, quite apart from the fleshy embodiment of their regular incarnations, and in this unbroken chain of unending activity or service they have created the primary laya center of occult vision and effort through which the great Lodge continues in its effective existence. In their various normal lives during recent millenniums these individuals have proved their inherent stature by the achievements or contributions of weight sufficient to sustain the tradition in its outer manifestation, and each of them on the inward and eternal side is the creator and sustainment of some special laya center by which his own consciousness keeps its identity. Twelve of these long-experienced initiates serve as the invisible and administrative council of the Sabian Assembly, and ten of them are associated with the vision permanently and have been for generations. The other two are revolving members of the circle, but for simplicity's sake they are given fixed identification in the Sabian system of letters, that is, each letter in these two cases referring to a different individuality at different times. Three of the total group are identified, as in Theosophy, as H, K and M. For the others A, B, C, D, E, F, G, J and L are assigned quite arbitrarily.
In Sabian practice all personal information about the Masters is restricted along the lines already explained, and whatever literalistic detail may be needed at times is provided in the oral work on the legate level. As pointed out it is not the individual who is likely to have any significance to the Sabian aspirant, but rather the laya center that actually represents his participation in the common vision. In order to help each seeker get the ever-intangible feel of the fundamental zero points of creativity constituting the general project, as these represent a basic division of labor established by the Great Ones in sponsoring the Assembly, all lesson material and rituals or other details of the procedure are given letters of imprimatur to identify the one of the twelve with whom the author has worked consciously and particularly in preparation or research. What may be a further aid for this sort of intuitive outreach is that since October, 1934, all Sabian effort has been patterned in aspects of function or group ordering known as the Twelve Plans.
L: the discipline A Grecian-style initiation provided by study and activity in neophyte, acolyte and legate grades of individual accomplishment.
C: the laya centers The maintenance of the Assembly as a network of active autonomous groups, each a matrix of race, culture or personal distinctiveness.
D: the monitors The strengthening of continuity for the laya centers through the oversight of their functions by the immortal leadership they develop.
H: the screen of prophecy The editing and reissuing of the Sabian lessons and letters in their cycles and so building a creative rapport with current history.
E: spiritualism The doctrine of personal immortality dramatized by the contribution of the deceased to the living through psychic or like phenomena.
F: the cabala The doctrines of occult cosmogony and psychology dramatizing a superior reality in which man may gain exceptional gifts and powers.
A: astrology The doctrine of interlacing relevancies that dramatize a cosmic order through which man can master everyday life and control his destiny.
G: mental therapy The doctrine of mind discipline or soul quickening dramatized in meditation or self-assertion and conscious rejection of limitations.
M: metaphysics The way of ordering life by a world view in philosophy or an account of reality well justified in history and verified through faith.
J: education The way of ordering life by training people in appreciation of common values or in adjustment to realities of broadest acceptance.
B: drama The way of ordering life by exaggeration of its features in order to bring dignity to man's activity and build enduring rapport in human ties.
The Work in Consciousness
Work in consciousness is generally known in the arcane tradition as meditation or concentration. In essence it is a conscious direction and maintenance of attention until some selected and creative phase of interest becomes an underlay in all other awareness of (1) the self and (2) the world of immediate pertinence. When the achievement of this for the meditative period is repeated at relatively regular intervals over a considerable period of time the result can be an establishing or strengthening of a laya center that will have the power not only (1) to sustain real and persisting effort of a desired sort but (2) to precipitate the needed convergence and co-operation of all vital concomitants. In even the least use of this discipline of consciousness an individual may build morale and refine his inherent integrity beyond all expectations. The operation of man's basic predilections along these lines is dramatized by the inner censor of the mind when the subject under the superficial control of another intelligence in hypnotism will refuse to accept or act on any idea that runs counter to his underlying scruples. Because of the strength of this inner set of temperament the development of a moral inviolability, usually in special alignment with some definite ideal, has long been the major goal of all genuine occult initiation.
In the nonoccult world it is of course a commonplace for individuals to steel themselves to their purposes through a continual and conscious entertainment of their devotion to their own ambitions. On the destructive side there is no difference in effectiveness when the loyalty to ends is a lust for supremacy among others, or is an isolation of the self from them in a debasement of values and an acceptance of the false exaltations leading to megalomania and hopeless delusions. In the happier case of the great mystics the desired achievement is an ever-closer communion with divine intelligence, and implicit in their effort is a sharing of God's potential with the whole of God's creation. This is the practice of the presence as the continual rehearsal of every inner heightening of spirit, and at its best it has its frame in an uncompromising love and respect for mankind. The inescapable contribution of beauty and understanding that results has provided some of the richest episodes in man's spiritual history.
The bringing of God into partnership with the self in the purely religious meditation is of course the best of all correctives against destructive ideas of self-importance. And on the other side of the coin it is the mystical way that endows religion with its genuine depth. Hence it makes no difference whether the self's outreaching under a transcendental orientation takes the form of (1) prayer and supplication in the most conventional sense, (2) a more reflective contemplation of the enhanced presence of the divine in human affairs as a consequence of ordered devotions of a more occult sort or (3) sheer self-release in the momentary but repetitive ecstasy of approach to higher reality known to the mystic at hallowed times and in sacred places and always characteristic of high initiation. Communion with eternal intelligence through some form of meditation, in the largest or over-all sense, is the entire substance and actuality of worship. Ritual becomes important as the formalized rehearsal of the meditative experience.
Meditation under the Solar Mysteries may embrace every sort of inner wrestling of the soul with itself, in an effort to achieve an eternal reconciliation with an absoluteness centered in the godhead, but it has its most worthy concern with the aspirant's service to others and his self-service in preparation for the role he would play as the server. Thus the directing of interest must be practical or quickened by human need in some respect, and the attempt to achieve a purely negative receptiveness or a supposed opening of the inner being to higher inspiration without personal self-expenditure will prove an inevitable delusion. To enter the silence properly cannot mean accepting an emptiness as some sort of a greater reality, within which to wait on the caprice of a power actually external to the self as far as any familiarity with it is concerned, but instead is an effort to bring self to center sufficiently to avoid all distractions and disconnections and thus to facilitate its true mystical or more ultimate experience of itself. What is never to be desired is the artificial concentration of consciousness such as seeks to exclude all extraneous elements through its rigidity, or through the strength of the will sustaining it. There must be instead the fluidity of an awareness that is able to wander here, there and everywhere without ever the underlying self-direction changing or wavering in the least degree. Useful in this connection is the retrospection exercise just before going to sleep, and its review of the events of the day beginning with the last and working backwards to morning while giving each an evaluation in the light of the ideals held and goals sought in the course of all the trivialities.
The meditation period may well be ritualized. In the Sabian Assembly, and formally, this means participating in the healing ceremony with others or conducting the ceremony privately. Informally it is the quiet time of not too protracted duration repeated at scheduled hours on certain days or everyday. Devotional reading, music and the like may be employed with advantage to set the mood of the meditative self-orientation. The postures, breathing exercises and contemplation of the body's chakric centers in Eastern occultism may be adopted profitably by seekers in the West for whom they have special appeal. For the use of aspirants who find it helpful an identification of the invisible sponsor with whom a cycle of special affinity may possibly be indicated is issued to every member of the Assembly monthly. The meditation letter so provided may suggest, through its correspondence with the imprimaturs of the various materials and rituals, the special possibilities of inspiration through a turn to these at the times of private devotions. Where there are special needs or problems the use of healing slips may be helpful, and the nature of these is explained in connection with the healing regimen.
When meditation is employed in furthering the healing for others the aspirant undertaking this, whether as (1) an individual acting on a request made to him privately or (2) a professional healer or (3) a member of the Assembly assigned to this service, makes his touch with the consciousness of the person in distress by employing some one of the numberless techniques long established in the esoteric tradition. The first group of these therapeutic measures comprises the more objective methods usually designated as occult. In Spiritualistic practice the medium with or without supplementary procedures such as the laying on of hands will take on the condition, as Spiritualists explain the matter, and use the recuperative or regenerative powers of his own organism as heightened in trance or otherwise to eliminate the destructive factors. Somewhat similar is the procedure coming down through medieval alchemy when discarnate entities or occultists volunteering for the self-projection of their energies during sleep are enlisted for ameliorative manipulations by a species of materialization at a point of need, or when subhuman nature spirits are put to work in this fashion, and such efforts are directed to those requesting help by an act of will during the meditative period. Many occult groups depend on their invisible workers, or highly evolved souls and perhaps even the Masters in special cases, to perform this sort of service. It is a widespread practice to facilitate the direction of the healing help by laying out the healing slips or letters of request in a special place set aside for the purpose, and in particular to do so during the night hours.
Quite distinct from the therapeutic methods generally classified as occult is the more strictly mental type of healing identified in the Sabian materials as New Thought. This technique involves taking the sick or troubled individual in mind and seeking, through a rapport in consciousness and by a contemplative reflection, to bring him back to balance in his own psychological and corresponding physiological integration. The assistance of divine agency is nearly always invoked for the success of this essentially spiritual reordering, and in all such cases an acceptance of a particular metaphysical or theological point of view is required from the person to be helped. Indeed, such acceptance usually is necessary for the rapport of minds from which any results must follow. In this area the holding of a proper form of belief is often presented as able of itself to cure virtually all ills of body, mind or personal affairs.
There is a logical difficulty in the part God is seen to play in any and all healing. Sooner or later there is the question why He permits an illness in the first place if He is willing to remove it when asked to do so. Certainly unacceptable is the notion of a deity who withholds His love except when those on the inside track, through knowing what to do, are able to bring it into manifestation. God cannot be God if the control of His operations is not to be vested wholly in Himself. Actually of course the problem has been created by the superficialities of human rationalization. Everything in which man is involved is a proposition of experience or consciousness at root, and illness no less than health is something experienced and real only in that fact. It is in every individual's power to alter his experiencing pattern more or less at will, and as he has a change of heart or desire his situation follows along in train. The idea is not that God is anything apart from the unprofitable activities of the particular person but that anyone in trouble is apt to ask a participation of divinity in his affairs, even when not at all inclined to do so during the times they go well. Man generally is willing to function in a larger dimension when the smaller one refuses to support the destructive aplomb in which he has been resting content.
The Sabian healing ministry is centered in the healing meeting, and in the therapy carried on by special meditation quadrangles for those who ask to be placed on the healing list. The need for help is seen as a lack of balance or of proper poise in experience, that is, as a deficiency of the personal laya center. Each individual is helped as he is brought through the meditative rapport into the great pool of consciousness constituting the laya center for the project as a whole. The functions of nature always tend to restore themselves when their sustaining or underlying integrity has an adequate reserve of its own potentials, together with a properly creative capacity for self-mobilization in an emergency. Divinity is touched as the being is kept in fluid equilibrium at center, and the touch is lost in the sense of separation or of missing the mark that was the actual conception of sin at the beginning of the great Hebraic-Christian line of prophecy. Thus healing is a return to God in quite practical fact, and it is the way of the heart that reveals this to mankind.
The broad orientation of the Sabian project is in the tradition known as occult, arcane or esoteric. This is an area of human understanding that embraces the supernatural and all speculative approach to the unknown, and of special importance are the ways of self-dedication and discipline known as initiation. The goal is to develop the unsuspected powers of man, and to help him direct them to the improvement of himself and his world.
Modern occultism had its American beginnings with the new birth of Spiritualism in 1848, the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875 and the rise of New Thought at the turn of the century. The events of parallel importance in Europe were the emergence of speculative Freemasonry in the seventeenth century, the redevelopment of hypnotism by Mesmer in the eighteenth and the creation of psychoanalysis by Freud late in the nineteenth.
The esoteric arts and practices given a primary significance are astrology, the cabala and the Tarot. Healing is even more important, but only certain of the therapeutic techniques can be identified as essentially esoteric. Eastern ideas and methods are significant and effective but not always practical in a Western milieu.
Out of an occult literature that is voluminous beyond belief, and as supplementary to the Sabian books and materials, the Secret Doctrine of Blavatsky, the Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception by Heindel, the Outline of Occult Science by Steiner and the Enneads of Plotinus present the mathematical ordering of reality that is a fundamental characteristic of esoteric thinking. The novel Zanoni by Bulwer-Lytton, the Comte de Gabalis by de Villars and the Hidden Way Across the Threshold by Street offer valuable dramatization of initiation, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Eddy and In Tune with the Infinite by Trine give the original flavor of mental healing in the New World.
The invisible fellowship is the designation for a group type of knowing or realization of experience where ordinary language does not transmit meanings adequately, and it is represented by a supernatural lore that usually has been communicated in secret from teacher to pupil and that otherwise is conveyed psychically and in consequence distorted easily and at times rendered quite unreliable. Out of this occult lore comes the account of a number of young priests who became interested in the problems of human immortality some six millenniums ago, and who perhaps first laid a foundation for the Great White Lodge.
There are four types of immortality. Impersonal immortality is represented by the conception of emanations, with reality in each or any of its phases emerging from a transcendent perfection and then returning to its source after the sojourn in time and space. This is a primary concept in Eastern philosophy and is important in the Sabian project because it affirms the essential integrity of everything-that-is and so dramatizes the necessity of myob or a minding of one's own business by every component of the universal whole.
Biological immortality is represented by the ancient Hebrew stress on the importance of male heirs, or of a continuity of man preserved in a succession of offspring. Primitive religion gained much of its power through the veneration of ancestors. Nature worship developed an appreciation for a divine principle of endless bounty, and this insight has been the basis of modern New Thought. This type of immortal continuance is to be seen in the successorship of initiates.
Social immortality is the enduring of human achievements as men take the torch from each other and continue in the race forward to a better opportunity in a better world. It is with this emphasis on a significant being-in-doing that the invisible fellowship becomes an actuality, and that the occult conceptions of dharma and karma have their proper instrumentation.
With personal immortality comes real appreciation of the doctrine of reincarnation, and of the necessity to preserve man's consciousness from life to life in order to avoid an almost complete waste of his self-perfecting during each incarnate span. The realization of a possible substitute embodiment makes it possible to conceive of a vicarious atonement as a basis for a higher religious development in the present race, and of a vicarious attainment as a mode of a practical and more personal accomplishment without any surrender to the limitations of time and space.
The Eternal Wisdom is not so much a knowing as a continual participation in the immortal potentials of all things, and Sabian procedures are shaped to make this clear in all possible ramification of detail. Everything is ordered on a cabalistic pattern to facilitate the realization, and what this means most fundamentally is a bringing of poetry into balance with reason. As an aid to higher understanding the great religious scriptures and secular classics of the world are given special interpretation, introducing the seeker to the progressive levels of meaning to be found, and fresh materials of greater deviation from the conventional are made available or actually created to help him in his recognition of the arcane patterning.
The laya center as the zero point of potentiality to be found lying at the foundation of any and all experience, and located deeply enough and ramifying broadly enough to vivify illimitable possibilities in any conceivable case, is seen to be the fact of source for that consciousness of which all things are taken to be the ultimate manifestation. The aspirant is shown how he may instrument his dedication in terms of laya center. The Master is revealed as an individual who has developed to the point where his continuity of lives has identified itself with a laya center of importance to the persons and objectives he must serve as a condition of his initiation, and the Sabian project gains its organic structure through particularities of its potentials that can be associated in each specific instance with the Masters who constitute its council. Thus these Great Ones can be identified most effectively for each seeker by the twelve plans in and through some one or more of which he will be able to understand his part in the Sabian vision.
The work in consciousness is the heart of the Sabian project, and the healing ministry its strength. Meditation in essence is the conscious direction and maintenance of attention until some selected and creative phase of interest becomes an underlay in all other concern, and there are innumerable and perhaps equally acceptable ways for achieving the desired morale or strengthened integrity of self and others. Healing is the use of widely varying techniques for strengthening the regenerative powers of the individual organism, or revivifying the point of creative poise in some area of experience. At root the process is a conscious return to God.