The Sabian Orientation
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.