An Address to Neophytes 0°=0°
Delivered in the Thoth Hermes Temple, No. 9
New York - Vernal Equinox - 21 March 1920
By Prater Perseverantia (Paul Foster Case)
The wisdom of the Rosicrucian Order of A. O. is taught in its knowledge lectures and rituals. The rituals are treasure chests; the lectures, keys that give access to the riches concealed by their letter and symbolism. Without the keys you cannot get at the treasure, no matter how much time you spend in studying the rituals; and unless you are perfect in your knowledge lectures, you cannot use the keys.
When you have memorized the text of a lecture, you neither have nor reached the necessary perfection. Not until you begin to understand what the lecture really means, why it contains the particular subjects upon which it treats, and how those subjects apply to the corresponding ritual, do you even approach to mastery of the knowledge in any grade. You can commit the Neophyte lecture to memory in less than a day, but I doubt if you can exhaust its meaning in a lifetime.
Very likely you will experience a sense or disappointment when you first read it. You may feel like asking yourself. "Is this the secret of wisdom I have sworn so solemnly never to reveal?"
You are probably more or less familiar with everything mentioned in its five short sections, and you may be puzzled to account for the insistence upon secrecy. Here is nothing that you cannot find in Webster's Dictionary, except the names and numbers of the Hebrew letters, and the houses and exaltation of the planets. Evidently, if there is a secret, it is not to be sought in the letter of the text.
I have heard the opinion expressed that these lectures are not particularly important, but that opinion is a flat contradiction of the statement recently made by out present Arch-Magus that even the slightest details of our curriculum arc significant. It has also been said that we are obliged to keep these seemingly exoteric matters secret simply as a kind of training, so that if we are faithful in little, as it were, we may prove our right to he entrusted with much. There may be a grain of truth in this, but l prefer to believe that no obligation so binding as the one you have just taken would be imposed on the members of this Order unless their were really something to conceal.
It seems to me that in nothing has the wisdom and ingenuity of our Secret Fratres been more clearly displayed than in the composition of our textbooks. Accident or treachery may at any time expose their contents to the profane, but if every word should be published in the newspapers tomorrow, the secret would not be betrayed.
You must be an initiate of this Order to understand the inner meaning of its documents. Never forget that in entering its ranks you have become links in a magic chain. You now partake of a thought current set in motion by our Secret Fratres, and its operation upon your finer bodies puts you in direct contact with a source of knowledge that is not open to the profane world. From my own experience I can testify that although I was familiar with most ol the knowledge given in the first three grades of this Order long before my initiation, I have, in the comparatively short time that I have been a member, gained far more real understanding than I had been able to acquire during years of outside study. But while the Secret Fratres are ever ready to communicate the riches of their hidden wisdom to us, they exact a price. They demand from each of us the most diligent effort to penetrate behind the letter of our textbooks to the inner, spiritual significance. They offer the most help to those who are most eager to help themselves.
Every subject in our curriculum is important. Every step is to be taken in proper order. Nothing can be slighted, nothing slurred over. Even this simple Neophyte lecture, if you study it as you should, will enable you to gain a priceless store of Occult wisdom. Nor is this all. The very method of study that you must adopt, it you really want to know what this lecture means, will develop in you those very powers of the mind which are indispensable to success in practical Occultism. To give you some hints as to this method is my present aim.
Recall, for a moment, the terms of your preliminary pledge. Do you remember that it said you must be prepared to take an Interest in Egyptian, Kabbalistic and Christian symbolism? Note the phrase, "to take an interest." If this Order admitted nobody but those who were already familiar with the Kabbalah, with the wisdom of the Egyptians, and with the symbols of Christianity, its membership would be small indeed. Every candidate who passes the portal of the Temple is expected to take an interest. Many must do so by main force at first, but those who persist and study in the right way will soon find themselves enjoying their work.
Did I say we are expected to take an interest? I meant required - and to live up to the letter and spirit of that requirement we are pledged by our solemn obligation to devote ourselves to the serious study of Occult Science.
To encourage you in living up to that obligation, the Hiereus has reminded you of the power of perseverance. You do not have to be mental giants to become practical Occultists. You simply have to do a certain amount of work every day. As Johnson says, "Yonder palace was raised by single stones, yet you see its height and spaciousness. He that shall walk with vigor three hours a day, will pass in seven years a space equal to the circumference of the globe."
If your progress is halting and uncertain at first, comfort yourselves with the reflection that even the greatest Adepts were once in the very same position. It has been welt said that there is no royal road to anything. You will need often to remember this, for unless you happen to possess a rather unusual type of mind, your first steps along the path of Occult study will be not only difficult, but deadly dull. To all appearances, these dry details you must learn have no connection whatever with what you mean by "spiritual development."
At the very outset a new alphabet confronts you - the alphabet of what is practically a dead language. Some of the letters are so much alike that you can hardly tell the difference between them. Before you can learn to write them you have to reverse the habits of years. You have to train your hand and eye to work from right to left and your first attempts are sure to be far from successful. Just because of these difficulties, however, learning the Hebrew alphabet is one of the best possible exercises to prepare you for success in practical Occultism. By the time you can really read Hebrew, and write it quickly and accurately, you will have accomplished much in the education of your will, by making both mind and body obey you in unaccustomed ways.
Furthermore, these twenty-two letters with their names and numbers are the very foundation of the Holy Kabbalah, or Secret Wisdom of Israel, which is indispensable to the understanding of the principles of Occult Science. This is not merely my personal opinion. The great French magus, Eliphas Levi, who was an adept of this Order, says: "Sacred science includes two things, the doctrine or word, and the works which are the final form and fulfillment of the word. The science of signs and their correspondences is the introduction to the science of the doctrine. The Kabbalah is the science of signs and their correspondences."
Now, if the Kabbalah be the introduction to Occult Science, the Hebrew alphabet is the introduction to the Kabbalah, Every letter has a name, which represents a specific object. Each of these objects is a symbol and meditation upon that symbol will lead you to its hidden meaning. Thus the sequence of ideas implied by the letter-names is really an outline of the principal doctrines of the Kabbalah. It is a real sequence, too, for the very order of the letters is based upon the logical connection between the implicit of each letter and those of the tellers that immediately precede and follow it in the series. Aleph must be at the beginning, because its name suggests ideas that are associated by every thinker with the inception of the creative process. Tau must be at the end, because everything that its name implies relates to completion.
To make sure that the order of the letters would not be changed, each was given a numerical value. From Aleph to Teth inclusive, they represent the digits from 1 to 9. The tens begin with Yod and are completed at 90 by Tzaddi. The four remaining letters, Qoph, Resh, Shiin and Tau are the numbers 100, 200, 500 and 400. Thus any Hebrew word may be represented by the total produced by adding the values ot its letters.
This fact is the foundation of what Kabbalists call gematria, and gematria is the key to everything in the Kabbalah. The etymology of this term is uncertain, although we know it comes from the Greek. Some trace it to gramma, "a letter," or to grammateus, "a scribe." Others derive it from geornetria, "geometry." I incline to accept this, not only because gematria is a system wherein letters are regarded as numbers, but also because its full application to the mysteries of Occult symbolism depends upon the fact that certain numbers arc closely related to geometrical figures and solids.
In its full development, gematria requires years to master. You will find little difficulty, however, with its simpler processes. As soon as you have learned the values of the twenty-two letters you should turn all the Hebrew words in your lecture and ritual into numbers. Keep a special loose leaf notebook for this, and use a separate page for all the words whose totals may be reduced to the same result. A simple way to begin is to number twenty-two pages with the numbers of the Hebrew letters. Later you will find it necessary to add pages for certain mixed numbers, like 13, 26, 65 and so on, which have particular significance in the Kabbalah.
I just mentioned the reduction of numbers. This is a process much employed in gematria. Sometimes it is called "contraction." Probably I can make it clearer by illustration than in any other way. Suppose, for example, that you wish to employ gematria to develop the meaning of the divine name translated Jehovah in the English Bible. In Occult literature it is usually called the Tetragrammaton because it is spelled with four letters; Yod-He-Vav-He. The sum of the values of these letters is 26. No letter in Hebrew has this value; but if you add together the digits, 2 and 6, the result is 8, and this is the value of the letter Cheth. This method of adding the digits in a number is what is meant by contraction or reduction. By means of it, any number, by repeated contractions, may be expressed as one of the nine digits. This digit is termed "the least number" and is supposed to represent the essential meaning of the larger number from which it has been derived.
When you have contracted the value of the Tetragrammaton to 8, and have thus identified the essential meaning of this name with the letter Cheth, you have a most important clue to the secret significance of the word Jehovah. The list of letter-names in your lecture shows that Cheth means "enclosure." Here is the starting-point for your inquiry.
Ask yourself, "Why is the name of the Lord of the Universe to be compared to the word enclosure?. At this point you will do well to consult your dictionary. Here you find that enclosure, as a verb, means the separation of land from common ground, or from the land of others, by a fence or barrier. As a noun the same word designates either that which is enclosed - the field - or that which encloses - the burner or fence. Consider these ideas a little while and you will sec that they all imply limitation or the setting of boundaries. What has the idea of limitation to do with that Infinite One who's Ineffable Name is the Tetragrammaton? Simply this: The process by which the Lord of the Universe begins to manifest His creative power is necessarily one of Self-limitation. The Originating Principle of the Universe is a power that selects a particular point in space at which to begin, whenever it initiates a period of creative activity. Since that Principle is infinite, it must fill all space, or, in other words, what we call space must be the limitless expanse of the presence of God. At a particular point in that expanse the Limitless Light concentrates itself, and from the centre thus established there follows an expansion of power. Thus Tetragrammaton Himself may he regarded as the field of His own operation - and His will to create may be thought of as the fence or barrier which determines the boundaries of His Self-manifestation.
Thus your little experiment in gematria has fixed your attention upon a particular conception of the Universe. It has made you reproduce in your own mind the thought process which long ago led the Adepts of the Kabbalah to formulate their doctrine of concentrations, which may be briefly outlined as follows:
The Being of God Himself is the field of creative activity, and any particular period of such activity begins with an act of self-limitation on the part of the creator.
God begins by establishing boundaries. Hence, in the oration before the opening of the temple, we say; "Lord of the visible world, who hast by thy supreme power set limits to its magnitude, and hast given special attributes unto the bounds and terminations thereof."
Gematria also enables you to explain one Kabbalistic term by another. For example, the name of the first Sephirah, Kether, corresponds to the number 620. The contraction of this number is also 8. This leads you to seek for a correspondence between Kether, the Crown, and Tetragrammaton, the Lord of the Universe. It is obvious, of course, that the Crown a symbol of the Ruler of all things, out there is a deeper meaning, shown by the correspondence of Kether to the letter Cheth (8). A crown encircles the head of its wearer. When we speak of the "head" of the Lord of the Universe, we mean the mental quality of the Creative Principle. What encircles, encloses, or limits that mental quality? What can limit the Infinite Mind? Clearly, nothing but its own power of self-direction, its absolute will. Thus you arrive at the very same conclusion that Kabbalists express in their doctrine that Kether, the Crown, is the Primal Will that governs all manifestations of the Limitless Light.
Farther down in your list of Sephiroth in the first lecture, you will find Yesod, the Foundation. Add the numbers of its letters together and you get 80. This can be explained in two ways - First, by the letter Pe, which has 80 for its number - Second, by the letter Cheth. because 80 may be contracted to 8. Since we have been fixing out attention particularly upon the implicits of Cheth (8), perhaps it will be better to consider these first in connection with the meaning of Yesod. It will not be necessary to go into details. You can all see that whatever begins the creative process must also be regarded as its foundation. Yesod and Kether are not two separare things. They are two aspects of a single reality. The whole process is founded upon the Creative Principle's initial act of self-limitation. This, I think, should be clear to all of you, without further explanation. Let me, then, direct your attention to what is implied hy the correspondence between Yesod and Pe.
The list of letter-names says that Pe means "mouth." In Hebrew, the noun Pe is particularly referred to the mouth as the organ of speech. It is derived from a verb which means to puff, that is, to concentrate the breath Now, in Hebrew, as in English, Latin, Greek and Sanskrit, the word that means "breath" also means "life" or "creative energy." Thus the word Pe, to every Hebrew implies a concentration of creative power in articulate speech. That this idea should be associated with the Sephirah Yesod, or Foundation, is not surprising. When a Kahbalist says, "Yesod is the letter Pe," he means "The Foundation is the Mouth." that is, "The basis of all manifestation is the utterance of the Creative Principle." This is no other than the doctrine of the Neo-Platonists, and of the Christian gospel: "In rhe beginning was the Logos, or Word."
I have elaborated these examples of gematria at the risk of wearying you, that I might give you some idea of its importance to you in your Occult scudies. It is for you to apply similar methods to all the Hebrew words in our lectures and rituals. To get the best results you should keep a record of your work - and many of you may find it convenient to use a loose-leaf notebook for this purpose.
A handy size is 8 1/2 x 5 1/2, and hooks that open on the side are preferable to those that open at the end. The book that I use cost sixty cents, and extra fillers containing forty leaves are ten cents apiece. My book is divided into twenty-two sections, one for each Hebrew letter, indexed with Dennison's gummed index tabs. The first page in each section is headed with a Hebrew letter, its transliteration in the Roman alphabet, its number, and the Hebrew spelling, numeration, and meaning of each letter-name. The Neophyte Lecture does not give the spelling of the letter-names, but they may be found in Gesenius' Hebrcw Grammar, or In a Hebrew-English dictionary. The advantage of such a notebook is its elasticity. Each section can be added to as much as you please, and there is no danger of overlapping. For some years I used a separate notebook of the ordinary kind for each Hebrew letter; but since I have adopted this plan, I find that one book is quite sufficient for all the material I have gathered.
Much of this material consists of notes taken from various books, among which I may mention, as particularly useful to the Occult student, the Jewish Encyclopadia. Forlong's Faiths of Man, Inman's Ancient Faiths and Ancient Names, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (which contains a dictionary of all the Hebrew and Greek words in the Old and New Testaments), and the works of Eliphas Levi. I should caution you that the books of Forlong and Iman are commited to the theory of the phallic origin of religion, which no well-instructed Occultist can accept. At the same time, they are valuable sources of information. As Madame Blavatsky once said, they err only in their interpretations - nobody can dispute their facts.
In addition to thee notes I have a mass of material which has gradually accumulated as the result of a practice I began some time since. I have found it most useful to take the Hebrew letter names as starting points for my daily meditation. Perhaps some of you may find this practice as valuable as I have, so I shall explain how to go about it.
Suppose that tomorrow morning you begin to meditate upon the letter-name Aleph (the Ox). First of all you must call up as clear a mental picture of an ox as you can summon before your mind's eye. Do not simply think of the word "ox." See a particular ox. See him doing something - pulling a cart, for instance. If you find any difficulty in visualizing an ox, it may be because you don't know just what one looks like. Take pains to find out.
When you can sec the ox, turn your thoughts to what oxen mean in the part of the world where the Hebrew alphabet was invented. Very likely you will remember the old Mosaic law. "Thou shall not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out rhe corn." You know, too, that the primitive plows used to this day in many Eastern countries are always pulled by oxen. Thus you will see that because they are used for everything from plowing to harvesting, oxen are, to the Oriental mind, inseparably associated with agriculture. They represent the whole science and art of tilling the soil, and of producing plants and animals useful to man.
Now, agriculture is not only the foundation of all industry and commerce, but it is also a type of man's whole endeacor to master his environment. There is deep significance in the allegory ot Genesis, which says that the Lord made Adam a gardener. All through the Bible you will find the Great Works symbolized by farming The laws of the universe are summarized in the laws of plant growth, and behind the various kinds of tree worship there is a profound truth. In the Kabbalah great emphasis is placed upon the Tree of Life, formed from the ten Sephuoth. You need only glance through any good mythology to learn how deeply the ancients venerated everything connected with agriculture.
In Rome, in Greece and in Egypt, farming was a religious exercise. In every pantheon, the oldest gods are those of the fields and of things directly associated with farm life. Juno, or Hera, was originally a cow-goddess, hence Homer called her "ox-eyed." Vesta, or Hestia, who presided over the preparation of food, was daughter of Cronus, god of harvests, and Rhea, who personified the reproductive power of the Earth. Minerva or Athena, is represented with a distaff. Ceres, or Demcter, presided over growing vegetation, and she and her daughter, Persephone, were ihe central figures of the mysteries at Eleusis. Diana, or Artemis, was goddess of the woods, lakes and rivers. Venus, or Aphrodite, was probably at first an Oriental goddess of vegetation and the reproduction forces of nature. (Neophytes should remember that to Aphrodite the rose is especially sacred.) Mars, or Ares, was the god of war, bur he was primarily the protector of fields. Mercury, or Hermes - the Egyptian Thoth - to whom this Temple is dedicated—was a giver of increase to herds, and the guardian of boundaries and roads, as well as the patron of geometry, which science had its beginnings in in he surveying of farmlands. Jupiter, or Zeus, the giver of rain, probably owed his ruling position to this fact. We are accustomed to think of Neptune, or Poseidon, as a sea god, but he was also the god of horses. Vulcan, ot Hephaestus, god of the terrestrial fire, was the patron of two arts immediately related to agriculture—the working of metals, and the manufacture of pottery. Finally. Apollo, the Sun, was anciently regarded as the fosterer of herds and flocks.
He corresponds therefore to the Egyptian Osiris, who was worshipped under the form of Apis, the sacred bull. Like Ceres, who in some respects corresponds to Isis. Osiris was a corn-spirit, personifying the vegetative energy of growing grain. Thus he is closely related to the Babylonian Tamuz, and the legends of these two gods are very similar. To Tamrnuz also, bulls and oxen were sacred, as they were, again, to the Persian Mithra. who was supposed to have captured and slain the divine bull - from whose body sprang all the plants and animals bcnefical to man. Osiris, Tamrnuz, and Mithra are only different personifications of the life-power of the sun, embodied in the forms of the vegetable kingdom, and thus becoming the foundation of all human prosperity and progress. This power the Greeks worshipped as the deity named Dionysos. Bacchus, or lacchos. He was an important figure in the Eleusinian mysteries, and to him also the ox or bull was sacred.
All these ideas, and many others, will be suggested to you as you meditate upon the meaning of the letter-name, Aleph. Set them down In your notebook, at the end of your period of meditation. Meditate on one name for six consecutive days, resting on the seventh. Each day, before beginning to practice, read what you have already recorded, and begin your meditation with the definite intention of discovering something new. Nobody can exhaust the significance of any single object in six days, and if your meditation is barren of results that is a sure sign that your determination is weak. Every practical Occultist must make his mind obey him. This is difficult at first, but daily practice will soon make it easy for you to hold your attention to the task In hand, which is to forge a new link in a chain of ideas, of which the first link is the name of a Hebrew letter.
Thus, you see, the fifth section of your Neophyte lecture provides for nearly six months of practice in visualization, concentration, meditation, and the discovery of analogies. If it offered nothing more, it is a basis for the training of will, memory, and imagination. By this means alone you may go far toward "adopting and cultivatng a mental condition worthy of this Order."
Of especial importance is the clear visualization of each of the twenty-two objects designated by the letter-names. This should lake into account the conditions of life in the Orient. Your mental picture tor Beth (2), "a house," must show the kind of house they build in Palestine—not a California bungalow, or a New York "brownstone front." When you come to Teth, "the serpent," remember that our wisdom comes from Egypt, and find out what snake the Egyptians venerated, and to what deities they rcferred it. Do this with every letter. You will have to do considerable research and work to make your mental picture definite - but the knowledge you will gain will repay you a thousandfold.
The Masters of Wisdom seldom teach anything that a pupil can find out for himself. They give hints and clues in abundance, but we must take the hints and follow the clues. In the preparation of our ntuals and lectures this rule has not been broken. What you get out of them depends largely upon your willingness to work. If you have come into this Order in the hope of finding pre-digestcd truth, vou will bc disappointed. The secrets ot nature are not explained in words of one syllable. If vou realize that such power and knowledge as this Order has to give cannot possibly be offered to any but serious and persevering students, who are ready and willing to go cheerfully through more or less downright drudgery to attain their ends, you may hope to find the Light of Truth.
That Light is not something that can be communicated to you. You will never receive it. for you already possess it. In the heart of hearts of every human being lies concealed the Summum Bomim, Perfect Wisdom, and True Happiness. Our problem is to remove the veils of illusion.
Right meditation and right action enable us to do this, and right action is the fruit of right meditation. Thousands of years of experiment have enabled the Masters ot Wisdom who are the Secret Fratres of the Alpha et| Omega to determine what fasts, what forms of words, and what symbols are best adapted to lead the human mind from the chaos of sense-illusion to the order of true spiritual knowledge. These facts, and words, and symbols you will find in our lectures and rituals; but you must work out their hidden meaning for yourselves. Nobody can tell you. The Great Arcanum is said to be unspeakable, not because there is any human prohibition against telling it, but simply because there are no words to convey it. May you all be led by the Spirit of Wisdom to the attainment of that supreme realization, that "pure gold, clear as glass," which is the crown of the Great Work to which the Lord of the Universe calls us, his little children.