The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
September 1998 Vol. 1 Issue 7
The Mystery Schools are "colleges" where occult know-ledge of the laws and forces of nature, science, art, and philosophy, also known as the ancient wisdom, is preserved and taught to worthy students by a succession of teachers. These schools have existed for millions of years, to preserve the purity of the ancient wisdom from corrupting human influences. They are also where pupils undergo initiations, or trials, to consciously unite with their inner divinity. These adepts then go forth into the world to become great teachers and founders of the world's religions. As such, the schools serve as a source of divine and spiritual force which positively influences the spiritual and intellectual growth of all humanity.
The need for the Mystery Schools arose when mankind first gained self-awareness and the ability to make its own decisions. At first, none of the secrets of the ancient wisdom were hidden from human beings, as they obediently followed the direction of the great ones which had brought them self-awareness and the knowledge of science and nature. But as humanity became less spiritual and more material, individuals became tempted to misuse the great power that lies in knowledge. Evil people or sorcerers used their knowledge to control the forces of nature for their own ends. Religions full of idolatry and superstition also became rife. So, to safeguard and preserve the knowledge, a spiritual association was formed by the most spiritual and intellectual members of the human race at that time. This brotherhood helped to preserve the ancient wisdom, and served as the focus of spiritual energy and light. This brotherhood has been in existence continuously since.
What exactly is taught in the Mystery Schools? Students learn not only truths about the nature of the universe, but undergo discipline and spiritual testing in order to become at one with their higher selves. This combination of study and initiation was called in the ancient Mediterranean civilizations, the "Mysteries." They are composed of the Lesser and the Greater Mysteries. The Lesser Mysteries involve the learning of the mystical causes behind the many branches of art and science. The pupils also must develop the inner spiritual strength and moral character to prepare for the higher levels of initiation performed in the Greater Mysteries. To this end the student undergoes dramatizations of what will occur at the higher levels -- of descending into the underworld, dying, and being transformed into a godlike being. Many of these dramatizations are described in world mythologies. The initiates who pass these tests can go on to the Greater Mysteries.
In the Greater Mysteries, the pupil must face all aspects of his nature, whether divine or base, and bring them under his control. He must become, by trial and experience, what he has learned in the Lesser Mysteries. His reward for passing the highest level of initiation is to become at one with his higher self. But this final test is fraught with danger, for the penalty of failure is death or madness.
Most Mystery Schools past and present are located in places far from cities and protected by rock or isolation from the thought-emanations of humanity. Thus, meetings are held in crypts and caves, on high mountains, and in pyramid chambers, even, as in the case for the ancient Druids, outside under the stars among the trees. Many of the great temples which have survived were the locations of Mystery Schools, whose existence was usually unknown to the general populace. Mystery Schools existed at Stonehenge, Eleusis and Samothrace in Greece, Syria, Judea, Persia, India, Tibet, China, and in association with the pyramids of Egypt, Chaldea, Peru, Mexico, and Yucatan. In fact, each nation and people are said to have a Mystery center in their midst, unknown to virtually all.
Are there still Mystery Schools today? The Lesser Mysteries are accomplished, as they have always been, through many groups -- public and secret -- scattered over the globe, while the Greater Mysteries are carried on in carefully hidden locations. Certainly the need for spiritual light and guidance is even greater today than in the past.
This month our subject is "Why Do We Dream?" We will be discussing such questions as: Where do dreams come from? What meanings do they have, and how can we interpret them? How are sleep and dreams related to our everyday awareness, other states of consciousness, and death? What about imagination, visualization, and creativity? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
October 8: "What Is Humanity's Role on Earth?"
November 5: "What Is Theosophy?"
Theosophy is the essential truth underlying all religions, and does not recognize any one religion as being supreme over the others or as the last word of truth. It is not hostile to Christianity, but finds itself obliged to combat many things which it considers alien to the genuine Christian gospel and which have gradually crept in since that gospel was originally proclaimed. Among these is the idea that Christianity is paramount among religions or that it is a final revelation of divine truth, superseding other faiths.
This idea is contrary to the truth and is becoming more and more difficult to maintain. For this there are two principal reasons. Ancient religions have been wide-ly and intensively studied, especially those of India. Intercommunication between nations has grown so wide and intimate. These two causes combine to prevent the exclusive attitude of the mind which was possible in past times.
But there can be only one truth. Religion itself, apart from creeds and churches, is a recognition and observance of the basic laws of the universe. These basic laws are also inherent in man himself, so that the real eternal and universal religion is based on the facts of human nature and must remain the same as long as man is man. The most essential truth is that man is a divine spirit incarnate in an animal body; that his salvation consists in subduing his lower nature by means of his higher; and that the true law of conduct is that which is expressed in the Golden Rule. This truth lies at the base of all religions.
It is necessary to refer briefly to certain theosophical ideas, and one of these is the teaching as to the wisdom-religion or secret doctrine. This knowledge concerning the deepest mysteries of nature and man rests under the guardianship of the great lodge of initiates, whose function it is to preserve the sacred knowledge and to communicate it to the world at appropriate times and places. They accomplish this work in several ways: one is by sending out a messenger from themselves, who appears among men, gathers around him a body of disciples, founds an esoteric school in which he gives private instruction and also exoteric teaching to the multitude. But after the withdrawal of the teacher, the movement he has started undergoes changes and degeneration. It falls under the influence of worldly motives and forces; it becomes formalized; it breaks up into schools and sects; it acquires various organic forms with churches, priesthood, and creeds. The process can be traced in the history of religions in general; it can be traced in Christianity, so that the Christianity of today is not in any of its forms the original gospel as given by the founder.
Religions are one in essence, and different in external form. The real way to unite them is to get back to the essence in each; attempts to bring about artificial union in externals are not so practicable. Such attempts at unification are apt to take the form of eliminating the points of difference, so that what remains is a residue more or less vague and lifeless. Such a process is the attempt to find a common factor which, as we know, becomes smaller in proportion to the multitude of the numbers whose common factor is to be found. All religions have an esoteric basis beneath their exoteric form, and it is this which has so largely disappeared. Religions as they are do not satisfy the needs of human aspiration, for they leave out so large a part of what vitally concerns man. They are confined chiefly to ethical principles, but tell us nothing about the nature of the universe or man. Falling behind the age, they have allowed to grow up competing influences, such as science and abstract philosophy; and so we find knowledge, which should be one, divided into compartments, independent of each other or conflicting.
The false antithesis between morals and knowledge, religion and science, righteousness and culture, has been one of the great banes of religion. A unification of the field of knowledge is much desired; a uniform law by which to live; a solid basis for ethics, morals, conduct, instead of dogmas which we cannot believe, or speculations and fads and cults innumerable. A man's real religion is what he lives by -- whatever he may profess. Thus the real unification of religions is found, not by trying to force an external union, or by eliminating from them all points of difference, but by getting back to the esoteric basis of religions and showing the common parentage of them all; in short, by reviving a knowledge of the ancient wisdom-religion.