Isabelle de Steiger Translating Karl von Eckartshausen: From ‘The Cloud upon the Sanctuary ‘ – Letter V
Isabelle de Steiger
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, is seminal Letter V, excerpted from Karl von Eckartshausen’s highly influential 1802 ‘The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary’-here in Isabel von Steiger’s 1896 English version published by George Redway. ‘Isabelle de Steiger, born in 28 February 1836, was an English painter, theosophist, occultist and writer. She became a member of several esoteric societies in London, and was a close friend and co-worker of Anna Kingsford. Steiger wrote several books on mystical subjects, including this sample translation, and an autobiography. She also wrote articles which appeared in various journals. Isabelle de Steiger was quite a serious and well-regarded painter, but unfortunately few of her works still exist. Many were of an occult nature. She died in Rock Ferry, Cheshire in January 1927.’ (Wikipedia).
‘In our last letter, my dear brothers (and sisters), you granted me your earnest attention to that highest of mysteries, the real possession of God; it is therefore necessary to give you fuller light on this subject.
Man, as we know, is unhappy in this world because he is made out of destructible matter that is subject to trouble and sorrow. The fragile envelope-i.e., his body- exposes him to the violence of the elements, pain, poverty, suffering, illnesses. This is his normal fate; his immortal spirit languishing in the bonds of sense.
Man is unhappy, because he is ill in body and soul, and he possesses no true panacea either for his body or for his soul. Those whose duty it is to govern and lead other men to happiness, are as other men, also weak and subject to the same passions and prejudices. Therefore, what fate can humanity expect? Must the greater part of it be always unfortunate? Is there no salvation for all ?
Brothers, if humanity as a whole is ever capable of being raised to a condition of true happiness, such state can only be possible under the following conditions:- First, poverty, pain, illness and sorrow must become much less frequent. Secondly, passions, prejudices and ignorance must diminish. Is this at all possible with the nature of man, when experience proves that, from century to century, suffering only assumes fresh form; that passions, prejudices and errors always cause the same evils; and when we realize that all these things only change shape, and that man in every age remains much the same weak man?
There is a terrible judgment pronounced upon the human race, and this judgment is- men can never become happy so long as they will not become wise; but they will never become wise, while sensuality governs reason, while the spirit languishes in the bonds of flesh and blood. Where is the man that has no passions? Let him shew himself. Do we not all wear the chains of sensuality more or less heavily? Are we not all slaves? All sinners?
This realization of our low estate excites in us the desire to be raised beyond it, and we lift up our eyes on high, and an angel’s voice says-the sorrows of man shall be comforted.
Man being sick body and soul, this mortal sickness must have a cause, and this cause is to be found in the very matter out of which man is made.
The destructible imprisons the indestructible, the ferment of sin is in us, and in this ferment is human corruption, and its propagation and consequences form the perpetuation of original sin.
The healing of humanity is only possible through the destruction of this ferment of sin, hence we have need of a physician and a remedy that really can cure us. But an invalid cannot be cured by another; the man of destructible matter cannot re-make himself of indestructible matter; dead matter cannot awake other dead, the blind cannot lead the blind.
Only the Perfect can bring anything to perfection; only the Indestructible can make the destructible likewise; only the Living can wake the dead.
This Physician and this active Medicine cannot be found in death and destruction, only in superior nature where all is perfection and life!
The lack of the knowledge of the union of Divinity with nature, nature with man, is the true cause of all prejudice and error. Theologians, philosophers, moralists, all wish to regulate the world, and they fill it with endless contradictions.
Theologians do not see the union of God with nature and fall therefore into error.
Modern Philosophers study only matter, and not the connection of pure nature with divine nature, and therefore announce the falsest opinions.
Moralists will not recognize the inherent corruption of human nature, and they expect to cure by words, when means are absolutely necessary.
Thus the world, man and God, continue in permanent dissension; one opinion drives out another; superstition and incredulity take turnabout in dominating society, separating man from the word of truth when he has so much dire need of approaching her.
It is only in the true Schools of Wisdom that one can learn to know God, nature and man; and in these, for thousands of years, has work been done in silence to acquire to the highest degree this knowledge,- the union of man with pure nature and with God.
This great object, God and Nature, to which everything tends, has been represented to man symbolically in every religion ; and all the symbols and holy glyphs are but the letter by which man can gradually, step by step, recover the highest of all divine mysteries, natural and human, and learn the means of healing his unhappy condition, and of the union of his being with pure nature and with God.
We have attained this epoch solely under God’s guidance. Divinity, next remembering its covenant with man, has given forth the means of cure for suffering mankind, and shewn thereby how to raise man to his original dignity, uniting him to God, the Source of his happiness.
The knowledge of this method ensuring recovery is the science of Saints and of the Elect, and its possession the inheritance promised to God’s children. Now, my beloved brothers (and sisters), I want you to grant me your most earnest attention to what I am about to say.
In our blood there is lying concealed a slimy matter (called the gluten) which has a nearer kinship to animal than to spiritual man. This gluten is the body of sin.
This material, this matter, can be modified in various manners, according to the stimulus of sense; and according to the kind of modification and change occurring in this body or matter of sin, so also vary the diverse sinful tendencies of man.
In its most violent expansion this matter produces pride; in its utmost contraction, avarice, self will and selfishness; in its repulsion, rage and anger; in its circular movements levity and incontinence in its eccentricity, greediness and drunken-ness; in its concentricity, envy; in its essence, sloth.
This ferment of sin, as original sin, is more or less working in the blood of every man, and is transmitted from father to son, and the perpetual propagation of this baneful material everlastingly hinders the simultaneous action of spirit with matter.
It is quite true that man by his will power can put limits to the action of this body of sin, and can dominate it so that it becomes less active, but to destroy and annihilate it altogether is beyond his power. This then is the cause of the combat we are constantly waging between the good and the evil in us.
This body of sin which is in us, forms the ties of flesh and blood which, on the one side, bind us to our immortal spirit, and, on the other, to the tendencies of the animal man. It is as it were the allurements of the animal passions that smolder and take fire at last.
The violent reaction of this body of sin in us, on sensuous stimulation, is the reason why we choose, for the want of calm and tranquil judgment, rather the evil than the good, because the active fermentation of this matter impedes the quiet action of the spirit necessary to instruct and sustain the reason.
This same evil matter is also the cause of our ignorance, because,as its thick and inflexible substance surcharges the fine brain fibres, it prevents the co-action of reason, which is required to penetrate the objects of the understanding.
Thus falseness and all evils are the properties of this sinful matter, this body of sin, just as the good and the true are the essential qualities of the spiritual principle within us.
Through the recognition and thorough understanding by us of this body of sin we learn to see that we are beings morally ill, that we have need of a physician who can give us a medicine which will destroy and eradicate the evil matter always fermenting banefully within us, a remedy that will cure us and restore us to moral health.
We learn also clearly to recognize that all mere moralizing with words is of little use when real means are necessary.
We have been moralizing in varied words for centuries, but the world remains pretty much the same. A doctor would do but little good in talking only of his remedies, it is necessary for him actually to prescribe his medicines; he has, however, first to see the real state of the sick person.
The condition of humanity- the moral sickness of man- is a true case of poisoning, consequent upon the eating of the fruit of the tree in which corruptible matter had the superiority.
The first effect of this poison resulted thus: the incorruptible principle, the body of life as opposed to the body of sin or death,whose expansion caused the perfection of Adam, concentrated itself inwardly, and the external part was abandoned to the government of the elements. Hence a mortal matter gradually covered the immortal essence, and the loss of this central light was the cause subsequently of all man’s sufferings.
Communication with the world of light was interrupted, the interior eye which bad the power of seeing truth objectively was closed, and the physical eye opened to the plane of changing phenomena.
Man lost all true happiness, and in this unhappy condition he would have for ever lost all means of restoration to health were it not that the love and mercy of God, who had no other object in creation but the greatest happiness for its creatures, immediately afforded to fallen man a means of recovery. In this means, he, with all posterity, had the right to trust, in order that while still in his state of banishment, he might support his misfortune with humility and resignation, and, moreover, find in his pilgrimage the great consolation, that every corruptible thing in man could be restored perfectly through the love of a Savior.
Despair would have been the fate of man without such revelation.
Man, before the Fall, was the living Temple of Divinity, and at the time when this Temple was destroyed, the plan to rebuild the Temple was already projected by the Wisdom of God; and at this period begin the Holy Mysteries of every religion, which are all and each in themselves, after a thousand varying modes, according to time and circumstances, and method of conception of different nations, but symbols repeated and modified of one solitary truth, and this unique truth is- regeneration, or the re-union of man with God.
Before the Fall man was wise, he was united to Wisdom; after the Fall he was no longer one with Her, hence a true science through express Revelation became absolutely necessary.
The Revelation was the following:- The condition of immortality consists in immortality permeating the mortal. Immortal substance is divine substance, and is no other than the magnificence of the Almighty throughout nature, the substance of the world and spirits, the infinity, in short, of God in whom all things move and have their being.
It is an immutable law, no creature can be truly happy when separated from the source of all happiness. This source, this in whom, is the magnificence of God Himself.
Through the partaking of destructible nourishment, man himself became destructible and material; matter, therefore, as it were places itself between God and man, that is to say, man is not directly penetrated and permeated by divinity, and, in consequence, he is thenceforth subject to, and falls under the dominion of, the laws regulating matter.
The divine in man, imprisoned by the bonds of this matter, is his immortal part, the part that should be at liberty, in order that its development should once again rule the mortal. Then once more does man regain his original greatness.
But a means for his cure, and a method to externalize what is now hidden and concealed within, is requisite. Fallen and unwise man of himself can neither know nor grasp this expedient; he cannot even recognize it, because he has lost pure knowledge and the light of true wisdom; he cannot take hold of it, because this remedy is enfolded in interior nature, and he has neither the strength or power to unlock this hidden force.
Hence Revelation to learn this means, and strength to acquire this power are necessary to man.
This necessity for the salvation of man was the cause of the determination of Wisdom, or the Son of God, to give Himself to be known by man, being the pure substance out of which all has been made.
In this pure substance all power is reserved to vivify all dead substance, and to purify all that is impure.
But before that could be done, and the inmost part of man, the divine in him, be once more penetrated and re-opened again, and the whole world be regenerated, it was requisite that this divine substance should incarnate in humanity and become human, and therein transmit the divine and regenerative force to humanity; it was necessary also that this divine human form should be killed, in order that the divine and incorruptible substance contained in the blood should penetrate into the recesses of the earth, and thenceforth work a gradual dissolution of corruptible matter, so that in due time a pure and regenerated earth will be presented to man, with the Tree of Life growing once more, so that by partaking of its fruit, containing the true immortal essence, mortality in us will be once more annihilated, and man healed by the fruit of the Tree of Life, just as he was once poisoned by the partaking of the fruit of death.
This fact is the first and most important revelation and it embraces all, and it has been carefully preserved from mouth to mouth among the Chosen of God up to this time.
Human nature required a Savior, this Saviour was Jesus Christ,the Wisdom of God itself, reality from God. He put on the envelope of humanity, to communicate directly the divine and immortal substance once more to the world, which was nothing else but Himself.
He offered himself voluntarily, in order that the pure essential force in His blood could penetrate directly, bringing with it the potentiality of all perfection to the hidden recesses of the earth.
Himself, both as High Priest and as Victim at the same time, entered into the Holy of Holies, and after having accomplished all that was necessary, he laid the foundation of the Royal Priesthood of His Elect, and taught these through the knowledge His person and of His powers; now they should lead, as the first born of the spirit, other men, their brethren, to universal happiness.
And here begin the Sacerdotal Mysteries of the Elect and of the Inner Church.
The Royal and Priestly Science is that of Regeneration. It is called Royal Science because it leads man to power and the dominion over Nature.
It is called Sacerdotal, because it sanctifies and brings all to perfection, spreading blessing and goodness everywhere.
This Science owes its immediate origin to the verbal revelation of God, it is always the Science of the Inner Church of Prophets and of Saints, and it recognized no other High Priest but Jesus Christ the Lord. This Science has a triple object; first, regenerating the individual and isolated man, or the first of the Elect; second, many men; thirdly, all humanity.
Its exercise consists in the highest perfecting of itself and of everything in Nature. This Science was never taught otherwise than by the Holy Spirit of God, and by those who were in unison with this Spirit, and it is beyond all other sciences, because it can alone teach the knowledge of God, of nature, and of man in a perfect harmony; while other sciences do not understand truly either God or nature, neither man nor his destination.
The capabilities of this Science are the powers to know God in man, and divinity in nature; these being, as it were, the Divine impression or seals, by which our inner selves can be opened and can arrive at union with Divinity. Thus the re-union was the most exalted aim, and hence the Priesthood derived its name religio, clerus regenerans.
Melchizedek was the first Priest King; all true Priests of God and of Nature descend from him, and Jesus Christ himself was united with him as “priest” after the order of Melchizedek.
This word is literally of the highest and widest significance and extent-[qoph][daleth][tsadhe][kaph][lamedh][yod][mem](MLKIZ-DQ). It means literally the introducing of the true substance of vital life, and the separation of this true vital substance from the mortal envelope which encloses it.
A Priest is one who separates that which is pure nature from that which is of impure nature, a separator of the substance which contains all from the destructible matter which occasions pain and misery. The sacrifice or that which has been separated consists in bread and wine.
Bread means literally the substance which contains all; wine the substance which vitalizes everything.
Therefore, a priest after the order of Melchizedek is one who knows how to separate the all embracing and vitalizing substance from impure matter, one who knows how to employ it as a real means of reconciliation and of re-union for fallen humanity, in order to communicate to him his true and royal privilege of power over nature, and the Sacerdotal dignity or the ability to unite himself by grace to the upper worlds.
In these few words is contained all the mystery of God’s Priesthood, and the occupation and aim of the Priest.
But this royal Priesthood was only able to reach perfect maturity when Jesus Christ Himself as high Priest had fulfilled the greatest of all sacrifices, and had entered into the Holy Sanctuary.
Here we are now entering on new and great mysteries worthy, I entreat you, of your most earnest attention.
When, according to the wisdom and justice of God, it was resolved to save the fallen human race, the Wisdom of God had to choose the method which afforded in every aspect the most efficacious means for the consummation of this great object.
When man became so thoroughly poisoned by the fruit of evil, carrying in himself hence forth the ferment of death, all around him became subject to death and destruction, therefore, divine mercy was bound to establish a counter remedy, which could be partaken of,containing within itself the divine and revitalizing substance, so that by taking this immortal food, poisoned and death-stricken man could be healed and rescued from his suffering. But in order that this Tree of Life could be replanted; it was requisite beyond all things that the corruptible material in the centre of the earth should be first regenerated, resolved and made capable of being again one day a universally vitalizing substance.
This capacity for new life, bringing about the dissolution of corruptible essence which is inherent in the centre of the earth, was,however, possible to no other matter than divine vital substance enveloped in flesh and blood which could transmit the hidden forces of life to dead nature. This was done through the death of Jesus Christ. The tinctural force which flowed from His shed blood penetrated to the innermost parts of the earth, raised the dead, rent the rocks,and caused the total eclipse of the sun when it pressed from the centre of the earth where the light penetrated the central darkness to the circumference, and there laid the foundation of the future glorification of the world.
Since the death of Jesus Christ, the divine force, driven to the earth’s centre by the shedding of His blood, works and ferments perpetually to press outward, and to fit and prepare all substances gradually for the great cataclysm which is destined for the world.
But the rebuilding of the world’s edifice in general was not only the aim of Redemption. Man was the principal object for the shedding of Christ’s blood, and to procure for him already in this material world the highest possible perfection by the amelioration of his being, Jesus Christ submitted to infinite suffering.
He is the Savior of the world and of man. The object and cause of His Incarnation was to rescue us from sin, misery, and from death. Jesus Christ has delivered us from all evil by His flesh, which He sacrificed, and by His blood, which He shed for us.
In the clear understanding of what consists this flesh and this blood of Jesus Christ lies the true and pure knowledge of the real regeneration of man.
The mystery of being united with Jesus Christ, not only spiritually but also corporeally, is the greatest aim of the Inner Church. Become one with Him in spirit and in being is the fulfilling and plenitude of the efforts of the Elect.
The means for this real possession of God is hidden from the wise of this world, and revealed to the simplicity of children.
Vain philosopher, bend thyself before the grand and Divine Mysteries that thou in thy wisdom canst not understand, and for the penetration of whose secrets the feeble light of human reason darkened by sense can give thee no measure! ‘
Letter V-Translator’s Notes
(Below text notes published in the periodical “The Unknown World”, 1895)
I am well aware that many readers of this fifth (the last but one) letter and the preceding ones, will think that the mystic who writes them was but a half-instructed philosopher, and had he known the Bibles of other nations would never have taught what will seem to some, bigoted and sectarian doctrines. But before such dictum be decided, is it not as well to remember that Eckartshausen and other mystics of his school especially say that all religions in their infinitely various manners of expressing themselves have the same object?
Eckartshausen recognizes and does not even hint at condemnation of any of the various religions, he seems to respect all for he says that the aim and object of all is the Regeneration of Man. The stumbling block and difficulty to most students, certainly to those who are students only of the neo-Buddhism of the day, is the re-introduction of what is considered by such as exploded and narrow ideas, and that is the need of man for Salvation, his inability to help himself, and the Redemption of man by the Sacrifice of the Jewish Savior. It is neither in my province or power to enter with ability into this discussion, but I would respectfully suggest these two things- first are we quite sure as Buddhist students that we do understand the true hidden teaching of the Way of Salvation as known to their Initiates; secondly, do we all understand it either in Christianity?
It is true, exoteric Buddhism even when called esoteric repudiates such doctrines, Christianity admits them, but has taught them in such fashion that a large proportion of people born under Christianity repudiate them also. It is clear the outer schools all repudiate them, so it would seem that the Mystic Initiates preach doctrine no longer agreeable to our “sense of justice.”
It is thought by many that these new (?) doctrines of Karma and re-incarnation are much more satisfactory than Christian doctrines. Perhaps so, as modern Christianity is understood. But is evil Karma aught else but original sin in its works and consequences?
All knowledge is requisite, and it matters not so much how we get knowledge, so long that we do get it, therefore we owe a vast and great debt of gratitude to the Eastern school for refreshing ours by proving from another aspect the truth of our own, and one must recognize the great value of the recovery, not discovery of these doctrines (as our able thinker Mr. Maitland would say). But I take my stand upon the ground that knowledge even of true doctrine is not always directly helpful.
Indeed, as a most respected thinker says, “the doctrine of Karmic re-incarnation is in truth a terrible one in point of FACT, and hopeless for the individual.” The law of Karma is, in fact, the law entailed on destructible matter, the law under which we are all born as “sinners,” that law, which Christ who fulfilled all the law, which we can never do, but out of whose power it is henceforth possible for us to raise ourselves through his perfection. But this is a long subject and must now not be entered into, as it is unwise as useless to profane great subjects by inaccurate statement and mere polemics. Unhappily, owing to much vaporous and nonexperimental discourse on the mysteries of Regeneration, more particularly the result of the Calvinist school, there was no doubt much profanation; and the reaction that many thoughtful and earnest minds feel still, even to the very words, is due to the inner terror that they felt, though not understood, at this profanation.
The mystics put to us the great question: Can man work out his own salvation? They say, No. The Eastern school, as we know it, which is not in its entirety, says Yes. It appears to me the mere observation of life and society in the West says, No. This may not apply to others.
The “Raja-yoga” may be a perfect means of “salvation” to some nations. Is it to ours?
With regard to the text quoted in the last letter, “For a just man falleth seven times and riseth up again,” it is referable to Proverbs xxiv., i6. The number seven is important.
We must carefully bear in mind all throughout these letters, just as in the Bhagavad-Gita, two orders of minds are addressed. The latter, however, being a Sacred Book from Catholic source, has universal as well as particular application, whereas mystics write as a rule particularly but to the Initiate as well as to the Neophyte.
ISABELLE DE STEIGER
Full 1895 book