John Godolphin Bennett: From ‘The Masters of Wisdom’ – The Heroic Epoch
Mister Bennet in 1974,
at the International Academy for Continuous Education,
in Sherborne, Gloucestershire-UK.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is an excerpt from John Godolphin Bennett’s final work, the masterly and tactfully weaved political-historical-spiritual panorama of ‘The Masters Of Wisdom: An Esoteric History of the Spiritual Unfolding of Life on This Planet’, published posthumously in 1977 by Turnstone Books and re-issued in 1980, 1995 and 2018 by the J.G. Bennett Foundation.
Transition periods are fascinating. Many surviving roots of our cultures were forged in these deeply transformative times. We cover them in our ‘Seven Myths of the Soul’ and ‘Backstage Mythology’ seminars as an introduction to our work on Mythology and the importance of their singularity and their transformative powers can never be outlined enough.
We warmly invite you, in this holiday season, to treat yourself into reading ‘The Maters of Wisdom’ in full after, even though it is slightly forgotten and too easily lightly dismissed as ‘speculative’ but it is, in our humble opinion, an ideal champion for a contemporary re-evaluation with the latest scholarship, so much has been happening in the archeological field that proves Bennett’s intuitions were pointing in the right directions! For us, discovering this book was quite a multi-layered contextual eye-opening experience, that still remains vivid for us up to now!
‘I will briefly trace the history of the four cultures during the first epoch. Each of the four cultures represents a different Way of Transformation. Each of them was created by Masters of Wisdom — the first on earth.’ Bennet then describes in details, the ‘Way of the Great Mother’, ‘The way of Great Spirit’, ‘The way of the Creator God’, and ‘The way of the Saviour God’. Then continues with:
‘The Epoch of Conflict
Between 5,500 BC and 3,000 B.C. power and authority passed from the initiates who had preserved the tradition to the leaders who could assure their people of land. Only where great tracts of land were irrigated from the mountains could the old nomadic life of the Great Spirit tribes and their shamans continue.
By the end of the epoch the climatic conditions again changed. One result of the drought had been to dry the great valleys of the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates and the Yellow River in China, making them habitable.
The ritual practices, the languages and the basic attitudes to life that had been established from the start of the great cycle remained but they came under the control of priests and leaders.
Another effect of the migrations had been to establish commerce rather than barter as a means of exchange. Money had been invented, writing was in use in many places. City states began to grow in importance. We are entering the historic period the visible events of which are recorded in epic poetry confirmed by inscriptions and even, in some cases, written accounts on clay tablets or stone.
The Heroic Epoch
About five thousand years ago, mankind turned its attention to mortality and immortality in a new way. Man believed in immortal Gods and looked for immortal men. This was the start of the Heroic epoch. The first known hero was Gilgamesh whose legend is preserved in a number of cuneiform inscriptions. The hero had a two-fold function. He had direct access to the gods and he could ensure prosperity to his people. Very often he was looked upon himself as half-god, half-man. This is how it was in Egypt where the divine pharaoh was immortal and could confer deathlessness on those near him. This interpretation of the hero was characteristic of the Creator God culture. The Great Mother culture admitted heroes, who as consorts of the goddesses themselves became immortal. The Great Spirit culture accepted heroes as incarnation of the Great Spirit later known as ‘Shang-ti’. The Saviour God worshipers, the Aryans, very naturally saw their heroes in men who gave their lives to help the gods in their struggle with the powers of darkness.
In all this, the Masters of Wisdom played an unseen role. It was they who saw that the time had come when mankind must be divided according to their capacity for transformation. I shall use here the names I gave to these divisions in ‘The Dramatic Universe’. Those men and women who do not or cannot from natural deficiencies enter the process of transformation and acquire a soul are ‘psychostatic’. The summit of the psychostatic order of society is the external authority or leader. All who are in process of transformation, who have committed themselves to the task of acquiring immortality, are ‘psychokinetic’. This order of society consists of various grades: candidates, who aspire to transformation and have made a commitment; specialists, who have developed some skill through which psychokinetic ideas and techniques can be transmitted; counsellors, who are able from long experience to guide others in their troubles on the hazardouspath of transformation; and initiates, those who have entered into communication with the Demiurgic intelligence, though not in a permanent way.
The Masters themselves are ‘psychoteleios’, those who have completed the transformation and can communicate directly with the Demiurge and even with the Father Creator. The psychoteleios man has learned the secret of immortality in the ‘duraosha haroma’, ‘from whom death flees’. This order includes saints and guides, who inspire groups seeking transformation; and prophets and messengers, those given a task ‘from above’. The Messenger is an incarnation ‘from Above’.
To enable human societies to acquire this structure, there must be a division of functions. Outwardly, this results in a class society. The middle class arose when commerce and industry were established and when the city states required professional administrators. For brief periods, as at the time of Menes, the first king of united Egypt, Gudea of Lagash, Sargon the Great of Akkad and Brihadratha in India, the heroes were truly great men-and something near to the ideal society was established for several generations. They were both kings and priests in direct association with Masters of Wisdom, some of whom we know by name, such as Imhotep the founder of Egyptian astronomy and medicine, Hammurabi the law-giver of Babylon and Manu the law-giver of India. I believe that we should add the enigmatic figure of Melchizedek of Lagash, whose name appears in such decisive places in the Jewish and Christian scriptures as the man who initiated Abraham the Patriarch.
The Heroic age inaugurated civilization as we know it. This required sufficient visible authority to make an entire region accept a system of values regarded as mandatory. This is why the Masters of Wisdom appeared as law givers like Ikshvaku, Manu and Moses. Some of these belong to the highest rank of the ‘psychoteleios’ order — that is Messengers from the Father Creator. Others were like Tiresias the prophet in Homer’s Odyssey who alone among the dead retained all his powers of perception and action. He was greater than the heroes who seek his help.
All accounts of the Heroic epoch agree in presenting us with the picture of men with a prodigious force of life, but with uncontrollable passions and often lacking in commonsense. They were quite distinct from the prophets and guides. We see the picture in the stories of King Saul or Agamemnon.
It is particularly important for us to appreciate the total lack of respect for human life and the indifference to suffering that runs through all the literature and records of the epoch. We see engraved on stone hero kings boasting of unthinkable atrocities. We read in sacred books that ‘God’ commands us to destroy man, woman, child, beast, every living thing in a conquered city. We see that we are looking at an age that we cannot possibly understand. We cannot grasp that three thousand years ago, only heroes counted, ordinary people were animals and even less than animals.
And yet in the Heroic epoch great things were achieved. Science began its slow march of conquest over Nature and over man himself. Trade routes by land and sea connected all parts of the world. Great temples were built. This period includes the megalithic art of Europe, the building of the pyramids and great temples of Egypt. It covers the greater part of the Bronze Age and the discovery of iron smelting by the Hittites. Mathematics was established in Chaldea with astrology and medicine. The catalogues of their achievements would make us respect the men of the Heroic epoch, if we did not also remember their cruelty, their childish vanity and their lust for power.
About the middle of the second millennium B.C. a remarkable event occurred. This is commonly known as the ‘destruction of Atlantis’ from the description given by Plato in the ‘Timaeus’. To understand it we must look at the state of affairs in the countries of the eastern Mediterranean. We know that Egypt had been invaded by a mysterious people, the Hyksos, and was recovering under the great pharaohs of the eighteenth dynasty.
The little island of Crete was the first empire to discover the power given by command of the sea. She controlled all trade routes and built a fleet of war vessels that enabled her to invade where she chose to further and protect her commerce. The Cretans of the early Minoan period are credited with great technical achievements. They perfected navigation by the lodestone. They discovered the making and casting of bronze, the first dyeing of textiles and invented fire-throwing weapons that were the terror of the Mediterranean. We must believe Plato’s story of the wickedness of Crete at the height of its power. Such wickedness was typical of the Heroic epoch in its time of degeneration, but does not account for the peculiar horror evoked by Minoan Crete. The explanation lies in the rejection of the entire system of values which sustained the epoch.
The Cretan society was not heroic, it was an oligarchy of princes whose aim was material prosperity and the enjoyment of life. The sacred rituals of the Creator God and the Great Mother were turned into sporting occasions. Bullfights and athletic contests took the place of the worship of the Creator and the mysteries of the Mother Goddess. During their occupation of Egypt, the Hyksos had degraded the sacred priesthood, ridiculed the divine claims of the pharaoh.
The Masters of Wisdom foresaw the danger that a materialistic, hedonistic philosophy of life might take possession of men’s minds, at a time when the capacity for independent judgment was almost totally lacking in the mass of the people. Only belief in a personal destiny after death, the happiness or misery of which depended on the way life had been lived, would stand up against the appeal of pleasure for its own sake that would take man back to his state in the first Adamic cycle.
This was a threat that could not be met by force, because the Minoans combined love of pleasure with the possession of overwhelming naval power against which no land forces could prevail. Egypt was at the height of her own power. Tuthmosis III, like Napoleon, had pushed his conquests across Asia to the great rivers, but Crete like England, ruled the waves.
We can read of the Egyptian power in the Torah. Pharaoh was a cruel oppressor holding captive the Israelites whose extraordinary destiny was to unite the great cultures in a single religion. They had come to Egypt with the tradition of the Great Spirit and had been converted to the Creator God. They knew that they had come from Mesopotamia and that they were destined to return to the land promised to Abraham. But they were helpless, unarmed and enslaved. Between the powers that threatened the world, there was no human agency that could gain time for the Revelation that was to come. I cannot tell whether the Masters knew in advance what was going to happen or whether they may even have had powers to make it happen. However it may be, they were prepared.
On a fateful day in the year 1447 B.C. the greatest natural catastrophe since the Siberian meteor destroyed the small island of Santorini; a prodigious submarine earthquake opened the bed of the sea and millions of tons of water rushed on to the white hot magma beneath. The resulting explosion set up a huge tidal wave which swept through the eastern Mediterranean. On its way it destroyed the entire Cretan fleet and the palaces of Knossos and Kato Zakro. It swept over the Peloponnese and Attica causing the flood known as Deucalion’s flood in Greek literature. It poured into Egypt and caused the plagues so vividly described in Exodus. The entire might of Egypt was momentarily paralysed and Moses was able to lead the children of Israel out of captivity.
It is hardly conceivable that the exodus was unpremeditated. The Masters of Wisdom with whom Moses was closely connected must have been prepared. Moses himself was more than a Master. The story of his strength and his defects as recounted in Exodus show us that he was no ordinary man. He was the founder of the first true religion and, like all the founders, he had the support of the Masters of Wisdom. If we agree in identifying Crete and Santorini with the large and small islands described in Plato’s Timaeus, the story of the loss of Atlantis is clearly to he read. Plato could not explain just what the wickedness of the Minoans consisted in. They were no more ruthless than the Heroes of Homer’s Iliad or the Egyptian pharaohs. Their sin was against human destiny itself: it was the more grievous in that they had it in their power to open the whole world to the Revelations that were to come. Because of their failure its arrival in Europe and, perhaps, even America, was delayed for many centuries.
When the Masters of Wisdom had launched the concept of the Hero-king to provide a driving force to make man taste and use his creativity, these events were still in the distant future. By the beginning of the first millennium before Christ, the Hero had committed spiritual suicide. He had become a tyrant and not a hero. Instead of bringing his people to immortality, he made them slaves.
All this had been foreseen and provided for. History was about to move in an entirely unexpected direction. Before we come to this I must refer to an event which occurred about four thousand five hundred years ago when the Heroic age was at the height of its splendour. The temples in Egypt, Stonehenge in England, the great Ziggurats of Ur and Lagash were being built. Peace and prosperity were assured by strong priest-kings like Sargon the Great of Akkad.
The Masters knew that the tide would turn and the momentum of the Heroic age would ebb and lose itself in the quick-sands of human egoism. They decided to found a brotherhood that would be responsible for preserving the core of the teaching and make it the custodian of the special powers they possessed.
This brotherhood was later called the Sarman Society from the Persian words meaning ‘head’ and ‘pure’. It happens that Sarman also means ‘bee’. The play on words so much loved in the East, conveys the two-fold responsibility. The society was to keep in its pure form the head-force of the Masters. This was called at that time ‘Hvareno’, which meant the secret of success and associated with the halo that surrounds the Hero. The second duty was, like a bee, to collect and preserve the knowledge that had been acquired by the schools of Wisdom on different levels. This society sent its representatives to all the centres of Wisdom-and was responsible for preparing the remarkable events to be recounted in the next chapter.’