And we may add that the Pseudo-Dionysius, whose works were the source of mediaeval Christiam mysticism, and were held in greatest reverence by Thomas Aquinas, Tauler and Meister Eckhart, were copied from the order of the divine hierarchies as set forth by Plotinus, Jamblichus, and Proclus, who all, through Plato and Pythagoras, based themselves on Orpheus. -- Orpheus, G.R.S. Mead
Verses of the Book
Mead, once head of the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society and the personal secretary of Madame Blavatsky, traces out here a central strand of the Everlasting Gospel. Esoteric or visionary influences stream from Orpheus to Pythagoras and Plato, to the so-called Neoplatonic philosophers including Plotinus, Iamblichus and Proclus, and directly to the Christian mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite down to Meister Eckhart and his followers.
While some of these figures have been accepted by orthodox Christianity and the ecclesiastical and secular authorities, all of these visionaries have inspired more radical and counter-establishment movements as well. This points to a certain ambiguity within the Everlasting Gospel.
The Orphic or Hermetic philosophy which underlies and informs much of this tradition, is also often co-opted and utilized by dominant priesthoods for the purpose of perpetuating and expanding State control. This philosophy is employed by the ruling hierarchy simply because it works.
It's generally a mistake to assume a division between Christian orthodoxy, or the Roman imperial cult which directly preceded it -- the line of pontiffs or high priests stretching well back into pagan antiquity -- and occult heresy. Instead, the real split is between a kind of elite Hermeticism and a democratic or even anarchic Hermeticism. The basic principles are shared, but the elite position is to prevent the masses from obtaining this wisdom, and then using the elites' own monopoly of knowledge as a means of control.
Yet democratic or anarchic groups much more embody the Hermetic principles of the centre being everywhere and all souls being equally cherished by Godhead. The religious orthodoxy imposed by sanctioned priesthoods, the latter always an essential plank of the apparatus of the State, is merely watered-down exoteric fare for the flock.
Initiatory lineages with secret rites and lore, carried on orally from master to disciple, can also be viewed as consisting of a part of the wider revolutionary tradition, with teachings and practices kept hidden to avoid suppression. Although what Diodorus wrote about the Eleusinian Mysteries should always be kept in mind; they made secret what was performed in the open and for all in the rites of Minoan Crete. The "mysteries" did not always require secrecy and exclusivity.
Minoan Crete, in fact, is a key link between the earlier Neolithic and Paleolithic Goddess worshiping cultures and the later mysteries of the ancient world. Crete was one of the last cohesive partnership societies in the Mediterranean region. Minoan Crete inherited the universal Goddess religion of the archaic world, revolving around the mythology of the Mother Goddess and her son/consort.
In Crete and Greece the myth of Dionysus echoed the story of Osiris/Horus and Isis in Egypt, Tammuz in Mesopotamia, Shiva and the Earth Goddess in India, and eventually Madonna and the Christ. The story of Orpheus, the son of the Muse Calliope and first poet, becomes central to the Orphic cult which scholars agree was a kind of reformed Dionysianism, Orpheus possessing elements of both Dionysus and Apollo.
As Mead points out above, Orpheus, once more representing the consort/son of the Goddess, becomes the inspiration for all subsequent poetry and philosophy. Orphic fraternities valued contemplation over worldly riches and pursuits and held all goods in common. Orpheus appears as either the teacher or the student of Hermes Trismegistus in later esoteric genealogies, but the teachings attributed to the mythical sage certainly went on to greatly influence the philosophies of Pythagoras and Plato.
The Orphic, Pythagorean and even Christian mystical traditions are all fundamentally subversive as they teach that individuals, living the Good Life and studying and practicing together, can entirely bypass and even shun the sanctioned priesthoods and seek out and find divine inspiration without authorized "spiritual" mediation.
Orpheus, as the first poet, is also a key figure of inspiration for the Western literary tradition. The French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé held that all inspired literature made up a vast and timeless "Book of Orpheus," to which every truly creative writer contributes perhaps a few verses or lines.
We should keep in mind here, however, that what is being called the Everlasting Gospel, despite the Biblical origin of its name, is not exclusively a Christian or even a Western tradition. The philosopher Algis Uždavinys points out, for instance, that while Plato can be called the father of Western philosophy, he is also the forebearer of Eastern-Byzantine and Islamic philosophy, and through these he indirectly helped to spawn other schools of thought further to the East. And Plato, as the sage himself humbly and reverently admitted, was merely a conduit for much older sources of wisdom.
The gospel is universal as well as everlasting, comprising of and celebrating the marriage or hierogamy of Matter and Spirit across the Earth at all of its changing phases, and steadfast in spite of the constant pressure of priestly co-option and State suppression.
The VooDoo tradition instructs that Moses learned the secrets of VooDoo from Jethro and taught them to his followers. H.P. Blavatsky concurs: “The fraternity of Free Masons was founded in Egypt and Moses communicated the secret teaching to the Israelites, Jesus to the Apostles and thence it found its way to the Knights Templar.”
... We learned what we always suspected, that the Masonic mysteries were of a Blacker origin than we thought and that this man [a Knights Templar Grand Master in 1890] had in his possession a Black sacred Book and how they were worried that we would find out and wouldn’t learn that the reason they wanted us out of the mysteries was because they were our mysteries! -- Mumbo Jumbo
Ismael Reed reminds us of another dimension of the Everlasting Gospel and its mysteries, which he terms "Jes Grew" in his incredible novel. Not only does its roots extend further back than the triumph of patriarchy, but likewise it precedes by centuries the white monopolization of the secret rites; both patriarchy and whiteness being key elements of Evola's bogus "Northern Light." The true tradition has always been open to all.
As Uždavinys explains, the principal Neoplatonic sages -- Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, etc. -- were natives of Egypt, the Near East and Anatolia, and certainly not "European" in ancestry and or in the traditions they revered. And these traditions, in the estimation of the philosophers themselves, originated not in Greece or Rome but in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
The secrets of VooDoo passed from the black priesthood of Egypt -- who in turn, according to the accounts of Apollonius of Tyana and others, obtained their wisdom from even older lineages in Ethiopia and India -- to Moses and the Old Testament prophets, to the Essenes and to the earliest iterations of the Kabbalah. From here they went on to provide the backbone of the Western European esoteric tradition, transmitted through the Templars and others.
Yet in a parallel transmission, the inner teachings of VooDoo spread to the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of Africa, where it was inadvertently transported by the European slave trade to the Caribbean and the Americas.
This esoteric transmission was fused and infused with the West African music of slaves and the former enslaved, and began to bubble up in ports of admixture and creative miscegenation like New Orleans. And with this subversive spread of Jes Grew through blues, jazz, calypso and other musical genres, arose the renewed rites of popular and ecstatic initiation of our era. The black mysteries reemerge to bring light to the masses.
Even the new religions which were born from time to time -- always at epochs when the mutual-aid principle was falling into decay in the theocracies and despotic States of the East, or at the decline of the Roman Empire -- even the new religions have affirmed that same principle. They found their first supporters among the humble, in the lowest, downtrodden layers of society, where the mutual-aid principle is the necessary foundation of every-day life; and the new forms of union which were introduced in the earliest Buddhist and Christian communities, in the Moravian brotherhoods and so on, took the character of a return to the best aspects of mutual aid in early tribal life. -- Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution, Peter Kropotkin
None of the religions began as orthodox dogma, formulated by and in the exclusive domain of the priestly elite. Instead, as Kropotkin realized, spiritual movements throughout history, be they of the followers of "the Buddha" or of "the Christ" or of other less remembered sages, began as revelations springing from the common people. Only after an initial phase of popular enthusiasm and evangelical growth are these movements "brought under control" and molded into institutions used to further elite power.
Before this occurs, however, these new bursts into the beyond, blasts of awakening -- usually by a single individual but at times by small groups -- attract disciples and fellow travellers who almost invariably set up communities and sodalities based upon the principles of mutual aid which are lacking in the wider society.
And, as Kropotkin noticed, these movements of mutual aid always emerge "among the humble, in the lowest, downtrodden layers of society." It is the socially marginalized and the economically deprived that have the least to lose and the most to gain from new religious movements, which often start off revolutionary in tone and substance.
The Everlasting Gospel, far from referring to any particular religion or sect, represents this initial phase of revelatory and revolutionary explosion within every religion. It passes as an undercurrent through the cracks of the established faiths, an eruption of mystical levelling and mutual aid, before once again being driven underground in the face of State and priestly suppression and/or co-option.
The mystical or visionary realization that the individual, the natural world and God -- however this is perceived or conceived -- are all one, also encompasses the idea that human society is a unity of mutual aid, every member equal yet absolutely unique and precious in the eyes of God.
In spite of all sorts of Brahmanical interpolations, grafting and handling, Tantra clearly rejects the varṇa system and patriarchy and, in the field of religion, all external formalities in regard to spiritual quest. These viewpoints are in virtual opposition to the Smarta-Purāṇic tradition, and that is why the followers of this system have been condemned and various attempts have been made to blacken the Tantric ideals. The traditions of varṇāśrama was always patronised by the ruling class, even by the Buddhist, Muslim and British rulers who were theoretically opposed to it. A critical student of religious history cannot fail to observe that certain forms of religious systems, especially those which uphold and justify a social system based on the principles of inequality and oppression, have been given massive support by the ruling class in all ages. -- History of the Tantric Religion, N.N. Bhattacharyya
Tantra in India certainly fits the pattern Kropotkin identifies. Like early Christianity, Buddhism and other religions it began as a movement of mutual aid among the downtrodden and the marginalized against the caste system and the patriarchal authorities. Bhattacharyya explains that Tantra practitioners were opposed to the priesthood and ecclesiastical hierarchy even of spiritual traditions, like Buddhism and Islam, which had started as liberation movements themselves but became fully absorbed by the system of control.
Tantra, however, can be understood as the resurfacing among the lower classes of the primordial and universal Mother Goddess worship, stemming back to the caves of the Paleolithic. Like resurgent Dionysianism in the West and Taoism in China -- the three existing as a triple branching of an even more archaic and worldwide shamanism -- Tantra is a direct extension of the oldest human revelation.
Tantra also restores an emphasis on the Earth, the body and its sexuality, and the particularly female mysteries. Before it, too, became incorporated into priestcraft -- although this was never wholly accomplished -- it was democratic and egalitarian in form and doctrine. Its affirmation of the physical world and the cycles of nature, including that of birth, death and rebirth, would seem to put it at odds with both the Vedantic philosophies of India and Platonism and Neoplatonism in the West.
However, Tantra, in its Buddhist or Hindu or Jain form, is not a base materialism. Instead, it is a reemergence of an earlier affirmation of the life cycle found in original Mother Goddess worship. Liberation is not obtained by rejecting the Earth, the body and the spirals of birth and rebirth. Instead Tantra returns to the radical affirmation of embodied existence as spiritual greatness.
As Uždavinys teaches, the Neoplatonists revered Parmenides as expressing the highest truths of the Platonic dialogues. The Parmenides is essentially a discursive meditation on the nature of the One. The late Neoplatonist Proclus explains in his commentary on the dialogue, that while the One absolutely transcends the categories of Being and Non-Being, and all subsequent categories of thought, it is also the originator and preserver of these. The One participates in all things.
Very similar metaphysical speculation was occurring in India at around the same time. The great Madhyamika (Middle Way school of Mahayana Buddhism) philosopher Nāgārjuna grappled with the same ideas in the 2nd century. Unlike in the Hellenic world, however, India embraced the concept that would eventually be symbolized by the number Zero.
So while Plato and especially the much later Neoplatonists were scratching their heads and stroking their beards about "the One that is not One" -- how to account for the connection between the wholly transcendent One and the multiform world it must have spawned -- Nāgārjuna was able to take it back beyond the One to the "Zero," to śūnya, and to zeroness and emptiness, śūnyatā.
Śūnyatā not only shows that the "first principle" -- whatever that is -- is beyond the categories of being and non-being, but that all things, participating fully within it at all times, are likewise beyond these categories, likewise empty of own-being. From this insight an entire inversion of perspective can be gained.
Nirvāṇa -- the highest apprehension of, and unity with, the so-called "One" -- is thus identical to Saṃsāra -- this present sub-lunar, ever-in-flux realm of life, death and rebirth. Both are "terms" or "realms" or "perceptions" or "states of consciousness" in which all categories are provisional, unfixed, and as transitory and "empty" as anything held by the senses and experienced by the body. "The One," or more accurately "The Zero," participates in matter because it is entirely identifiable with matter. The seeming paradox of transcendence yet participation is resolved.
And this is where things get really interesting. If the transcendent has become, and truly always was, wholly immanent, if the Good, the True and the Beautiful are present wherever and whenever people have eyes to see them, then questions of philosophy become those of epistemology and not ontology.
There are not two principle worlds -- the higher transcending all matter & embodied life and partially accessible only to rigid hierarchies of gods, angels and priests -- but there are two or more ways of knowing; "transcendent" modes of apprehension being just as accessible as the "ordinary" or mundane knowledge of the senses.
Only the doors of perception need to be cleansed, as Blake wrote much later, to be able to behold the infinite. And this may be not that far off from one important facet of Plato's teaching. In the Symposium we read that the Form of Beauty, which is an entry point into the entire realm of the Forms, can be grasped gradually through the conscious perception of particular instances or persons of "erotic" (reflecting Eros) beauty. In other words, a transformed perception of beautiful individuals can lead to an apprehension of divine beauty in all things.
A priesthood is not needed for this. Strict dogma and rites are not required, only effective techniques, and at times "simples" or substances, are desired which can be passed down from visionary to visionary. Spiritual insight has been levelled. Anyone can participate, and indeed always has been participating, in the Zero. Every instant of perception involves ourselves within it.
And as spiritual insight is levelled, democratized, so is social understanding. Each person has the potential to become priest or priestess of his or her own church. Just as it was the prophetess Diotima who initiated Socrates into the erotic mysteries and the "madness" coupled with it, it was the archaic insights of the primal Mother Goddess in India that brought alive the philosophical breakthroughs of Nāgārjuna and others.