by Teike Van Baden
Alcmaria Lodge #95, Netherlands
Originally appears at Ignoscentia et Veritas. Reposted with permission.
In the spring of 2018 I visited the Ritman Library in Amsterdam. I am a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and it came to my attention that part of our symbolism resembled some of the alchemical symbolism of the medieval period.
I wanted to know more about the Rosicrucian enigma. I was added to a couple of
Facebook groups on the topic but I was astonished by the passive aggressiveness of the members towards their fratres and sorores from other organizations. I perceived a need of some people to point out to others what they were missing out. “Which Order holds the ‘true secret’ of the Ageless Wisdom?” seemed to be an important question that entertained their minds.
I thought Rosicrucianism could offer me something for my own spiritual development but I was not sure if I had found a group of people that had similar aims as me. I think I discussed these feelings privately with an Odd Fellow brother who pointed me to the website of Pansopher’s and shortly thereafter I joined the Rosicrucian Tradition Facebook group.
Besides reading some Manly P Hall in my early twenties, which had a positive effect on the development of my personal values and ideals, I was a complete newcomer to the Western Mystery Tradition. In August of 2018 I asked for book recommendations in the Rosicrucian Tradition Facebook group and in September of 2018 I joined one of the modern offshoots of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
I have been thinking a lot about the motive that gives one entrance to the Mysteries. A while ago I had a dream in which a teacher directed his attention to me: “Do you think a tradition with so many schisms can really offer anything towards your spiritual development?“
That is a question that I would like to explore in this paper.
SCIENCE AND THE MYSTERY OF EXISTENCE
Francis Bacon was the father of modern science. His works aimed at developing a new method of investigating nature. If you have knowledge of the mechanistic causes of phenomena you can use nature for your own purpose and benefit which could lead to the enrichment of human life and the transformation of society. Bacon suggests a new system of logic which is based on induction rather than on the syllogism. It begins with the facts of nature and works slowly towards general axioms and propositions by the use of experiments.
Medieval scholars conceived of philosophy as the servant of theology. Francis Bacon considered philosophy not as the servant of theology but of society; working for the good of the human condition. His aim was trying to change the world in which we live. The 16th century was the utopian age and Bacon’s vision for the future of human society was certainly of that category. He thought of it as a scientific utopia brought in by the appliance of knowledge of natural processes for the transformation of conditions.
The achievement of that transformation of society is what he calls the Kingdom of God. It is a religiously motivated utopian ideal but the hope of its realization is implemented by modern science. Bacon does not assume that human knowledge automatically will produce good results. He makes some ethical comments along the way. He wants the power of knowledge controlled by an appropriate ethic which is in his words ‘true religion’ – the divine commands – and prudence as the result of being aware of consequences.
It has been proposed that this Baconian approach to the transformation of human society gave license to modern science for the exploitation of nature and domination over resources and the environment for our own pleasure and good. By this reasoning some of our modern environmental problems are blamed on Francis Bacon. But Bacon was not thinking of it as domination but of stewardship in a way appropriate to the Kingdom of God. Bacon’s philosophy eventually leads us to the idea that science tells us what reality is and on that basis we can argue the existence of God.
Today we can understand from a scientific viewpoint that we form an integral part of nature but if we can come to that conclusion by thinking, why doesn’t that lead to consequences that reflect these conclusions? In other words: If we know we are an integral part of nature why do we feel disconnected from it? Maybe it is this subjective need to feel connected with an objective purpose what calls someone to the path of the Ageless Wisdom.
THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH
Truth therefore is not merely a search for intellectual and philosophical answers or the appliance of the scientific method. Truth encompasses all existential questions and the Ageless Wisdom promises a direct perception of it. The amount by which we are capable of knowing ourselves, we are able to unveil the infinite and the purpose of our being.
On a psychological level truth is associated with our cognitive structure with which we explain and predict the world around us. I think people are motivated to do the least amount of damage to their cognitive structure as possible to correct their prediction errors of their environment. The deeper the axiom you have to adjust, the more you lose of the map that orients you in the world and that can be a very unpleasant experience.
When something axiomatically impossible happens people are going to scramble to find reasons that do not require reshaping of their world view. Humans avoid an involuntary descent into chaos that is the inevitable outcome when the fundament of their worldview is challenged. If we develop static axioms we will have to do painful work in correcting them along the way to make up for our prediction errors.
This could lead to the realization that when we act out falsehoods we corrupt the structure of the world and our soul. There are moments that conscience should overwrite norms but we must make sure we are right. Every time we tell ourselves a lie and act out a falsehood we disturb the integrity of the subconscious and the reports it will give us about the world will become distorted. We have a moral obligation to follow the dictates of our conscience but we also have the moral obligation to make sure we live life straight enough so that we can rely on our own judgment.
Francis Bacon also conceives of an appropriate ethic that should control the power of knowledge. Truth therefore might not be a merely scientific explanation of the mechanistic universe but a direct perception of an underlying reality that we develop as a result of the reintegration of our personality with the universe that functions on the basis of axioms that in turn dictate human ethics.
EXTERNAL THEORY OR INTERNAL REALIZATION?
Thus it is my current conviction that the Ageless Wisdom is not realized by the reliance on an external theory which is shared within the monographs of some of the modern Rosicrucian Orders. While contemplating I conclude, at least for the time being, that it is a direct perception of the purpose of creation and the laws that govern it and therefor an internal realization of your own role within it. There are many methods, some trough correspondence, to achieve that internal realization.
Maybe we hope to understand ourselves better by looking at our roots. I certainly think on a regular basis “I am starting to look a lot like my mother.” It could be the realization that the past impregnates the future; combinations and permutations of what was that gives birth to a diversity that creates infinite new opportunities of what will be; ever expressing unity in diversity to experience life on a deeper level.
“Why?” might be a more difficult question to answer. If we believe we have free will and we want to become masters of our own destiny we want to feel in control. By learning from the past and creating a vision for the future we hope to become creators of that future instead of merely victims of it. Before Francis Bacon’s conception of scientific realism we put our future in the hands of God mainly because our knowledge of how to influence our environment successfully was very limited.
If we believe the causes for our future are dependent on external circumstances we might want to impose an external structure on others because that would give us a sense of control over our environment. If we believe that control over our internal causes is sufficient for the security of our future we don’t need that. Maybe it takes experience to realize that we cannot successfully control others and expect a healthy outcome?
In meditation on the sentences from “Pattern on the Trestleboard” I explored some different perspectives. Two sentences come to mind:
“ALL THE POWER THAT EVER WAS OR WILL BE IS HERE NOW.”
“FILLED WITH UNDERSTANDING OF ITS PERFECT LAW, I AM GUIDED, MOMENT BY MOMENT, ALONG THE PATH OF LIBERATION.”
Everything will work itself out as long as we keep following curiosity and desire, which we currently mistake for our own.
EVIL AND TRAGEDY
The finite and infinite form an interface that gives birth to the conditions for existence and life. This means in consequence that our sense of vulnerability is one of the conditions of that existence. Vulnerability leads unavoidably to tragedy. Mental illness, cancer, earthquakes, tsunamis and predators: they are not evil but tragic preconditions as a result of the innate vulnerability of existence.
The idea that there are social or material causes for actions is an extraordinarily useful theory but its consequence is that we write off human behavior and attribute it to insufficiencies of material conditions. There are many cultures with a lack of material luxuries and well-being that are highly functional and moral despite these perceived insufficiencies. Thus I believe it cannot be the whole explanation for the presence of immoral and amoral behavior within our modern society.
Evil is defined by its lack of necessity and its volunteerism it is different then the mere tragedy of existence. It is a celebration of horror. It is a conscious attempt to violate the conditions that make life itself tolerable. It is aimed at dehumanization, destruction of the ideal and revenge against the conditions of life itself.
With the dawn of self-consciousness there is the emergence of a moral sense that is unique to the human condition. It has to do with the capacity to reflect upon the mechanisms of our action and to be able to modify those actions and choose which one we must implement into the future. Animals are motivated to do what they do but humans work. They subvert their day to day motivations for the purpose of future security. It costs us separation from the pure and unadulterated flow of animal life. We suffer from that absence of flow. Adam, kicked out of paradise; out of unconscious identification with the natural world.
Culture is then the interaction between the fundamental nakedness of the human form and the depredations of nature. If we cannot tolerate the confrontation with our own vulnerability we might begin to deceive the structure of reality itself out of a lack of courage to make the sacrifices to perform our will and the failure to grasp the opportunities that life has given us. The salt of this lack of willingness to make sacrifices is rubbed in our wounds by the existence of others against which we compare ourselves.
There seem to be two general patterns of reaction to the self-conscious vulnerable condition of human existence. One is a humble approach to infinity with determined attempts to make the appropriate sacrifice. The other is arrogance, resentment, keeping of all the good for one self and the degeneration of the soul to have a false sense of security. We can become so angry with our own vulnerability that we destroy the ideal to relieve the tension that exists as long as it serves as a point of contrast.
There is an overwhelming probability that if we grew up under tyranny we would be willing to falsify our own experience out of self-preservation. As long as we cannot accept that, we have absolutely no idea who we are. As long as we have no insight into our capacity of evil we have no insight into our capacity of good. There are motivations in the dark corners of our minds that would traumatize us if they were uncovered.
If the burden of enlightenment is the complete understanding of the human’s endless capacity for evil then we can understand why enlightenment is in short supply. Without the beliefs that fill in the gaps of our understanding we are naked and defenseless against the infinite.
The way out is the development of an integrated personality. It means a constant confrontation to make sure we are made of truth and solidity because every time we make a pathological moral decision we bring the world one step closer to annihilation but the other way around is equally true. Historical examples such as Mahathma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela show us how powerful the human spirit can be if it is willing to take on the obligation of its relationship with the divine.
Maybe this is the threshold that leads to the path of the Ageless Wisdom.
I can never claim this paper as my own. We all have abstract realizations that come directly from the soul that consecutively animate our intuition. Often we cannot verbalize these realizations in a comprehensible way but sometimes brilliant people come around who find the words that touch that intuition, bring it to light and make it communicable. I owe everything to those brilliant ones. The synthesis of their speech has been collected in this paper as a representation of my understanding. That is just a fancy way of saying: I borrowed a lot from others but read it any way you like.
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2 thoughts on “ON THE THRESHOLD OF THE PATH: CONTEMPLATION ON THE MOTIVE THAT ADMITS ONE TO THE MYSTERIES OF THE AGELESS WISDOM – by Teike Van Baden”
Please give proper credit to the artist whose work you used in this article. I was very sad to see the beautiful works “Unio Mystica”, “The vision of Hermes Tresmegistos”, and “The Struggle Between Good and Evil” by Johfra Bosschart reproduced here without even a line at the end of the article noting who had painted them. These paintings were created less than 100 years ago and are not in the public domain, please consider doing the right thing and adding, at the very least, a caption with the artist’s name.
We updated to add the artist’s name. Thank you.