Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, , at sacred-texts.com
Before touching upon the main point of our subject, it may not be amiss to say a few words about the Brahmins. We do not propose, however, to raise the question of their real origin, which has been the subject of so much scientific controversy. According to some, who have certain ethnological theories of their own to support, they came from the sterile and desolate plains, which extend from the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea to the banks of the Oxus. According to others, who agree with the sacred books and pundits of India upon that point, they originated in the country comprised between the Ganges and the Indus on the one side and the Godavery and the Kristnah on the other. With regard to the former hypothesis we have said elsewhere, 1 "Such a theory seems singular, to say the least, when it is known that this country, which is held out to us as the cradle of the ancient Hindu race, does not possess a ruin, a tradition, a trace, which can furnish an ethnological foundation for such an opinion. This land, which is said to have produced the most astonishing civilization of ancient times, has not a monument or tradition of any sort to show for itself. It would be quite as logical, indeed, to make the Aryans or Brahmins originate in the sandy deserts of Sahara."
According to the second theory, the Brahmins came
originally from the plains of Central Hindustan. This opinion has historic and geographical truth in its favor, as well as the authority of all the learned pundits and of Manu, whose celebrated words are well known:
"Courouckchetra, Matsya, and the land of Boutchala, which is also called Cauya-Cobja (the Mountain of the Virgin), and Souraswaca, also called Mathoura, form the country adjacent to that of Brahmavarta, the country of virtuous men, or, in other words, of the Brahmins."
These countries are included in the quadrilateral formed by the four rivers just named. We shall not dwell upon this point further, however, as it is not our intention to discuss ethnological problems in the present work, but rather to set forth and elucidate religious conceptions.
Manu, the legislator, who sprang from the Temples of India, attributes to the Brahmins a Divine origin.
For the propagation of the human race, from his mouth, from his arm, from his thigh, from his foot, the Sovereign Master produced the Brahmin, priestthe Xchatrya, kingthe Vaysia, merchantthe Soudra, slave.
By his origin, which he derives from the most noble member, because he was the first-born, because he possesses the Holy Scriptures, the Brahmin is, by right, the Lord of all creation.
Everything that the world contains is the Brahmin's property; by his primogeniture and his eminent birth, he is entitled to everything that exists.
The Brahmin eats nothing that does not belong to him, receives no garment that is not already his, and bestows
no alms from the property of others that does not also belong to him. It is through the Brahmin's generosity that other men enjoy the goods of this world. (Manu, book i.)
This is the original source of the doctrine of divine right.
For several thousand years the Brahmins (priests) ruled over India without dispute. The kings, or, as we might rather say, the chiefs, were only their agents. The mass of the people, like a flock of sheep, maintained the upper classes in luxury and idleness by their labor.
In the temples, which were vast sacerdotal storehouses filled with the treasures accumulated by the toil of the laboring classes, the priests appeared before the eyes of the assembled multitude, clad in gorgeous vestments. Kneeling before idols of wood, granite, or bronze, of their own contrivance, they set an example of the most absurd superstition. Their principal motive in the performance of their religious duties was the maintenance of their temporal supremacy, and when the sacrifices were over, the Vaysia and Soudra returned to their tasks, the chiefs to their pleasures, and the priests to their mysterious abodes, where they engaged in the study of the sciences and of the highest philosophical and religious speculations.
The hour came when the Xchatrias, or kings, made use of the people to throw off the theocratic yoke, but when they had conquered the priests, and assumed the title of Lords of Creation, they abandoned their late allies, and said to the Brahmins:
"Preach to the people the doctrine that we are the elect of God, and we will give you all the wealth and privileges you desire."
That was the basis of their agreement, and for twenty thousand years and more the Soudra, the servum pecus, the people, have never been able to break it up.
Reduced to a purely religious rôle, the Brahmins used
all their power to keep the multitude in ignorance and subserviency. Mistrustful lest some members of their order more ambitious than the rest might, one day or other, seek to further their own ends by stirring up the lower classes to revolt, they placed the secret of their religious belief, of their principles, of their sciences, under the shield of an initiatory ceremony, to the highest grade of which those only were admitted who had completed a novitiate of forty years of passive obedience.
There were three degrees of initiation.
The first included all the Brahmins of the popular cult, or those who officiated at the pagodas, whose business it was to work upon the credulity of the multitude. They were taught to comment upon the three first books of the Vedas, to direct the religious ceremonies, and to perform sacrifices. The Brahmins of the first degree were in constant communication with the people. They were its immediate directors, its gurus.
The second degree included the exorcists, the soothsayers, the prophets, and the evocators of spirits, whose business it was, in times of difficulty, to act upon the imagination of the masses, through supernatural phenomena. They read and commented upon the Atharva-Veda, which was a collection of magical conjurations.
In the third degree the Brahmins had no direct relations with the populace, the study of all the physical and supernatural forces of the universe being their only occupation. They never appeared outside except through awe-inspiring phenomena, which spectators were not allowed to scrutinize too closely. According to the celebrated Sanscrit sorits, the gods and spirits were at their disposition:
Mantradinam ta devata.
Tan mantram brahmanadinam.
Brahmana mama devata.
Everything that exists is in the power of the gods.
The gods are in the power of magical conjurations.
Magical conjurations are in the power of the Brahmins,
Therefore, the gods are in the power of the Brahmins.
It was impossible to arrive at the highest degree without having passed through the first two, where a process of weeding, as it were, was constantly going on, having regard to the ability and intelligence of the candidates.
It would have been impossible to conceive of a more effective instrument of social conservatism, and our modern doctrinaires may well regard it with a jealous eye.
Those who were too intelligent, or who were not sufficiently amenable to discipline, owing to their inflexibility of character, were soon lost amid the crowd of bigots and fanatics of the first degree, who were as submissive and free from ambition as could possibly be desired. The lower clergy, if we may be allowed to use the expression, were not much above the level of the rest of the Hindu people, whose superstitions they shared, and whom they taught, perhaps, honestly. Absorbed in the ordinary observances of religious worship, that independence of mind which usually accompanies knowledge was not to be apprehended from them. It was not until twenty years had elapsed that promotion was possible from the first to the second degree, where the veil of the occult sciences first began to be uplifted, and the same period of time was necessary in order to surmount the mysterious barriers of the third degree. That class of initiates studied the Agrouchada-Parikchai, or the Book of Spirits.
Above this last degree of initiation was the Supreme Council, under the presidency of the Brahmatma, or supreme chief of all those who had been initiated.
Only a Brahmin who had passed his eightieth year could exercise this pontificate. He was the sole keeper of
the elevated formula, which included a summary of all knowledge, and was contained in the three mystic letters
[paragraph continues] signifying Creation, Preservation, Transformation. He commented upon them only in the presence of the initiate.
Residing in an immense palace, surrounded by twenty-one walls, the Brahmatma showed himself to the multitude only once a year, encompassed with such pomp and pageantry that his appearance impressed the imagination of all who saw him, as though they had been in the presence of a God.
The common people thought that he was immortal.
In fact, in order to maintain this belief in the minds of the masses, the death of the Brahmatma and the election of his successor were kept profoundly secret, and were never known by them. Everything occurred in the silence of the temples, and those who had been initiated in the third degree alone took part in his election. Only those who were members of the Supreme Council were eligible.
"Whoever among those who have been initiated into the third degree shall reveal to a profane person a single one of the truths, a single one of the secrets entrusted to his keeping, shall be put to death." 1 The recipient of the revelation met a similar fate.
Finally, to crown the whole system, there existed a higher word than the mysterious monosyllable A, U, Mwhich made him who possessed the clue to it, almost it equal to Brahma himself. The Brahmatma alone possessed it and transmitted it to his successor in a sealed box.
Even now, when the Brahminic authority has sunk so
low before Mongol and European invasion; when every pagoda leas its Brahmatma; this unknown word has been revealed to no human power, and has been kept a profound secret. It was engraved in a golden triangle and carefully kept in a sanctuary of the Temple of Asgartha, of which the Brahmatma alone had the keys. For this reason, also, he wore, upon his tiara, two crossed keys upheld by two kneeling Brahmins, as a sign of the precious deposit which had been entrusted to his care.
This word and triangle were also engraved upon the gem of the ring, which this religious chief wore as a sign of his dignity. It was also set in a golden sun, which stood upon the altar upon which the supreme. pontiff offered every morning the sacrifice of the Sarvameda, or sacrifice to all the forces of nature.
At the death of the Brahmatma, his body was burned upon a golden tripod and his ashes secretly thrown into the Ganges. If, in spite of every precaution, a report of his death was bruited abroad, the priests adroitly spread abroad the rumor that the supreme chief had ascended for a time to Swarga (heaven) in the smoke of the sacrifice, but would soon return to the earth.
Numerous revolutions have so thoroughly disturbed the social and religious condition of India, that Brahminism no longer possesses any supreme chief. Each pagoda has its three degrees of initiation, and its own private Brahmatma. The chiefs of these temples are often at open hostility with each other. However, this does not seem to have affected their religious belief, as yet, and we shall see, as we study the methods in use in the three different classes of initiation, that the Hindu Brahmins still cling to their old religious prescriptions.
20:1 The Genesis of Humanity.
25:1 The Sons of God.