The Origin and Nature of Hindu Decline
Thea wrote two articles for the Movement for the Restoration of Vedic Wisdom (MRVW). The first, titled The Origin and Nature of Hindu Decline was introduced to the reader of the ACC website in the Summary and Conclusions of Theme 12 – One Journey, one Calendar:
It is a four part series exploring the nature and purpose of the split between science and the sacred over the millennia as the glorious Vedic vision declines. Thea focuses on the society which ‘replicates the movements’ of the Earth as they travel through the ecliptic round the Sun in their yearly ‘Sacrifice’. She exclaims:
‘They became THAT’:
‘…the ecliptic is that River of Light where the Earth travels through time and space and together with the other planets, creates the heavenly Harmony which the Seer not only SEES but can also HEAR. It is the visionary quality conveyed in the word Sruti, a ‘heard seeing’, if it may be so called. We encounter this faculty only in the four Vedas… they replicated the movements of their planetary abode within their own consciousness-being. They became THAT.
The ancients never allowed themselves to drift hither and thither in the encompassing vastness. They were as if anchored to the ecliptic through a realisation that was the fulcrum of the Vedic Way… without drifting off course … because of Skambha, the cosmic Pillar, described as the ‘support of the world – this world and not a beyond...’
Thea’s reflections take us beyond the superficial scholarship that has kept hidden the real root-cause of the Vedic decline. The Time-spirit set things in motion – i.e., Hinduism began its slow and steady decline as the ‘new seers’ lost their experience of Skambha and an ‘earth-oriented Swar’. The civilization became rootless and the tropical zodiac with its Equinoxes and Solstices was no longer the map to follow.
To Read all Four Parts go to this link:
Sri Aurobindo and the Condition of Vedic Wisdom in India
Thea wrote a second article, Sri Aurobindo and the Condition of Vedic Wisdom in India, the following spring, 2007. She’d found an unpublished chapter of The Life Divine which deeply stirred her, and in Part One she reproduces a large portion of it.
Much of what Sri Aurobindo had written about the recovery of the lost Vedic knowledge she herself had concluded and wanted to bring out in her Forums: it is not by logical reasoning or investigation that ‘Vijnana’ is recovered, but through revelation and experience – through ‘the doors of the spirit’.
That which has been lost can only be recovered by getting back to the ‘original starting point’:
‘If we know of the existence of a buried treasure, but have no proper clue to its exact whereabouts, there are small chances of our enjoying those ancient riches;but if we have a clue, however cryptic, left behind them by the original possessors, the whole problem is then to recover the process of the cryptogram, set ourselves at the proper spot and arrive at their secret cache by repeating the very paces trod out by them in their lost centuries (Sri Aurobindo, Archives and Research, vol.4, no. 2, December 1980)
Thea explains that the cosmic harmonies of our solar system are the ‘cryptogram’ which Sri Aurobindo considers to be the essential discovery for the re-establishment of the Sanatana Dharma. Moreover, she herself, ‘aided by Sri Aurobindo’s earlier work on the Veda’, has discovered the true code in the quest, the code used in the Rig Veda. She states that
… the symbols of the tropical zodiac with its twelve hieroglyphs is the cryptogram ’lodged in each individual soul.’ (underline added)
It was not Sri Aurobindo’s yoga to discover this; she found the ‘cryptogram’ because she is the third in the Solar Line, and at the third level of his yoga, ‘cosmology leads the way’. Dan Brown’s best selling novel –The DaVinci Code – can only go so far, Thea writes. She is the one fully prepared to explain the ‘real cryptogram’ which Leonardo uses as the foundation of the knowledge incorporated in his masterpieces. And she has done this!
Thea refers the reader to an article written several years earlier: An Exploration into the Leonardo Mania: The Tale of two M’s’ (see below).
To Read the full article – Sri Aurobindo and the Condition of Vedic Wisdom – go to this link: https://www.aeoncentre.com/mrvw-special-articles/
Explorations into the Leonardo Mystery – the Tale of two M’s
We must remember that 15th Century society was dominated by fear from all sides, Thea writes, so it is no surprise that Leonardo resorted to a ‘cryptogram’ to convey the lost knowledge, the theme of his masterpiece.
The complex system of esoteric knowledge in The Last Supper (below) is the zodiac of twelve signs: Christ is the ‘sun’ or the centre of the Solar System and around him are the twelve disciples, the twelve signs of the zodiac.
Humanity has a choice: we can culminate the full 12 stage – 12 month zodiacal journey early because of our limited vision of God and material creation, or we can labor on and achieve a higher vision and experience of the Self and the Cosmos.
To read the full article and view colored photos of Leonardo’s other masterpieces:
The Origins and Nature of Hindu Decline – 1
28 November 2006
The successful re-timing of the Jupiter transit rituals in the temples in Tamil Nadu where they have been traditionally held caused me to marvel, once again, at the wealth of Knowledge each temple contains and how they have been used in times of great turbulence to preserve the Vedic origins of the civilisation. But I wondered, as I have many times over these past 30 years, how it is possible that such a total loss of the connecting links could come about. At this stage what is required more than anything else if some sort of RESTORATION is to come about is the ability to RE-CONNECT. At this stage this will surely be the most important contribution The Movement can make to Hindu culture.
In light of the breakthrough, I took up Varahamihira’s Brihat Samhita once more and leafed through it. I had gone through this text in M. Ramakrishna Bhat’s translation into English a number of years ago (1981); it was copiously underlined and commented by me in the margins. I also looked through Gheverghese Joseph’s more recent The Crest of the Peacock (1991) where he explores the ‘non-European Roots of Mathematics’; and several other volumes in my library. My interest was to look through these works again in the light of this breakthrough, and also the discoveries that have been made in the interim regarding the Saraswati Civilisation and the now-defunct Aryan Invasion Theory.
I have a book on my shelf, The Hindu Temple by George Mitchell, an ‘introduction to its meaning and forms’ with a wonderful series of photos and floor plans. Mitchell writes, ‘Only if the temple is constructed correctly according to a mathematical system can it be expected to function in harmony with the mathematical basis of the universe. The inverse of this belief is also held: an architectural text, the Mayamata, adds that “if the measurement of the temple is in very way perfect, there will be perfection in the universe as well.”’
But the limitations of Mitchell’s 1977 text is that he relies totally on the ‘word’ of Indologists that Hindu civilisation was a import from the West brought by Aryan nomads. He simply repeats the now discredited theories that sought to impress upon scholars, and Hindus above all, that the subcontinent was ‘empty’; it was only a vast receptive womb of nothingness that cultures from abroad could fill at their pleasure. How consciously was this idea disseminated with a specific purpose in mind, (to justify invasions and colonial rule) remains to be seen. The restoration we aim for will not be fully accomplished unless we deal with the root cause of this inculcation – and particularly WHEN it was set in place. Afterwards the decline of the civilisation was as predictable as the rise of tomorrow’s Sun.
The Hindu temple, it is held, needs this perfection the Mayamata refers to in order for the community to benefit from the wisdom the sages have handed down through various means, one of which is architecture. But these are lifeless structures if other aspects of the Knowledge do not form a part of the transmission. Therefore Myth comes to our aid, together with astrological tradition. When temple culture took over from the vedi [geometric altars] of the Vedic Age, in a remarkable manner the essence of these myths was transposed to the temple structure. But this could not be done without the astrological background as part of the process. And thus was born the epoch that gave us so much wonderful evidence of the quality of the true Vedic Roots; but unfortunately, the very need to preserve the Knowledge in stone indicated that a serious decline had begun: the Knowledge would go underground if it was to be saved.
The texts I have cited above provide the information we need to support this assessment based on the yogic experience. To a person of Knowledge it is evident that the consciousness of the Vedic Rishi was very far removed from the later propounders of the ‘knowledge’ such as Varahamihira. I enclose the word in quotation marks because from my standpoint what we find in the Brihat Samhita is not Knowledge as I use the term. The decline that had set in is made fully evident in this text which deals almost exclusively with astrology as a predictive art and makes no attempt to explore its deeper roots, those we do find throughout the Rig Veda, for example.
The Origins and Nature of Hindu Decline – 2
9 December 2006
In Part 1 of this analysis, I presented an example of the evolution of Hindu Society across the centuries based on the few texts available to contemporary researchers. I have focussed on jyotish, astrology, because in so doing we may follow the investigation into contemporary India and learn much about the nature of the decline, what caused it, and where it has led Hindu Society as a collective body. We acknowledge that Hinduism is a vast umbrella covering an almost infinite number of sects, and yogic and philosophical systems. But though these systems are like individual stars in this umbrella-firmament, there is one underlying and pervasive ‘ocean’ within which all these systems navigate. This Cosmic Ocean binds them within a common time-wheel, enhancing the eclectic and catholic quality of Hinduism. Rituals to the numerous Vedic Godheads or to the innumerable personal deities may vary; but the timing of the collective celebration of those rituals is what knits them together to maintain, across the ages, the continuity we experience as Hinduism. One example is the Kumbha Mela which, on a particular date and time established by the Pundits, draws millions of yogis, sants and devotees to the banks of the sacred rivers in a common worship that cuts across sectarian and denominational divides. For this reason a study of the calendar, by which the timing of these festivals is determined, can be shown to be a valuable device for locating when and perhaps why the decline set it.
Gheverghese Joseph, in Chapter 9 of his ‘The Crest of the Peacock’, substantiates the core of my analysis by noting that the development of mathematics and astronomy between approximately 500 BCE and 500 CE was limited. He writes, ‘Yet this hiatus in our knowledge [is] particularly puzzling given the wealth of evidence we have for the same period in other fields, notably medicine and chemistry, and in philosophy where outstanding work was produced… Various explanations have been offered for this apparent discontinuity [emphasis mine]. The virtual disappearance of Vedic sacrifices removed, as it were, the raison d’être for continued interest in geometry…’
We can fully agree that the disappearance of the geometrical vedi which required very great precision if the Sacrifice was to bear the desired results, impacted the development of mathematics, – and also astrology, as we shall see. It is to be noted that the ‘hiatus’ was spread over almost a thousand years, but within this period Temple Culture arose and remains with us to this day. Notwithstanding the gap the absence of texts covering these areas of knowledge attests to, one important factor to underscore became consolidated during this period: the split between astrology and astronomy. The Brihat Samhita is an astrological text from the period after the split; it provides some substantial evidence of the lack of a direct continuity with the Vedic Age.
We can approach the topic and reach the same conclusion as above simply by studying the extant scriptures of the periods under scrutiny. Readily we do note that there is a discernible chasm between the Rig Veda, for example, and the contents of the Brihat Samhita. The former was composed by Initiates whose language was of a quality that is lacking in the later text, or even in the later Upanishads. As the mathematical historian records, there was a time vacuum and during this ‘void’ the decline of Hinduism began which left the earlier hymns and prescriptions incomprehensible to later generations. However, it was precisely during this ‘blank space’ that the Puranas arose to become the secret repository of everything that was most sacred to Vedic culture; the Myths were in turn preserved in the Hindu Temples, as if each one was a treasure-book in stone.
Can we expect a mathematician or an historian to interpret this time-chasm correctly? In the early part of the last century, Sri Aurobindo wrote an insightful essay on this very theme entitled, On the Importance of Original Thinking. It was published in its complete form in the April 1981 edition of the Sri Aurobindo Archives:
‘We have had recently in India a great abundance of speculations on the real causes of that gradual decline and final arrest which Indian civilisation no less than European suffered during the Middle Ages. The arrest was neither so sudden as in Europe nor so complete; but its effect on our nation, like the undermining activity of a slow poison, was all the more profoundly destructive, pervasive, hard to remedy, difficult to expel. At a certain period we entered into a decline, splendid at first like a long and gorgeous sunset, afterwards more and more sombre, till darkness closed in, and if our sky was strewn with stars of a great number and brilliance, it was only a vast decay, confusion and inertia that they lighted and emphasised with their rays.We have, most of us, our chosen explanation of this dolorous phenomenon…Such explanations, like most human thoughts, have their bright side of truth as well as their obscure side of error; but they are not, in any case, the result of impartial thinking…’ (Volume 5, p. 27 – Emphasis mine).
When we discover a particular substratum that can act as an impartial graph which embraces the entire period Sri Aurobindo mentions above, onto which we can draw a line of development, errors are more likely to be eliminated. But to do so we have to extend our framework to cover an arc from the Vedic Age to the present. All researchers may agree that there was a pause in the development of mathematics and astronomy; but none will relate the decline to a loss of the ancient knowledge of astrology which we uncover by a scrutiny of the Vedic Hymns, where this lore exists as an initiatic language accepted by the entire community. It was so pervasive that no explanation of its symbolism was required. However, it took approximately an entire millennium for the link with the civilisation that composed those hymns to vanish; or at least to go securely underground.
The astrology we find in a text such as the Brihat Samhita bears no resemblance to the astrology/cosmology of the ancient Veda. Its value, however, lies in one area and one alone, albeit of immense importance: the preservation of the symbols of the zodiac for each of the 12 months of the year, a knowledge that was taken for granted in the Vedic Age; and the beginning of that year on the Equinox of March when days and nights are of equal measure. Ten months later the most important of all astrological prescriptions for the Hindu Samaj follows: the celebration of the Makar Sankranti on the December Solstice, or the shortest day of the year. There was, even into Varahamihira’s epoch, no separation between the two – shortest day and gateway to the zodiacal Makar/Capricorn were one and the same. So special was this passage that in the Rig Veda it was hailed as the month of the Warrior’s conclusive victory; indeed the culmination of the entire Vedic Journey.
When the Brihat Samhita was composed the months/signs were known as they are today, beginning with the zodiacal Aries the Ram, followed by Taurus the Bull, and so on through the twelve month/signs. But some ‘nationalist’ post-Vedic astrologers/historians have now decided that this was an import from Mesopotamia and Greece and should no longer serve us as backdrop to the Vedic Journey through the months of the year, Varahamihira notwithstanding. In so doing, they are undermining the entire cultural fabric of the civilisation which is solidly grounded in the eternal Myth these symbols contain, and which has been masterfully carried over into Hindu temple architecture.
Given the historic split between science and the sacred, this type of transmission of Knowledge can be grasped now only through the practice of a special Yoga. Therefore, in Sri Aurobindo’s The Secret of the Veda, the very same deeper psycho-spiritual sense of the hymns has been conveyed without reference having been made to astrology at all; yet through his translations the knowledgeable and competent astrologer recognises instantly the same ancient body of knowledge. This is not evidenced in the Brihat Samhita and texts of that period, when astrology and astronomy were in the process of being separated for good. Still, the time factor based on the true Vedic calendar prevailed: the Solstices and Equinoxes were the indisputable crosswise demarcations of the Sacrificial Year. But ‘forces’ were about to intervene to introduce the ‘undermining activity of a slow poison’ that was to result in the loss of even that binding tool of the Hindu Samaj, to carry it into a ‘more and more sombre’ darkness until ‘only a vast decay, confusion and inertia’ had finally overtaken even the area of knowledge that had managed to survive into Varahamihira’s time.
We proceed forward through our graph and having noted that the system of Vedic computation for the calendar was still preserved even a thousand years after the chasm between the Vedic Age and medieval India arose, M. Ramakrishna Bhat offers us one precise date as a clue to when the ‘slow poison’ hit its target in the organism. Though the objective in conveying his conclusions in the Introduction to his translation of the Brihat Samhita was meant to sustain – as I too sustain – that the zodiac in use during Varahamihira’s time and into the present was of Indian origin and went westward rather than being an import, unwittingly he provides us with the exact means to locate not only when the ‘poison’ set in but what its very precise target was. Thus, on page xiii, he introduces Al-Biruni (born in 973 CE), the astrologer-traveller who came to India ‘with the object of studying Hindu astrology and culture’. Al-Biruni translated some major works such as the Brihat Samhita into Arabic. He came with the wave of invasions from the West and his objective was indeed to study Hindu astrology, the knowledge of which he brought back to Arabia. A number of its concepts have since come down in history as his inventions, such as what is known in western astrology even today as Al-Biruni’s Lunar Stations or Mansions. These are simply the Nakshatras of the Indian system, a division of the 360-degree wheel into 27 parts based on the mean motion of the Moon, i.e., 13.20 degrees per day. Though the Nakshatras as such are not used in the western system, this division, applied differently, certainly holds a prominent place.
Bhat misses the point that should have captured his attention, but nonetheless he serves our purpose when he cites a portion from Al-Biruni’s famed travelogue, India, which fully supports my argument. Bhat’s reason for quoting Al-Biruni’s statement was only because he considers it to be a misrepresentation of Varahamihira’s astrological knowledge: ‘The Arab scholar takes our author [Varahamihira] to task for his statement on the solstices and remarks: “The solstice has kept its place, but the constellations have migrated, just the very opposite of what Varaha has fancied”. (India, II, p.7)
The above is an example of the manner in which a ‘slow poison’ was injected into the innermost organism of Hinduism so that the ‘scientific’ intrusion into the domain of the sacred would gradually undermine the confidence of the Pundits in their own sacred science by causing them to believe that what Al-Biruni injected was more ‘scientifically correct’. Rather than a poison, the effect of this type of suggestion was akin to a deadening intoxicant that caused a blanket of inertia to descend on the subcontinent. There was no need at all to demolish temples when this substance had been successfully administered, as we shall see. Al-Biruni came to India 500 years after Varahamihira’s time, whose Brihat Samhita proves that the Constellations were not to be confused with the Tropical Zodiac which never varies in time and whose 12-month segments of the year are inseparable from the solstices and equinoxes.
This is the true VEDIC astrology. It was still in force when Al-Biruni came to India in the 11th century. The ‘gorgeous sunset’ Sri Aurobindo mentions in his essay quoted earlier, pertains to this period when the true Vedic astrology/cosmology still prevailed via respect for the correct Vedic time-frame in temple worship. However, though the Divine Measure was respected, the knowledge validating its use was, like a setting sun, falling into oblivion. By the 11th century all that was needed were a few well pointed ‘poison arrows’ to bring about a ‘vast decay, confusion and inertia’, the inevitable result when Knowledge by initiatic Realisation, the very method minutely detailed in the ancient Veda, no longer exists. It would await the next Age of Vishnu, or the passage of another millennium, to be resuscitated. This Age is now upon us.
To sum up succinctly, suggestions like Al-Biruni’s that the ‘constellations have migrated’ and should no longer be synchronised with the Solstice have been so successful an underminer that all Hindu temple practices are tied to these pronouncements through the prescriptions of its Pundits who, notwithstanding the fact that they can be proven to be un-Vedic (and even unscientific), follow them unquestioningly. We even have courses in this brand of Astrology included in university curricula under the title ‘Vedic Astrology’. It is well to remember that for the ‘undermining activity of a slow poison’ of this nature to take effect, all that is required is to bring about a disconnection between Solstice and Zodiac, just as Al-Biruni suggested; for then it is Time itself that draws the inseparable apart with each passing day THROUGH THE TIMING OF TEMPLE WORSHIP, until the distance between the two bears a discrepancy of almost one full month/sign of the zodiac. Presently the mis-measure is 23 days, or a shift from the Solstice on 21-22 December to the current arbitrary 15 January. But with each passing day and month and year the distance goes on increasing through these wandering phantom ayanamshas. Finally the ‘…only a vast decay, confusion and inertia…’ remain (Sri Aurobindo, Ibid).
Hinduism is still paying for this calculated undermining. It lies at the very heart of its decline. Therefore this is the area we must focus on if we wish to bring back the soul of Vedic Wisdom to the culture, particularly through its vast network of illustrious Temples.
The Origins and Nature of Hindu Decline – 3
12 December 2006
‘…But our Hinduism, our old culture are precisely the possessions we have cherished with the least intelligence; throughout the whole range of our life we do things without knowing why we do them, we believe things without knowing why we believe them, we assert things without knowing what right we have to assert them, – or, at most, it is because some book or some Brahmin enjoins it, because Shankara thinks it, or because someone has so interpreted something that he asserts to be a fundamental Scripture of our religion. Nothing is our own, nothing is native to our intelligence, all is derived…’
Sri Aurobindo, On the Importance of Original Thinking,
Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research, Volume 5, No 1, April 1981
Of the paragraph from Sri Aurobindo’s essay quoted in Part 2 of this analysis, three lines were withheld which we may take up now as his examples of ‘part truth/part error’ judgements. They refer to two predominant ideas in circulation during his time as to the causes of the decline of Hinduism. The first he describes as the patriot attributing the decline ‘to the ravages of foreign invasion and the benumbing influence of foreign rule…’ (Ibid). While these have played a significant role in the loss of national self-esteem, particularly regarding Hinduism, it is one of those part-truth/part-error hypotheses I set aside in Part 2 by establishing a root-cause at a much earlier date than the beginning of invasions and the foreign rule of the Moguls and the British Raj.
Sri Aurobindo then turns to the second hypothesis, by far the most widespread to this day, and the most damaging to Hindu Culture. Like the first, it too is both truth and error. Sri Aurobindo writes ‘…The disciple of European materialism finds out the enemy [of the civilisational decline], the evil, the fount and origin of all our ills in our religion and its time-honoured social self-expression…’.
Students of Sri Aurobindo’s thought will verify that he did not consider Hinduism’s ‘time-honoured social self-expression’, the caste system, as evil. In fact, throughout his writings on this subject he is more often than not found to uphold the structure, though acknowledging that a serious degeneration had set in. More recently scholars and original thinkers have reached the same conclusion, and I have certainly contributed to this shift through my own revelations regarding the cosmic backdrop of Caste citing the Rig Veda, and therefore how inextricably it is linked to the cosmic foundations of Hinduism. In pulling down caste by a wholesale demolition, we do risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In a recent interview appearing in TheNew Indian Express, the noted writer and Nobel Laureate, V.S. Naipaul, on whom we may certainly confer the title ‘original thinker’, has expressed his views on caste and reached the same conclusion.
Like the Aryan Invasion Theory which continues to be taught in schools throughout the world not as theory but as fact, so too the reason for Hinduism’s decline is laid at the doors of the caste system without further ado. And if Hinduism, accounting for approximately 80% of the population, suffers from the stranglehold of Caste, we may hypothesise that the same ‘evil’ can be extended from the predominate majority to the development of the innumerable socio-economic groups that make up the societal structure of independent India. This has indeed been the case since caste-based divisions have been largely driving the social agenda, spilling over to the minorities from religions that are supposedly unsullied by the caste ‘devil’.
It is necessary to clarify this issue because otherwise we will remain blocked at this iron-clad door, barring any further penetration deeper into the past as I have done in Part 1 and 2, in order to locate the real root-cause of the decline. When we discover that root the true nature of the caste system degeneration, along with all the rest, is made apparent. For it must be borne in mind that the ‘evil of caste’ is not at all the root-cause of Hinduism’s decline, though this has been the doctrine ‘European materialism’, to quote Sri Aurobindo, has succeeded in promulgating in scholastic circles throughout the world for the past two centuries. Rather, the root-cause which we are sleuthing out through these pages brought an eventual degeneration in the Chaturvarna just as it affected simultaneously all other aspects of Hindu Culture.
However, laying the blame on Caste has become rewarding for ‘European materialism’. Serving a largely political agenda, it has fuelled class wars which have not subsided till today, as well as the agendas of various proselytising religions which offer salvation without caste. Meanwhile the real root-cause passes by undetected and continues to contaminate the entire organism. It uses the channel of calendar observances because that is, as pointed out in Part 2, the umbrella covering the entire Hindu Samaj regardless of caste or sect or denominational/devotional preferences. But – take note – the delinking of Solstice from Zodiac, as imposed by astronomers like Al-Biruni, was also not the root-cause we seek, but simply its ‘engine’ to carry those seeds of undermining across the centuries so that the contamination would continue ad infinitum.
We have not yet laid bare the true origin of the undermining in this discussion, though I have indicated the channel of its perpetration affecting the entire culture. As in all things Vedic, we must turn to the prescriptions of the Veda themselves if we wish to understand what went amiss in that very distant past to cause the decay we see all around us, not just in caste. The clue to discover this root-cause is indicated clearly in the botched up calendar reckoning because all is ONE. If we penetrate deeply enough we will observe that the nature of the shift Al-Biruni and his fellow astronomers encouraged tells us all we need to know about the distant root-cause of the malaise. It was actually initiated over two millennia ago, and is still with us today. In addition, this discovery uncovers the way to rectification; precisely because, as stated, all is ONE. However, if we stop halfway at the much later effect (the degeneration of caste) rather than to continue probing until our ‘original thinking’ carries us to the cause, our purpose in reinstating the soul of Vedic Wisdom will not be served.
It is also essential to bear in mind that the origins of the Chaturvarna can be traced through the Veda directly to the Cosmic Harmony, – that very same Harmony as it was observed by the Vedic Rishi, and as it continues to exist today without any shifts and mutations, Al-Biruni notwithstanding. Disrupting that Harmony by insisting on separating Solstice and Zodiac, which affects all Hindu Society, is the method to continue stoking the engine of divisiveness that this separation fosters; unless rectified the juggernaut of division continues to gain momentum with each passing day.
The ‘oneness’ I describe can be illustrated very easily by the use of a simple diagram – the circle divided into four parts:. Each of these crosswise sections is one of the four castes, the earliest description of which is found in the Rig Veda, X 90, 12:
…When they divided up the Purush,
Into how many parts did they divide him?
What did his mouth become? What his arms?
What are his legs called? What his feet?
His mouth became the Brahmin; his arms
Became the Kshatriya, his legs
The Vaishya who plies his trade,
The Shudra was born from his feet.
How this Vedic Purush can be equated with the above diagram is learned through the ancient wisdom which reveals that the one circle reflects both time and space. Thus, that same circularyearly ecliptic orbit of the Earth around the Sun, also divided into four quarters as per the Equinoxes and the Solstices, is the very same Cosmic Purush out of whom the castes are born; simply because the signs of the zodiac in that ecliptic do indeed refer to a ‘body’, as all astrologers know. But in the case of the Vedic Purush it is of cosmic proportions, while in the human being the proportions are microcosmic. The zodiac pertains to both, the ancient tradition informs us, and it covers the Body from head to toe, just as the Rishi has enumerated in these verses via the time-tested Vedic formulas of Correspondence and Equivalence. And via that same Cosmic Harmony this fourfold division could be extended in this embrace of Unity to the entire civilisation via the celebrations of rituals and festivals the timings of which arise from the very same ‘circle’.
While these ‘original thoughts’ may appear too complex for the average devotee to digest, it is the duty of Pundits officiating over these rituals and bearing a responsibility for their timings to be aware of these equivalences and to never lose sight of this Oneness which is the foundation of all that is truly Vedic. It is the duty of Pundits to reinstate that Vedic Soul once again into the organism that is Hinduism. In so doing the pristine truth of Caste will automatically find its place again and all the ugliness that has accumulated over the centuries to hide its universal sense and beauty and purpose will fall into the cosmic wastebin, along with all the other debris the wrong time factor has perpetrated.
The Origins and Nature of Hindu Decline – 4
13 December 2006
A Seer of the calibre of the Vedic Rishi perceives and extracts from ‘the seat of our self-accomplishing…where the many-horned herds of Light go travelling’ the fruit of his or her yogic attainments. The ecliptic is that River of Light where the Earth travels through time and space and, together with the other planets, creates the heavenly Harmony which the Seer not only SEES but can also HEAR. It is the visionary quality conveyed in the word Sruti, a ‘heard seeing’, if it may so be called. We encounter this faculty only in the four Vedas precisely because the Rishis honoured that ‘seat of our self-accomplishing’. They did not extend their goal to a locality beyond this River of Light even while using a star in the distant heavenly sphere as a marker-axis to keep them on course while they navigated through the yearly Sacrifice. In so doing, they replicated the movements of their planetary abode within their own consciousness-being. They became THAT. The Harmony came to them SEEN and HEARD because of this exalted experience of Oneness very few have achieved since the age came to an end in which the Rishis lived.
The point to be highlighted, for it helps us understand why the sublime verses of the Rig Veda are largely incomprehensible today, is that the Ancients never allowed themselves to drift hither and thither in the encompassing vastnesses. They were as if anchored to the ecliptic through a realisation that was the fulcrum of the Vedic Way in that very distant past: the Rishis could navigate the River of Light without drifting off course to beyond the dharma-parameters birth on Earth prescribes because of Skambha, the cosmic Pillar described as the ‘support of the worlds’ – this world and not a beyond.These reflections carry us to the heart of the decline of Hinduism, beyond the more superficial layers scholarship has cast on the subject, thus keeping its root-cause hidden for several millennia. Like Guha, Siva’s divine Son, one by one each such veil is lifted until the full form of this mighty War God is disclosed. Indeed, to carry out this penetration the courage of the Hero is demanded, such as this particular Godhead embodies. We then discover that Hinduism began its slow and steady decline not when Solstice and Zodiac were separated but when the Vedic experience that revealed their inseparability had faded into oblivion.
The cleavage became more and more consolidated when that Unity was superseded by other considerations, other priorities. Of course the Harmony remained because it is eternal; but the axial alignment of the Yogi’s consciousness-being lost its ‘skambha’, its cosmic pillar of support. Then, like a vessel adrift in an infinite vastness, the practitioner’s Seeing Eye became dissolved in this Beyond, having lost his footing (Skambha) on Earth.
From that point onward his formulation of that Cosmic Harmony conveyed the same rootlessness. No longer was the ecliptic in his experience balanced on the four pillars of Equinoxes and Solstices as the foundational base of his Seeing. The new Seers allowed their consciousness to seek the Beyond as the goal of their journey, in contrast to the Ancient Ones so often extolled in the Rig Veda, whose Swar was an experience of this very Earth dimension.
In practical terms this meant that the zodiac projected onto the backdrop of the perpetually mutating constellations became the only map to follow, no longer the zodiac of the tropical ecliptic where the solar system travels and which remains faithful in time to its never changing four pillars, the Equinoxes and the Solstices. This projection, which eventually became frozen in the Hindu calendar, arose out of a void left by the displacement of the Vedic Earth-oriented Swar in favour of trends that were set in motion because of the demands of the Time-Spirit. Realisers could only experience what was made permissible by Mahakala. The time of renewal had arrived. This was signalled by the cosmic harmonies themselves which can be read as one reads a book; and therein we learn that from approximately 500 BCE, Skambha was lost and the realiser’s ‘lighthouse’ was projected into the constellations and no longer rooted in the Earth’s own planetary system based on her own divine Measure. The slow poison of ‘migrating constellations’ had won the day.
In his essay, Sri Aurobindo does reflect on the dangers attending ‘original thinking’ when by hastily demolishing existent structures such voids are created ‘…I must have no wish to destroy it, senseless and evil though it may be, until our new system is ready. For it fills a place the vacancy of which the Spirit that uplifts and supports our human effort would greatly abhor…’ Indeed, if Nature abhors a void, the Spirit does to an even greater degree. Thus into the void of the Spirit the new seers plunged; it became filled thereafter with seekers after the Beyond who increasingly abandoned the Mother Base, forgetting her sacred Measure and Sequences. That Beyond then became projected into the devices that convert the Seer’s vision into the measurable quantities which grant the population at large the means to live and extend the Seer’s realisation across the breath of the land. Thus, the alterations in the spiritual domain laid the ground for the mutation in the calendar of observances. If yogic realisers became obsessed with the Beyond as the goal of their quests, however camouflaged initially, the calendar had to reflect the very same obsession since the projection starts from the consciousness of the Seer. The way was then paved for the shift from the tropical zodiac to the sidereal. The latter was formalised centuries after the Vedic Way had faded into oblivion; then indeed drifting and shifting became the bywords, with an ever-increasing distance between Solstice and Zodiac now amounting to a Makar Sankranti 23 days off from its true timing.
This confusion reflecting a rudderless ship was displayed in Tamil Nadu where the recent transit of Jupiter was celebrated with the appropriate rituals on three different days and as moving into two different signs. The reason for this confusion lay in the fact that there were three different days to choose from three different almanacs. Just in case, and possibly to accommodate each faction, all three dates were celebrated!
Let us be clear: Guru has moved into Scorpio or into Sagittarius, to the 210th degree of the 360-degree circle of the year, or to its 240th. One or the other, it cannot possibly be both. The rational mind and pure heart must rebel at such aimlessness and incompetence that affects millions.
When the Vedic Skambha realisation exists and can then serve as the ‘anchor’ for the civilisation, a confusion of this nature simply cannot arise. The calendar of observances must be an expression of the cosmic Order as perceived by the highest Vedic Authority. That is, the one who has realised that Order within, through processes of Yoga given in great detail in the Rig Veda itself. In these matters there is no pretence. If no one can authoritatively say when Guru changed zodiacal signs, then we know the darkness has reached its deepest pitch. But with the inseparable Solstice/Zodiac on the shortest day of the year as one’s Anchor, such confusion can never take place. The passage occurs on one day only, not two or three or ten. And certainly we are given cause to wonder how a restoration will ever take place if the movements of perhaps the most important planet of all, the one whose transits determine the day and time of the nothing less than the 12-yearly Kumbha Mela, are treated so shabbily.
It was indeed a gradual process of decline because increasingly birth on Earth was considered a scourge. Finally, the entire cosmos itself became contaminated with the poison, through and through, when it was experienced as an illusion which demanded to be dissolved. Liberation, salvation came to be equated with freedom from Earth birth, thereby chaining the Hindu Samaj to the sidereal sphere of fixed stars millions of light years away from our planetary home in our solar system. It was a pure and simple expression of the void foisted on Hindus by seekers after Nothingness in contrast to the Vedic Fullness. Given the radical shift to a Beyond, everything Vedic, or the old order, necessarily began to break down. Yet if Hinduism remains eternally true to its cosmic roots, then that very cosmos speaks to its heart of its sunsets as well as its dawns. And though it was a ‘gorgeous sunset’, in Sri Aurobindo’s apt description, the Sun was indeed setting, – but certainly to await a new and brighter Dawn.
Sri Aurobindo and the Condition of Vedic Wisdom in India
A series for
The Movement for the Restoration
Of Vedic Wisdom (MRVW)
2 February 2007
After my closure with the Hindu Calendar Forum, it is time to draw the experience into this Movement since it is the best means of assessing where the restoration of Vedic Wisdom stands today. Any further correspondence with Avtar Krishnan Kaul of the Forum, and with others of his persuasion will be posted on this Yahoo group site so that our members can follow – precisely – THE MOVEMENT – out there, as it is taking shape in India and throughout the world via our operations. Without these postings from time to time our work remains lifeless and without purpose. Therefore all are invited to participate by this means.
‘… To assist us in the delicate work ahead I am reproducing for you a brilliant analysis of the problems we face today, written by Sri Aurobindo in 1912, almost a century ago. Have things changed in the interim? This is what we are going to assess.
What is important in the present review is that we find Sri Aurobindo had reached exactly the same conclusions as I have. But there is also one most important and striking factor to take note of: there stands revealed an indisputable need for a revelation of the cosmological foundation out of which the Veda arose and what is the repository down the ages of the great Secret, the supreme Rahasya. Because it is an eternal source Hinduism is known as the Sanatana Dharma. Exactly what the Rishis used as the backdrop for their Seeing can be used today by anyone willing to undergo the same tapasya. For the only experience of ETERNITY and the ETERNAL that we can have in this material universe of the number 9 is the cosmos that surrounds us. That is our laboratory, that is where we carry out our experimentation and where we live the Dharma.
But it too is changing; hence the need to discover what the Rishis had discovered; the immutable Source, the ‘skambha’ upholding the worlds, – that is the Stable Constant amid change, the axis, the sacred-most Pillar. That was the supreme Vedic Experience and the foundation of that cosmological model, but which has since been lost. It was lost precisely because the cosmology of the Veda was lost as a conscious and lived experience. Even in Sri Aurobindo’s brilliant exposition we note that Skambha is absent; for if he had made this discovery he would have given us those cosmological formulas which are in our possession today. This was not meant to be, as we now know on the basis of the new cosmology that had not descended in its complete form in his time. For it was not his task as the Transcendent 9 of the Formula.
On the basis of Sri Aurobindo’s analysis we are able both to have confirmation of a similar assessment of the state of the civilization such as I have arrived at, as well as the terrain crossed since then and the gains that we have actually made. On this basis we can better appreciate the tasks that lie ahead.
The analysis in question was published for the first time in the Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research vol. 4. No. 2, December 1980. It bears the title ‘The Life Divine, Chapter II, as found in Sri Aurobindo’s notebooks. But as it turned out, this and the previous Chapter I were never used in Arya, the monthly review started in 1914 where ‘The Life Divine’ and other major works were serialised. What this unpublished chapter reveals instead is just what Sri Aurobindo had distilled from his involvement in those early days with the Veda. These are precious for us today, to confirm what we have come to through the same means of the yogic process or tapasya, just as Sri Aurobindo underwent. But my experience goes further. And that is what I intend to present to the Movement. I start with the first few paragraphs as introduction:
The Life Divine Chapter II
The perfect truth of the Veda, where it is now hidden, can only be recovered by the same means by which it was originally possessed. Revelation and experience are the doors of the Spirit. It cannot be attained either by logical reasoning or by scholastic investigation …(Sanskrit text)…’Not by explanation of texts nor by much learning; ‘not by logic is this realization attainable’. Logical reasoning and scholastic research can only be aids useful for confirming to the intellect what has already been acquired by revelation and spiritual experience. This limitation, this necessity are the inexorable results of the very nature of Veda.
It is ordinarily assumed by the rationalistic modern mind, itself accustomed to arrive at its intellectual results either by speculation or observation, the metaphysical method or the scientific, that the sublime general ideas of the Upanishads, which are apparently of a metaphysical nature, must have been the result of active metaphysical speculation emerging out of an attempt to elevate and intellectualise the primitively imaginative and sensational religious concepts of the Veda.
I hold this theory to be an error caused by the reading of our own modern mental processes into the very different mentality of the Vedic Rishis. The higher mental processes of the ancient world were not intellectual, but intuitive. Those inner operations, the most brilliant, the most effective, the most obscure, are our grandest and most powerful sources of knowledge, but to the logical reason, have a very obscure meaning and doubtful validity. Revelation, inspiration, intuition, intuitive discrimination were the capital process of ancient enquiry.
To the logical reason of modern men revelation is a chimera, inspiration only a rapid intellectual selection of thoughts or words, intuition a swift and obscure process of reasoning, intuitive discrimination a brilliant and felicitous method of guessing. But to the Vedic mind they were not only real and familiar, but valid processes; our Indian ancients held them to be the supreme means of arriving at truth, and if any Vedic Rishi had composed after the manner of Kant, a Critique of Veda, he would have made the ideas underlying the ancient words dristi, sruti, smriti, ketu, the principal substance of his critique; indeed unless these ideas are appreciated, it is impossible to understand how the old Rishis arrived so early in human history at results which, whether accepted or questioned, excite the surprise and admiration even of the self-confident modern intellect.
I shall try to show at a later stage what I hold to be, in the light of the psychological experience of Yoga, the exact processes involved in these ancient terms and their practical and philosophical justification. But whatever the validity attached to them or the lack of validity, it is only by reproducing the Vedic processes and recovering the original starting-point that we can recover also whatever is, to the intellect, hopelessly obscure in the Veda and Vedanta. If we know of the existence of a buried treasure, but have no proper clue to its exact whereabouts, there are small chances of our enjoying those ancient riches; but if we have a clue, however cryptic, left behind them by the original possessors, the whole problem is then to recover the process of the cryptogram, set ourselves at the proper spot and arrive at their secret cache by repeating the very paces trod out by them in their lost centuries.
3 February 2007
‘The perfect truth of the Veda, where it is now hidden, can only be recovered
by the same means by which it was originally possessed…’
In these very first lines of Sri Aurobindo’s overview of the condition of spirituality in contemporary India, he declares in no uncertain terms what I sought to bring out in certain Vedic Forums: If we wish to recover the lost Knowledge, Vijnana of the Veda, we must follow the same method as the Rishis did in their discovery. However, these initial paragraphs indicate perhaps the most important ingredient for the re-establishment of the Dharma, what has struck me above all else as requiring an in-depth assessment. It is the quality of that Vijnana. I am not so sure that the contemporary Indian mind is able to appreciate the quality of the consciousness in which the Rishis lived and the language that the entire population of the Vedic Age was ‘familiar’ with, to use Sri Aurobindo’s description. In the context of modern Indian spirituality the Vedic language, though passing through the lips of Hindus on a daily basis, must be today largely foreign because it is soulless. That is, ‘… the symbol, the body of the doctrine remained, but the soul of knowledge has fled from its covering’, as Sri Aurobindo wrote in his masterful The Secret of the Veda. This is because the realisation that gave rise to that Language is now absent from the subcontinent’s store of yogic methods, none of which equates the Veda with the later peaks attained through other practices and systems of yogic endeavours. In this analysis, Sri Aurobindo also makes it clear that the later developments introduced by certain prominent yogic luminaries, drew the spiritual quest in a different direction than what we find in the Vedic Age. I have come upon the same conclusions in my own quest, even when following what would seem to be legitimately a ‘foreign’ journey, far removed, it would appear, from contact with Indian culture.
It is interesting to note that for the members of the Solar Line, 9/6/3 in the descending scale, it is the original Veda that has occupied a position of pre-eminence in all our quests and not the spirituality of the Upanishadic and later periods. These original chapters of ‘The Life Divine’, which were never made a part of Sri Aurobindo’s definitive version of the book in Arya, come to us as a sort of distillation of his yogic attainments up to that point in time. It was akin to a platform from where he was launched into his own refining processes to introduce the next development in spirituality, this time requiring a more global language. The distillation, however, drew him right back to the earliest records the world has of what would have been the highest peaks reached by the human spirit in the exploration of Reality. He did not stop in his quest at the Upanishads, grand as he understood them to be. It was the Veda, particularly the Rig Veda that he knew had brought him to the source. Before all else he establishes that this must be ‘the original starting point’ of the true Vedic process if we wish to attain the same luminous consciousness as that of those earliest Realisers.
The language of the Rishis, we have noted, is cosmic. That is, the cosmic harmonies described by the positions and movement of the components of our solar system are the cryptogram Sri Aurobindo considers to be the essential discovery for the re-establishment of the Sanatana Dharma based on what that cryptogram would lead to. His selection of the word to describe what is required is significant given the role it has played in our 21st Century society – vide Dan Brown’s world-famous novel, The Da Vinci Code. The discovery of the ‘code’ alluded to by the novel’s cryptogram has been explained in my article, ‘The Leonardo Mania’, where I draw seekers to the true code in the quest inspired throughout the world by this simple mystery novel. And it is the same ‘code’ that we find in the Rig Veda. Never before on so extensive and global a scale have Church dogmas been questioned as pointedly and irreverently, if you will, as in the worldwide ‘Leonardo Mania’ Brown’s novel gave rise to. In my article I laid bare the real cryptogram which Leonardo used as the foundation of the Knowledge he incorporated in his masterpieces. It is the same that Sri Aurobindo alludes to in his distillation; and the same I discovered in the Rig Veda – precisely aided by Sri Aurobindo’s own earlier work on the Veda.
I wish to provide a concrete example of the manner in which different paths may be used to reach the heart of the Veda. But these are not at all outside of the Vedic methodology; they fall right within the parameters of its all-encompassing wholeness but which, alas, was lost when spirituality veered onto a very different course after the Vedic Age came to a close. Thus, poised in the Transcendent plane which in the new cosmology is equated with the number 9, Sri Aurobindo’s number-power by the sum of his year digits, his investigations have been entirely coloured by this position. But it would make no sense or impact for the re-establishment that the Dasavatars are called upon to bring about, unless the equation is complete: 9/6/3. In this descending series Sri Aurobindo’s position is the first, considered ‘above’; whereas the 6 and the 3 play different roles, or express a different approach to the Supreme Reality.
For now I will leave aside discussion of the 6 and move on to the 3 which is my own position in the scale. It corresponds to the Individual of the trinity Transcendent (9), Cosmic (6), Individual Soul (3). These are the three components of the Divine Manifestation and the basis of all creation. They form the primary ingredients of Sri Aurobindo’s own teachings, a direct result of his discovery of the ‘cryptogram’, we must assume.
Cosmology comes into being at the third level because in the planetary harmony it is the third planet from the Sun, the Earth. Vedic cosmogony arises from a penetration within, into the deepest recesses of the human soul (3). And there lies the coveted knowledge of the third level. What is written in this secret Cave is the sacred Script that has been with us from time immemorial, in the symbols of the tropical zodiac with its twelve hieroglyphs and animal pictographs. And since it is the treasure within the Cave of one’s innermost being, it is there for all to discover anywhere on the globe, whatever be one’s cultural background. Because it is the ‘cryptogram’ lodged in each individual soul, eminent psychologists such as Carl Jung have given pride of place to what Jung described as symbols brought up from the ‘collective unconsciousness’ which, he discovered through exchanges with his patients, was universal and cross-cultural in nature. This symbolism runs throughout the Veda.
More specifically, it is from that innermost Point that the cosmic directions of Vertical and Horizontal cross; and thereby the perfect Centre becomes unveiled as the pillar of one’s being. Across the ages this traditional concept has been maintained, though the actual realisation which an alignment of this Vedic order would bring about was lost. Nonetheless, respect for the concept – that is, the Earth-centred poise – has been faithfully maintained, for instance in astrological tradition whenever horoscopes are drawn up. Science criticises astrology for this very concept and practice. It is certainly not that the ancients ignored the actual celestial mechanics and the fact that the planets revolve around the Sun and not around the Earth, as the horoscope construction might suggest; rather the Vedic methodology, which we find reflected in astrology, was far superior to any yogic achievement of the centuries that followed because it is Earth-oriented and its entire cosmology arose through an innermost penetration and not an extension of one’s consciousness into the cosmos beyond our system, with all that this extension implies in the quest for a Cosmic Truth such as in the Veda.
This is the key to the difference between the Veda and what followed. It is the point Sri Aurobindo makes when he states that dristi, sruti, smriti and ketu formed the foundation of the Vedic experience. These are illuminations that arise solely within one’s inner being, never through dissolution of the nexus of one’s consciousness by extension to the Beyond. Yet though this Earth-orientation is the primary ingredient in a true Vedic quest, it’s very first premise, it is entirely overlooked today. Indeed, we have the moderator of the Hindu Calendar Forum referring to such intuitive insights as ‘hallucinations’.
Indian spirituality has lost touch with this ancient methodology. It cannot even recognize the need for a reversal of the spiritual direction any longer. This was made abundantly clear on the Forum when its moderator and members exclaimed that only astronomy and science could lead to the formulation of a proper Vedic Calendar to replace the Hindu calendar currently in use across India, so woefully inadequate. To them only the ‘scientific’ approach could lead to an understanding of what the Rishis sought to convey in their now obscure texts. Yet we have Sri Aurobindo stating exactly the opposite in the Chapter under analysis: ‘…Logical reasoning and scholastic research can only be aids useful for confirming to the intellect what has already been acquired by revelation and spiritual experience. This limitation (and) this necessity are the inexorable results of the very nature of Veda…’. He is emphatic in denouncing any reliance on both ‘metaphysical speculation’ and science or ‘logical reasoning’ as methods appropriate for discovery of the Vedic Truth. That these are the very methods the Hindu Calendar Forum and other similar groups rely on in their quest to decipher the meaning of the Veda and discovery of the current calendrical formula which they sense lies somewhere hidden in the text, their distance from Vedic Wisdom is made abundantly clear. It is also clear that the condition of Indian spirituality has contributed in no small measure to the loss of this ancient wisdom, that must now be recovered.
(to be continued)
Explorations into the Leonardo Mania
A Tale of Two M’s
I reveal to men the origin of their cause of existence.’
DOZENS OF SCHOLARS and aficionados of various hues have sought to discover some revealing secret in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpieces – particularly in The Last Supper. The latest trend is to prove that in the painting John the Beloved was none other than Mary Magdalene, who, in turn, was married to Jesus and possibly bore him children. Leonardo is thought to have known this ‘secret’ which the Church, for its own purposes, has been hiding for centuries. It logically follows that if Jesus was married and fathered children, a bloodline would exist that could be considered holy in the deepest sense of the word. The implications would be far-reaching.
Even more importantly, these scholars carry the ‘decoding’ to greater depths, to the discovery of the lost Feminine, a secret which, it is claimed, Leonardo also sought to ‘encode’ in his paintings. But it is no secret that with the arrival of orthodox religions, Goddess worship in the western world was dismantled. Not only was Europe subjected to this orthodoxy; the same attitude was carried over to the Americas and hence the destruction of each and every culture that bore the seeds of this paganism – the root of all evil, just as Eve was the root of the fall of man. In equating Mary Magdalene with the beloved John, researchers attempt to prove that the most important disciple of Jesus was none other than a woman; and by this means some feminist groups hope to assist in the re-emergence of the Goddess tradition to counter centuries of suppression.
I do not wish to add or detract from these speculations. Rather, I would like to draw attention to the ‘system’ Leonardo made use of to convey a complex and synthetic body of knowledge, as it is defined in esoteric traditions. This disclosure will not prove or disprove the Mary Magdalene theories because that is not what we find central to The Last Supper. What we do find is that Leonardo used the theme of a last supper because it was a perfect vehicle for transmitting the esoteric content of that system which had already been lost by the 15th and 16th Centuries. Together with the Goddess factor, to which it was intrinsically connected, this system was forced underground. Fragments remain above the surface to this day. But what was lost was the great secret Leonardo conveyed in his fresco: the unity of the knowledge, its wholeness.
The only masking factor is fragmentation. Without the key to that unity, the viewer is blind. What we see taking place today is an attempt to discover codes through those bits and pieces of a ‘secret’ whose very essence is that wholeness. But what this worldwide fascination with Leonardo does indicate is that the orthodoxy which besieged free minds of Renaissance Italy no longer has the power to ‘sting’. I use this term purposefully, as the following will reveal. It is central to The Last Supper.
The ‘Way’ of the Earth
The system Leonardo conveys in The Last Supper is the zodiac of twelve signs, – in other words, Christ is the ‘sun’ around which revolve the twelve disciples/signs. But there is far more than just symbolic imagery in The Last Supper. Leonardo carries us right to the heart of a theological controversy: the question of a crucified Son. The entire issue hinges on the 8th zodiacal sign, Scorpio, the keystone of the ancient symbology that Leonardo da Vinci has captured by his unique artistic genius.
In the reproduction of The Last Supper below, it is not an ‘M’ standing for the Magdalene in the fresco, as certain perceptive investigators have hit upon (Picknett and Prince, The Templar Revelation, Touchstone, 1998). Rather, it is the ‘M’ of the Scorpio hieroglyph.
We have two such M’s in the series of 12 zodiacal hieroglyphs: Virgo, the 6th, and Scorpio, the 8th. The former presents us with the image of a virgin – that is, the tail of the glyph is turned back into the figure thus . A cursory reading would indicate that the sexual energy, if you will, has not been released, hence a virgin is implied. Two signs further on there is release and the tail is thrust out. In between lies Libra (John the Beloved or Mary Magdalene, as you will), sign of union, of the companion, of matrimony.
In India the same symbol is found upright, on its tail, as it were. We see it in countless shrines and temples throughout the country where there is worship of the Serpent Power. Iconography describes it as having three and a half coils, exactly as in the Virgo/Scorpio hieroglyph. But in disconnecting the worship from its Mother-Source in the tropical zodiac and symbols, the true power as well as its deepest significance has been lost. We may go further to state that though the Goddess is the most important feature of Hindu worship, this loss has taken its toll in that there is no collective concentration of the energy the Goddess requires for expression through the human instrument. In India, though astrology is a national obsession, its knowledge content was completely lost at the very same time astrology fell into disrepute farther to the west.
Across the globe darkness descended. Leonardo is to be commended more for his call to release the Light by the direct and lived experience than for anything else. But he had to watch his back lest the ‘stinger’ catch him, for the times were dark indeed.
The Leonardo ‘Hand’
The M’s of the zodiac transferred to the fresco are significantly highlighted by a factor that appears in certain drawings and paintings. The Virgo M, corresponding to the 6th disciple, holds his index finger upright in a particular manner to suggest several features of the knowledge the Master sought to preserve. It is a gesture that indicates, ‘Here is the mystery, here is the great secret, here is the One!’ We will see further on how this gesture holds the key to the mystery. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince refer to it as the ‘John gesture’, because it is found mostly in works where St John the Baptist appears. This is certainly true. But where we part ways is with their speculations regarding the secret this gesture may contain. (Secrets of the Code, Dan Burstein, Orion Books, 2005)
The 6th Virgo tail-closed M apostle informs us through the gesture that what follows is indeed the crux of The Last Supper’s profound content. The theme is the betrayal by Judas and the consequent crucifixion, so naturally Scorpio, the second M complete with the mystifying knife behind the 8th apostle/sign, is the focus of the entire composition. What Leonardo conveys is the consequence of that ‘betrayal’ for the human species, exactly as described in Genesis, and confirmed in our times by micro-biology: the ‘choice’ by Eve resulted in an evolutionary process condemning the species to sex and death as an atavistic compulsion down the line from generation to generation. This is the lost paradise after the Fall – the loss of an immortal state of being, down to the physical.
We carry this ‘memory’ in our cells. For this reason human beings harbour an insatiable thirst for knowledge of higher states. Indeed, we will know no peace until the secret is revealed and the mystery is bared. Somewhere deep inside we know that this too is our birthright, perhaps more so than suffering and sin and death, if we could but throw off the slumber the Scorpio sting induces and soar to those yet to be explored superior states of being – right here on Earth, not in any imagined heaven beyond this cosmos that is our home.
For the most part astrologers take each sign separately, not in a connected flow as Leonardo has done in his Last Supper. In fact, this is the esoterism of his message, and which, when grasped, discloses a very different philosophical truth than the Church would want its faithful to know. When the zodiac is approached as a connected flow from beginning to end, then Scorpio becomes the real issue.
Mortality is involved, plain and simple, the theme of that final supper and for which reason it was such a precious channel to convey the sacred content the Master was discovering. The Redeemer (as Leonardo called the central figure in his notes on the fresco) will soon experience that mortality in all its agonising reality.
But the system I refer to goes deeper yet. It discloses the other possibility: immortality. And this carries us to the heart of the theological debate. The system conveys these two possibilities by giving a lower and a higher symbol to the 8th stage of the initiate’s ‘journey’, as it was known in the pre-Christian Vedic age in India. The higher symbol of the 8th sign in all esoteric traditions, the Indian included, is the Eagle. The lowly Scorpion is pinned to the ground; the majestic Eagle soars to the heavens. But it is not some otherworldly heaven, or some extra cosmic plane, which was never prominent in Leonardo’s quest. As part of a flowing ecliptic/zodiacal stream, starting with Aries, the Eagle symbol indicates what ancient seers knew mortality to be: the physical frame as it is presently constituted is forced to succumb when intense compression is applied; and that is the definition of death. Our bodies are not properly constructed to be able to overcome this inertia and experience a new reality, or what we might call another ‘possibility’ – the immortal state of being on all levels, down to the physical.
We may go further to state that the cross with its off-centre axis is a perfect symbol of the imbalance of our bodies which makes death inevitable.
Alchemists sought the way to an all-encompassing immortality; Taoists continue to do so even in Communist China; it is the culmination of their quest. Along the way the Alchemist might have made other discoveries, such as chemical formulae to transmute metals, the legendary lead to gold. Or else, the Taoist discovery of marshal arts that enable the physical to extend its capacities almost infinitely. However, by the Renaissance the way of the Alchemist underwent the same degeneration which befell all ancient traditions across the globe, including zodiacal tradition, the underlying foundation of all the rest. Without this foundation none of the various paths could be successfully followed.
‘Il sole non si muove,’ wrote Leonardo decades before Copernicus; ‘The Sun does not move.’ Indeed, the great key to unlock the doors to the mystery was the measure of the Earth year – or the planet’s own journey around the Sun along the ecliptic, which sages of yore wisely divided into twelve segments. This simple key of 12 has been maintained for millennia via myths and epics which often contain 12 stages, or 12 chapters. In more recent times we have the legendary story of Jesus and his 12 disciples. This does not mean that Jesus and the apostles were not real people and that their number was an artificial construct. Rather, as one uncovers in the zodiac, the harmonies of the cosmos require physical embodiments for their expression, embodiments which, we need to stress, are not separate from the whole. And this is the very purpose of our evolutionary process: As a global society, regardless of colour or creed, caste or class, we exist to express the harmony our own planet contributes to the ‘music of the spheres’. That is, to the harmony of our solar system.
Conscious awareness results in a perception and lived experience of this harmony; sleep, uncon-sciousness with its accompanying compulsive behaviour patterns causes the world to appear as cacophonous. The time has come to move up the evolutionary ladder and live the experience that Leonardo foretold. We will discover in what way the Master disclosed this secret. And it may well cause us to reflect on another area of the debate regarding this mysterious genius: his own sexuality, or ‘sexual preference’, as we prefer to label it in the public discourse.
In all the above we find confirmation in Leonardo’s work itself. For example, we find the lower and higher potential IN MAN explicit in his famous drawing of a human figure in a square and circle. This is commonly referred to as the Vitruvian Man because in his notes Leonardo refers to the proportions Vitruvius gave in his 1st Century BCE treatise on the subject. In Vitruvius’ times it was common practice to study the proportions of the human body in search of a divine measure. In Vedic India sages gave elaborate descriptions of these sacred proportions which are used to this day in the fashioning of Hindu idols. But in the West, given the dominating position the Church acquired, these practices came under suspicion; and rightfully so. For if we follow the investigation into the ideal human frame we must ultimately do so by the direct experience that the investigation itself encourages, rather than an acceptance of dogma based on faith. We then come up against the very same dogma Leonardo found contradicted by his own pursuits: the question of a crucified Son.
Heaven and Hell on Earth
The Master openly presents the results of his pursuits in his famed drawing by imaging both potentials, mortality and immortality, in a single figure. We have heaven and hell within us, right here on this Earth in our very own bodies. The choice is ours. Leonardo shows us that crucified man (in the square) bears the burden the Bible describes after the Fall: he is poised around an axis whose pivot is the sex organ. He is pinned to the cross of his generational atavism by this choice of sexual reproduction, with all that is implied in this choice.
Leonardo expressed his questions about this reproductive method when he wrote that if it wasn’t for a beautiful face the human species would have ceased to exist!
Molecular biology has discovered the same truth about our origins as a species: sexual reproduction was a ‘choice’ made at a certain stage in the evolutionary process; and not the best one according to the experts. It is a wasteful way to get the job done. For, along with this ‘choice’ death became an inevitable part of the process. Thus sex and death are inextricably linked, says the contemporary scientist (William R. Clarke, Sex and the Origins of Death, Oxford University Press, 1996).
Interestingly, zodiacal wisdom says the very same thing – and it all hinges on the 8th sign Scorpio that Leonardo made the central theme of his Last Supper: The ‘crucified son’ is the same sex-centred man that is ‘crucified’ in the square of his famous drawing. But lest we despair, in the drawing the Master shows us the other possibility as a reality of our own bodies. Man in the circle, whose pivot has been raised to the navel, can escape this mechanical compulsion, right here, right now.
Succinctly, the message is this: instinctual recurring behaviour patterns, along with physical mortality, can be overcome. All one has to do is to learn the secrets of the Eagle: to become free from the clutches of deadly Inertia, the ‘sting’ that plunges us further into our sleep and atavism, and finally to our death. By its dual symbolism, the zodiac, like Leonardo’s man in a circle and square, offers two choices within the same physical embodiment: lesser and higher, crucifixion and hell, or freedom from Inertia and the ability to soar to the heavens and explore those dimensions yet to be made a permanent feature of our existence on this planet. In The Last Supper this choice is displayed with breathtaking artistry. And we must also note that Scorpio is the only sign of the twelve to offer a choice: lower or higher.
Leonardo was our St John the Baptist – he who heralded the times to come. In all ways he indicated the path of synthesis, of a knowledge that would be the hallmark of the new Age of Aquarius, while he himself lived and laboured in the Age of Pisces. But his passion for John the Baptist, as his art reveals, suggests that he identified with John in some profound dimension of himself. His haunting painting of St. John remained with him till his death, along with two others: The Mona Lisa, and The Virgin and St Anne. In terms of the higher knowledge he wished to convey, the choice of these particular three was eloquent.
As we delve more deeply into the mysteries of The Last Supper, bear in mind that Leonardo laboured at this fresco for a number of years. But these were not mere commissions; they were his tools, his means to uncover the secrets Nature was hiding from the profane. And we must also remember that throughout the final years of his life he was concentrated on sacred geometry, as demonstrated in his drawing of Man in a Circle and Square, or else in the work he executed while studying Divine Proportions at the feet of his mentor, Luca Pacioli. In the former geometric composition he reveals that he had found the key; he had discovered what troubled him in the execution of The Last Supper; he had found the way to Heaven on Earth. Not above and beyond, not outside the body or in heaven after death. Not through a crucified but a glorified body – glorified because of the divine proportions it houses, with all that this implies.
In The Last Supper we see the reality of 15th Century society, dominated as it was by fear from all sides. Leonardo was a notorious free thinker and non-conformist; but his non-conformity was intriguingly consistent in its apparent eclecticism. For if we use the keys presented here, we find an unbroken thread weaving its way through all of his seemingly disparate pursuits. For example, why was he fascinated with flight to the point of obsession? Was he just, as most believe, foretelling things to come like aviation; or was this a means of experiencing release from Inertia that the 8th sign held before him, the ‘knot’ that had to be undone in order to fly, to soar as a bird, as an eagle liberated from the gravitational pull of the Earth, that square of the crucified man?
There was also his obsession with corpses and the almost ghoulish habit of performing post mortem dissections on any deceased he could lay his hands on, even waiting at the deathbed of an aged destitute just to have a fresh corpse. For a free thinker with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, the times were dangerous indeed for such pursuits. But what was he truly seeking in those layers of flesh and bones? Was it simply straightforward anatomy to help him in his art? If that was the case, then we would expect him to have made painting the centre of his creativity. But decidedly it was not. We have his own words to suggest that this too was his ‘way’, his path to divinity.
‘This is the real miracle, that all shapes, all colours, all images of every part of the universe are concentrated in a single point,’ he wrote. All of his pursuits were central to something else. And that is the key: The uniqueness of his legacy is that this ‘something else’ suffuses every bit of it.
Researchers are missing the forest for the trees. They are pulling one thread of his life and interests and forgetting that it, together with every other ‘thread’, forms a single, all-encompassing and complementary web. His life and pursuits were a seamless whole. To discover any secret in the astonishing displays of his countless talents, they must all be seen within the wholeness of this pursuit and its measured progression throughout his life. In so doing, they reveal not secrets, not codes, not hidden agendas, but the ‘system’ I am describing, without masks. It all centres on Scorpio because this sign encapsulates the dilemma of our times as symbolised in a Crucified Son.
But is this the complete story for our species? Are we to remain forever bound to our atavism and suffering and ultimately death, as the off-centre symbol indicates?
The Last Supper freezes a transition for us, a moment in time where the truth of our contemporary society stands bared and apparently ineluctable: we have chosen death; we have chosen to be tools of Inertia. His painting displays for us the reality of his times and the burden we carry to this day. Yes, woman has had to bear this scourge for the past several thousand years; yes, suffering has been glorified if we tolerate pain stoically, by promising us rewards in some ‘heaven’ we can never have proof of. However, we also see the unmistakable signs all around us that all these givens are being broken down, dissected just as Leonardo dissected corpses. We are no longer satisfied with promises of Heaven after death. The Resurrection, if it did take place, is not a dogma that can continue to appease a suffering humanity.
No, we want the answers Leonardo found in the final years of his quest. We want the glorified body right here and now.
The ‘Way’ of The Last Supper
To reach that condition the Master displays the path and the obstacle: it is the lowly scorpion transmuted to the soaring eagle. In The Last Supper, as described earlier, the ‘M’ discovered by insightful seekers has been unveiled – but again only partially. The viewer has to continue drawing the ‘M’ to its ‘logical’ conclusion. We have to include in the figure a significant element of the painting that has perhaps been its most contentious aspect: the knife appearing behind the 8th disciple, Judas.
We clearly see that its inclusion, precisely as and where it has been incorporated, is simply the ‘stinger’ tail of the Scorpio hieroglyph; and to make the point more emphatically, it has been executed in the mirror-image fashion Leonardo consistently employed .
In failing to accept the background or the foundation on which Leonardo ‘constructed’ his fresco, researchers have grasped only one thread of a complex design. There is no ‘code’ other than the resuscitated pre-Christian foundation of all knowledge, the tropical zodiac with its traditional symbols and hieroglyphs. These are meant to preserve the knowledge through great vicissitudes, as well as to facilitate the internalisation of its content through the direct experience which Leonardo extolled time and again in his notes.
The Hermetic dictum states, ‘As above, so below.’ The cosmos lies within the human being. Leonardo transmits this dictum graphically in his Man in a Circle and Square. Geometry, history informs us, occupied Leonardo’s quest during the final years of his life. This geometric drawing indicates that by then he had internalised the knowledge he was seeking. He had come upon the great secret: the Son Victorious not crucified, the Son a conqueror of Death and Inertia and firmly planted on the road to Immortality, on the path that overcomes a sex-driven atavism.
Could this help to explain the confusion that abounds regarding Leonardo’s sexual preferences? Was he truly homosexual, or was he, as his own words confirm, exasperated by this rigid sex-driven pattern that pins the human being to his eternal cross?
Again, interestingly, the 8th zodiacal sign gives us the key: it is not only the sign of death but also of sex. The two go hand in hand for the Square Man.
Saint or Sinner?
The tale of two M’s makes clear why one of them (the Magdalene) is mysteriously subjected to a dual persona. On the one hand Scripture tells us she was a prostitute, the lowliest sinner of them all, possessed of seven demons. On the other, particularly surfacing today – and this is in itself the most significant aspect of our tale – this mantle of sin and depravation is being cast off and an opposite understanding arises of this particular M. She is now being seen as the best disciple of Jesus, even perhaps his wife! There is no question of sin and moral depravation in this M.
Zodiacal wisdom clarifies the issue when we know that Mary Magdalene is the Scorpio M and that indeed there are two aspects/symbols to the sign: one the lowly Scorpion generator of all our woes; the other the mighty Eagle that carries us forward on the road beyond the agony the Scorpion inflicts, even onto the path of immortality.
Here we have a mystery indeed, and Leonardo has made this the subject of his masterpiece: there are two M hieroglyphs in the zodiac. The first is Virgo, the Virgin – and we know who that is. No one will dispute the role of Mary, virgin mother of Jesus. But on the other side of Libra that separates these two M’s, there is Scorpio, the Magdalene. The dual symbolism of the sign is the key because it describes the woes of women through the past dark age, as well as their ‘redemption’ now, in our very times. Indeed, the Magdalene holds the key to that redemption. Not by producing an heir to further the Jesus line, and in this sense being nothing more than a reproductive machine for male generation, but by realising, by becoming herself the Eagle that liberates her from all that seeks to pin the Feminine down to these limited functions, by herself being transmuted to that lofty symbol and carrying all of her kind forward in this redemption.
Finally, there is no mystery, no deep secret, at least in this liberated age that we are blessed to be born in, unlike the Master whose very life was at stake if he dared to bare the mystery as he knew it to be and as he has portrayed it in The Last Supper. The tale reveals that seekers and audacious scholars are very close to the mark when they see an M in his painting. But more is required. The background Leonardo used for this fresco clarifies all the mysteries: sinner or saint? It is only a question of transmutation: scorpion to eagle.
It is interesting to note in this context that some astrologers believe there is a 13th sign of the zodiac. On the other hand, another theory is in evidence. Many European astrologers consider that there is no 13th sign, but that Scorpio is divided into two parts. This would add weight to our ‘tale of two Ms’ and the dual aspect of Mary Magdalene which is reflected precisely in the sign she would represent in the initiatory journey such as alluded to in Le Serpent Rouge, purportedly of the Priory of Sion.
This is not the only place we find the zodiac prominent in Christian tenants. It is explicit in The Revelation, which tradition holds to have been written by John the Beloved. In Chapter IV, 7, John describes the ‘four beasts’ as 1) Lion, 2) Calf, 3) Man, 4) Eagle. These are the four signs of the zodiac, Leo, Taurus, Aquarius and Scorpio (Eagle). They are the four of Fixed Quality, as it is termed in astrological lore, and they appear in John’s text in their correct order. Thus there can be no doubt where these ‘beasts’ come from. Based on this description, the early Church Fathers ‘decided’ on four gospels, being the ‘four pillars’ of the Church, and only four; and these would be equated ever after with the ‘four beasts’ of the famed Apocalypse of St John. Indeed, The Revelation makes no sense without the keys the zodiac provides to decipher the text.
The ‘secret’ we all seek concerning the Magdalene is bared once and for all, but we must retreat to pre-Christian traditions for the answers. Similar to the ‘four beasts’ of Revelation, the M’s come directly from zodiacal wisdom: Virgo, and then Scorpio/sinner or Eagle/saint. Again, the choice is ours.
Finally we are led right to the heart of the mystery: Was the crucified Jesus as well simply a part of the wisdom carried over from pre-Christian times and taken directly from the zodiac – not ‘historic’ in the sense we know history today but rather representative of the eternal Tradition which is an initiation open to each and every human being on this planet? We can go the way of the crucifixion and see Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, just as Christian theology was devised during the Dark Ages. Or we can move with her, the very same Magdalene, away from agony and sin and death to the higher symbol, we ourselves to become that. After all, the zodiac IS OUR BIRTHRIGHT. Anyone born on this planet IS THAT: we carry this harmony in our very genes. The ‘code’ is this cosmic rhythm that the annual rotation of our planet marks out in her journey around the Sun which we divide into twelve parts.
To further support the zodiacal content of The Last Supper, I refer to the research of Picknett and Prince once again, this time from their book, Turin Shroud, (Harper Collins Publishers, 1994). In it they present a Rosicrucian document (in support of their suggestive argument that the Shroud was created by none other than Leonardo and, in fact, is a self-portrait): I quote from page 85, ‘…The works of the Rosicrucians reveal that they attached some importance to the Shroud image. In a book of theirs dating from 1593 there is a diagram labelled “Ark of Noah”…which shows a naked, bearded figure superimposed on a plan of the Ark, which is divided into compartments with astrological associations. The figure is very similar to the Shroud image.’