The Chaldæan Oracles of Zoroaster 20: 03: 17 Jun 30 2006

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The Chaldæan Oracles of Zoroaster

20:03:17 - Jun 30 2006

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THESE Oracles are considered to embody many of the principal features of Chaldæan philosophy. They have come down to us through Greek translations and were held in the greatest esteem throughout antiquity, a sentiment which was shared alike by the early Christian Fathers and the later Platonists. The doctrines contained therein are attributed to Zoroaster, though to which particular Zoroaster is not known; historians give notices of as many as six different individuals all bearing that name, which was probably the title of the Prince of the Magi, and a generic term. The word Zoroaster is by various authorities differently derived: Kircher furnishes one of the most interesting derivations when he seeks to show that it comes from TzURA = a figure, and TzIUR = to fashion, ASh = fire, and STR = hidden; from these he gets the words Zairaster = fashioning images of hidden fire; -- or Tzuraster = the image of secret things. Others derive it from Chaldee and Greek words meaning "a contemplator of the Stars."

It is not, of course, pretended that this collection as it stands is other than disjointed and fragmentary, and it is more than probable that the true sense of many passages has been obscured, and even in some cases hopelessly obliterated, by inadequate translation.

Where it has been possible to do so, an attempt has been made to elucidate doubtful or ambiguous expressions, either by modifying the existing translation from the Greek, where deemed permissible, or by appending annotations.
It has been suggested by some that these Oracles are of Greek invention, but it has already been pointed out by Stanley that Picus de Mirandula [Giovanni Pico della Mirandula] assured Ficinus [Marcilio Ficino] that he had the Chaldee Original in his possession, in which those things which are faulty and defective in the Greek are read perfect and entire," and Ficinus indeed states that he found this MS. upon the death of Mirandula. In addition to this, it should be noted that here and there in the original Greek version, words occur which are not of Greek extracti6n at all, but are Hellenised Chaldee.
Berosus is said to be the first who introduced the writings of the Chaldæans concerning Astronomy and Philosophy among the Greeks,[1] and it is certain that the traditions of Chaldea very largely influenced Greek thought. Taylor considers that some of these mystical utterances are the sources whence the sublime conceptions of Plato were formed, and large commentaries were written upon them by Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, Pletho and Psellus. That men of such great learning and sagacity should have thought so highly of these Oracles, is a fact which in itself should commend them to our attention.
[1. Josephus, contra Apion. I.]
The term "Oracles" was probably bestowed upon these epigrammatic utterances in order to enforce the idea of their profound and deeply mysterious nature. The Chaldæans, however, had an Oracle, which they venerated as highly as the Greeks did that at Delphi. [1]
[1. Stephanus, De Urbibus.]
We are indebted to both Psellus and Pletho, for comments at some length upon the Chaldæan Oracles, and the collection adduced by these writers has been considerably enlarged by Franciscus Patricius, who made many additions from Proclus, Hermias, Simplicius, Damascius, Synesius, Olympiodorus, Nicephorus and Arnobius; his collection, which comprised some 324 oracles under general heads, was published in Latin in 1593, and constitutes the groundwork of the later classification arrived at by Taylor and Cory; all of these editions have been utilised in producing the present revise.
A certain portion of these Oracles collected by Psellus, appear to be correctly attributed to a Chaldæan Zoroaster of very early date, and are marked Z," following the method indicated by Taylor, with one or two exceptions. Another portion is attributed to a sect of philosophers named Theurgists, who flourished during the reign of Marcus Antoninus, upon the authority of Proclus,[2] and these are marked "T." Oracles additional to these two series and of less definite source are marked "Z or T." Other oracular passages from miscellaneous authors are indicated by their names.

[2. Vide his Scholia on the Cratylus of Plato.]

The printed copies of the Oracles to be found in England are the following: --
1. Oracula Magica, Ludovicus Tiletanus, Paris, 1563.
2. Zoroaster et ejus 320 oracula Chaldaica; by Franciscus Patricius. . . . 1593.
3. Fred. Morellus; Zoroastris oracula, 1597. Supplies about a hundred verses.
4. Otto Heurnius; Barbaricæ Philosophia antiquitatum libri duo, 1600.
5. Johannes Opsopoeus; Oracula Magica Zoroastris 1599. This includes the Commentaries of Pletho and of Psellus in Latin.
6. Servatus Galloeus; Sibulliakoi Chresmoi, 1688. Contains a version of the Oracles.
Thomas Stanley. The History of the Chaldaic Philosophy, 1701. This treatise contains the Latin of Patricius, and the Commentaries of Pletho and Psellus in English
Johannes Alb. Fabricius, Bibliotheca Greca, 1705-7. Quotes the Oracles.
Jacobus Marthanus, 1689. This version contains the Commentary of Gemistus Pletho.
Thomas Taylor, The Chaldæan Oracles, in the Monthly Magazine, and published independently, 1806.
Bibliotheca Classica Latina; A. Lemaire, volume 124, Paris, 1823.
Isaac Preston Cory, Andent Fragments, London, 1828. (A third edition of this work has been published, omitting the Oracles.)
Phoenix, New York, 1835. A collection of curious old tracts, among which are the Oracles of Zoroaster, copied from Thomas Taylor and I. P. Cory; with an essay by Edward Gibbon.
BY L. O.
It has been believed by many, and not without good reason, that these terse and enigmatic utterances enshrine a profound system of mystical philosophy, but that this system demands for its full discernment a refinement of faculty, involving, as it does, a discrete perception of immaterial essences.
It has been asserted that the Chaldæan Magi [1] preserved their occult learning among their race by continual tradition from Father to Son. Diodorus says: "They learn these things, not after the same fashion as the Greeks: for amongst the Chaldæans, philosophy is delivered by tradition in the family, the Son receiving it from his Father, be mg exempted from all other employment; and thus having their parents for their teachers, they learn all things fully and abundantly, believing more firmly what is communicated to them." [2]
[1. This powerful Guild was the guardian of Chaldæan philosophy, which exceeded the bounds of their country, and diffused itself into Persia and Arabia that borders upon it; for which reason the learning of the Chaldæans, Persians and Arabians is comprehended under the general title of Chaldæan.

2. Diodorus, lib. I.]

The remains then of this oral tradition seems to exist in these Oracles, which should be studied in the light of the Kabalah and of Egyptian Theology. Students are aware that the Kabalah [1] is susceptible of extraordinary interpretation with the aid of the Tarot, resuming as the latter does, the very roots of Egyptian Theology. Had a similar course been adopted by commentators in the past, the Chaldæan system expounded in these Oracles would not have been distorted in the way it has been.

[1. Vide Kabalah Denudata, by MacGregor Mathers.]

The foundation upon which the whole structure of the Hebrew Kabalah rests is an exposition of ten deific powers successively emanated by the Illimitable Light, which in their varying dispositions are considered as the key of all things. This divine procession in the form of Three Triads of Powers, synthesized in a tenth, is said to be extended through four worlds, denominated respectively Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah, a fourfold gradation from the subtle to the gross. This proposition in its metaphysical roots is pantheistic, though, if it may be so stated, mediately theistic; while the ultimate noumenon of all phenomena is the absolute Deity, whose ideation constitutes the objective Universe.
Now these observations apply strictly also to the Chaldæan system.
The accompanying diagrams sufficiently indicate the harmony and identity of the Chaldæan philosophy with the Hebrew Kabalah. It will be seen that the First Mind and the Intelligible Triad, Pater, Potentia, or Mater, and Mens, are allotted to the Intelligible World of Supramundane Light: the "First Mind" represents the archetypal intelligence as an entity in the bosom of the Paternal Depth. This concentrates by reflection into the "Second Mind" representative of the Divine Power in the Empyraean World which is identified with the second great Triad of divine powers, known as the Intelligible and at the same time Intellectual Triad: the Aethereal World comprises the dual third Triad denominated Intellectual: while the fourth or Elementary World is governed by Hypezokos, or Flower of Fire, the actual builder of the world.


The Intelligibles The Paternal Depth

World of Supra-mundane Light The First Mind


The Intelligible Triad

Pater: Mater or Potentia: Mens

The Second Mind


Intelligibles and Intellectuals

in the

Empyræan World Iynges



(The Third Mind.)


in the Ethereal World Three Cosmagogi

(Intellectual guides inflexible.)

Three Amilicti

(Implacable thunders).

Elementary World

The Demiurgos of the

Material Universe Hypezokos

(Flower of Fire)

Effable, Essential and

Elemental Orders


The Earth-Matter

World of Atziluth

or of God The Boundless

The Illimitable

Light Ain Suph.

Ain Suph Aur
A radiant triangle

World of Briah

Divine Forces Kether



(Intelligence) Chokmah


World of Yetzirah

or of Formation Geburah Chesed


Hod Netzach.


World of Assiah
Material Form. Malkuth

Ruled by

Adonai Melekh


The Earth-Matter.
Representatives of the previous classes guiding our universe.
I. Hyperarchii -- Archangels

II. Azonoei -- Unzoned gods

III. Zonoei -- Planetary Deities.

Higher demons: Angels


Human Souls


Lower demons, elementals

* Fiery

* Airy

* Earthy

* Watery

Evil demons

Lucifugous; the kliphoth

Chaldæan Theology contemplated three great divisions of supra-mundane things:-- the First was Eternal, without beginning or end, being the "Paternal Depth," the bosom of the Deity. The Second was conceived to be that mode of being having beginning but no end; the Creative World or Empyræeum falls under this head, abounding as it does in productions, but its source remaining superior to these. The third and last order of divine things had a beginning in time and will end, this is the transitory Ethereal World. Seven spheres extended through these three Worlds, viz., one in the Empyraeum or verging from it, three in the Ethereal and three in the Elementary Worlds, while the whole physical realm synthesized the foregoing. These seven spheres are not to be confounded with the Seven material Planets; although the latter are the physical representatives of the former, which can only be said to be material in the metaphysical sense of the term. Psellus professed to identify them but his suggestions are inadequate as Stanley pointed out. But Stanley, although disagreeing with Psellus, is nevertheless inconsistent upon this point, for although he explains the four Worlds of the Chaldæans as successively noumenal to the physical realm, he obviously contradicts this in saying that one corporeal world is in the Empyræum.
Prior to the supramundane Light lay the "Paternal Depth," the Absolute Deity, containing all things "in potentia" and eternally immanent. This is analogous to the Ain Suph Aur of the Kabalah, three words of three letters, expressing three triads of Powers, which are subsequently translated into objectivity, and constitute the great Triadic Law under the direction of the Demiurgus, or artificer of the Universe.
In considering this schema, it must be remembered that the supramundane Light was regarded as the primal radiation from the, Paternal Depth and the archetypal noumenon of the Empyræum, a universal, all-pervading -- and, to human comprehension -- ultimate essence. The Empyræum again, is a somewhat grosser though still highly subtilized Fire and creative source, in its turn the noumenon of the Formative or Ethereal World, as the latter is the noumenon of the Elementary World. Through these graduated media the conceptions of the Paternal Mind are ultimately fulfilled in time and space.
In some respects it is probable that the Oriental mind today is not much altered from what it was thousands of years ago, and much that now appears to us curious and phantastic in Eastern traditions, still finds responsive echo in the hearts and minds of a vast portion of mankind. A large number of thinkers and scientists in modern times have advocated tenets which, while not exactly similar, are parallel to ancient Chaldæan conceptions; this is exemplified in the notion that the operation of natural law in the Universe is controlled or operated by conscious and discriminating power which is co-ordinate with intelligence. It is but one step further to admit that forces are entities, to people the vast spaces of the Universe with the children of phantasy. Thus history repeats itself, and the old and the new alike reflect the multiform truth.
Without entering at length into the metaphysical aspect, it is important to notice the supremacy attributed to the "Paternal Mind." The intelligence of the Universe, poetically described as "energising before energy," establishes on high the primordial types or patterns of things which are to be, and, then inscrutably latent, vests the development of these in the Rectores Mundorum, the divine agents or powers already referred to. As it is said, "Mind is with Him, power with them."
The word "Intelligible" is used in the Platonic sense, to denote a mode of being, power or perception, transcending intellectual comprehension, i.e., wholly distinct from, and superior to, ratiocination. The Chaldæans recognised three modes of perception, viz., the testimony of the various senses, the ordinary processes of intellectual activity, and the intelligible conceptions before referred to. Each of these operations is distinct from the others, and, moreover, conducted in separate matrices, or vehicula. The anatomy of the Soul was, however, carried much farther than this, and, although in its ultimate radix recognised as identical with the divinity, yet in manifested being it was conceived to be highly complex. The Oracles speak of the "Paths of the Soul," the tracings of inflexible fire by which its essential parts are associated in integrity; while its various "summits," "fountains," and "vehicula," are all traceable by analogy with universal principles. This latter fact is, indeed, not the least remarkable feature of the Chaldæan system. Like several of the ancient cosmogonies, the principal characteristic of which seems to have been a certain adaptability to introversion, Chaldæan metaphysics synthesize most clearly in the human constitution.
In each of the Chaldæan Divine Worlds a trinity of divine powers operated, which synthetically constituted a fourth term. "In every World," says the Oracle, "a Triad shineth, of which the Monad is the ruling principle." These "Monads" are the divine Vice-gerents by which the Universe was conceived to be administered. Each of the four Worlds, viz., the Empyræan, Ethereal, Elementary and Material, was presided over by a Supreme Power, itself in direct rapport with "the Father" and "moved by unspeakable counsels." These are clearly identical with the Kabalistic conception of the presidential heads of the four letters composing the Deity name in so many different languages. A parallel tenet is conveyed in the Oracle which runs: "There is a Venerable Name projected through the Worlds with a sleepless revolution." The Kabalah again supplies the key to this utterance, by regarding the Four Worlds as under the presidency of the four letters of the Venerable Name, a certain letter of the four being allotted to each World, as also was a special mode of writing the four-lettered name appropriate thereto; and, indeed in that system it is taught that the order of the Elements, both macrocosmic and microcosmic, on every plane, is directly controlled by the "revolution of the name." That Name is associated with the Æthers of the Elements and is thus considered as a Universal Law; it is the power which marshals the creative host, summed tip in the Demiurgus, Hypezokos, or Flower of Fire.
Reference may here be made to the psychic anatomy of the human being according to Plato. He places the intellect in the head; the Soul endowed with some of the passions, such as fortitude, in the heart; while another Soul, of which the appetites, desires and grosser passions are its faculties, about the stomach and the spleen.
So, the Chaldæan doctrine as recorded by Psellus, considered man to be composed of three kinds of Souls, which may respectively be called:
First, the Intelligible, or divine soul,

Second, the Intellect or rational soul, and

Third, the Irrational, or passional soul.
This latter was regarded as subject to mutation, to be dissolved and perish at the death of the body.
Of the Intelligible, or divine soul, the Oracles teach that "It is a bright fire, which, by the power of the Father, remaineth immortal, and is Mistress of Life;" its power may be dimly apprehended through regenerate phantasy and when the sphere of the Intellect has ceased to respond to the images of the passional nature.
Concerning the rational soul, the Chaldæans taught that it was possible for it to assimilate itself unto the divinity on the one hand, or the irrational soul on the other. "Things divine," we read, "cannot be obtained by mortals whose intellect is directed to the body alone, but those only who are stripped of their garments, arrive at the summit,"
To the three Souls to which reference has been made, the Chaldæans moreover allotted three distinct vehicles: that of the divine Soul was immortal, that of, the rational soul by approximation became so; while to the irrational soul was allotted what was called "the image," that is. the astral form of the physical body.
Physical life thus integrates three special modes of activity, which upon the dissolution of the body are respectively involved in the web of fate consequent upon incarnate energies in three different destinies.
The Oracles urge men to devote themselves to things divine, and not to give way to the promptings of the irrational soul, for, to such as fail herein, it is significantly said, "Thy vessel the beasts of the earth shall inhabit."
The Chaldæans assigned the place of the Image, the vehicle of the irrational soul, to the Lunar Sphere; it is probable that by the Lunar Sphere was meant something more than the orb of the Moon, the whole sublunary region, of which the terrestrial earth is, as it were, the centre. At death, the rational Soul rose above the lunar influence, provided always the past permitted that happy release. Great importance was attributed to the way in which the physical life was passed during the sojourn of the Soul in the tenement of flesh, and frequent are the, exhortations to rise to communion with those Divine powers, to which nought but the highest Theurgy can pretend.
"Let the immortal depth of your Soul lead you," says an Oracle, "but earnestly raise your eyes upwards." Taylor comments upon this in the following beautiful passage: "By the eyes are to be understood all the gnostic powers of the Soul, for when these are extended the Soul becomes replete with a more excellent life and divine illumination; and is, as it were, raised above itself."
Of the Chaldæan Magi it might be truly said that they "among dreams did first discriminate the truthful vision!" for they were certainly endowed with a far reaching perception both mental and spiritual; attentive to images, and fired with mystic fervours, they were something more than mere theorists, but were also practical exemplars of the philosophy they taught. Life on the plains of Chaldæa, with its mild nights and jewelled skies, tended to foster the interior unfoldment; in early life the disciples of the Magi learnt to resolve the Bonds of proscription and enter the immeasurable region. One Oracle assures us that, "The girders of the Soul, which give her breathing, are easy to be unloosed," and elsewhere we read of the "Melody of the Ether" and of the "Lunar clashings" experiences which testify to the reality of their occult methods.
The Oracles assert that the impressions of characters and other divine visions appear in the Ether. The Chaldæan philosophy recognized the ethers of the Elements as the subtil media through which the operation of the grosser elements is effected -- by the grosser elements I mean what we know as Earth, Air, Water, and Fire - the principles of dryness and moisture, of heat and cold. These subtil ethers are really the elements of the ancients, and seem at an early period to have been connected with the Chaldæan astrology, as the signs of the Zodiac were connected with them. The twelve signs of the Zodiac are permutations of the ethers of the elements - four elements with three variations each; and according to the preponderance of one or another elemental condition in the constitution of the individual, so were his natural inclinations deduced therefrom. Thus when in the astrological jargon it was said that a man had Aries rising, he was said to be of a fiery nature, his natural tendencies being active, energetic, and fiery, for in the constitution of such a one the fiery ether predominates. And these ethers were stimulated, or endowed with a certain kind of vibration, by their Presidents, the Planets; these latter being thus. suspended in orderly disposed zones. Unto the Planets, too, colour and sound were also attributed ; the planetary colours are connected with the ethers, and each of the Planetary forces was said to have special dominion over, or affinity with, one or other of the Zodiacal constellations. Communion with the hierarchies of these constellations formed p art of the Chaldæan theurgy, and in a curious fragment it is said: "If thou often invokest it" (the celestial constellation called the Lion) "then when no longer is visible unto thee the Vault of the Heavens, when the Stars have lost their light the lamp of the Moon is veiled, the Earth abideth not, and around thee darts the lightning flame, then all things will appear to thee in the form of a Lion!" The Chaldæans like the Egyptians, appear to have bad a highly developed appreciation of colours, an evidence of their psychic susceptibility. The use of bright colours engenders the recognition of subsisting variety and stimulates that perception of the mind which energizes through imagination, or the ,operation of images. The Chaldæan method of contemplation app ears to have been to identify the self with the object of contemplation; this is of course identical with the process of Indian Yoga, and is an idea which appears replete with suggestion; as it is written, "He assimilates the images to himself, casting them around his own form." But we are told, "All divine natures are incorporeal, but bodies are bound in them for your sakes."
The subtil ethers, of which I have spoken, served in their turn as it were for the garment of the divine Light; for the Oracles teach that beyond these again "A solar world and endless Light subsist!" This Divine Light was the object of all veneration. Do not think that what was intended thereby was the Solar Light we know: "The inerratic sphere of the Starless above" is an unmistakable expression and therein "the more true Sun" has place: Theosophists will appreciate the significance of "the more true Sun," for according to The Secret Doctrine the Sun we see is but the physical vehicle of a more transcendent splendour.
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