Quest for the Lost Language of the Initiates - Part 1

David Reigle – USA

[“Quest for the Lost Language of the Initiates,” by David Reigle, was published in the American Theosophist 69.1 (January 1981): 11-6; and reprinted in David and Nancy Reigle’s collection Blavatsky’s Secret Books: Twenty Years’ Research (San Diego, CA: Wizards Bookshelf, 1999), pp. 6-19, from which it is reproduced here, with slight modifications for our house style.]

Introduction by David Reigle from Blavatsky’s Secret Books (BSB):

This article was written in 1979, after returning from India, where my wife and I had spent three months. It was written in a somewhat lighter style than my later writings, since I had tried to make it read more like a travel account. Thus it originally had no notes. The reviewers for the American Theosophist, however, felt that some of my statements should be documented, such as, “This Vedic Sanskrit, though assumed by scholars to be more primitive because older, is yet richer in grammati¬cal forms than classical Sanskrit” (BSB, 10). So I then added twenty-seven references and notes, and have now added three more on Khshnoom, or esoteric Zoroastrianism, since it is so little known. I did not, though, document my above-quoted statement, since I felt that to do so would be too out of place for a nontechnical article such as this. In any case, it is well known among linguists that finite verb forms such as aorists and perfects abound in Vedic writings, while they have been largely replaced by participles in classical Sanskrit.

There is a statement of personal experience regarding Sanskrit, however, that should now be modified: “People warned us that Sanskrit is a most difficult language. However, we discovered that to be false; Sanskrit has been put together quite scientifically” (BSB, 9). In our youthful enthusiasm we were quite taken by the scientific structure of Sanskrit, but this does not change the fact that it is a difficult language to learn. This is because of its great number of forms.
Finally, our Theosophical Research Center, mentioned on BSB p. 11, was soon obliged to change its name, to avoid confusion with another Theosophical Research Center, working in the field of modern science. It has now become the Eastern Tradition Research Institute.

Quest for the Lost Language of the Initiates [part 1]

Reading H. P. Blavatsky’s accounts of the vast secret librar¬ies in the safekeeping of certain occult brotherhoods provoked my interest, to say the least. She tells about the underground libraries of the Jainas in Rajasthan; the 999 “lost” works of Lao-tzu; the 76,000 “lost” tracts of the Buddhist sacred canon; the voluminous esoteric sections of the Upanishads, detached by the Brahmans at the time of Buddha; the “gupta cave near Okhee Math” containing the unabridged Hindu sacred books of which we have only “bits of rejected copies of some passages”; the complete Oriental Kabala, of which the Western version is only a distorted echo; etc., etc.; besides the numerous secret volumes in cave-libraries under lamaseries in Tibet, such as the Books of Kiu-te.1 If these books were anything like The Secret Doctrine, which is a translation of and commentary on one of them, I wanted to find them.

It was only Theosophical literature that had given any pur¬pose to my life to begin with. Previously, daily human affairs had left me so indifferent that at an early age I decided to retire from the world, seeking peace in the wilderness. As fate would have it, one of my last stops in civilization on my way out, namely a bookstore in Anchorage, Alaska, left me with a Theosophical book in my hands. You all know the story from there; and I ended up with quite a pile of such books, which eventually led me back to the beaten path of “civilized” life. This being the case, it is understandable that when I found that there were whole libraries of books like The Secret Doctrine, I was ready to do whatever might be required to gain access to them. Madame Blavatsky had even indicated that if people did the necessary work, some of these writings may become available at the very time in which we are living now, possibly through archeologi¬cal “discoveries.”

There are evidently thousands of these volumes in exist¬ence, the originals being written in Senzar, the secret sacred lan¬guage of the Initiates. Since it would be of no use to see these books if you couldn’t read them, it was obvious that I would need to do some language study. But I didn’t know any Initiates, and it was very unlikely that a textbook of Senzar would be soon forthcoming. However, in the Proem to The Secret Doctrine I read an interesting statement about the contents of that book: “Extracts are given from the Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit translations of the original Senzar Commentaries and Glosses on the Book of DZYAN—these being now rendered for the first time into a European language.”2 This was what I needed to know: that there are at least three languages in which full translations of these Senzar works exist, so I had something to get started on. Besides, I wouldn’t complain about having to read the Senzar in Chinese, Tibetan, or Sanskrit translation when these books become available; and learning any of those languages would be excellent preparation because they might provide a key for deciphering Senzar, like Greek and Egyptian demotic did for deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics, thanks to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.

My studies in The Secret Doctrine had informed me of some important considerations in choosing one of the three. It is there said that the grand panorama of the ever periodically recurring Law, reflected from the Universal Mind, can be rendered in no human language with any degree of adequacy except Sanskrit, which is that of the gods3 (devas, as is its alpha¬bet, the devanagari). Now, there was a recommendation worth taking note of! Elsewhere, speaking of the sacred language of the Initiates, Madame Blavatsky says that it is called, according to locality, Senzar, Brahma-Bhashya, or Deva-Bhashya.4 The latter appellation, of course, means “language of the gods.” Why is it that both Sanskrit and Senzar are called the “language of the gods”? The answer is found in the Anthropogenesis volume of The Secret Doctrine, where speaking of the development of speech, it states that the inflectional speech, the root of the Sanskrit, was the first language of the Fifth Race, now the mystery tongue of the Initiates.5 Language, like the other sciences, was given to humanity by “Divine Instructors” ages ago but has changed with time and degenerated from its original purity since then. So, while Sanskrit may not be Senzar, the original “language of the gods,” it is the direct outgrowth of it.

Knowing this, my wife and I undertook the study of Sanskrit. People warned us that Sanskrit is a most difficult language. However, we discovered that to be false; Sanskrit has been put together quite scientifically, incorporating much occultism in its very structure. For example, the basis of Sanskrit is the verb roots, on which both the verbs and the nouns are built, according to regular processes. Therefore the verb roots, representing action or motion, are the basis on which the whole language is formed, just as in occultism motion, or “Ceaseless Breath,” is the basis from which the whole universe takes shape. So in both the Sanskrit language and the universe vibration is the root of all forms!

The difficult part in trying to learn Sanskrit is just to get through the archaic textbooks on it that are available in En¬glish. Most of them were written a century ago, at a time when anyone who would be studying Sanskrit invariably had years of Latin or Greek study behind them. Consequently, in explaining a particular Sanskrit usage, these books often just refer you to a parallel construction in Latin, with no further explanation. And coupled with unfamiliar grammatical terminology, these text¬books required a considerable amount of deciphering them¬selves! But learning the language is not all there is to the science of grammar, as it was propounded in ancient India.

An article in Five Years of Theosophy had informed us that Panini, author of what has been called the most perfect grammar in the world, was a Rishi, or Initiate.6 Therefore his Sanskrit grammar, the Ashtadhyayi, consisting of just under 4,000 terse verses, was the one we wanted; and it was available in English translation.7 Western scholars had not found the arrangement of Panini’s grammar to be very usable, because the rules con-cerning a particular topic are found throughout, rather than gathered together in a single place. Besides which, it was very lengthy; so they devised their own Sanskrit grammars in a man¬ner thought to be more suitable to the Western mind. This, of course, did make the learning of the language easier, but In¬dian grammarians had long since come out with rearranged and shortened versions of Panini’s grammar for that purpose.8 In the time of the Rishis, grammar, like other subjects, was a spiritual path; and the very arrangement of Panini’s grammar which Western scholars had found so unworkable is one of its significant occult features. Madame Blavatsky had stated that you could tell Plato was an Initiate because in his writings he always reasoned from universals to particulars, the occult method, in contradistinction to his uninitiated pupil Aristotle, who reasoned from particulars to universals.9 Now Panini’s whole grammar is so arranged that the most general rules are given first, gradually becoming more and more specific in their application until the end, a skillful embodiment of the occult method.

Panini’s grammar, like many other old works such as the Bhagavad Gita, is written in what is called “classical Sanskrit.” However, there is an even more ancient kind of Sanskrit known as “Vedic Sanskrit,” in which the Vedas are written. This Vedic Sanskrit, though assumed by scholars to be more primitive because older, is yet richer in grammatical forms than classical Sanskrit. This supports the view that the further we trace San¬skrit back in time, the closer we get to the source, Senzar. An inquiry into its peculiarities was therefore definitely in order.

The most striking feature of Vedic Sanskrit is the accent or svara, which is marked in the manuscripts in red ink. It is not a stress accent, but a musical accent indicating relative pitch. T. Subba Row, the learned Vedantin occultist, says, “the Vedas have a distinct dual meaning—one expressed by the literal sense of the words, the other indicated by the metre and the svara (intonation), which are, as it were, the life of the Vedas.”10 This is shown by the fact that all the verses of the Sama Veda (except 75 of them) are already found in the Rig Veda. The words are the same, but the svara, and therefore the nonliteral meaning, is completely different, the Rig Veda being chanted on three pitches, while the Sama Veda is sung on five or seven.

This ancient Vedic language is very closely related to the language called “Avestan,” in which the old Zoroastrian scriptures, the Avesta, are written. Many of their words are almost identical. A very interesting feature, found in both the Vedic Sanskrit and the oldest form of the Avestan language, but having died out in their respective descendant languages, is the use of aorist verb forms. Aorist, from a Greek word meaning “not definable, without limits,” is a type of verb which denotes completion of an action only, without reference to time. The Ageless Wisdom teaches that time, as we know it with its past, present, and future, is an illusion. Time is said to be the sequence of the modifications of the mind and is said to terminate upon the achievement of illumination, giving place to the “eternal now” (Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 4.33).11 Certainly the aorist verb forms fit this latter state, indicating that at one time spiritual consciousness was more prevalent.

While reading in H. P. Blavatsky’s Theosophical Glossary one day, I came across the following: “What name should be given to the old Avesta language, and particularly to the ‘special dialect, older than the general language of the Avesta’ (Darmesteter), in which the five Gathas in the Yasna are written? To this day the Orientalists are mute upon the subject. Why should not the Zend be of the same family, if not identical with the Zen-sar, meaning also the speech explaining the abstract symbol, or the ‘mystery language,’ used by Ini¬tiates?”12 This was the clue we had been looking for!

[To be continued.]

References and Notes

1. From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan, 75-7; The Secret Doctrine (original 1888 ed.) 1:xxiv-xxx, 269-71; H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings 7:250-68.

2. Secret Doctrine 1:23.

3. Secret Doctrine 1:269.

4. Collected Writings 4:518.

5. Secret Doctrine 2:200.

6. Five Years of Theosophy (2nd rev. ed., 1894), 258.

7. The Ashtadhyayi of Panini, edited and translated into English by Srisa Chandra Vasu, 2 vols., Allahabad, 1891; reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1962, 1977.

8. The Siddhanta-kaumudi of Bhattoji Diksita is a rearranged version of Panini’s grammar, and the Laghu-kaumudi of Varadaraja is an abridged version of Siddhanta-kaumudi.

9. Secret Doctrine 1:493; 2:153, 573.

10. Five Years of Theosophy, 98.

11. According to the paraphrase of Yoga Sutra 4.33 given in The Light of the Soul, by Alice A. Bailey, p. 428: “ Time, which is the sequence of the modifications of the mind, likewise terminates, giving place to the Eternal Now.”

12. Theosophical Glossary, 386.


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