Theosophy

Pekka Ervast’s Spiritual Teachings

Antti Savinainen – Finland

pekka ervast4 c

Pekka Ervast

Introduction:

Pekka Ervast (1875‒1934) was an exceptional person whose influence is still felt in Finland today. He left a remarkable literary legacy that centers on Theosophy, esoteric Christianity, the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount, and the wisdom of the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.

Ervast was one of the founders of the Finnish Section of the Theosophical Society in 1907 and was elected as the Section’s first secretary general. After various stages, Ervast resigned from the Theosophical Society and in 1920 founded the Finnish Rosy Cross.

Although it is institutionally separate, the Finnish Rosy Cross remains a part of the Theosophical movement started by H. P. Blavatsky, whom Ervast loved and respected deeply. Ervast chose the name “Finnish Rosy Cross” (Ruusu-Risti in Finnish) for the new organization to emphasize the ideological and internal link with the movement in esoteric Christianity that some believe originated with Christian Rosenkreutz as early as the fifteenth century.

Christian Rosenkreutz appears in two important tracts published in the early seventeenth century: the Fama fraternitatis (“The Rumor of the Brotherhood”) and the Confessio fraternitatis (“The Confession of the Brotherhood”), which were a major impulse to the spread of the Rosicrucian movement. Some contend that Christian Rosenkreutz was a merely symbolic figure; others contend that he really lived as a historical person.

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The Ethical Path of the Sermon on the Mount

One of Theosophy’s premises is that humanity can attain spiritual knowledge, that is, knowledge of the mysteries of life and death. This is because the human spirit—the core human being—is an immortal part of the consciousness of the Cosmic Christ. In Rosicrucian Theosophy, the instructions for living in the Sermon on the Mount serve as signposts for the path to enlightenment.

Ervast summarizes the Sermon on the Mount’s ethical guidelines for living as follows:

1, Do not get angry. Avoiding anger breeds goodness in a person. 

  1. Do not be impure in your thoughts. The aim is to purify your mental and emotional life. 
  1. Do not swear (in the sense of taking an oath). This advice will cultivate absolute honesty as well as listening skills. 
  1. Do not resist evil. Following this ideal will increase one’s capacity for forgiveness and inner peace. 
  1. Do not fight, but love. The highest ideal is to increase the capacity to love and serve all humankind. 

In Ervast’s view, meditating on and following the instructions of the Sermon on the Mount changes a person’s character and life. In his book The Divine Seed (2010), Ervast emphasizes that although meditation is necessary for spiritual life, following Jesus’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount will eventually make one a member of the kingdom of heaven. Or perhaps it is better to say that following these instructions prepares one to become a citizen of the invisible world. Entrance is not determined by the person but by life itself.

Rosicrucian Theosophy shares the teachings of mainstream Theosophy on karma and reincarnation. The goal is not to enjoy a better reincarnation sometime in the future but to become a servant of humanity, as urged by the Ervast’s fifth commandment from the Sermon on the Mount. The ideal is thus the same as in the Mahayana Buddhism, where the bodhisattva compassionately avoids entering nirvana in order to advance the enlightenment of all sentient beings until “the last blade of grass is enlightened.”

Using the symbol of the rosy cross, Ervast explains how both the hardships and happy moments of life can be viewed from the perspective of esoteric Christianity (Ervast, 1921): 

The rose symbolizes life, joy, happiness, and love, while the cross represents death, suffering, pain, and burden. . . . The Rosicrucian worldview seeks to unite the two extremes, to link the cross and the rose, to seek the golden mean between joy and sorrow, and to rise above joy and sorrow to the peace that conquers the world. . . . 

Esoterically, it interprets the image of the rosy cross like this: when a man takes up his cross (both his external and internal destiny)—and takes it up without a frown, even with joy—then a rose blossoms on the cross, a rose of love, which brings peace and bliss into his life. The rose is then formed from the blood of his heart. And the blood is the blood of Christ, which has been shed from his heart when the cross as a sword has been put into it. 

The Kalevala as a Representation of Esoteric Wisdom

The Kalevala is an epic composed of traditional Finnish poems. It was compiled by Elias Lönnrot and published in book form in 1849. Lönnrot added some poems of his own to complete the epic’s narrative.

Ervast presented a Theosophical interpretation of the Kalevala in his book The Key to the Kalevala (2018). He says that the Kalevala describes an initiation drama and in doing so anticipates the resurrection mystery, which is fulfilled as the “most miraculous events of another Holy Book” (the New Testament).

According to Ervast, the Kalevala’s spiritual path is divided into the way of preparation (“propositional excursionist”) and the way of knowledge (“Sampo-excursionist”). Lemminkäinen and Ilmarinen are two heroes on a quest to win over the Maid of Pohja (the higher self). But first they must perform three tasks as a preparation. These are called the “works for wages,” which are the same for both heroes: purifying the lower self and the personality and preparing for the wedding with the Maiden of the North.

Väinämöinen, the principal sage in the Kalevala, urges Ilmarinen to forge the Sampo, a magical object representing the source of esoteric knowledge, wisdom, and power. The Sampo is then locked up by Louhi, the mistress of the North, in Pohjola’s Stone Mountain.

After Ilmarinen has forged the Sampo, he receives the maiden of the North in marriage. In Ervast’s view, this represents initiation, which in Theosophical teaching is the merging of the purified human personality with the higher self.

Once the initiate has completed the works for wages and participated in the Pohjola wedding, the path of knowledge goes through various stages. The final one is the Last Battle, which symbolizes the polarity between human self-righteousness and divine sacrifice. In this battle, Väinämöinen and the other heroes lose the Sampo, which is smashed to pieces. This story represents how the source of wisdom and the bringer of happiness is not for individuals: the fragments of the Sampo belong to all (Kalevala, 1988, Runo 43:273‒87):

Väinämöinen saw those pieces,

Those small fragments of the Sampo,

Splinters of the ciphered cover; . . .

Heartened by the sight he said:

“There’s a seed of future fortune,

Germ of everlasting thriving.”

Rosicrucian Theosophy as a Cultural Inspiration

The presence and aura of a spiritually awakened person—as Pekka Ervast clearly was—have a unique effect on people. Ervast’s teachings and writings attracted much attention during his lifetime in Finland, and the Rosicrucian worldview has inspired many Finnish artists, including composers, writers, sculptors, painters, and actors.

Spiritual culture, in which art plays an important role, does not emerge without preparation but requires intellectual knowledge and effort. Even at an early age, Ervast believed that Finland needed to create a spiritual culture and that he had a part to play in this work. The following extract from his first published novel, Haaveilija (1902, 270, not available in English), is related:

You must learn to know the spirit of your own people. Then you will learn to know yourselves . . . [M]y task is, in this way, characteristic to me and to the spirit of the Finnish people, to glorify the truth of God . . . 

And if we knew and believed that, what then?

Then you create the new culture.

A new culture? 

Yes, the one that the peoples of all countries are waiting for and longing for and which everyone must create, each in their own way. 

Creating a new culture presupposes that at least some people have absorbed and have been inspired by the spirit and character of their country. According to Ervast, the first Finnish author, Aleksis Kivi, was inspired in his writing by the national spirit, represented by Väinämöinen in the Kalevala. Similarly, one can think that Väinämöinen inspired Ervast’s esoteric interpretation of the Kalevala. 

The New Reformation of Christianity

What kind of fragments of the Sampo could Rosicrucian Theosophy offer today’s Finland, which has changed so much in the hundred years since it gained its independence in 1917? In the last years of his life, Ervast spoke of a reformation that was to take place somewhere in the invisible world: “The coming event [the reformation] is like a great wheel of life invisible, already turning and approaching.”

According to Ervast, Martin Luther’s Reformation in the sixteenth century was inspired by high Rosicrucianism but was left unfinished. Ervast said that the churches would become superfluous to humanity if they did not participate in the new reformation, which would be primarily doctrinal. The doctrine of eternal damnation and the fundamental nature of Christianity will be central issues here, according to Ervast, who contended that the belief in eternal damnation has caused much suffering both in this life and in the afterlife.

To some extent, a movement toward such a reformation has already taken place since Ervast’s time. As far as I know, there is hardly any preaching about damnation in Finnish churches today (although the doctrine has not been officially rejected). Not many Finns continue to believe in eternal damnation, and a surprisingly large number—perhaps inspired by Theosophical work—regard reincarnation as a credible possibility. There has been tacit support for universal salvation in Eastern and Western churches throughout the centuries, even though it has not been officially taught, and in recent decades the doctrine has come increasingly into public view. The most recent example is the powerful book by Orthodox theologian and philosopher David Bentley Hart entitled That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation (2021).

Another important question in the new reformation is the nature of true Christianity. Although most serious Christians know that love and forgiveness are at the heart of Christianity, these are primarily interpreted in the Protestant tradition as God’s love and forgiveness of people. The progressive nature of the Christian faith—growth into a greater humanity—is easily ignored. On the other hand, Lutheranism has a doctrine of sanctification, and the Orthodox church speaks of growing in the likeness of God. At least the hope of a new reformation lives on.

Final Thoughts 

In all fairness, the time of the biggest cultural effect of Rosicrucian Theosophy (and Theosophy in general) is probably past. Nevertheless, I believe Rosicrucian Theosophy still has something to offer to the new reformation and to Finnish spiritual culture. It is essential to keep the tradition alive and maintain the link to our recent spiritual history. We can never know what cultural feats individuals can rise to when supported even by a small spiritual group. 

Sources

Ervast, Pekka (1921). ”Ruusu-Risti”. Ruusu-Risti. [Not available in English.]

Ervast, Pekka (2018). The Key to the Kalevala. Translation by Tapio Joensuu. Edited by John Major Jenkins. N.p.: Literary Society of the Finnish Rosy Cross. Available on the Internet: https://www.teosofia.net/e-kirjat/Pekka_Ervast_-_The_Key_to_the_Kalevala.pdf. The original Finnish version was published in 1916; this English edition was first published by Blue Dolphin Publishing (1999).

Ervast, Pekka (2010). The Divine Seed: The Esoteric School of Jesus. Wheaton, Ill.: Quest.

Hart, Bentley David (2021). That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

The Kalevala: Epic of the Finnish People. (1988). Translated by Eino Friberg. Helsinki: Otava Publishing Company, in cooperation with the Finnish North American Literature Society.

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Further Reading from Pekka Ervast in English

Astral Schools. Literary Society of the Finnish Rosy Cross, 2008. The e-book version is available online at https://media.pekkaervast.net/books_files/astral_schools.pdf

From Death to Rebirth. Teachings of the Finnish Sage Pekka Ervast. N.p.: Literary Society of the Finnish Rosy Cross, 2017. Compiled and edited by Jouni Marjanen, Antti Savinainen, and Jouko Sorvali. Foreword by Richard Smoley. Audiobook: . Click HERE

The Esoteric School of Jesus. Literary Society of the Finnish Rosy Cross, 1977. Available online at https://media.pekkaervast.net/books_files/The_Esoteric_School_of_Jesus.pdf

H.P.B.: Four Episodes from the Life of the Sphinx of the Nineteenth Cen­tury. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1933. Available online at https://media.pekkaervast.net/books_files/HPB_The_Sphinx_of_the_XIXth_Century.pdf

The Inner God and Happiness. Pekka Ervast Series, book 2. Helsinki: Aatma, 2018. Print and Kindle editions are available. Available online at https://media.pekkaervast.net/books_files/peinnergod_verkkoon.pdf

The Mission of the Theosophical Society: An Open Letter to Theosophists the World Over. 1921. Available online https://media.pekkaervast.net/books_files/the_mission_of_the_theosophical_society.pdf 

Pekka Ervast’s Spiritual Heritage. Matti Koskinen and Rauno Rinkinen. 2024. Available online at https://hermesrisen.wordpress.com/2023/10/21/pekka-ervasts-spiritual-heritage-matti-koskinen-and-rauno-rinkinen-translated-by-anttisavinainen-edited-by-richard-smoley/

The Sermon on the Mount or the Key to the Christianity. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1933. Available online at https://media.pekkaervast.net/books_files/The_Sermon_on_the_Mount_or_The_Key_to_Christianity.pdf

Spiritual Knowledge. Pekka Ervast Series, Book 1. Helsinki: Aatma, 2018. Print and Kindle editions are available. Available online at https://media.pekkaervast.net/books_files/pe_spiritualknowledge_pdfkansilla.pdf

The Unseen Ecclesia. Pekka Ervast Series, Book 3. Helsinki: Aatma, 2021. Print and Kindle editions are available. Available online at https://media.pekkaervast.net/books_files/unseen_ecclesia_printing_v3.pdf

For a brief biography of Ervast, see “Pekka Ervast,” Theosophy Wiki (website), last updated November 19, 2023: Click HERE: 

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