6.

 

SOMA AND THE ORIGINS OF WESTERN MAGIC

 

 

Although magical incantations are known from primitive, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Greek religions, it seems that the Indo‑Iranian religions are the source of many ritualized and systematic magical practices in antiquity. It can be documented through textual evidence and artifacts such as seal impressions that Indo‑European, and specifically Indo‑Iranian, sacrificial rituals are the antecedents of many Near Eastern, Egyptian, and Greek forms of magic.

 

The origins of systematized magic and magical techniques can be traced back to the Indo‑Iranian haoma/soma ceremonies. The words magic, magician, magus, and magi are all related terms that refer directly to the priests and the magical performances of the Indo‑Iranian haoma/soma sacrificial rituals. There seems to have been some confusion regarding to whom the terms "Persians" and "magi" referred in antiquity. In many cases, they meant the Indo‑Aryans and not the Iranians. Even though the word magi was used to refer to both Iranian and Indo‑Aryan priests, it is most likely the Indo‑Aryans who had the more significant influence upon Greece. According to J. V. Prasek, the title "Aryan" is more properly applied to the peoples called Medes and Persians in ancient literature and inscriptions rather than to the Iranians.(1)  In addition, the Medes have been directly connected linguistically with the earlier Indo‑Aryan empire of the Mitanni (1500 B.C.E. or earlier).(2) A Babylonian synonym for Medes is Umman Manda. One leader of the Umman Manda mentioned in Hittite texts is Za‑a‑lu‑ti, which is an Aryan name. William Albright has suggested that Za‑a‑lu‑ti was the same man as the "Salitis" who founded the Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty in Egypt (1800 B.C.E.).(3) This would imply that it was the Indo‑Aryans who influenced the Greeks rather than the Iranians. This influence would have been over a long period of time beginning at a very early date. Other Indo‑Aryan contacts were to be established later with the Ionian Greeks during the Achaemenian reign of Darius (521‑486) B.C.E., when he engaged both Ionian and Indian troops in his army. Cultural exchange could easily have taken place between these two elements .(4)

 

The magi were to have a significant impact upon Greek culture, especially in magical practices and the use of psychoactive herbs. Herodotus (485 B.C.E.) mentions that the magi or Persian priests are responsible for the royal sacrifices. Xenophon (426 B.C.E.) describes these priests as experts in everything concerning the gods.(5)  Heraclitus (550 B.C.E.) in fragment 115 couples together magi (magoi) priests with the Dionysian Bacchoi and priestesses who drink an ecstasy‑inducing wine drink, which was probably entheogenic. This coupling together indicates a knowledge by I Heraclitus of the haoma/soma drink's association with the magi. It is also significant to mention that both Charles Kahn and M. L. West .how that Herachtus was indebted to India rather than to the Iranians for many of his ideas. This points to an influence probably associated with the soma drink and ritual rather than to the haoma.(6)

 

Fritz Graf states that the connection between magical practices and the use of herbal plants, including entheogens, appears in Greek literature in the form of new Greek terminologies such as pharmakon (herbal drugs) during the spread of Indo‑Iranian beliefs within the Greek world.(7)  This indicates that the use of the soma drink in conjunction with the soma ritual was the probable origin of ancient Greek herbal ceremonies used to conduct specific entheogenically induced magical rites. This influence upon Greece was to have important later influences upon magical practices found in GrecoEgyptian, Greco‑Roman, and European magic.

 

The Rg Vedic soma ceremony teaches the original methods of these forgotten ancient magical rites much more than its Avestan counterpart does. The internal magical use of these rituals was kept secret, and the meaning and cosmological significance of the ceremonies, especially the soma ceremony of the Rg Veda, has not been clearly understood until now.

It is in the classical world that the West first gains an understanding of ancient Indo‑Iranian magic and the ritual use of the secret "plant of immortality." In a fragment of a poem by Alcman (650 B.C.E.), a Greek living in Sparta, mention is made of the preparation of a drink from a sacred plant. This plant and its preparation resemble the descriptions given in the Rg Veda regarding soma.

 

In Alcman's fragment 34, the following parallels are mentioned: The author refers to the preparation of a plant's juice taking place on the earth's highest point, just like in the soma ceremony. The juice is of a brilliant color and is prepared in golden vessels, just like soma. The juice of the plant is prepared by women, just as soma sometimes is said to be prepared in the Rg Veda. Alcman's plant is connected with the moon. It is associated with fire as well as the pouring out of

waters and the cosmic tree. Fire, the moon, and the cosmic tree connect Alcman's plant to soma and the soma ceremony. In addition, there are words in his poem that refer to mixing or stirring. Alcman says that the plant juice is stirred in with milk curds, as is soma juice. There is also the indication that this drink was prepared as a sacrificial offering. The plant is called "imperishable" and is equated to amrta, just like soma. Alcman's plant is called "serpent‑slayer," a term associated directly with soma when soma is called Vrtrahan, "slayer of Vrtra." In the Rg Veda, Indra drinks large amounts of soma, which gives him the power to slay the serpent, Vrtra. Alcman's plant is also connected to the ram, which with the goat is associated with the soma plant. All these parallels suggest that there is some probable connection with the Indo‑Aryan soma plant and sacrifice, which had an influence in Sparta and on Alcman's poem.

 

M. L. West has also mentioned an oriental influence on Alcman's cosmology.(8)  Alcman's plant is associated with ambrosia and the moon, and West has shown that the Greek conception of ambrosia and the moon is of Indo‑Aryan origin. Although soma is sometimes associated with the moon in the Rg Veda, it is mainly in other Indian literature, beginning with the Atharva Veda (1150 B.C.E. and older), that soma is said to fill the moon with ambrosia. These concurrences can also be found in the Brahmanas and early Upanisads (900 B.C.E.). West believes that Greek thought had been directly influenced by Indian ideas of soma and the moon, as this conception occurs nowhere else but in Indian literature. Another point of contact between Indian and Greek sources was the philosopher Pherekydes of Syros (600 B.C.E.), the reputed teacher of Pythagoras. According to West, "Pherekydes said the moon produces ambrosia daily, and that the gods feed on it there. In certain of the Vedic hymns, but more commonly and more clearly in the Brahmanas, Upanisads, and the Puranas, we find the idea that the moon is the vessel from which the gods drink Soma, the divine liquid that gives immortality .... As a drink of immortality, Soma is called amrta, which is the equivalent of ambrosia, etymologically as well as in sense."(9)

 

It has already been mentioned that soma was associated with the moon plants used by the Asvins, and that the moon's association with soma is due at least in part to the Asvins using Nymphaea moon plants in the preparation of their "elixir of immortality."

 

Recent investigations by Peter Kingsley have shown that the pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles, who lived in the fifth century B.C.E., played a crucial role in the development of Western culture. Empedocles' philosophy affected both Greco‑Egyptian magic and alchemy.(10)  Empedocles acted more like an Indian sage than a Greek. He is said to have performed a number of miracles in front of numerous witnesses, including control over the elements and forces of nature and the resurrection of a young woman who had lain for thirty days without breath or pulse beat.(11)  He was also said to have been adept in herbal knowledge, which would have included the use of entheogens derived from Indo‑Iranian influences.(12) A direct line of influence and transmission to southern Egypt has been shown to have come from Empedocles and the early Pythagoreans, who were greatly influenced by Indo‑Iranian magic derived from the haoma/soma ceremonies.

 

Empedocles spoke of a plant that defended against old age. He was probably referring to an actual plant used by the Indo‑Iranian magi in their rejuvenation and immortality rituals. He was probably also referring to an internal experience associated with the ritual use of this plant, which is employed in pneumatic magical practices that include rejuvenation. The Indo‑Iranian influence upon Empedocles may be in reference to both a physical and a nonphysical plant. The Indo‑Aryans had developed magical rejuvenation rituals using entheogenic drinks that triggered ecstatic internal states. The final

rejuvenation effect depended on both the pharmacological agents in the herbal drink and the expression of an internal pneumatic body that acted as an intermediary between physical matter and its nonphysical origins. This pneumatic or subtle body was also considered by the Indo‑Aryans to be an internal plant. Thus the plant used against aging that Empedocles refers to may be the luminous, internal subtle‑body plant entheogenically created during the soma ceremony. It is the Indo‑Iranian white hom, called the glowing white soma plant in the Rg Veda. The ritual for the creation of the internal soma plant is not found in the Iranian material, at least not in any developed form, but is merely referred to along with some of its attributes. It is only in the Rg Veda that it was fully developed into a co‑functioning external/internal ritual.

 

The actual plant that Empedocles refers to is probably the entheogenic soma plant that is used to create the internal soma plant of light. Empedocles learned his philosophy and magical practices directly from the magi, and he was considered their disciple even in his own lifetime. It is also thought he was influenced by Indian Buddhism.(13) Another point of direct contact between Empedocles and the Indo‑Aryans is reflected in his practice of breath control. The Indo‑Aryans developed the specific breathing exercises meant to accompany the internalized rituals at a very early date within the Rg Veda and the Atharva Veda. Empedocles could not have learned his pneumatic breathing practices from the Iranians, who did not develop these types of breathing exercises in their rituals. Empedocles must have come into contact with yoga‑type teachings, as he is known to have practiced various forms of breath control to accompany his magical practices. According to Diogenes Laertius, "Empedocles experimented in the investigation of respiration, and could hold his breath for a long time. I le is reputed to have held himself breathless and to have stopped the brat of his heart for an indefinite time.(14)

 

As we have shown, breath control and breathing exercises in relation to spiritual practices go back to the soma ceremony and the ascetics of the Rg Veda, and to the vratyas of the Atharva Veda, which can be dated at least to 1800 B.C.E. and 1500 B.C.E., respectively. An entire philosophy of breath and winds and their micro‑ and macrocosmic correlations, fully developed in a cosmological spiritual system, can already be seen in the soma ceremony of the Rg Veda. Jean Filliozat has shown very clearly the antiquity of breathing exercises in India, and that they are older than in China, Greece, or anywhere else. Further information on Indian magical practices comes from Apollonius of Tyana, who never ceases to extol the virtues and magical power of the Brahmans of India. (15)

 

The ritual basis of Indo‑Aryan magic as practiced in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony was based upon both a solar and a stellar cosmology. It was associated with the breath (prana) and the formation of a subtle pneumatic body used for cosmic magical operations, paranormal abilities, rejuvenation, and immortal ascension out of the physical body. The entheogenic soma drink's inner formation of this body, coupled with the soma ritual, not only influenced all Indian religions, but also appears to be the original source of influence upon later Western conceptions of the subtle body.

 

SOMA, NEOPLATONISM, AND THEURGY

 

In the period from 500 B.C.E. to 200 C.E., Egypt was a melting pot of ideas from various cultures and areas, including India. The Egyptians and Indo‑Aryans had close ties, at least as early as the beginning and middle of the second millennium B.C.E. with the Hyksos Aryan invasion and marriage contracts with the Mitanni (1400 B.C.E.). There is also an Indian colony that was known to have existed in the Egyptian city of Memphis around 500 B.C.E.(16)  Excavations have uncovered unmistakably Indian votive figurines in the temple of Ptah at Memphis.(17)  The rise of the Persian Empire around 500 B.C.E. included both Egypt and western India within its boundaries. There is no doubt that Indian influences could be found in Egypt during the development of the Gnostic schools, the Hermetic texts, Neoplatonism, and Greco‑Egyptian alchemy, which took place between 200 B.C.E. and 485 C.E.(18)

 

The original Rg Vedic cosmology that posits the unmanifest world of light and the manifest world of matter as mirror images of each other is very close to both kabbalistic and Neoplatonic metaphysics.(19) These notions were apparently derived from Indian sources. (20) It is this cosmology that gives rise to the conception of the physical creation being an inversion of ultimate reality or the realm of light. This does not really mean that heaven is upside down, as many philosophers in antiquity thought, but rather that the return to the source is a reversal of the normal activity of the senses. One must go inward and not outward to find ultimate reality. Once the connection is established, however, one can still function in the world.

 

The fundamental example in the Rg Veda is the descent from the One during creation as a downward and inverted process, just as a child is born headfirst from its mother. In the cosmogonic act described in the soma ceremony the supernal light of soma that forms matter descends and disperses during the creation process. During the soma ceremony's internal "ritual art" there is a gathering and ascent of the dispersed light into unity within that is reminiscent of Neoplatonic philosophy: "Endeavor to ascend into thyself, gathering in from the body all thy members which have been dispersed and scattered into multiplicity from that unity which once abounded in the greatness of its power. Bring together and unify the inborn ideas

and try to articulate those that are confused and to draw into light those that are obscured. (21)

 

As we have shown, Eastern sources had an important impact upon early Greek thought. The Neoplatonists themselves claimed an Eastern origin for their ideas as well as those of Pythagoras and Plato. Pliny, Olympiodorus, Lactantius, and Clement of Alexandria all maintained that Plato both studied and was influenced by, and even plagiarized information from, the magi.(22) According to R. T. Wallis, "It seems certain that only Indian thought bears sufficient resemblance to Plotinus' introspective mysticism to be taken seriously as a possible source."(23)

 

There have been numerous studies of the correspondences between Neoplatonism and Indian philosophy.(24)  None of these studies, however, is completely satisfactory. A deeper understanding of Indian philosophy, of the fundamental ideas contained within the Rg Veda, Atharva Veda, Aranykas, Brahmanas, and twelve earliest Upanisads, is needed before a thorough comparison with Neoplatonic doctrines can be made.

 

Some of the most important correlations between soma and the soma ceremony can be seen in Neoplatonic theurgy, which is really a form of yoga. Since the Rg Vedic soma ceremony is the origin of the concept of the development of an interior subtle body of light, we can find many direct correlations between the rituals of Neoplatonic theurgy and the soma ceremony. That the astral or subtle body of the Neoplatonists had an Eastern origin was expressed by the Neoplatonist Numenius.(25)

 

Both Neoplatonism and the Rg Vedic soma ceremony share the belief that the physical body is an image of the state and functional ability of the soul or luminous essential nature. One's essential nature is expressed either fully or to a lesser extent according to the layering of impressions that fill the cave of the heart with darkness or light.

 

The physical body's prototypical design is derived from formless archetypes within the universal matrix of being. These archetypes are formed according to previous accumulations of sensual impressions layered in or over the light of the soul, which forces their activity to be expressed instead of one's original, luminous nature. Thus the physical body was anciently thought of as nothing more than the expressed nature of past thinking as deposited "subliminal activators," this being the origin of the concept of the Hindu notion of karma.

 

An important part of the soma ceremony ritual is performed to effect a removal and total displacement of these subliminal activators with pure, entheogenic, soma life‑energy, reorienting a person through a re-identification process that becomes permanent. One forms a pneumatic energy body as the ground of one's being, which frees the essential nature or the soul so it can function in a pure state while still inside a physical body. These same ideas are found in Neoplatonic theurgy concerning the purification of the subtle or astral body.

 

The Indian influence upon Neoplatonism most likely came from the earliest Upanisads, which were themselves based upon the internalization of the Rg Vedic soma ceremony. In theurgy, as in both the soma ceremony and the early Upanisads, the subtle body is connected to the sun and the rays of the sun. As in India, the Neoplatonic subtle body is a vehicle used for ascension to the sun or realm of light. Also, the purification of the channels of this subtle body is what allows it to be separated from the physical body. Porphyry's view of theurgy was that it could purify the soul's pneumatic envelope; in other words, it could remove the sense impressions that hide the light of one's essential nature .(26) The seven cognitive sense‑channels layer false impressions around the soul, and this is the source of the impurities. These impressions must be removed through a purification process. The soma ceremony purifies these channels through the ritualized influx of soma light‑energy from the sun, which displaces incoming sense data to fashion a new body out of pure luminous energy. A similar process takes place in theurgy when one connects to the energy channels of the sun. Once the channels are purified, then the immortal vehicle, or golden ship, as it is called in the Atharva Veda, can leave the physical body.(27)  The Neoplatonists used entheogens in their theurgic practices to induce interior light phenomena.(28)

 

The purification of the subtle body is accomplished through breath control and breathing practices, and the correspondences between the breathing practices of Neoplatonic theurgy and Indian yoga have recently been shown.(29) Such breathing practices were developed in  the Rg Veda and the Atharva Veda. The pneumatic nature of the subtle body of light involves breath control practices using the logos and phonemes.

 

There is little doubt that the author or authors of the Chaldean Oracles, on which most of Neoplatonic theurgy is based, were works ing with texts of Indian origin, most probably the early Upanisads. They may have also been in contact with Indian sages with direct knowledge of yoga practices.(30)

 

A special form of inner devotional love within the heart of being is the entrance to the portal of light. The soul's return to its source is completely motivated in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony by the concept of devotional love within the heart. This love is a type of inner ecstasy that must be experienced to be understood. The part played  by love in the soul's return is an important aspect of Plotinus's Neoplatonism. For Plotinus, love is more perfect when it does not aim at procreation, since such an aim indicates dissatisfaction with one's present condition. The love that Plotinus speaks of is a joyful, and seemingly solitary, contemplative love of the individual soul for its merging with the original unity.(31) The notions of duality do not arise in this state of being, which is unending bliss, consciousness, and oneness.

 

SOMA, GNOSTICISM, AND HERMETICISM

 

The presence of Indian sages in Greece and Egypt during the formulation of Gnostic, Hermetic, Neoplatonic, and alchemical schools has recently been shown in detail by Zacharias Thundy and Jean Sedlar.(32) In addition to early Indian influences from the Rg Veda and Upanisads, borrowings from Buddhist doctrines and stories also influenced Gnostic schools and Christianity. Indian influence, particularly Buddhist, on the development of Gnosticism, the New Testament, the Apocryphal Gospels, and Christian legend and lore has been well documented by Edward Conze, Jean Sedlar, and Richard Garbe.(33)

 

There are so many correspondences between the soma ceremony of the Rg Veda and the doctrines of the Gnostic and Hermetic texts that only a few of them can be discussed here, and the reader is referred to the references given in the notes for more information. I might add that because the original ideas of Indian philosophy found in its earliest texts, and the routes of influences to the West, are just beginning to be known, this research has only just begun. As the various texts and archaeological data are analyzed, more influences will become apparent.

 

Here I can discuss only two major concepts found in Gnostic and Hermetic texts that are important components of the Rg Vedic soma ceremony, with the Rg Veda remaining the oldest written source for these two concepts in their fully developed form. The first, a dominant part of the Rg Veda, is the "logos doctrine." In the Rg Veda the logos is called vac, or the word. The second is the idea of the divine body of light. This notion of the "Primal Man" as the Anthropos, "Adamas, or Christ of light,"(34) is purely of Indo‑Iranian origin but shows its first developed appearance in the Indo‑Aryan Purusa‑Sukta hymn of the Rg Veda (RV 10.90). This hymn is not a later addition but a formulation of the oldest ritual parts of the corpus. The hymn describes the basic solar cosmogony in the soma ceremony. It is directly connected to the cosmic pillar/axis nature of various deities and the "solar operations" performed during the ceremony. In the Rg Veda, as well as the Hermetic Poimandres and the Gnostic schools, the knowledge of the primal man of light is a central secret; according to the branch of the Valentinians, the primal cosmic man, or precosmic god within man, is the greatest and most hidden secret of the world, the key to immortality and salvation.

 

SOMA AND THE ORIGIN OF THE PRIMAL MAN OF LIGHT AS ANTHROPOS

 

Scholars earlier in the twentieth century tried to show the derivation of the Gnostic and Hermetic Anthropos from an Iranian source found in the Bundahishn. They had searched out Iranian, Babylonian, and Jewish elements to try to find the source for the Anthropos idea. They finally came to the conclusion that the Iranian Bundahishn myth of Gayomart's dismemberment was its most ancient developed form.(35)  It was soon realized, however, that not only was the myth of Gayomart of a later date, but it did not contain the proper elements for the origins of the Anthropos idea as expressed in Gnostic and Hermetic texts. It was R. C. Zaehner who first pointed out that the precursor of the Iranian Gayomart myth came from the Indo‑Aryan Rg Vedic myth of the Purusa‑Sukta.(36) The Purusa‑Sukta is an internalized pneumatic creation whose original primal form is androgynous. It is responsible for the creation of both the macrocosm and the microcosm or subtle body.

 

The Anthropos idea was passed on to the religions of Mesopotamia and later incorporated into Neoplatonism, alchemy, Islam, Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Hermeticism from Syria and other countries influenced by the Indo‑Aryan Kassites, Hurrians, Hyksos, and Mitanni.(37) In a number of Gnostic systems the Anthropos is considered the fountainhead of a material‑yet spiritual‑principle indwelling in mankind and the world. This principle is variously defined as the soul, the pneuma, reason, or indeed as a combination of soul and pneuma or soul and mind. This is exactly how it is described in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony, where during the ritual the mind and senses are withdrawn within the heart of being. The concept of the pneuma can be traced in Greece from the pre‑Socratic philosopher Anaximenes (500 B.C.E.), who was a student of Anaximander (547 B.C.E.), down to the Stoics. The idea refers not just to breath, but to a cosmic force. West has shown Indo‑Iranian influences upon the thought of both Anaximander and Anaximenes, including a clear influence from Indian sources on Anaximenes' idea of "aer" or air as breath or pneuma. West traced these influences from Indian sources beginning with the Atharva Veda and the Upanisads. We can also add the Rg Veda soma ceremony, which used pneumatic stellar and solar magic in its rituals.(38)

 

In the Gnostic systems, where technical terminology has been evolved, the Anthropos is referred to by the name Jesus Patibilis, Inner Man, Son of Man, and Adakas. The ultimate origin of this concept is a problem of great intricacy, the solution of which has been cry difficult to find. One reason is that any one scholar would have to master a wide variety of religious texts; another is that this issue is inextricably bound up with the problem of the origin of the "drama of the soul," that is, the problem of what the soul is, why the soul is the way that it is, why it needs liberation, and how it finds liberation. These mechanisms are difficult to trace and understand. The earliest record we have of human beings gaining immortality is in the Rg Veda. Therefore it is logical to look in there to find out what the concept of the soul is, and how immortality was obtained. This would answer the question of the origin of the soul drama; this problem has remained unsolved until now, that is, until the reconstruction of the Rg Vedic soma ceremony.

 

Many cultures of the ancient world believed that man has within him a divine element, a spark from the fire of the gods. In the Rg Veda this original spark was the luminous soma life‑energy, dispersed as the souls of the world from the heaven world of light at the dawn of creation. In one tradition the original soma light is dispersed and diluted each time a human reproduces, decreasing the light and increasing matter. In another, souls as soma are continually flowing along invisible light rays for incarnation into human bodies.

 

Appearing under many names, but predominantly that of "soul," this original light was more than the sum of a person's subjective processes: it was a substance that came from God and returned to  him.(39) This is the basic concept of the soul as Anthropos in the ` Gnostic schools and also in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony.

 

The idea of a primal man(40) of light who becomes the universe that is found in Gnostic and Hermetic texts is primarily associated in the Rg Veda with the development of the golden embryo. The Purusa‑Sukta hymn, which outlines the doctrine of the primal man or Anthropos, is derived from the fundamental cosmology of the oldest portions of the Rg Veda and the soma ceremony.

 

The ideas in the Purusa‑Sukta hymn derive from the myths of the Pole Star as cosmic tree/pillar and the midday sun as cosmic tree/pillar. The inner primal man of light or Anthropos is directly associated with this cosmic tree/pillar that derives from the golden embryo that develops within the central heart‑sun. The heart‑sun is placed or generated between the earth and the formless world of light, binding them together, and it is connected to the central cosmic‑axis nature of many important Rg Vedic deities such as Indra, Varuna, Mitra, Agni, and, of course, Soma.

 

The Purusa‑Sukta hymn was derived from Indra's anthropocosmic body being identified as the golden embryo within the cosmic waters of the heart. This is one of the oldest themes of the Rg Veda, and it is associated directly with the creation of the universe, when a radiant column of light is placed between the unmanifest and manifest creation. It directly involves the origin and dispersion of soma light through the sun; in addition, the process of visualizing the generation of the golden embryo as the golden soma stalk within the heart appears in many of the older hymns of the Rg Veda related to the Anthropos. The soma stalk, like Indra, is seen as the cosmic pillar at the center of the universe, the axis mundi, and the Anthropos. "[Soma] the far‑extended skambha [pillar], the adorned support of the sky, the filled‑full amsuh [stalk] that encompasses everything. That [soma stalk] connects the two great world halves, [earth and heaven]. The kavi [poet] holds together the united pair [in his heart] and [partakes within] the refreshing food soma."(40) Other hymns say that this same soma stalk is the cosmic pillar or Anthropos within the heart of the priest. The soma plant as the cosmic Anthropos of light also goes through a dismemberment and rememberment cycle during the soma ceremony when it passes through the sun and then back again. These ideas about the Purusa‑Sukta as the primal man of light and the soul form the oldest myths of the Rg Veda.

The Sanskrit word purusa means "person," "soul," or "essential nature"' it is the arcane form that is immortal within us. The purusa, or soul, is a vast, subtle nature that lies beneath physical matter, binding it all together into a single whole as the primal man of light. Each soul or light spark is connected to the whole and has access to the whole. We can be one or many; our nature is not limited. The purusa as soul and soma is the divine spark that is hidden in matter and in our physical bodies. It is the hidden basis of layered, material creation. It is a cosmic luminous continuum, a column of brilliant light hidden within everyone, and it must be expressed if one is to attain final immortality. The soma ceremony is a procedure to express the Anthropos as the gathering of soma essences for the purpose of rememberment of the scattered soma light dispersed during creation. Because the Anthropos is man's real form, as well as the foundation of creation, the Purusa‑Sukta hymn states that man is everything that was in the past or that will be in the future.(42)

 

The Purusa‑Sukta hymn was derived from, and combined within, the soma ceremony and the interior practice of the expression of the golden embryo.

 

The twin Asvins and the Greek Dioscuri both play important roles in the Rg Veda and Greek mysteries. In the Rg Veda, the Asvins are divine physicians who are explicitly implored to give birth to and control the development of the interior golden embryo (egg) into the Anthropos. In the Greek tradition, the Dioscuri perform the same function as the Asvins. The whole mystery of origin and destiny was said to be concealed in the symbolism of a radiant golden egg (embryo) suspended from the dome of the temple of the Dioscuri in Lakonia, near Sparta. It was said that those who understood this mystery had risen above all temporal limitations.

 

In the Rg Veda, the Asvins control the alchemical transmutation of the white celestial soma into the golden entheogenic soma drink through the union of sun and moon lotus plants, personified as fire and water. This drink induces the birth and development of the interior entheogenic light as the luminous embryo‑Anthropos located within the heart of the priest. A hymn in the Rg Veda describes the development of this light within the heart that allows the priest, after consuming soma, to move beyond his physical body through the agency of an anthropocosmic subtle body:

 

Far beyond soar my ears, far beyond my eyes,

Far away to this light which is set in my heart!

Far beyond wanders my mind, its spirit [goes] to remote distances.(43

 

The Anthropos as revealed in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony is apparently the original source of the knowledge of an arcane subtle body that the first man, Adam or Manu, had. This is the miracle body that is used to produce paranormal abilities, heal the sick, and rejuvenate the physical body.

 

The Rg Vedic Anthropos has had a profound influence on some of the most important ideas of later religious doctrine, some of which can be mentioned here. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas and the Corpus Hermeticurn (8.2), for example, we find the concept of the self-generated light.(44) Just as in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony, the Gospel of Thomas talks about the mythology of the separation of the original unity and its return through the agency of the luminous subtle body. This luminous subtle‑body form is the original body that Adam had before being wrapped up in matter after the Fall. According to logion 84 from the Gospel of Thomas, each person has a heavenly eternal image that came into existence before the human body. Furthermore, this divine image is normally concealed from the person and is awakened through ecstasy by either entheogens or devotion Once awakened, this form unites one's true self to its heavenly origin. This is the same idea mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:35‑19, where Paul mentions two types of bodies, the earthly and the heavenly.(45) The immortal heavenly body is the subtle body of light as the Anthropos.

 

 The apostle Paul both spoke of and practiced pneumatology. He believed the heavenly Adam as the primal Anthropos resided in every person as the pneumatic body of Christ as the Redeemer (46)  In 2 Corinthians 12:2‑1, Paul mentions a man, who was apparently Paul himself, who identified himself with the Christ within as the Anthropos, and who was caught up to the third heaven, the abode of paradise. This type of ascent, by becoming identified with the inner cosmic Christ as Anthropos, has a specific pagan background. It is a type of ecstatic ascent through an anthropocosmic body that is generated within the heart by baptism with the celestial "water of life" (soma). This ecstatic ascent is different from the primitive shamanic one, and it is directly associated with Indo‑Iranian magical forms of herbal mysticism. Paul infers that magical baptism is associated with r secret teachings and rites performed by Jesus and is connected to a type of garment mysticism that produces the inner Anthropos. Paul's interpretation of mystical baptism as a means of ascent could have come from his contact with Mithraism in Tarsus, a site known to have Mithraic followers .(47) In Mandaean Gnosticism, the Anthropos   is also the primordial man, called adam kasia or adakas, and is known as the secret Adam within each person. He has a body of light  and the entire universe is derived from his pillarlike, anthropocosmic body, just as in the Rg Vedic Purusa‑Sukta. Upon identifying with . the inner adam kasia or subtle body of light, a person gains immortality and ascends to his or her origin as a being of light.(48)

 

In Manichaean Gnosticism, the doctrine of the "radiant column of glory" that is used for ascension to the world of light is derived from Rg Vedic Anthropos ideas. This pillar of light is both a deity and a path by which liberated souls ascend to paradise.(49) The idea of the dispersion and the gathering of the heavenly light is a basic feature of the soma ceremony and is found in various Gnostic schools including Manichaeism. It is also the origin of the early Upanisadic doctrine of the gathering of the pneuma or pranas in Indian religion. This dispersion and gathering is also clearly established in the Atharva Veda, especially the Vratya hymns. The ideas presented in these Indian texts is so similar to the ideas in Gnostic and Hermetic texts and Neoplatonism that it is easy to see that the early Indian texts are the probable original sources for them. Another example of these same ideas can be seen in the Gnostic Gospel of Philip and in the Gnostic Gospel of Eve as preserved by Epiphanius. For example,

 

I am thou and thou art I, and where thou art I am, and in all things am I dispersed. And from wherever thou willst thou gatherest me; but in gathering me thou gatherest thyself . . . . This self‑gathering is regarded as proceeding "pari passu" with the progress of "knowledge," and its completion as a condition for the ultimate release from the world . . . . He who attains to this gnosis and gathers himself from the cosmos. . . is no longer detained here but rises above the Archons . . . and by proclaiming this very feat the ascending soul answers the challenge of the celestial gatekeepers .... I have come to know myself and have gathered myself from everywhere. (50)

 

Not only did the Gnostics speak of the eternal pneumatic subtle body as Anthropos, but this pneumatic body was directly associated with the divine "water of life." The "water of life" is a type of celestial baptism for the pneumatic or perfected man who partakes of this "water of life" when identifying with the Anthropos within. In the Gnostic texts, this "water of life" is located above the firmament or created cosmos, just as soma is in the Rg Veda.(51) This is essentially an Indo‑Aryan conception associated directly with soma as the "water of eternal life" that resides in the third heaven above the firmament and that is the goal not only of the Gnostic, but also of the soma priest, who, after consuming the entheogenic soma drink, is transported above this world to the abode of soma. The abode of soma is an immortal paradise where he drinks the celestial soma of immortality just like the gods. The same notion is found in Romans 7:22, 1 Corinthians 6:14, and Ephesians 3:16, 30, where Paul distinguishes between the physical body and the hidden inner spiritual body. This body is neither subject to the limits of space nor perceptible to our senses. Being the same as the subtle body developed in the soma ceremony, it is capable of union with the glorified body of Christ as Anthropos within the heart. The method of awakening this inner body is through a baptism of light, ritually portrayed by water baptism. Both light and water are essentially the same in the Rg Veda. Water is simply a more solidified or denser form of light. They both have heavenly origins. In the soma ceremony, the priest becomes bathed in heavenly soma in a type of baptism, which is part of the development of the Anthropos within the heart.

 

In the Jewish mystical tradition, the origin of the Merkabah or the "throne of God" is directly connected to the expression of a subtle luminous form within the heart, an idea similar to the Anthropos. The Jewish Merkabah as a generation of an interior subtle body of light has its probable origin in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony. This subtle form, called the "throne of glory," is connected to the Tree of Life and Paradise, is developed within the heart, and is the source of immortality and all magical practices within Judaism.(52) The word merkabah can also be translated as "chariot‑throne," simultaneously a chariot and the throne of God. The merkabah is the fiery solar heart, which as the inner sun‑chariot carries one's soul to God, and actually is God. It is directly associated with the Asvins' entheogenic flower chariot drink that induces visionary light within the heart of the somapa. During the soma ceremony this entheogenic light is the inner pneumatic sun that rises up out of the body like a luminous or fiery chariot ascending toward the sky at dawn with the rising sun to the center of heaven. The relationship between Merkabah mysticism and the Hermetic and Gnostic ideas of the "man of light" or Anthropos have been discussed by Gershom Scholem.(53) In certain kabbalistic schools, the Merkabah mystics substituted the divine throne for the Gnostic Pleroma, a further correlation with the Anthropos idea. It is by the Merkabah and Pleroma that the mystic ascends to the realm of light.(54)

 

The same ideas are found in the concept of the throne of God in Islamic mysticism.(55) In the Islamic Sufi traditions, the Rg Vedic Anthropos idea has had a profound impact. The idea of "a man of light" or "Imam" within is described as a cosmic pillar of light and the foundation of the universe. The Imam as cosmic column of light is directly associated with both the Pole Star and the sun. In the Sufi tradition, the Imam is located as the divine light within the heart. Originally all of this came from the soma ceremony, but much of it was dispersed to other cultures through the earliest Upanishads. Although the Imam ideas have Zoroastrian correlations, the majority of the ideas that make up the Imam concept are derived from Indian sources. It is through the Imam that all of the miraculous paranormal powers are developed within Islamic tradition. As Amir Moezzi has shown, the entire concept of the Imam cannot be understood unless viewed through Indian Sanskrit sources.(56)

 

In Christian doctrine, the glorified body of Christ, his ascension body, his body of eternity, is directly related to the Anthropos and subtle body within. This is the immortal body. This same type of body is connected to soma energy and the pneuma, or subtle breath energy, which is directly related to the Christian concept of the Holy Spirit.(57) It is through the aid of the Holy Spirit that one identifies with the subtle body of light as Jesus, the intermediary between the manifest and unmanifest worlds. The activation of the pneuma or Holy Spirit is through the power of the Word or Logos.

 

The Indian idea of cosmic man is also found in Greco‑Egyptian alchemy. Zosimos, a Greco‑Egyptian alchemist who lived around 300 C.E., employed these same ideas in the concept of the recovery of the original body of light that Adam had before his fall into matter. This is the main concern of Zosimos's work On the Letter Omega. (58) In addition, Zosimos asserts that the prime secret of the alchemical art was identical with the most hidden mystery of Mithraism.(59) Mary Boyce, a leading authority on Mithras, says that the Western Mithras tradition is not of Iranian origin; rather, its elements are of Indo‑Aryan origin and can be found in the Rg Veda. The earliest known Mithraic temple, which was excavated at Atchana in northern Syria, dates back to 1500 B.C.E. (or before), and was associated with the Indo‑Aryan Mitanni rather than the Iranians. It is known that entheogens were used in Mithraic rituals.(60) The Anthropos of light or the subtle body is a basic feature of the mysteries of Mithras. This same subtle body is also the basis of spiritual alchemy as mentioned by Zosimos.

 

The Corpus Hermeticum contains many conceptual and linguistic parallels with the Rg Veda and the Upanishads. India is actually mentioned a number of times in the texts; for example, when talking about paranormal abilities of the soul (tractate 11.19), India in particular is mentioned as if that were the land and source of the knowledge of miracles. The Asclepius (section 24) mentions Indians living in Egypt. There is little doubt that the writers of the Corpus had knowledge of the content of both Brahmanical and Buddhist scriptures. In the Poimandres (1.12‑15), the motif of the cosmic man as Anthropos appears, although in a Hellenistic version. In verse 14, the cosmological structure of the world of light is inverted with respect to the world of matter. This is represented as a reflection in the water (primal waters of creation) .(61) The primal man of light, during his descent from the realm of light, becomes wrapped up in matter, which, as verse 15 says, makes humankind, of which the Anthropos is the prototype. Human beings thus have a material body, which hides within it the original light as the primal Anthropos. Upon re‑identification with the inner Anthropos of light, human beings can ascend back to their immortal origins. One of the most important points made in the Poimandres is that the body of light contains the energies of the governors. These are the seven demiurges that are also associated with the Anthropos in the soma ceremony.

 

In the Rg Vedic soma ceremony the Anthropos is generated within the heart of being. The spherical soul as the heart‑sun or Anthropos is also a star body and is found both in Gnostic schools and in alchemy. The star body or soul usually has seven projections, which correspond to the seven cognitive sense channels of the head. Speech or logos is sometimes considered an eighth projection. Both of these concepts are found in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony.

 

The primordial man of light or Anthropos as presented in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony is as small as a seed, yet invisibly coextensive with the entire cosmos. From this seed a great pneumatic tree of light, the soma tree, is generated within the heart of being. It is clearly specified in the soma ceremony that the subtle Anthropos of light related to the cosmic pillar/tree extends its rays as branches to touch all creation. Therefore, it is the interior Anthropos that allows mortal man to become immortal as well as to become the creator of the universe. In the Rg Vedic soma ceremony, the process of expression of the interior light is initiated by vac or the Logos.

 

THE SOMA CEREMONY AND THE ORIGIN OF THE LOGOS

 

The Word or Logos is identified with the Anthropos in the soma ceremony and is not separate from it. This is also true for the Gnostic and Hermetic schools, as shown by Carl Kraeling,

 

The Gnostic Anthropos is none other than this large or great Man, the personification of the cosmic Logos, says Leisegang. As a matter of fact that is exactly what the supreme Anthropos does in the Christian strata of the Naasene document. Shorn of his cosmic content the same Logos is associated with the Anthropos, as we have seen, in the system of Valentinus, as his father, and in the Poimandres as his brother, while in the Gospel of Mary, the Man is none other than the sum of Nous and Ennoia, whose manifestation the cosmic Logos represents.(62)

 

In the Rg Vedic soma ceremony, and during the origin of the creation of the universe, the divine Logos was separated from its divine unity. It was separated into the higher unuttered and unactivated logos of the supernal world and the uttered and spoken logos that's the speech of mankind, which is connected to the manifested cosmos. This idea is the probable origin of the pattern of the logos concepts in Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and Hermeticism. This same pattern is used or is related to the dispersion or dismemberment and the absorption or rememberment motif of the universal word/light. The activation within the heart of being for the reunification of the logoi is initiated by secret syllables. When this takes place during the soma ceremony the logos is related to the fiery breath as a mixture of fire and pneuma, which is closely related to the Greek concept of the logos. The logos is what binds together the separated parts.

 

We would expect that the origin of the logos idea would be developed by a priesthood who had composed a special liturgical language with a potent magical grammar. The earliest such language that was specifically developed for the alteration of consciousness and used, for ascension is found in Indo‑Aryan Vedic Sanskrit. This language may go back to 4000 B.C.E., with its roots in the earliest beginnings of Indo‑Iranian language. Its modification into a specific magical language probably took place between 3000 and 2200 B.C.E.

 

The Word as God and the supreme self is the fundamental basis of all Rg Vedic hymnal compositions, as well as the priestly version of Vedic Sanskrit itself. The logos doctrine can be traced back in Greek philosophy to its alleged source in Heraclitus, who received this idea from Indo‑Iranian sources.(63)  It has also been thought that the origin of the idea of the logos may have originated in the Egyptian Memphite creation myth, which has been dated to approximately 500 B.C.E. (64) However, in the Memphite creation myth, the concept of the logos in creation is not developed fully enough to have been the source for the logos ideas. In addition, the Memphite myth of creating by the logos in combination with the heart appears to be an influence upon Egyptian religion from an outside source. Antecedents for this late creation myth in Egypt are vague. Even Egyptologists are uncertain as to the originality of the Memphite creation myth; most agree that it is from a later period .(65) As noted previously, we know that Egypt had close contact with Indo‑Aryans at least since the middle of the second millennium B.C.E., and we also know there was an Indian colony established as early as 500 B.C.E. in Memphis, where they have found Indian‑made votive offerings to the god Ptah. It is not too hard to see an Indo‑Aryan influence on this late Egyptian creation myth, especially when the fundamental basis of the Rg Vedic soma ceremony is creation by the logos through the heart.

 

In the Gnostic and Hermetic texts, the logos is connected to light and the generation of light. It is used as a fiery breath (pneuma) to stir up the elements in creation. The logos, just as in the soma ceremony, is used to bring forth seven deities who are related to destiny and the seven sensory openings. The logos is also split up between the created cosmos and the uncreated origin. The Greek word logos is derived from the root leg, meaning "to gather." This same notion is in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony, where fire gathers everything together. By pronouncing the word internally within the heart, a fiery breath is generated. This begins the process of the gathering together within the heart of the dispersed soma light particles to form or express the subtle body as Anthropos. The chanting of hymns, as in the soma ceremony, produces a musical quality that aids in the expression of the subtle body through the seven sensory channels. These seven channels were also seen as layers or spheres around the soul. They were sometimes equated with the seven planets. Thus, we have the origin of the influence of the music of the spheres on the soul, associated originally with the rhythmical chanting meters of the soma hymns.

 

The Greeks probably obtained their knowledge of the logos from Indian sources in the early Rg Veda and the later Upanishads. The Greeks then transmitted their knowledge of the logos to the developing Gnostic and Hermetic literature. The logos doctrine in the Christian Gospel of John (1:3‑4) is closely related to the logos idea in the Rg Veda: In the beginning was the word and the word was God.(66) Compare the logos ideas presented above from the soma ceremony to those found in the Gospel of John and the Gnostic schools.(67)

 

SOMA AND THE GNOSTIC/ALCHEMICAL STAR BODY

 

Through the inner processes of the Gnostic schools the physical body obtained an internal spiritualized form of light. In Gnostic circles, this body of light was called the radiant rayed body or starlike body, because its appearance is like a point of light with seven projected rays. The star body is also mentioned by the Neoplatonic philosopher Hierocles (450 C.E.) and the Platonist Philoponus (650 C.E.), who said there is a "kind of body that is forever attached to the soul, of a celestial nature, and for this reason ever‑lasting, which they call radiant (augoeides) or star‑like (astroeides)."(68)

 

 

The star body was thought to reside within the head (Fig. 6) because the seven rays of the star body are the same as the seven sensory channels of the head. The star body, however, does not reside in the head, but in the heart, as is revealed in the Rg Veda, where it is said that the head and heart become sewn together during the soma ceremony. Thereafter the star body resides in the heart. This is the body by means of which union with God takes place and paranormal ability occurs. As has been mentioned, the earliest documented cases of human beings performing paranormal feats such as walking on water, levitation, psychogenic creation, and rejuvenation, as well as attaining immortality, come from the entheogenic soma tradition in the Rg Veda. The formation of the body of stars (devapilukaya) by which one becomes a radiant rsi in the soma tradition is fundamental in the attainment of magical abilities and the performance of miracles. The original source of knowledge of the subtle body of stars comes from the Rg Veda soma tradition. Marsilio Ficino was not wrong to attribute this body to the magi.(69) It is through the formation and use of this special body, which projects rays (invisible to sight), that the traditions of Persian, Neoplatonic, Hermetic, Arabic, and European magical traditions are derived. Through Arabic and Gnostic, but primarily Neoplatonic‑sources, the Islamic philosopher al‑Kindi (d. 873 C.E.) obtained information about the Rg Vedic star body and its use in magical practices through projection of its pneumatic rays. It is mainly through al‑Kindi's book,

called De radiis or The Rays, that the Western magical traditions received their most important source for ancient Indo‑Aryan pneumatic magic. Al‑Kindi had a direct influence upon Roger Bacon, Marsilio Ficino, Giordano Bruno, and John Dee. Al‑Kindi knew of only a portion of these magical processes that originated in the Rg Vedic soma ceremony. Through the correct ritual use of the entheogenic soma drinks, pneumatic magic is greatly enhanced.

 

 

We can awaken the body of stars, or rays, but, according to the Gnostic schools, to unite it with the deity depends upon the will of God. This unity is accomplished by the mystery of grace, achieved through devotion. This inner hidden spiritual body as conceived by the Gnostics was not subject to the limits of space, nor was it cognizable by the senses; it was the same as the glorified body of Christ. The formation of the body of stars or rays of which the Gnostics speak is brought about through a baptism of light. The origin of the notion of the baptism of light comes from the Rg Vedic soma ceremony, where this light is soma and is derived from the third heaven above the stars, which is soma's abode. According to the Rg Veda, it is this celestial soma that lights up the stars. Since the soul/Anthropos is composed of soma light, just as the stars, it is also called a star body; its shape also makes it look starlike.(70) This baptism of light is the same as that which occurs in the soma ceremony of the Rg Veda. The seven sensory channels become flooded by radiant, white, soma light‑energy as they are absorbed back into the heart‑soul to form the fiery pneumatic body. This downflow of celestial soma is the same as the baptism of the celestial "water of life" mentioned in various Gnostic texts.(71) The formation of the body of stars is described in the Gnostic Book of Jeu.(72) The star body is graphically shown in many European alchemical illustrations as the culmination of the whole work of alchemy connected with the philosophers' stone. It is usually depicted with seven projections coming from the human head, corresponding to the seven cognitive sense channels that get absorbed into the heart and then projected back outward through the same sensory channels. This same subtle form is developed within the heart of the priest taking part in the soma ceremony. Its development transmutes the priest into a rsi and a deva, or "shining one"; in other words, he becomes a radiant star, and he is sometimes even identified with a star in the heavens.