The Idyll of the White Lotus
Reflections on its Inner Meaning,
Taking the Interpretation for Basis
Which Appeared in the Sphinx of Jan., 1890.1
The Path, August, 1890
When dealing with a book of symbolical nature like the present, many different explanations are possible, for they must vary according to the general or specific views they desire to embody, as well as to the shorter or longer course of development they deal with. This attempt at interpretation may, however, act as a stimulant on the general reader, in urging him to a profounder study of the deep symbolism which adds such inestimable value to the great charm of the book.
The “temple” represents our restricted soul-life, the world of our emotions and appetites, as well as of our aspirations, in contradistinction to the “open country” and “the town” which indicate the abode of our sensuous perceptions and pursuits.
The temple is the field of battle where the struggle for supremacy between our lower and higher nature has to be decided after swaying to and fro on the different planes of psychic life.
Sensa is the human soul, Manas in its double constitution of higher and lower. The fluctuations in his plane of consciousness are to be traced to the inherent attraction of his higher Ego who lifts him up and leads him to the divine light, and to the baneful influences exercised by his astral soul which force him into captivity. The struggle is prolonged and severe, for Sensa’s higher nature, being developed in an unusual degree, has by active yearning and searching for the truth succeeded in acquiring intuitive powers which enable him to reach the portal whence divine influx issues. In his aspirations towards the divine truth he is thwarted and led astray by his lower emotions and roused appetites (the priests of the temple), who, after stifling the dictates of his conscience, endeavour to tempt and seduce him by means of those attractions which form the very essence of our lower Ego. By constantly creating new claims in that direction and by stimulating them in various ways, the priests succeed in counteracting the purer life and even in crushing it for a while.
Agmahd is “Desire,” the selfish craving of our soul. He is the high-priest of the temple, for “desire” leads our lower nature into its various currents; nay, when unchecked by our higher guide, he grows omnipotent and fills our being, as if it were not only its main, but sole, animating principle. By progressive transformation he becomes our very “Will.” His appearance is dignified and majestic; his golden hair and beard proclaim his regal origin; for aspiration towards the ideal has also a seat in his heart, and might, if called upon, overcome his earthly leanings. This double potentiality is also indicated by the colour of his eyes, when the divine blue mingles with the earthly grey. Agmahd only gains full powers on the lower plane after renouncing “his humanity,” his claims to all higher principles, for then, his forces being undivided, can be fully concentrated on the lower self. He does not henceforth want any more “pleasures,” of which he is satiated, but turns to ambition and power over others. Kamen Baka is self-love, which exacts the love of fellowmen but has none to give in return. When Sensa returns from the “town,” representing a period of intense self-indulgence, Kamen Baka’s face appears as that of an ecstatic.
Other priests represent worldly pride, avarice, ambition, envy, love of approbation, anger, hatred, fear; and they aim at gradually diverting the yearning for higher truths into the dark channels that drag the soul into the astral cesspool.
The strange inmobility of expression and general rigidity in the appearance of the priests show that they are mere latent forces that spring into life when, in full contact with the soul’s consciousness, they receive the powers of existence. Like the wires when connected with the electric battery, the vitalizing current causes them to become the active transmitters of the central energy. Power over Sensa therefore is a condition of existence for the priests; hence they look upon him as their teacher and worship him as their prophet. (p. 64.)
The dark goddess is our animal soul, the seat of our material tendencies, and the centre of life of our appetites and passions. Her sanctuary is that part of the temple nearest to the rock, the symbol of low, elementary formation in nature, and therefore furthest removed from the spiritual plane. She loves the darkness of “ignorance,” as she represents the negation of divine truth. Roses are earthly pleasures, with which she tempts the hesitating soul, and the living serpents forming her garment are the human passions by which she tries to gain mastery over our emotional nature. In opening and clutching her hands, she shows her method of exercising her power, for, by yielding and restraining alternately, she finds the surest means of exciting the passions and of keeping their latent forces alive.
The flowers, perfumes , and incense offered to Sensa by the priests are words and acts of flattery, for the purpose of clouding his judgment and of creating in him the feeling of self-esteem and self-glorification. The draughts of narcotic liquid are also influences that blind and mislead his mind, gradually weaning it from spiritual thoughts. The desire for knowledge suggests the study of magic, whose dangerous nature is speedily shown by the visit of an elemental who attempts to carry Sensa’s astral form away. The little girl is the awakened imagination, the source of possible error. She confesses to belong to Agmahd: therefore, deaf to the call of the ideal and exclusively in the service of the soul’s appetites, she leads Sensa away from inner contemplation to the various kinds of mental enjoyments, to pleasures which are innocent enough at the beginning but become gradually tainted by the insidious effects of ambition and self-approbation, until the thus perverted imagination by easy descent conducts the frail soul to the very sanctuary of the dark goddess. The various apartments where Sensa dwells are the phases of mind he passes through in the different stages of his development. His couch is the meditative repose where the experiences gained during the day are assimilated. Festivities mark the signal epochs in the soul’s evolution where decisive steps are taken. Sebona is the intuition of the soul. It is acquired and fostered by active efforts towards spiritual purity, assisted by inner contemplation. This work is done in the cultivation of “flowers” (metaphysical ideas, thought pictures, and remembrances) that thrive in the sun-light (the divine influence) of the garden (the plane beyond ordinary consciousness).
Intuition is a state or condition of the mind: Seboua, therefore, not being self-luminous, wears a black robe. He only forms the connecting link between the lower plane (the temple) and the higher (the lotus tank). He has thus “two masters,” both of whom he angers, because (addressing Sensa) “when you were a child I could not hold you fast for either.” He also says: “I that am dumb save in common speech, yet am a worthy messenger.” He forms the channel that leads the soul to a higher stage of spiritual life (the lotus tank), but there his office ends and he is unable to perceive the Lotus Queen.
The waters of the tank are the elements of purity and of spiritual (though restricted) truth in which dwells and flourishes the royal flower, our inner Ego, who here comes under the direct influence of the light of the Logos.
As the lotus-flower opens its petals to the vivifying rays of the sun, so our higher Manas comes in contact with our Spiritual Soul, the White Lady, who says: “I am the spirit of the flower, and my life is formed of the breath of the heavens.” When this divine influx takes place Sensa loses consciousness, for the process differs essentially from any mental exercise. He calls her his “mother,” for his incarnating Ego feels that she is his origin, as well as his goal at the end of his pilgrimage. The kiss2 Sensa feels on his lips symbolizes the close, though only temporary, union of his higher principles, and when this great object has once been attained, the divine ray can never be completely excluded from the soul’s consciousness, even tho’ Sensa’s lapse into more material planes shows him that the real union can only be accomplished by active struggle and complete conquest over self. Thus the Lotus Queen appears to him in the “darkness of the temple,” the very precincts of the astral soul, when his sinking heart, fully realizing his great fall, overwhelmed by contrition and despair, turns to her for salvation. The various stages of Sensa’s gradual fall, interrupted by partial recovery, will be easily followed by the attentive reader. His last visit to Sebona’s garden is of special interest. Owing to his loss of purity he can no longer approach the “lotus” tank, but is taken to one which receives its water by way of overflow. His swimming indicates the mental effort he has to make in order to regain access to the presence of the Lotus Queen, but the interview partakes of the sadness of a “Goodbye.” He takes leave of the “sun-lit” garden and lives in the artificial light of the temple, the dazzling, tho’ deceptive, appearance of “Avidya.”
Malen is the sense of the beautiful. It gains its real life from the ideal plane. The soul’s attraction for it has its dangers, for when in its pursuit the spiritual purity is abandoned, Sensa by gradual and easy descent closes his consciousness to all higher influences and gives himself up to full enjoyment on the sensuous plane.
The “town” lying outside the temple, with its “follies” and “pleasures,” represents material existence, when the soul, effectually separated from its interior life, forgets for the time all its former aspirations and struggles. The bewitching woman symbolizes the soul’s receptivity for the beautiful, hence seemingly familiar to Sensa when realized in actual life. The gradual unfolding of this feeling and its peculiar fascination on the sensitive mind are described by Sensa’s finding new and endless attractions in his love. She sends a jewel and a message to Agmahd to say that her lover is in “safe hands,” and, whilst falling deeper into the thraldom of the senses, not likely to be disturbed by the recollection of ideal thoughts.
In complete subjection to his powerful emotions, Sensa becomes a mere slave to Agmahd, whose commands he is forced to obey without a moment’s resistance.
The critical stage in the soul’s progress is reached at the time when the final struggle is at hand. Either the acquired inner light has to be relinquished for ever, or the constituent parts of the lower nature have to be completely crushed. Remorse and repentance in Sensa, after overwhelming him with despair and desolation, are the active levers that once more lead him to the source of light. The spiritual soul, fervently called upon and trusted, acts as an unconquerable ally, with whose assistance, the conviction of truth energizing the soul, it succeeds in killing all the lower tendencies and passions. The ebbing life-blood is the capacity for lower sensation which leaves Sensa for ever. Henceforth his higher nature becomes firmly and safely established, and a purer plane of consciousness, permanently attained, is his reward.
This ideal of spiritual beauty which formerly only existed in his imagination has been reached, and the purified Sensa lives now as the ensouled and fully developed Malen.
His Karma, however, leads him back in to the “town” for his appointed duties; his work can be performed without any new dangers, but full expiation of his former failings must be obtained there.
The actual story ends here, followed by a semi-historical conclusion. In the final struggle and “mystic” death of Sensa a strong analogy will be found to the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In its upward pilgrimage the soul has reached all but the highest stage of its evolution, as only the “ascension” remains to lead it back to the “Father.”
In the ancient Mysteries these landmarks of the soul’s inner progress proclaimed the last grades of initiation that indicated the complete “new birth” of the man regenerate. By degrees the lower consciousness is replaced by one of greater purity from which all selfish desire (the priests) have vanished, and the temple (the former personality) is destroyed. By the “new birth” different stages of progress may be understood; it must, however, always mean the influx of the Divine to a lesser or greater degree, coincident with the crushing of one side of our selfish nature.
It is interesting to note the author’s treatment of Sensa’s body, or bodies. They represent the various planes on which our psychic consciousness has formed a temporary home, and any great change produces a disturbance in the equilibrium. Sleeping, swooning, and death have all to be considered from this point of view. Thus on page 64, the priests act through sleeping Sensa on a throne. After the kiss of the dark goddess (p. 102), Sensa’s body lies inanimate, as the soul has resistlessly yielded itself up to desire and the overwhelming influences of the astral nature. Finally, Sensa’s body dies and his mother (his outer nature) mourns over him as dead, being unable to perceive the survival of the higher parts of his soul. The book teaches the lesson that even a highly constituted soul will fall from its lofty estate when giving up the incessant struggle against its lower elements, and that ultimate redemption can only be achieved when complete victory over the inferior self has been accomplished.
Henceforth spirit reigns supreme.
1. See: “Das Lied von der weißen Lotos. Ein Auslegungsversuch.” [The song of the white lotus. An attempt at an interpretation.], Sphinx, January, 1890 (v.. 9, p. 43.)
2. “Moreover the Zohar teaches that the soul cannot reach the abode of bliss unless she has received the ‘holy kiss,’ or the reunion of the soul with substance, from which she emanated—spirit.”—Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy. p. 108.