There is an increasingly frequently told tale of the vicissitudes in the development of human consciousness over historic times, of the loss and reconnection with an understanding of who we are and our place in the scheme of things, of the golden thread that runs through history, of the recovery of balance in the human psyche, of the various periods of renaissance of the highest spirit of humanity…
Gary Lachman is an able storyteller. In his book The Secret Teachers of the Western World he tells this tale, giving pictures of the significance of many key actors along the way – the secret teachers. To my mind this story of the polarity of movement of humanity between the extremes of darkness and renaissance is of utmost significance, particularly given the dark times that threaten.
Thus we read of origins in Egypt, of the fundamental contribution of the ancient Greeks led by Pythagoras and Plato, of the early Christians and gnostics, the neoplatonists in Alexandria led by Plotinus, the conflict between paganism and the organised Christian church. The fall of Alexandria led to the knowledge and inspiration moving for a while to the middle east, later to be seeded back into Europe with the Islamic ascendancy. The role of the Corpus Hermeticum as the vehicle for retaining the pagan inspiration.
This provided the inspiration for the 12C renaissance and the early Gothic cathedrals. Holders of the flame included the Cathars, persecuted by church power. A new flourishing came with the 15C renaissance initially inspired by Marcilio Ficino’s translations of more ancient texts. The development of science inspired by the mystically inclined Newton was soon undermined by the clockwork universe materialists.
Still there were periods of mystical revival – the so-called Romantic movement, the renewal of the fin de siècle, the import of Eastern ideas to the West, the drug-inspired 1960s, all illuminated by great original thinkers such as Jean Gebser, Helena Blavatsky, P.D.Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, Carl Jung, Roberto Assagioli, Abraham Maslow, Colin Wilson, Ken Wilber… This is a story of an ongoing to-and-fro in the human psyche, a question of balance – so well expressed in Alistair Macintosh’s book The Master and his Emissary.
So many of these teachers are covered in Lachman’s book. I have just identified a few of the main ones. It sets a context with so many fascinating trails to be followed.