Seven Keys of Interpretation

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There are Seven Keys of Interpretation, according to H. P. Blavatsky, for each symbol in esoteric philosophy.[1] This applies not only to the writings coming from the esoteric philosophy, but also "to every other allegory whether in the Bible or in pagan religions".[2]

Blavatsky maintained that the exoteric religions had kept a few of these keys, "Eastern Occultism alone being able to boast that it is in possession of the full secret, with its seven keys".[3] These keys, however, are kept secret by occultists:

No one occultist, if he is true to his colours, can give out the meaning of all the “Seven Mysteries of Wisdom”—even if he himself is acquainted with all—which would be a marvel, indeed. For those “Seven Mysteries” in toto are known thoroughly only to the “MASTERS OF WISDOM”.[4]

There is a science associated to the use of these keys:

The comprehension of the Occult Doctrine is based on that of the seven sciences; which sciences find their expression in the seven different applications of the secret records to the exoteric texts. Thus we have to deal with modes of thought on seven entirely different planes of Ideality. Every text relates to, and has to be rendered from, one of the following standpoints—

1. The Realistic plane of thought;
2. The Idealistic;
3. The purely Divine or Spiritual.

The other planes too far transcend the average consciousness, especially of the materialistic mind, to admit of their being even symbolized in terms of ordinary phraseology. There is no purely mythical element in any of the ancient religious texts; but the mode of thought in which they were originally written has to be found out and closely adhered to during the process of interpretation. For, it is either symbolical (archaic mode of thought), emblematical (a later though very ancient mode of thought), parabolical (allegory), hieroglyphical, or again logo-grammical — the most difficult method of all, as every letter, as in the Chinese language, represents a whole word. Thus, almost every proper name, whether in the Vedas, the “Book of the Dead,” or the Bible (to a degree), is composed of such logograms. No one who is not initiated into the mystery of the occult religious logography can presume to know what a name in any ancient fragment means, before he has mastered the meaning of every letter that composes it.[5]
In truth, every one of the seven Keys has to be used in its right place, and never mixed with the others, if we would unveil the entire cycle of mysteries.[6]

Mme. Blavatsky never listed the seven keys together in a single place. Looking for places where she mentions one or the other, we find the following references (the order is merely a proposed one, except for the "fifth key"):

1- Physiological or anthropological key (in another instance referred to as "human key").[7]

2- Astronomical key.[8]

3- Symbolical key.[9]

4- Theogonic key.[10]

5- Metrological key,[11] which includes the numerical and geometrical.[12] Mme. Blavatsky said the geometrical key "is the fifth key in the series of the Seven Keys to the Universal esoteric language and symbology".[13]

6- Metaphysical key.[14]

7- Mystical key.[15]

She also mentioned a combination (the "cosmo-geological key")[16] and a more "general" key held by science (the "key of matter").[17]

Below, an example of how the same text can be interpreted in completely different ways according to the key used:

The initiated writer of the Siphrah . . . says:— “Its head is broken in the waters of the great sea, as it is written: ‘Thou dividest the sea by thy strength, thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters’.” (lxxiv. 13). It refers to the trials of the Initiates in this physical life, the “sea of sorrow,” if read with one key; it hints at the successive destruction of the seven spheres of a chain of worlds in the great sea of space, when read with another key: for every sidereal globe or sphere, every world, star, or group of stars, is called in symbolism “the Dragon’s head”.[18]

Notes

  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 357.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1995), 200.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 318.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VIII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 157.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 335.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 517.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 390.
  8. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 63.
  9. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 533.
  10. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 595.
  11. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 595.
  12. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VIII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 180.
  13. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 471.
  14. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. X (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 372.
  15. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 374.
  16. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 397.
  17. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 155.
  18. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 505.