The Secret Teaching of All Ages

Pam Ho
18 min readJan 31, 2024

The Corpus Hermeticum attained wide popularity among the intelligentsia in Europe during The Renaissance (15th century). Its origins were believed to be from an Ancient Egyptian pre-Moses era. It was comprised of a teaching that was said to be the esoteric, or hidden and secret knowledge of the ancients. Ever since, Hermetica has been part of what is called the Western Esoteric Tradition. Its popularity waned among the elite intellectual class starting with The Age of Enlightenment (1700s) when atheism and agnosticism became ascendant among them. Thereby esoterica became unfashionable in the eyes of most of the established intellectual “scientific” elites ever since.

The teaching of the Corpus Hermeticum is similar in its ideas to Neoplatonic teachings and the many related esoteric traditions, and thereby believed by most scholars today to be from Greek origin rather than Egyptian. Although it is thought it could have come from Greeks living in Egypt during the period of Greek rule (305–30 BC). One theory is that in order to gain more authenticity or popularity it was given an Egyptian origin story by the Greeks because to many of them the ancient Egyptians were seen as possessors of a great and mysterious secret knowledge due to the pyramids.

The Corpus Hermeticum in Chapter 1 begins with a conversation between Poimandres (translates as Shepherd of Man) and the purported author of the book, Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes Thrice-Greatest aka Thrice-Great aka Thrice-Born), who was believed by many during the Renaissance period to have been “the messenger of the gods” from the ancient Greek tradition, Hermes, as well as being the same scribe and mediator to the gods with a different name, Thoth, of the Ancient Egyptians.

Modern Hermes

The conversation begins with Poimandres appearing to Hermes and giving him a profound mystical vision and then explaining to him that he was, in fact, God, the Supreme Being. The same type of narrative is found in the Bhagavad Gita from ancient India, wherein Arjuna is shown a mystical vision by a being who then claims to be God — and then teaches him essentially the same thing as the Corpus Hermeticum.

Poimandres then says to Hermes after the vision:

Have you understood what you have seen and what it means?

That light is I, Nous (mind and intellect), your God, who was before the watery substance which appeared out of the darkness; and the clear Word (thoughts) from Nous is the Son of God.

He is saying “God is your mind and intellect” and “The words/thoughts that you hear in the mind are the Logos, the word of God, or the Son of God” in the sense that the mind gives birth to thought.

That which sees and hears within you is the Word of the Lord, and Nous is God the Father. They are not separate from each other, for their union is life.

But perceive the light and know it, said Poimandres.

The teaching that you “should know” that “God is the nous” or “God is the mind and intellect within everyone” and that the words heard in the mind as thoughts are “the son of God” or Logos — that was the secret teaching of the mystery schools and secret societies of the Western Esoteric Traditions:

God as your mind creates your thoughts and manages your intellect and memory and controls everything and everyone in the world from an inner dimension, and thereby you can contact and communicate with God through the mind and change the world.

The purpose of these “esoteric” teachings were to teach you how to directly communicate with God through the mind and through God’s control over everything in the world.

“All is One and One is All”

Corpus Hermeticum

That was the mystic knowledge, from the Latin mysticus, meaning ‘secret,’ aka esoteric knowledge, from the Greek esoterikos, meaning ‘of (from) further within,’ commonly taught as meaning “knowledge limited to an inner group of initiates,” but in fact means knowledge directly from God revealed from within the mind.”

Like The Borg Collective, the secret teachings taught that everyone was part of and could communicate mentally with the leader.

This teaching was revealed through the Ancient Greek Mystery Schools, by Plato, by the Neoplatonists, and by those traditions connected to them , e.g., the ancient Gnostics (Christian and otherwise) Kabbalists, and Sufis. Later on the teachings were seen in different versions from the newer western esoteric traditions e.g., Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Martinism, Hermetic Orders, etc., during and after the Renaissance. Most if not all were claiming to be presenting the earlier esoteric traditions, often claiming to be descended from them by some supposed ancient documents, a hidden lineage, or even by direct communication from “Hidden” or “Ascended Masters.”

The Ascended Masters are sometimes said to have directly spoken to a person, and other times people claim to be “channelers,” by which they say that their teachings are from a higher being from another dimension, an angel, etc. That is the basis for most of the traditions and groups associated with the so-called New Age movement. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism based his religion on claims of being a channeler. A lot has been written on his early involvement with the western esoteric traditions. Helena Blavatsky was the founder of The Theosophical Society, the most influential group involved in the revival of interest among the elites of society in the later 19th century and early 20th century in the esoteric traditions. Madame Blavatsky claimed to have spoken to hidden masters, “Mahatmas,” when she supposedly travelled to the hidden city of Shambhala in Tibet, from whence the secret teachings were imparted to her. George Gurdjieff, another New Age prophet, became famous for supposedly receiving secret teachings by “hidden masters” from what he called The Sarmoung Brotherhood.

The purpose of the original esoteric knowledge was to enable direct communication with the God who exists within everyone as our mind and thoughts — and within and thereby controlling the natural world. The purpose of the esoteric teaching was sometimes referred to as The Great Work or Magnum Opus, most notably by the Alchemists, according to the Rosicrucians and Freemasonry. Those teachings were the basis for the “secret teachings” of the famous secret societies that arose in Europe and then America, a few years after the initial popularity of Hermetica during The Renaissance among leading Catholic philosophers, nobles, and priests.

Those secret societies gained a large following amongst the intelligentsia and nobility. The Rosicrucians, Freemasonry and other closely related secret societies would use metaphor, allegory, and analogy, for example about metallurgy and other topics, so that their “heretical” teachings were not discovered. One metaphoric teaching was about how to transform base metal (your own mind and thoughts) to gold (experiencing God as your mind and thoughts), and how that could be achieved with help from the all-powerful “Philosopher’s Stone (lapis philosophorum) through an esoteric process of alchemical purification.

Lapis, stone, also translates as jewel in Latin, and philosophorum literally means lovers of wisdom (philos + sophia). The Philosopher’s Stone is a metaphor essentially identical to the Buddhist and Vedic concepts of the Jewel in The Lotus and the Chintamani Stone.

In those traditions the purified or enlightened mind is likened to a pristine lotus flower arising from the mud. An all-powerful magical jewel in your possession is likened to what you will experience upon enlightenment. This ancient mantra about the Jewel in The Lotus is ubiquitous in the Tibetan countryside, painted or carved on large stones, cliff walls, prayer wheels, flags, etc:

OM (God)
MANI (jewel)
PADME (lotus flower)
HUM (seed of knowledge)

This is the meaning of that meditation: God is the source and wealth of my mind, my thoughts, my knowledge.

The powers of the Chintamani Stone are described almost identically to those of the Philosopher’s Stone, both have unlimited powers to do practically anything. Chinta in Sanskrit means thought and mani means jewel. Chintamani means “Thought Jewel.” The Chintamani Stone has the same esoteric meaning as the Philosopher’s Stone: by purifying your mind through esoteric knowledge, your mind will transform into God’s mind — which controls the world.

The Philosopher’s Stone was also described as able to do literally anything, similar to a Genie, and could also heal sickness and prolong life. Those were also metaphors: “Healing” meant being healed of ignorance by the secret teachings. “Prolonged life” meant the attainment of “eternal life” which is the goal of the esoteric teachings, i.e., by perfecting the knowledge of God and your relationship with Him/Her in your mind, said knowledge would lead to your ultimate ascension/self-deification and eternal life — with the aid of the Philosopher’s Stone, i.e., God in your mind.

That was seen as heresy by most people in the Christian and Muslim societies of the time, and by the establishment ruling hierarchies based on those traditions. Therefore the secret societies believed that metaphor and allegory was needed to keep their heretical teachings and associations free from suspicion — and punishment.

The teachings were usually only revealed to the members or adepts at the higher levels or degrees, in order to make sure they could be trusted to not make it public — due to fear of persecution by the established Churches and ruling nobility. The nobility had long gained support from the established Churches for their rule as divinely sanctioned. Often Church leaders were born into the ruling noble houses and then joined the Church using family power to become Church leaders. They could then favor their family dynasties with Church support as “God’s choice for ruling the Kingdom.” Therefore, it was seen as necessary by them to root out competition to their rule by deeming any source of “spiritual authority” other then their own Church, as heretical, and therefore illegal.

The original esoteric teaching was also commonly seen in the ancient Vedic tradition from India — the teachings found in the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Itihasas, etc. The ancient Greek philosophical and esoteric traditions are so similar to the ancient Vedic tradition that for a long time many scholars have speculated that there must have been a sharing of knowledge between Greece and India before Alexander invaded India. Trade routes from India into the Near East and back, plus the close connection between the Indo-European language family, led to finding more evidence of Vedic culture reaching Greece.

The philosophical teachings of the Vedas is also called Yoga (not the exercises). Yoga means to yoke, to unite, with God, and the teachings of that esoteric tradition on how to do that are collectively known as Vedanta. That core teaching is very similar to the ancient Greek Mystery Traditions, Platonism, and Neoplatonism. Therefore, Vedanta is also very similar to most Western Esoteric traditions and noted as such by the people following those traditions as Vedanta came to be translated into European languages beginning in the 18th century.

Since the teachings of the Corpus Hermeticum were then realized to be essentially identical to what is taught in the Upanishads, that led to an excited interest in Vedic books and teachers because it had been common knowledge for a long time that most of the ancient western esoteric teachings from the Greeks to the Romans to Egypt — had been lost. The destruction of the famous libraries of Alexandria and countless other attempts to destroy the knowledge of the ancient world due to being deemed as heretical, was seen as a problem that could now be fixed. The Vedic books and tradition were seen as providing the full set because their teachings had not been destroyed. That in turn led to the desire to create a synthesis of western and eastern esoteric knowledge. Most famously by The Theosophical Society, René Guénon, Aldous Huxley, and people associated with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

The core teaching of Vedanta is to try to observe all you experience, both internally in the mind and externally to you in the world — try to be aware and see it all as a manifestation of the presence and control of a single unified source, i.e., behind the physical or external appearances of our world there is a single unified energy field. From the all-pervading unified field is manifested the variety of our physical material world. Which is actually quite similar to what is currently taught in Quantum Physics to explain how our world works at the quantum (subatomic) level, i.e., Quantum Field Theory.

Quantum mechanics teaches us that the physical world is manifest from a unified all-pervading subatomic field of potential, it is existing everywhere in the universe (see Quantum Field Theory). That unifying ground of being is spoken about by the ancient esoteric traditions as the Monad, The Absolute, The One, all referring to the origin and unifying source of all things — also called Brahman in Vedanta. Brahman or The One is said in the esoteric traditions, east and west, to exist as the active agency inherent within matter. In people that agency is called nous, the mind and intellect, by western traditions, in Vedanta it’s called antaryamin, meaning inner regulator.

Vedanta explains its purpose as Yoga, to teach you how to yoke or unite with the all-pervading field of consciousness and mind that underlies our physical reality, and underlies our consciousness, mind and thoughts. By dhyana, meditation, it is taught that you can gradually become constantly aware of that oneness expressing itself directly to you — through the seemingly disconnected vast panoply of people, places, and things in our world — and within our mind as thoughts.

We are constantly faced with a diverse external reality, and it is taught that our tendency, until the full attainment of the siddha (perfected) stage of self-realization (magnum opus, the great work), our tendency is to view the diversity you experience as being completely real — instead of as the illusion (maya) it actually is. Because everything is manifest from and controlled by the same underlying all-pervading mind (Brahman, Antaryamin, Nous, Monad), therefore everything you experience is ultimately an external manifestation of that unifying internal single power. That idea can be seen in the movie The Matrix, where a new person, Neo (new), is inducted into a secret society of people who are being targeted by the establishment. Their secret teaching is that the world is an illusion, underneath the facade of supposedly real things, is the actual real world. They teach Neo that he needs to Become The One by seeing through the illusion of The Matrix.

Overcoming the illusion of our world, or maya in Vedanta, is the first stage towards the goal of Yoga (yoking to aka becoming one with The One). The teaching of Vedanta is to show you how to overcome the illusion of the world so you can directly see and then interact with the actual controller of our world — who is also inside your mind and body with you, and inside of everything. You need to understand the true nature of your own mind and self, self-realization, the great work.

The world is said to be an illusion, but not in the sense of not being real, or of not existing. It is not real, in the sense of being something different than what it appears to be. An analogy of this concept is like when a cat watches a TV show about birds. The cat keeps trying to catch the birds because it does not understand that the birds are not really there. When people who are ignorant of the truth of reality deal with reality they are like that cat. They believe that an illusory reality is completely real. In fact, our physical world is only partially real, and because it looks totally real and feels totally real, people therefore spend their time assigning blame or praise towards people because it looks like everyone is acting under their own power.

What a cat sees on the TV is not real because behind the illusion of birds is a single or nondual actual reality, i.e., the TV screen. The cat sees the TV screen but thinks it is a bird. Whatever countless variety of things you see happening on the TV screen, it is really one thing, the TV Screen. That is an analogy of the truth of our world and our mind. There is a single nondual reality behind the diverse appearance. The secret teachings say it is all an illusion like birds on a screen seeming to be real, but in truth reducible to one thing, The One, Nous, Brahman, Antaryamin.

Maya in Sanskrit can translate both as “illusion” and “the power of Brahman.” According to Vedanta, people who are ignorant of how reality works are said to be under the “spell of maya” like the cat is under the spell of the birds on TV. The power of the great illusion (maha-maya) — keeps you seeing the world as something it is not — until you are ready to know the truth, just like Neo in The Matrix. That spell can be broken by the removal of ignorance, just like the sunrise dispels the darkness so you can see what is actually going on.

Therefore, Vedanta tells us that no one should be blamed or praised for what they think or do, because by doing so one reinforces the illusion of the world.

1.Realizing that the universe — a product of Prakṛti (Primordial Nature) and Puruṣa (Spirit) is nothing but one substance (viz. the Brahman), a person should neither praise nor censure the serene or violent nature and action of others

2. He who applauds or condemns the natural inclinations and corresponding actions of others, immediately deviates from his own purpose (of attaining spiritual wisdom) as he, thereby, develops attachment to what is not real.

3. When the sense-organs which are the product of the type of ego caused by Rajas (passion) are over-powered with sleep (and cease to function), the individual soul (jīva) remaining confined in the body, strays in the realm of illusions (Māyā) and witnesses dreams (which are unreal), and if the mind is still overcome with torpidity, loses, the consciousness of the body, sinks into death-like deep sleep. Similarly, the person who perceives the outward differences only (and fails to grasp the underlying oneness — the Reality) is distracted by illusory objects of senses and is ultimately sunk in utter darkness.

4. When the quality itself is unreal, the problem of what is auspicious (or commendable) or inauspicious (or censurable) that too to what extent, does not arise at all; for whatever is uttered by the tongue (i.e. perceived by our sense- organs) or conceived by the mind is illusory and unreal.

5. Even though the reflection of an image or the reflection of a sound, occular illusions like a mirage are unreal (and unsubstantial), they do create an effect (on the mind of the seer or hearer). In the same way, this body or other things arouse fear till death (till every thing is dissolved into Prakṛti).

6. It is only the Almighty Supreme Soul who creates this universe and is both the creator and the created, the protector and protected. Being the universal Soul, he is the withdrawer and the withdrawn. (He is thus both the material and instrumental cause of the universe).

7. Hence, no being or reality other than the Supreme Soul existing independently out of the created universe, has been observed or stated (by the Vedas). The three-fold appearance of creation, sustenance and destruction of things in the Ātman is baseless. Therefore, do understand that this threefold universe (consisting of the seen and the process of seeing) is the product of guṇas and is caused by Māyā.

8. He who understands thoroughly this Jñāna (gnosis, knowledge) and Vijñāna (realized knowledge) as expounded by me, does neither deprecate nor praise others but moves about in the world (far above partiality or duality) like the Sun.

It is difficult to see through the illusory nature of reality because there is no visible central control over everyone and everything. Because everyone is dependent on Brahman for thoughts and memory, for their intellect and therefore their agency, in reality therefore all you are actually seeing in the world is like what a cat sees on the TV. It is an illusion because everything and everyone is a manifestation of the same subquantum source of power and control — all you experience is the TV screen, and what you see on the screen is put there by the director. You are awake to that, or you are not.

Vedanta and the esoteric traditions say that nobody is in control of what they do or think because of the inherent nature of our consciousness and mind. Shakti translates as the power, ability, strength, might, effort, energy, and capability of Brahman manifesting through everything and everyone.

Shakti is the will, or the power and energy, the agency within something — just like fire has the will or energy and power to make an engine work by its ability to move pistons. But the fire cannot do anything without fuel. The type and amount of fuel determines the strength and extent of the ability of the fire. In the same way, the power or will of shakti (human will and energy) is determined by the controlling factor, the fuel for human energy and abilities. This can easily be seen in how we function:

Thoughts happen to us, not by us. Thoughts seemingly appear out of nowhere in our mind. Try to explain how to create thoughts. You can’t. No human can. We hear thoughts and then because we do not see any being in our mind other than ourselves, we then identify with thoughts as extensions of our self, or of our control. Vedanta and the esoteric traditions say that is an illusion, that we should try to stop identifying with thoughts and instead meditate on observing them as the witness consciousness.

Memory is the same. Why does memory appear when we want it and then disappear when we don’t? When we want a memory, we do not look anywhere for the memory because we do not know how to look, nor, where to look. All we do is desire a memory, and then wait for it to appear in our mind. How that works is a mystery to science. Whatever is responding to our desire for memory — has to be consciously aware of and understand the language of our thoughts and desires. It then must be able to understand how to find and then respond with the memory we desire — because we simply do not know how. Clearly, something is managing how our memory works because memory appears in our mind when we want it, then disappears when we don’t need it. This is easy to prove. In a moment I will ask a question, when you read it, try to do nothing in your mind but to observe the question. Then the answer will simply appear as a thought you will hear. Ready to read it? Make no effort but to listen to your mind…here goes: where were you born?

People usually hear the name of their birthplace spoken into their mind as a thought. That is how that type of memory works. Something must be conscious of and understand what you are reading here in order to be able to answer the question you just read. A brain is not conscious, nor can it read, nor can it understand what you read. But something is doing that for you.

Vedanta and the esoteric traditions say that thoughts and memory are both created and controlled by Antaryamin, God within. The Neoplatonists say God is Nous — your mind and intellect, who is giving us Logos — words or thoughts in our mind.

The Bhagavad Gita says God manages our intellect through control over the giving and taking of our memory. If all our memories were to always be in our mind, we would be unable to function.

Bhagavad Gita 15.15

And I am seated in the hearts of all; from Me are given memory and knowledge, and their removal as well. I am in truth that which has to be known by all the Vedas; I certainly know the Vedas, I am the author of the Vedanta.

Our intellect and memory have to be managed by God because we lack the knowledge and ability to manage our memory and create thoughts on our own. The Bhagavata Purana, a condensed version of Vedanta, says:

The mind is known by the name of Aniruddha, the real controller of the senses. Like a dark blue lotus in autumn, he is gradually found by yogis through perfect meditation.

(Bhagavata Purana 3.26.28)

Aniruddha is another name of Paramatman aka Antaryamin, the all-pervading mind of Brahman. Niruddha means obstructed or covered, Aniruddha means unobstructed or uncovered. When you do not cover and obstruct the mind by identifying with it, when you instead try to be aware that your thoughts, intellect, memory, and all your senses, are controlled and manifest by Brahman aka The One or God, then Brahman can use your knowledge of that control to communicate with you through your thoughts and mind. This is the purpose of The Secret Teaching of The Ages. To enable direct communication in your mind with the ruler of reality.

God/Nous is the mind/willpower managing our intellect, our thoughts, our memories, our senses. We are the power (shakti) that acts based on that willpower/fuel. In that way we are said to be the same as The One or Brahman because we manifest the willpower of The One. Everything does.

Bhagavata Purana 11.13:

24. Everything perceived or understood in the mind, by speech, by the eyes, or by the other senses — it is all Me alone and nothing but Me. Awaken to the immediacy of this understanding and vision.

25. The mind enters (gets enmeshed) in the objects of senses and the objects (permanently) imprint (their latencies) on the mind and both the objects and the mind constitute the body of the jīva (human soul) whose soul is I myself (soul of your soul), O my (grand) sons.

26. Realizing my oneness with him, the person should renounce the mind which gets involved onto objects, and the sense-objects born of the mind which leave their imprints on it (try to stop any sense of control you have over your mind and thoughts, and of everything else you experience in the mind, i.e., images, fantasies, dreams.)

30. So long as the notion of diverse understandings and purposes being real (in the world) is not completely removed by means of reasoning, a person is asleep while awake and performing actions — just like while asleep one thinks themself to be awake while in a dream.

We are taught by all the esoteric traditions that our world is a type of virtual reality like in the movie The Matrix. Our physical world is controlled from an underlying superconscious power; and our purpose in life is to become awake to that truth — and then start a relationship with that entity who will communicate with you in your mind, and in everything else you experience, if you try to be aware of that control. Otherwise, you are compared to being in a dream with no awareness that the dream isn’t real. We may experience our dream world while ignorant of that truth or awake to it. We need to know that everything we experience is meant to be, all controlled from within, and thereby made to happen the way it does — like how software controls a virtual reality. By that awareness of everything being totally controlled, then Brahman, The One, God, will use your knowledge and awareness of its control over everything — to communicate and interact with you through all you experience, all the time…