The Lost Light – An Interpretation of Ancient Scriptures
Alvin Boyd Kuhn
Coming forth in a day when theology has long been discredited – even in its own ecclesiastical household – and religion itself is threatened with obliteration by rampant forces hostile to it, this book aims to rehabilitate theology and to stabilize true religion. It must be said at the very outset and with blunt insistence that it is for religion and not in any way against it. It is written to establish religion again as the cornerstone of human culture, when civilization has largely turned away from it to seek elsewhere the guiding light. It is designed to redeem Divine Theology from her outcast condition and place her again beside Philosophy and Science on the throne in the kingdom of man’s mind.
It needs sharply to be asseverated that the book is for religion because many will pronounce it the most forthright attack on ecclesiastical doctrinism yet presented. It can hardly be denied that it sweeps away almost the entire body of common acceptance of biblical and theological meaning. But it makes no war on anything in religion save the idiocies and falsities that have crept into the general conception of orthodox belief. Finding the chief enemies of true religion were those within her own gates, the book has had to address itself to the ungenerous task of repudiating the whole untenable structure of accredited interpretation in order to erect on the ground the lovely temple of ancient truth. If theology is to be rescued from its forlorn state of intellectual disrepute into which not its enemies but its friends have precipitated it through an unconscionable perversion of its original significance to gross repulsiveness, the errors and distortions perpetrated upon it by those of its own household must be ruthlessly dismantled. Hence to many the book will seem like a devastating assault on the very citadel of common religious preachment. In the face of all this it must be maintained that the work is written to support and defend religion against all its foes and that it is constructive and not destructive of true religious values at every turn. It was no light or frivolous gesture to affront a settled and rooted growth of beliefs and doctrinal statements that have been cherished for centuries around the hearthstone of Christian culture and become hallowed by age-long acceptance and the strong loves and loyalties inbred in sensitive childhood. But it was seen to be a drastic operation quite necessary to save the organism of religion itself from further decay and menacing death. Excrescences of misconception and superstition had to be heroically cut out of the body of theology and the calcareous incrustations of ignorant interpretation dissolved and carried away by the acid stream of living truth flowing forth, after centuries of suppression, from the mighty scriptures of the past.
The Western world has too long and fatuously labored under the delusion that a pious and devout disposition fulfills the whole requirement of true religion. Ancient sagacity knew that piety without intelligence, or religion without philosophy, was insufficient and dangerous. It knew that general good intent was not safe from aberrancy, folly and fanaticism unless it was directed by the highest powers and resources of the mind. And the mind itself had to be fortified with specific knowledge of the nature of the cosmos and of man and the relation between the two. Following the dictum of the sage, Hermes Trismegistus, that “the vice of a soul is ignorance, the virtue of a soul is knowledge,” the scriptures of old inculcated the precept that with all man’s getting he must first get wisdom and understanding. These were related to his well-being as health to his navel and marrow to his bones, and would alone give him a crown of eternal life. They were pronounced more precious than all the things that he could desire. The council of Illuminati therefore laid down their systems of cosmology and anthropology, which have become by immemorial tradition the Bibles of humanity, universally reverenced. In them were given the ordinances of life, the constitution of the cosmos, the laws governing both nature and mind. They still constitute the Magna Carta of all human action guided by intelligence. For they were the first Institutes embodying the Principia and Fundamenta of all moral behavior, the only true chart and compass to guide human effort in a line of harmony with an overshadowing divine plan of evolution for the Cosmos.
The corruption and final loss of the basic meaning of these scriptures has been, in the whole of time, the greatest tragedy in human history. Like Shakespeare’s tide, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune, but, omitted, casts all the rest of life in shoals and quicksands, the wreckage of the Esoteric Gnosis in the centuries following Plato’s day, culminating in the debacle of all philosophical religion about the third century of Christianity’s development and ushering in sixteen centuries of the Dark Ages, has thrown all religion out of basic relation to true understanding and caused it to breed an endless train of evils, fanaticisms, bigotries, idiosyncrasies, superstitions, wars and persecutions that more than anything else blacken the record of man’s historic struggle toward the light. The present (1940) most frightful of all historical barbarities owes its incidence directly to the decay of ancient philosophical knowledge and the loss of vision and virtue that would have attended its perpetuation.
What, then, must be the importance of a book which restores to the scriptures of ancient wisdom the lost light of their true original meaning?
In a very real and direct way the salvation of culture and a free spirit in the world is contingent upon this restoration of the ancient intelligence to modernity. For man at this age has had new and mighty powers of nature suddenly placed in his hands, and yet lacks the spiritual poise and sagacity to use them without calamity. Most strangely, the control of the lower physical, natural or brute forces by the mind or reason was the one central situation primarily and fundamentally dealt with in the sage tomes of antiquity. To effect that control in a perfect balance and harmony, and to train the reasoning intellect in the divine art of it, was the aim and end of the Arcane Philosophy. Ideology in the Western world has endlessly vacillated back and forth between the cult of the inner spirit and engrossment in objective materialism. Ancient philosophy taught that the true path of evolutionary growth was to be trodden by an effort that united the forces of the spirit with those of the world, the lower disciplined by the higher. The whole gist of the Esoteric Doctrine was the study and mastery of the powers engaged in working out the evolutionary advance, so that the aspirant might be able to align his cultural effort in consonance with the requirements of the problem and the end to be achieved.
Without this guiding data and this evolutionary perspective modern man is totally at a loss how to focus his endeavor and is unable to point his direction in line with anything more fixed and basic than his next immediate objective of apparent desirability. He has neither a knowledge of his origin, a chart of his path, an inventory of his capacities or a vision of his goal. Hence he travels the long road still a benighted wanderer without compass. He can but recoil from one mistaken plunge after another, learning sporadic lessons from pain and misfortune. The ancient torch that was lighted for his guidance he has let burn out. This lamp was the body of Ancient Philosophy. In this critical epoch in the life of the world this book proclaims afresh the message of lost truth.
Three ancient and long-discredited sciences have had a surprising renaissance in popular fancy and scientific interest: symbolism, alchemy, astrology. The last has particularly come into a general vogue, but on a basis which still inclines conservative positivism in science and scholarship to regard it as allied closely with “popular superstition.” In its predictive or “fortune-telling” aspect it is generally looked at askance. But there is another side on which it has pertinence and value that has not been recognized in the modern revival and on which perhaps its most legitimate claim to consideration rests. This is its function as symbolic theology. Unquestionably cosmic operation, cosmic significance, lie behind the twelve constellations of the zodiac and the thirty-six or more other stellar configurations. The planisphere or chart of the heavens was doubtless the first of all Bibles, pictorially edited. Not quite simply and directly but intrinsically, all Bibles are amplifications and elaborations of the original volume of ideography first written on the open face of the sky, charted in the zodiac and heavenly maps, and later transferred to earth and written in scrolls and parchments. Man was instructed to fashion his new body of spiritual glory “after the pattern of things in the heavens,” the heavenly or zodiacal man. And a graph of the structure and history of this celestial Personage was sketched by the enlightened sages in the configurated star clusters. Zodiac comes from the Greek word zodion, a small living image, signifying that it is a graph of the microcosmic life of man, which is cast in the form of the macrocosmic life of the universe, or of God. Man’s own small body is a replica of this body of God, made in its image and likeness. The vast frame of Cosmic Man was outlined in the scroll of the heavens, the solar systems and galaxies being living cell clusters in his immense organism.
A deal of this adumbrative symbology elucidating theological doctrinism is set forth in the body of the present work. But there is a group of its data that strikes so deeply into the heart of general theology that it is given here at the outset for the sake of its overwhelming impressiveness. It must prove to be so conclusive an evidence that Biblical theology rests more solidly than has ever been believed on zodiacal backgrounds that its presentation will be admittedly a matter of great moment. It traces the unsuspected significance of two of the twelve signs, Virgo and Pisces, in the very heart of New Testament narrative. Let the reader picture before him the ordinary zodiac, with the house of Virgo at the western equinox point and that of Pisces directly opposite on the eastern side. The simple fact that they stand six months apart will presently be seen to assume great importance in Gospel determination.
The exposition must begin with the puzzling and hitherto unexplained item of ancient religious myth, that the Christs, the Sun-Gods, the Messiahs, all were depicted as having two mothers. How, one asks, could there possibly be rational significance in this? It has been put aside as just some more of the mythical rubbish and nonsense of early Paganism. The profundity of pagan intelligence, hiding sublime cosmic truth under glyph and symbol, has not been dreamed of.
The depiction should not have created incredulity, seeing that the Gospel Jesus himself, dramatic figure of the divine principle in man, announced it categorically in declaring to Nicodemus that “ye must be born again.” Nicodemus asks if this means that we must enter a second time into our mother’s body and experience a second birth in the natural manner. Jesus replies that we “must be born of water and the spirit.” Attention must be directed a moment to the fact that the Latin word spiritus, translated “spirit” in many passages, means as well “air” or “breath.” One of the great keys to Bible meaning is the series of the four “elements” of ancient mythicism: earth, water, air and fire. The body of the physical or natural man was conceived as being composed of the two lower, earth and water, while air and fire, representing mind and spirit, commingled to make the higher or spiritual man. Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus, then, could have been rendered, “born of water and air.” And John the Baptist uses three of the four elements when he states that he, the forerunner of the Christos, and therefore a type of the lower natural man, indeed baptizes us with water (omitting earth), but that there cometh after him one higher than himself who shall baptize us with the holy spiritus (air) and with fire. Jesus thus affirms that we have two births, necessitating two mothers, and John the Baptist adds that we must have two baptisms.
Since man’s spirit is an indestructible fragment of God’s own mighty Spirit, truly a tiny spark of that cosmic Intelligence and Love which we call the Mind of God, the ancients typified the divine element in man by fire and in contrast the lower or human element by water. The fiery soul of man is housed in a tenement of flesh and matter which is seven-eighths water by actual composition! The crossing of the rivers and seas and the immersion of solar heroes in water in olden mythologies, and the rite of baptism in theology, signified nothing beyond the fact of the soul’s immersion in a physical body of water nature in its successive incarnations.
Now man is distinctly a creature compounded of two natures, a higher and a lower, a spiritual and a sensual, a divine and a human, a mortal and an immortal, and finally a fiery and a watery, conjoined in a mutual relationship in the organic body of flesh. Says Heraclitus: “Man is a portion of cosmic fire, imprisoned in a body of earth and water.” Speaking of man Plato affirms: “Through body it is an animal; through intellect it is a god.” To create man God incarnated the fiery spiritual principle of his life in the watery confines of material bodies. That is the truest basic description of man that anthropology can present. All problems spring from that foundation and are referable for solution back to it.
Man is, then, a natural man and a god, in combination. Our natural body gives the soul of man its baptism by water; our nascent spiritual body is to give us the later baptism by fire! We are born first as the natural man; then as the spiritual. Or we are born first by water and then by fire. Of vital significance at this point are two statements by St. Paul: “That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural”; and, “First that which is natural, then that which is spiritual.” Again he says: “For the natural man comprehendeth not the things of the spirit of God, neither can he.” Of course not; for he is not yet in that higher kingdom of evolution, and he must be transformed, transfigured, lifted up into a superior world of consciousness before he can cognize spiritual things. Evolution will thus transform him, and nothing else will.
Using astrological bases for portraying cosmic truths, the ancients localized the birth of the natural man in the zodiacal house of Virgo and that of the spiritual man in the opposite house of Pisces. These then were the houses of the two mothers of life. The first was the Virgin Mother (Virgo), the primeval symbol of the Virgin Mary thousands of years B.C. Virgo gave man his natural birth by water and became known as the Water-Mother; Pisces (the Fishes by name) gave him his birth by the Fish and was denominated the Fish-Mother. The virgin mothers are all identified with water as symbol and their various names, such as Meri, Mary, Venus (born of the sea-foam), Tiamat, Typhon and Thallath (Greek for “sea”) are designations for water. On the other side there are the Fish Avatars of Vishnu, such as the Babylonian Ioannes, or Dagon, and the Assyrian goddess Atergatis was called “the Fish-Mother.” Virgo stood as the mother of birth by water, or the birth of man the first, of the earth, earthy; Pisces stood as the mother of birth by spirit or fire, or the birth of man the second, described by St. Paul as “the Lord from heaven.” Virgo was the water-mother of the natural man, Pisces the fish-mother of the spiritual man.”
There must now be brought out an unrevealed significance of the fish symbol in the zodiac and in mythical religion. It is of astonishing import. Water is the type of natural birth because all natural birth proceeds in and from water. All first life originated in the sea water. The fish is a birth in and from the water, and it stands patently as the generic type of organic life issuing out of inorganic! The fish typifies life embodied in a physical organic structure. Organic life is born out of the water, and is the first birth, child of the water-mother. And if organic life is in turn to become mother, its child will be mind and spiritual consciousness, son of the fish-mother! In brief, water is the mother of natural physical being, and organic structure becomes the later mother of divine mind.
Now, strangely enough, water is the type of another thing which is still more germinal of life, namely, matter. Matter is the virgin mother of all life in the aboriginal genesis. All things are generated in the womb of primordial matter, the “old genetrix” of Egyptian mythology. And it is by a consideration of the nature of matter and its evolution that we are enabled to arrive at last at the true meaning of the double motherhood of life. For oddly enough, matter is seen to exist in two states, in each of which it becomes mother of life, at two different levels. Primordial matter, the sea of (to us) empty space, is the first mother of all living forms. This is the primal “abyss of the waters” in Genesis. The Latin word for “mother” is our very word “matter,” with one “t” left out – mater. And how close to mater is water! And organic structure is the second mother, parent of spiritual mind.
The ancient books always grouped the two mothers in pairs. They were called “the two mothers” or sometimes the “two divine sisters.” Or they were the wife and sister of the God, under the names of Juno, Venus, Isis, Ishtar, Cybele or Mylitta. In old Egypt they were first Apt and Neith; and later Isis and Nephthys. Massey relates Neith to “net,” i.e., fish-net! Clues to their functions were picked up in the great Book of the Dead: “Isis conceived him; Nephthys gave him birth.” Or: “Isis bore him; Nephthys suckled him,” or reared him. The full sense of these statements was not discerned until they were scrutinized in the light of another key sentence which matched them: “Heaven conceived him; the Tuat brought him forth.” With this came the flash of clear insight into the mystery. For that which is to eventuate in the cycles of evolution as divine mind in an organic creature – man – is aboriginally conceived by divine ideation in the innermost depths of Cosmic Consciousness, or in the purely noumenal world, or again in the bosom of Infinite Spirit, where Spirit is identical with pure undifferentiated matter. This is mirrored in the Egyptian statement that Isis conceived him. Matter in its invisible, inorganic state was the womb of the first conception. Isis is virgin, i.e., pure matter, or matter sublimated to spiritual tenuity. The Tuat, on the other hand, is really earth, as the type of physical matter, or matter organic, aggregated into substantial forms, called by us physical matter. It is matter as substance, constituted and existent in the visible world in structural forms. Isis was matter subsistent as empty space, and Nephthys was atomic matter, constituent of visible structural forms. The physical worlds which we must now think of as floating in the sea of empty space like fish in the water, are the second form of matter, and their organic bodies of substantial matter give birth to the Logoi in the solar systems and to the Christos in man. So divine spirit is conceived in the womb of Isis, the first universal mother, and brought to birth in the womb of Nephthys, the second mother, the immediate incubator and gestator of its manifest expression. One might paraphrase this situation by saying that a human child is first conceived in the love, or mind, of its parents, and later born from the womb of its physical mother. Thus life has two births and must of necessity have two mothers. Life is spiritually conceived and materially born. Or, man may be said to be born as a natural creature from spirit into matter, and born later as a spiritual god when he emerges from his baptism in the water of the body and re-enters the bosom of his Father. Or, finally, he is born first as man, by water; and reborn later as god, by fire. And the first birth was depicted as taking place on the western side of the zodiac, in the house or womb of the Virgin Mother, Virgo, because in the west the sun, universal symbol of spiritual fire, descended into organic matter in its setting, or incarnation. So man is born as natural man on the west, to be regenerated as spiritual man on the east. Spirit’s descent on the west makes it man; its resurrection on the east, like the summer sunrise, makes it deity again. This is the death and resurrection of the god in all religions. It is incarnation and return to spirit. It is the descent of the Messiah into Egypt and his exodus back to Canaan.
Further scrutiny of such data brings to light links of connection with the Bible. The chief one is found in the symbol of bread in connection with both Virgo and Pisces. Pisces is the house of the Fishes by name, but it is not commonly known that Virgo in astrological symbology was the house of Bread. This is indicated by several items of ancient typology. Many centuries ago in the precession of the equinoxes, the end of the year was marked by the position of the great Dog-Star Sirius, mighty celestial symbol of the divinity in man. Precisely at midnight of December 24 it stood on the meridian line from the zenith to Egypt. At the same moment there arose on the eastern horizon the constellation of the Virgin, bearing in her left arm the Christ child, symbol of the Christhood coming to function in man, and in her right hand the great star Spica (Latin, a head, or “spike” of wheat), symbol of that same divinity coming as celestial food for man. It must ever be remembered that the Gospel Jesus told us we had virtually to eat his body as food, and drink his blood, if we would inherit eternal life. So typism represented him as coming in the form of man, the babe Christ, and as food for man, the wheat. John speaks of the Christ principle in the words: “This is that bread which came down from heaven, that if a man eat of it he shall hunger no more.” Jesus broke a loaf into fragments and gave to his disciples, saying that it was his body, broken for them.
We now have Virgo established as the house of Bread and Pisces as the house of Fish. But the characterization of the two houses must be brought along to a more specific evolutionary reference. What are these “houses,” thus delineated? They are, as at first, the two states of matter, but now to be taken in immediate reference to the life of man on earth. They are in the final stage of the meaning man’s body itself, which consists of matter in both its invisible and its visible forms. For man has a natural body and a spiritual body. Man’s body itself houses the two mothers. The body is this double house of Bread and of Fish.
And the next link is seen when it is considered that this physical body is for the soul the house of death and in its regenerative phase, the house of rebirth. It is the house into which the spirit descends to its partial obscuration in the darkness of the grave of matter, into the night of death, or incarnation, out of which it is to arise in a new birth or resurrection on the opposite side of the cycle. A significant passage from the Book of the Dead recites: “Who cometh forth from the dusk, and whose birth is in the house of death” – referring to the incarnating soul. In a spiritual sense the soul “dies” on entering the body in incarnation, but has a new birth in it as it later resurrects from it. The body is therefore the house of his death and rebirth, or the place of his crucifixion and resurrection.
And the Egyptians had a name for the body as the locus of these transformations, which carry the central meaning of all theologies. This name now rises out of the dim mists of ancient Egyptian books to enlighten all modern Bible comprehension. This city of the body, where the sun of soul sank to its death on the cross of matter, to rearise in a new birth, was called the city of the sun, or in Greek, Heliopolis, but in the Egyptian, ANU. The name was given to an actual Egyptian city, where the rites of the death, burial and resurrection of Osiris or Horus were enacted each year; but the name bore a theological significance before it was given to a geographical town.
The name is obviously made up of NU, the name for the mother heaven, or empty space, or abyss of nothingness, and Alpha privative, meaning, as in thousands of words, “not.” A-NU would then mean “not-nothingness,” or a world of concrete actuality, the world of physical substantial manifestation. Precisely such a world it is in which units of virginal consciousness go to their death and rise again. A-NU is then the physical body of man on earth. The soul descends out of the waters of the abyss of the NUN, or space in its undifferentiated unity, which is the sign and name of all things negative. The NUN is indeed our “none.” Life in the completeness of its unity is negative. To become positively manifest it must differentiate itself into duality, establish positive-negative tension, and later split up into untold multiplicity. This brings out the significance of the Biblical word “multiply.” Life can’t manifest itself in concrete forms until it multiplies itself endlessly. Unit life of deity must break itself up into infinite fragments in order to fill empty space with a multitude of worlds and beings of different natures. The primal Sea or Mother must engender a multitudinous progeny, to spawn the limitless shoals of organic fish-worlds. This is the meaning of the promise given to Abraham, that his seed should multiply till it filled the earth with offspring countless as the sands of the seashore. And if life was symboled by bread, as the first birth, and by fish, as the second, then we might expect to find in old religious typology the allegory of a Christ figure multiplying loaves and fishes! Are we surprised to find that the Gospel Jesus does this very thing, multiplying the fish loaves and two small fishes to feed a multitude!
This is astonishing enough in all conscience, but it yields in wonder to the next datum of Comparative Religion which came to our notice as a further tie between the Bible and antecedent Egyptian mythology. Who can adequately measure the seriousness of the challenge which this item of scholarship presents to Gospel historicity? For a discovery of sensational interest came to light when a passage was found in the Book of the Dead which gave to Anu the characteristic designation, “the place of multiplying bread”! Here in the long silent tomes of old Egypt was found the original, the prototype, of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes in the Gospels of Christianity. And a meaning never before apprehended had to be read into this New Testament wonder. At last we were instructed to catch in the miracle the sense that the physical body, as A-NU, was the place where the corpus of the Christ’s deific power was broken into an infinite number of fragments and distributed out among a multitude of creatures, enhungered after a three-days’ fast, or deprivation of the food of spiritual life in their sojourn in the three kingdoms, the mineral, vegetable and animal, before reaching the plane of mind. Here are all the elements of the inner meaning of the Christian Eucharist: the broken but multiplied fragments of the body of the god, distributed to feed hungry humanity. And as humanity is composed of twelve groups of divine conscious units, there were gathered up twelve baskets of fragments! And this episode of the Christ’s ostensible life is found to be Egyptian in origin and meaning and symbolic in character!
But new implications arise and lead us on to more startling disclosures. The Hebrews came along and appropriated Egyptian material. They picked up the name ANU and fitting it back into its zodiacal setting as Virgo, they called it the “house of Bread.” This required their adding to ANU their word for “house,” which, as anyone knows, is Beth. This yields us Beth-Anu. Now it is a fact of common philological knowledge that the ancient Greek and Egyptian “U” is rendered as “Y” when the words are brought over into English. The “U” became a “Y,” and Beth-Anu now stands before us as the Bethany of the Gospels! Bethany is thus just the sign of Virgo, as the “house of Bread,” the home of the great star Spica, the head of wheat!
But let us say “house of Bread” in ordinary Hebrew. What further astonishment strikes us here, as we find it reads Beth-Lehem (Lechem, Lekhem), for lechem, lekhem, is bread in everyday Hebrew. The Christ was born in Bethany or Bethlehem, the astrological “house of Bread.” (Later it seems that the two signs, Virgo and Pisces, and their symbols, bread and fish, were almost interchangeably confused or commingled in the symbolic imagery. This was natural, since the two signs represented the same body of man in its two aspects of dying and being reborn, and the two processes are confusedly interblended.)
If Pisces is then the “house” in which the Christ in man comes to his birth, it is pertinent to ask if there are evidences in the Bible or Christianity that Jesus was colored with the fish typology. Here we encounter material enough to provide another nine-days’ wonder. For we find the Gospel Jesus marked with many items of the Piscean symbology. He picks his twelve disciples from the ranks of fishermen (in Egypt they were as well carpenters, reapers, harvesters, sailors, rowers, builders, masons, potters, etc.); he told Peter to find the gold in the fish’s mouth; he performed the miraculous draught of fishes; he declared that he would make them “fishers of men.” In the catacombs under Rome the symbol of the two fishes crossed was displayed on the Christ’s forehead, at his feet, or on a plate on the altar before him. And the Romans for several centuries dubbed the early Christians Pisciculi, or “Little Fishes,” members of the “fish-cult.” And the Greeks denominated the Gospel Jesus as Ichthys, the Fish. All this fish symbolism can’t be explained away as sheer incident material. It is the product of ancient custom, which figured the Christs under the symbolism of the reigning sign of the zodiac, according to the precession of the equinoxes.
And yet another surprising correlation comes to view. The Christ, as it has here been delineated, is the offspring or creation of a conception of deific Mind, first in the inner bosom of spiritual matter, then in organic bodily structure. Primeval space, we have seen, was called in Egypt the NUN, or the Waters of the Nun. All Bible students recognize a familiar ring in the phrase “Joshua, Son of Nun.” But so far has ignorance and obscurantism gone with its deadly work in Christian literalism that hardly anyone knows with definiteness that Joshua is just a variant name for Jesus. The phrase is actually written in some old documents as “Jesus, Son of Nun.” At any rate Joshua is just Jesus, no less. So here is the Christ, called Jesus, son of the aboriginal space, or the NUN. But the wonder increases when we turn to the Hebrew alphabet and find that while “M” is called and spelled “Mem” and means “water,” “N” is called and spelled “Nun” and means – of all things – “Fish”! Jesus, then, is son of Pisces, the Fish-sign, as he indeed is in the Gospels themselves.
And Horus, the Egyptian Christ, who is identical with the Jesus of the Gospels in some one hundred and eighty particulars, performed at Anu a great miracle. He raised his father Osiris from the dead, calling unto him in the cave to rise and come forth. Anu, as we have seen, became Bethany of the Gospels; and it was at Bethany that Jesus raised Lazarus from death! And who was Lazarus? Here the greatest of all the marvels in this chain of comparative data unfolds under our eyes. According to Budge and other eminent Egyptologists the ancient designation of Osiris was ASAR. But the Egyptians invariably expressed reverence for deity by prefixing the definite article “the” to the names of their Gods. Just as Christians say, or should say, the Christ, they said: the Osiris. It will be found that the article connoted deity in ancient usage. Our definite article, “the” is the root of the Greek word theos, God; the Spanish article, masculine, “el,” is the Hebrew word for God; and the Greek masculine article, “ho,” is a Chinese word for deity. To say the Osiris was equivalent to saying Lord Osiris. When the Hebrews took up the Egyptian phrases and names they converted the name of “the Osiris” or “Lord Osiris” directly into their own vernacular, and the result was “El-Asar.” Later on the Romans, speaking Latin, took up the same material that had come down from revered Egyptian sources and to “El-Asar” they added the common Latin termination of the second declension masculine nouns, in which most men’s names ended, namely, “-us”; and the result was now “El-Asar-us.” In time the initial “E” wore off, as the scholars phrase it, and the “s” in Asar changed into its sister letter “z,” leaving us holding in our hands the Lazarus whom Jesus raised at Bethany! To evidence that this derivation is not a fanciful invention or sheer coincidence the Biblical names of High Priests may be cited. We find one with the name of El(e)azar and another by name Azar-iah, “iah” or “jah” being suffixes of great deific connotation, matching “el.” And so we are faced with the irrefutable evidence of Comparative Religion that Jesus’ raising of Lazarus at Bethany is but a rescript of the old Egyptian dramatic mystery in which Horus, the Christ, raised his “dead” father Osiris, or El-Asar-us from the grave. And the Egyptian recital was in the papyri perhaps 5000 years B.C.
Also at the Egyptian scene were present the two divine sisters, Isis and Nephthys. An old source-name for Isis was Meri, basic for the Latin mare, the sea. The Egyptian plural of Meri was Merti. In Latin feminine form this became Mertae. In Hebrew it resolved into what was rendered in English as Martha. So even in the ancient Egyptian transaction there were present the two Maries, or Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus!
All this sets the stage for the crowning item in the correspondence. In the Gospel drama John the Baptist bears the character of the firstborn or natural man, coming first to prepare the ground or make straight the path for the advent of the spiritual man or Lord Christ. He would therefore stand as the son of the water-mother, Virgo, and under the astrological symbolism would be born at the autumn equinox, or in his mother’s house. On the other side of the cycle of descent and resurrection Jesus, the Christos, would be the son of the fish-mother, and would be born in his mother’s house, Pisces. These houses are six months apart astrologically. The whole edifice of Gospel historicity trembles under the impact of the strange dramatic circumstance, given in Luke, that the annunciation to Mary of her impregnation by the Holy Ghost came when John the Baptist was six months in Elizabeth’s womb. The natural man, having covered the “six months” between his birth and the date of his quickening into spiritual status in the evolutionary cycle, was thus quickened, or leaped in his mother’s womb, when the time for the birth, or advent, of the spiritual Christ had arrived. The water baptism was to be consummated with the fire at the baptism of Jesus by John, a fire was kindled in the waters of the Jordan!
St. Paul declares that we come to birth spiritually only as we die carnally, which means that the quantum of divine character in us grows in proportion as the quantum of raw nature declines. As the spiritual man, Jesus, son of Nun, the fish, increases, the natural man, John, son of Virgo, the Water, must decrease. Astrologically, as a constellation or star sinks below the horizon in the west, its opposite constellation would be rising in the east. As John, type of the natural first birth, went down, Jesus, type of the spiritual second birth, rose on the world. And, says John the Baptist: “I must decrease as he must increase”!
On the analogy, might one venture to predict that a new day of brotherhood in human society may be about to dawn, as the “six months’” reign of a degrading literal interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures goes down to desuetude and the day-star of a transfiguring spiritual interpretation rises in the east?
TRAGEDY DIES IN LAUGHTER
Little could the ancient mythologists and sages have foreseen that the “fabulous narrations” which their genius devised to cloak high truth would end by plaguing the mind of the Western world with sixteen centuries of unconscionable stultification. They could not possibly imagine that their allegorical constructions to dramatize spiritual truth would so miscarry from their hidden intent as to cast the mental life of half the world for ages under the cloud of the most grotesque superstition known to history. Nor could they have dreamed that the gross blindness and obtuseness of later epochs would cite these same marvelously ingenious portrayals as the evidence of childish crudity on the part of their formulators. Who could have suspected that a body of the most signal instrumentalities for conveying and preserving deep knowledge ever devised by man would become the means of centuries of mental enslavement?
Nothing more clearly evidences the present age’s loss of fixed moorings in philosophical truth than the inconsistency of its attitudes toward the sacred scriptures of antiquity. The general mind, indoctrinated by priestcraft, regards them as infallible revelations and holds them as fetishes, which it were a sacrilege to challenge; while theological scholarship hedges from pious veneration of them over to outright skepticism of their divine origin, swinging more recently to a view which takes them to be the simple conceptions of men just emerging from cave and forest barbarism. The character of divine dictation and absolute wisdom assigned to them on the one thesis has yielded to that of ignorant speculation of primitive folk on the other. That there is a possible truer characterization of them lying midway between the extravagances of these two extreme views has not seemed to come through to intelligence at any time. It has not occurred to students of religion that ancient scripts are the work neither of Supreme Deity on the one side, nor of groping infantile humanity on the other, but that their production must be sought in a region intermediate between the two. They came neither from supernal Deity nor from common humanity, but from humanity divinized! They were the output of normal humans graduating to divine or near-divine status, St. Paul’s “just men made perfect.” Their divinity is therefore not transcendent and exotic, and their humanity is not crude and doltish. They bear the marks, therefore, of human sagacity exalted to divine mastership.
When a student graduates creditably from a college he is presumed to have acquired a mastery over the field of knowledge covered in his course. Human life is a school, and why should not its graduates be presumed to have gained mastery over the range of knowledge which it covers, and to be able to write authoritatively upon it? Humans must at some time attain the goal, the prize of the high calling of God in Christly illumination, the crown of glorious intelligence. Life’s school issues no diploma of graduation without attainment, for the graduation is the attainment. We have here the ground for the only sane acceptance of the ancient scriptures as books of accredited wisdom. We are neither asked to believe them inscribed by the finger of omnipotent Deity, nor forced to attribute them to the undeveloped brains of primitives. They can be seen as the products of the sage wisdom garnered by generations of men who had finally risen to clear understanding. They are the literary heritage bequeathed by men grown to the stature of divinity. Their veneration by the world for long centuries, even carried to the extreme of outrageous sycophancy, attests an indestructible tradition of their origination from sources accredited as divine and infallible. Their successful hold on the popular mind for many ages bespeaks also the unshakeable foundations of their wisdom. They have withstood consistently the test of generations of human experience. Their wisdom holds against life; it rings true. And it is all the more precious to us because of its authorship by men of our own evolution, since thereby it does not miss immediate pertinence to our life.
Both the conventional views of Bible authorship have militated against the possible high service of the scriptures to mankind. The theory of their divine dictation to “holy men of old” has led to the abject surrender of the rational mind before their impregnable fortress of direct assertion, its hypnotization by a fetish, and the crippling of its native energies. The theory of their production by early crudity tends to the disparagement of the value and validity of their message. The other view here advanced preserves their venerated authority while it brings their authorship from alleged Cosmic Divinity back to men of earth. It saves us from the fatuous claim that “God” took time out to dictate a volume of absolute verity for the inhabitants of a minor planet amongst millions of trillions of such worlds. Relieving us of the necessity of asserting that Supreme Deity went into the book publishing business on this globe and took advantage of his commanding position to write the planet’s “best seller,” it preserves mental integrity by enabling us to assign scriptural authorship to human agency, where alone it is acceptable. It is understandable that evolved men, with vision opened to knowledge of the laws of life, would indite sage tomes for the enlightenment of those less advanced. In any case the Bibles are here; they must be accounted for. The phenomenon of their existence among the nations, their hoary age, their escape from destruction through the centuries, the ineradicable tradition of their divine origin and authority, their almost universal veneration, must all find some factual ground of explanation. The theory offered in refutation of the two conventional ones seems the only one that provides such a rational and acceptable basis. And since the belief in their sacredness generally persists, it can’t be regarded as less than momentous that the world should know of a surety that, while these revered relics are not the voice of the personified Cosmos, neither are they the mere speculative romancing of cavemen or scholastics. They are the sure word of perfected wisdom.
There was a time, then, in early human history, when enlightened men possessed true knowledge, the passport to wisdom. Clear and concise answers to the profoundest problems of philosophy were known. In so far as the human intellectual faculty is capable of it, an understanding of the mystery and riddle of life itself and the laws of its evolutionary unfolding, was achieved by men who, as Hermes says, had been “reborn in mind.” Philosophy was no mere “speculative enterprise,” or tilting at logical windmills; it was a statement of the fundamental archai, or basic principles, of the science of being. It formed the groundwork for the elevation of theology to its true place as the King of Sciences, or the Kingly Science. Together philosophy and theology held the throne in the mental life of mankind; and justly so, for a reason which modern thought would do well to consider: they must ever be the ultimate science because they motivate finally the use we make of all other sciences! They hold final answers to all life’s problems. They are the determination of all human action in the end. They alone can direct man finally to the path of good, for by no other means can he learn to know what constitutes the good. The sore need of the world today is the restoration of philosophy, to supply the proper motivation and end of action.
Though zealously guarded from the unworthy by its accredited custodians, knowledge was extant in the ancient day. Modern zeal for publicity finds it hard to understand why it was so sedulously kept esoteric. Briefly – for the full reason is a lengthy matter – a thing so precious, the distillation of ages of experience and the deposit of many lives of painful earning, could not be given out loosely to the undisciplined rabble to be violated and despoiled. Yet it was withheld from no worthy aspirant. No bars of bigotry or persecution interdicted its free culture. The Societies in which it was secretly pursued were honored by kings and the populace alike.
That halcyon age passed, that priceless legacy of knowledge was threatened with extinction, its pursuit was forbidden, its devotees assailed and exterminated; and for more than fifteen centuries the Occidental world has muddled through its age-to-age existence in nearly total ignorance of the fact that antiquity held, in its philosophy and theology, an adequate answer to the great interrogatory, the Sphinx riddle of human life.
The gift and then the loss of primal wisdom are the two most momentous events in human history. This age will be spectator to the third most significant event – the Renaissance of Ancient Culture. The plans of demi-gods and divine men, interrupted for fifteen centuries of the Dark Ages, will move forward again toward destined goals.
This age faces the denouement of a drama the like of which has not been unrolled in world history before and will hardly be repeated in aeons. Tragedy and comedy being copiously admixed in mortal existence, the astounding spectacle to which the world will shortly awake will exhibit untold calamity and the ludicrous conjoined in incredible fashion. We are destined soon to pass from a stunning sense of tragic loss to a world-echoing burst of laughter. The sting of our realization of our duo-millennial loss will melt away under the dawning recognition of our previous unbelievable stupidity. We are in a little time to be made acutely aware of a situation that will become the butt of hollow mirth for ages to come. Other egregious follies of history can be accepted or extenuated to the point of being condoned and forgotten. But this colossal ineptitude, prolonged over sixteen centuries, can’t escape being laughed at for centuries more. A joke owes its character to the miscarriage of the intended sense into something ludicrously different. This denouement will stand as the historical joke of the ages. No less than this quantity of hilarity can balance the weight of the tragedy which loads the joke at the other end. For the ludicrously different direction in which the intended sense of the great mythical religions and dramatic rituals of the past took its perverted course entailed as a consequence the greatest of all historical tragedies, – the frightful chapter of religious bigotry and persecution. This worst of all forms of man’s inhumanity to man was bred out of the miscarriage of the concealed meaning of the ancient spiritual myth. The transaction carried the form of a joke, but it also carried the substance of the most appalling terrorism in history. And this most calamitous of all blunders was the mistaking of religious myth, drama and allegory for veridical history!
The promise of our coming awakening lies in the progress made and to be made in the study of Comparative Religion, Comparative Mythology and Comparative Philology. What they will ere long make clear to us beyond further dispute is the almost unthinkable fact that for sixteen centuries the best intelligence of the West took the ancient sages’ Books of Wisdom, which were in all cases the spiritual dramatizations of the experience of the human soul on earth, for objective historical narratives. The spectacle that will soon throw a world first into wonder, confusion and dismay, and then into clownish laughter, is that of a civilization covering one third of the globe, and boasting itself as the highest in culture in the historical period, all the while taking its moral and spiritual guidance for an aeon from a Book or Books, of the true content and meaning of which it never for a moment has had the slightest inkling.
The superior knowledge vouchsafed from early graduates in life’s school to disciplined pupils in the Mysteries of old was transmitted from generation to generation by oral teaching and preserved only in memory. But later, lest it be lost or corrupted, it was consigned to writing. Hence came the Sacred Books, Scriptures, Holy Writ, of antiquity. So highly were they held in the esteem of early men that when in later days their true origin and character had been forgotten, they were exalted to the position of veritable fetishes and assigned a quite preternatural source and rating. Regarded as books of superhuman intelligence, men have in face of them practically set in abeyance their human reason and bowed to them as the oracles of absolute Truth. This was natural and to a degree inevitable. But it spelled catastrophe to the general mental life of man by fixing upon him the basest hypnotization in all the annals of record, when a literal and historical, instead of a purely spiritual and typical interpretation of the books was broadcast to general acceptance. The evidence is mountain high that the taking of ancient ritual dramas and scriptural myths for objective history and the figures in them for human persons has been the fountain source of the most abject corruption of man’s mental forces since the race began.
In mechanical exploit this is an age of marvel, and credit for this type of achievement should not be withheld. In study of life and its objective powers it has labored with wondrous accomplishment. In psychological delving into deeper phases of consciousness it has begun a pursuit long neglected. But in religion and philosophy it is one of the blindest of ages. It is not overstating the case to say that in these areas of human enterprise the mind of this era still slumbers in a state of ineptitude and gross darkness at least a degree or two below that commonly termed barbaric. At this moment the common mentality of the day, led and fed by a compactly institutionalized ecclesiastical power, stands committed to ideas as to the origin, structure, meaning and destiny of life which have not been surpassed in crudity and chimerical absurdity by the tribes of the forest and the sea isles. Conceptions in theology having to do with basic realities of man’s relation to the universe are still presented in pulpits, Sunday Schools and Theological Seminaries which the uncorrupted native intelligence of children of eight and ten years shrinks from or accepts with startled dismay, – to the subsequent confusion of their whole mental integrity. A “scheme” of explanation of cosmic processes and world design, of human and angelic relations, of the plan and purport of life itself, is advanced for popular acceptance, yet is grotesque to common sense and fantastic to rational thought. Philosophy and religion are still propagated on the basis of a theology that is received without understanding by the “common people,” entirely repudiated by the intelligentsia and brazenly dissembled by the very priesthood that lips its cantos and its oracles from Sunday to Sunday. In sum it can be said without the remotest possibility of successful dispute that the general grasp of the mind of this age on philosophical verity and the truth of life, as proffered by orthodox religionism, is still steeped in the crassest forms of dark superstition. And this has been due to the miscarriage of ancient symbolism.
History would seem to present a pattern of retrogressive current if it can be shown that this late epoch grovels in a mire of semi-barbaric philosophical grossness from which a former period was free. Degeneracy must have set in at some distant time and swept onward to this day. And such a phenomenon must have had its due cause. A great work of a learned author some years ago pointed to the approaching “decline of the West.” What has not been seen, however, is that the West has long been in decline, is at a low stage of decay, and has not risen out of the murks of the Dark Ages. This has come in the wake of causes long operative in the world situation, which have been overlooked or failed of discovery through an egregious obscuration of the vision of scholars since the early centuries. And if this failure of insight is not to be attributed to stupidity that is in itself beyond understanding, then it becomes necessary for the historian of these things to posit for it another cause, one that casts the dark shadow of sinister motive over the whole course of that historical enterprise in which sinister motive is of all places most unpardonable. Corruption in politics or in economic or social life can be understood in relation to the imperfection of human nature, and in a measure pardoned. But designed corruption in religion is shattering to the very foundations of human aspiration. It shocks and paralyzes fundamental urges to sincerity. It weights the human spirit with the hopelessness of its effort to conquer imperfection. Dishonesty and insincerity in worldly dealings may entail disaster of greater or minor degree. In religion they are never less than fatal. There is one domain in which untruth is insupportable, that field of the human soul’s endeavor of which Truth is the very substance and being, – religion.
Whether stupidity or sinister design prove to have been the cause of the loss of true original meaning must be left to the historical sequel to disclose. And whether the cause of the perpetuation of rank superstition in the present day of alleged enlightenment is to be laid at the door of ignorance or knavery or a combination of both, must likewise be determined as time moves on. It is certain that both the primal and the present causes of nescience are kindred, if not identical.
It is the purpose of the present volume to set forth to the modern mind the extent of the wreckage which splendid ancient wisdom suffered at the hands of later incompetence. And it is designed to accomplish this by setting up the sharp contrast between the present disfigurement and the past glory of the structure. This purpose entails the task of revealing for the first time the hidden meaning of the body of archaic scriptures by means of a clear and lucid interpretation of their myths and allegories, fables and dramas, astrological pictographs and numerological outlines. It will be at once seen to be a labor of no mean proportions to convert the entire mass of antique mythology and legend, Biblical graph and cryptogram, from presumed childish nonsense into an organic corpus of transcendent scientific significance. It involves the reversal of that mental process which in the days of early Christianity operated to change myth and allegory in the first instance over to factual history. As third century ignorance converted mythical typology to objective history, the task is now to convert alleged objective history back to mythology, and then to interpret it as enlightened theology. The almost insuperable difficulty of the project will consist in demonstrating to an uncomprehending world, mistaught for centuries and now fixed in weird forms of fantastic belief, that the sacred scriptures of the world are a thousand times more precious as myths than as alleged history. It can only be done by showing that as myths they illumine and exalt the mind to unparalleled clarity, while as assumed history they are either nonsensical or inconsequential. But centuries of erroneous indoctrination have so warped and victimized the modern mind that the effort to restore the scriptures to their primal mythical status will be met with the objection that the transaction will wipe the Bible and other sacred literature out of the realm of value altogether. In the common mind this would be to rob them of worth and significance utterly. So wretchedly has the ancient usage of the religious myth been misunderstood that the cry, “the Bible only a myth!”, will fall upon the popular ear with all the catastrophic force and finality of the tolling of a death knell. And no statement that words can phrase will stand as a more redoubtable testimony to the correctness of this estimate of the present stupefaction of modern intelligence concerning religious philosophy than just this reaction. Ridi- cule, contempt and flat rejection will be the greeting accorded the proclamation that Biblical myth is truer and more important than Biblical history. Our book aims at nothing less than the full proof of this contention. It flies directly in the face of the awaiting scorn of common opinion on the point at issue. Yet nothing is easier than to demonstrate that Bible material taken as history is the veriest nonsense. Anyone with an analytic mind and an imagination to convert its narratives into realism can make it a laughing-stock. The Voltaires, Paines, Ingersols and the freethinkers have done this successfully enough. But having disproved it as history, they have not redeemed it as spiritual mythology. The world awaits this work of interpretation, and only when it is supplied will the full force of the tragic humor of mistaking drama for history be grasped.
The loss or corruption of the philosophical interpretation of ancient scriptures precipitated the West into the Dark Ages, and a main factor in this disaster was a general obscuration of intelligence concerning the myth. Catastrophe was made the more readily possible because the rationale of the use of the myth in ancient hands passed from knowledge. When the recondite suggestiveness of the myth was lost, the inner essence of esoteric wisdom was dissipated away. Philosophy died out. And, bereft of its inner soul, the myth came to stand as the mere ghost of itself. With its hidden significance gone, it read nonsense and caricature. And so it has stood till this day. The word connotes in the popular mind of the present something about equivalent to fairy-tale, a fiction little removed from a “hoax.” It is something that is sheer fanciful invention. To declare a narrative formerly believed to be true “only a myth” is to toss it out on the rubbish heap as a thing no longer of value. This attitude of mind toward the myth is itself the sign and seal of the decadence of this age. For ancient sagacity could hardly have assumed that any succeeding age would prove so obtuse as to take the outward form of its spiritual allegories for factual occurrence, or suppose that their formulators believed them to be true objectively.
To be sure, they are fanciful creations and entirely fictitious. They are fables of events which, as events, never happened. The aim was never at any time to deceive anybody. It was never imagined that anybody would ever “believe” them. Nevertheless the myth was designed to tell truth of the last importance. Its instrument was fancy, but its purpose was not falsehood, but sublime truth. Outwardly it was not true, but at the same time it portrayed full truth. It was not true for its “characters,” but was true for all mankind. It was only a myth, but it was a myth of something. It used a false story to relate a true one. While it never happened, it is the type of all things that have happened and will happen. It is not objective history, but it embalms the import and substance, the heart’s core, of all human history. Such authors as Spengler and Lord Raglan have begun to see that the ancients regarded it of far less importance to catalogue the occurrences of objective history than to dramatize its inner “spirit.” The outward actions of humans are in the main trivial, because they constitute in the end only a partial and ephemeral account of whole verity. Ancient literature aimed at something infinitely higher and more universal. It strove to depict in the myths and dramas the eternal norms of life experience, which would stand as truth for all men at any time in evolution. The myths were cryptographs of the great design and pattern of human history, limning in the large the truth that is only in fragmentary fashion brought to living enactment in any given set of historical circumstances. The myth is always truer than history! Only in aeons will history have caught up with the myth, when it will have unfolded the entire design of the original mythograph. Hegel indeed essayed to read the features of a grand cosmic design in the straggling line of actual events. But the myth already foreshadows the ultimate meaning of history.
Such being the portentous function of the myth in the early stages of the life of humanity, it becomes in some degree apparent what blindness must have fallen upon the mental eye of practically a whole world to have blotted out in little more than a single century the knowledge of a thing of such vast utility. No matter how conclusively the data may prove the fact, it will probably remain forever incomprehensible to unstudied folk that whole bodies of ancient mythology and spiritual typology, suddenly became metamorphosed into alleged history. And because it ensued through sheer gaucherie and clumsy loutish dumbness, it will, as predicted, rise on our horizon as the supreme folly of the ages. When it is realized that an early gift of divine wisdom, planned to aid the race fight through the exigencies of its historical evolution, totally miscarried into tragic nonsense through the simple mistake of taking spiritual allegory for literal history, a humiliated world will find difficulty in ridding its memory of this preposterous blunder.
Deprived thus of a legacy of transcendent knowledge vouchsafed for its instruction, Western humanity has wound a tortuous path through dangerous terrain that the lost wisdom would have enabled it to avoid. It has been a journey made without the guiding light that had been given to render the road more easily passable. Civilization has floundered in the shoals and quicksands of ignorance. And its contemporary phase presents the strangest of spectacles, – that of a modern culture boasting its superiority over any antecedent one, yet admittedly guided in its ethical life by a Book of which it is now possible to affirm that not the most rudimentary sense of its message has ever been apprehended. The declaration can be made and supported that the Bible is still a sealed book. This study will vindicate that declaration by setting forth the hidden meaning of ancient scripture for the first time. Gross misinterpretation cannot be seen as such until its product has been set down alongside a true rendering. The crudeness and baseness of a literal and historical translation of the sense will only be brought into glaring light by being held up against a background of the clarity and dignity of a true spiritual meaning.
The promised interpretation is not predicated upon the play of a genius superior to that of the accumulated scholarship and acumen of centuries of religious students and theologians in Christendom. It was made possible purely by the discovery of clues and “keys” to the old scriptures hidden deeply in the tomes of ancient literature, which had escaped the notice of the long line of exegetical inquirers. If wonder and skepticism arise over the difficulty of understanding why discovery was made at this epoch and not in so long a time before, the answer is most probably to be found in the fact that the thousands who failed approached the study of ancient treasure-tomes with an attitude of mind that made defeat inevitable, while success came finally through an attitude that, if it did not of itself guarantee victory, at least opened the door to it. This is of immense significance and carries a weighty moral connotation with it. With the scales fallen at last from the eyes of purblind prejudice, it can be patently enough seen that there was little chance of discovery of the cryptic burden of ancient books as long as scholars undertook their study with the ingrained and obstinate assurance that they were the products of primitive infantilism. Ever thus have the archaic volumes been approached by Orientalists and Western savants. It is next to unbelievable to discover in what a rigid posture of predetermined estimate the scrutiny of antique writings has been undertaken by Western Christian scholars. Even when the evidence of sage wisdom was present under the eye, the relentless force of the fixation could never rest content until it had read the imputation of simpleness and crudity into the text. If early literature did not manifestly read as folly, it had to be made to do so. The inviolable presupposition in the case was that by no possibility could it be admitted that the ancients knew a modicum of what we know today. If it was to be granted that the seers of yore knew life truly and profoundly, it would be gall to modern intellectual pride, and the very walls of boasted modern superiority would be breached. The content of old scripts, mysterious and haunting as it often appeared, had to be explained on the basis of primitive naïveté of mind. By no right were the supposed aborigines of remote times entitled to the presumption of high knowledge or a scientific envisagement of the world. No thesis found in modern view could account for the prevalence of developed culture in the early stages of the chart of progressive evolution as at present conceived. The assignment of puerile nescience to the civilizations of even three and four thousand years ago had to be vindicated at all costs. The rating of primitives for early men had to be maintained.
Little wonder, then, that a literature scanned with such a blighting spirit never yielded its buried light. Supercilious contempt blinded the eyes of inquiry and closed the mind to all discovery. Obdurately refusing to admit the possibility of the presence of knowledge, no amount of search would reveal it. All the surer was inquiry doomed to failure in this field, when the most exalted genius the world ever knew had been at pains to disguise the outward appearance of that knowledge. It was only when at last the arcane writings were inspected with the eager spirit of genuine seeking and the reverent assurance of their holding precious mines of instruction, that the open sesame unlocked a hoard of hidden wealth.
If it shatters current orthodoxy in science or philosophy to establish the fact that archaic man possessed supernal sapiency, then shattering there must be. The thing cannot be obviated. It is a fact that out of the night of antiquity looms the giant light of transcendent intelligence on the part of numerous sages. At a period remote enough to be con- temporary with the times incorrigibly marked as “primitive” by historians, the ancients possessed books of such exalted spiritual and intellectual content as to lie yet beyond the comprehension of vaunted modern intelligence! Modern pride must face the situation: “primitive” people already possessed books which by no possibility could have been produced by “primitive” mentality. Books which only sages could have written bespeak the presence of sages on the scene.
And sages there were. Popular academic theory must perforce revise its postulates in the case. It has stubbornly refused to admit the operation of a law of life in this situation which it sees at work everywhere else in the realm of genetic procedure. Universal observation yields the truth that infant life is everywhere parented. The period of helpless infancy is safeguarded by parental oversight. The elder generation is at hand to protect, nurture and instruct the young of every kind. Modern theory admits the prevalence of this rule everywhere – except strangely in the biological history of the human race as a unit. Granting the sway of the principle in the case of the individual, animal or human, it has refused to predicate its governance over the early life of humanity as an entity. But the presence of sapient writings, the evidence of great lost arts, and the remains of structures surpassing present achievement, attest incontrovertibly the uniform working of the law of parenthood here as elsewhere. The human race was parented. It was not left to struggle through its helpless infancy without guardianship. Ancient legend in the mass bears this out. Prehistoric lore teems with the stories of heroes and men of divine stature, demi-gods and sons of God who mingled with humanity, and who left codes of laws and manuals of civilization that manifest a mastery not possible of acquirement by primitives. Hermes, Orpheus, Cadmus, Zoroaster, Hammurabi, Manu, Buddha, Laotse, Moses, and even Plato and Pythagoras, hover in the dim light of remote legendary times as figures transcending normal human stature, and leaving behind writings that have been held up as the norm of perfect wisdom and conduct down the centuries. The Laws of Manu have stood for ages as the prototype of all legal and social codes since formulated. Hermes, Orpheus taught the nations agriculture, writing, astronomy, language, religion, philosophy and science, the saga runs.
Hence there is posited for the first time a natural and competent answer to the great and insistent question of the authorship of primeval books overpassing even present capability. The authorship of the sages removes these books at once from the category of merely human speculation and places them securely in the place of authority and authenticity. They were the products, not of early man’s groping tentatives to understand life, but of evolved men’s sagacious knowledge and matured experience. On no other ground can their perennial durability and universal power be accounted for. The early races obviously received and treasured these documents with the same high reverence with which the human child receives the codes and rules of conduct first handed down to it by its parents, who stand to it in loco Dei. If the primal world-reverence is found wanting in certain groups today, it is due not so much to the fact that the books have proven of unsound merit, but to the failure to know what they actually say. They are uninterpreted to this moment. They could not be scorned if their intrinsic meaning was known. The republication of that lost meaning will restore the bibles to universal veneration, but not as fetishes.
Incidentally all speculation of scholars as to the date of the personal authorship of the Bible books or other ancient documents of the kind must be declared to be pure and simple impertinence. Nobody knows or can know what hand first set these verses to paper, or at what epoch. The books are of unknown antiquity. They were extant thousands of years B.C. When they passed from oral impartation to written form none can say. Hundreds of volumes proclaim Moses to have been the writer of the Pentateuch. Yet the last of the five books describes Moses’ death and burial, and adds that not in a long cycle since his day (estimated by scholars at six hundred years at least) hath there been found one like unto him in wisdom and piety in all Israel! To ascribe any of the Bible books to any named writer is to trespass on the ground of folly. Indeed it is possible to assert that, in the common meaning of the term, they were never “written” at all. No man sat down and composed them out of his thought or his knowledge. They were the outlines of a great universal tradition formulated by the accumulated wisdom of those first “parents” or “guardians” of infant humanity, and, like the thousands of lines of the great Homeric poems, which had been held purely in the memory of the Hellenes for five hundred years, were finally committed by scribes to written form. Thus came those set formulations of systematic knowledge, cosmic data and moral codes, that have survived the test of time and still stand as sacred commitments. Their material presents the substantial truth of life, and not primitive man’s erratic guessings. And sixteen hundred years of the most consecrated effort to study them has left their meaning still unrevealed.
But the Western mind has begun to delve into the fathomless spiritual philosophies of the ancient East. The renaissance of Oriental thought, which was first quickened by Schopenhauer in Europe and by Emerson in America, is now sweeping Occidental religious consciousness to a new and lofty height of vision and uplift. The eminent psychologist, C. G. Jung, declares this movement to be the most significant taking place in the thought life of today. The philosophy that could give an expansive illumination to a brain like Emerson’s is proving a fount of light and incentive to millions more at present.
The mask of literary disguise is being slowly lifted from the face of ancient scripture, and what has been gratuitously assumed to be the product of primitive naïveté and ignorance is now seen to be the many-colored cloak of recondite wisdom. Even so apparently quixotic a construction as the body of Greek myths, which has gained for its originators the imputed status of moronism, bewildering and baffling the world for two millennia, is to be revealed as perhaps the most lucid presentment of philosophical truth ever given to the world. The light so long buried under a bushel of myths is beginning to shine through. Not only do they bear the impress of a genius able to portray mighty truth in fable and fiction, but they register an equal skill in artful concealment. Their employment of the craft of disguise has carried them so far beyond us that we have been gulled into taking the mask for the reality. The devisers of the myths were master dramatists and poets. With such deft touches did they weave the pattern of cosmic, mundane, spiritual and physical truth through their myriad narratives of gods and men, mermaids, harpies, satyrs, centaurs, stags and boars, labyrinths, rivers, trees and stars, that not the most outlandish detail of their fabrications can be ignored without the loss of some signal link of meaning. Generations of scholars, chained in the cave of orthodoxy with their backs to the light, have perennially scoffed at the idea that the myths might be fanciful portrayals of esoteric truth. And we have charged the most enlightened races in history, the Greeks, Chaldeans and Egyptians, with possessing the mentality of immature children. We accused them of taking their three-headed dogs, their fire-breathing dragons, their griffins, naiads, Cyclops, Circes and Medusas for sure-enough actualities. We were sure we could afford to laugh at the simpleness of a people who ascribed the summer’s drought to Phaëthon’s losing control of the horses of Apollo’s sun-chariot. But modern presumption must brace itself for a rude jolt, when it shortly transpires that not one in a hundred of our population will be able to grasp the involved and profound signification of the Phaëthon myth even when it has been clearly set forth. Face to face with what we could not understand in ancient literature, we assumed that the unintelligibility was due to ancient unintelligence in the construction. That it might be due to our unintelligence in the comprehension was unthinkable. We could only hold our ground of supposed enlightenment by shifting our ignorance to the ancients. If the myths made no sense to us, it was proof that there was no sense in them. But history is soon to reverse judgment. The comics in the case will be found to be modern, not ancient. Not they, but we, will be adjudged the simple-minded children lacking insight. And we will see ourselves at last, clowns and buffoons, laughing and grimacing in hideous mockery of a treasure the value of which we cannot grasp.
Perhaps there will be wanting to us the powers of discernment needed to catch the grandeur of arcane systems of philosophy under their covering of allegory. Habits of thought and postures of mind hostile to the presuppositions of the archaic knowledge will not easily adjust themselves to new views. The attempt at a full revelation of buried meaning will come with a shock to current theological vanity, to the pride of present knowledge and to the complacency of the mechanistic cast of modern thought. But the release of the hidden significance of the world scriptures at this epoch may be destined to achieve our salvation from threatened social catastrophe. For the ancient wisdom held the prescription for both individual sanity and a righteous social order. Folly flourished only by grace of its despoliation.
The release of the enlightenment potentially held in the old books will challenge many traditional habitudes of mind and most of the lingering relics of theological inculcation. It will republish the postulates of ancient knowledge that have been lost or discredited and establish them once more as the principia of understanding for both the phenomena of life and the deep lore of the scriptures. Some of these, long without the pale of orthodox acceptance, will strangely have been found corroborated by late scientific discovery. The philosophical method was that of deduction, since it conceived life as unfolding in the outer order the pattern of things innately involved in its inner heart. The conclusion reached by evolutionists in present studies is that “evolution is centrifugal, developing outward from within the geneplasm, rather than centripetal, developing inward from without the geneplasm,” in the words of Henry Fairfield Osborn. Another late finding is that “evolution is creational rather than variational. Variation of the species is the result of an original creative pattern within the geneplasm which is there from the very beginning.” And a third pronouncement demolishes completely the theories of materialism, affirming that “evolution is prot-empirical rather than meta-empirical; the organs developing before there is any actual need for them rather than after the need for them arises.” Nature already carries in her womb the embryo of that which will come to form. Life works ahead to an end premeditated in the beginning, so that Aristotle’s scheme of “entelechy” is a sound principle in philosophy. Plato told us twenty-four hundred years ago that life is weaving on the field of manifestation the design of the archetypal ideas in the Cosmic Mind. Modern science and the clear interpretation of the arcane philosophy of the past will together restore Plato to his seat on the throne of mind.
The debate on teleology has been long and acrimonious. Negative conclusions have been fostered and apparently affirmed by the shortness of our perspective. The immensely extended outline of evolution envisioned by the cosmology of old will enable the mind to see the working of design. Mr. Clarence Darrow asks skeptically if the Lisbon earthquake was designed. As well might a colony of ants ask if the destruction of their burrow as we spade our garden was designed. Neither to the citizens of Lisbon nor to the ants in the garden would the philosophy of design be comforting. But we know that the digging was designed, not to destroy the ant-city, but to prepare the garden. So we may equally well know that the processes of world building were designed, not to destroy Lisbon, but to adjust the earth’s crust properly about it. The designed activities progressing in two different worlds happened to clash, man being no more intelligent about the plans of cosmic beings than the ant about human intentions. And as man cannot change his larger designs always for the convenience of ants in certain situations, or indeed may not even be aware that his designs jeopardize their lives, so neither presumably can higher beings alter their operations for the temporary advantage of little man. Neither man nor nature has yet learned how to work on in evolution without the element of some sacrifice of life. It does not impugn design in the course and speed of an automobile that a child has been unfortunate enough to drift into its path.
Centuries of world life have been lived all awry because the philosophical insight into the structure of archetypal design has been dulled and obscured. The outlines of the pattern of evolution formulated in the beginning by Cosmic Mind were known of old, but lost in the long interim. The world being the crystallized projection of a divine thought-form and history the slow filling out of the lines of the pattern, what man can know of the structure of the original ideation, or the Great Plan, becomes of incontestable importance. This was the base and content of the Ancient Philosophy. It must be restored to knowledge. Fortunately it has never been lost beyond recovery, merely lost out of common thought. It was safe even while unknown, being preserved in the amber of a subtle cryptography. Ignorance came along and swept out of ken the esoteric purport; but at the same time it perpetuated the myths and allegories, believing them to be history. Deluded piety made a hash of the sense of the scriptures, yet all unwittingly saved them for the advantage of a wiser age.
On the one hand materialism has ignored the spiritual nature and motivation of the universe; on the other, ecclesiastical zealotry, blinded by stupid literalism, has rendered religion ridiculous. The truth must combat untruth on both these fronts, rebuffing a philosophy that denies the ideal frame of things, and rebuking an eccentric religionism that distorts early truth into revolting irrationality. To redeem religion from ignominy it is necessary to stigmatize its historical caricature, ecclesiasticism. War must be declared on its falsities to vindicate its truth. Medieval and modern incrustations, excrescences and abnormalities of a hundred types must be brushed away, if the brilliance of the splendid original creation of supernal genius is to shine forth again. Plato’s theology and “divine philosophy” must be vindicated.
ECCE HOMO – ECCE DEUS
The modern zeal to exploit “the practical” is about one part good philosophy and nine parts sheer fatuity. The whole matter has been involved in the utmost fog and mental haze. The groundlessness of current notions of what constitutes “the practical” is readily disclosed by asking the question: What does modern man do with the gains which his practical effort has brought to him – wealth, comfort, means, freedom, competence? They bring him certain satisfactions, no doubt, and the answer in part is there. But often the satisfactions turn to ashes in his hands, or melt away as he reaches out to grasp them, or prove hollow soon or late. Their inadequacy and shallowness attest their futility and give “practical” philosophy the lie.
The entire question rests on the determination of what constitutes ultimate values in life itself, and this is only fixed by an adequate philosophy. To be sure, a basic ingredient in philosophy is experience, and a philosophy is largely a digest of experience. But philosophy is finally and inexorably the mind’s grasp of a set of formulas of meanings which array the data of experience into a meaningful pattern, or structural design, which design must eventually match the outline of the archetypal noumenal thought form projected by Cosmic Mind for this area of creation. Harmony with this immanent pattern is the insistent demand, as well as the touchstone and seal of truth. The lower mind in man, being a fragment of cosmic intellect, is by nature keen to recognize and register, by an expansive pleasure, the concord of its ideas with the overshadowing form of truth. Some knowledge of the features of this living mosaic is essential to the final allocation of values, else there will be no criterion other than an unauthoritative sensual hedonism to determine whether an experience or a philosophy is good or detrimental. All actions and opinions rate a final appraisal on the ground of a deposit they leave in consciousness, according as they harmonize or disagree with the cosmic thought structure that is working to manifestation in the process. They accord, or not, with the elemental pattern of creation. Deep within is a sense that registers in the outer mind the thrill of that accord or disagreement. The acuteness of this barometer of values may be viciously blunted, so that its registering sense is sadly vitiated. Yet in the end it speaks in the stern language of pain and discord for violation of its principles, and positive pleasure for virtuous action. And the final definition of “the practical” is that which relates the life of man ever closer to the form and substance of the primordial pattern laid down for human evolution.
Early theology presented the general cast and outline of the great cosmic plan of creation, in the reflected light of which mortal mind could frame the more or less definite graph of the structure of this life on earth. The profound philosophy, then, that rested on this stratum of basic knowledge brought the offices of the enlightened intelligence to the aid of the outer and less reliable pragmatic criteria in the ego’s effort to direct the evolution of the organism. Philosophical understanding thus in large measure could be made to obviate the toilsome methodology of trial and error, and both conserve available force and save valuable time and much suffering. One of the deep principles of the Buddha’s system was that “right knowledge” must come to save the individual from pitiable suffering arising from ignorance. If, as he averred, it is a fundamental truth that ignorance is the cause of sorrow, then knowledge is its antidote. And all the great religions of antiquity make this assertion. Says Hermes: “The vice of a soul is ignorance; the virtue of a soul is knowledge.” The Book of Proverbs in the Bible enjoins at length the prime necessity of getting wisdom, understanding, knowledge. Its preciousness is set above “all the things that thou canst desire.” It is glorified as an ornament of grace and a crown of life unto its possessor. In this document it is not placed second to Love or Christly Charity. By an invincible dialectic Plato and Socrates work out in dialogue after dialogue the proposition that one cannot be good until one knows what the good thing is, and even what it is good for. According to Rhys Davids in his Hibbert Lectures of 1881 on The Origin and Growth of Religions: Buddhism (p. 208), “it is not by chance that the foundation of the higher life, the gate to the heaven that is to be reached on earth, is placed, not in emotion, not in feeling, but in knowledge, in the victory over delusions. The moral progress of the individual depends, according to Buddhism, upon his knowledge. Sin is folly. It is delusion that leads to crime.” An editorial in the New York Times of June 20, 1938, well says that the hearts of such folks as the German persecutors of Jewry “are bitter only when their minds are dark,” and cites Voltaire’s trenchant utterance that “men will continue to commit atrocities as long as they continue to believe absurdities.” In so far as men act for reasons – instead of sheer brute impulse – the soundness or the imperfection of their “philosophy” in the case determines the good or evil quality of their deeds.
Knowledge has long been apostrophized as a beacon light, a lamp unto the feet. It seems to be an inexpugnable datum of history that fully enlightened sages of the past gave to infant humanity mighty formulations of cosmic truth, evolutionary schematism, wisdom of the last practical utility, and supernal knowledge of the worlds of men and of angels. They placed this torch in the hands of the early races for the advantage and behoof of all succeeding humanity. Precautions of the most extraordinary nature were taken to safeguard the deposit. But, miserabile dictu, the doltishness of historical groups at various times so far imperiled the gift that in a long period, roughly from the third century of Christianity until almost the present day, the open promulgation of the high teaching invited the bitterest persecution from the entrenched forces of cruder belief. Esoteric philosophy was forced to hide underground and make its way through the centuries by subterranean channels and covert devices. Barbarism threatened the utter extinction of previous light. Supervening ignorance swooped down upon and buried earlier knowledge. But in one of the resurgent waves of revival, the ancient light is breaking through the incrustation of ignorance once again. Wisdom is having its rebirth.
Obscuration enveloped brighter enlightenment because mankind seems unable to maintain its hold on the golden mean between extreme views. It is constantly following the swing of the pendulum from one movement to violent reaction in an opposite direction. Religious history is in the main a record of oscillation between arrant supernaturalism and soulless naturalism. The group mind bends far over to mystic or spiritistic faith on one side, and then sways equally far over to a dead materialism. It is either believing in angels, ghosts, spirits, saints, virgin births, elementals, divine interventions, miracles, transfigura- tions, salvations, vicarious atonements; or it is rebounding from these to blank mechanism which rates all such things as delusions. In his revulsion from eccentric mysticism man has sought always the wrong antidote – a barren naturalism. In his revulsion from the latter he has again always gone too far into uncritical mysticism. But there is a middle position that meets the essential truth between both attitudes. And the soul science of old set forth this median position. It presented mystic elements without irrationality, and advanced such knowledge of spiritual experience as to make the negation of such values impossible. Ancient theology was the science that dealt with the more sublimated essences and forces latent in the human endowment, exploiting them for the vast enrichment of the conscious life. It was the science of spiritual growth without mystic extravagance, the science of dynamically real elements in the psychic constitution of man, the very existence of which mechanistic science has disregarded. What the ancients called esoteric science is but the steady direct penetration of human intelligence into the deeper heart of nature, to manipulate creatively her hidden springs of power. It was based on a knowledge of the laws ruling the higher octaves in the diapason of consciousness. It was firmly grounded on premises which authenticated the existence of the soul as an entity. The soul has ever been the scarecrow in the garden of positive science. But modern science has itself re-established the ground for such a predication in its recent findings with regard to the more sublimated constitution of matter, making a way for the reification of bodies of sub-atomic or ethero-spiritual composition, in which a unit of soul might find subsistence when disengaged from a fully substantial body. Late physics has gone far toward hypostasizing St. Paul’s asserted “spiritual body,” and his other statement that he knew a man “who was caught up into the third heaven.” In the rarer forms of matter now hypothecated by our adventuring science will be found the rarefied physical implementation of whole octaves of “spiritual” phenomena catalogued by ancient psychic discernment, but looked at skeptically by positivism in our day. There is a spiritual evolution proceeding pari passu with the physical, and implemented by it. Our late science has only now come into view of nature’s sublimated matter of varying gradations of density, enabling it for the first time to give body to the beings of ancient hierarchies and to give veritude to the ancient affirmation of “spiritual bodies.” In proportion as the redoubtable solidity of science’s basic stuff melts down into mere swirls of force, to that extent can the angels and demons of ancient systems stalk forth in something like veritable substantiality.
A penetrating view of the interior sublimation of matter opened to the eye of antiquity a fuller and more detailed charting of the basic components of man’s constitution. Human nature was seen as a compound of at least four segments or strata of being, possessing four bodies of differentiated substance ranging from dense physical coarseness through etheric and mental gradients to spiritual tenuity. In short man has a physical, an emotional, a mental and a spiritual body, each finer one interpenetrating successively its coarser substrate and being held in linkage to it by vital affinities. Hence the deep lore of old dealt with a keen analysis and formulation of the laws of interaction between the several “men” in us and catalogued the extensive schedule of reactions in consciousness in that amplified psychology to a degree that proves astonishing to students of our time. The psychology of past days has names for a host of sharply drawn segmentations of subjective activity that modern probing has never systematically distinguished. Their “gods” were the living energies of nature and of mind, realities of the cosmos, and by no means fanciful and fictitious nonentities. They were the personified rays and energies that our science is now discovering. The broad field of what is termed mystical experience was mapped, with every section of its area charted in relation to the economy of the whole. It was no realm of whimsical idiosyncrasy, of sheer feeling. The revelation that the ancient East had perfected the technique of an elaborate spirito-psychological science, surpassing anything yet adduced by modern genius, is a marked denouement of current history. The renaissance of this buried “science of the soul” is giving birth again to the knowledge that man may pass from unconscious drifting with the tide of evolution to a conscious self-directed mastery of his progress. He may step from the status of a victim of evolution’s forces, such as he is when without cognizance of its laws, into the ranks of those who work intelligently with its plan. Hence he can advance more smoothly and swiftly with the tide, as Shakespeare asserted, instead of being tossed about by cross and counter currents whose play he does not understand. The vitalizing item of ancient knowledge was the prime datum that man is himself, in his real being, a spark of divine fire struck off like the flint flash from the Eternal Rock of Being, and buried in the flesh of body to support its existence with an unquenchable radiant energy. On this indestructible fire the organism and its functions were “suspended,” as the Orphic theology phrased it, and all their modes and activities were the expression of this ultimate divine principle of spiritual intelligence, energizing in matter. Philosophy so grounded was able to meet the exegetical demands of the “mind-body problem” by its hypothecation of states of rarefied matter mediating between immaterial spirit and gross body and linking them commodiously in one organism. How the gross body holds connection with sheer “anima” – how it holds on to its “ghost” – was readily understood in the terms of their knowledge of intermediate structures which bridge by several steps the wide gap between pure spirit and palpable matter.
At the summit, or in the interior heart, of man’s nature was the divine and immortal Atma or spirit; on the lower level there was the body, with its twofold equipment for sensation and emotion. Bridging the gap between the two was the principle of conscious mind called Manas. It could span the gap between “quickening spirit” and inert matter; because it stood between them and possessed affinities with both of them, which they lacked with each other. It could touch soul above and flesh beneath and pass the lofty motivations of the one across the gulf to the beneficiary below. Modern religious conception faces the absurd situation of envisaging man as obviously physical and animal by virtue of his body, and as obviously intellectual and spiritual through his soul, but with the ancient hierarchical grades of intermediacy torn out of the gap between the two. Early Christian revolt against esotericism threw down the ladder of linkage between man below and his soul above, and now has no resources to diagram the steps of his possible communion with his Emanuel. The gap left vacant had perforce to be filled in by theology with the single figure of the historical Jesus as mediator between man and his God. A historical personage was called in to implement a function that was originally assigned to one of the principles of man’s own constitution. This was one of those consequences which the little blunder of mistaking myth for history entailed for succeeding ages.
On the strength of the new data furnished by modern science, present thought must orient its attitude toward basic problems, since it must view life as the play of causal forces in consciousness more sub- limated and potent than any of the energies so far discerned in matter. It will then be in position to take counsel again with the primeval divine revelation. It will be able to predicate again the human soul and the divine spirit in man. In the ultimate it has been its failure to posit the independent Atmic entity in our life that has blocked its every excursion toward a vital religious philosophy. It has made philosophy the dead speculation it now is and religion both a chimerical and a fruitless enterprise. When theology wisely guided the effort to relate the lower man to the god within, it was the central pursuit in the life of the world and stood at the apex of dignity and importance. But the loss of vital premises of understanding blinded following ages to the value of spiritual culture, and theology and philosophy now go abegging for recognition, bereft of their former kingly renown. And now their continued abeyance threatens civilization itself. No age calls so piteously for the certain knowledge of the science of the soul; since to soul alone can be attached the anchor for all shifting human values. Without the scientific grounding of an inner principle in man which is itself a portion of Eternal Durability, and which will carry the values built up in life to endless perpetuity, human philosophy must forever lack stability and prime utility.
Such a carrier and preserver of values was the Atmic spark, described by Heraclitus as “a portion of cosmic Fire, imprisoned in a body of earth and water.” It was on earth to trace its line of progress through the ranges of the elements and the kingdoms, harvesting its varied experiences at the end of each cycle. It was described by Greek philosophy as “more ancient than the body,” because it had run the cycle of incarnations in many bodies, donning and doffing them as garments of contact with lower worlds, so that it might treasure up the powers of all life garnered in experience in every form of it. The mutual relation of soul to body in each of its incarnate periods is the nub of the ancient philosophy, and the core of all Biblical meaning. As the Egyptian Book of the Dead most majestically phrases it, the soul, projecting itself into one physical embodiment after another, “steppeth onward through eternity.” No more solid foundation for salutary philosophy can be laid than this rock of knowledge, and civilization will flounder in perilous misadventure until this datum of intellectual certitude is restored to common thought.
The practical service of philosophy is the proper direction of effort. Its function is to furnish guiding intellectual light. Religion is the consecration of purpose to attain the goal indicated as blessed. But knowledge is the only guarantee of right effort. Misunderstanding leads the feet into morasses and quicksands. An errant philosophy is the poison of human endeavor at its source. Modern psychology loudly asserts that failure of the mind to know the answers to life’s riddles breaks down its integrity and racks even the body. Philosophy, reduced now to tedious and jejune speculation, is that very bread of life for which we starve. It was once a body of positive truth. To it the mind could anchor. Only intelligence can save motivation from rank exuberance of eccentricity. Despoiled of the early truth, later ages have been in the position of a person trying to think without true premises. It is the function of science and philosophy to furnish the mind true premises. As Gerald Massey says, thinking is in essence a process of “thinging,” since thoughts must rest on the nature of things. And things are themselves God’s thoughts in material form.
The one grand premise for constructive thinking is that man is a god functioning in the body of a human animal, and that this situation is typical of all other existent life, and a key to the comprehension of all. Religion is that field of effort in which man strives to relate a divine element, transcending immeasurably his own natural powers, to a lower self in which it is tenanted. In this comparative sense, its true function is and always will be to deal with those three elements which it has so shockingly abused and misapplied, the supernatural, the miraculous and the magical. In any absolute sense, to be sure, these terms are misnomers and can become misleading. But relative to the viewpoint of the merely natural man, the work of the god in his nature is transcendent and is indeed fittingly termed supernatural. For it is the province of religion to transfigure the natural life of man with the irradiance of cosmic romance, magical potency and unearthly splendor. It is designed to refashion the natural man into the likeness of a glorious spiritual being, the cosmical man of the heavens. To lower orders of life the capabilities of beings of a superior kingdom of life are justifiably designated as supernatural. Our brain power is supernatural to the dog.
Even now Socrates’ “daimon” (daemon), that hovering presence which guided and warned him constantly throughout his life, is being entified as the “unconscious” mentor of present psychology. The res- toration to Western thought of the divine monitorial guardianship of the individual will instigate the mightiest reformation in the history of Occidental religion. It will enforce a drastic alteration in theological dogma. For it will demand a discarding of the conventional form of the God idea and a return to that of learned antiquity.
It flouts current belief most flagrantly to assert that the Christian movement represented a descent from high pagan levels of knowledge and spiritual insight. Not a churchman but harbors the smug assurance that Christianity arose like a stately phoenix out of the ashes of a decadent paganism, to save a benighted world from sinking into a morass of degradation horrendous to contemplate. But current notions, however sanctified by pious belief, must yield before the influx of positive facts and the light of a proper interpretation of revered scriptures. This only means, however, that Christianity must cast off a heavy incrustation of exoteric literalism and reassert its own primal majestic message. No student conversant with the history of early Christianity will for a moment maintain that medieval or modern presentations of theology are identical with those held at the start. One of the most influential and admittedly the most learned of the Church Fathers, whose scholarship had been powerfully instrumental in formulating the early creedology, was excommunicated as a heretic within three hundred years after his death by a Church that had so quickly lost the light of its original inspiration.
“Origen, the pupil of St. Clement of Alexandria, and the best informed and most learned of the Church Fathers, who held the doctrine of rebirth and karma to be Christian, and against whom, 299 years after he was dead, excommunication was decreed by the exoteric Church on account of his beliefs, has said: ‘But that there should be certain doctrines not made known to the multitude, which are revealed after the exoteric ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but also of philosophical systems in which certain truths are exoteric and others esoteric.’”1
Both Origen’s statement and his posthumous discrediting at the hands of the Church Council make it clear that Christianity had been radically transmogrified within a few hundred years after its inception. And every individual or sect in the centuries following the third that endeavored to revive the pristine purity of the original formulations was acrimoniously hounded and persecuted. Paulinism itself, which represents perhaps the clearest stream of high spiritual teaching, was hard put to escape being torn out of the context of scripture or defeated in ecclesiastical controversy.
The issue must be faced and determined now if religion is to live and exalt the race. The crux of the entire problem is the conception of deity in a form perennially available for man in the heart of his own nature. This conception is the core of all religious theory, and loss of it has been the cause of doubt, confusion and despair. Light and truth long lost are once more at hand to illumine minds now groping in darkness. False notions of deity have nearly cost mankind the loss of its birthright of knowledge.
The boast of Christianity and Judaism is that they alone have presented to mankind its purest concept of deity in the form of the One God – Monotheism. The claim is by no means true as fact. They may more correctly be said to have been the first to present the One God without the ancient train of the subordinate gods. They boast of having abolished the magnified evils of polytheism. But to the ancient sages the task of handling the Supreme God without his pantheon of lesser divinities was much the same as trying to deal physiologically with a man without consideration of his arms, feet, head and several organs. The gods of primeval religion were the active manifest powers, faculties, organs of God himself. Nature was his body, elemental forces the agents of his operative economy, universal mind his thinking faculty and ultimate beneficence his spiritual heart. The ancient systems of wisdom thought it not blasphemy to delineate the organic structure of deity to explain to human grasp the cause and nature of the world. Reverence was not withheld from even the lowest instrumentalization of Godhood. And God organically apprehended was to be better adored than God as an abstract “nonity.”
But some strange quirk of philosophical revulsion against the function and nature of matter militated later to cause theologians to deem it a blasphemy to give God a body, parts and divisions. The mind could only be saved from defiling his purity by keeping him an empty abstraction. Unknowable and Absolute, he was to be kept ineffable. He was not to be dragged into the purlieus of mortal description, degraded into the semblance of a creation of man’s low thought.
But the astute Greeks kept the one without foregoing the other. They reverenced the One as beyond the reach of thought, yet portrayed his emanations in the field of manifestation. And they ranked themselves as his sons. They deemed it not dishonoring to deity to recognize his being in all things. They saw him in nature, and not as abstracted from nature. And they studied nature as the living garment of God’s immanence.
Therefore, though the monotheistic concept has a place in man’s thought problem, it is nevertheless to be appraised in its final utility to religion as practically valueless. The human mind cannot think without the concept of First Cause, and God must stand in the thought problem to fill this need. It has this dialectic utility. But it must ever remain a contentless abstraction. As such it turns out that the chalice of divinity that the Church proffered to benighted nations as the supreme boon of religion, was well-nigh an empty cup. And engrossing the mass mind with a philosophical concept that is unassimilable and must forever remain meaningless, ecclesiasticism perpetrated the far worse crime of condemning to desuetude that more realistic conception of resident deity which alone is fraught with pregnant power to apotheosize human life. Holding out a supreme Ineffability to its followers, it withheld from them at the same time the knowledge of that deity that is lodged immediately within their own selfhood. Giving them a God who is utterly inaccessible, it blocked their approach to the god who was “closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet.”
This is of surpassing importance. It is revolutionary. It is devastating to prevalent orthodoxies. It shocks traditional piety to hear that the concept of the One Supreme can never be of great practical utility to man. But apart from its offices in generating in us perpetual wonder and awe, our dealing with it ends when we have placed it in the thought problem where the mind demands the postulate of First Cause. Beyond that it has little service to render us. Give it form, substance, content, description, we cannot, without destroying its necessary being. Whatever good will flow from our knowing that the Unknowable is back of all phenomena is ours. We can hardly love or worship what we cannot know. The boundary of our reach is wonder and speculation. Our attempts to worship it are the fluttering of a moth about the light we dare not look at. Ancient religion was suspected of having left the monotheistic God out of its picture. It did not leave it out, but it had the discretion to leave it alone! The sage theologists reverenced it by a becoming silence! Communion has never been established be- tween man and an Absolute God in the cosmic heavens. But the pagan world provided a contact with a god dwelling immediately within the human breast. No reaching after the moon of the Absolute diverted conscious purpose from actual touch with the god who stood at one’s elbow. The seers of old held it a sacrilege for mortals to worship any power outside themselves. And this implied no spirit of vaunting humanism or affront to deity. It was just the recognition of deity at the point where it was accessible. The real heresy and apostasy, the gross heathenism, is to miss deity where it is to be had in the blind effort to seek it where it is not available.
Deity for man is at home, not afield in distant skies. The kingdom of heaven and the hope of glory are within. They lurk within the unfathomed depths of consciousness. Divinity lies buried under the heavier motions of the sensual nature and the incessant scurrying of the superficial mind. It is the still small voice, drowned out mostly by the raucous clamor of fleshly, material and mental interests. It is a pure, mild Presence, awaiting the day when the outer man will give more heed to its quiet speech. The Supreme God is not available; but within the quietude of his own being every man may find a fragment of that same God, made personal in his own individuality. This is the burden of the lost wisdom of antiquity. Other than potentially, God in his wholeness is not present with man; but he has not left man without that measure of his grace that man can utilize. He has projected into our nature a portion, a ray, of his own life. He has apportioned amongst all his creatures that measure of his ineffable power which each is capable of receiving. Yet potentially he has lodged the whole of himself in every man, for the nucleus of his divinity that he has implanted in every creature is a seed of the whole of his being. In man the divine seed is the Christos, the son of the Almighty Father. It is no negative statement, but the glorious affirmation of all attainment, to assert that this germ of divinity within the heart is all of God that man can possibly absorb in the present cycle. The cosmic God is hardly an object of worship by humanity; but that segmented portion of infinite Being that is tabernacled within the flesh of mortals – that is the actual divinity assigned to receive the attention and homage of mankind, and sacrificially to be eaten.
The indwelling god is himself being brought to birth within the womb of humanity. Each individual is gestating a divinity within the deeps of his own nature. Christianity has fervently exhorted us to look into the empyrean to find the unapproachable God. All the while the infant deity slumbers unheeded within the heart. Christianity has largely nullified the force of St. Paul’s almost frantic cry to us: “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is within you?”
The seers of old distinguished between the Unknowable God of the thought theorem and the actual Presence in the human constitution by denominating the former “God” and the latter “the god.” Intermediate deities were called variously “the Gods” and “the gods.” The object of most constant attention in philosophy was “the god,” the personal daemon of the individual. On the plane of all practical living value, it was useless to look to higher evolutionary forms of deific expression unless and until that was brought from infancy to maturity of function, since its qualities had to be assimilated into human nature before anything higher could be received. It can be stated as a matter beyond controversy that the vital concern of ancient religion was with the god lodged within the human psyche. If man missed contact with deity there, he missed it utterly.
Christianity euhemerized the pagan conception of the germinal deity in us in the historical Jesus. But this has left the rest of mortals unsanctified. The personalized Christ cuts the commonalty of mankind off from its divinity. An “only-begotten son of God,” made to carry all the values and meanings in his human person, robs mankind at large of its birthright. The mistranslation of the Greek “monogenes” as “only-begotten” was an error fraught with the most terrific consequences for Christendom. It properly means “born of the one parent alone” (the Father, Spirit), in contradistinction to the idea of being born of the union of Father and Mother, or spirit and matter. It was a reference in ancient theogony to the descent of the Logos (the cosmic counterpart of the Christos in man) from the spiritual side of God’s nature alone, as distinct from its progenation from the union of spirit with matter. The doctrine was primordial in the Egyptian conception of the god Kheper or Khepera, symboled by the scarab, which, the Egyptians asserted, produced its young through the male or father alone. If Jesus was the sole epiphany of deity on earth, then the promises of our universal sonship are made nugatory. We are assured again and again that we are all sons of God and sons of the Highest. Christianity not only thrust upon the man Jesus the divinity that was appor- tioned amongst us all, but also, in its confusion and ignorance, forced upon his mortal person the function, power and office of the Cosmic Logos, which in the carefully graded system of the hierarchies could not conceivably have been embodied in the constitution of a mere man on earth. How could the mighty power that organized and ensouled galaxies of solar systems be confined within the tiny limits of a physical brain and nervous system? The great Christian Fathers, Clement of Alexandria and Origen (and others) expressly repudiated the possibility of the Logos taking flesh in one person of merely human stature. Such a limitation blasphemed Deity.
What has not been recognized is that the solitary exaltation of the man Jesus has inevitably demeaned humanity. His lonely apotheosization has disinherited us. And the general revolt of the intellectualism of this age against the resultant debasement of human nature to the level of the worm of the dust through Augustinian and Calvinistic impositions should stoutly attest the falsity of the orthodox characterization.
The mythical as opposed to the historical interpretation of the Gospels has been presented with some clarity by such men as Dupuis, Drews, Robertson, Smith, Renan, Strauss, Massey, Higgins, Mead and others. The historical view of Jesus’ life is stubbornly maintained in spite of the evidence adduced by Comparative Religion and Mythology, which points with steady directness to the fact that the events of the Gospel narrative are matched with surprising fidelity by the antecedent careers of such world saviors as Dionysus, Osiris, Sabazius, Tammuz, Adonis, Atys, Orpheus, Mithras, Zoroaster, Krishna, Bala-Rama, Vyasa, Buddha, Hercules, Sargon, Serapis, Horus, Marduk, Izdubar, Witoba, Apollonius of Tyana, Yehoshua ben Pandira, and even Plato and Pythagoras. It is also held in the face of the consideration that the body of the material used in the ceremonial dramas performed by the hierophants in the early Mystery Religions for 1200 years B.C. constitute by and large the series of events narrated as the personal biography of the Galilean. It is worth impressing on all minds that the legend of the historicity of the Gospels is only to be held by ignoring the solid weight of such – and vastly more – significant testimony. Instead of permitting its adherents to move in the freedom of a spiritual interpretation, the ecclesiastical power is holding them rigidly to a doctrinal meaning that is badly vitiated by literalism. In exalting Jesus in unique magnificence, it lets the divinity in every man’s heart lie fallow. The deity that needs exaltation is that which is struggling within the breasts of the sons of earth. Theological dogmatism fails utterly to see the ultimate Pyrrhic nature of its victory. Jesus’ enthronement is the disinheritance of common man. Taught to look outside ourselves for the source of power and grace, we ignore the real presence within us that pleads for closer recognition. The historical Jesus blocks the way to the spiritual Christ in the chamber of the heart.
All Christian history would have been markedly different had not the historical Jesus been interpolated into the spiritual drama. By this diversion the aims of a true spiritual culture were sentimentally turned outward to the worship of an extraneous but romantic impersonation. The consecrated devotion of hundreds of millions of souls in Christendom for centuries, instead of being focused upon the effort to nurse to life a Christly spirit within the collective body of Western humanity, has been dissipated in almost total fruitlessness upon the figure of an historicized myth. The present demoralized state of civilization in countries most thoroughly saturated with Christian doctrinism confirms the sorry truth of this statement. And the earlier Christian history lends further corroboration in its record of bickering, heretical persecution, violent warfare and ghastly crucifixions that sicken the heart. And all this was perpetrated in the name of the personal Jesus! It could hardly have been done in the name of the spiritual Christos.
If it be advanced in rebuttal that the example of the historical Jesus has stood as a loadstone and beacon to inspire and attract the hearts of millions of devotees, and that the contemplation of his excellency will work a miracle of uplift in the believers’ nature, this but proves the efficacy of psychology and not a fact of history. Ecclesiastical propaganda has more than once produced psychological hysteria, as witness the Crusades and the Inquisition. And religious hysteria has ever produced its marvels – stigmata, speaking in tongues and healings. Every religious psychologization has run into phenomena and sums its lists of “demonstrations.” It is folly to question the psychological power of an example such as the pictured Jesus. Humans are almost helpless in their tendency to ape some paragon. It was precisely because mankind needed to be inspired to idealism that the formulators of the dramas in the Mystery Rituals introduced the Messiah, the Sun-God, the Christos as the central character of the piece. But he was there as ensampler and by no means as substitute or scape-goat. Much as man- kind needs to be confronted by the constant presence of a model of its own destined perfection, it needs far more the invincible knowledge that divinity is its own inner possession.
To hold his place in mass reverence, Jesus had to be made matchless, incomparable, unapproachable. No man dared stand beside him. But overpowering splendour only twits and chides mediocrity. It reminds us of our littleness. It leaves us gazing blankly, hopelessly. The higher the elevation of Jesus, the vaster the gulf fixed between the ideal and the adorer. It clips the wings of aspiration. The setting up of a figure of perfection outside is in part psychologically hazardous. To approach him, to match his purity, is to reduce his stature. He must be kept beyond compare, the ever-receding ideal.
Ancient psychology of religion worked on a different principle. The motive to zeal was an ever-present possibility of attainment. Numbers of the sages were men who had gained the sunlit summit. They thought it not robbery to be equal with the god, for he was sent to call them into the mount of fellowship.
To sense poignantly the degradation to which literal caricature of spiritual knowledge has reduced theology, one needs but to point to the picture of millions of votaries gazing into the physical heavens to find God, where Laplace said that no telescope had ever located him, and searching the map of Judea to localize the Christos, whose dwelling can be only in the heart and conscience. And the Prince of Peace still awaits to be crowned the King of Glory.
1. Quoted in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, in a note to p. 234, from Origen’s Contra Celsum, Book I, Ch. VIII.
TRUTH CRUSHED TO EARTH
The resolution of the “birth of Christ” into the delivery of a babe in a localized Bethlehem has kept the race from realizing the true meaning of the Messianic fulfillment. With the third century conversion of the features of the age-old spiritual drama into the alleged biography of a man-savior, the outlines of the great truth that a ray of the solar Logos was incorporated distributively in animal humanity faded out and were obliterated. All sound sense of the inner signification of the Christmas nativity tableau was irrevocably lost. The annual celebration of the advent of deity to earth remains a meaningless travesty to this day.
It becomes necessary, then, to outline the historical trends that led to the obscuration of this central feature of religious cultism. This is in no sense a diversion, but the most direct approach to the correct envisagement of ancient material. It will reveal items of the utmost strategic importance for a true evaluation of archaic structures. The restoration of the lost meaning will be given greater credence if the causes of its decadence are set forth.
The knowledge that a fragment of the spiritual heart of the sun was implanted in the body of each son of man to be his soul and his god was the golden secret imparted by the hierophants in the Mystery Schools to their qualified pupils. It was regarded as such a priceless treasure that these Secret Brotherhoods were organized specifically to guard its esoteric inviolability. From age to age it passed down the stream of oral transmission, now waning in one quarter, but spreading in another, and was revived periodically by messengers who came as the agents of a hierarchy of perfected men. From remote antiquity it was present in China, Tibet, India, Chaldea, Egypt. It was carried by the priests of the Orphic Mysteries over to the Hellenic world.1 It was disseminated in the Greek areas in the philosophies of Pythagoras, Plato, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Anaxagoras;2 was embodied in the poetry of Homer, Hesiod, Pindar; in the dramas of Euripides and Aeschylus. From Egypt and Chaldea it emerged in the religion of the Hebrews, who wrought its myths, allegories and symbols obscurely into their Old Testament, but had more authentically kept the deposit in their ancient Kabalah. It was taken up by pre-Christian and early Christian Gnostics, being contained with sufficient clarity in the great Gnostic work, Pistis Sophia, a work conjecturally of Basilides or Valentinus. Its Orphic-Platonic rescension was widely republished by the Neo-Platonist school in the second, third and fourth centuries, with ample elucidation, a measure adopted in all likelihood by the spiritual hierarchy to check the growing trend of the nascent Christian movement toward the complete exoterization of its esoteric message. It was reintegrated eclectically around Alexandria by such syncretists as Maximius of Tyre, Ammonias Saccas and Philo Judaeus, powerfully influencing the character of primitive Christianity. It was carried most directly into Christian documentation by St. Paul, whom many scholars claim on evidence to have been himself an Initiate in the Greek Mysteries (as were Clement and Origen in the Egyptian), and also by St. John, whose Bible writings are decidedly more Platonic than distinctively Christian. The visible thread of its transmission runs on to Plutarch, after whom it became more subterranean, being propagated by Hermeticists, Therapeutae, Rosicrucians, Platonists, Mystics, Illuminati, Alchemists, Brothers of various designations and secret fraternities in Europe, out of sight of the jealous eye of the all-powerful Church. At the period of its lowest ebb in Europe it was tided over the danger of total extinction by Arabian and Moorish scholars and Jewish students in Spain. The teaching was preserved and handed on by such associations in Medieval Europe as the Cathedral Builders, the Platonic Academy of Florence, the Alchemists, the “Fire Philosophers,” the Troubadours and Minnesingers, by secret printers, among them Aldus Minutius of Venice, who reprinted the classic Greek literature that ushered in the Italian Renaissance. Sporadically, now in one region, now in another, it took form in outward movements in groups of mystic and pietistic tendency of many names. It was the secret spring of motive and meaning in most medieval literature, in the folk-lore, the hero legends, the fairy myths, the Arthurian cycle, the Mabinogian tales, the Peredur stories, the Niebelungenlied, the castle ballads, the Romance of the Rose and many another invention of esoteric skill. Features of it came to be embodied in a thousand conventional forms of common “superstition.” It was pictorially outlined in the set of Tarot Cards of the Bohemians in the twelfth century. Philosophers such as Paracelsus, Raymond Lully, Pletho, Cardano, Philalethes, Robert Fludd (from whose work on Moses Milton is said to have derived his theses on which Paradise Lost was built) and others presented aspects of it in more or less surreptitious fashion. Jacob Boehme’s “Theosophical Points” vitally influenced Newton’s thought in important directions, as he confesses. Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo acknowledge their debt to the principles of the ancient science. Later came the English Platonists More and Cudworth, and it is alleged that Francis Bacon and the mysterious Count de St. Germain formulated the body of Masonic ritualism upon the old principles.
Coming to the surface again in recent years it is being revived by Rosicrucians, Theosophists, Kabalists, Esotericists, Mystics, Spiritual and Psychic Scientists and Parapsychologists in large numbers, and is perhaps the most vital movement in the thought life of today.
The door to this rejuvenescence of an influence so long buried was opened during the last century by the studies in Comparative Religion and Comparative Mythology assiduously pursued by many scholars. There was needed nothing but a mind free from bias to discern the unity, amounting virtually to identity, underlying all the old systems, which expressed so clearly the characteristic features of what appeared to have been a universal primal world religion, with the solar myth as its corner-stone. Every great historical religion is readily seen to have been, at its start, a pure expression of the basic elements of this outline, and equally readily seen to have badly vitiated the pristine purity of teaching in later decadence. A gross transgressor in this respect is seen to be Christianity, which carried original spiritual meaning further afield than perhaps any other. It is desirable to trace the causes and progress of this corruption.
The blanket assertion that ancient spiritual light was darkly obscured under Christian handling is a challenging statement and must be given the room to vindicate itself. This work in its entirety will amount to a substantiation of that claim. The point can be carried only by an ample reproduction of the substance of the archaic world religion, so that the clear outlines of the great pristine doctrines of theology as they were apprehended in the arcane schools, may by contrast reveal the darkness and vacuity of present readings. Only in the light of the radiant wisdom of the past will the glaring corruption of current interpretation become discernible.
The stream of degradation of originally pure teaching flowed in through the channels of literalism. The simple but still nearly incredible truth of the matter is that elaborate charts of spiritual ideography, devised with poetic genius and analogical skill, were mistaken for literal objective fact. The ancient theologists had sought to portray the essence of deep truth by means of fanciful constructions of many kinds. The whole of early Egyptian and Greek religious literature was a construction commonly termed mythology. What now looms as the consummate catastrophic stupidity of the centuries was the traducing of it into alleged history. This has been perpetrated in spite of the obvious impossibility of explaining how a people that produced Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Pericles, Heraclitus, Homer, Pindar and Demosthenes could gull itself into taking poetic fiction for objective occurrence on a grand scale. Our explanation of the mythology of the Greeks commits us to accrediting such sages with the minds of children. The myths were the lenses through which the gaze might be focused on the realities of recondite truth. Only to the crudely ignorant were the representations not diaphanous. But, oddly enough, blind misapprehension carried the day, and the transparency of the myths was darkened into solid opaqueness.
Christianity started out as a system closely kindred with the cults environing it, and boasting of conformity with them. The early Church Father, Justin Martyr in particular, is at pains to protest that Christianity in no wise differs from pagan usages. But a strange and curious thing then happened. There came to a head a virulent rebellion of mediocrity and inferiority against the aristocracy of intellect and culture. Christianity carried in large measure the impetuosity of this revolt. It became the embodied expression of a vehement assault on the esotericism of the Mystery Religions. It was evidently motivated by a popular resentment against the exclusiveness and aristocracy of the cults. Only a restricted and tested minority was eligible to admission into the Associations. The hidden teaching was withheld from the populace, under the strictest of secret bans. A wave of hostility to the privileged groups swept over the masses and culminated in an effort to crash through the restrictions of esotericism and bring out the secret doctrine for general behoof. Distrust of the possession of any real truth beyond ordinary grasp and perhaps the degeneracy of the Mysteries themselves to some extent, lent substance to the popular enmity. A movement to spread abroad a plain man’s simple enunciation of the truths gained heavy momentum. A definite trend away from esotericism carried the impulse far over into literalism. The genius of culture in mankind has constantly had to contend with this effort of dull mediocrity to tear down its best structures of truth and beauty.3 The attempt to unmask the myths for commonplace rendering was quite like the present-day demand upon popular publicists for a reduction of their best wisdom to the level of moronic bluntness. But the effort to simplify the esoteric purport was to lose it, to wreck the spiritual edifice altogether. Truth can make no terms with incapacity.
When, later, the headship of the early Church passed out of the hands of the academicians of Athens and Alexandria, of Antioch, Tarsus and Ephesus, and fell into those of the less studied Romans, the trend to literalism had gained such volume that there swept into the movement a spirit of fell vindictiveness against the dominant systems. When the conception of the purely spiritual Christos could no longer successfully be imparted to the turbulent masses, who were clamoring for a political savior, it was found necessary, or expedient, to substitute the more concrete idea of a personal Messiah, who would be so obviously factual and realistic as to preclude the possibility of being misconceived by the most doltish. The swell of this tide of force carried the Church Fathers to the limit of recasting the entire Gospel in the terms of a human biography. So that what had been originally in the Mysteries and the sacred scripts a combined astrological and mythical dramatization of man’s total experience, was now turned into the story of one character put forth as a “life.” In spite of almost insuperable obstacles and the outcropping of endless absurdities and inanities of meaning in the transposition, the undertaking was carried through. The outcome has been that the theology handed down to us by the early reformation is the crudest, least rational and intellectually most disconcerting rendition of the ancient revelation anywhere extant. Philo, Origen, Clement and Josephus had expressly declared that scripture shielded beneath the literal narrative a secret profundity of meaning, which was its true message. Philo specified four distinct levels in which the sense of scripture was to be apprehended, the purely literal, or physical, the moral or emotional, the allegorical or mental and the anagogical, or lofty spiritual. The later Church discarded or disregarded the two or three more abstruse ones and held only to the lowest and the basest.
The drive to convert the highly concentrated “meat” of spiritual truth into “pap” or “milk” for the babes in capacity probably gave to Christianity that volcanic fervor that swept it forward among the lower ranks and shortly enabled it to turn the tide against its chief rival, Mithraism. The masses will always, as they did in Luther’s Reformation, seize upon a sweeping current of ideological force and attempt to utilize it as a means of escape from their lowly economic lot. The hopes of the rabble interwove the dream of political liberation with the religious message, adding an extraneous factor to the pressure to translate allegory into a tale of history. Then as now low culture soon turned from the fervor to achieve the slow laborious task of mastering an inner kingdom of spiritual character to eager expectation of a utopian regime in world affairs. In the spiritual drama were many lines which could be so misconstrued.4
Thus Christianity lost its Gnosis; and all Christendom has since had to suffer the blighting of its best spiritual effort. If by the tactic the Church may be said to have gained the whole world, it lost its own soul in the process.
That Christianity after its inception was a ferment confined largely to the poor and untutored classes is indicated both by the Gospel story itself and by much data of history. Some authentic testimony may be useful in impressing the little-known fact upon general knowledge. The cultured Celsus, writing about 200 A.D., cannot refrain from commenting on the social complexion of the Christians of his day. He wrote:
“It is only the simpletons, the ignoble, the senseless – slaves and womenfolk and children – whom they wish to persuade . . . wool-dressers and cobblers and fullers, the most uneducated and vulgar persons . . . whosoever is a sinner, or unintelligent, or a fool, in a word, whoever is god-forsaken (kakodaimon), him the kingdom of God will receive.”5
Edward Carpenter, an unbiased and kindly student of early Christianity in relation to its contemporary faith, says: “The rude and menial masses, who had hitherto been almost beneath the notice of Greek and Roman culture, flocked in; and though this was doubtless, as time went on, a source of weakness to the Church, and a cause of dissension and superstition, yet it was the inevitable line of human evolution, and had a psychological basis.”6
Many additional statements in the same tenor could be quoted, but it is needless to enforce what is known and indisputable.
But one hears the protestations of Christians that the ministrations of their faith to the simple and the downtrodden was its glory and demonstrated a sounder humanitarianism than the Mystery Schools displayed. Let it have whatever praise goes with this part of its program. It is to the credit of any system that it gives to the lowly the food they need. The default of Christianity is that it gave to one class and withheld from another. Even to that one class it gave the poorest of bread – truth vitiated, devoid of nourishing sense, corrupted and corrupting – as witness its own unconscionable history. It attempted to furnish to the uncultured the easily digested provender they required, but swung with such zeal into this labor that it denied the need of strong meat to more capable digestions. Christianity’s culpability was not that it fed the outcast and the sinner, but that it denied the Gnosis to the intelligent – or to any. Its Roman revolt against the spiritual esotericism constituted its betrayal of the innermost heart of all religion. It chose to feed the religious hunger of all grades of people with food that was not even wholesome for the simple.
And it must answer for its vicious resentment and unholy violence against the high-minded groups that again and again in the whole course of its history essayed with sincerity to restore it to the lost message of the Gnosis. Students of the situation in the early Church will know the factual ground beneath the Emperor Julian’s caustic observation that “there is no wild beast like an angry theologian.” And the murder of the learned Hypatia and the burning of the priceless books of the Alexandrian library are sufficient attestation of the level of savage ferocity to which the reaction against the lofty wisdom of the past had reduced its uncultured opponents. Christianity now lives to witness a world of more general intelligence, after repression by fiend-like persecution for fifteen centuries, once more and this time with irrepressible purpose, turning with an eagerness born of long denial to the esotericism of revived Oriental philosophies for the deeper nourishment of the human spirit.
Christianity can’t shake off its pagan parentage. It must be seen that in spite of the almost complete dismantling of the esoteric interpretation, the system retained practically all the outward vestments of the hidden truth. That Christianity presented to the world a complete new system of high truth unknown before is of course now understood to be an unfounded legend. That it failed to make any single advance from ignorance to wisdom is not so obvious to its partisans or to the general public, but seems nevertheless indisputable on the evidence. It sadly bedimmed the old splendor of knowledge. For it threw away the golden grain and kept only the husk. The legitimacy of such a dogmatic assertion can become evident only in the light of the entire study here undertaken, since such a lengthy scrutiny is required to demonstrate that in dogma after dogma, rite after rite, and parable after parable, Christianity substituted a mean and valueless literal sense for the original inspiring message. If this was the sacrifice it made on behalf of the lowly masses, it wrote off the payment by a total suppression of light for those in higher intellectual brackets. It sealed up the anagogical meaning and hounded to the death the parties that strove for its dissemination.
Devising nothing new and retaining the outward form and dress of pagan systems, Christianity has ever been hard put to explain the undeniable similarity between antecedent religions and its own faith and practice. Intelligent churchmen have seen the futility of denying the fact and have readily admitted the pagan sources of Christianity. But in the third century it was a matter of critical importance to maintain the novel and superior character of the new religion. The device resorted to by numbers of the Fathers bears indisputable testimony to the desperateness of their plight. Church membership today will be loath to credit the reliability of the evidence on this matter, so nearly does it exceed all belief. Confronted from time to time with amazing evidences of identity between their own and pagan material, there was no recourse save to that negation of all logic, that last resort of bigotry and zealotry – the plea of diabolism! Christian pride should blush at the disingenuousness of its founders in this matter. The evidence bearing on the point is neither inconsiderable nor vague. In his excellent work, Pagan and Christian Creeds, Edward Carpenter comments at length on the subterfuge, as follows:
“The similarity of these ancient pagan legends and beliefs with Christian traditions was indeed so great that it excited the attention and the undisguised wrath of the early Christian Fathers. They felt no doubt about the similarity, but not knowing how to explain it, fell back upon the innocent theory that the Devil – in order to confound the Christians – had centuries before, caused the pagans to adopt certain beliefs and practices! (Very crafty, we may say, of the Devil, but very innocent of the Fathers to believe it!) Justin Martyr, for instance, describes the institution of the Lord’s supper as narrated in the Gospels, and then goes on to say: ‘Which the wicked devils have imitated in the Mysteries of Mithra, commanding the same thing to be done. For that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated you either know or can learn.’ Tertullian also says (De Praescriptione Hereticorum, C. 30; De Bapt., C. 3; De Corona, C. 15) that ‘the devil by the mysteries of his idols imitates even the main part of the divine mysteries. . . . He baptizes his worshippers in water and makes them believe that this purifies them from their crimes! . . . Mithra sets his mark on the forehead of his soldiers; he celebrates the oblation of bread; he offers an image of the resurrection and presents at once the crown and the sword; he limits his chief priests to a single marriage; he even has his virgins and ascetics.’ Cortez, it will be remembered, complained that the Devil had positively taught to the Mexicans the same things which God had taught to Christendom.”
To which may be added the astonishing statement of a modern Catholic priest, quoted by Carpenter (p. 68):
“And the Tartary Father Grüber thus testifies: ‘This only do I affirm, that the Devil so mimics the Catholic Church there, that although no European or Christian has ever been there, still in all essential things they agree so completely with the Roman Church as even to celebrate the Host with bread and wine; with my own eyes I have seen it!’”
There are many accusations against “the devil” in the same strain from Christian apologists. Not only were the theory and practice of the new cult identical in most respects with those of previous systems, but its own central thesis – the divinity of the Savior – had been anticipated by some hundreds of years in other cults. “If we look close,” says Prof. Bousset,7 “the result emerges with great clearness, that the figure of the Redeemer, as such, did not wait for Christianity to force its way into the religion of Gnosis, but was already present there under various forms.”
Discussing the doctrine of a Savior, Carpenter writes: 8
“Probably the wide range of this doctrine would have been far better and more generally known, had not the Christian Church, all through, made the greatest of efforts and taken the greatest of precautions to extinguish and snuff out all evidence of the pagan claims on the subject. There is much to show that the early Church took this line with regard to pre-Christian Saviors.” 9
Carpenter makes it clear that the coming of a Savior-God was in no sense a belief distinctive of Christianity. He explains that the Messianic prophecies of the Jews and the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah infected Christian teaching to some degree with Judaic influence. The Hebrew word Messiah, meaning “The Anointed One,” occurs some forty times in the Old Testament; and each time in the Septuagint, written as early as the third century before our era, it is translated Christos, which also means “Anointed.” It is thus seen, says Carpenter, that the word “the Christ” was in vogue in Alexandria as far back as 280 B.C. In the Book of Enoch, written not later than B.C. 170, the Christ is spoken of as already existing in heaven, about to come to earth, and is called “The Son of Man.” The Book of Revelation is full of passages from Enoch, likewise the Epistles of Paul and the Gospels.
These statements are but a suggestion of the full truth in this direction. The Christians were not content to let the matter rest with the explanation that Satan had teased them with some anticipatory resemblances. They resorted to the most violent measures to blot out all links between their body of doctrine and former pagan material. This is a black page in the history of Christianity and a measure of evil policy not easily condoned. They destroyed as far as possible the entire body of pagan record to obliterate, as Carpenter says, “the evidence of their own dishonesty.” Porphyry tells of their destruction of elaborate treatises on Mithraism. And his own work on Christianity fell a prey likewise. Their vandal work is of record. The whole matter may be tersely summed up in the world of Sir Gilbert Murray: “The polemic literature of Christianity is loud and triumphant; the books of the pagans have been destroyed.”
It is clear, if comment be not superfluous, that Christianity has lost, not gained, by its masking the truth about its origins. Rabid fanaticism and the destruction of literature are always the resort of a bad cause, revealing a want of a good defense on open ground. The frenzy of zeal to wipe out all the testimony that pointed to derivation from pagan forms argues a weak confidence, if not a bad conscience.
It may be said, in partial extenuation of the Fathers’ conduct in the second, third and fourth centuries, that their discovery now and again of the startling similarities between their religion and earlier paganism may have come with genuine astonishment. It is commonly believed that the Greeks and Romans of the early Christian days stood far closer to the great Egyptian and Chaldean cultures than we do today. Such is far from the truth. The Egyptian papyri, monuments and tablets were a sealed book to the Christian Fathers, and remained so until Champollion worked out the key to the hieroglyphics from the Rosetta Stone in the early nineteenth century. The connection between the Christian cult and its antecedents in India, Chaldea and Egypt was not seen then as it can be today. We can in a measure understand the indignant surprise of the propagators of the new faith on finding that their alleged novel truth had been copied ahead of them by the heathen!
The crux of present interest in the matter is the consideration that the Christianity of our time is imperiling its own standing and repute by perpetuating a mistake made at its inception. Continuance in a folly so obvious in the face of modern scholarship will henceforth be an open confession of disingenuousness. It will be at the risk of the loss of the last vestige of respect yet accorded to it by studied intellectuals. Its only salvation from neglect and scorn constantly augmenting is a frank admission of its outgrowth from pagan antecedents, and a willingness to reconstruct its interpretation in relation to them. It must manifest a disposition to lift the stigma of “heathenism” from off the ancient faiths and restore them to their high place of nobility and worth. For in elevating its sources it will exalt itself. The outcome has been disastrous. The Church might be well advantaged by paying head to Carpenter’s candid conclusions on the subject. He says:
“I have said that out of this World-Religion Christianity really sprang. It is evident that the time has arrived when it must either acknowledge its source and frankly endeavor to affiliate itself to the same, or failing that, must perish. . . . Christianity, therefore, as I say, must either now come frankly forward and, acknowledging its parentage from the great Order of the Past, seek to rehabilitate that, and carry mankind one step forward in the path of evolution – or else it must perish. There is no other alternative.”10
It will be hard for an ingrained devotionalism to turn back and embrace what it had been so long taught to despise. But it must be done, or all pretense at regard for the truth be abandoned. The grand body of ancient teaching should never have been brought into contempt. Convicted of its error the Church must go the whole way in making the correction. No course but that of candor and honesty will now suffice, if indeed it is not too late even now to make amends and save a bad situation. Further concealment and evasion will only prove the more surely disastrous. For the sun of the moral zodiac has swung around into the sign of Libra, where the good and evil of historical action are weighed in the balance, and piled high on the adverse pan are the knavery and ignorance of early policies, the violent treatment of earnest esotericists, the destruction of priceless books and the cruel persecution of sincere sectaries. The way in which ecclesiastical Christianity meets this issue will determine its fate. If it confronts it with honest humility it may rise again in power. For there is power in the ancient spiritual science to transfigure Christian nations with the glow of righteousness. Readoption of the pagan wisdom will glorify a movement now sunk in nearly hopeless ineptitude. The Dark Ages are not yet past, and that treasure which slipped away through the fingers of early Christianity has not yet been restored.
1. For corroboration see such works as The Six Books of Proclus on the Theology of Plato, Iamblichus’ The Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans and Assyrians, and Thomas Taylor’s Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries.
2. Vide From Orpheus to Paul, by Vittorio D. Macchioro, a recognized world authority on Orphism.
3. See such a work as Lothrop Stoddard’s The Revolt Against Civilization.
4. See Bouck White’s The Call of the Carpenter, which builds an entire economic interpretation of the Gospels on such specious material in the texts.
5. Quoted by Edward Carpenter, Pagan and Christian Creeds, p. 22. Also in Glover’s Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire.
6. Pagan and Christian Creeds, p. 221.
7. Quoted in Pagan and Christian Creeds, p. 206.
8. Pagan and Christian Creeds, p. 130.
9. See Tertullian’s Apologia, C. 16.
10. Pagan and Christian Creeds, p. 263.
WISDOM HIDDEN IN A MYSTERY
We have remained stodgily and stupidly impervious to the infiltration of ancient truth because we have remained blind to the method of its presentation and preservation. We have lost the power to grasp the premises of true knowledge laid down by sage ancestors because we have been too dull to see through the subtleties of a methodology different from our own. These premises for thought will only be regained as the devices resorted to in their statement are comprehended. The very possibility of making the interpretation at all is intimately bound up with the use of abstruse keys to bring to light meanings covered under an adroit strategy of concealment. Modern mentality almost instinctively resents the presumption that sages of old put truth under a mask of subtle disguise. Modern canons of utility can admit no sense or sanity in a procedure of the sort. Truth is for general broadcasting, if only that its discoverer or author may get his financial reward for his contribution. But truth in ancient days was not sold to the public. There were, in the first place, no printing presses to manage its general and quick distribution. Secondly, it had to be safeguarded from the undisciplined who would misuse it. And thirdly, it had to be preserved. To this end it had to be embalmed in the amber of such myths, legends, folk-tales, parables and structures of natural symmetry as would become unforgettable mnemonics through the power of tradition. And finally it had to be expressed in a language that would be universally comprehensible – a language of living symbols. Therefore truth was dramatized and symbolized. The figures in the drama were the elements of divine and human nature; and the symbols were an alphabet of truth because they were phrases of truth itself in the world of flesh and matter. They carried to the mind their message of invisible truths because they were those invisible truths themselves appearing in man’s cognizable world clothed in a garment of concreteness. Words are themselves but symbols. Objects of living nature are more definite speech to a discerning mind than formal language. It is as if one could throw the ideas of the mind on a screen. And Universal Mind did throw its archetypal ideas onto the screen of matter, where mortal man may look at them in their appearance that is not false, as philosophy has so mistakenly alleged, but true.
Unable to decipher the archaic language used, we have made hash of the true meaning of sacred love. The grandest of structures for truth-telling have been made into the grossest of fabrications. What the Bible has been declared to mean is inane nonsense; what it does actually mean is splendid truth. And the gross perversion and loss of its sense have come solely through our unfamiliarity with the special and involved techniques employed in writing the sacred books. Our efforts to read the texts in total ignorance of their art of literary indirection have run into the territory of the ridiculous.
The ancient scribes were, first of all, esotericists and wrote esoterically. All spiritual wisdom was held in secret brotherhoods and rigorously safeguarded from common dissemination. There existed a spiritual aristocracy quite difficult for us to conceive of, based on considerations the force of which we have lost the insight to appreciate. There were intellectual and spiritual castes, and the lower orders of mental capacity were not regarded as fitted to receive information where the qualifications for its social use were not fulfilled. Sheer pious faith could not alone gain one admission into the Mystery Schools. Actual discipline of body and mind, and certain inner unfoldments of faculty were held as requisite for the grasp of deeper truth. Initiation was to some real extent a matter of the mastery of theurgic powers dependent in the main upon purity of life. Esotericism arose primarily from the necessity of safeguarding the use of dynamic knowledge. Religion was far from being the jejune shell of social or mystical sentimentalism that it has so largely come to be at this epoch. It aimed to liberate the powerful forces hidden in the depths of man’s psyche. It bore an immediate reference to individual evolution, in the processes of which nature’s dynamic energies had to be controlled and intelligently directed. What we have derided as “magic” in the religion of old was just the control of subtle powers which we mostly permit to slumber in dormancy beneath the surface of our superficial life. Religion touched man so deeply in olden times that it awakened the potencies of his godlike endowment, an enterprise which concerns us rather little now. The imputation of sacredness to the rites of religion flowed directly from recognition of the vital issues at stake in the soul’s incarnation on earth. And the right to participate in the higher mysteries, of which St. Paul speaks, belonged to those who had won it from nature by the payment of the full price – a life schooled to harmony by intelligent consecration of every personal force.
In spite of the enormous quantity of evidence pointing to the existence of a great body of esoteric teaching in the Mystery Brotherhoods, such a scholar as Renouf asks:1 “Was there really, as is frequently asserted, an esoteric doctrine known to the scribes and priests alone, as distinct from the popular belief?” And his answer is: “No evidence has yet been provided in favor of this hypothesis.” But how can Renouf support so negative a statement in the face of the positive testimony offered by Plato, Porphyry, Apuleius, Herodotus, Plotinus, Proclus, Iamblichus, Euripides and Cicero? He is decisively contradicted also by many modern writers, among them Angus, Kennedy and Halliday, who have undertaken profound and searching studies of the Mysteries. Certainly a man like Cicero can’t be scorned when he testifies as follows:
“There is nothing better than those Mysteries by which, from a rough and fierce life, we are polished to gentleness and softened. And Initia, as they are called, we have thus known as the beginnings of life in truth; not only have we received from them the doctrine of living with happiness, but even of dying with a better hope.”2
And is such a statement as the following from Plato without weight:
“But it was then lawful to survey the most splendid beauty, when we obtained, together with that blessed choir, this happy vision and contemplation. And we indeed enjoyed this blessed spectacle in conjunction with Jupiter . . . at the same time being initiated in those Mysteries which it is lawful to call the most blessed of all Mysteries. . . . Likewise in consequence of this divine initiation, we became spectators of entire, simple, immovable and blessed visions in the pure light. . . .”3
To Renouf’s ill-founded assertion it need only be rejoined that, to be sure, there is little or no evidence of esotericism, for the good reason that esotericism is the one thing in the world that is bound by its nature to leave little evidence! Does the scholar expect that the members of the Mysteries would have published their secrets abroad? On the contrary, they were bound to secrecy by the severest of all pledges.
Religious books have been written, if written at all, in cryptic form, with truth heavily veiled under the garb of cipher and symbol. Figures and glyphs had to be devised that would convey meaning to the initiated, but conceal it from the uninstructed. To interpret archaic literature one must learn to discern the intent of truth under the disguise of designed duplicity in the telling.
And it is further absurd for a Christian apologist to protest the fact of ancient esotericism, seeing that Christianity itself perpetuated esoteric distinctions in its own practices for two centuries. To this effect there is a mountain of evidence. Even the Christian Creed was kept largely a secret down to the fifth century. It was to be preserved in memory only. St. Augustine urged that no writing be done about the Creed because God had said that he would write his laws in our hearts and minds. According to J. R. Lumby, in his History of the Creeds (pp. 2, 3) there is found no specimen of a Creed until the end of the second century, and the oldest written Creed dates about the end of the third century.
The demands of an esoteric methodology account for the ancient use of mythopoeia. Here we encounter that feature of ancient procedure that has bred the prevalent wide confusion with respect to past wisdom, and find the solution of our bewilderment and ineptitude in face of ancient mythology. Our childish misconstruction that has written the record of our dull incomprehension across the scroll of literature for a millennium and a half, comes out in glaring silhouette as we fathom the devices of this cryptic treatment. We have mistaken symbolic language for direct speech. We have pitying condescension toward early races who explained the discovery of “fire” by the Promethean legend. We laugh at Hindus for saying that the earth is upheld by an elephant, which stands on a tortoise. We pridefully ask them on what the tortoise stood. Their pertinent answer might well be: “On modern stupidity.” Not the ancients, but we, are the puerile party in the case. We, not they, have “believed” their myths. The apparent childishness of the myths is far overmatched by our real childishness in supposing they were taken as factual. One can’t read in any mod- ern academic work on ancient culture in Greece, Egypt, Chaldea or India without having to witness the birth anguish of the laboring idea that the myths reveal an inceptive stage of the slow evolution from primitive infantilism to our smug all-knowing wisdom.
We cast in the face of this presupposition the statement that the mythos was the designed instrument of consummate poetic and dramatic art!
The stories were devised to convey cosmical history, theogony, anthropogenesis, and finally individual experience of humans in the psycho-physiological development of mortal life. The whole cycle of the history of unfolding divinity in humanity was dramatized for stage enactment in the annual round of Mystery festivals. And portions of this drama have filtered down into the ritualism of practically every religion in the world. The epic of the human soul in earthly embodiment was the theme of every ancient poet and dramatist, and each strove to dress out the elements of the struggle in a new allegorical garb, with a new hero, whether Achilles, Hercules, Horus, Theseus, Aeneas, Orpheus, Jason, Dionysus, Buddha, Ulysses or Jesus, enacting the central role of the divine genius conquering the animal nature. In lieu of love, sex, detective, murder and gangster novels, the writers of the bygone era could deal but with one theme, that of the pilgrimage of the soul through the gamut of the elements. Each work was a Pilgrim’s Progress. And novelty could be introduced only by the device of depicting the soul’s experiences under a new allegorical situation, symbolizing afresh the old, old story of the immortal spirit’s immersion in the sea of matter. In all, combats with dragons, wrestling with serpents, harassments by brute creatures, enchantments by Sirens, plottings of conspirators, imprisonment in dungeons and struggling through to an ultimate return to the original home of felicity, find their place. In one type of adventure after another the many features of the history of the divine Ego in its progress from earth back to the skies were allegorically portrayed. Every aspect of the experience had its appropriate myth.
Indeed there is every presumption in favor of the belief that the mythos was an infinitely more profound instrument in the hands of its inventors than we yet can fathom. It is hardly too much to affirm that it was the echo of the Logos itself carrying the form of the emanational Voice out into the material realm. The mythos brought the unseen forms of abstract truth out into physical representation for the grasp of thought. There is warrant for believing that mutheomai, the Greek, meaning “to fable,” “represent,” “invent,” is derivable from the Egyptian mutu, “quick utterance.” It would suggest a form of direct speech to the intuitions. The myth made an outward picture of ideal forms. It dramatized truth. It had the graphic impressiveness of a cinematograph. This view is upheld by a writer who yet refutes at every turn the mythological basis of religion:4 “It is the property of the mystic to proceed by way of images to the summit of a pure idea and the intellectual vision of the substance.” That the myths were thus the vehicles for conveying the realization of abstract truths which could not be presented so forcefully in words alone seems indisputably clear. What is equally clear now is that, in the hands of ignorance, an exoteric rendering has taken the place of the esoteric, depriving the mind of its grasp on the essential truth intended in the adumbration. The danger of such a confusion was seen by Philo, the learned Jew, who when speaking of the Mosaic writings told his countrymen that “the literal statement is a fabulous one, and it is in the mythical that we shall find the true.”5 Philo’s statement is not less apt for the present age.
Reluctant as is the modern scholar of repute to assent to the ascription of vital hidden meaning to the ancient legends, the truth in this regard is occasionally seen and admitted. It is refreshing to read such a passage as the following from one of the accredited authorities in the field of Egyptology. Speaking of the Mysteries of Osiris and the dramatic representations enacted each year at Abydos, he says:
“Every act was symbolical in character and represented some ancient belief or tradition. The paste, the mixture of wheat and water, the egg, the naked goddess Shenti, i.e., Isis in her chamber, the placing of the paste on her bed, the kneading of the paste into moulds, etc., represented the great processes of Nature which are set in motion when human beings are begotten and conceived, as well as the inscrutable powers which preside over growth and development. . . . And there was not the smallest action on the part of any member of the band who acted the ‘miracle Play’ of Osiris, and not a sentence in the Liturgy which did not possess importance and vital significance to the followers of Osiris.”6
In the light of such true words from one of the most eminent of Egyptologists it becomes next to incomprehensible that modern schol- ars have so wretchedly misconceived the inner purport of these old Mystery rituals and that the same scholar has himself most ridiculously misconstrued their meaning in many particulars. The broad modern assumption has been that the mythos was in toto a lot of mummery and that the rituals were a lot of hollow ceremonialism based on superstition. That they shadowed the greatest of spiritual truths has not yet entered the mind of any man highly received in the ranks of orthodox scholarship. No one has yet been able to tell these savants that they have been handling pearls, and not rubbish.
Yet they have been told, and by no one more courageously and vehemently than Gerald Massey, a scholar of surpassing ability whose sterling work has not yet won for him the place of eminence which he deserves. The wrecking of the mythos by ignorant literalism stirred Massey to bitter resentment against the perpetrators of the crime. His own words will speak best for him, while they support our own contentions:
“The aborigines did not mistake the facts of nature as we have mistaken the primitive method of representing them. It is we, not they, who are the most deluded victims of false belief. Christian capacity for believing the impossible is unparalleled in any time past amongst the race of men. Christian readers denounce the primitive realities of the mythical representations as puerile indeed, and yet their own realities alleged to be eternal, from the fall of Adam to the redemption by means of a crucified Jew, are little or nothing more than the shadows of these primitive simplicities of an earlier time. It will yet be seen that the culmination of credulity, the meanest emasculation of mental manhood, the densest obscuration of the inward light of nature, the completest imbecility of shut-eye belief, the nearest approach to a total and eternal eclipse of common sense, has been attained beyond all chance of competition by the victims of the Christian creeds. The genesis of delusive superstition is late, not early. It is not the direct work of nature herself. Nature was not the mother who began her work of development by nursing her child in all sorts of illusions concerning things in general. . . . Primitive man was not a metaphysician, but a man of common sense. . . . The realities without and around him were too pressing for the senses to allow him to play the fool with delusive idealities. . . . Modern ignorance of the mythical mode of representation has led to the ascribing of innumerable false beliefs not only to primitive men and present-day savages, but also to the most learned and highly civilized people of antiquity, the Egyptians.”7 He asserts again that the Egyptians “knew, more or less, that their own legends were mythical, whereas the Christians were vouching for their Mythos being historical.” Concerning symbolism and mythical representation he emphasizes that “the insanity lies in mistaking it for human history or Divine Revelation.” Mythology, he avers, is the repository of man’s most ancient science, and “when truly interpreted once more, it is destined to be the death of those false theologies to which it has unwittingly given birth.” Holding that all mythologizing originated in Egypt, he fights the conclusion of Renouf that “neither Hebrews nor Greeks borrowed any of their ideas from Egypt.” The eminent scholar could not have known of Herodotus’ statement that it was Melampus, the son of Amytheon, who introduced into Greece the name of Dionysus (Bacchus) and the ceremonial of his worship, having become acquainted with these and other practices in Egypt. Herodotus concludes:
“For I can by no means allow that it is by mere coincidence that the Bacchic ceremonies in Greece are so nearly the same as the Egyptian.”8
Elsewhere (II, 81) he repeats:
“. . . the rites called Orphic or Bacchic are in reality Egyptian and Pythagorean.”
Massey claims that modern misinterpretation of ancient typology has made a terrible tyranny in the mental domain, much of our folklore and most of our popular beliefs being fossilized symbolism. “Misinterpreted mythology has so profoundly infected religion, poetry, art and criticism that it has created a cult of the unreal.” He asserts that “a great deal of what has been imposed upon us as God’s direct, true and sole revelation to man is a mass of inverted myths.”
Massey insists that theology is a diseased state of primitive mythology, contradicting the renowned Max Müller, who has stated the contrary – that mythology was a disease of theology. Elsewhere he says that the Marchen are not reflections, but refractions, of the ancient myths. The mythos passed over into the folk-tale, not the folk-tale into the mythos. He contends that in truth the myths were the earliest forms taken by primitive thought in formulating representations of reality. Simple-minded early man saw life pictured by the living processes under his observation. Our own opinion diverges considerably from Massey’s at this point, since there is massive evidence, of the general type adduced in this work, to show that the myths were not the product of “primitive” simplicity, but on the contrary were devised by the highest mythopoetic genius. They were the output of a line of sages who knew the truth of what Paul has told us, that the inner world of ideality is understood by those things which are made, in the outer world of physis. They traced a marvelous series of parallels, correspondences, analogies between things seen and things unseen, the better to illustrate the latter. They knew that physical nature typed spiritual reality, and used the outlines of the former to pictorialize the latter. They took the tadpole or the serpent as the type of resurrected life, because they saw the spiritual process exemplified in these creatures. They took the hawk as the symbol of the risen soul because they saw the bird soar into the airy heights. They found in the mole a fit symbol of the soul immersed in the dark underworld of flesh, because the analogy was evident and under their eye. Nature supplied the suggestive identity, and they used it to teach subjective truths. Primitive man may well known the simple processes of nature from first-hand contact; but he will not know that they bespeak a spiritual counterpart of themselves in the interior life of man unless the sages so inform him. Massey’s view was not well considered in this regard. Whole generations of civilized folks have gazed upon the phenomena of nature and failed to be instructed spiritually by the spectacle. One must ask Massey if primitive fancy could construct allegories so profoundly elaborated that the united intelligence of the world for centuries has been unable to fathom their hidden significance. Millions of intelligent persons today have looked upon the sun and moon throughout the whole of their lives and have never yet discerned in their movements and phases an iota of the astonishing spiritual drama which the two heavenly bodies enact each month, a drama disclosed to our own astonished comprehension only by the books of ancient Egypt. Hundreds of celebrities in the field of Egyptology have mulled over the same material and have not yet lifted as much as a corner of the veil of Isis. Primitive simplicity could not have concocted what the age-long study of an intelligent world could not fathom. Not aboriginal naïveté, but exalted spiritual and intellectual acumen, formulated the myths. Reflection of the realities of a higher world in the phenomena of a lower world could not be detected when only the one world, the lower, was known. You can’t see that nature reflects spiritual truth unless you know the form of spiritual truth. And such knowledge would be an a priori requirement to making the comparison at all! Did primitive man possess such profound knowledge of subjective truth?
But whence, it will be asked, came such exalted intelligence amongst the early undeveloped races? This question has been answered by the earlier statement that graduates of this or other cycles of growth had parented and tutored early mankind. A parent or guardian gives to the immature child a set of high maxims into the practical wisdom of which he is to grow in the course of his later development. Humanity was the ward of the demi-gods in remote times. And none but an intelligence beyond Shakespeare’s, beyond Plato’s, could have framed so marvelous a quiver of myths, the interior purport of which cannot even now be grasped save by the help of most recondite keys, themselves the distillation of a whole course of philosophical education. We have not read into the myths, as Massey claims, an unwarranted implication; we are only now, all too belatedly, drawing out of them some portion of a meaning deep as life itself, which they were from the first designed to embody. We do not have to superimpose extraneous meaning upon them. We find them already pregnant with truth. They shine with the flashing light of an inner connotation which they were intended to reflect. They were themselves the shadow in objective form of the substance of truth, and Massey must not object to our working from the shadow, as Plato suggested in the “cave allegory,” back to the substance. It is the only method operable by men in the “cave.”
The religious texts of old are at least one thing that did not arise from “primitive” ignorance. Says Budge, in speaking of the Egyptian Book of the Dead: “They can’t be the literary product of savages or negroes.”9 He adds elsewhere:
“The descriptions of the heaven of the Egyptian depicted in the Pyramid Texts represent the conceptions of countless generations of theologians.”10
Yet he refers to these Egyptian people as primitives. He reveals his mental obfuscation again in speaking of the Egyptian judgment:
“The pictorial form of the Judgment Scene cannot fail to strike us as belonging to a primitive period, when the Egyptians believed that hearts were actually weighed in the Balance before Osiris, while the words of the texts . . . suggest a development of ethics which we are accustomed to associate with the most civilized nations of the world.”11
Apart from the fact that almost certainly no age of Egyptian history was so stupid as to believe that a living Osiris ever observed the weighing of physical hearts in an actual Judgment Scene – it being all a symbolical depiction – the passage discloses the confusion of the scholastic mind at the contemporaneous presence of elevated spirituality or ethics with alleged primitive culture. We see the same inadequacy of the “primitive” theory to meet the facts again in the following quotation from Budge:
“Mr. Dennett, after a long study of the religions of many tribes in Western Africa, says that the Bavili conception of God is so spiritual, or abstract, that he fears the reader will think him mad to suppose that so evidently degenerate a race can have formed so logical an idea of God.”12
It seems never to have occurred to either Budge or Mr. Dennett or others that some saner age might some time pass upon our scholars the judgment of madness in thinking that the sublime spiritual conceptions of the Book of the Dead, the Chaldean Oracles, the Orphic Hymns, could have been the product of primitive peoples.
In discussing the (figurative) partaking by the ancient votaries of the bodies of their gods in the Eucharistic festival, which he mistakes for a literal eating (!), Budge traces the practice to a savage custom of cutting out and eating the vital organs of the bodies of captives in order to imbibe their courage, and says that “it is hard to understand the retention of such a notion in a text filled with sublime thoughts and ideas.” Could not this distinguished scholar see that the sole difficulty in the matter was caused by the foolish attempt to read poetry and allegory as objective occurrence?
It is perhaps permissible to interject here an instance of the incapacity of modern academicians to interpret the ancient use of symbols. Says Budge again:
“The Egyptian Christian also associated the frog with new birth and on a Christian lamp described by Lauzone, is a figure of a frog surrounded by the legend ‘Ego eimi Anastasis,’ ‘I am the Resurrection.’ It is not easy at first sight to understand why the frog should have been a symbol of new life to the Egyptian any more than the beetle. . . .”13 He finally arrives at the solution: “The frog appears with the coming of the rain, just as the beetle appears with the rising of the Nile, and so the ideas of new life and fertility became associated with them.” That so eminent a scholar as Budge should admit the difficulty of understanding why the frog – which transforms from the tadpole – and the beetle – which goes into the ground only to reissue after an incubation of twenty-eight days as a new generation of himself – should have been taken as apt symbols of the resurrection is a sufficiently striking demonstration of the blindness with which modern presumption has approached the study of the lore of antiquity. The frog, the beetle, the snake, the worm becoming the chrysalis, were the obvious visible types of transfiguration and regeneration, the outward mark of the spiritual idea. Massey states that the Christian Fathers, with the exception perhaps of Clement of Alexandria, “had scarcely enough knowledge of the ancient symbolism to put any perceptible boundary to their ignorance.”14 They did not know that their Gospels were old Egyptian myths ignorantly literalized. Massey notes that Celsus “asked concerning the Christian legends, made false to fact by the ignorant literalization of the Gnosis, – ‘What nurse would not be ashamed to tell such fables to a child?’” One might paraphrase Celsus’ question today by asking: “What age would not be ashamed to confess that it could not tell the difference between myths and actual history?”
Every religion apparently has begun at a high level and become corrupted until it stood in need of reformation and purification. Religions decay through atrophy of spiritual vision. Their course is marked by a blurring of the original light. Their fiery motivating spirit ever tends to become static. Early passion for radical regeneration of the life dwindles into a conservative tendency. The early dynamic symbols and slogans after a time lose their pristine significance. Hence the traditions, legends and rites found to be cherished by many semi-civilized tribes of our day are doubtless the decadent remnants or mere husks of former grand representations of spiritual truth. They do not represent the beginnings of crude religious apprehension; they are the crumbling ruins of once noble structures of wisdom and genius. Modern insight has entirely failed to sense this status of the religious material in anthropological study, in consequence of which the handling of religion as a sociological investigation has been marked by the grossest misconception, bewilderment and confusion. Academic opinion is that the myths and folk-tales are the groping efforts of undeveloped mind to interpret nature. But, on the contrary, they are the floating debris of splendid old formulations that once brimmed with the golden wine of high meaning. They are the wrack of mythology. “Whoever begins with the myths as a product of the ‘savage’ mind as savages are known today is fatally in error.”15 Years of study convinced Massey that all the Marchen were the flotsam of old Egyptian wisdom-structures. He avers:
“We must go back to the Proto-Aryan beginnings which are Egyptian and Kamite. In Africa we find those things next to Nature where we can go no further back in search of origins. Egypt alone goes back far enough to touch Nature in these beginnings, and . . . Egypt alone has faithfully and intelligently kept the record.”16
In Budge’s Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection (Vol. I, p. 365) the author writes of the people of West Africa in relation to the assertion that they were primitive savages:
“This is a great mistake, for they possess the remnants of a noble and sublime religion, the precepts of which they have forgotten and the ceremonies of which they have debased.”
Here for once the scholar glimpsed the truth of the anthropological situation as regards religious origins and subsequent decadence, and had he followed the light which here shone in his mind for the moment, he would have been spared the floundering in bogs and swamps of misconception which makes his treatises so nearly worthless in the end. In treating of that supposedly most debased of African religious customs, fetishism, he writes:
“Wherever we find fetishism it seems to be a corruption or modification of some former system of worship rather than the result of a primitive faith.”
“All this is only theory as far as the Egyptians are concerned, but authorities on modern African religions tell us that this is exactly what has taken place among the peoples of West Africa. Thus Col. Ellis says that there is more fetishism among the negroes of the West Indies, who have been Christianized for more than half a century, than amongst those of West Africa; for side by side with the new religion have lingered the old superstitions, whose true import has been forgotten or corrupted.”17 It served partisan ecclesiastical purposes in early times to weave some history into the texture of the allegory or to use certain bold historical events as the frame for the allegorical depiction. And this mixture has made the determination difficult in places. It is not an overstatement of truth to aver that the systems of mythology have served little better purpose in the Christian era than to detail the entire train of meaning. They have proved to be insoluble puzzles and enigmas. Our inability to make sense of them has totally distorted our estimate of Greek, Egyptian, Hindu and Chinese mentality, causing us to belittle their product most egregiously. Evidences of our erroneous estimates of their work are abundant. Lewis Spence quotes Budge (Egyptian Magic) as asserting that the Egyptians believed the gods could assume at will the forms of animals, and that this belief was the origin of the most sacred position accorded to animals in Kamite religion.
“This was the fundamental idea of so-called ‘Egyptian animal-worship’ which provoked the merriment of the cultured Greeks and drew down upon the Egyptians the ridicule and abuse of the early Christian writers.”18
Budge is of record in a statement that “it is doubtful if the Egyptian, at that time, had developed any spiritual conceptions, in our sense of the word; for although his ideas were very definite as to the reality of a future existence, I think that he had formulated few details about it, and that he had no idea as to where or how it was to be enjoyed.”
Such a quotation provokes the comment that it might be heartily agreed that the Egyptians had no “spiritual conceptions in our sense of the word,” for their understanding of eschatology far transcended ours in definiteness and lucidity, being both scientific and consistent, while ours is hazy and conjectural. And again, one could ask Budge just where in modern life the details as to the future state have been so expressly “formulated” on an accepted basis, and where one can gain explicit information nowadays as to “where and how it is to be enjoyed.” For the Spiritualists are the only ones who have tried to set forth these matters with definiteness, and are we to understand that Budge regards their theories as the accepted knowledge of our brilliant era? Have not both science and the academic world scoffed at Spirit- ualistic offerings? Budge goes on to say that the student who views Egyptian religion “from the lofty standpoint of Christianity only,” will regard it as gross polytheism or pantheism, expressed through rites that were cruel, bloodthirsty and savage, embellished with legends of the gods that are childish, the outcome of debased minds and imaginations, featuring a story of the resurrection of Osiris that is a farrago of nonsense in which absurd magical ceremonies play an impossible part, and a conception of heaven that bespeaks the imagination of a half-savage people. Yet he has more than once expressed his surprise at the sublimity and lofty purity of their presentments!
In his sorry effort at interpretation of the Egyptian Myths and Legends Lewis Spence adds clinching evidence of the utter incapacity of academic brains to discern in the least degree what the sages of old were laboring to do, when he permits himself to place the following shameful appraisal upon archaic intelligence:
“Again, to the Egyptian mind, incapable of abstract thought, an immaterial and intangible deity was an impossible conception. A god, and more so by reason of his godhead, must manifest and function in an actual body. . . . As the Egyptian everywhere craved the manifestation of and communion with his gods, it thus came about that incarnations of deity and its many attributes were multiplied.”19
The consummate obtuseness that could prompt the ascription to the ancient Egyptian seers of the flat incapacity for abstract thought may not be comprehended in its bald grossness until the reader has finished the perusal of the present volume. We have not hitherto had the presentation of the lucid meaning of Egypt’s religion to enable us to gauge the amazing injustice, as well as the crass stupidity, of so rank a judgment pronounced by ignorance against wisdom. In spiritual science we are still the barbarians.
Further comment would call attention to the sagacity of the Egyptians in refraining from doing the very thing of which Spence accused them, – of actualizing their deities as persons. Not the Egyptians but the Christians did this, in the person of Jesus. Personal gods were precisely the kind they did not have. What they had was representations of the gods, which is a whole kingdom’s length away from the other conception. Their “gods” were in reality the actual energies of nature, of matter and of mind in the universe, graded in a wonderful hier- archy. These are intangible powers, and what can puny man do other than represent them by one or another type of image? The Egyptians had quite unaccountable knowledge of these sublimer forces, with some of which, as the ethers and the rays, modern science is now slowly becoming acquainted, and they poetically imaged them under deific names, as Thoth, Anup, Kheper, Khnum, Osiris, Horus, Ptah, Set, Isis, Nephthys and Ra. But gods in human flesh (except by personation) they expressly did not have. Budge wastes pages over the discussion as to whether Osiris was a living character; and decided that his tomb, with his actual bodily remains, was at Abydos. The time has come to cry out against such incompetent muddling and to bend ourselves with what capacity we have to unravel the golden threads of supernal wisdom running their magnificent design through the old books of Egypt.
Budge was a few times astute and fair enough to admit that injustice had been done to pagans by Christian aspersions as to their addiction to idol-worship and fetishism. He well recalls that the Portuguese Christian explorers adjudged the African tribes to be practitioners of witchcraft and sorcery simply because they were themselves familiar with it and gratuitously translated observed African ceremonies as such. He is good enough to say that “neither the Egyptian nor the modern African ever believed in the divinity of their amulets or fetishes, and they never considered them to represent deities.” He quotes Dr. Nassau as a final authority in stating that “the thing itself, the material itself, is not worshipped. . . . Low as is fetishism, it nevertheless has its philosophy, a philosophy that is the same in kind as that of the higher forms of worship.” The apex of fairness is reached in Budge’s statement in the Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, Vol. I, p. 198:
“From first to last there is no evidence whatever that the Egyptians worshipped a figure or symbol, whether made of metal or wood, stone, porcelain or any other substance, unless they believed it to be the abode of a spirit of some kind. So far from fetishism being peculiarly characteristic of Egyptian religion, it seems to me that this religion, at all events in its oldest forms, was remarkably free from it.”
1. From Hibbert Lectures, p. 217.
2. Quoted in Preface to Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, by Manly P. Hall.
3. Phaedrus, p. 64.
4. Emile Baumann, Saint Paul, p. 275.
5. Quoted by Gerald Massey, Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World, p. 543.
6. E. A. Wallis Budge, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, II, p. 30.
7. Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World, p. 33. As Massey is an authority frequently to be cited in this work, it is well to state that he was an English literary figure of some prominence in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth. He studied the Egyptian hieroglyphics for forty years and had a force of transcribers employed in his later years of investigation to assemble the material from the monuments, tombs and papyri. His interpretation of Egyptian writings has been all too largely ignored by savants, yet he has the merit of having approached the task with a mind free from scholastic, theological or conventional biases, which have so utterly blinded the discernment and vitiated the conclusions of orthodox authorities. It is permissible for us to state that it was his works that opened our eyes to the hidden meaning under the material, when the works of more accredited specialists in the field had left us without a single enlightening hint. Massey is the only scholar in whose hands the recondite Egyptian material begins to take on rational significance. All the others leave it resembling unintelligible nonsense. Several important misconceptions in his interpretation are dealt with in the course of our work. Indeed we have used one or two of these as the most direct approach to a correction of the profound misconstructions which have vitiated the work of scholars in this field up to the present.
8. Lectures on Luniolatry, p. 2, by Gerald Massey.
9. Introduction to the Book of the Dead, p. xlvi.
10. Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, I, p. 101.
11. Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, I, p. 334.
12. Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, I, p. 370.
13. Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, I, p. 280.
14. Massey: The Natural Genesis, I, p. 431.
15. Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World, p. 29.
16. Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World, p. 30.
17. Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, II, p. 201.
18. Myths and Legends: Egypt, p. 271.
19. Myths and Legends: Egypt, p. 283.