On the authority of ecclesiastical eye-witnesses, therefore, we are at liberty to say that the Christian world owes its "Word of God" to a method of divination, for resorting to which the Church subsequently condemned unfortunate victims as conjurers, enchanters, magicians, witches, and vaticinators, and burnt them by thousands! In treating of this
* Socrates; "Scol. Eccl. Hist.," b. I., c. ix.
truly divine phenomenon of the self-sorting manuscripts, the Fathers of the Church say that God himself presides over the Sortes. As we have shown elsewhere, Augustine confesses that he himself used this sort of divination. But opinions, like revealed religions, are liable to change. That which for nearly fifteen hundred years was imposed on Christendom as a book, of which every word was written under the direct supervision of the Holy Ghost; of which not a syllable, nor a comma could be changed without sacrilege, is now being retranslated, revised, corrected, and clipped of whole verses, in some cases of entire chapters. And yet, as soon as the new edition is out, its doctors would have us accept it as a new "Revelation" of the nineteenth century, with the alternative of being held as an infidel. Thus, we see that, no more within than without its precincts, is the infallible Church to be trusted more than would be reasonably convenient. The forefathers of our modern divines found authority for the Sortes in the verse where it is said: "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord";* and now, their direct heirs hold that "the whole disposing thereof is of the Devil." Perhaps, they are unconsciously beginning to endorse the doctrine of the Syrian Bardesanes, that the actions of God, as well as of man, are subject to necessity?
* "Proverbs," chap. xvi., p. 33. In ancient Egypt and Greece, and among Israelites, small sticks and balls called the "sacred divining lots" were used for this kind of oracle in the temples. According to the figures which were formed by the accidental juxtaposition of the latter, the priest interpreted the will of the gods.
It was no doubt, also, according to strict "necessity" that the Neo-platonists were so summarily dealt with by the Christian mob. In those days, the doctrines of the Hindu naturalists and antediluvian Pyrrhonists were forgotten, if they ever had been known at all, to any but a few philosophers; and Mr. Darwin, with his modern discoveries, had not even been mentioned in the prophesies. In this case the law of the survival of the fittest was reversed; the Neo-platonists were doomed to destruction from the day when they openly sided with Aristotle.
At the beginning of the fourth century crowds began gathering at the door of the academy where the learned and unfortunate Hypatia expounded the doctrines of the divine Plato and Plotinus, and thereby impeded the progress of Christian proselytism. She too successfully dispelled the mist hanging over the religious "mysteries" invented by the Fathers, not to be considered dangerous. This alone would have been sufficient to imperil both herself and her followers. It was precisely the teachings of this Pagan philosopher, which had been so freely borrowed by the Christians to give a finishing touch to their otherwise incomprehensible scheme, that had seduced so many into joining the new religion; and now the Platonic light began shining so inconveniently bright upon the pious patchwork, as to allow every one to see whence the "revealed" doctrines were derived. But there was a still greater peril. Hypatia had studied under Plutarch, the head of the Athenian school, and had learned all the secrets of theurgy. While she lived to instruct the multitude, no divine miracles could be produced before one who could divulge the natural causes by which they took place. Her doom was sealed by Cyril, whose eloquence she eclipsed, and whose authority, built on degrading superstitions, had to yield before hers, which was erected on the rock of immutable natural law. It is more than curious that Cave, the author of the Lives of the Fathers, should find it incredible that Cyril sanctioned her murder on account of his "general character." A saint who will sell the gold and silver vessels of his church, and then, after spending the money, lie at his trial, as he did, may well be suspected of anything. Besides, in this case, the Church had to fight for her life, to say nothing of her future supremacy. Alone, the hated and erudite Pagan scholars, and the no less learned Gnostics, held in their doctrines the hitherto concealed wires of all these theological marionettes. Once the curtain should be lifted, the connection between the old Pagan and the new Christian religions would be exposed; and then, what would have become of the Mysteries into which it is sin and blasphemy to pry? With such a coincidence of the astronomical allegories of various Pagan myths with the dates adopted by Christianity for the nativity, crucifixion, and resurrection, and such an identity of rites and ceremonies, what would have been the fate of the new religion, had not the Church, under the pretext of serving Christ, got rid of the too-well-informed philosophers? To guess what, if the coup d"'etat had then failed, might have been the prevailing religion in our own century would indeed, be a hard task. But, in all probability, the state of things which made of the middle ages a period of intellectual darkness, which degraded the nations of the Occident, and lowered the European of those days almost to the level of a Papuan savage — could not have occurred.
The fears of the Christians were but too well founded, and their pious zeal and prophetic insight was rewarded from the very first. In the demolition of the Serapeum, after the bloody riot between the Christian mob and the Pagan worshippers had ended with the interference of the emperor, a Latin cross, of a perfect Christian shape, was discovered hewn upon the granite slabs of the adytum. This was a lucky discovery, indeed; and the monks did not fail to claim that the cross had been hallowed by the Pagans in a "spirit of prophecy." At least, Sozomen, with an air of triumph, records the fact.* But, archeology and symbolism, those tireless and implacable enemies of clerical false pretences, have found in the hieroglyphics of the legend running around the design, at least a partial interpretation of its meaning.
According to King and other numismatists and archeologists, the cross was placed there as the symbol of eternal life. Such a Tau, or Egyptian cross, was used in the
* Another untrustworthy, untruthful, and ignorant writer, and ecclesiastical historian of the fifth century. His alleged history of the strife between the Pagans, Neo-platonics, and the Christians of Alexandria and Constantinople, which extends from the year 324 to 439, dedicated by him to Theodosius, the younger, is full of deliberate falsifications. Edition of "Reading," Cantab, 1720, fol. Translated. Plon frères, Paris.
Bacchic and Eleusinian Mysteries. Symbol of the dual generative power, it was laid upon the breast of the initiate, after his "new birth" was accomplished, and the Myste had returned from their baptism in the sea. It was a mystic sign that his spiritual birth had regenerated and united his astral soul with his divine spirit, and that he was ready to ascend in spirit to the blessed abodes of light and glory — the Eleusinia. The Tau was a magic talisman at the same time as a religious emblem. It was adopted by the Christians through the Gnostics and kabalists, who used it largely, as their numerous gems testify, and who had the Tau (or handled cross) from the Egyptians, and the Latin cross from the Buddhist missionaries, who brought it from India, where it can be found until now, two or three centuries B.C. The Assyrians, Egyptians, ancient Americans, Hindus, and Romans had it in various, but very slight modifications of shape. Till very late in the medieval ages, it was considered a potent spell against epilepsy and demoniacal possession; and the "signet of the living God," brought down in St. John's vision by the angel ascending from the east to "seal the servants of our God in their foreheads," was but the same mystic Tau — the Egyptian cross. In the painted glass of St. Dionysus (France), this angel is represented as stamping this sign on the forehead of the elect; the legend reads, signvm TAY. In King's Gnostics, the author reminds us that "this mark is commonly borne by St. Anthony, an Egyptian recluse."* What the real meaning of the Tau was, is explained to us by the Christian
* "Gems of the Orthodox Christians," vol. i., p. 135.
St. John, the Egyptian Hermes, and the Hindu Brahmans. It is but too evident that, with the apostle, at least, it meant the "Ineffable Name," as he calls this "signet of the living God," a few chapters further on,+ the "Father's name written in their foreheads."
The Brahmatma, the chief of the Hindu initiates, had on his headgear two keys, symbol of the revealed mystery of life and death, placed cross-like; and, in some Buddhist pagodas of Tartary and Mongolia, the entrance of a chamber within the temple, generally containing the staircase which leads to the inner daghoba,} and the porticos of some Prachida§ are ornamented with a cross formed of two fishes, and as found on some of the zodiacs of the Buddhists. We should not wonder at all at learning that the sacred device in the tombs in the Catacombs, at Rome, the "Vesica piscis," was derived from the said Buddhist zodiacal sign. How general must have been that geometrical figure in the world-symbols, may be inferred from the fact that there is a Masonic tradition that Solomon's temple was built on three foundations, forming the "triple Tau," or three crosses.
In its mystical sense, the Egyptian cross owes its origin, as an emblem, to the realization by the earliest philosophy of an androgynous dualism of every manifestation in nature, which f Revelation xiv. 1.
J Daghoba is a small temple of globular form, in which are preserved the relics of Gautama.
§ Prachidas are buildings of all sizes and forms, like our mausoleums, and are sacred to votive offerings to the dead.
proceeds from the abstract ideal of a likewise androgynous deity, while the Christian emblem is simply due to chance. Had the Mosaic law prevailed, Jesus should have been lapidated.* The crucifix was an instrument of torture, and utterly common among Romans as it was unknown among Semitic nations. It was called the "Tree of Infamy." It is but later that it was adopted as a Christian symbol; but, during the first two decades, the apostles looked upon it with horror. + It is certainly not the Christian Cross that John had in mind when speaking of the "signet of the living God," but the mystic Tau — the Tetragrammaton, or mighty name, which, on the most ancient kabalistic talismans, was represented by the four Hebrew letters composing the Holy Word.
The famous Lady Ellenborough, known among the Arabs of Damascus, and in the desert, after her last marriage, as Hanoum Medjouye had a talisman in her possession, presented to her by a Druze from Mount Lebanon. It was recognized by a certain sign on its left corner, to belong to that class of gems which is known in Palestine as a "Messianic" amulet, of the second or third century, B.C. It is a green stone of a pentagonal form; at the bottom is engraved a fish; higher,
* The Talmudistic records claim that, after having been hung, he was lapidated and buried under the water at the junction of two streams. "Mishna Sanhedrin," vol. vi., p. 4; "Talmud," of Babylon, same article, 43 a, 67 a.
f "Coptic Legends of the Crucifixion," MSS. xi.
Solomon's seal;} and still higher, the four Chaldaic letters — Jod, He, Vau, He, IAHO, which form the name of the Deity. These are arranged in quite an unusual way, running from below upward, in reversed order, and forming the Egyptian Tau. Around these there is a legend which, as the gem is not our property, we are not at liberty to give. The Tau, in its mystical sense, as well as the crux ansata, is the Tree of Life.
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