Strict Lives of Pagan Hierophants

But the modern heirs of these ecclesiastical falsifiers, who charge magic, spiritualism, and even magnetism with being produced by a demon, forget or perhaps never read the classics. None of our bigots has ever looked with more scorn on the abuses of magic than did the true initiate of old. No modern or even medieval law could be more severe than that of the hierophant. True, he had more discrimination, charity, and justice, than the Christian clergy; for while banishing the "unconscious" sorcerer, the person troubled with a demon, from within the sacred precincts of the adyta, the priests, instead of mercilessly burning him, took care of the unfortunate "possessed one." Having hospitals expressly for that purpose in the neighborhood of temples, the ancient "medium," if obsessed, was taken care of and restored to health. But with one who had, by conscious witchcraft, acquired powers dangerous to his fellow-creatures, the priests of old were as severe as justice herself. "Any person accidentally guilty of homicide, or of any crime, or convicted of witchcraft, was excluded from the Eleusinian Mysteries."+ And so were they from all others. This law, mentioned by all writers on the ancient initiation, speaks for itself. The claim of Augustine, that all the explanations given by the Neo-platonists were invented by themselves is absurd. For nearly every ceremony in their true and successive order is given by Plato himself, in a more or less covered way. The Mysteries are as old as the world, and one well versed in the esoteric mythologies of various nations can trace them back to the days of the ante-Vedic period in India. A condition of the f See Taylor's "Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries"; Porphyry and others.

strictest virtue and purity is required from the Vatou, or candidate in India before he can become an initiate, whether he aims to be a simple fakir, a Purohita (public priest) or a Sannyasi, a saint of the second degree of initiation, the most holy as the most revered of them all. After having conquered, in the terrible trials preliminary to admittance to the inner temple in the subterranean crypts of his pagoda, the sannyasi passes the rest of his life in the temple, practicing the eighty-four rules and ten virtues prescribed to the Yogis.

"No one who has not practiced, during his whole life, the ten virtues which the divine Manu makes incumbent as a duty, can be initiated into the Mysteries of the council," say the Hindu books of initiation.

These virtues are: "Resignation; the act of rendering good for evil; temperance; probity; purity; chastity; repression of the physical senses; the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures; that of the Superior soul (spirit); worship of truth; abstinence from anger." These virtues must alone direct the life of a true Yogi. "No unworthy adept ought to defile the ranks of the holy initiates by his presence for twenty-four hours." The adept becomes guilty after having once broken any one of these vows. Surely the exercise of such virtues is inconsistent with the idea one has of devil-worship and lasciviousness of purpose!

And now we will try to give a clear insight into one of the chief objects of this work. What we desire to prove is, that underlying every ancient popular religion was the same ancient wisdom-doctrine, one and identical, professed and practiced by the initiates of every country, who alone were aware of its existence and importance. To ascertain its origin, and the precise age in which it was matured, is now beyond human possibility. A single glance, however, is enough to assure one that it could not have attained the marvellous perfection in which we find it pictured to us in the relics of the various esoteric systems, except after a succession of ages. A philosophy so profound, a moral code so ennobling, and practical results so conclusive and so uniformly demonstrable is not the growth of a generation, or even a single epoch. Fact must have been piled upon fact, deduction upon deduction, science have begotten science, and myriads of the brightest human intellects have reflected upon the laws of nature, before this ancient doctrine had taken concrete shape. The proofs of this identity of fundamental doctrine in the old religions are found in the prevalence of a system of initiation; in the secret sacerdotal castes who had the guardianship of mystical words of power, and a public display of a phenomenal control over natural forces, indicating association with preterhuman beings. Every approach to the Mysteries of all these nations was guarded with the same jealous care, and in all, the penalty of death was inflicted upon initiates of any degree who divulged the secrets entrusted to them. We have seen that such was the case in the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, among the Chaldean Magi, and the Egyptian hierophants; while with the Hindus, from whom they were all derived, the same rule has prevailed from time immemorial. We are left in no doubt upon this point; for the Agrushada Parikshai says explicitly, "Every initiate, to whatever degree he may belong, who reveals the great sacred formula, must be put to death."

Naturally enough, this same extreme penalty was prescribed in all the multifarious sects and brotherhoods which at different periods have sprung from the ancient stock. We find it with the early Essenes, Gnostics, theurgic Neo-platonists, and medieval philosophers; and in our day, even the Masons perpetuate the memory of the old obligations in the penalties of throat-cutting, dismemberment, and disemboweling, with which the candidate is threatened. As the Masonic "master's word" is communicated only at "low breath," so the selfsame precaution is prescribed in the Chaldean Book of Numbers and the Jewish Mercaba. When initiated, the neophyte was led by an ancient to a secluded spot, and there the latter whispered in his ear the great secret.* The Mason swears, under the most frightful penalties, that he will not communicate the secrets of any degree "to a brother of an inferior degree"; and the Agrushada Parikshai says: "Any initiate of the third degree who reveals before the prescribed time, to the initiates of the second degree, the superior truths, must be put to death." Again, the Masonic apprentice consents to have his "tongue torn out by the roots" if he divulge anything to a profane; and in the Hindu books of initiation, the same Agrushada Parikshai, we find that any initiate of the first degree (the lowest) who betrays the secrets

* Franck, "Die Kabbala."

of his initiation, to members of other castes, for whom the science should be a closed book, must have "his tongue cut out," and suffer other mutilations.

As we proceed, we will point out the evidences of this identity of vows, formulas, rites, and doctrines, between the ancient faiths. We will also show that not only their memory is still preserved in India, but also that the Secret Association is still alive and as active as ever. That, after reading what we have to say, it may be inferred that the chief pontiff and hierophants, the Brahmatma, is still accessible to those "who know," though perhaps recognized by another name; and that the ramifications of his influence extend throughout the world. But we will now return again to the early Christian period.

As though he were not aware that there was any esoteric significance to the exoteric symbols, and that the Mysteries themselves were composed of two parts, the lesser at Agr^, and the higher ones at Eleusinia, Clemens Alexandrinus, with a rancorous bigotry that one might expect from a renegade Neo-platonist, but is astonished to find in this generally honest and learned Father, stigmatized the Mysteries as indecent and diabolical. Whatever were the rites enacted among the neophytes before they passed to a higher form of instruction; however misunderstood were the trials of Katharsis or purification, during which they were submitted to every kind of probation; and however much the immaterial or physical aspect might have led to calumny, it is but wicked prejudice which can compel a person to say that under this external meaning there was not a far deeper and spiritual significance.

It is positively absurd to judge the ancients from our own standpoint of propriety and virtue. And most assuredly it is not for the Church — which now stands accused by all the modern symbologists of having adopted precisely these same emblems in their coarsest aspect, and feels herself powerless to refute the accusations — to throw the stone at those who were her models. When men like Pythagoras, Plato, and Iamblichus, renowned for their severe morality, took part in the Mysteries, and spoke of them with veneration, it ill behooves our modern critics to judge them so rashly upon their merely external aspects. Iamblichus explains the worst; and his explanation, for an unprejudiced mind, ought to be perfectly plausible. "Exhibitions of this kind," he says, "in the Mysteries were designed to free us from licentious passions, by gratifying the sight, and at the same time vanquishing all evil thought, through the awful sanctity with which these rites were accompanied."* "The wisest and best men in the Pagan world," adds Dr. Warburton, "are unanimous in this, that the Mysteries were instituted pure, and proposed the noblest ends by the worthiest means."+

* "Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians." f "Divine Legation of Moses"; The "Eleusinian Mysteries" as quoted by Thos. Taylor.

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