Truth Wears a Mask

Chapter III

The logical point of departure for the investigation is the study of ancient methodology in the writing of sacred literature. It has been quite largely due to modern ignorance of a special methodology employed in such writing, one bearing no relation or kinship to any known technique in our period, that misinterpretation of arcane books has come about. In spite of voluminous authentic testimony to the fact of such an extraordinary literary method, scholars down to the present day have failed to take note of the evidence for it, and have with unmitigated obduracy flouted the claims for the fact and its overwhelming implications for our understanding the whole of ancient lore. The consequences have been disastrous over the whole range of religious interest. It is therefore necessary to begin with a scrutiny of the peculiar style of representation which was indigenous to the ancient mind and its approach to the grasp and expression of religious truth.

If it can be shown that the ancient sages wrote their great books of wisdom in a form that was purely typological or representative, and in no sense objectively historical, a presumptive argument of nearly clinching force will be established in favor of the non-existence of Jesus, as far as the New Testament is concerned. If practically the only documents in which his "life" is recorded are proven to be non-historical literature, the presupposition is well grounded from the start that he was not a living man but a typical personification of the god in man. The entrenched interests of ecclesiastical orthodoxy have persistently withstood the claims and the evidence for the correctness of this thesis, but it can be said in the face of such resistance that the case for it is established beyond the point of speculation or further controversy. If this is still controverted, it is designed to present in the work at hand a volume of data that will render the case virtually impregnable at last.

The purpose of this chapter is to adduce plentiful witness that the sages of antiquity wrote their Bibles in a method of designed cryptology and as much to hide their real meaning as to reveal it. Contrary to all modern reasoning and expectation, they did not write for the obvious purpose of informing, instructing or enlightening the largest number of people. Rather it is evident that they wrote primarily to preserve from popular desecration a treasure of recondite spiritual wisdom and cosmological truth, that was designed to be transmitted as nearly intact as possible from early antiquity to all later ages. Ancient literary interest centered about the safety and purity of a great jewel of knowledge, and not, as in modern days, about the most rapid general purveying of every item of discovery to the largest number of people possible. The golden motive in writing the sacred books was not how quickest to get truth to the populace, but how most surely to keep the great secrets of divine teaching untarnished by the populace, for the benefit of those of every age who would use them aright. To preserve the heritage of truth intact, and not to disseminate it among the illiterate and unappreciative masses, was the primary aim of the writers of the arcane books.

This aim and purpose dictated a peculiar type of writing, obviously one not directly open and simple in meaning, but one of indirection and disguise. Books were therefore composed in what is known as the esoteric method. An inner profounder and always more spiritual meaning than the one ostensibly carried by the outward sense of the words was intended to be embodied, and the expectation was that it would be divined by the more intelligent segment of society and missed by the unworthy and uncultured. For the attainment of this end the great cosmic, evolutionary, philosophical and religious truths, along with the vital data for understanding, were expressed, "not in dialogues, but in a wide variety of typical representations, the main forms of which were drama, myth, allegory, nomenology (or name structure), number formulations (as chiefly in the Pythagorean system), and astrographs, or pictorial designs drawn on the open face of the sky about the star clusters. The aim was to dramatize or pictorialize truth and evolutionary process, and to this end there was invented, through the exercise of the most profoundly astute insight ever exhibited by the illumined human brain, an entire language of symbolism, composed of an alphabet of symbolic characters drawn from living nature, ranging from atom to earth-worm or beetle to stars and gods. The great archaic texts of wisdom were therefore not only collections of myths, allegories and dramas, but they were couched in a language of the most extreme subtlety, ability to read which conditioned upon the profoundest knowledge of the science of natural analogy. The symbolic characters in this cryptic alphabet were by no means mere algebraic x’s in the fashion of a cipher code or system. They were actual biographs of the idea to be expressed, living and objective types of the thing connoted. This very fact alone presupposes as the foundation for adeptship in the handling of such a language a knowledge of life and of nature that would be the acquirement of only the most perspicacious philosophical genius. It would require a volume in itself to reconstruct the science of correspondences or analogy resting on the kinship or parallelism known to subsist between the two worlds of objective and subjective reality, or as Emerson puts it, "betwixt the inner spirit and the outer matter," by virtue of which the discerning mind of man can interpret the outer phenomena as the counterparts or reflection of the inner consciousness. Nature is the analogue of the spirit; the world is the antitype of the soul. The universe is the physical construct of the Creator’s thought, and therefore he who can handle the alphabet of the hieroglyphs of divine ideation in the objective presentment of nature can read God’s mind after him. Natural forms thus become a living language of the most nearly divine comprehension man is capable of, and afford him the most voluble vehicles or symbols of the clearest expression he can frame. As the most penetrating insight into the profounder aspects of both consciousness and nature were prime essentials for such usage, obviously the mastery of a science so recondite would be confined to a minority of the most developed individuals. These were of course the philosophers, the illuminati, the hierophants of the temples and the initiates in the Mysteries. They were the members of the group to which was entrusted the custodianship and transmission of the Arcane Philosophy.

A cryptic typology and a symbolic alphabet or language were then the essential structural features of the ancient esoteric literary methodology. The logos of esotericism is a theme of the utmost profundity, which taxes the human mind to grasp its rational essence. It again would take a volume to expound, since its analysis would run deep and broad into the nature of life and consciousness alike. There is no room in this work for any full attempt at elucidation of the abstruse subject, though much of the work bears pretty closely upon the central answer. It may be in the end the gist of all effort at comprehension of the secrecy of initial world wisdom to understand simply that as the full inner meaning of life is as deep as the deepest mind of man, the attempt to render that full meaning for the grasp of lesser minds must be couched in terms and forms that will lay the heaviest toll of intelligence and sagacity upon the faculties of the student or aspirant. The answer is in part also inwoven with human psychology, by the conditions of which nothing but these living symbols can in the ultimate awaken in sluggish men the quickened flare of genius for the apprehension of the most real sense and values. It is recognized in all education that the drama carries far greater psychic impressiveness than the best of spoken language. We can learn a mighty lesson from the Greeks who in their dramatic rituals effectuated a mighty moral purgation in the consciousness and character of the auditors which was spoken of under the designation of "catharsis." It was known to them that the drama could be used to work a purification of the innermost springs of thought and conduct in the individual, as the beholder was made to live over vicariously in the persons of the actors the crises and heroic or tragic episodes of the human moral conflict depicted on the stage. The whole intent of the drama and the Mystery ceremonials was to bring the force of the most impressive living realization home to the inner consciousness of the audience personnel, and to stamp in the most vivid manner upon the susceptibilities of the participants the deepest sense of the incarnational drama in which all mortals are adventuring. It needs no elaborate dialectic to make clear the perception that drama carries a far more effective power for impressing moral issues upon the mind than any language can achieve. It is a copy of living reality; it is life itself in the particular and in miniature; and it is all drawn up in such a form as to present to the mind the structural nature of both action and meaning. In pain and its happiness. It gathers up a tangled or loose thread of unrelated occurrence and displays the fateful pattern of weal or woe into which it is being woven by the shuttle of life--or, as most ancients saw it, of many lives.

As to the symbolism in language, it was of the same order of rationale as the drama, but cast in smaller scale. Both the drama and symbolism draw their dynamic psychological effectiveness from the fact that they bear to truth in the large the relation of truth in miniature. It was the knowledge of the early teachers of mankind that all smaller process was a diminutive copy of all larger process, or of life process in any measure. The law of life was universal. Therefore all forms of its expression, large or small, exemplified the same one law. The microcosm, they said, was a tiny reflection of the macrocosm. The fragment bore the image of the whole. Man was made in the image of God. The atom and the world are alike descriptive of the universe. Each revealed the pattern, and there is but one pattern, though it has endless modifications in minor detail. Man is looking at the whole of truth when he looks at any living part of creation. It is more than a poet’s fancy that all of God is present everywhere, and that every common bush is aflame with deity.

Hence all nature is an alphabetic language, and every form is a symbol. Autumn is the eternal symbol of death and spring of resurrection. The leaf is the alphabetic character that reads repeated incarnation for the life of the tree. The seed is the greatest of all hieroglyphs, for it is the end product of one cycle and at the same time the beginning stage of the next, thus furnishing the key to the whole ongoing process of life. The career of a dragon-fly is the whole epic of human life lived in the four worlds of sense, emotion, thought and spirit, typed in the old language by earth, water, air and fire. The symbol is therefore a powerfully moving photograph of life and reality, a thumb-nail portraiture of the whole vast meaning of the cosmos. Language is itself nothing but a designed set of symbols. But symbols taken directly from nature have the additional cogency of being parts of life itself in immediate view. In dealing with symbols man constantly bathes his mind in reality. They are his safeguards against folly and error. They are his perennial instructors. They unfold before his eyes the forms and designs of the pattern of life. Says Emerson: "A good symbol is a missionary to convince thousands."

In its power over the human mind language comes close to deserving the term magical. Symbols, therefore, have been employed in the sphere of philosophy and religion to wield upon general consciousness a kind of potent charm akin to spiritual "magic." This is indeed the true magic. For thought is the great Magician of the cosmos, transforming one thing into another and calling the worlds into being by the wand of its vibrational power. The simple and natural meaning of the word "magic" is this power of mind to throw matter into the form outlined by thought. Thought makes or mars lives; it is the eternal prestidigitator. Its legerdemain brings the invisible to visible appearance.

All this is implicit in the nature and use of the symbol. The picture of truth presented by it imprints its image upon the open tablet of the mind. Through the rapport which the part feels with the whole, the unit of consciousness with the entirety of consciousness, and the instinctive urge of the fragment to re-become one with the All, the impact of a symbol upon mind anywhere is inevitably to awaken in it a stir of latent cognitive delight, the impulsive thrill of its recognition of its harmony with all being. This recognition and delight become life’s truest guide to rectitude. Symbols keep the mind aligned with truth. They hold it in line with verity. They save it from vagary and fantasy. Such is the magic might of the symbol.

This magic is finally the ground of esotericism. It is admissible without cavil that mystic susceptibility to the wizardry of symbols would be developed and become operative in even step with the individual’s growth in culture. It would be a manifestation of strength of genius and a high degree of intellectuality. Obvious it is then that a literature conceived on the basis of a science so profound, expressed in its recondite symbology and dependent finally upon the possession in its recipients of the astute faculty requisite for its due appreciation, would have to be cast in a language of esotericism. Inevitably failing of comprehension amongst the populace, it would appeal to the more sagacious and the more illuminated. The norms of culture were set by the more intelligent minority, as they must ever be. The wardship of culture is in the hands of a small group, whose deeper criteria of value at once set store by things which are beyond the mob, and thus esotericism is inexorably introduced into the cultural or religious situation.

It has been necessary to elucidate the nature and bases of esotericism because the stubborn recalcitrancy of savants in the time since the closing of the Platonic Academies in the fifth century has imposed on a truth-seeking scholar the task of vindicating it against the inorthodox refutation of its legitimacy. It remains next to array in considerable volume a mass of data that will establish beyond further evasion or quibbling the fact of its ancient prevalence and its place in the methodology of scripture writing.

It is to be understood at the outset of this enterprise that, considerable as is the evidence amassed here, it is only a tiny portion of what might be assembled if all books could be consulted. Indeed that presented here is merely additional to what has been collected in an earlier work, The Lost Light. It is by no means the main body of such authentication. The quantity given here could easily be trebled or quadrupled. In the face of such an amount of testimony the question will arise in many minds why the scholars of our day and previous periods should have so obdurately held out against the indisputable regnancy of esotericism in the ancient literary field. Substantiation of the position taken will call for much quotation of documents and authorities.

A modern theologian agrees with the fundamental rationale of the esoteric method. Benjamin W. Bacon, of Yale Divinity School, in his valuable work, Jesus and Paul, (p. 207) says that just as in modern times we are conscious that truth may be imparted often more effectively by fiction than by plain statement, so it was with the ancient world, but in much higher degree. To this another modern, the Harvard Santayana (Dialogues in Limbo, p. 185) adds his confession that "allegory has its charms when we know the facts it symbolizes, but as a guide to unknown facts it is perplexing; and I am another lost in your beautiful imagery." Strange that the philosopher should admit his incapacity to follow natural imagery when he himself employs it in many beautiful analogies, and the general requirement of intelligence is no greater than necessary to see the fine allegorism in such a quotation as this from the same work of his (p. 56): "The soul, too, has her virginity and must bleed a little before bearing fruit." Are we to assume that natural parallelism is permissible when used by modern poets, but to be distrusted when employed by the philosophic sages with more systematic handling?

How truly the same thinker came to stating the full truth with regard to a greater chapter of history shown in his statement (Winds of Doctrine, p. 50) that "it seems to many of us that Christianity is indeed a fable, yet full of meaning if you take it as such." This is forthright corroboration of the basic thesis of this study, which claims that the scriptures yield their true meaning only when taken as allegory and fable, and yield nonsense when taken as history. It is worth completing his statement: "for what scraps of historical truth there may be in the Bible or of metaphysical truth in theology are of little importance; whilst the true greatness and beauty of this, as of all religions, is to be found in its moral idealisms, I mean, in the expression it gives, under cover of legends, prophecies, or mysteries, of the efforts, tragedy and the consolations of human life. Such a moral fable is what Christianity is in fact; . . ." Here is great sanity of discernment, and it largely tells the whole story of religion. Yet the same mind shows confusion again when he writes (Winds of Doctrine, p. 33): "Even the pagan poets, when they devised a myth, half believed in it for a fact." There is no tangible evidence anywhere to vindicate this stricture. To be sure, they "believed" in their myths when comprehended esoterically; but surely none but the grossest of ignorant folk ever "believed" in them as factual occurrence. That enormity of childish folly was reserved for the modern academicians.

Bishop Laurence in the preface to his work on the Book of Enoch (p. xlvi) says that the singular and fascinating "system of allegorical subtleties" predominant in the philosophies of the East is as inseparable from Oriental modes of thought and expression "as the shadow is from the substance."

Bulfinch (Age of Fable, p. 12), in writing of the creation of the world, says that "the ancient pagans, not having the information on the subject which we derive from the pages of Scripture, had their own way of telling the story." As to which it may be observed that it is possible to say now that the ancient pagans had these same and many more scriptures long before we had them, and knew infinitely better what they meant than we do. But it is noteworthy that he admits they had their own peculiar method of writing the account.

One of the most direct revelations of the basic interrelation of symbols with consciousness is given in a sentence from Proclus, the fourth century expounder of Platonism who was nearly equal in esoteric wisdom to the master himself, in which he says that "the paternal nature disseminated symbols in souls," and through the world. This statement pierces closer to the heart of the rationale of the science of symbolism than anything ever likely to be said in the elucidation of that abstruse science. The divine creative or paternal mind, or Logos, has scattered symbols through the world and placed in souls a power capable of being excited by their impingement on the outer sense. This is an item of Greek philosophy that could profitably be brooded over by thinkers today. It would tend to dispose us to a more friendly and harmonious relationship with outer nature, and would reveal to us anew the indispensable truth known to the Egyptians that, as Gerald Massey puts it, "the symbolical can only be interpreted by the natural." This must be so for the very sound reason that generally the symbolical is the natural. For nature is herself the greatest lexicon of symbols extant. Massey enlarges upon this theme when he says (Book of Beginnings, II, p. 37) that "typology consists of various things set forth by means of one original type. Symbolism was a mode necessitated, not a system designed, because the one principal type had to serve many purposes of expression." This, it has been seen, was true because there is but one universal law, and this one law, seen in every phenomenon, has to serve as the one norm of interpretation.

This discernment of Massey is corroborated by the observations of C. O. Müller, who is quoted by Lundy (Monumental Christianity, p. 18):

"Ancient Greece possessed only two means of representing and communicating ideas of the Deity--Mythus and Symbol. The mythus relates an action, by which the Divine Being reveals himself in his power and individuality; the symbol renders it visible to the sense by means of an object placed in connection therewith. . . . The symbol is an external visible sign with which a spiritual emotion, feeling or idea is connected. The mythic representation can never rest upon arbitrary choice of expression; so, too, the connection of an idea with a sign in Symbolism, was natural and necessary to the ancient world; it occurred involuntarily; and the essence of the symbol consists in this supposed connection of the sign with the thing signified. Symbols in this sense are evidently coeval with the human race; they result from the union of the soul with the body of man: nature has implanted the feeling for them in the human heart. The human face expresses spiritual peculiarities; and so all nature wore to the ancients a physiognomical aspect."

With the art or science of the interpretation of nature’s physiognomy the ancient sages were profoundly conversant. It is one of the greatest of all "lost arts." Lundy adds to Müller’s perspicacious analysis the observation that "if the mythos has no spiritual meaning, then all religion becomes mere idolatry, or the worship of material things," i.e., the symbols in their literal reference. "But we have seen symbols of Oriental Pagan religions which indicate a supreme Power and Intelligence above matter; and also how early Christianity abhorred idolatry."

Proclus in his great work on the theology of Plato speaks of "all the fables, therefore, of Plato, guarding the truth in concealment." And he adds that

"if certain persons introduce to us physical hypotheses of Platonic fables . . . we must say that they entirely wander from the intention of the philosopher, and that those hypotheses alone are interpreters of the truth contained in these fables, which have for their scope a divine, immaterial and separate hypostasis and which, looking to this, make the compositions and analyses of fables adapted to our inherent anticipations of divine concerns."

Which is to say in plainer terms that those who take a physical or historical meaning out of the allegories, mistake the intent of the great dramatist and blindly miss the sense; while the true import is to be found in a mystagogical perception of truth deeply veiled.

The same great philosopher, speaking of the "mystic ceremonies" of the Mysteries, says that "every part is full of symbolical representation, as in a drama." Thomas Taylor, editing Proclus’ work, says

"the reader may perceive how adultery and rapes, as represented in the machinery of the Mysteries, are to be understood when applied to the gods; and that they mean nothing more than communication of divine energies, either between a superior and subordinate, or subordinate and superior divinity."

He adds that the "apparent indecency" of these symbolic depictions had nothing to do with their "mystic meaning," but that they were indeed "designed as a remedy for the passions of the soul; and hence mystic ceremonies were very properly called akea, medicines, by the obscure and noble Heraclitus." Drama and symbol used as moral medicines!

Taylor in his Introduction to the philosophy and writings of Plato, quotes Proclus as saying that those who treat of divine concerns either speak symbolically and fabulously, or through images. Some, he asserts, speak according to science, but others according to inspiration from the gods. He states that those who attempt to set forth the nature of the gods through symbols are Orphic, whilst those who use "images" are Pythagoric.

"For the mathematical disciplines were invented by the Pythagoreans in order to a reminiscence of divine concerns, to which, through these as images, they endeavor to ascend. For they refer both numbers and figures to the gods."

It is notable that the Platonic philosophers rated the mathematical discipline and the contemplation of the numerological structure of the universe as the very highest and most direct path by which the human mind could approach a rapport with the divine.1


1 In the light of which statement it may perhaps be true that Albert Einstein, the famed physicist of our day, when, in response to his challenge to the clergy to put an end to their preachment of an anthropomorphic God, he was bluntly told by them to stay in his own mathematical field and not presume to invade one in which he was not intelligent, might be considered to stand closer to an apprehension of divinity than his clerical detractors.

Proclus then elucidates the reasons "when the ancients were induced to devise fables," and this remarkable passage is worth quoting if only for the sake of reminding a science-ridden age that it is utterly wrong in continuing to hold in contempt one of the greatest of all sciences, analogy.

"In answer, then, it is necessary to know that the ancients employed fables, looking to two things, viz., nature and our soul. They employed them by looking to nature and the fabrication of things as follows: Things inapparent are believed from things apparent and incorporeal natures from bodies. For seeing the orderly arrangement of bodies, we understand that a certain incorporeal power presides over them; as with respect to the celestial bodies, they have a certain presiding motive power. As we, therefore, see that our body is moved, but is no longer so after death, we perceive that it was a certain incorporeal power which moved it. Hence, perceiving that we believe things inapparent from things apparent and corporeal, fables came to be adopted that we might come from things apparent to certain inapparent natures; as, for instance, that on hearing the adulteries, bonds and lacerations of the gods, castrations of heaven and the like, we might not rest satisfied with the apparent meaning of such like particulars, but may proceed to the inapparent, and investigate the true signification. After this manner, therefore, looking to the nature of things, were fables employed."

There are passages in the books of the ancient philosophers that fairly shout--to the discerning student--their regal wisdom in our ears, and this is one of them. Had the potential enlightenment in these words been caught and held by the scholars of the earlier centuries and incorporated in western philosophy, the entire history of Christian Europe and America would have run a happier course. The fogs of religious insanity would surely have been dissipated by the intelligence that would have arisen from contemplation of God’s natural handiwork, seen as the analogue of the verities of the unseen spiritual world. The irrational and fanatical mysticism inspired by the preachment of sheer faith would have been replaced by a mysticism of rational foundation, springing from the reading of the eternal mind in the open book of natural revelation. And Paul’s adjuration to add knowledge to faith would have averted the endless sickening horrors of pious bigotry and persecution. The great science of analogy has been contemned even in spite of St. Paul’s complete endorsement of Greek insight in his amazingly clear and simple statement that "that which may be known of God is manifest," and that "the invisible things of Him" may be clearly seen, by looking at the visible world around us. The long and gruesome train of ills that have been engendered by the medieval and modern contempt for ancient "paganism," the mawkish and revolting scorn heaped upon the alleged "primitive" child-mindedness of past civilizations spiritually more enlightened than our own, would have given way to a cultural sensitivity that must surely have kept the pages of the historical record free from the black stains they now bear. The spectacle of the supercilious contempt shown toward an ancient culture by a civilization that has not even evolved the intelligence to comprehend its subtleties has darkened the human outlook on life and defeated the power of the light to break through the darkness and shed its benignant rays of intelligence and sanity upon the world. It was so much easier for a mentality that could not comprehend the Greek myths to cast the stigma of its own incapacity upon the framers of the myths than to admit its proper applicability to itself. It is time that it be proclaimed in ringing tones that the alleged incomprehensibility of the myths is due to modern doltishness and not to ancient ignorance. Wisdom was so deeply grasped that the symbols which alone could awaken its cognition have left us gaping and mocking, incredulous and uncomprehending.

Had not the illustrious Platonic literature been pushed aside for a spurious and emasculated version of it, we could have been better instructed by such a sentence as this, which Proclus adds to the foregoing: "It may always be said that a fable is nothing else than a false discourse shadowing forth the truth, for a fable is the image of truth." Had we the discerning sense to lay hold of the great fact expressed in his next sentence--"But the soul is the image of the natures prior to herself"--for a grasp of which the study of the whole of the great Orphic-Platonic system is requisite--we would be in better position to accept his conclusion that "hence the soul very properly rejoices in fables, as an image of an image." And we could then follow his last sentence in the paragraph: "As we are therefore from our childhood nourished in fables, it is necessary that they should be introduced."

Staggering rebuke to the stolidity of this age is implied in his further exposition:

"The poetic fable abounds in this, that we must not rest satisfied with the apparent meaning, but pass on to the occult truth. . . . But it is defective in this, that it deceives those of a juvenile age. Plato therefore neglects fables of this kind and banished Homer from his Republic, because youth, on hearing such fables, will not be able to distinguish what is allegorical from what is not."

As it was unthinkable for us of the modern world in 1914 to believe that in a few years the whole fabric of human liberty that had been built up by centuries of struggle against tyranny would be toppling to ruin, so it must have seemed unthinkable to Plato and, seven hundred years later, to Proclus that the long-enduring structure of esoteric philosophy could be torn down and its ruins submerged under the debris of literal and historical nonsense. A juvenile age indeed!

What could be clearer than Proclus’ statement that "the Orphic method aimed at revealing divine things by means of symbols, a method common to all writers of divine lore (theomythias)?" [The word means "God-myth."] And he quotes Plutarch (De Pyth. Orac., xviii):

"Formerly the wisdom-lovers exposed their doctrines and teachings in poetical fiction, as for example Orpheus and Hesiod and Parmenides and Julian, the so-called Apostate. . . . Many of the philosophers and theologians were myth-makers. . . . Concerning the myths of the Mysteries which Orpheus handed down to us, in the very things which in these myths are most incongruous, he drew nearest to the truth. For just in proportion as the enigma is more paradoxical and wonderful, so does he warn us to distrust the appearance and seek for the hidden meaning. Philostratus asserts that in the Iliad the poet was philosophizing in the Orphic manner."

Plutarch (De Daedal., Frag. lx, 1, 754) writes that

"the most ancient philosophers covered up their teachings in a lattice work of fables and symbols, especially instancing the Orphic writings and the Phrygian myths."

"That ancient natural science both among the Greeks and foreigners was for the most part hidden in myths of an occult and mysterious theology containing an enigmatical and hidden meaning, is clear from the Orphic poems and the Egyptian and Phrygian treatises."

G. R. S. Mead, in Orpheus (p. 51) quotes Pico della Mirandolo, Italian occultist of the Renaissance, as writing:

"He who does not know perfectly how to intellectualize sensible properties by the method of occult analogy, will never arrive at the real meaning of the Hymns of Orpheus."

Mead further endorses Thomas Taylor, the enlightened interpreter of Plato:

"Taylor says that the Grecian theology was first ‘mystically and symbolically’ promulgated by Orpheus. . . . To understand that theology, therefore, we must treat it from the point of view of mysticism and symbolism, for no other method is capable of extracting its meaning."

And Mead adds Proclus’ assertion that

"the whole theology of the Greeks is the child of Orphic mystagogy, Pythagoras being first taught the ‘orgies’ of the gods (‘orgies’ signifying ‘burstings forth,’ or ‘emanations,’ from @insert greek) by Aglaophemus, and next Plato receiving the perfect science concerning such things from the Pythagorean and Orphic writings."

In his book New Platonism and Alchemy (p. 6), Alexander Wilder makes the unequivocal statement:

"There was in every ancient country having claims to civilization an esoteric doctrine, a system that was designated WISDOM, and those who were devoted to its prosecution were first denominated Sages or wise men. . . . Pythagoras termed the system he gnosis ton onton, the Gnosis or knowledge of things that are. Under the noble designation of WISDOM the ancient teachers, the sages of India, the magians of Persia and Babylon, the seers and prophets of Israel, the hierophants of Egypt and Arabia and the philosophers of Greece and the West included all knowledge which they considered as essentially divine; classifying a part as esoteric and the remainder as exoteric. The Rabbis called the exterior and secular series the Mercavah, as being the body or vehicle which contained the higher knowledge."

Clement of Alexandria, Christian philosopher of the third century tersely said that "it is requisite to hide in a mystery the wisdom spoken." This is the echo of St. Paul’s "wisdom hidden in a mystery." No statement could be more explicit than Clement’s:

"All, then, in a word, who have spoken of divine things, both barbarians and Greeks, have veiled the first principles of things and delivered the truth in enigmas and symbols and allegories and metaphors and such like tropes."

In speaking of the exoteric version of the fables and allegories Origen, Clement’s learned pupil and one of the prime formulators of early Christian theology, asks: "What better could you have for the instruction of the masses?" Paracelsus (Vol. I, p. 17) centuries later wrote that it was "the property of the common herd to take false views of things." It is certainly true that almost every conception harbored in the minds of the "average man" today, as in the past, concerning the true meaning of the deeper things of theology, is atrociously in error.

In Orpheus (1, p. 60) Mead declares: "These myths are not only set forth in verse and prose, but were also represented pictorially and in sculpture in the Adyta of the temples."

"Myriads on myriads of enigmatical utterances by both poets and philosophers are to be found; and there are also whole books which present the mind of the writer veiled as that of Heraclitus’ ‘On Nature,’ which on this very account is called ‘the Obscure.’ Similar to this book is the Theology of Pherecydes of Samos. And so also the work of Euphorion, the Causae of Callimachus, and the Alexandra of Lycophion."

Mead follows these statements with the observation that while the veiling of high truth under gross outer symbols could in a pure state of society be done without moral damage, nevertheless a degenerate age would run the risk of stopping at the outer symbol, forgetting the inner reference and thus would plunge religion into grave dangers of fatal misconceptions.

Also in Orpheus (p. 24) Mead, describing the discipline enforced in the Mysteries, says:

"Another and most important part of the discipline was the training in the interpretation of myths, symbols and allegory, the letters of the mystical language in which the secrets of nature and the soul were written so plainly for the initiated, so obscurely for the generality. Without this instruction the mythical recitals and legends were unintelligible."

Sixteen centuries of unintelligibility that still enshrouds the great myths of antiquity surely add unimpeachable corroboration to Mead’s assertion. Mead says the allegories may be interpreted either microcosmically or macrocosmically, but in either case yield the meaning of the evolution of mind.

In his magnificent Encyclopedia of ancient symbolic literature Manly P. Hall declares that nearly every religion of the world shows traces of astrological influences, and that the Old Testament of the Jews, its writings breathing the aura of earlier Egyptian culture, is a mass of astrological and astronomical allegories.

In a long passage in his great work on the theology of Plato Proclus points out how the master philosopher holds back the use of fables among those who through incapacity and shallowness would conceive only a perverted meaning from reading them, yet assents to their employment among those who are able to penetrate into the hidden mystic truth veiled by them. So, he says, Plato rejects the "apparatus of the fables" in the Republic and in certain dialogues, but admits them in the Cratylus, where "these things Socrates indicates in the Cratylus, jesting and at the same time being serious in what he says." Proclus says that in the Fourth Book of The Laws Plato celebrates the life under Saturn, obscurely signifying the hidden meaning "through fabulous fictions." The Cratylus is a splendid example of the easy victimization of the alleged towering modern intelligence by ancient astuteness in concealment. Present academic opinion still contends that in the Cratylus Socrates spent an afternoon in punning. He points out such "puns" as that the Greeks called the body soma and the tomb sema, and the pundits of today still can see no suggestive connection between the two words, in spite of the fact that hundreds of times the Greek philosophers have told us that in Orphic theology the soul while in incarnation in the body was as though dead in its tomb. "The body is the sepulcher of the soul" is almost an axiom of Greek philosophy. Behind every one of Socrates’ "puns" hides some great and luminous item of the piercing Platonic insight into deep mysteries.

A vivid forecast of all later imbecility of the masses in religious superstition is made by Proclus for Plato when he says that while Plato "allows the poets that are inspired by Phoebus to signify things of this kind obscurely and mystically, he excludes the multitudes from hearing these things because they believe without examination in the fabulous veils of truth." Proclus speaks of the proper intelligence "unfolding the concealed theory which they contain."

Socrates hints at the deep psychological springs of the symbolic methodology when he writes in the Phaedrus "that an alliance to the demoniacal genus, prepared the soul for the reception of divine light, excites the phantasy to symbolic narration."

Proclus states that Orpheus "greatly availed himself of the license of fables." And once more he avers that Socrates (Plato?) "narrating the types and laws of divine fables, which afford this apparent meaning, and the inward concealed scope, which regards as its end the beautiful and natural in the fictions about the gods," dodges the mental stolidity of the crass to reach the subtler intelligence of the initiated.

The second-century esotericist, Plutarch, says that "so cautious and reserved was the Egyptian wisdom in those things which pertained to religion"; "and like them Pythagoras conveyed his doctrines to the world in a kind of riddle." In reference to Plato’s last book, The Laws, written "when he was now grown old," Plutarch says that Plato threw off the esoteric mask, spoke not "in riddles and emblems, but in plain and proper terms" of the more recondite aspects of truth. In De Iside et Osiride (IX) Plutarch states that if the choice of king fell upon a soldier, "he was immediately initiated into the order of the priests and by them instructed in their abstruse and hidden philosophy, a philosophy for the most part involved in fable and allegories and exhibiting only dark hints to us in many instances, particularly by the sphinxes, which they seem to have placed designedly before their temples as types of the enigmatical nature of their theology."

In the same work (XI) Plutarch elucidates one of the animal representations of a god in such a fashion as to enable the dullest brain to catch a concealed meaning behind a symbol and to get an inkling as to how they operated the symbolic language.

"When you hear, therefore, the mythological tales which the Egyptians tell of their gods, their wanderings, their mutilations and many other disasters which befell them, remember what has just been said, and be assured that nothing of what is thus told you is really true or ever happened in fact. For can it be imagined that it is the ‘dog’ itself which is reverenced by them under the name of Hermes? It is the question of this animal, his constant vigilance and his acumen in distinguishing his friends from his foes, which have ever rendered him, as Plato says, a meet emblem of that god who is the chief patron of intelligence."

And in another passage Plutarch tells his age that if one will hear and entertain the story of these gods from those who know how to explain it consistently with religion and philosophy, and will steadily persist in the observance of all those holy rites which the law requires, and moreover will be disposed to the conviction that to form true notions of divine natures is more acceptable to them than any sacrifice or mere external act of worship can be, one will by this means be entirely exempt from any danger of falling into superstition, an evil no less to be avoided than atheism itself.

Gerald Massey, the profoundest and most discerning of Egyptologists, in his fine work, The Natural Genesis (Vol. II, p. 378 ff.) writes:

"The lost language of celestial allegory can now be restored, chiefly through the resurrection of ancient Egypt; the scriptures can be read as they were originally written, according to the secret wisdom, and we now know how the history was first written as mythology."

He adds that the Revelation assigned to John the Divine is the Christian form of the Mithraic Revelation, that in the Parsee sacred books the original scriptures are always referred to as the "Revelation," and that the Bahman Yasht contains the same drama of mystery that is drawn out and magnified in the Bible Revelation. He asserts that the personages, scenes, circumstances and transactions are identical in both. Each revelation relates to the Kronian allegory and in both the prophecy is solely astronomical. He explains that Egypt is the mother of the world’s primeval religion and that the myths of Egypt were the origin of the Mysteries of the world. The main theme of most of his voluminous work is that the Hebrew "miracles" are nothing but the original myths of Egypt, misread as history. In his Reply to Prof. A. H. Sayce he says:

"I have amply demonstrated the fact that the myths were no mere products of ancient ignorance, but are the deposited results of a primitive knowledge; that they were founded upon natural phenomena and remain the register of the earliest scientific observation."

He hammers endlessly on the point that the whole grand structure of luminous ancient doctrine crashed to ruin on the rocks of the early Christian stupidity which converted into literal history a vast body of drama and allegory that "was never anything but frankly mythological." And he has written thousands of pages to support his contention that what purports to be "history" in Christian systematism was actually pre-extant as Egyptian mythology. He cites as proof of his main thesis the fact that the Biblical material is found to be nonsensical and chimerical, in fact impossible, as history, but becomes lucidly intelligible and possible as myth. The massed material of his great volumes goes far to substantiate this claim.

He calls attention to the fact that the Jesus character both in the Gospels and in the Gnostic Christian work, the Pistis Sophia, announces to the inner circle of his initiated disciples that he will speak with them freely "from the beginning of the truth unto the completion thereof . . . face to face without parable." Parable was the declared method of his speaking to "them that are without" the circle of the initiated. In the full release of light and knowledge to the trained disciples parable and myth could be discarded for direct revelation.

We need the directness of Massey’s phrasing of the following passage, the truth of which is of ominous import for civilization:

"The human mind has long suffered an eclipse and been darkened and dwarfed in the shadow of ideas the real meaning of which has been lost to the moderns. Myths and allegories whose significance was once unfolded to initiates in the Mysteries, have been adopted in ignorance and reissued as real truths directly and divinely vouchsafed to mankind for the first and only time! The early religions had their myths interpreted. We have ours misinterpreted. And a great deal of what has been imposed on us as God’s own true and sole revelation to man is a mass of inverted myths. . . . Much of our folk-lore and most of our popular beliefs are fossilized symbolism."

His great contention--with Max Müller--was that the Märchen and folk tales are not reflections, but refractions, or distorted popularizations of the original mythos, and that, contrary to Müller’s assertions, it was the mythos that passed into the folk tale and not the folk tale into the mythos. The myths were first and the Märchen were their product, through the inevitable deterioration which all esoteric truth sooner or later undergoes when floated among the unlettered masses. "Typology and mythology are twins from their birth and one in their fundamental rootage." (Nat. Gen. I, 313.)

In the same volume, preceding page, Massey has a long and enlightening dissertation on the nature of the gods as just the "elementary powers of nature," and he reads the logical conclusions from the fact that they were represented symbolically by the animal types. Much other material is assembled to depict the wide variety of figures under which the gods and goddesses were exhibited. The hundreds of religious insignia, emblems, types and figures which Sir James Frazer presents but is powerless to interpret in his famous The Golden Bough, Massey clarifies with astute penetration into cryptic meanings. "Mythology" he says, "is one as a system of representation, one as a mold of thought, one as a mode of expression, and all its great primordial types are practically universal."

Testimony of another life-long research student in the field of archaic philosophy confirms Massey’s conclusions. Godfrey Higgins, in his monumental work, The Anacalypsis, (p. 441) says that

"one thing is clear--the mythos of the Hindus, the mythos of the Jews and the mythos of the Greeks are all at bottom the same; and what are called their early histories are not histories of man, but are contrivances under the appearance of histories to perpetuate doctrines . . . in a manner understood by those only who had a key to the enigma. Of this we shall see many additional proofs hereafter."

The Anacalypsis is some 830 pages of additional proofs. Page 446 of this work gives his final summation of his life of investigation:

"When all the curious circumstances have been considered, an unprejudiced person will, I think, be obliged to admit that the ancient epic poems are oriental allegories, all allusive to the same mythos, and that many of these works which we have been accustomed to call histories are but allegorical representations of mythologies, of the secret doctrines of which I am in pursuit and which have been . . . concealed and perpetuated . . . for the initiated, under the veil of history."

He makes the unequivocal statement that "two clear and distinct meanings of the words will be found; one for the initiated and one for the people. This is of the first importance to be remembered." He quotes Niebuhr as showing that what we call early Roman history was "mere mythos," and explains that this will account for what on any other thesis is incredible, the "degree of superstition" evidenced by the Romans. He cites an Englishman, Lumsden, as saying that events purporting to be Roman history are drawn from the heroical legends of Greece and therefore must have been copied from them; that they were not copies of one another, but all drawn from a common source; and were in fact the remnants of a mythos almost lost but constantly renewed, discoverable everywhere in the East and West--"new Argonauts, new Trojan Wars," and the like. The works of early writers without exception were "deeply tainted with allegory," he declares elsewhere. "The mythos, not history, is the object of the writer."

It is to be presumed that Higgins erred in saying that the ancient sages Plato, Pythagoras and others disguised the doctrines of wisdom because they were too sublime for the mass of mankind; but he agrees that they did disguise them, alleging that this concealment laid the foundation for the priesthoods "whose interest it became to take care, by keeping the people in ignorance, that the doctrines should always remain too sublime for them." Higgins seems not quite to have arrived at the point of seeing that mystic truth is by its own nature esoteric, and disguise is not entirely artificial, but rather natural to it. He contends that there have been writers against "the modern or exoteric Christianity," "but never have we had a Hobbes, a Herbert or a Bolingbroke to endeavor to discover their secret." He earlier states that the Oriental sects were in the habit of using figurative language to disguise their metaphysical doctrines from the vulgar, but he says this gave their enemies the opportunity, by construing them literally, to represent them as absurd and outlandish. He connects the myths closely with astrology. He states that the book of Genesis was considered by most if not all of the ancient Jewish philosophers and Christian Fathers as an allegory.

What testimony could be more explicit than that of the Psalmist (Psalm 78) who says: "I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old which we have heard and known and our fathers have told us"? And how could he have anticipated that these "dark sayings" would lead to sixteen centuries of a nearly total obfuscation of sense and sanity in the religion of half the world? In the wake of this quotation Massey observes:

"It was the same with the Hebrew teachings brought out of Egypt as with the Egyptian writings, of which Origen observes, ‘the priests have a secret philosophy concerning their religion contained in their national scriptures, while the common people only hear fables which they do not understand. If these fables were heard from a private man without the gloss of the priest, they would appear exceedingly absurd.’"

Moses, avers Massey, received two laws on the mountain, the written and the oral. This oral law was the primitive tradition that contained the Apocrypha, the secret doctrines of the dark sayings and parables, the clue and key to all their hidden wisdom. That which was written was intended only for the ignorant outsiders; the interpretation was for the initiated. With the written version of the Jewish sacred books alone in our possession, we have been locked outside and left there without the key.

Origen’s teacher, Clement, speaks of the necessity of hiding in a mystery the wisdom which the Son of God had taught; of the hindrances which there were in his day to his writing about this wisdom, lest he should cast pearls before swine; of the reason why the Christian Mysteries were celebrated at night, like the Pagan ones, because then the soul, released from the dominion of the senses, turns in upon itself and has a truer intelligence of the mystery of God "hid for ages under allegory and prophecy," but now revealed by Jesus Christ, and only spoken of by St. Paul "among such as were perfect" (perfected in the Mystery initiations), giving milk to the babes and meat to men of understanding; and of those mysteries as entered upon through the tradition of the Lord, or the great oral transmission from those divinely illuminated. Massey insists we can not understand the thought of primitive man without first learning the language of symbols in which it was expressed, and says that "the wisdom, or Gnosis, so carefully hidden and zealously guarded in the past" can not be regained by mere pious lucubration. To recover it we must resort to the aid of the same nature-logic that the sages used to give it expression.

Origen makes a categorical declaration of the esoteric sense when he says (Contra Celsum):

"The learned may penetrate into the significance of all oriental mysteries, but the vulgar can only see the exterior symbol. It is allowed by all who have any knowledge of the scriptures that everything is conveyed enigmatically."

We turn to Philo and Josephus, both living about the time of the "historical" Jesus. There is a tradition that Philo was converted to Christianity by Peter. If it is credible it would put him in close touch with the very earliest Christian sentiment. His testimony should carry considerable weight in the argument. He writes (D.V.C.):

"Now the interpretation of the sacred scriptures is based upon the understanding in the allegorical narratives; for these men look upon the whole of their law-codes being like to a living thing, having for the body the spoken commands, and for the soul the unseen thought stored up in the words . . . unwrapping and unrobing of the symbols . . . and bringing to light the naked inner meanings, for those who are able with a little suggestion to arrive at the intuition of the hidden sense from the apparent meaning."

Massey says that Philo "Platonizes the myths," reading new ethical meanings into them. But Philo’s forthright declaration on the esoteric method is found in his terse assertion, when speaking of the rib of Adam: "The literal statement is a fabulous one; and it is in the mythical that we shall find the true." For those who in spite of a mass of such testimony from eminent and godly men of the past continue to assert that there never was any genuine and sincere esoteric knowledge, it is desirable to quote another statement from Philo:

"Now I bid ye, initiated men, who are purified as to your ears, to receive these things as mysteries which are really sacred, in your inmost souls, and reveal them not to any one who is of the number of uninitiated, but guard them as a sacred treasure."

"In the Mosaic writings," says Josephus (Preface to Antiq.) "everything is adapted to the nature of the whole, whilst the lawgiver most adroitly suggests some things as in a riddle and represents some things with solemnity as in an allegory; those, however, who desire to dive into the cause of each of these things, will have to use much and deep philosophical speculation."

He again (Ibid.) says that all the sacred writings have a reference to the nature of the universe; whilst the legislator, Moses, speaks some things wisely but enigmatically and others under a fitting allegory.

What authority from antiquity can be cited with more weight than the first historian, Herodotus? In dealing with the Mystery celebrations of the Egyptians held on a lake within the sacred precincts of the temple as Sais, dramatizing the birth, life, death and regeneration of Osiris, he says that he considers it impious to divulge the name of the god.

"On these matters," he goes on, "though accurately acquainted with the particulars of them, I must observe a discreet silence. So, too, with regard to the Mysteries of Demeter [celebrated at Eleusis in Greece], which the Greeks term ‘The Thesmophoria,’ I know them, but I shall not mention them, except so far as may be done without impiety."

One must ask why such direct testimony from credible men of the ancient world should be flouted by modern savants. The effort to discredit the existence of a real esoteric system in the ancient day makes liars of nearly all the outstanding philosophers of the early world.

H. Y. Evans-Wentz, in his work The Tibetan Book of the Dead, states that archaeological research has now proven that the Mysteries consisted of symbolical dramatic performances open only to the initiates and neophytes fit for initiation, illustrating the universally diffused esoteric teachings concerning death and resurrection; and that the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul into animal bodies was not intended to be taken, as it has been by the uninitiated, literally, but symbolically, as in Plato’s Republic. Herodotus (ii, 122) is cited as documentary support for the statement.

Alexander Wilder, previously quoted, in reference to the Bacchic Mysteries says that every act, rite and person engaged in them was symbolical; and the individual revealing them was put to death without mercy. So also, he adds, was any uninitiated person who happened to have heard them. Here is strong evidence that the ancients surely believed they had a secret supremely worth safeguarding from desecration.

The noted modern Egyptologist A. E. W. Budge, says that every act of the ceremonial dramas was symbolical in character and represented some ancient belief or tradition.

"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 or vital significance to the followers of Osiris."

Again he says that it is this "emblemism," spoken of by moderns as fetishism and idolatry, that has had a false construction put upon it, mainly by missionaries and travelers, although the Christian religion, he asserts, has been evolved from the same identical germ and on somewhat similar lines. Emblemism he explains as a merely external formula of an inner cult worship.

Though the charge would have far more fitness if made against the Christians after the third century, it was made even in the days of Grecian philosophy by Diodorus Siculus, who tells us that the Egyptians treated the Greeks as impostors because they reissued the Egyptian mythology as their own history. If the Greeks were guilty of converting myth into history, it merely indicates that that process of esoteric degeneration which inevitably set in in every occult religion had begun early and has continued ever since. Celsus, the learned Jew in debate with Origen, chuckles over the (literal) account of the Christian deluge with its ridiculous ark and impossible physical details, finding it a part of his own mythology literalized and amplified. Tom Paine, Voltaire and Ingersol chuckled in the same fashion later.

The Roman poet Sallust even classifies the fables as theology of the physical and animistic sort. He enlarges on the characteristics of each. He says the theological belongs to philosophers, the physical and spiritual to poets, but an intermediate mixture of both belongs to the initiatory rites (Greek: teletais), "since the intention of all mystic ceremonies is to conjoin us with the world of the gods."

The Jewish Maimonides comes up with the declaration that Genesis, taken according to the letter, is absurd and extravagant. Whoever should find the true sense of it ought to take care not to divulge it. This, he says, is a maxim which all the sages repeat to us, respecting the exact meaning of the work of the six days. If anyone should discover the true meaning, he should be silent, or speak of it only obscurely and in an enigmatical manner.

An important statement is found in that venerated work on the first three centuries of Christian history, Baron Von Mosheim’s "History."

"It is not, therefore, Origen who ought to be termed the parent of allegories amongst the Christians, but Philo . . . many of the Jews, and in particular the Pharisees and Essenes, had indulged much in allegories before the time of Philo, but of this there can be no doubt, that the praefects of the Alexandrian school caught the idea of interpreting Scripture upon philosophical principles, or of eliciting philosophical maxims from the sacred writers by means of allegory, and that by them it was gradually propagated amongst the Christians at large. It is also equally certain that by the writings and example of Philo the fondness for allegories was vastly augmented and confirmed throughout the whole Christian world; and it moreover appears that it was he who first inspired the Christians with that degree of temerity which led them not infrequently to violate the faith of history and wilfully to close their eyes against the obvious and proper sense of terms and words . . . particular instances of it . . . may be shown from Origen and others, who took him for their guide, and who, manifestly, considered a great part both of the Old and New Testaments as not exhibiting a representation of things that really occurred, but merely the images of moral actions."

One can express with a sigh the wish that the discerning practice of Origen and Philo had persisted down the centuries!

The Schaff-Herzog dictionary of religious terms gives four meanings for such a name as "Jerusalem," following the gradient of classification laid down by Philo. Literally the name means the city in Palestine; morally, the believing soul; allegorically, the Church; and anagogically the city of heavenly peace, located only of course in consciousness. While this scheme of interpretation permits it to mean the geographical town, it by no means confines it to that rendering, which the historical view does.

In the Anti-Nicene Library (Vol. XXIV, p. 127) in the section of Selections from the Prophetic Scriptures we read:

"We must therefore search the Scriptures accurately, since they are admitted to be expressed in parables, and from the names hunt out the thoughts which the Holy Spirit . . . teaches by imprinting his mind, so to speak, on the expressions . . . that the names . . . may be explained and that which is hidden under many integuments may, being handled and learned, come to light and gleam forth."

Jowett, Plato’s academically accredited interpreter (Thomas Taylor’s most discerning work being frowned upon) writes: "I am not one of those who believe Plato to have been a mystic or to have had hidden meanings,"--this in the face of evidence that is mountainous in height and weight.

It is now far over a century since C. F. Dupuis published his once-famous and still valuable work, L’Origine de Tous Les Cultes, in which he asserted that John the Baptist was a purely mythical personage, and identified his name with that of the Babylonian Fish-God, Ioannes, of the Berosan account.

We should not omit reference to a statement by Isaac Myer, the learned Kabalist scholar, in his work The Oldest Books in the World (VII):

"There was undoubtedly an extremely subtle and sublimated thought in existence among the learned of the ancient Egyptians which modern thinkers have not yet fully grasped and which busied itself mostly with endeavors to arrive at the bond uniting the unknown and the known or materially existing; this was more especially limited to a religious philosophy and in that mostly to the spiritual nature in man. The mural paintings on the walls in ancient Egyptian tombs are not for decoration; they are symbolical and mystic and the figures thereon are intended for a religious purpose."

In the Gemara of the Jews, it is said that he who has learned the scripture and not the Mishna "is a blockhead." The Bible, they say, is like water, the Mishna like wine, the Gemara liked spiced wine. The law is as salt, the Mishna as pepper, the Gemara as balmy spice. To study the Bible can scarcely be considered a virtue; to study the Mishna is a virtue that will be rewarded, but the study of the Gemara is a virtue never to be surpassed. Some of the Talmudists assert that to study the Bible is nothing but a waste of time. The Gemara embodied the anagogical or esoteric interpretation.

Rabbi Simeon Ben-Jochai, compiler of the Zohar, taught only the esoteric signification of doctrines, orally and to a limited few, holding that without the final instruction in the Mercavah the study of the Kabalah would be incomplete. The Kabalah itself says (iii-folio 1526, quoted in Myer’s Qabbalah, p. 102):

"Each word of the Torah contains an elevated meaning and a sublime mystery."

"The recitals of the Torah are the vestments of the Torah. Woe to him who takes this garment for the Torah itself. The simple take notice only of the garments or recitals of the Torah, they know no other thing, they see not that which is concealed under the vestment. The more instructed men do not pay attention to the vestment but to the body which it envelops."

Godbey, in his searching work, The Lost Tribes a Myth (p. 697), asserts that the Jews lost the origin and meaning of the term "Israel" more than two thousand years ago.

"There is no agreement in their ancient literature upon that point. All record and tradition of the old Peniel sanctuary where Jacob became ‘an Israel’ has been lost."

But one of the most revealing intimations that the Christian movement early departed from the genius and spirit of the well-known esoteric methodology is found in a sensational passage quoted in Mead’s Orpheus from Origen in his work Contra Celsum:

"The story of Dionysus and the Titans is a dramatic history of the wanderings of the ‘Pilgrim-Soul.’ And curiously enough we find the story of the resurrection of Dionysus . . . compared by the most learned of the Christian Fathers with the resurrection of Christ. Thus Origen (Contra Celsum IV, 171, Spenc.), after making the comparison, remarks apologetically and somewhat bitterly: ‘Or, forsooth, are the Greeks to be allowed to use such words with regard to the soul, and speak in allegorical fashion (tropolegein), and we forbidden to do so?’ . . . thus clearly declaring that the resurrection was an allegory of the soul and not historical." (Orpheus, pp. 185-6).

It will be well to place alongside of Origen’s lament over the deterioration of splendid allegory into crass literalism the unguarded utterance of Synesius, a Bishop of Alexandria after Origen’s time: "In my capacity as Bishop of the Church I shall continue to disseminate the fables of our religion, but in my private capacity I shall remain a philosopher to the end." By the "fables" he meant the mass of literalized legend which the Fathers purveyed to the ignorant laity, of which Celsus says that they were so outlandish that even a stupid child’s-nurse would be ashamed to tell them to children. And what he meant by remaining a "philosopher" would shock the churchmen who have for centuries decried the great Platonic and Neo-Platonic systems which, in spite of their protestations, have contributed so much to the foundations of Christianity. The unedifying spectacle of a Bishop fooling the populace with fables he knew were fictions, whilst he fed his own mind upon the deeper meanings of philosophy from pagan schools, goes far to support the claims made in this work and elsewhere as to the nature and causes of the terrible calamity that befell Christianity in the third century, ending in the conversion of allegory into a literalized Gospel and the befuddlement of the world.

From current reading we take a remark made by G. R. G. Mure, in his small work on Aristotle (p. 230), relative to the force of figurative or symbolic language:

"The eye for an effective metaphor is, in fact, a mark of genius and unteachable. And in devoting more space to illustrating that form of metaphor which depends upon analogy,--as when old age is described as ‘Life’s sunset,’--Aristotle means, perhaps, to mark the manifestation within the poet’s imaginative world of that hierarchic order of analogous stages which pervades the whole Aristotelian universe. The last and least important element in tragedy is spectacle."

From Esdras (XIV, 6, 26 and 45) we take the following passages:

"These words shalt thou declare, and these shalt thou hide. And when thou hast done, some things shalt thou publish and some things shalt thou show secretly to the Wise."

". . . . and Highest spake, saying, The first that thou hast written publish openly, that the worthy and the unworthy may read it: but keep the seventy last, that thou mayest deliver them only to such as be wise among the people. For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom."

It is Mosheim who in his famous history of the early Church (Vol. II, 167) discloses how the matter of esoteric writing and cryptic meaning became a nub of controversy between Origen and his opponents. It is well to quote Mosheim’s statements in full for the sake of their explicitness. He is referring to Origen when he says:

"Certainly he would have had no enemies if he had merely affirmed, what no one then called in question, that in addition to the sense which the words of Scripture convey, another sense latent in the things described is to be diligently sought for. This will be manifest if we consider who were the men that inveighed so bitterly against Origen’s allegories after he was dead. I refer to Eustatius, Epiphanius, Jerome, Augustine and many others. All these were themselves allegorists, if I may use that term; and would undoubtedly have commended any man, as a great errorist, who would have dared to impugn the arcane sense of Scripture. . . . There must, therefore, have been something new and unusual in Origen’s exigetics, which appeared to them pernicious and very dangerous.

"The first and chief was, that he pronounced a great part of the sacred books to be void of meaning if taken literally, and that only the things indicated by the words were the signs and emblems of higher objects. The Christians who had previously followed after mystic interpretation let the truth of the sacred narratives and the proper sense of the divine laws and precepts remain in full force; but he turned much of the sacred history into moral fables, and no small part of the divine precepts into mere allegories.

"Nearly allied to this first fault was another; namely, that he lauded immoderately the recondite and mystical sense of Scripture, and unreasonably depreciated the grammatical or historical sense. The latter he compared to earth, mud, the body and other things of little value; but the former he compared to the soul, heaven, gold and the most precious objects. By such representations he induced the expositors of Scripture to think little about the literal sense of passages and to run enthusiastically after the sublimer interpretations."

All this is so directly valuable a contribution to the inner story of the great catastrophe that overtook early Christianity that the long quotations can be forgiven. Here we see the most learned of the Christian Fathers, Origen, clinging tenaciously to what he knew was the true method of esoteric interpretation, but already beset by the subversive and crippling insistence on the literal and historical rendering which spelled devastation for the true meaning of scripture. This was the beginning of the tragedy that has engulfed all spiritual exegesis of holy writ ever since. Origen was the last champion of a true Christianity going down to defeat under the swelling tide of Philistine crudity of mind.

A good part of the reason why the literalists feared Origen’s method escapes in a naïve paragraph from Mosheim, who says that it appears strange that a man of so much discernment as Origen was should not have seen that his use of allegories and denial of the historicity of scripture would place directly into the hands of the Gnostics and others whom he sought to persuade to Christianity "the very means of overthrowing the entire history of the life and death of Christ." Unquestionably this strikes close to the heart of the whole matter. Once having committed itself to the personal and historical resolution of the Christos figure, the ecclesiastical power could not give countenance to the allegorical interpretation. The validation of the latter would present an immediate and constant menace to the whole historical structure of Christianity. Ever since early times it has had to battle with the implications of comparative religion study to avoid the general acceptance of conclusions massively obvious on the side of allegorism. With Egypt’s evidence now available, the day of reckoning can no longer be held off.

Mosheim sets forth Origen’s stated view that, as "the philosophical grounds of Christian doctrine are wrapt up in figures, images and facts in the sacred volume," if "we adhere to the literal meaning, that harmony between religion and philosophy can not be found." Mosheim admits that "in the objections of the enemies of Christianity, there are not a few things which can in no way be fully cleared up and confuted, unless we abandon the grammatical and historical sense and resort to allegories." This goes far forward strengthening Origen’s (and this work’s) general position, and is recommended to the close attention of all modern literalists and fundamentalists.

So extended an array of data has been necessary to establish the existence and influence of the esoteric method in the whole of ancient literature. It must be kept in mind that, lengthened as it is to the point of prolixity, it is only a tiny segment of what could be adduced. The significant fact in reference to it is that in spite of the mass of authentic evidence the effort has persisted in academic circles to maintain a denial of both the employment of such a distinctive method and its obvious and momentous involvements. It is by no means an unwarranted assertion to hint that the hostile attitude toward esotericism has been an item in the policy of a great conspiracy, operative ever since the third century, to diminish the influence of the pagan teachings. Evidence to support such a forthright statement is not wanting, although, as Sir Gilbert Murray has noted, most of the evidence supporting the pagan side has been destroyed by the Christians. Whatever the motive actuating a resort to the method of violence to negate an important fact in religious history, it must be held in any case a hazardous enterprise to flout the truth. It argues something less than full intellectual integrity, something sinister and disquieting. The world is still waiting for a good and adequate explanation of the harsh measure that prompted the closing of schools that purveyed such lofty wisdom and sage philosophy as the Platonic Academies of sapient Greece in the fifth century. According to von Mosheim, Origen "introduced the whole of the Academy into Christian theology." Bishop Synesius preferred "philosophy" to lying legend. Neo-Platonism brought to the modern Dean Inge his highest illumination in religion. It will call for a good case indeed to defend the suppression of truth and light of this sort.

In our longer view it becomes ever more patent that in the ignorant policy by the Church the world witnessed the triumph of irrational piety and fanatical zealotry over rational religion. The mystical and the rational sides of the religious motive, expressed in general by two quite diverse types of human beings--the one the feeling, the other the thinking--have always been at variance and often in conflict in the movement, and the resurgent sweep of one or the other has marked the epic of religious history. Hardly any event in the annals of mankind has wrought more serious consequences than that sudden and overwhelming change of character in early Christianity from a philosophical religion to one of devotion and feeling, so fateful for later times. The Christian world is still enthralled by the iniquitous influences to which this portentous event gave birth. It is with the design of breaking the deadening spell of much of this irrational enchantment still operative today that the great massing of data in this work is undertaken.