THE LAST OF THE MYSTERIES IN EUROPE
As was predicted by the great Hermes in his dialogue with Aesculapius, the time had indeed come when impious foreigners accused Egypt of adoring monsters, and naught but the letters engraved in stone upon her monuments survived—enigmas unintelligible to posterity. Her sacred Scribes and Hierophants became wanderers upon the face of the earth. Those who had remained in Egypt found themselves obliged for fear of a profanation of the sacred Mysteries to seek refuge in deserts and mountains, to form and establish secret societies and brotherhoods—such as the Essenes; those who had crossed the oceans to India and even to the (now-called) New World, bound themselves by solemn oaths to keep silent, and to preserve secret their Sacred Knowledge and Science; thus these were buried deeper than ever out of human sight. In Central Asia and on the northern borderlands of India, the triumphant sword of Aristotle’s pupil swept away from his path of conquest every vestige of a once pure Religion: and its Adepts receded further and further from that path into the most hidden spots of the globe. The cycle of **** being at its close, the first hour for the disappearance of the Mysteries struck on the clock of the Races, with the Macedonian conqueror. The first strokes of its last hour sounded in the year 47 B.C. Alesia* the famous city in Gaul, the Thebes of the Kelts, so renowned for its ancient rites of Initiation and Mysteries, was, as J.M. Ragon well describes it:
The ancient metropolis and the tomb of Initiation, of the religion of the Druids and of the freedom of Gaul.†
It was during the first century before our era, that the last and supreme hour of the great Mysteries had struck. History shows the populations of Central Gaul revolting against the Roman yoke. The country was subject to Caesar, and the revolt was crushed; the result was the slaughter of the garrison
* Now called St. Reine (Côte d’Or) on the two streams, the Ose and the Oserain. Its fall is a historical fact in Keltic Gaulish History.
† Orthodoxie Maçonnique, p. 22.
at Alesia (or Alisa), and of all its inhabitants, including the Druids, the college-priests and the neophytes; after this the whole city was plundered and razed to the ground.
Bibractis, a city as large and as famous, not far from Alesia, perished a few years later. J.M. Ragon describes her end as follows:
. . . Bibractis, the mother of sciences, the soul of the early nations [in Europe], a town equally famous for its sacred college of Druids, its civilisation, its schools, in which 40,000 students were taught philosophy, literature, grammar, jurisprudence, medicine, astrology, occult sciences, architecture, etc. Rival of Thebes, of Memphis, of Athens and of Rome, it possessed an amphitheatre for gladiators, surrounded with colossal statues and accommodating 100,000 spectators, a capitol, temples of Janus, Pluto, Proserpine, Jupiter, Apollo, Minerva, Cybele, Venus and Anubis, and in the midst of these sumptuous edifices the Naumachy, with its vast basin, an incredible construction, a gigantic work wherein floated boats and galleys devoted to naval games; then a Champ de Mars, an aqueduct, fountains, public baths; finally fortifications and walls, the construction of which dated from the heroic ages.*
Such was the last city in Gaul wherein died for Europe the secrets of the Initiations of the Great Mysteries, the Mysteries of Nature, and of her forgotten Occult truths. The rolls and manuscripts of the famous Alexandrian Library were burned and destroyed by the same Caesar,† but while History deprecates the action of the Arab General, Amru, who gave the final touch to this act of vandalism perpetrated by the great conqueror, it has not a word to say to the latter for his destruction of nearly the same amount of precious rolls in Alesia, nor to the destroyer of Bibractis. While Sacrovir—chief of the Gauls, who revolted against Roman despotism under Tiberius, and was defeated by Silius in the year 21 of our era—was burning himself alive with his fellow conspirators on a funeral pyre before the gates of the city, as Ragon tells us, the latter was sacked and plundered, and all her treasures of literature on the Occult
* Op. cit., pp. 22-23.
† The Christian mob in 389 of our era completed the work of destruction upon what remained; most of the priceless works were saved for students of Occultism, but lost to the world.
Sciences perished by fire. The once majestic city, Bibractis, has now become Autun, Ragon explains.
A few monuments of glorious antiquity are still there, such as the temples of Janus and Cybele.
Ragon goes on:
Arles, founded two thousand years before Christ, was sacked in 270. This metropolis of Gaul, restored 40 years later by Constantine, has preserved to this day a few remains of its ancient splendour; amphitheatre, capitol, an obelisk, which is a block of granite 17 metres high, a triumphal arch, catacombs, etc. Thus ended Kelto-Gaulic civilisation. Caesar, as a barbarian worthy of Rome, had already accomplished the destruction of the ancient Mysteries by the sack of the temples and their initiatory colleges, and by the massacre of the Initiates and the Druids. Remained Rome; but she never had but the lesser Mysteries, shadows of the Secret Science. The Great Initiation was extinct.*
A few further extracts may be given from his Occult Masonry, as they bear directly upon our subject. However learned and erudite, some of the chronological mistakes of that author are very great. He says:
After deified man (Hermes) came the King-Priest [the Hierophant]. Menes was the first legislator and the founder of Thebes of the hundred palaces. He filled that city with magnificent splendour; it is from his day that the sacerdotal epoch of Egypt dates. The priests reigned, for it is they who made the laws. It is said that there have been three hundred and twenty-nine [Hierophants] since his time—all of whom have remained unknown.
After that, genuine Adepts having become scarce, the author
* Op. cit., p. 23. J.M. Ragon, a Belgian by birth, and a Mason, knew more about Occultism than any other non-initiated writer. For fifty years he studied the ancient Mysteries wherever he could find accounts of them. In 1805, he founded at Paris the Brotherhood of Les Trinosophes, in which Lodge he delivered for years lectures on Ancient and Modern Initiation (in 1818 and again in 1841), which were published, and now are lost. Then he became the writer-in-chief of Hermes, a masonic paper. His best works were La Maçonnerie Occulte and the Fastes Initiatiques. After his death, in 1862, a number of his MSS. remained in the possession of the Grand Orient of France. A high Mason told the writer that Ragon had corresponded for years with two Orientalists in Syria and Egypt, one of whom is a Kopt gentleman.
shows the Priests choosing false ones from the midst of slaves, whom they exhibited, having crowned and deified them, for the adoration of the ignorant masses.
Tired of reigning in such a servile way, the kings rebelled and freed themselves. Then came Sesostris, the founder of Memphis (1613, they say before our era). To the sacerdotal election to the throne succeeded that of the warriors. . . Cheops who reigned from 1178 to 1122 built the great Pyramid which bears his name. He is accused of having persecuted theocracy and closed the temples.
This is utterly incorrect, though Ragon repeats “History.” The Pyramid called by the name of Cheops is the Great Pyramid, the building of which even Baron Bunsen assigned to 5,000 B.C. He says in Egypt’s Place in Universal History:
. . . the origins of the two kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt go back to the ninth millennium [before Christ].*
And as the Mysteries were performed and the Initiations took place in that Pyramid—for indeed it was built for that purpose— it looks strange and an utter contradiction with known facts in the history of the Mysteries, to suppose that Cheops, if the builder of that Pyramid, ever turned against the initiated Priests and their temples. Moreover, as far as the Secret Doctrine teaches, it was not Cheops who built the Pyramid of that name, whatever else he might have done.
Yet, it is quite true that
Owing to an Ethiopian invasion and the federated government of twelve chiefs, royalty fell into the hands of Amasis, a man of low birth.
This was in 570 B.C., and it was Amasis who destroyed priestly power. And
Thus perished that ancient theocracy which showed its crowned priests for so many centuries to Egypt and the whole world.
Egypt had gathered the students of all countries around her Priests and Hierophants before Alexandria was founded. Ennemoser asks:
* Op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 468.
. . . how comes it . . . that so little has become known of these Mysteries, and of their particular contents, through so many ages and amongst so many different times and people? The answer is, that it is owing to the universally strict silence of the initiated. Another cause may be found in the destruction and total loss of all the written memorials of the secret knowledge of the remotest antiquity. . . . Numa’s books, described by Livy, consisting of natural philosophy, were found in his tomb; but they were not allowed to be made known, lest they should reveal the most secret mysteries of the state religion. . . . The senate and the tribunes of the people determined . . . that the books themselves should be burned, which was done. . .*
Cassianus mentions a treatise, well-known in the fourth and fifth centuries, which was accredited to Ham, the son of Noah, who in his turn was reputed to have received it from Jared, the fourth generation from Seth, the son of Adam. Alchemy also was first taught in Egypt by her learned Priests, though the first appearance of this system is as old as man. Many writers have declared that Adam was the first Adept; but that was a blind and a pun upon the name, which is “red earth” in one of its meanings. The correct information—under its allegorical veil—is found in the sixth chapter of Genesis, which speaks of the “Sons of God” who took wives of the daughters of men, after which they communicated to these wives many a mystery and secret of the phenomenal world. The cradle of Alchemy, says Olaus Borrichius, is to be sought in the most distant times. Democritus of Abdera was an Alchemist, and a Hermetic Philosopher. Clement of Alexandria wrote considerably upon the Science, and Moses and Solomon are called proficients in it. We are told by William Godwin:
The first authentic record on this subject is an edict of Diocletian about 300 years A.D., ordering a diligent search to be made in Egypt for all the ancient books which treated of the art of making gold and silver, that they might without distinction be consigned to the flames.†
The Alchemy of the Chaldaeans and the old Chinese is not
* [The History of Magic by Joseph Ennemoser tr. by Wm. Howitt in two volumes. London, H.G. Bohn, 1854. See Vol. II, p. 11 of this ed.]
† [Lives of the Necromancers, London, 1876, p. 18.]
even the parent of that Alchemy which revived among the Arabians many centuries later. There is a spiritual Alchemy and a physical transmutation: The knowledge of both was imparted at the Initiations.