THE POST-CHRISTIAN SUCCESSORS TO THE MYSTERIES
The Eleusinian Mysteries were no more. Yet it was these which gave their principle features to the Neo-Platonic school of Ammonius Saccas, for the Eclectic System was chiefly characterised by its Theurgy and ecstasis. It was Iamblichus who added to it the Egyptian doctrine of Theurgy with its practices, and Porphyry, the Jew, who opposed this new element. The school, however, with but few exceptions, practised asceticism and contemplation, its mystics passing through a discipline as rigorous as that of the Hindu devotee. Their efforts never tended so much to develop the successful practice of thaumaturgy, necromancy or sorcery—such as they are now accused of—as to evolve the higher faculties of the inner man, the Spiritual Ego. The school held that a number of spiritual beings, denizens of spheres quite independent of the earth and of the human cycle, were mediators between the “Gods” and men, and even between man and the Supreme Soul. To put it in plainer language, the soul of man became, owing to the help of the Planetary Spirits, “recipient of the soul of the world” as Emerson puts it. Apollonius of Tyana asserted his possession of such a power in these words (quoted by Professor Wilder in his New Platonism ):
I can see the present and the future in a clear mirror. The sage [Adept] need not wait for the vapours of the earth and the corruption of the air to foresee plagues and fevers; he must know them later than God, but earlier than the people. The theoi or gods see the future; common men, the present; sages, that which is about to take place. My peculiar abstemious mode of living produces such an acuteness of the senses, or creates some other faculty, so that the greatest and most remarkable things may be performed.*
Professor A. Wilder’s comment thereupon is remarkable:
This is what may be termed spiritual photography. The soul is the camera in which facts and events, future, past, and present, are alike fixed; and the mind becomes conscious of them. Beyond our everyday world of
* New Platonism and Alchemy, p. 15.
limits, all is as one day or state—the past and future comprised in the present. Probably this is the “great day,” the “last day,” the “day of the Lord,” of the Bible writers—the day into which everyone passes by death or ecstasis. Then the soul is freed from the constraint of the body, and its nobler part is united to higher nature and becomes partaker in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the higher beings.*
How far the system practised by the Neo-Platonists was identical with that of the old and the modern Vedântins may be inferred from what Dr. A. Wilder says of the Alexandrian Theosophists.
The anterior idea of the New Platonists was that of a single Supreme Essence. . . All the old philosophies contained the doctrine that , theoi, gods or disposers, angels, demons, and other spiritual agencies, emanated from the Supreme Being. Ammonius accepted the doctrine of the Books of Hermes, that from the Divine All proceeded the Divine Wisdom or Amun; that from Wisdom proceeded the Demiurge or Creator; and from the Creator, the subordinate spiritual beings; the world and its people being the last. The first is contained in the second, the first and second in the third, and so on through the entire series.†
This is a perfect echo of the belief of the Vedântins, and it proceeds directly from the secret teachings of the East. The same author says:
Akin to this is the doctrine of the Jewish Kabala, which was taught by the Pharsi or Pharisees, who probably borrowed it, as their sectarian designation would seem to indicate, from the Magians of Persia. It is substantially embodied in the following synopsis.
The Divine Being is the All, the Source of all existence, the Infinite; and He cannot be known. The Universe reveals Him, and subsists by Him. At the beginning, His effulgence went forth everywhere.‡ Eventually He retired within Himself, and so formed around Him a vacant space. Into this He transmitted His first Emanation, a Ray, containing in it the generative and conceptive power, and hence the name IE, or Jâh. This, in its turn, produced the tikkun, the pattern or idea of form; and in this emanation, which also contained the male and female, or generative and conceptive potencies, were the three primitive forces of Light, Spirit and Life. This Tikkun is united to the Ray, or first emanation, and pervaded
* Loc. cit.
† Op. cit., pp. 9, 10.
‡ This Divine Effulgence and Essence is the light of the Logos; only the Vedântin would not use the pronoun “He,” but would say “It.” [H.P.B.]
by it: and by that union is also in perpetual communication with the infinite source. It is the pattern, the primitive man, the Adam-Kadmon, the macrocosm of Pythagoras and other philosophers. From it proceeded the Sephîrôth. . . . From the ten Sephîrôth in turn emanated the four worlds, each proceeding out of the one immediately above it, and the lower one enveloping its superior. These worlds become less pure as they descend in the scale, the lowest of all being the material world.*
This veiled enunciation of the Secret Teaching will be clear to our readers by this time. These worlds are:
. . . Aziluth is peopled by the purest emanations [the First, almost spiritual, Race of the human beings that were to inhabit the Fourth]; the second, Beriah, by a lower order, the servants of the former [the second Race]; the third, Yetzirah, by the cherubim and seraphim, the Elôhîm and B’ni Elôhîm [“Sons of Gods” or Elôhîm, our Third Race]. The fourth world, Asiâh, is inhabited by the Klippoth, of whom Belial is chief [the Atlantean Sorcerers].†
These worlds are all the earthly duplicates of their heavenly prototypes, the mortal and temporary reflections and shadows of the more durable, if not eternal, races dwelling in other, to us, invisible worlds. The souls of the men of our Fifth Race derive their elements from these four worlds—Root-Races-that preceded ours: namely, our intellect, Manas, the fifth principle, our passions and mental and corporeal appetites. A conflict having arisen, called “war in heaven,” among our prototypical worlds, war came to pass, aeôns later, between the Atlanteans‡ of Asiâh, and those of the third Root-Race, the Bney ha-Elôhîm or the “Sons of God,”§ and then evil and wickedness were intensified. Mankind (in the last sub-race of the third Root-Race) having
. . . sinned in their first parent [a physiological allegory, truly!], from whose soul every human soul is an emanation,
* Loc. cit., note, p. 10.
† Loc. cit., note.
‡ See Esoteric Buddhism, by A.P. Sinnett, Fifth Edition, 1885. [Reprinted by Wizards Bookshelf, in 1973 & 1981 with index.]
§ See Isis Unveiled, Vol. I, pp. 589-595. The “Sons of God” and their war with the giants and magicians.
says the Zohar, men were “exiled” into more material bodies to
. . . expiate the sin and become proficient in goodness.
To accomplish the cycle of necessity, rather, explains the doctrine; to progress on their task of evolution, from which task none of us can be freed, neither by death nor suicide, for each of us have to pass through the “Valley of Thorns” before he emerges into the plains of divine light and rest. And thus men will continue to be born in new bodies
. . . till they become sufficiently pure to enter a higher form of existence.
This means only that Mankind, from the First down to the last, or Seventh Race, is composed of one and the same company of actors, who have descended from higher spheres to perform their artistic tour on this our planet, Earth. Starting as pure spirits on our downward journey around the world (verily!) with the knowledge of truth—now feebly echoed in the Occult Doctrines—inherent in us, cyclic law brings us down to the reversed apex of matter, which is lost down here on earth and the bottom of which we have already struck; and then, the same law of spiritual gravity will make us slowly ascend to still higher, still purer spheres than those we started from.
Foresight, prophecy, oracular powers! Illusive fancies of man’s dwarfed perceptions, which see actual images in reflections and shadows, and mistake past actualities for prophetic images of a future that has no room in Eternity. Our macrocosm and its smallest microcosm, man, are both repeating the same play of universal and individual events at each station, as on every stage on which Karma leads them to enact their respective dramas of life. False prophets could have no existence had there been no true prophets. And so there were, and many of both classes, and in all ages. Only, none of these ever saw anything but that which had already come to pass, and had been before prototypically enacted in higher spheres—if the event foretold related to national or public weal or woe—or in some preceding life, if it concerned only an individual, for every such event is stamped as an indelible record of the Past and Future, which are only, after all, the ever Present in Eternity. The “worlds” and the purifications spoken of in the
Zohar and other Kabalistic books, relate to our globe and races no more and no less than they relate to other globes and other races that have preceded our own in the great cycle. It was such fundamental truths as these that were performed in allegorical plays and images during the Mysteries, the last Act of which, the Epilogue for the Mystae, was the anastasis or “continued existence,” as also the “Soul transformation.”
Hence, the author of New Platonism and Alchemy shows us that all such Eclectic doctrines were strongly reflected in the Epistles of Paul, and were
. . . inculcated more or less among the churches. Hence such passages as these; “Ye were dead in errors and sins; ye walked according to the aeôn of this world, according to the archon that has the domination of the air.” “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the dominations, against potencies, against the lords of darkness, and against the mischievousness of spirits in the empyrean regions.” [Eph. vi, 12.] But Paul was evidently hostile to the effort to blend his gospel with the gnostic ideas of the Hebrew-Egyptian school, as seems to have been attempted at Ephesus; and accordingly wrote to Timothy, his favorite disciple, “Keep safe the precious charge intrusted to thee; and reject the new doctrines and the antagonistic principles of the gnosis falsely so-called, of which some have made profession and gone astray from the faith.”*
But as the Gnosis is the Science pertaining to our Higher Self, as blind faith is a matter of temperament and emotionalism, and as Paul’s doctrine was still newer and his interpretations far more thickly veiled, to keep the inner truths hidden far away from the Gnostic, preference has been given to the former by every earnest seeker after truth.
Besides this, the great Teachers who professed the so-called “false Gnosis” were very numerous in the days of the Apostles, and were as great as any converted Rabbi could be. If Porphyry, the Jew Malek, went against Theurgy on account of old traditional recollections, there were other teachers who practised it. Plotinus, Iamblichus, Proclus, were all thaumaturgists, and the latter.
* [I Tim, 6, 20-21] New Platonism and Alchemy, p. 10, note.
. . . elaborated the entire theosophy and theurgy of his predecessors into a complete system.*
As to Ammonius,
Countenanced by Clement and Athenagoras in the church, and by learned men of the Synagogue, the Academy and the Grove, he fulfilled his labour by teaching a common doctrine for all.†
Thus it is not Judaism and Christianity that remodelled the ancient Pagan Wisdom, but rather the latter that put its heathen curb, quietly and insensibly, on the new faith; and this, moreover, was still further influenced by the Eclectic Theosophical system, the direct emanation of the Wisdom-Religion. All that is grand and noble in Christian theology comes from Neo-Platonism. It is too well-known now to need much repetition that Ammonius Saccas, the God-taught (theodidaktos) and the lover of the truth (philalethes), in establishing his school, made a direct attempt to benefit the world by teaching those portions of the Secret Science that were permitted by its direct guardians to be revealed in those days.‡ The modern movement of our own Theosophical Society was begun on the same principles; for the Neo-Platonic school of Ammonius aimed, as we do, at the reconcilement of all sects and peoples, under the once common faith of the Golden Age, trying to induce the nations to lay aside their contentions—in religious matters at any rate—by proving to them that their various beliefs are all the more or less legitimate children of one common parent, the Wisdom-Religion.
Nor was the Eclectic Theosophical system—as some writers inspired by Rome would make the world believe—developed only during the third century of our era; but it belongs to a much earlier age, as has been shown by Diogenes Laërtius. He trace it to the beginning of the dynasty of the Ptolemies; to
* Op. cit., p. 18.
† Op. cit., p. 8.
‡ No orthodox Christian has ever equalled, far less surpassed, in the practice of true Christ-like virtues and ethics, or in the beauty of his moral nature, Ammonius, the Alexandrian pervert from Christianity (he was born from Christian parents).
the great seer and prophet, the Egyptian Priest Pot-Amun, of the temple of the God of that name—for Amun is the God of Wisdom. Unto that day the communication between the Adepts of Upper India and Bactria and the Philosophers of the West had never ceased.
Under Philadelphus . . . the Hellenic teachers became rivals of the College of Rabbis of Babylon. The Buddhistic, Vedântic and Magian systems were expounded along with the philosophies of Greece. . . . Aristobulus, the Jew, declared that the ethics of Aristotle were derived from the Law of Moses [!]; and Philo, after him, attempted to interpret the Pentateuch in accordance with the doctrines of Pythagoras and the Academy. In Josephus it is said that, in the book of the Genesis, Moses wrote philosophically—that is, in the figurative style; and the Essenes of Carmel were reproduced in the Therapeutae of Egypt, who, in turn, were declared by Eusebius to be identical with the Christians, though they actually existed long before the Christian Era. Indeed, in its turn, Christianity also was taught at Alexandria, and underwent an analogous metamorphosis. Pantaenus, Athenagoras and Clement were thoroughly instructed in the Platonic philosophy, and comprehended its essential unity with the oriental systems.*
Ammonius, though the son of Christian parents, was a lover of the truth, a true Philaletheian foremost of all. He set his heart upon the work of reconciling the different systems into a harmonious whole, for he had already perceived the tendency of Christianity to raise itself on the hecatomb which it had constructed out of all other creeds and faiths. What says history?
The ecclesiastical historian, Mosheim, declares that
“Ammonius, conceiving that not only the philosophers of Greece, but also all those of the different barbarous nations, were perfectly in unison with each other with regard to every essential point, made it his business so to temper and expound the tenets of all these various sects, as to make it appear they had all of them originated from one and the same source, and all tended to one and the same end.” Again, Mosheim says that Ammonius taught that “the religion of the multitude went hand in hand with philosophy, and with her had shared the fate of being by degrees corrupted and obscured with mere human conceits, superstition and lies; that it ought, therefore, to be brought back to its original purity by purging it of this dross and expounding it upon philosophical principles;
* Op. cit., pp. 3, 4.
and that the whole which Christ had in view was to reinstate and restore to its primitive integrity the Wisdom of the ancients. . . .”*
Now what was that “Wisdom of the Ancients” that the Founder of Christianity “had in view”? The system taught by Ammonius in his Eclectic Theosophical School was made of the crumbs permitted to be gathered from the antediluvian lore; those Neo-Platonic teachings are described in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia as follows:
He [Ammonius] adopted the doctrines which were received in Egypt concerning the Universe and the Deity, considered as constituting one great whole, concerning the eternity of the world, the nature of souls, the empire of Providence [Karma] and the government of the world by demons [daimôns or spirits, archangels]. He also established a system of moral discipline which allowed the people in general to live according to the laws of their country and the dictates of nature; but required the wise to exalt their minds by contemplation, and to mortify the body,† so that they might be capable of enjoying the presence and assistance of the demons [including their own daimôn or Seventh Principle], and ascending after death to the presence of the Supreme [Soul] Parent. In order to reconcile the popular religions, and particularly the Christian, with this new system, he made the whole history of the heathen gods an allegory, maintaining that they were only celestial ministers‡ entitled to an inferior kind of worship; and he acknowledged that Jesus Christ was an excellent man and the friend of God, but alleged that it was not his design entirely to abolish the worship of demons,§ and that his only intention was to purify the ancient religion.||
* [Eccles. Hist. Cent. II, Pt. II, ch. i, § 8, 9.]
† “Mortification” is here meant in the moral, not the physical sense; to restrain every lust and passion, and live on the simplest diet possible.
‡ This is the Neo-Platonic teaching adopted as a doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church, with its worship of the Seven Spirits.
§ The Church has made of it the worship of devils. “Daimôn” is Spirit, and relates to our divine Spirit, the seventh Principle and to the Dhyâni-Chohans. Jesus prohibited going to the temple or church “as Pharisees do” but commanded that man should retire for prayer (communion with his God) into a private closet. Is it Jesus who would have countenanced, in the face of the starving millions, the building of the most gorgeous churches?
|| New Platonism, p. 5.
No more could be declared except for those Philaletheians who were initiated, “persons duly instructed and disciplined” to whom Ammonius communicated his more important doctrines,
. . . imposing on them the obligations of secrecy, as was done before him by Zoroaster and Pythagoras, and in the Mysteries [where an oath was required from the neophytes or catechumens not to divulge what they had learned] . . . . The great Pythagoras divided his teachings into exoteric and esoteric.*
Has not Jesus done the same, since He declared to His disciples that to them it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, whereas to the multitudes it was not given, and therefore he spoke in parables which had a twofold meaning?
Dr. A. Wilder proceeds:
Thus Ammonius found his work ready to his hand. His deep spiritual intuition, his extensive learning, his familiarity with the Christian fathers, Pantaenus, Clement and Athenagoras, and with the most erudite philosophers of the time, all fitted him for the labour which he performed so thoroughly. . . . The results of his ministration are perceptible at the present day in every country of the Christian world; every prominent system of doctrine now bearing the marks of his plastic hand. Every ancient philosophy has had its votaries among the moderns; and even Judaism, oldest of them all, has taken upon itself changes which were suggested by the “God-taught” Alexandrian.†
The Neo-Platonic School of Alexandria founded by Ammonius—the prototype proposed for the Theosophical Society—taught Theurgy and Magic, as much as they were taught in the days of Pythagoras, and by others far earlier than his period. For Proclus says that the doctrines of Orpheus, who was an Indian and came from India, were the origin of the systems afterwards promulgated.
What Orpheus delivered in hidden allegories, Pythagoras learned when he was initiated into the Orphic mysteries; and Plato next received a perfect knowledge of them from Orphic and Pythagorean writings.‡
* Op. cit., p. 7.
† Loc. cit.
‡ Op. cit., p. 18.
The Philaletheians had their division into neophytes (chelas) and Initiates, or Masters; and the eclectic system was characterised by three distinct features, which are purely Vedântic; a Supreme Essence, One and Universal; the eternity and indivisibility of the human spirit; and Theurgy, which is Mantricism. So also, as we have seen, they had their secret or Esoteric teachings like any other mystic school. Nor were they allowed to reveal anything of their secret tenents, any more than were the Initiates of the Mysteries. Only the penalties incurred by the revealers of the secrets of the latter were far more terrible, and this prohibition has survived to this day, not only in India, but even among the Jewish Kabalists in Asia.*
One of the reasons for such secrecy may be the undoubtedly serious difficulties and hardships of chelaship, and the dangers attending Initiation. The modern candidate has, like his predecessor of old, to either conquer or die; when, which is still worse, he does not lose his reason. There is no danger to him who is true and sincere, and, especially, unselfish. For he is thus prepared beforehand to meet any temptation.
* The Talmud [Mishnâh ’Hagiga, 14 b.] gives the story of the four Tannaim, who are made, in allegorical terms, to enter into the garden of delights; i.e., to be initiated into the occult and final science.
“According to the teaching of our holy masters the names of the four who entered the garden of delight, are: Ben Asai, Ben Zoma, Ahher, and Rabbi A’qîbah. . . .
“Ben Asai looked and—lost his sight.
“Ben Zoma looked and—lost his reason.
“Ahher made depredations in the plantation [mixed up the whole and failed]. But A’qîbah, who had entered in peace, came out of it in peace, for the saint, whose name be blessed, has said, ‘This old man is worthy of serving us with glory.’ ”
“The learned commentators of the Talmud, the Rabbis of the synagogue, explain that the garden of delight, in which those four personages are made to enter, is but that mysterious science, the most terrible of sciences for weak intellects, which it leads directly to insanity,” says A. Franck, in his La Kabbale. It is not the pure at heart and he who studies but with a view to perfecting himself and so more easily acquiring the promised immortality, who need have any fear; but rather he who makes of the science of sciences a sinful pretext for worldly motives, who should tremble. The latter will never withstand the kabalistic evocations of the supreme initiation.—Isis Unveiled, II, 119.
He, who fully recognised the power of his immortal spirit, and never doubted for one moment its omnipotent protection, had naught to fear. But woe to the candidate in whom the slightest physical fear—sickly child of matter—made him lose sight and faith in his own invulnerability. He who was not wholly confident of his moral fitness to accept the burden of these tremendous secrets was doomed.*
There were no such dangers in Neo-Platonic Initiations. The selfish and unworthy failed in their object, and in the failure was the punishment. The chief aim was “reunion of the part with the all.” This All was One, with numberless names. Whether called Diu, the “bright Lord of Heaven” by the Aryan; Iaô by the Chaldaean and Kabalist; Iabe by the Samaritan; Tiu or Tuisto by the Northman; Duw by the Briton; Zeus by the Thracian or Jupiter by the Roman—it was the Being, the Facit, One and Supreme,† the unborn and the inexhaustible source of every emanation, the fountain of life and light eternal, a Ray of which every one of us carries in him on this earth. The knowledge of this Mystery had reached the Neo-Platonists from India through Pythagoras, and still later through Apollonius of Tyana and the rules and methods for producing ecstasy had come from the same lore of the divine Vidyâ, the Gnôsis. For Aryâvarta, the bright focus into which had been poured in the beginning of time the flames of Divine Wisdom, had become the centre from which radiated the “tongues of fire” into every portion of the globe. What was Samâdhi but that
Sublime ecstasy, in which state things divine and the mysteries of Nature are revealed to us,
of which Porphyry speaks?
The efflux from the Divine Being was imparted to the human spirit in unreserved abundance, accomplishing for the soul a union with the divine, and enabling it while in the body to be partaker of the life which is not in the body,
he explains elsewhere. [New Platonism, p. 13.]
* Isis Unveiled, II, 119.
† See New Platonism, p. 9.
Thus under the title of Magic was taught every Science, physical and metaphysical, natural or deemed supernatural by those who are ignorant of the omnipresence and universality of Nature.
Divine Magic makes of man a God; human magic creates a new fiend.
We wrote in Isis Unveiled [I, 18]:
In the oldest documents now in our possession—the Vedas and the older Laws of Manu—we find many magical rites practiced and permitted by the Brahmans.* Tibet, Japan and China, teach in the present age that which was taught by the oldest Chaldaeans. The clergy of these respective countries prove moreover what they teach, namely: that the practice of moral and physical purity, and of certain austerities, develops the vital soul-power of self-illumination. Affording to man the control over his own immortal spirit, it gives him truly magical powers over the elementary spirits inferior to himself. In the West we find magic of as high an antiquity as in the East. The Druids of Great Britain practiced it in the silent crypts of their deep caves; and Pliny devotes many a chapter to the “wisdom”† of the leaders of the Celts. The Semothees-the Druids of the Gauls—expounded the physical as well as the spiritual sciences. They taught the secrets of the universe, the harmonious progress of the heavenly bodies, the formation of the earth, and above all—the immortality of the soul.‡ Into their sacred groves—natural academies built by the hand of the Invisible Architect—the initiates assembled at the still hour of midnight to learn about what man once was, and what he will be.§ They needed no artificial illumination, nor life-drawing gas, to light up their temples, for the chaste goddess of night beamed her most silvery rays on their oak-crowned heads; and their white-robed sacred bards knew how to converse with the solitary queen of the starry vault.||
During the palmy days of Neo-Platonism these Bards were no more, for their cycle had run its course, and the last of the Druids had perished at Bibractis and Alesia. But the Neo-Platonic school was for a long time successful, powerful and
* See the Code published by Sir William Jones, chap. vi, xi.
† Pliny, Hist. Nat., xxx, 1; xxix, 12, etc.
‡ Pomponius Mela [De situ orbis] ascribes to them the knowledge of the highest sciences.
§ Caesar, Commentaries, vi, 14.
|| Pliny, op. cit., xvi, 95; xxx, 4.
prosperous. Still, while adopting Âryan Wisdom in its doctrines, the school failed to follow the wisdom of the Brâhmans in practice. It showed its moral and intellectual superiority too openly, caring too much for the great and powerful of this earth. While the Brâhmans and their great Yogis—experts in matters of philosophy, metaphysics, astronomy, morals and religion—preserved their dignity under the sway of the most powerful princes, remained aloof from the world and would not condescend to visit them or ask for the slightest favour,* the Emperors Alexander Severus, and Julian, and the greatest among the aristocracy of the land, embraced the tenets of the Neo-Platonists, who mixed freely with the world. The system flourished for several centuries and comprised within the ranks of its followers the ablest and most learned among the men of the time; Hypatia, the teacher of the Bishop Synesius, was one of the ornaments of the School until the fatal and shameful day when she was murdered by the Christian mob at the instigation of Bishop Cyril of Alexandria. The school was finally removed to Athens, and closed by order of the Emperor Justinian.
How accurate is Dr. Wilder’s remark that
Modern writers have commented upon the peculiar views of the New Platonists upon these [metaphysical] subjects, seldom representing them correctly, even if this was desired or intended.†
The few speculations on the sublunary, material, and spiritual universes that they did put into writing—Ammonius never having himself written a line, after the wont of reformers-
* “The care which they took in educating youth, in familiarizing it with generous and virtuous sentiments, did them peculiar honour, and their maxims and discourses, as recorded by historians, prove that they were expert in matters of philosophy, metaphysics, astronomy, morality and religion,” says a modern writer. “If kings or princes desired the advice or the blessings of the holy men, they were either obliged to go themselves, or to send messengers. To these men no secret power of either plant or mineral was unknown. They had fathomed nature to its depths, while psychology and physiology were to them open books, and the result was that science that is now termed, so superciliously, magic.”
† Op. cit., p. 9
could not enable posterity to judge them rightly, even had not the early Christian Vandals, the later crusaders, and the fanatics of the Middle Ages, destroyed three parts of that which remained of the Alexandrian Library and its later schools.
Professor Draper shows that Cardinal Jimenez alone
Delivered to the flames, in the squares of Granada, eighty thousand Arabic manuscripts, many of them translations of classical authors.*
In the Vatican Library, whole passages in the most rare and precious treatises of the Ancients were found erased and blotted out, “for the sake of interlining them with absurd psalmodies!” Moreover it is well known that over thirty-six volumes written by Porphyry were burnt and otherwise destroyed by the “Fathers.” Most of the little that is known of the doctrines of the Eclectics is found in the writings of Plotinus and of those same Church Fathers.
Says the author of New Platonism and Alchemy:
What Plato was to Socrates, and the Apostle John to the head of the Christian faith, Plotinus became to the God-taught Ammonius. To Plotinus, Origenes, and Longinus we are indebted for what is known of the Philaletheian system. They were duly instructed, initiated and intrusted with the interior doctrines.†
This accounts marvellously for Origen’s calling people “idiots” who believe in the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve fables;‡ as also for the fact that so few of the writings of that Church Father have passed to posterity. Between the secrecy imposed, the vows of silence and that which was maliciously destroyed by every foul means, it is indeed miraculous that even so much of the Philaletheian tenets has reached the world.
* The History of the Conflict, etc., p. 104.
† Wilder, op. cit., p. 11.
‡ [See p. 37 of this volume.]