REPRESENTATIVE of the attitude of Christendom toward Islam, till recent years at least, is Alexander Ross’s postscript to the Anglicized version, published in 1649, of Sieur Du Ryer’s French translation of the Koran. The author of the postscript directs the following invective against Mohammed and the Koran:
“Good Reader, the great Arabian Impostor now at last after a thousand years, is by the way of France arrived in England, and his Alcoran, or gallimaufry of errors, (a brat as deformed as the parent, and as full of heresies as his scald head was of scurvy) hath learned to speak English. * * * If you will take a brief view of the Alcoran, you shall find it a hodgepodge made up of these four ingredients: 1. Of Contradictions. 2. Of Blasphemy. 3. Of ridiculous Fables. 4. Of Lies.”
The accusation of blasphemy is emphasized against Mohammed because he affirmed that God, being unmarried, was incapable of having a Son! The fallacious argument, however, is apparent from the Prophet’s own views of the nature of God as contained in the second sura of the Koran:
“To Allah [God] belongeth the east and the west; therefore, whithersoever ye turn yourselves to pray, there is the face of Allah; for Allah is omnipresent and omniscient. They say, Allah hath begotten children: Allah forbid! To him belongeth whatever is in heaven, and on earth; all is possessed by him, the Creator of heaven and earth; and when he decreeth a thing, he only saith unto it, Be, and it is.”
In other words, the God of Islam has but to desire and the object of that desire at once comes into being, whereas the God of Alexander Ross must proceed in accord with the laws of human generation!
Mohammed, Prophet of Islam, “the desired of all nations,” was born in Mecca, A.D. 570 (?) and died in Medina, A.D. 632, or in the eleventh ),ear after the Hegira. Washington Irving thus describes the signs and wonders accompanying the birth of the Prophet:
“His mother suffered none of the pangs of travail. At the moment of his coming into the world a celestial light illumined the surrounding country, and the new born child, raising his eyes to heaven, exclaimed: ‘God is great! There is no God bur God, and I am his prophet!’ Heaven and earth, we are assured, were agitated at his advent. The Lake Sawa shrank back to its secret springs, leaving its borders dry; while the Tigris, bursting its bounds, overflowed the neighboring lands. The palace of Khosru the king of Persia shook t on its foundations, and several of its towers were toppled to the earth. * * * In the same eventful night the sacred fire of Zoroaster, which, guarded by the Magi, had burned without interruption for upward of a thousand years, was suddenly extinguished, and all the idols in the world fell down.” (See Mahomet and His Successors.)
While the Prophet was still but a toddling babe, the Angel Gabriel with seventy wings came to him, and cutting open the child, withdrew the heart. This Gabriel cleansed of the black drop of original sin which is in every human heart because of the perfidy of Adam and then returned the organ to its proper place in the Prophet’s body. (See footnote in E. H. Palmer’s translation of the Qur’an.)
In his youth Mohammed traveled with the Meccan caravans, on one occasion acted as armor-bearer for his uncle, and spent a considerable time among the Bedouins, from whom he learned many of the religious and philosophic traditions of ancient Arabia. While traveling with his uncle, Abu Taleb, Mohammed contacted the Nestorian Christians, having encamped on a certain night near one of their monasteries. Here the young Prophet-to-be secured much of his information concerning the origin and doctrines of the Christian faith.
With the passing years Mohammed attained marked success in business and when about twenty-six years old married one of his employers, a wealthy widow nearly fifteen years his senior. The widow, Khadijah by name, was apparently somewhat mercenary, for, finding her young business manager most efficient, she resolved to retain him in that capacity for life! Khadijah was a woman of exceptional mentality and to her integrity and devotion must be ascribed the early success of the Islamic cause. By his marriage Mohammed was elevated from a position of comparative poverty to one of great wealth and power, and so exemplary was his conduct that he became known throughout Mecca as “the faithful and true.”
Mohammed would have lived and died an honored and respected Meccan had he not unhesitatingly sacrificed both his wealth and social position in the service of the God whose voice he heard while meditating in the cavern on Mount Hira in the month of Ramadan. Year after year Mohammed climbed the rocky and desolate slopes of Mount Hira (since called Jebel Nur, “the Mountain of light”) and here in his loneliness cried out to God to reveal anew the pure religion of Adam, that spiritual doctrine lost to mankind through the dissensions of religious factions. Khadijah, solicitous over her husband’s ascetic practices which were impairing his physical health, sometimes accompanied him in his weary vigil, and with womanly intuition sensed the travail of his soul. At last one night in his fortieth year as he lay upon the floor of the cavern, enveloped in his cloak, a great light burst upon him. Overcome with a sense of perfect peace and understanding in the blessedness of the celestial presence, he lost consciousness. When he came to himself again the Angel Gabriel stood before him, exhibiting a silken shawl with mysterious characters traced upon it. From these characters Mohammed gained the basic doctrines later embodied in the Koran. Then Gabriel spoke in a clear and wonderful voice, declaring Mohammed to be the Prophet of the living God.
In awe and trembling, Mohammed hastened to Khadijah, fearing the vision to have been inspired by the same evil spirits who served the pagan magicians so greatly despised by him, Khadijah
MOHAMMED’S NIGHT JOURNEY TO HEAVEN.
From D’Ohsson’s Tableau Général de l’Empire Othoman.
In the seventeenth sura of the Koran it is written that upon a certain night Mohammed was transported from the temple at Mecca to that of Jerusalem, but no details are given of the strange journey. In the Mishkāteu ’l-Masabih, Mohammed is made to describe his ascent through the seven heavens into the icy presence of the may-veiled God and his subsequent return to his own bed, all in a single night. Mohammed was awakened in the night by the Angel Gabriel, who, after removing the Prophet’s heart, washed the cavity with Zamzam water, and filled the heart itself with faith and science. A strange creature, called Alborak, or the lightning bolt, was brought for the conveyance of the Prophet. Alborak is described as white animal of the shape and size of a mule, with the head of a woman and the tail of a peacock. According to some versions, Mohammed merely rode Alborak to Jerusalem, where, dismounting upon Mount Moriah, he caught hold of the lower rung of a golden ladder lowered from heaven and, accompanied by Gabriel, ascended through the seven spheres separating he earth from the inner surface of the empyrean. At the gate of each sphere stood me of the Patriarchs, whom Mohammed saluted as he entered the various planes. At the gate of the first heaven stood Adam; at the gate of the second, John and Jesus (sisters’ sons); at the third, Joseph; at the fourth, Enoch; at the fifth, Aaron; at the sixth, Moses; and at the seventh, Abraham. Another order of the Patriarchs and prophets is given which places Jesus at the gate of the seventh heaven, and upon reaching this Point Mohammed is said to have requested Jesus to intercede for him before the throne of God.
assured him that his own virtuous life would be his protection and that he need fear no evil. Thus reassured, the Prophet awaited further visitations from Gabriel. When these did not come, however, such a despair filled his soul that he attempted self-destruction, only to be stopped in the very act of casting himself over a cliff by the sudden reappearance of Gabriel, who again assured the Prophet that the revelations needed by his people would be given to him as necessity arose.
Possibly as a result of his lonely periods of meditation, Mohammed seemingly was subject to ecstatic swoons. On the occasions when the various suras of the Koran were dictated he is said to have fallen unconscious, and, regardless of the chill of the surrounding air, to have been covered with beads of perspiration. Often these attacks came without warning; at other times he would sit wrapped in a blanket to prevent a chill from the copious perspiration, and while apparently unconscious would dictate the various passages which a small circle of trusted friends would either commit to memory or reduce to writing. On one occasion in later life when Abu Bekr referred to the gray hairs in his beard, Mohammed, lifting the end of his beard and looking at it, declared its whiteness to be due to the physical agony attendant upon his periods of inspiration.
If the writings attributed to Mohammed be considered as merely the hallucinations of an epileptic–and for that reason discounted–his Christian detractors should beware lest with the doctrines of the Prophet they also undermine the very teachings which they themselves affirm, for many of the disciples, apostles, and saints of the early church are known to have been subject to nervous disorders. Mohammed’s first convert was his own wife, Khadijah, who was followed by other members of his immediate family, a circumstance which moved Sir William Muir to note:
“It is strongly corroborative of Mohammed’s sincerity that the earliest converts to Islam were not only of upright character, but his own bosom friends and people of his household; who, intimately acquainted with his private life, could not fail otherwise to have detected those discrepancies which ever more or less exist between the professions of the hypocritical deceiver abroad and his actions at: home.” (See The Life of Mohammad.)
Among the first to accept the faith of Islam was Abu Bekr, who became Mohammed’s closest and most faithful friend, in fact his alter ego. Abu Bekr, a man of brilliant attainments, contributed materially to the success of the Prophet’s enterprise, and in accord with the express wish of the Prophet became the leader of the faithful after Mohammed’s death. A’isha, the daughter of Abu Bekr, later became the wife of Mohammed, thus still further cementing the bond of fraternity between the two men. Quietly, but industriously, Mohammed promulgated his doctrines among a small circle of powerful friends. When the enthusiasm of his followers finally forced his hand and he publicly announced his mission, he was already the leader of a strong and well-organized faction. Fearing Mohammed’s growing prestige, the people of Mecca, waiving the time-honored tradition that blood could not be spilt within the holy city, decided to exterminate Islam by assassinating the Prophet. All the different groups combined in this undertaking so that the guilt for the crime might thereby be more evenly distributed. Discovering the danger in time, Mohammed left his friend Ali in his bed and fled with Abu Bekr from the city, and after adroitly eluding the Meccans, joined the main body of his followers that had preceded him to Yathrib (afterwards called Medina). Upon this incident-called the Hegira or “flight”–is based the Islamic chronological system.
Dating from the Hegira the power of the Prophet steadily grew until in the eighth year Mohammed entered Mecca after practically a bloodless victory and established it as the spiritual center of his faith. Planting his standard to the north of Mecca, he rode into the city, and after circling seven times the sacred Caaba, ordered the 360 images within its precincts to be hewn down. He then entered the Caaba itself, cleansed it of its idolatrous associations, and rededicated the structure to Allah, the monotheistic God of Islam. Mohammed next granted amnesty to all his enemies for their attempts to destroy him. Under his protection Mecca increased in power and glory, becoming the focal point of a great annual pilgrimage, which even to this day winds across the desert in the months of pilgrimage and numbers over threescore thousand in its train.
In the tenth year after the Hegira, Mohammed led the valedictory pilgrimage and for the last time rode at the head of the faithful along the sacred way leading to Mecca and the Black Stone. As the premonition of death was strong upon him, he desired this pilgrimage to be the perfect model for all the thousands that would follow.
“Conscious that life was waning away within him,” writes Washington Irving, “Mahomet, during this last sojourn in the sacred city of his faith, sought to engrave his doctrines deeply in the minds and hearts of his followers. For this purpose he preached frequently in the Caaba from the pulpit, or in the open air from the back of his camel. ‘Listen to my words,’ would he say, ‘for I know not whether, after this year, we shall ever meet here again. Oh, my hearers, I am but a man like yourselves; the angel of death may at any time appear, and I must obey his summons.”‘
While thus preaching, the very heavens are said to have opened and the voice of God spoke, saying:
“This day I have perfected your religion, and accomplished in you my grace.”
When these words were uttered the multitude fell down in adoration and even Mohammed’s camel knelt. (See Mahomet and His Successors.) Having completed the valedictory pilgrimage, Mohammed returned to Medina.
In the seventh year after the Hegira (A.H. 7) an attempt was made at Kheibar to poison the Prophet. As Mohammed took the first mouthful of the poisoned food, the evil design was revealed to him either by the taste of the meat or, as the faithful believe, by divine intercession. He had already swallowed a small portion of the food, however, and for the remainder of his life he suffered almost constantly from the effects of the poison. In A.H. 11, when his final illness came upon him, Mohammed insisted that the subtle effects of the poison were the indirect cause of his approaching end. It is related that during his last sickness he rose one night and visited a burial ground on the outskirts of Medina, evidently believing that he, too, would soon be numbered with the dead. At this time he told an attendant that the choice had been offered him of continuing his physical life or going to his Lord, and that he had chosen to meet his Maker.
Mohammed suffered greatly with his head and side and also from fever, but on June 8th seemed convalescent. He joined his followers in prayer and, seating himself in the courtyard, delivered a lecture to the faithful in a clear and powerful voice. Apparently he overtaxed his strength, for it was necessary to assist him into the house of A’isha, which opened into the court of the mosque. Here upon a tough pallet laid on the bare floor the prophet of Islam spent his last two hours on earth. When she saw that her aged husband was suffering intense pain, A’isha–then but a girl of twenty–lifting the gray head of the man she had known from infancy and who must have seemed more like a father than a husband, supported him in her arms until the end. Feeling that death was upon him, Mohammed prayed: “O Lord, I beseech Thee, assist me in the agonies of death.” Then almost in a whisper he repeated three times: “Gabriel, come close unto me.” (For details consult The Life of Mohammad by Sir William Muir.) In The Hero as Prophet, Thomas Carlyle writes thus of the death of Mohammed:
“His last words were a prayer, broken ejaculations of a heart struggling-up in trembling hope towards its Maker.”
Mohammed was buried under the floor of the apartment in which he died. The present condition of the grave is thus described:
“Above the Hujrah is a green dome, surmounted by a large gilt crescent, springing from a series of globes. Within the building are the tombs of Muhammad, Abū Bakr, and ’Umar, with a space reserved for the grave of our Lord Jesus Christ, who Muslims say will again visit the earth, and die and be buried at al-Madīnah. The grave of Fātimah, the Prophet’s daughter, is supposed to be in a separate part of the building, although some say she was buried in Baqī’. The Prophet’s body is said to be stretched full length on the right side, with the right palm supporting the right check, the face fronting Makkah. Close behind him is placed Abū Bakr, whose face fronts Muhammad’s shoulder, and then ’Umar, who occupies the same position with respect to his predecessor. Amongst Christian historians there is a popular story to the effect that Muhammadans believed the coffin of their Prophet to be suspended in the air, which has no foundation whatever in Muslim literature, and Niebuhr thinks the story must have arisen from the rude pictures sold to strangers. (See A Dictionary of Islam.)
Concerning the character of Mohammed there have been the grossest misconceptions. No evidence exists to support the charges of extreme cruelty and licentiousness laid at his door. On the other hand, the more closely the life of Mohammed is scrutinized by dispassionate investigators, the more apparent become the finer qualities of his nature. In the words of Carlyle:
“Mahomet himself, after all that can be said about him, was nor, a sensual man. We so err widely if we consider this man as a common voluptuary, intent mainly on base enjoyments–nay, on enjoyments of any kind. His household was of the frugalest, his common diet barley bread and water. Sometimes for months there was not a fire once lighted on his hearth. * * * A poor, hard-working, ill-provided man; careless of what vulgar man toiled for. * * * They called him a Prophet, you say? Why, he stood there face to face with them; there, not enshrined in any mystery, visibly clouting his own cloak, cobbling his own shoes, fighting, counselling, ordering in the midst of them, they must have seen what kind of a man he was, let him be called what you like! No emperor with his tiaras was obeyed as this man in a cloak of his own clouting.”
Confused by the apparently hopeless task of reconciling the life of the Prophet with the absurd statements long accepted as authentic, Washington Irving weighs him in the scales of fairness.
“His military triumphs awakened no pride nor vainglory, as they would have done had they been effected for selfish purposes. In the time of his greatest power, he maintained the same simplicity of manners and appearances as in the days of his adversity. * * * It is this perfect abnegation of self, connected with this apparent heartfelt piety, running throughout the various phases of his fortune, which perplex one in forming a just estimate of Mahomet’s character. * * * When he hung over the death-bed of his infant son Ibrahim, resignation to the will of God was exhibited in his conduct under this keenest of afflictions; and the hope of soon rejoining his child in Paradise was his consolation.” (See Mahomet and His Successors.)
A’isha, questioned after the death of the Prophet concerning his habits, replied that he mended his own clothes, cobbled his own shoes, and helped her in the household duties. How far removed from Western concepts of Mohammed’s sanguinary character is A’isha’s simple admission that he loved most of all to sew! He also accepted the invitations of slaves and sat at meals with servants, declaring himself to be a servant. Of all vices he hated lying the most. Before his death he freed all his slaves. He never permitted his family to use for personal ends any of the alms or tithe money given by his people. He was fond of sweetmeats and used rain water for drinking purposes. His time he divided into three parts, namely: the first he gave to God, the second to his family, and the third to himself. The latter portion, however, he later sacrificed to the service of his people. He dressed chiefly in white but also wore red, yellow, and green. Mohammed entered Mecca wearing a black turban and
bearing a black standard. He wore only the plainest of garments, declaring that rich and conspicuous raiment did not become the pious, and did not remove his shoes at prayer. He was particularly concerned with the cleanliness of his teeth and at the time of his death, when too weak to speak, indicated his desire for a toothpick. When fearful of forgetting something, the Prophet tied a thread to his ring. He once had a very fine gold ring but, noting that his followers had taken to wearing similar rings in emulation of him, he removed his own and threw it away lest his followers form an evil habit. (See The Life of Mohammad.)
The most frequent, and apparently the most damaging, accusation brought against Mohammed is that of polygamy. Those who sincerely believe the harem to be irreconcilable with spirituality should with consistency move for the expurgation of the Psalms of David and the Proverbs of Solomon from the list of inspired writings, for the harem of Islam’s Prophet was insignificant compared with that maintained by Israel’s wisest king and the reputed favorite of the Most High! The popular conception that Mohammed taught that woman had no soul and could attain heaven only through marriage is not substantiated by the words and attitude of the Prophet during his lifetime. In a paper entitled The Influence of Islam on Social Conditions, read at the World’s Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, in 1893, Mohammed Webb states the charge and answers it thus:
“it has been said that Mohammed and the Koran denied a soul to woman and ranked her with the animals. The Koran places her
THE CAABA, THE HOLY PLACE OF ISLAM.
Section from panorama of Mecca in D’Ohsson’s Tableau Général de l’Empire Othman.
The Caaba, or cube-shaped building in the midst of the great court of the mosque at Mecca, is the most holy spot in the Islamic world. Toward it the followers of the Prophet must face five times a day at the appointed hours of prayer. Like the devotees of nearly all other faiths, the Mussulman originally faced the East while in prayer, but by a later decree he was ordered to turn his face toward Mecca.
Little is known of the history of the Caaba prior to its rededication as a Mohammedan mosque, other than that the building was a pagan temple. At the time the Prophet captured Mecca, the Caaba and surrounding court contained 360 idols, which were destroyed by Mohammed before he actually gained access to the shrine itself. The “Ancient House,” as the Caaba is called, is an irregular cube measuring about 38 feet in length, 35 feet in height, and 30 feet in width. The length of each side wall varies slightly and that of the end walls over a foot. In the southeast corner of the wall at a convenient distance above the ground (about five feet) is embedded the sacred and mysterious black stone or aerolite of Abraham. When first given to that patriarch by the Angel Gabriel this stone was of such strong whiteness as to be visible from every part of the earth, but late, it became black because of the sins of man. This black stone, oval in shape and about seven inches in diameter, was broken in the seventh century and is now held together by a silver mounting.
According to tradition, 2,000 years before the creation of the world the Caaba was first constructed in heaven, where a model of it still remains. Adam erected the Caaba on earth exactly below the spot in heaven occupied by the original, and selected the stones from the five sacred mountains Sinai, al-Judī, Hirā, Olivet, and Lebanon. Ten thousand angels were appointed to guard the structure. At the time of the Deluge the sacred house was destroyed, but afterward was rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ishmael. (For details see A Dictionary of Islam). It is probable that the site of the Caaba was originally occupied by a prehistoric stone altar or ring of uncut monoliths similar to those of Stonehenge. Like the temple at Jerusalem, the Caaba has undergone many vicissitudes, and the present structure does not antedate the seventeenth century of the Christian Era. When Mecca was sacked in A.D. 930, the famous black stone was captured by the Carmathians, in whose possession it remained over twenty years and it is a moot question whether the stone finally returned by them in exchange far a princely ransom was actually the original block or a substitute.
The side of the Caaba are the supposed graves of Hagar and Ishmael, and near the door (which is about seven feet above the ground) is the stone upon which Abraham stood while rebuilding the Caaba. Various coverings have always been thrown over the cube-shaped structure; the present drape, which is replaced annually, is a black brocade embroidered in a gold. Small pieces a the old drape are cherished by pilgrims as holy relics.
Entrance to the Caaba is effected by a movable flight of steps. The interior is lined with varicolored marble, silver, and gilt. Although the building is generally conceived to be windowless, this point is disputed. Access to the roof is had through a silver-plated door. In addition to the sacred books the Caaba contains thirteen lamps. The great courtyard around the building contains a number of holy objects, and is bounded by a colonnade which originally consisted of 360 pillars. Opening into the courtyard are nineteen gates, the sacred and significant number of the Metonic Cycle and also the number of stones in the inner ring of Stonehenge. Seven great minarets tower above the Caaba, and one of the sacred ceremonials in connection with the building includes seven circumambulations about the central Caaba in an apparent effort to portray the motion of the celestial bodies.
on a perfect and complete equality with man, and the Prophet’s teachings often place her in a position superior to the male in some respects.” Mr. Webb justifies his stand by quoting from the thirty-fifth verse of the thirty-third sura of the Koran:
“Verily the Moslems of either sex, and the true believers of either sex, and the devout men, and the devout women, and the men of veracity, and the women of veracity, and the patient men, and the patient women, and the humble men, and the humble women, and the alms-givers of either sex, and the men who fast, and the women who fast, and the chaste men, and the chaste women, and those of either sex who remember Allah frequently: for them hath Allah prepared forgiveness and a great reward.”
Here the attainment of heaven is clearly set forth as a problem whose only solution is that of individual merit.
On the day of his death Mohammed told Fatima, his beloved daughter, and Safiya, his aunt:
“Work ye out that which shall gain acceptance for you with the Lord: for I verily have no power with Him to save you in any wise.”
The Prophet did not advise either woman to rely upon the virtues of her husband nor in any manner did he indicate woman’s salvation to be dependent upon the human frailty of her spouse.
Everything to the contrary notwithstanding, Mohammed is not responsible for the contradictions and inconsistencies in the Koran, for the volume was not compiled and did not assume its present form until over twenty years after his death. In its present state the Koran is, for the major part, a jumble of hearsay through which occasionally shines forth an example of true inspiration. From what is known of the man Mohammed, it is reasonable to suppose that these nobler and finer portions represent the actual doctrines of the Prophet; the remainder are obvious interpolations, some arising from misunderstanding and others direct forgeries calculated to satisfy the temporal ambitions of conquering Islam. On this subject, Godfrey Higgins speaks with his usual perspicacity:
“Here we have the Koran of Mohammed and the first four sincere and zealous patriarchs, and the Koran of the conquering and magnificent Saracens–puffed up with pride and vanity. The Koran of the eclectic philosopher was not likely to suit the conquerors of Asia. A new one must be grafted on the old, to find a justification for their enormities.” (See Anacalypsis.)
To the discerning few it is evident that Mohammed had a knowledge of that secret doctrine which must needs constitute the core of every great philosophical, religious, or ethical institution. Through one of four possible avenues Mohammed may have contacted the ancient Mystery teachings:
(1) through direct contact with the Great School in the invisible world;
(2) through the Nestorian Christian monks;
(3) through the mysterious holy man who appeared and disappeared at frequent intervals during the period in which the suras of the Koran were revealed;
(4) through a decadent school already existing in Arabia, which school in spite of its lapse into idolatry still retained the secrets of the Ancient Wisdom cult.
The arcana of Islam may yet be demonstrated to have been directly founded upon the ancient pagan Mysteries performed at the Caaba centuries before the birth of the Prophet; in fact it is generally admitted that many of the ceremonials now embodied in the Islamic Mysteries are survivals of pagan Arabia.
The feminine principle is repeatedly emphasized in Islamic symbolism. For example, Friday, which is sacred to the planer Venus, is the Moslem’s holy day; green is the color of the Prophet and, being symbolic of verdure, is inevitably associated with the World Mother; and both the Islamic crescent and the scimitar may be interpreted to signify the crescent shape of either the moon or Venus.
“The famous ‘Stone of Cabar,’ Kaaba, Cabir, or Kebir, at Mecca,” says Jennings, “which is so devoutly kissed by the Faithful, is a Talisman. It is said that the figure of Venus is seen to this day engraved upon it with a crescent. This very Caaba itself was at first an idolatrous temple, where the Arabians worshipped Al-Uzza (God and Issa), that is Venus.” (See Kenealy’s Enoch, The Second Messenger of God.)
“The Mussulmans,” writes Sir William Jones, “are already a sort of heterodox Christians: they are Christians, if Locke reasons justly, because they firmly believe the immaculate conception, divine character, and miracles of the MESSIAH; but they are heterodox, in denying vehemently his character of Son, and his equality, as God, with the Father, of whose unity and attributes they entertain and express the most awful ideas; while they consider our doctrine as perfect blasphemy, and insist that our copies of the Scriptures have been corrupted both by Jews and Christians.”
The following lines are declared by the followers of the Prophet to have been deleted from the Christian Gospels:
“And when Jesus, the Son of Mary, said, O children of Israel, verily I am the apostle of God sent unto you, confirming the law which was delivered before me, and bringing good tidings of an apostle who shall come after me, and whose name shall be AHMED.”
In the present text containing the prophecy of Jesus concerning a comforter to come after Him, it is further claimed that the word comforter should be translatedillustrious and that it had a direct reference to Mohammed; also that the tongues of flame that descended upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost in no way could be interpreted as signifying the promised comforter. When asked, however, for definite proof that the original Gospels contained these so-called expurgated references to Mohammed, the Moslems make a counter-demand for production of the original documents upon which Christianity is founded. Until such writings are discovered, the point under dispute must remain a source of controversy.
To ignore the heritage of culture received from Islam would be an unpardonable oversight, for when the crescent triumphed over the cross in Southern Europe it was the harbinger of a civilization which had no equal in its day. In Studies in a Mosque, Stanley Lane-Poole writes:
“For nearly eight centuries under her Mohammedan rulers Spain set to all Europe a shining example of a civilized and enlightened state. * * * Art, literature and science prospered as they then prospered nowhere else in Europe. Students flocked from France and Germany and England to drink from the fountains of learning which flowed only in the cities of the Moors. The surgeons and doctors of Andalusia were in the van of science; women were encouraged to devote themselves to serious study, and a lady doctor was not unknown among the people of Cordova. Mathematics, astronomy and botany, history, philosophy and jurisprudence, were to he mastered in Spain and in Spain alone.”
The Library of Original Sources thus sums up the effects of Islam:
“The results of Mohammedism have been greatly underestimated. In the century after Mohammed’s death it wrested Asia Minor, Africa, and Spain from Christianity, more than half of the civilized world, and established a civilization, the highest in the world during the Dark Ages. It brought the Arabian race to their highest development, raised the position of women in the East, though it retained polygamy, was intensively monotheistic, and until the Turks gained control for the most part encouraged progress.”
In the same work, among the great Islamic scientists and philosophers who have made substantial contributions to human knowledge are listed Gerber, or Djafer, who in the ninth century laid the foundations for modern chemistry; Ben Musa, who in the tenth century introduced the theory of algebra; Alhaze, who in the eleventh century made a profound study of optics and discovered the magnifying power of convex lenses; and in the eleventh century also, both Avicenna, or Ibn Sina, whose medical encyclopedia was the standard of his age, and the great Qabbalist Avicebron, or Ibn Gebirol.
“Looking back upon the science of the Mohammedans,” resumes the authority just quoted, “it will be seen that they laid the first foundations of chemistry, and made important advances in mathematics and optics. Their discoveries never had the influence they should have had upon the course of European civilization, but this was because Europe itself was not enlightened enough to grasp and make use of them. Gerber’s observation that oxidized iron weighs heavier than before oxidation had to be made over again. So had some of their work in optics, and many of their geographical discoveries. They had rounded Africa long before Vasco da Gama. The composition of gunpowder came into Northern Europe from them. We must never forget that the dark ages in Christian Europe were the bright ones of the Mohammedan world. In the field of philosophy the Arabs started by adopting the neo-Platonism they found in Europe, and gradually working back to Aristotle.”
What means the subtle mystery of the phœnix reborn every six hundred years? Faintly from within the sanctuary of the World Mysteries is whispered the answer. Six hundred years before Christ the phœnix of wisdom (Pythagoras?) spread its wings and died upon the altar of humanity, consumed by the sacrificial fire. In Nazareth the bird was again reborn from its own ashes, only to die upon the tree which had its roots in Adam’s skull. In A.D. 600 appeared Ahmed (Mohammed). Again the phœnix suffered, this time from the poison of Kheibar, and from its charred ashes rose to spread its wings across the face of Mongolia, where in the twelfth century Genghis Khan established the rule of wisdom. Circling the mighty desert of Gobi, the phœnix again gave up its form, which now lies buried in a glass sarcophagus under a pyramid bearing upon it the ineffable figures of the Mysteries. After the lapse of six hundred years from the death of Genghis Khan, did Napoleon Bonaparte–who believed himself to be the man of destiny–contact in his wanderings this strange legend of the continual periodic rebirth of wisdom? Did he feel the spreading wings of the phœnix within himself and did he believe the hope of the world had taken flesh in him? The eagle on his standard may well have been the phœnix. This would explain why he was moved to believe himself predestined to establish the kingdom of Christ on earth and is, perhaps, the clue to his little-understood friendliness toward the Moslem.
American Indian Symbolism
THE North American Indian is by nature a symbolist, a mystic, and a philosopher. Like most: aboriginal peoples, his soul was en rapport with the cosmic agencies manifesting about him. Not only did his Manidos control creation from their exalted seats above the clouds, but they also descended into the world of men and mingled with their red children. The gray clouds hanging over the horizon were the smoke from the calumets of the gods, who could build fires of petrified wood and use a comet for a flame. The American Indian peopled the forests, rivers, and sky with myriads of superphysical and invisible beings. There are legends of entire tribes of Indians who lived in lake bottoms; of races who were never seen in the daytime but who, coming forth from their hidden caves, roamed the earth at night and waylaid unwary travelers; also of Bat Indians, with human bodies and batlike wings, who lived in gloomy forests and inaccessible cliffs and who slept hanging head downward from great branches and outcroppings of rock. The red man’s philosophy of elemental creatures is apparently the outcome of his intimate contact with Nature, whose inexplicable wonders become the generating cause of such metaphysical speculations.
In common with the early Scandinavians, the Indians of North America considered the earth (the Great Mother) to be an intermediate plane, bounded above by a heavenly sphere (the dwelling place of the Great Spirit) and below by a dark and terrifying subterranean world (the abode of shadows and of submundane powers). Like the Chaldeans, they divided the interval between the surface of earth and heaven into various strata, one consisting of clouds, another of the paths of the heavenly bodies, and so on. The underworld was similarly divided and like the Greek system represented to the initiated the House of the Lesser Mysteries. Those creatures capable of functioning in two or more elements were considered as messengers between the spirits of these various planes. The abode of the dead was presumed to be in a distant place: in the heavens above, the earth below, the distant corners of the world, or across wide seas. Sometimes a river flows between the world of the dead and that of the living, in this respect paralleling Egyptian, Greek, and Christian theology. To the Indian the number four has a peculiar sanctity, presumably because the Great Spirit created His universe in a square frame. This is suggestive of the veneration accorded the tetrad by the Pythagoreans, who held it to be a fitting symbol of the Creator. The legendary narratives of the strange adventures of intrepid heroes who while in the physical body penetrated the realms of the dead prove beyond question the presence of Mystery cults among the North American red men. Wherever the Mysteries were established they were recognized as the philosophic equivalents of death, for those passing through the rituals experienced all after-death conditions while still in the physical body. At the consummation of the ritual the initiate actually gained the ability to pass in and out of his physical body at will. This is the philosophic foundation for the allegories of adventures in the Indian Shadow Land, or World of Ghosts.
“From coast to coast,” writes Hartley Burr Alexander, “the sacred Calumet is the Indian’s altar, and its smoke is the proper offering to Heaven.” (SeeMythology of All Paces.) In the Notes on the same work is given the following description of the pipe ceremony:
“The master of ceremonies, again rising to his feet, filled and lighted the pipe of peace from his own fire. Drawing three whiffs, one after the other, he blew the first towards the zenith, the second towards the ground, and the third towards the Sun. By the first act he returned thanks to the Great Spirit for the preservation of his life during the past year, and for being permitted to be present at this council. By the second, he returned thanks to his Mother, the Earth, for her various productions which had ministered to his sustenance. And by the third, he returned thanks to the Sun for his never-failing light, ever shining upon all.”
It was necessary for the Indian to secure the red stone for his calumet from the pipestone quarry where in some remote past the Great Spirit had come and, after fashioning with His own hands a great pipe, had smoked it toward the four corners of creation and thus instituted this most sacred ceremony. Scores of Indian tribes–some of them traveling thousands of miles–secured the sacred stone from this single quarry, where the mandate of the Great Spirit had decreed that eternal peace should reign.
The Indian does not worship the sun; he rather regards this shining orb as an appropriate symbol of the Great and Good Spirit who forever radiates life to his red children. In Indian symbolism the serpent–especially the Great Serpent–corroborates other evidence pointing to the presence of the Mysteries on the North American Continent. The flying serpent is the Atlantean token of the initiate; the seven-headed snake represents the seven great Atlantean islands (the cities of Chibola?) and also the seven great prehistoric schools of esoteric philosophy. Moreover, who can doubt the presence of the secret doctrine in the Americas when he gazes upon the great serpent mound in Adams County, Ohio, where the huge reptile is represented as disgorging the Egg of Existence? Many American Indian tribes are reincarnationists, some are transmigrationists. They even called their children by the names supposed to have been borne by them in a former life. There is an account of an instance where a parent by inadvertence had given his infant the wrong name, whereupon the babe cried incessantly until the mistake had been rectified! The belief in reincarnation is also prevalent among the Eskimos. Aged Eskimos not infrequently kill themselves in order to reincarnate in the family of some newly married loved one.
The American Indians recognize the difference between the ghost and the actual soul of a dead person, a knowledge restricted to initiates of the Mysteries. In common with the Platonists they also understood the principles of an archetypal sphere wherein exist the
NAVAHO SAND PAINTING.
From an original drawing by Hasteen Klah.
The Navaho dry or sand paintings are made by sprinkling varicolored ground pigment upon a base of smooth sand. The one here reproduced is encircled by the rainbow goddess, and portrays an episode from the Navaho cosmogony myth. According to Hasteen Klah, the Navaho sand priest who designed this painting, the Navahos do not believe in idolatry, hence they make no images of their gods, but perpetuate only the mental concept of them. Just as the gods draw pictures upon the moving clouds, so the priests make paintings on the sand, and when the purpose of the drawing has been fulfilled it is effaced by a sweep of the hand. According to this informant, the Zuni, Hopi, and Navaho nations had a common genesis; they all came out of the earth and then separated into three nations.
The Navahos first emerged about 3,000 years ago at a point now called La Platte Mountain in Colorado. The four mountains sacred to the Navahos are La Platte Mountain, Mount Taylor, Navaho Mountain, and San Francisco Mountain. While these three nations were under the earth four mountain ranges were below with them. The eastern mountains were white, the southern blue, the western yellow, and the northern black. The rise and fall of these mountains caused the alternation of day and night. When the white mountains rose it was day under the earth; when the yellow ones rose, twilight; the black mountains brought night, and the blue, dawn. Seven major deities were recognized by the Navahos, but Hasteen Klah was unable to say whether the Indians related these deities to the planets. Bakochiddy, one of these seven major gods, was white in color with light reddish hair and gray eyes. His father was the sun ray and his mother the daylight. He ascended to heaven and in some respects his life parallels that of Christ. To avenge the kidnapping of his child, Kahothsode, a fish god, caused a great flood to arise. To escape destruction, the Zunis, Hopis, and Navahos ascended to the surface of the earth.
The sand painting here reproduced is part of the medicine series prepared far the healing of disease. In the healing ceremony the patient is placed upon the drawing, which is made in a consecrated hogan, and all outsiders excluded. The sacred swastika in the center of the drawing is perhaps the most nearly universal of religious emblems and represents the four corners of the world. The two hunchback god, at the right and left assume their appearance by reason of the great clouds borne upon their backs. In Navaho religious art, male divinities are always shown with circular heads and female divinities with square heads.
patterns of all forms manifesting in the earth plane, The theory of Group, or Elder, Souls having supervision over the animal species is also shared by them. The red man’s belief in guardian spirits would have warmed the heart of Paracelsus. When they attain the importance of being protectors of entire clans or tribes, these guardians are called totems. In some tribes impressive ceremonies mark the occasion when the young men are sent out into the forest to fast and pray and there remain until their guardian spirit manifests to them. Whatever creature appears thereupon becomes their peculiar genius, to whom they appeal in time of trouble.
The outstanding hero of North American Indian folklore is Hiawatha, a name which, according to Lewis Spence, signifies “he who seeks the wampum-belt.” Hiawatha enjoys the distinction of anticipating by several centuries the late Woodrow Wilson’s cherished dream of a League of Nations. Following in the footsteps of Schoolcraft, Longfellow confused the historical Hiawatha of the Iroquois with Manabozho, a mythological hero of the Algonquins and Ojibwas. Hiawatha, a chief of the Iroquois, after many reverses and disappointments, succeeded in uniting the five great nations of the Iroquois into the “League of the Five Nations.” The original purpose of the league–to abolish war by substituting councils of arbitration–was not wholly successful, but the power of the “Silver Chain” conferred upon the Iroquois a solidarity attained by no other confederacy of North American Indians. Hiawatha, however, met the same opposition which has confronted every great idealist, irrespective of time or race. The shamans turned their magic against him and, according to one legend, created an evil bird which, swooping down from heaven, tore his only daughter to pieces before his eyes. When Hiawatha, after accomplishing his mission, had sailed away in his self-propelled canoe along the path of the sunset, his people realized the true greatness of their benefactor and elevated him to the dignity of a demigod. In Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha the poet has cast the great Indian statesman in a charming setting of magic and enchantment; yet through the maze of symbol and allegory is ever faintly visible the figure of Hiawatha the initiate–the very personification of the red man and his philosophy.
THE POPOL VUH
No other sacred book sets forth so completely as the Popol Vuh the initiatory rituals of a great school of mystical philosophy. This volume alone is sufficient to establish incontestably the philosophical excellence of the red race.
“The Red ‘Children of the Sun,'” writes James Morgan Pryse, “do not worship the One God. For them that One God is absolutely impersonal, and all the Forces emanated from that One God are personal. This is the exact reverse of the popular western conception of a personal God and impersonal working forces in nature. Decide for yourself which of these beliefs is the more philosophical. These Children of the Sun adore the Plumèd Serpent, who is the messenger of the Sun. He was the God Quetzalcoatl in Mexico, Gucumatz in Quiché; and in Peru he was called Amaru. From the latter name comes our word America. Amaruca is, literally translated, ‘Land of the Plumèd Serpent.’ The priests of this God of Peace, from their chief centre in the Cordilleras, once ruled both Americas. All the Red men who have remained true to the ancient religion are still under their sway. One of their strong centres was in Guatemala, and of their Order was the author of the book called Popol Vuh. In the Quiché tongue Gucumatz is the exact equivalent of Quetzalcoatl in the Nahuatl language; quetzal, the bird of Paradise; coatl, serpent–‘the Serpent veiled in plumes of the paradise-bird’!”
The Popol Vuh was discovered by Father Ximinez in the seventeenth century. It was translated into French by Brasseur de Bourbourg and published in 1861. The only complete English translation is that by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, which ran through the early files of The Word magazine and which is used as the basis of this article. A portion of the Popol Vuh was translated into English, with extremely valuable commentaries, by James Morgan Pryse, but unfortunately his translation was never completed. The second book of the Popol Vuh is largely devoted to the initiatory rituals of the Quiché nation. These ceremonials are of first importance to students of Masonic symbolism and mystical philosophy, since they establish beyond doubt the existence of ancient and divinely instituted Mystery schools on the American Continent.
Lewis Spence, in describing the Popol Vuh, gives a number of translations of the title of the manuscript itself. Passing over the renditions, “The Book of the Mat” and “The Record of the Community,” he considers it likely that the correct title is “The Collection of Written Leaves,” Popol signifying the “prepared bark” and Vuh, “paper” or “book” from the verb uoch, to write. Dr. Guthrie interprets the words Popol Vuh to mean “The Senate Book,” or “The Book of the Holy Assembly”; Brasseur de Bourbourg calls it “The Sacred Book”; and Father Ximinez designates the volume “The National Book.” In his articles on the Popol Vuh appearing in the fifteenth volume of Lucifer, James Morgan Pryse, approaching the subject from the standpoint of the mystic, calls this work “The Book of the Azure Veil.” In thePopol Vuh itself the ancient records from which the Christianized Indian who compiled it derived his material are referred to as “The Tale of Human Existence in the Land of Shadows, and, How Man Saw Light and Life.”
The meager available native records contain abundant evidence that the later civilizations of Central and South America were hopelessly dominated by the black arts of their priestcrafts. In the convexities of their magnetized mirrors the Indian sorcerers captured the intelligences of elemental beings and, gazing into the depths of these abominable devices, eventually made the scepter subservient to the wand. Robed in garments of sable hue, the neophytes in their search for truth were led by their sinister guides through the confused passageways of necromancy. By the left-hand path they descended into the somber depths of the infernal world, where they learned to endow stones with the power of speech and to subtly ensnare the minds of men with their chants and fetishes. As typical of the perversion which prevailed, none could achieve to the greater Mysteries until a human being had suffered immolation at his hand and the bleeding heart of the victim had been elevated before the leering face of the stone idol fabricated by a priestcraft the members of which realized more fully than they dared to admit the true nature of the man-made demon. The sanguinary and indescribable rites practiced by many of the Central American Indians may represent remnants of the later Atlantean perversion of the ancient sun Mysteries. According to the secret tradition, it was during the later Atlantean epoch that black magic and sorcery dominated the esoteric schools, resulting in the bloody sacrificial rites and gruesome idolatry which ultimately overthrew the Atlantean empire and even penetrated the Aryan religious world.
THE MYSTERIES OF XIBALBA
The princes of Xibalba (so the Popol Vuh recounts) sent their four owl messengers to Hunhun-ahpu and Vukub-hunhun-ahpu, ordering them to come at once to the place of initiation in the fastnesses of the Guatemalan mountains. Failing in the tests imposed by the princes of Xibalba, the two brothers–according to the ancient custom–paid with their lives for their shortcomings. Hunhun-ahpu and Vukub-hunhun-ahpu were buried together, but the head of Hunhun-ahpu was placed among the branches of the sacred calabash tree which grew in the middle of the road leading to the awful Mysteries of Xibalba. Immediately the calabash tree covered itself with fruit and the head of Hunhun-ahpu “showed itself no more; for it reunited itself with the other fruits of the calabash tree.” Now Xquiq was the virgin daughter of prince Cuchumaquiq. From her father she had learned of the marvelous calabash tree, and desiring to possess some of its fruit, she journeyed alone to the somber place where it grew. When Xquiq put forth her hand to pick the fruit of the tree, some saliva from the mouth of Hunhun-ahpu fell into it and the head spoke to Xquiq, saying: “This saliva and froth is my posterity which I have just given you. Now my head will cease to speak, for it is only the head of a corpse, which has no more flesh.”
Following the admonitions of Hunhun-ahpu, the young girl returned to her home. Her father, Cuchumaquiq, later discovering that she was about to become a mother, questioned her concerning the father of her child. Xquiq replied that the child was begotten while she was gazing upon the head of Hunhun-ahpu in the calabash tree and that she had known no man. Cuchumaquiq, refusing to believe her story, at the instigation of the princes of Xibalba, demanded her heart in an urn. Led away by her executioners, Xquiq pleaded with them to spare her life, which they agreed to do, substituting for her heart the fruit of a certain tree (rubber) whose sap was red and of the consistency of blood. When the princes of Xibalba placed the supposed heart upon the coals of the altar to be consumed, they were all amazed by the perfume which rose therefrom, for they did not know that they were burning the fruit of a fragrant plant.
Xquiq gave birth to twin sons, who were named Hunahpu and Xbalanque and whose lives were dedicated to avenging the deaths of Hunhun-ahpu and Vukub-hunhun-ahpu. The years passed, and the two boys grew up to manhood and great were their deeds. Especially did they excel in a certain game called tennis but somewhat resembling hockey. Hearing of the prowess of the youths, the princes of Xibalba asked:
“Who, then, are those who now begin again to play over our heads, and who do not scruple to shake (the earth)? Are not Hunhun-ahpu and Vukub-hunhun-ahpu dead, who wished to exalt themselves before our face?”
FRAGMENT OF INDIAN POTTERY.
Courtesy of Alice Palmer Henderson
This curious fragment was found four feet under the ground beneath a trash pile of broken early Indian pottery not far from the Casa Grande ruins in Arizona. It is significant because of its striking to the Masonic compass and square. Indian baskets pottery, and blankets frequently bear ornamental designs of especial Masonic and philosophic interest.
So the princes of Xibalba sent for the two youths, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, that they might destroy them also in the seven days of the Mysteries. Before departing, the two brothers bade farewell to their grandmother, each planting in the midst of the house a cane plant, saying that as long as the cane lived she would know that they were alive. “O, our grandmother, O, our mother, do not weep; behold the sign of our word which remains with you. ” Hunahpu and Xbalanque then departed, each with his sabarcan (blowpipe), and for many days they journeyed along the perilous trail, descending through tortuous ravines and along precipitous cliffs, past strange birds and boiling springs, cowards the sanctuary of Xibalba.
The actual ordeals of the Xibalbian Mysteries were seven in number. As a preliminary the two adventurers crossed a river of mud and then a stream of blood, accomplishing these difficult feats by using their sabarcans as bridges. Continuing on their way, they reached a point where four roads converged–a black road, a white road, a red road, and a green road. Now Hunahpu and Xbalanque knew that their first test would consist of being able to discriminate between the princes of Xibalba and the wooden effigies robed to resemble them; also that they must call each of the princes by his correct name without having been given the information. To secure this information, Hunahpu pulled a hair from his leg, which hair then became a strange insect called Xan; buzzing along the black road, the Xan entered the council chamber of the princes of Xibalba and stung the leg of the figure nearest the door, which it discovered to be a manikin. By the same artifice the second figure was proved to be of wood, but upon stinging the third, there was an immediate response. By stinging each of the twelve assembled princes in turn the insect thus discovered each one’s name, for the princes called each other by name in discussing the cause of the mysterious bites. Having secured the desired information in this novel manner, the insect then flew back to Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who thus fortified, fearlessly approached the threshold of Xibalba and presented themselves to the twelve assembled princes.
When told to adore the king, Hunahpu and Xbalanque laughed, for they knew that the figure pointed out to them was the lifeless manikin. The young adventurers thereupon addressed the twelve princes by name thus: “Hail, Hun-came; hail, Vukub-came; hail, Xiquiripat; hail, Cuchumaquiq; hail, Ahalpuh; hail, Ahalcana; hail, Chamiabak; hail, Chamiaholona; hail, Quiqxic; hail, Patan; hail, Quiqre; hail, Quiqrixqaq.” When invited by the Xibalbians to seat themselves upon a great stone bench, Hunahpu and Xbalanque declined to do so, declaring that they well knew the stone to be heated so that they would he burned to death if they sat upon it. The princes of Xibalba then ordered Hunahpu and Xbalanque to rest for the night in the House of Shadows. This completed the first degree of the Xibalbian Mysteries.
The second trial was given in the House of Shadows, where to each of the candidates was brought a pine torch and a cigar, with the injunction that both must be kept alight throughout the entire night and yet each must be returned the next morning unconsumed. Knowing that death was the alternative to failure in the test, the young men burnt aras-feathers in place of the pine splinters (which they closely resemble) and also put fireflies on the tips of the cigars. Seeing the lights, those who watched felt certain that Hunahpu and Xbalanque had fallen into the trap, but when morning came the torches and cigars were returned to the guards unconsumed and still burning. In amazement and awe, the princes of Xibalba gazed upon the unconsumed splinters and cigars, for never before had these been returned intact.
The third ordeal took place presumably in a cavern called the House of Spears. Here hour after hour the youths were forced to defend themselves against the strongest and most skillful warriors armed with spears. Hunahpu and Xbalanque pacified the spearmen, who thereupon ceased attacking them. They then turned their attention to the second and most difficult part of the test: the production of four vases of the rarest flowers but which they were not permitted to leave the temple to gather. Unable to pass the guards, the two young men secured the assistance of the ants. These tiny creatures, crawling into the gardens of the temple, brought back the blossoms so that by morning the vases were filled. When Hunahpu and Xbalanque presented the flowers to the twelve princes, the latter, in amazement, recognized the blossoms as having been filched from their own private gardens. In consternation, the princes of Xibalba then counseled together how they could destroy the intrepid neophytes and forthwith prepared for them the next ordeal.
For their fourth test, the two brothers were made to enter the House of Cold, where they remained for an entire night. The princes of Xibalba considered the chill of the icy cavern to be unbearable and it is described as “the abode of the frozen winds of the North.” Hunahpu and Xbalanque, however, protected themselves from the deadening influence of the frozen air by building fires of pine cones, whose warmth caused the spirit of cold to leave the cavern so that the youths were not dead but full of life when day dawned. Even greater than before was the amazement of the princes of Xibalba when Hunahpu and Xbalanque again entered the Hall of Assembly in the custody of their guardians.
The fifth ordeal was also of a nocturnal nature. Hunahpu and Xbalanque were ushered into a great chamber which was immediately filled with ferocious tigers. Here they were forced to remain throughout the night. The young men tossed bones to the tigers, which they ground to pieces with their strong jaws. Gazing into the House of the Tigers, the princes of Xibalba beheld the animals chewing the bones and said one to the other: “They have at last learned (to know the power of Xibalba), and they have given themselves up to the beasts.
“But when at dawn Hunahpu and Xbalanque emerged from the House of the Tigers unharmed, the Xibalbians cried: “Of what race are those?” for they could not understand how any man could escape the tigers’ fury. Then the princes of Xibalba prepared for the two brothers a new ordeal.
MIDEWIWIN RECORD ON BIRCH BARK.
Courtesy of Alice Palmer Henderson.
The birch-bark roll is one of the most sacred possessions of an initiate of the Midewiwin, or Grand Medicine Society, of the Ojibwas. Concerning these rolls, Colonel Carrick Mallery writes: “To persons acquainted with secret societies, a good comparison for the Midewiwin charts would be what is called a trestleboard of a Masonic order, which is printed and published and publicly exposed without exhibiting any secrets of the order; yet it is net only significant, but useful to the esoteric in assistance to their memory as to the details of ceremony.” A most complete and trustworthy account of the Midewiwin is that given by W. J. Hoffman in the Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology. He writes:
The Midewiwin–Society of the Mide or Shaman–consists of an indefinite number of Mide of both sexes. The society is graded into four separate and distinct degrees, although there is a general impression prevailing even among certain members that any degree beyond the first is practically a mere repetition. The greater power attained by one in making advancement depends upon the fact of his having submitted to ‘being shot at with the medicine sacks’ in the hands of the officiating priests. * * * It has always been customary for the Mide priests to preserve birch-bark records, bearing delicate incised lines to represent pictorially the ground plan of the number of degrees to which the owner is entitled. Such records or charts are sacred and are never exposed to the public view.”
The two rectangular diagrams represent two degrees of the Mide lodge and the straight line through the center the spiritual path, or “straight and narrow way,” running through the degrees. The lines running tangent to the central Path signify temptations, and the faces at the termini of the lines are manidos, or powerful spirits. Writing of the Midewiwin, Schoolcraft, the great authority on the American Indian, says: “In the society of the Midewiwin the object is to teach the higher doctrines of spiritual existence, its nature and mode of existence, and the influence it exercises among men. It is an association of men who profess the highest knowledge known to the tribes.”
According to legend, Manabozho, the great Rabbit, who was a servant of Dzhe Manido, the Good Spirit, gazing down upon the progenitors of the Ojibwas and perceiving them to be without spiritual knowledge, instructed an otter in the mysteries of Midewiwin. Manabozho built a Midewigan and initiated the otter, shooting the sacred Migis (a small shell, the sacred symbol of the Mide) into the body of the otter. He then conferred immortality upon the animal, and entrusted to it the secrets of the Grand Medicine Society. The ceremony of initiation is preceded by sweat baths and consists chiefly of overcoming the influences of evil manidos. The initiate is also instructed in the art of healing and (judging from Plate III of Mr. Hoffman’s article) a knowledge of directionalizing the forces moving through the vital centers of the human body. Though the cross is an important symbol in the Midewiwin rites, it is noteworthy that the Mide Priests steadfastly refused to give up their religion and be converted to Christianity.
The sixth test consisted of remaining from sunset to sunrise in the House of Fire. Hunahpu and Xbalanque entered a large apartment arranged like a furnace. On every side the flames arose and the air was stifling; so great was the heat that those who entered this chamber could survive only a few moments. But at sunrise when the doors of the furnace were opened, Hunahpu and Xbalanque came forth unscorched by the fury of the flames. The princes of Xibalba, perceiving how the two intrepid youths had survived every ordeal prepared for their destruction, were filled with fear lest all the secrets of Xibalba should fall into the hands of Hunahpu and Xbalanque. So they prepared the last ordeal, an ordeal yet more terrible than any which had gone before, certain that the youths could not withstand this crucial test.
The seventh ordeal took place in the House of the Bats. Here in a dark subterranean labyrinth lurked many strange and odious creatures of destruction. Huge bars fluttered dismally through the corridors and hung with folded wings from the carvings on the walls and ceilings. Here also dwelt Camazotz, the God of Bats, a hideous monster with the body of a man and the wings and head of a bat. Camazotz carried a great sword and, soaring through the gloom, decapitated with a single sweep of his blade any unwary wanderers seeking to find their way through the terror-filled chambers. Xbalanque passed successfully through this horrifying test, but Hunahpu, caught off his guard, was beheaded by Camazotz.
Later, Hunahpu was restored to life by magic, and the two brothers, having thus foiled every attempt against their lives by the Xibalbians, in order to better avenge the murder of Hunhun-ahpu and Vukub-hunhun-ahpu, permitted themselves to be burned upon a funeral pyre. Their powdered bones were then cast into a river and immediately became two great man-fishes. Later taking upon themselves the forms of aged wanderers, they danced for the Xibalbians and wrought strange miracles. Thus one would cut the other to pieces and with a single word resurrect him, or they would burn houses by magic and then instantly rebuild them. The fame of the two dancers–who were in reality Hunahpu and Xbalanque–finally came to the notice of the twelve princes of Xibalba, who thereupon desired these two miracle-workers to perform their strange fears before them. After Hunahpu and Xbalanque had slain the dog of the princes and restored it to life, had burned the royal palace and instantly rebuilt it, and given other demonstrations of their magical powers, the monarch of the Xibalbians asked the magicians to destroy him and restore him also to life. So Hunahpu and Xbalanque slew the princes of Xibalba but did not return them to life, thereby avenging the murder of Hunhun-ahpu and Vukub-hunhun-ahpu. These heroes later ascended to heaven, where they became the celestial lights.
KEYS TO THE MYSTERIES OF XIBALBA
“Do not these initiations,” writes Le Plongeon, “vividly recall to mind what Henoch said he saw in his visions? That blazing house of crystal, burning hot and icy cold–that place where were the bow of fire, the quiver of arrows, the sword of fire–that other where he had to cross the babbling stream, and the river of fire-and those extremities of the Earth full of all kinds of huge beasts and birds–or the habitation where appeared one of great glory sitting upon the orb of the sun–and, lastly, does not the tamarind tree in the midst of the earth, that he was cold was the Tree of Knowledge, find its simile in the calabash tree, in the middle of the road where those of Xibalba placed the head of Hunhun Ahpu, after sacrificing him for having failed to support the first trial of the initiation? * * * These were the awful ordeals that the candidates for initiation into the sacred mysteries had to pass through in Xibalba. Do they not seem an exact counterpart of what happened in a milder form at the initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries? and also the greater mysteries of Egypt, from which these were copied? Does not the recital of what the candidates to the mysteries in Xibalba were required to know, before being admitted, * * * recall to mind the wonderful similar feats said to be performed by the Mahatmas, the Brothers in India, and of several of the passages of the book of Daniel, who had been initiated to the mysteries of the Chaldeans or Magi which, according to Eubulus, were divided into three classes or genera, the highest being the most learned?” (See Sacred Mysteries among the Mayas and the Quiches.)
In his introductory notes to the Popol Vuh, Dr. Guthrie presents a number of important parallelisms between this sacred book of the Quichés and the sacred writings of other great civilizations. In the tests through which Hunahpu and Xbalanque are forced to pass he finds the following analogy with the signs of the zodiac as employed in the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Greeks:
“Aries, crossing the river of mud. Taurus, crossing the river of blood. Gemini, detecting the two dummy kings. Cancer, the House of Darkness. Leo, the House of Spears. Virgo, the House of Cold (the usual trip to Hell). Libra, the House of Tigers (feline poise). Scorpio, the House of Fire. Sagittarius, the House of Bats, where the God Camazotz decapitates one of the heroes. Capricorn, the burning on the scaffold (the dual Phœnix). Aquarius, their ashes being scattered in a river. Pisces, their ashes turning into man-fishes, and later back into human form.”
It would seem more appropriate to assign the river of blood to Aries and that of mud to Taurus, and it is not at all improbable that in the ancient form of the legend the order of the rivers was reversed. Dr. Guthrie’s most astonishing conclusion is his effort to identify Xibalba with the ancient continent of Atlantis. He sees in the twelve princes of Xibalba the rulers of the Atlantean empire, and in the destruction of these princes by the magic of Hunahpu and Xbalanque an allegorical depiction of the tragic end of Atlantis. To the initiated, however, it is evident that Atlantis is simply a symbolic figure in which is set forth the mystery of origins.
Concerned primarily with the problems of mystical anatomy, Mr. Pryse relates the various symbols described in the Popol Vuh to the occult centers of consciousness in the human body. Accordingly, he sees in the elastic ball the pineal gland and in Hunahpu and Xbalanque the dual electric current directed along the spinal column. Unfortunately, Mr. Pryse did not translate that portion of the Popol Vuh dealing directly with the initiatory ceremonial. Xibalba he considers to be the shadowy or etheric sphere which, according to the Mystery teachings, was located within the body of the planet itself. The fourth book of the Popol Vuhconcludes with an account of the erection of a majestic temple, all white, where was preserved a secret black divining stone, cubical in shape. Gucumatz (or Quetzalcoatl) partakes of many of the attributes of King Solomon: the account of the temple building in the Popol Vuh is a reminder of the story of Solomon’s Temple, and undoubtedly has a similar significance. Brasseur de Bourbourg was first attracted to the study of religious parallelisms in the Popol Vuh by the fact that the temple together with the black stone which it contained, was named the Caabaha, a name astonishingly similar to that of the Temple, or Caaba, which contains the sacred black stone of Islam.
The exploits of Hunahpu and Xbalanque take place before the actual creation of the human race and therefore are to be considered essentially as spiritual mysteries. Xibalba doubtless signifies the inferior universe of Chaldean and Pythagorean philosophy; the princes of Xibalba are the twelve Governors of the lower universe; and the two dummies or manikins in their midst may be interpreted as the two false signs of the ancient zodiac inserted in the heavens to make the astronomical Mysteries incomprehensible to the profane. The descent of Hunahpu and Xbalanque into the subterranean kingdom of Xibalba by crossing over the rivers on bridges made from their blowguns has a subtle analogy to the descent of the spiritual nature of man into the physical body through certain superphysical channels that may be likened to the blowguns or tubes. The sabarcan is also an appropriate emblem of the spinal cord and the power resident within its tiny central opening. The two youths are invited to play the “Game of Life” with the Gods of Death, and only with the aid of supernatural power imparted to them by the “Sages” can they triumph over these gloomy lords. The tests represent the soul wandering through the sub-zodiacal realms of the created universe; their final victory over the Lords of Death represents the ascension of the spiritual and illumined consciousness from the tower nature which has been wholly consumed by the fire of spiritual purification.
That the Quichés possessed the keys to the mystery of regeneration is evident from an analysis of the symbols appearing upon the images of their priests and gods. In Vol. II of the Anales del Museo Nacional de México is reproduced the head of an image generally considered to represent Quetzalcoatl. The sculpturing is distinctly Oriental in character and on the crown of the head appear both the thousand-petaled sunburst of spiritual illumination and the serpent of the liberated spinal fire. The Hindu chakra is unmistakable and it frequently appears in the religious art of the three Americas. One of the carved monoliths of Central America is adorned with the heads of two elephants with their drivers. No such animals have existed in the Western Hemisphere since prehistoric times and it is evident that the carvings are the result of contact with the distant continent of Asia. Among the Mysteries of the Central American Indians is a remarkable doctrine concerning the consecrated mantles or, as they were called in Europe, magic capes. Because their glory was fatal to mortal vision, the gods, when appearing to the initiated priests, robed themselves in these mantles, Allegory and fable likewise are the mantles with which the secret doctrine is ever enveloped. Such a magic cape of concealment is the Popol Vuh, and deep within its folds sits the god of Quiché philosophy. The massive pyramids, temples, and monoliths of Central America may be likened also to the feet of gods, whose upper parts are enshrouded in magic mantles of invisibility.
The Mysteries and Their Emissaries
DID that divine knowledge which constituted the supreme possession of the pagan priestcrafts survive the destruction of their temples? Is it yet accessible to mankind, or does it lie buried beneath the rubbish of ages, entombed within the very sanctuaries that were once illuminated by its splendor? “In Egypt,” writes Origen, “the philosophers have a sublime and secret knowledge respecting the nature of God. What did Julian imply when he spoke of the secret initiations into the sacred Mysteries of the Seven-Rayed God who lifted souls to salvation through His own nature? Who were the blessed theurgists who understood them profundities concerning which Julian dared not speak? If this inner doctrine were always concealed from the masses, for whom a simpler code had been devised, is it not highly probable that the exponents of every aspect of modern civilization–philosophic, ethical, religious, and scientific-are ignorant of the true meaning of the very theories and tenets on which their beliefs are founded? Do the arts and sciences that the race has inherited from older nations conceal beneath their fair exterior a mystery so great that only the most illumined intellect can grasp its import? Such is undoubtedly the case.
Albert Pike, who has gathered ample evidence of the excellence of the doctrines promulgated by the Mysteries, supports his assertions by quoting from the writings of Clement of Alexandria, Plato, Epictetus, Proclus, Aristophanes, and Cicero, all of whom unite in lauding the high ideals of these institutions. From the unqualified testimony of such reputable authorities no reasonable doubt can exist that the initiates of Greece, Egypt, and other ancient countries possessed the correct solution to those great cultural, intellectual, moral, and social problems which in an unsolved state confront the humanity of the twentieth century. The reader must not interpret this statement to mean that antiquity had foreseen and analyzed every complexity of this generation, but rather that the Mysteries had evolved a method whereby the mind was so trained in the fundamental verities of life that it was able to cope intelligently with any emergency which might arise. Thus the reasoning faculties were organized by a simple process of mental culture, for it was asserted that where reason reigns supreme, inconsistency cannot exist. Wisdom, it was maintained, lifts man to the condition of Godhood, a fact which explains the enigmatical statement that the Mysteries transformed “roaring beasts into divinities.”
The preeminence of any philosophical system can be determined only by the excellence of its products. The Mysteries have demonstrated the superiority of their culture by giving to the world minds of such overwhelming greatness, souls of such beatific vision, and lives of such outstanding impeccability that even after the lapse of ages the teachings of these individuals constitute the present spiritual, intellectual, and ethical standards of the race. The initiates of the various Mystery schools of past ages form a veritable golden chain of supermen and superwomen connecting heaven and earth. They are the links of that Homeric “golden chain” with which Zeus boasted he could bind the several parts of the universe to the pinnacle of Olympus. The sons and daughters of Isis are indeed an illustrious line–founders of sciences and philosophies, patrons of arts and crafts, supporting by the transcendency of their divinely given power the structures of world religions erected to do them homage. Founders of doctrines which have molded the lives of uncounted generations, these Initiate-Teachers bear witness to that spiritual culture which has always existed–and always will exist–as a divine institution in the world of men.
Those who represent an ideal beyond the comprehension of the masses must face the persecution of the unthinking multitude who are without that divine idealism which inspires progress and those rational faculties which unerringly sift truth from falsehood. The lot of the Initiate-Teacher is therefore almost invariably an unhappy one. Pythagoras, crucified and his university burned; Hypatia, torn from her chariot and rended limb from limb; Jacques de Molay, whose memory survives the consuming flame; Savonarola, burned in the square of Florence; Galileo, forced to recant upon bended knee; Giordano Bruno, burned by the Inquisition; Roger Bacon, compelled to carry on his experiments in the secrecy of his cell and leave his knowledge hidden under cipher; Dante Alighieri, dying in exile from his beloved city; Francis Bacon, patient. under the burden of persecution; Cagliostro, the most vilified man of modern times–all this illustrious line bear unending witness of man’s inhumanity to man. The world has ever been prone to heap plaudits upon its fools and calumny upon its thinkers. Here and there notable exceptions occur, as in the case of the Comte de St.-Germain, a philosopher who survived his inquisitors and through the sheer transcendency of his genius won a position of comparative immunity. But even the illustrious Comte–whose illumined intellect merited the homage of the world–could not escape being branded an impostor, a charlatan, and an adventurer. From this long fist of immortal men and women who have represented the Ancient Wisdom before the world, three have been chosen as outstanding examples for more detailed consideration: the first the most eminent woman philosopher of all ages; the second the most maligned and persecuted man since the beginning of Christian Era; the third the most brilliant and the most successful modern exponent of this Ancient Wisdom.
Sitting in the chair of philosophy previously occupied by her father, Theon the mathematician, the immortal Hypatia was for many years the central figure in the Alexandrian School of Neo-Platonism. Famed alike for the depth of her learning and the charm of her person, beloved by the citizens of Alexandria, and frequently consulted by the magistrates of that city, this noble woman stands out from the
THE TABLE OF CEBES.
From Vænius’ Theatro Moral de la Vida Humana.
There is legend to the effect that the Tablet of Cebes, a dialogue between Cebes and Gerundio, was based upon an ancient table set up in the Temple of Kronos at Athens or Thebes which depicted the entire progress of human life. The author of the Tablet of Cebes was a disciple of Socrates, and lived about 390 B.C. The world is represented as a great mountain. Out of the earth at the base of it come he myriads of human creatures who climb upward in search of truth and immortality. Above the clouds which conceal the summit of the mountain is the goal of human attainment–true happiness. The figures and groups are arranged as follows: (1) the door of the wall of life; (2) the Genius or Intelligence; (3) deceit (4) opinions, desires, and pleasures; (5) fortune; (6) the strong; (7) venery, insatiability, flattery; (8) sorrow; (9) sadness; (10) misery; (11) grief, (12) rage or despair; (13) the house of misfortune; (14) penitence; (15) true opinion; (16) false opinion; (17) false doctrine; (18) poets, orators, geometers, et. al.; (19) incontinence, sexual indulgence, and opinion; (20) the road of the true doctrine (21) continence and patience; (22) the true doctrine; (23) truth and persuasion; (24) science and the virtues; (25) happiness, (26) the highest (first) pleasure of the wise man; (27) the lazy and the strays.
pages of history as the greatest of the pagan martyrs. A personal disciple of the magician Plutarch, and versed in the profundities of the Platonic School, Hypatia eclipsed in argument and public esteem every proponent of the Christian doctrines in Northern Egypt. While her writings perished at the time of the burning of the library of Alexandria by the Mohammedans, some hint of their nature may be gleaned from the statements of contemporaneous authors. Hypatia evidently wrote a commentary on the Arithmetic of Diophantus, another on the Astronomical Canon of Ptolemy, and a third on the Conics of Apollonius of Perga. Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais, her devoted friend, wrote to Hypatia for assistance in the construction of an astrolabe and a hydroscope. Recognizing the transcendency of her intellect, the learned of many nations flocked to the academy where she lectured.
A number of writers have credited the teachings of Hypatia with being Christian in spirit; in fact she removed the veil of mystery in which the new cult had enshrouded itself, discoursing with such clarity upon its most involved principles that many newly converted to the Christian faith deserted it to become her disciples. Hypatia not only proved conclusively the pagan origin of the Christian faith but also exposed the purported miracles then advanced by the Christians as tokens of divine preference by demonstrating the natural laws controlling the phenomena.
At this time Cyril–later to be renowned as the founder of the doctrine of the Christian Trinity and canonized for his zeal–was Bishop of Alexandria. Seeing in Hypatia a continual menace to the promulgation of the Christian faith, Cyril–indirectly at least–was the cause of her tragic end. Despite every later effort to exonerate him from the stigma of her murder, the incontrovertible fact remains that he made no effort to avert the foul and brutal crime. The only shred of excuse which might be offered in his defense is that, blinded by the spell of fanaticism, Cyril considered Hypatia to be a sorceress in league with the Devil. In contrast to the otherwise general excellence of the literary works of Charles Kingsley maybe noted his puerile delineation of character of Hypatia in his book by that name. Without exception, the meager historical references to this virgin philosopher attest her virtue, integrity, and absolute devotion to the principles of Truth and Right.
While it is true that the best minds of the Christianity of that period may readily be absolved from the charge of participes criminis, the implacable hatred of Cyril unquestionably communicated itself to the more fanatical members of his faith, particularly to a group of monks from the Nitrian desert. Led by Peter the Reader, a savage and illiterate man, they attacked Hypatia on the open street as she was passing from the academy to her home. Dragging the defenseless woman from her chariot, they took her to the Cæsarean Church. Tearing away her garments, they pounded her to death with clubs, after which they scraped the flesh from her bones with oyster shells and carried the mutilated remains to a place called Cindron, where they burned them to ashes.
Thus perished in A.D. 415 the greatest woman initiate of the ancient world, and with her fell also the Neo-Platonic School of Alexandria. The memory of Hypatia has probably been perpetuated in the hagiolatry of the Roman Catholic Church in the person of St. Catherine of Alexandria.
THE COMTE DI CAGLIOSTRO
The “divine” Cagliostro, one moment the idol of Paris, the next a lonely prisoner in a dungeon of the Inquisition, passed like a meteor across the face of France. According to his memoirs written by him during his confinement in the Bastille, Alessandro Cagliostro was born in Malta of a noble but unknown family. He was reared and educated in Arabia under the tutelage of Altotas, a man well versed in several branches of philosophy and science and also a master of the transcendental arts. While Cagliostro’s biographers generally ridicule this account, they utterly fail to advance in its stead any logical solution for the source of his magnificent store of arcane knowledge.
Branded as an impostor and a charlatan, his miracles declared to be legerdemain, and his very generosity suspected of an ulterior motive, the Comte di Cagliostro is undoubtedly the most calumniated man in modem history.
“The mistrust,” writes W. H. K. Trowbridge, “that mystery and magic always inspire made Cagliostro with his fantastic personality an easy target for calumny. After having been riddled with abuse till he was unrecognizable, prejudice, the foster child of calumny, proceeded to lynch him, so to speak. For over one hundred years his character has dangled on the gibbet of infamy, upon which the sbirri of tradition have inscribed a curse on any one who shall attempt to cut him down. His fate has been his fame. He is remembered in history, not so much for anything he did, as for what was done to him.” (See Cagliostro, the Splendour and Misery of a Master of Magic.)
According to popular belief Cagliostro’s real name was Giuseppe Balsamo, and he was a Sicilian by birth. Within recent years, however, doubts have arisen as to whether this belief is in accord with the facts. It may yet be proved that in part, at least, the tirades of abuse heaped upon the unfortunate Comte have been directed against the wrong man. Giuseppe Balsamo was born in 1743 of honest but humble parentage. From boyhood he exhibited selfish, worthless, and even criminal tendencies, and after a series of escapades disappeared. Trowbridge(loc. cit.) presents ample proof that Cagliostro was not Giuseppe Balsamo, thus disposing of the worst accusation against him. After six months’ imprisonment in the Bastille, on his trial Cagliostro was exonerated from any implication in the theft of the famous “Queen’s Necklace,” and later the fact was established that he had actually warned Cardinal de Rohan of the intended crime. Despite the fact, however, that he was discharged as innocent by the French trial court, a deliberate effort to vilify Cagliostro was made by an artist–more talented than intelligent–who painted a picture showing him holding the fatal necklace in his hand. The trial of Cagliostro has been called the prologue of the French Revolution. The smoldering animosity against Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI engendered by this trial later burst forth as the holocaust of the Reign of Terror. In his brochure,Cagliostro and His Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry, Henry R. Evans also ably defends this much persecuted man against the infamies so unjustly linked with his name.
Sincere investigators of the facts surrounding the life and mysterious “death” of Cagliostro are of the opinion that the stories circulated against him may be traced to the machinations of the Inquisition, which in this manner sought to justify his persecution. The basic charge against Cagliostro was that he had attempted to found a Masonic lodge in Rome–nothing more. All other accusations are of subsequent date. For some reason undisclosed, the Pope commuted Cagliostro’s sentence of death to perpetual imprisonment. This act in itself showed the regard in which Cagliostro was held even by his enemies. While his death is believed to have occurred several years later in an Inquisitional dungeon in the castle of San Leo, it is highly improbable that such was the case. There are rumors that he escaped, and according to one very significant story Cagliostro fled to India, where his talents received the appreciation denied them in politics-ridden Europe.
After creating his Egyptian Rite, Cagliostro declared that since women had been admitted into the ancient Mysteries there was no reason why they should be excluded from the modem orders. The Princesse de Lamballe graciously accepted the dignity of Mistress of Honor in his secret society, and on the evening of her initiation the most important members of the French court were present. The brilliance of the affair attracted the attention of the Masonic lodges in Paris. Their representatives, in a sincere desire to understand the Masonic Mysteries, chose the learned orientalist Court de Gébelin as their spokesman, and invited Comte di Cagliostro to attend a conference to assist in clearing up a number of important questions concerning Masonic philosophy. The Comte accepted the invitation.
On May 10, 1785, Cagliostro attended the conference called for that purpose, and his power and simplicity immediately won for him the favorable opinion of the entire gathering. It took but a few words for the Court de Gébelin to discover that he was talking nor only to a fellow scholar but to a man infinitely his superior. Cagliostro immediately presented an address, which was so unexpected, so totally different from anything ever heard before by those assembled, that all were speechless with amazement. Cagliostro declared the Rose-Cross to be the ancient and true symbol of the Mysteries and, after a brief description of its original symbolism, branched out into a consideration of the symbolic meaning of letters, predicting to the assembly the future of France in a graphic manner that left no room for doubt that the speaker was a man of insight and supernatural power. With a curious arrangement of the letters of the alphabet, Cagliostro foretold in detail the horrors of the coming revolution and the fall of the monarchy, describing minutely the fate of the various members of the royal family. He also prophesied the advent of Napoleon and the rise of the First Empire. All this he did to demonstrate that which can be accomplished by superior knowledge.
Later when arrested and sent to the Bastille, Cagliostro wrote on the wall of his cell the following cryptic message which, when interpreted, reads: “In 1789 the besieged Bastille will on July 14th be pulled down by you from top to bottom.” Cagliostro was the mysterious agent of the Knights Templars, the Rosicrucian initiate whose magnificent store of learning is attested by the profundity of the Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry. Thus Comte di Cagliostro remains one of the strangest characters in history–believed by his friends to have lived forever and to have taken part in the marriage feast of Cana, and accused by his enemies of being the Devil incarnate! His powers of prophecy are ably described by Alexandre Dumas in The Queen’s Necklace. The world he sought to serve in his own strange way received him not, but has followed with relentless persecution down through the centuries even the very memory of this illustrious adept who, unable to accomplish the great labor at hand, stepped aside in favor of his more successful compatriot, the Comte de St-Germain.
THE COMTE DE ST.-GERMAIN
During the early part of the eighteenth century there appeared in the diplomatic circles of Europe the most baffling personality of history–a man whose life was so near a synonym of mystery that the enigma of his true identity was as insolvable to his contemporaries as it has been to later investigators. The Comte de St.-Germain was recognized as the outstanding scholar and linguist of his day. His versatile accomplishments extended from chemistry and history to poetry and music. He played several musical instruments with great skill and among his numerous compositions was a short opera. He was also an artist of rare ability and the remarkably luminous effects which he created on canvas are believed to have been the result of his mixing powdered mother-of-pearl with his pigments. He gained worldwide distinction for his ability to reproduce in his paintings the original luster of the precious stones appearing upon the costumes of his subjects. His linguistic proficiency verged on the supernatural. He spoke German, English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French with a Piedmontese accent, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Arabic, and Chinese with such fluency that in every land he visited he was accepted as a native. He was ambidextrous to such a degree that: he could write the same article with both hands simultaneously. When the two pieces of paper were afterwards placed together with a light behind them, the writing on one sheet exactly covered, letter for letter, the writing on the other.
As a historian, the Comte de St.-Germain possessed uncanny knowledge of every occurrence of the preceding two thousand years, and in his reminiscences he described in intimate detail events of previous centuries in which he had played important rôles. He assisted Mesmer in developing the theory of mesmerism, and in all probability was the actual discoverer of that science. His knowledge of chemistry was so profound that he could remove flaws from diamonds and other precious stones–a feat which he actually performed at the request of Louis XV in 1757. He was also recognized as an art critic without a peer and was often consulted regarding paintings accredited to the great masters. His claim to the possession of the fabled elixir of life was home witness to by Madame de Pompadour, who discovered, she declared, that he had presented a lady of the court with a certain priceless liquid which had had the effect of preserving her youthful vivacity and beauty for over twenty-five years beyond the normal term.
The startling accuracy of his prophetic utterances gained for him no small degree of fame. To Marie Antoinette he predicted the fall of the French monarchy, and he was also aware of the unhappy fate of the royal family years before the Revolution actually took place. The crowning evidence, however, of the Comte’s genius was his penetrating grasp of the political situation of Europe and the consummate skill with which he parried the thrusts of his diplomatic adversaries. He was employed by a number of European governments, including the French, as a secret agent, and at all times bore credentials which gave him entrée to the most exclusive circles.
In her excellent monograph, The Comte de St.-Germain, the Secret of Kings, Mrs. Cooper-Oakley lists the most important names under which this amazing person masqueraded between the years 1710 and 1822.
“During this time,” she writes, “we have M. de St.-Germain as the Marquis de Montferrat, Comte Bellamarre or Aymar at Venice, Chevalier Schoening at Pisa, Chevalier Weldon at Milan and Leipzig, Comte Soltikoff at Genoa and Leghorn, Graf Tzarogy at Schwalbach and Triesdorf, Prinz Ragoczy at Dresden, and Comte de St.-Germain at Paris, The Hague, London, and St. Petersburg.”
It is evident that M. de St.-Germain adopted these various names in the interests of the political secret service work which historians have presumed to be the major mission of his life.
The Comte de St.-Germain has been described as of medium height, well proportioned in body, and of regular and pleasing features. His complexion was somewhat swarthy and his hair dark, though often shown powdered. He dressed simply, usually in black, but his clothes were well fitting and of the best quality. He had apparently a mania for diamonds, which he wore not only in rings but also in his watch and chain, his snuff box, and upon his buckles. A jeweler once estimated the value of his shoe buckles at 200,000 francs. The Comte is generally depicted as a man in middle life, entirely devoid of wrinkles and free from any physical infirmity. He ate no meat and drank no wine, in fact seldom dined in the presence of any second person. Although he was looked upon as a charlatan and impostor by a few nobles at the French court, Louis XV severely reprimanded a courtier who made a disparaging remark concerning him. The grace and dignity that characterized his conduct, together with his perfect control of every situation, attested the innate refinement and culture of one “to the manner born.” This remarkable person also had the surprising and impressive ability to divine, even to the most minute details, the questions of his inquisitors before they were asked. By something akin to telepathy he was also able to feel when his presence was needed in some distant city or state, and it has even been recorded of him that he had the astonishing habit not only of appearing in his own apartment and in those of friends without resorting to the conventionality of the door but also of departing therefrom in a similar manner.
- de St.-Germain’s travels covered many countries. During the reign of Peter III he was in Russia and between the years 1737 and 1742 in the court of the Shah of Persia as an honored guest. On the subject: of his wanderings Una Birch writes:
“The travels of the Comte de Saint-Germain covered a long period of years and a great range of countries. From Persia to France and from Calcutta to Rome he was known and respected. Horace Walpole spoke with him in London in 1745; Clive knew him in India in 1756; Madame d’Adhémar alleges that she met him in Paris in 1789, five years after his supposed death; while other persons pretend to have held conversations with him in the early nineteenth century. He was on familiar and intimate terms with the crowned heads of Europe and the honoured friend of many distinguished persons of all nationalities. He is even mentioned in the memoirs and letters of the day, and always as a man of mystery. Frederick the Great, Voltaire, Madame de Pompadour, Rousseau, Chatham, and Walpole, all of whom knew him personally, rivalled each other in curiosity as to his origin. During the many decades in which he was before the world, however, no one succeeded in discovering why he appeared as a Jacobite agent in London, as a conspirator in Petersburg, as an alchemist and connoisseur of pictures in Paris, or as a Russian general at Naples. * * * Now and again the curtain which shrouds his actions is drawn aside, and we are permitted to see him fiddling in the music room at Versailles, gossiping with Horace Walpole in London, sitting in Frederick the Great’s library at Berlin, or conducting illuminist meetings in caverns by the Rhine.” (See The Nineteenth Century, January, 1908.)
The Comte de St.-Germain has been generally regarded as an important figure in early activities of the Freemasons. Repeated efforts, however, probably with an ulterior motive, have been made to discredit his Masonic affiliations. An example of this is the account appearing in The Secret Tradition in Freemasonry, by Arthur Edward Waite.
THE ”DIVINE” CAGLIOSTRO.
From Houdon’s Bust of Cagliostro.
The Comte di Cagliostro is described as a man not overly tall, but square shouldered and deep of chest. His head, which was large, was abundantly covered with black hair combed back from his broad and noble forehead. His eyes were black and very brilliant, and when he spoke with great feeling upon some profound subject the pupils dilated, his eyebrows rose, and he shook his head like a maned lion. His hands and feet were small–an indication of noble birth–and his whole bearing was one of dignity and studiousness. He was filled with energy, and could accomplish a prodigious amount of work. He dressed somewhat fantastically, gave so freely from an inexhaustible purse that he received the title of “Father of the Poor,” accepted nothing from anyone, and maintained himself in magnificence in a combined temple and palace in the Rue d, la Sourdière. According to his own statement he was initiated into the Mysteries by none other than the Comte de St.-Germain. He had traveled through all parts of the world, and in the ruins of ancient Babylon and Nineveh had discovered wise men who understood all the secrets of human life.
This author, after making several rather disparaging remarks on the subject, amplifies his article by reproducing an engraving of the wrong Comte de St.-Germain, apparently being unable to distinguish between the great illuminist and the French general. It will yet be established beyond all doubt that the Comte de St.-Germain was both a Mason and a Templar; in fact the memoirs of Cagliostro contain a direct statement of his initiation into the order of the Knights Templars at the hands of St.-Germain. Many of the illustrious personages with whom the Comte de St.-Germain associated were high Masons, and sufficient memoranda have been preserved concerning the discussions which they held to prove that he was a master of Freemasonic lore. It is also reasonably certain that he was connected with the Rosicrucians–possibly having been the actual head of that order.
The Comte de St.-Germain was thoroughly conversant with the principles of Oriental esotericism. He practiced the Eastern system of meditation and concentration, upon several occasions having been seen seated with his feet crossed and hands folded in the posture of a Hindu Buddha. He had a retreat in the heart of the Himalayas to which he retired periodically from the world. On one occasion he declared that he would remain in India for eighty-five years and then would return to the scene of his European labors. At various times he admitted that he was obeying the orders of a power higher and greater than himself. What he did not say was that this superior power was the Mystery school which had sent him into the world to accomplish a definite mission. The Comte de St.-Germain and Sir Francis Bacon are the two greatest emissaries sent into the world by the Secret Brotherhood in the last thousand years.
- Francis Udny, a Theosophical writer, is of the belief that the Comte de St.-Germain was not the son of Prince Rákóczy of Transylvania, but because of his age could have been none other than the prince himself, who was known to be of a deep philosophic and mystic nature. The same writer believes the Comte de St.-Germain passed through the “philosophic death” as Francis Bacon in 1626, as François Rákóczy in 1735, and as Comte de St.-Germain in 1784. He also feels that the Comte de St.-Germain was the famous Comte de Gabalis, and as Count Hompesch was the last Grand Master of the Knights of Malta. It is well known that many members of the European secret societies have feigned death for various purposes. Marshal Ney, a member of the Society of Unknown Philosophers, escaped the firing squad and under the name of Peter Stuart Ney lived and taught school for over thirty years in North Carolina. On his deathbed, P. S. Ney told Doctor Locke, the attending physician, that he was Marshal Ney of France.
In concluding an article on the identity of the inscrutable Comte de St.-Germain, Andrew Lang writes:
“Did Saint-Germain really die in the palace of Prince Charles of Hesse about 1780-85? Did he, on the other hand, escape from the French prison where Grosley thought he saw him, during the French Revolution? Was he known to Lord Lytton about 1860? * * * Is he the mysterious Muscovite adviser of the Dalai Lama? Who knows? He is a will-o’-the-wisp of the memoir-writers of the eighteenth century. ” (See Historical Mysteries.)
EPISODES FROM AMERICAN HISTORY
Many times the question has been asked, Was Francis Bacon’s vision of the “New Atlantis” a prophetic dream of the great civilization which was so soon to rise upon the soil of the New World? It cannot be doubted that the secret societies of Europe conspired to establish upon the American continent “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Two incidents in the early history of the United States evidence the influence of that silent body which has so long guided the destinies of peoples and religions. By them nations are created as vehicles for the promulgation of ideals, and while nations are true to these ideals they survive; when they vary from them they vanish like the Atlantis of old which had ceased to “know the gods.”
In his admirable little treatise, Our Flag, Robert Allen Campbell revives the details of an obscure, but most important, episode of American history–the designing of the Colonial flag of 1775. The account involves a mysterious man concerning whom no information is available other than that he was on familiar terms with both General George Washington and Dr. Benjamin Franklin. The following description of him is taken from Campbell’s treatise:
“Little seems to have been known concerning this old gentleman; and in the materials from which this account is compiled his name is not even once mentioned, for he is uniformly spoken of or referred to as ‘the Professor.’ He was evidently far beyond his threescore and ten years; and he often referred to historical events of more than a century previous just as if he had been a living witness of their occurrence; still he was erect, vigorous and active–hale, hearty, and clear-minded–as strong and energetic every way as in the prime of his life He was tall, of fine figure, perfectly easy, and very dignified in his manners; being at once courteous, gracious and commanding. He was, for those times and considering the customs of the Colonists, very peculiar in his method of living; for he ate no flesh, fowl or fish; he never used for food any ‘green thing,’ any roots or anything unripe; he drank no liquor, wine or ale; but confined his diet to cereals and their products, fruits that were ripened on the stem in the sun, nuts, mild tea and the sweets of honey, sugar or molasses.
“He was well educated, highly cultivated, of extensive as well as varied information, and very studious. He spent considerable of his time in the patient and persistent conning of a number of very rare old books and ancient manuscripts which he seemed to be deciphering, translating or rewriting. These books and manuscripts, together with his own writings, he never showed to anyone; and he did not even mention them in his conversations with the family, except in the most casual way; and he always locked them up carefully in a large, old-fashioned, cubically shaped, iron-bound, heavy, oaken chest, whenever he left his room, even for his meals. He took long and frequent walks alone, sat on the brows of the neighboring hills, or mused in the midst of the green and flower-gemmed meadows. He was fairly liberal–but in no way lavish–in spending his money, with which he was well supplied. He was a quiet, though a very genial and very interesting, member of the family; and be was seemingly at home upon any and every topic coming up in conversation. He was, in short, one whom everyone would notice and respect, whom few would feel well acquainted with, and whom no one would presume to question concerning himself–as to whence he came, why he tarried, or whither he journeyed. ”
By something more than a mere coincidence the committee appointed by the Colonial Congress to design a flag accepted an invitation to be guests, while in Cambridge, of the same family with which the Professor was staying. It was here that General Washington joined them for the purpose of deciding upon a fitting emblem. By the signs which passed between them it was evident that both General Washington and Doctor Franklin recognized the Professor, and by unanimous approval he was invited to become an active member of the committee. During the proceedings which followed, the Professor was treated with the most profound respect and all of his suggestions immediately acted upon. He submitted a pattern which he considered symbolically appropriate for the new flag, and this was unhesitatingly accepted by the other six members of the committee, who voted that the arrangement suggested by the Professor be forthwith adopted. After the episode of the flag the Professor quietly vanished, and nothing further is known concerning him.
Did General Washington and Doctor Franklin recognize the Professor as an emissary of the Mystery school which has so long controlled the political destinies of this planet? Benjamin Franklin was a philosopher and a Freemason–possibly a Rosicrucian initiate. He and the Marquis de Lafayette–also a man of mystery–constitute two of the most important links in the chain of circumstance that culminated in the establishment of the original thirteen American Colonies as a free and independent nation. Doctor Franklin’s philosophic attainments are well attested in Poor Richard’s Almanac, published by him for many years under the name of Richard Saunders. His interest in the cause of Freemasonry is also shown by his republication of Anderson’s Constitutions of Freemasonry, a rare and much disputed work on the subject.
It was during the evening of July 4, 1776, that the second of these mysterious episodes occurred. In the old State House in Philadelphia a group of men were gathered for the momentous task of severing the last tie between the old country and the new. It was a grave moment and not a few of those present feared that their lives would be the forfeit for their audacity. In the midst of the debate a fierce voice rang out. The debaters stopped and turned to look upon the stranger. Who was this man who had suddenly appeared in their midst and transfixed them with his oratory? They had never seen him before, none knew when he had entered, but his tall form and pale face filled them with awe. His voice ringing with a holy zeal, the stranger stirred them to their very souls. His closing words rang through the building: “God has given America to be free!”
As the stranger sank into a chair exhausted, a wild enthusiasm burst forth. Name after name was placed upon the parchment: the Declaration of Independence was signed. But where was the man who had precipitated the accomplishment of this immortal task–who had lifted for a moment the veil from the eyes of the assemblage and revealed to them a part at least of the great purpose for which the new nation was conceived? He had disappeared, nor was he ever seen again or his identity established. This episode parallels others of a similar kind recorded by ancient historians attendant upon the founding of every new nation. Are they coincidences, or do they demonstrate that the divine wisdom of the ancient Mysteries still is present in the world, serving mankind as it did of old?
PHILIP, King of Macedon, ambitious to obtain the teacher who would be most capable of imparting the higher branches of learning to his fourteen-year-old son, Alexander, and wishing the prince to have for his mentor the most famous and learned of the great philosophers, decided to communicate with Aristotle. He dispatched the following letter to the Greek sage: “PHILIP TO ARISTOTLE, HEALTH: Know that I have a son. I render the gods many thanks; not so much for his birth, as that he was born in your time, for I hope that being educated and instructed by you, he will become worthy of us both and the kingdom which he shall inherit.” Accepting Philip’s invitation, Aristotle journeyed to Macedon in the fourth year of the 108th Olympiad, and remained for eight years as the tutor of Alexander. The young prince’s affection for his instructor became as great as that which he felt for his father. He said that his father had given him being, but that Aristotle had given him well-being.
The basic principles of the Ancient Wisdom were imparted to Alexander the Great by Aristotle, and at the philosopher’s feet the Macedonian youth came to realize the transcendency of Greek learning as it was personified in Plato’s immortal disciple. Elevated by his illumined teacher to the threshold of the philosophic sphere, he beheld the world of the sages–the world that fate and the limitations of his own soul decreed he should not conquer.
Aristotle in his leisure hours edited and annotated the Iliad of Horner and presented the finished volume to Alexander. This book the young conqueror so highly prized that he carried it with him on all his campaigns. At the time of his triumph over Darius, discovering among the spoils a magnificent, gem-studded casket of unguents, he dumped its contents upon the ground, declaring that at last he had found a case worthy of Aristotle’s edition of the Iliad!
While on his Asiatic campaign, Alexander learned that Aristotle had published one of his most prized discourses, an occurrence which deeply grieved the young king. So to Aristotle, Conqueror of the Unknown, Alexander, Conqueror of the Known, sent this reproachful and pathetic and admission of the insufficiency of worldly pomp and power: “ALEXANDER TO ARISTOTLE, HEALTH: You were wrong in publishing those branches of science hitherto not to be acquired except from oral instruction. In what shall I excel others if the more profound knowledge I gained from you be communicated to all? For my part I had rather surpass the majority of mankind in the sublimer branches of learning, than in extent of power and dominion. Farewell.” The receipt of this amazing letter caused no ripple in the placid life of Aristotle, who replied that although the discourse had been communicated to the multitudes, none who had not heard him deliver the lecture (who lacked spiritual comprehension) could understand its true import.
A few short years and Alexander the Great went the way of all flesh, and with his body crumbled the structure of empire erected upon his personality. One year later Aristotle also passed into that greater world concerning whose mysteries he had so often discoursed with his disciples in the Lyceum. But, as Aristotle excelled Alexander in life, so he excelled him in death; for though his body moldered in an obscure tomb, the great philosopher continued to live in his intellectual achievements. Age after age paid him grateful tribute, generation after generation pondered over his theorems until by the sheer transcendency of his rational faculties Aristotle–“the master of those who know,” as Dante has called him–became the actual conqueror of the very world which Alexander had sought to subdue with the sword.
Thus it is demonstrated that to capture a man it is not sufficient to enslave his body–it is necessary to enlist his reason; that to free a man it is not enough to strike the shackles from his limbs–his mind must be liberated from bondage to his own ignorance. Physical conquest must ever fail, for, generating hatred and dissension, it spurs the mind to the avenging of an outraged body; but all men are bound whether willingly or unwillingly to obey that intellect in which they recognize qualities and virtues superior to their own.
That the philosophic culture of ancient Greece, Egypt, and India excelled that of the modern, world must be admitted by all, even by the most confirmed of modernists. The golden era of Greek æsthetics, intellectualism, and ethics has never since been equaled. The true philosopher belongs to the most noble order of men: the nation or race which is blessed by possession of illumined thinkers is fortunate indeed, and its name shall be remembered for their sake. In the famous Pythagorean school at Crotona, philosophy was regarded as indispensable to the life of man. He who did not comprehend the dignity of the reasoning power could not properly be said to live. Therefore, when through innate perverseness a member either voluntarily withdrew or was forcibly ejected from the philosophic fraternity, a headstone was set up for him in the community graveyard; for he who had forsaken intellectual and ethical pursuits to reenter the material sphere with its illusions of sense and false ambition was regarded as one dead to the sphere of Reality. The life represented by the thraldom of the senses the Pythagoreans conceived to be spiritual death, while they regarded death to the sense-world as spiritual life.
Philosophy bestows life in that it reveals the dignity and purpose of living. Materiality bestows death in that it benumbs or clouds those faculties of the human soul which should be responsive to the enlivening impulses of creative thought and ennobling virtue. How inferior to these standards of remote days are the laws by which men live in the twentieth century! Today man, a sublime creature with infinite capacity for self-improvement, in an effort to be true to false standards, turns from his birthright of understanding–without realizing the consequences–and plunges into the maelstrom of material illusion. The precious span of his earthly years he devotes to the pathetically futile effort to establish himself as an enduring power in a realm of unenduring things. Gradually the memory of his life as a spiritual being vanishes from his objective mind and he focuses all his partly awakened faculties upon
JOHN AND THE VISION OF THE APOCALYPSE.
From an engraving by Jean Duvet.
Jean Duvet of Langres (who was born in 1485 and presumably died sometime after 1561, the year in which his illustrations to the Apocalypse were printed in book form) was the oldest and greatest of French Renaissance engravers. Little is known concerning Duvet beyond the fact that he was the goldsmith to the King of France. His engravings for the Book of Revelation, executed after he had passed his seventieth year, were his masterpiece. (For further information regarding this obscure master, consult article by William M. Ivins, Jr., in The Arts, May, 1926.) The face of John is an actual portrait of Duvet. This plate, like many others cut by Duvet, is rich in philosophical symbolism.
the seething beehive of industry which he has come to consider the sole actuality. From the lofty heights of his Selfhood he slowly sinks into the gloomy depths of ephemerality. He falls to the level of the beast, and in brutish fashion mumbles the problems arising from his all too insufficient knowledge of the Divine Plan. Here in the lurid turmoil of a great industrial, political, commercial inferno, men writhe in self-inflicted agony and, reaching out into the swirling mists, strive to clutch and hold the grotesque phantoms of success and power.
Ignorant of the cause of life, ignorant of the purpose of life, ignorant of what lies beyond the mystery of death, yet possessing within himself the answer to it all, man is willing to sacrifice the beautiful, the true, and the good within and without upon the blood-stained altar of worldly ambition. The world of philosophy–that beautiful garden of thought wherein the sages dwell in the bond of fraternity–fades from view. In its place rises an empire of stone, steel, smoke, and hate-a world in which millions of creatures potentially human scurry to and fro in the desperate effort to exist and at the same time maintain the vast institution which they have erected and which, like some mighty, juggernaut, is rumbling inevitably towards an unknown end. In this physical empire, which man erects in the vain belief that he can outshine the kingdom of the celestials, everything is changed to stone, Fascinated by the glitter of gain, man gazes at the Medusa-like face of greed and stands petrified.
In this commercial age science is concerned solely with the classification of physical knowledge and investigation of the temporal and illusionary parts of Nature. Its so-called practical discoveries bind man but more tightly with the bonds of physical limitation, Religion, too, has become materialistic: the beauty and dignity of faith is measured by huge piles of masonry, by tracts of real estate, or by the balance sheet. Philosophy which connects heaven and earth like a mighty ladder, up the rungs of which the illumined of all ages have climbed into the living presence of Reality–even philosophy has become a prosaic and heterogeneous mass of conflicting notions. Its beauty, its dignity, its transcendency are no more. Like other branches of human thought, it has been made materialistic–“practical”–and its activities so directionalized that they may also contribute their part to the erection of this modern world of stone and steel.
In the ranks of the so-called learned there is rising up a new order of thinkers, which may best be termed the School of the Worldly Wise Men. After arriving at the astounding conclusion that they are the intellectual salt of the earth, these gentlemen of letters have appointed themselves the final judges of all knowledge, both human and divine. This group affirms that all mystics must have been epileptic and most of the saints neurotic! It declares God to be a fabrication of primitive superstition; the universe to be intended for no particular purpose; immortality to be a figment of the imagination; and an outstanding individuality to be but a fortuitous combination of cells! Pythagoras is asserted to have suffered from a “bean complex”; Socrates was a notorious inebriate; St. Paul was subject to fits; Paracelsus was an infamous quack, the Comte di Cagliostro a mountebank, and the Comte de St.-Germain the outstanding crook of history!
What do the lofty concepts of the world’s illumined saviors and sages have in common with these stunted, distorted products of the “realism” of this century? All over the world men and women ground down by the soulless cultural systems of today are crying out for the return of the banished age of beauty and enlightenment–for something practical in the highest sense of the word. A few are beginning to realize that so-called civilization in its present form is at the vanishing point; that coldness, heartlessness, commercialism, and material efficiency are impractical, and only that which offers opportunity for the expression of love and ideality is truly worth while. All the world is seeking happiness, but knows not in what direction to search. Men must learn that happiness crowns the soul’s quest for understanding. Only through the realization of infinite goodness and infinite accomplishment can the peace of the inner Self be assured. In spite of man’s geocentricism, there is something in the human mind that is reaching out to philosophy–not to this or that philosophic code, but simply to philosophy in the broadest and fullest sense.
The great philosophic institutions of the past must rise again, for these alone can tend the veil which divides the world of causes from that of effects. Only the Mysteries–those sacred Colleges of Wisdom–can reveal to struggling humanity that greater and more glorious universe which is the true home of the spiritual being called man. Modern philosophy has failed in that it has come to regard thinking as simply an intellectual process. Materialistic thought is as hopeless a code of life as commercialism itself. The power to think true is the savior of humanity. The mythological and historical Redeemers of every age were all personifications of that power. He who has a little more rationality than his neighbor is a little better than his neighbor. He who functions on a higher plane of rationality than the rest of the world is termed the greatest thinker. He who functions on a lower plane is regarded as a barbarian. Thus comparative rational development is the true gauge of the individual’s evolutionary status.
Briefly stated, the true purpose of ancient philosophy was to discover a method whereby development of the rational nature could be accelerated instead of awaiting the slower processes of Nature, This supreme source of power, this attainment of knowledge, this unfolding of the god within, is concealed under the epigrammatic statement of the philosophic life. This was the key to the Great Work, the mystery of the Philosopher’s Stone, for it meant that alchemical transmutation had been accomplished. Thus ancient philosophy was primarily the living of a life; secondarily, an intellectual method. He alone can become a philosopher in the highest sense who lives the philosophic life. What man lives he comes to know. Consequently, a great philosopher is one whose threefold life–physical, mental, and spiritual–is wholly devoted to and completely permeated by his rationality.
Man’s physical, emotional, and mental natures provide environments of reciprocal benefit or detriment to each other. Since the physical nature is the immediate environment of the mental, only that mind is capable of rational thinking which is enthroned in a harmonious and highly refined material constitution. Hence right action, right feeling, and right thinking are prerequisites of right knowing, and the attainment of philosophic power is possible only to such as have harmonized their thinking with their living. The wise have therefore declared that none can attain to the highest in the science of knowing until first he has attained to the highest in the science of living. Philosophic power is the natural outgrowth of the philosophic life. Just as an intense physical existence emphasizes the importance of physical things, or just as the monastic metaphysical asceticism establishes the desirability of the ecstatic state, so complete philosophic absorption ushers the consciousness of the thinker into the most elevated and noble of all spheres–the pure philosophic, or rational, world.
In a civilization primarily concerned with the accomplishment of the extremes of temporal activity, the philosopher represents an equilibrating intellect capable of estimating and guiding the cultural growth. The establishment of the philosophic rhythm in the nature of an individual ordinarily requires from fifteen to twenty years. During that entire period the disciples of old were constantly subjected to the most severe discipline. Every activity of life was gradually disengaged from other interests and focalized upon the reasoning part. In the ancient world there was another and most vital factor which entered into the production of rational intellects and which is entirely beyond the comprehension of modern thinkers: namely, initiation into the philosophic Mysteries. A man who had demonstrated his peculiar mental and spiritual fitness was accepted into the body of the learned and to him was revealed that priceless heritage of arcane lore preserved from generation to generation. This heritage of philosophic truth is the matchless treasure of all ages, and each disciple admitted into these brotherhoods of the wise made, in turn, his individual contribution to this store of classified knowledge.
The one hope of the world is philosophy, for all the sorrows of modern life result from the lack of a proper philosophic code. Those who sense even in part the dignity of life cannot but realize the shallowness apparent in the activities of this age. Well has it been said that no individual can succeed until he has developed his philosophy of life. Neither can a race or nation attain true greatness until it has formulated an adequate philosophy and has dedicated its existence to a policy consistent with that philosophy. During the World War, when so-called civilization hurled one half of itself against the other in a frenzy of hate, men ruthlessly destroyed something more precious even than human life: they obliterated those records of human thought by which life can be intelligently directionalized. Truly did Mohammed declare the ink of philosophers to be more precious than the blood of martyrs. Priceless documents, invaluable records of achievement, knowledge founded on ages of patient observation and experimentation by the elect of the earth–all were destroyed with scarcely a qualm of regret. What was knowledge, what was truth, beauty, love, idealism, philosophy, or religion when compared to man’s desire to control an infinitesimal spot in the fields of Cosmos for an inestimably minute fragment of time? Merely to satisfy some whim or urge of ambition man would uproot the universe, though well he knows that in a few short years he must depart, leaving all that he has seized to posterity as an old cause for fresh contention.
War–the irrefutable evidence of irrationality–still smolders in the hearts of men; it cannot die until human selfishness is overcome. Armed with multifarious inventions and destructive agencies, civilization will continue its fratricidal strife through future ages, But upon the mind of man there is dawning a great fear–the fear that
THE ENTRANCE TO THE HOUSE OF THE MYSTERIES.
From Khunrath’s Amphitheatrum Sapientiæ, etc.
This symbolic figure, representing the way to everlasting life, is described by Khunrath in substance as follows: “This is the Portal of the amphitheatre of the only true and eternal Wisdom–a narrow one, indeed, but sufficiently august, and consecrated to Jehovah. To this portal ascent is made by a mystic, indisputably prologetic, flight of steps, set before it as shown in the picture. It consists of seven theosophic, or, rather, philosophic steps of the Doctrine of the Faithful Sons. After ascending the steps, the path is along the way of God the Father, either directly by inspiration or by various mediate means. According to the seven oracular laws shining at the portal, those who are inspired divinely have the power to enter and with the eyes of the body and of the mind, of seeing, contemplating and investigating in a Christiano-Kabalistic, divino-magical, physico-chemical manner, the nature of the Wisdom: Goodness, and Power of the Creator; to the end that they die not sophistically but live theosophically, and that the orthodox philosophers so created may with sincere philosophy expound the works of the Lord, and worthily praise God who has thus blessed these friend, of God.” The above figure and description constitute one of the most remarkable expositions ever made of the appearance of the Wise Man’s House and the way by which it must be entered.
eventually civilization will destroy itself in one great cataclysmic struggle. Then must be reenacted the eternal drama of reconstruction. Out of the ruins of the civilization which died when its idealism died, some primitive people yet in the womb of destiny must build a new world. Foreseeing the needs of that day, the philosophers of the ages have desired that into the structure of this new world shall be incorporated the truest and finest of all that has gone before. It is a divine law that the sum of previous accomplishment shall be the foundation of each new order of things. The great philosophic treasures of humanity must be preserved. That which is superficial may he allowed to perish; that which is fundamental and essential must remain, regardless of cost.
Two fundamental forms of ignorance were recognized by the Platonists: simple ignorance and complex ignorance. Simple ignorance is merely lack of knowledge and is common to all creatures existing posterior to the First Cause, which alone has perfection of knowledge. Simple ignorance is an ever-active agent, urging the soul onward to the acquisition of knowledge. From this virginal state of unawareness grows the desire to become aware with its resultant improvement in the mental condition. The human intellect is ever surrounded by forms of existence beyond the estimation of its partly developed faculties. In this realm of objects not understood is a never-failing source of mental stimuli. Thus wisdom eventually results from the effort to cope rationally with the problem of the unknown.
In the last analysis, the Ultimate Cause alone can be denominated wise; in simpler words, only God is good. Socrates declared knowledge, virtue, and utility to be one with the innate nature of good. Knowledge is a condition of knowing; virtue a condition of being; utility a condition of doing. Considering wisdom as synonymous with mental completeness, it is evident that such a state can exist only in the Whole, for that which is less than the Whole cannot possess the fullness of the All. No part of creation is complete; hence each part is imperfect to the extent that it falls short of entirety. Where incompleteness is, it also follows that ignorance must be coexistent; for every part, while capable of knowing its own Self, cannot become aware of the Self in the other parts. Philosophically considered, growth from the standpoint of human evolution is a process proceeding from heterogeneity to homogeneity. In time, therefore, the isolated consciousness of the individual fragments is reunited to become the complete consciousness of the Whole. Then, and then only, is the condition of all-knowing an absolute reality.
Thus all creatures are relatively ignorant yet relatively wise; comparatively nothing yet comparatively all. The microscope reveals to man his significance; the telescope, his insignificance. Through the eternities of existence man is gradually increasing in both wisdom and understanding; his ever-expanding consciousness is including more of the external within the area of itself. Even in man’s present state of imperfection it is dawning upon his realization that he can never be truly happy until he is perfect, and that of all the faculties contributing to his self-perfection none is equal in importance to the rational intellect. Through the labyrinth of diversity only the illumined mind can, and must, lead the soul into the perfect light of unity.
In addition to the simple ignorance which is the most potent factor in mental growth there exists another, which is of a far more dangerous and subtle type. This second form, called twofold or complex ignorance, may be briefly defined as ignorance of ignorance. Worshiping the sun, moon, and stars, and offering sacrifices to the winds, the primitive savage sought with crude fetishes to propitiate his unknown gods. He dwelt in a world filled with wonders which he did not understand. Now great cities stand where once roamed the Crookboned men. Humanity no longer regards itself as primitive or aboriginal. The spirit of wonder and awe has been succeeded by one of sophistication. Today man worships his own accomplishments, and either relegates the immensities of time and space to the background of his consciousness or disregards them entirely.
The twentieth century makes a fetish of civilization and is overwhelmed by its own fabrications; its gods are of its own fashioning. Humanity has forgotten how infinitesimal, how impermanent and how ignorant it actually is. Ptolemy has been ridiculed for conceiving the earth to be the center of the universe, yet modern civilization is seemingly founded upon the hypothesis that the planet earth is the most permanent and important of all the heavenly spheres, and that the gods from their starry thrones are fascinated by the monumental and epochal events taking place upon this spherical ant-hill in Chaos.
From age to age men ceaselessly toil to build cities that they may rule over them with pomp and power–as though a fillet of gold or ten million vassals could elevate man above the dignity of his own thoughts and make the glitter of his scepter visible to the distant stars. As this tiny planet rolls along its orbit in space, it carries with it some two billion human beings who live and die oblivious to that immeasurable existence lying beyond the lump on which they dwell. Measured by the infinities of time and space, what are the captains of industry or the lords of finance? If one of these plutocrats should rise until he ruled the earth itself, what would he be but a petty despot seated on a grain of Cosmic dust?
Philosophy reveals to man his kinship with the All. It shows him that he is a brother to the suns which dot the firmament; it lifts him from a taxpayer on a whirling atom to a citizen of Cosmos. It teaches him that while physically bound to earth (of which his blood and bones are part), there is nevertheless within him a spiritual power, a diviner Self, through which he is one with the symphony of the Whole. Ignorance of ignorance, then, is that self-satisfied state of unawareness in which man, knowing nothing outside the limited area of his physical senses, bumptiously declares there is nothing more to know! He who knows no life save the physical is merely ignorant; but he who declares physical life to be all-important and elevates it to the position of supreme reality–such a one is ignorant of his own ignorance.
If the Infinite had not desired man to become wise, He would not have bestowed upon him the faculty of knowing. If He had not intended man to become virtuous, He would not have sown within the human heart the seeds of virtue. If He had predestined man to be limited to his narrow physical life, He would not have equipped him with perceptions and sensibilities capable of grasping, in part at least, the immensity of the outer universe. The criers of philosophy call all men to a comradeship of the spirit: to a fraternity of thought: to a convocation of Selves. Philosophy invites man out of the vainness of selfishness; out of the sorrow of ignorance and the despair of worldliness; out of the travesty of ambition and the cruel clutches of greed; out of the red hell of hate and the cold tomb of dead idealism.
Philosophy would lead all men into the broad, calm vistas of truth, for the world of philosophy is a land of peace where those finer qualities pent up within each human soul are given opportunity for expression. Here men are taught the wonders of the blades of grass; each stick and stone is endowed with speech and tells the secret of its being. All life, bathed in the radiance of understanding, becomes a wonderful and beautiful reality. From the four corners of creation swells a mighty anthem of rejoicing, for here in the light of philosophy is revealed the purpose of existence; the wisdom and goodness permeating the Whole become evident to even man’s imperfect intellect. Here the yearning heart of humanity finds that companionship which draws forth from the innermost recesses of the soul that great store of good which lies there like precious metal in some deep hidden vein.
Following the path pointed out by the wise, the seeker after truth ultimately attains to the summit of wisdom’s mount, and gazing down, beholds the panorama of life spread out before him. The cities of the plains are but tiny specks and the horizon on every hand is obscured by the gray haze of the Unknown. Then the soul realizes that wisdom lies in breadth of vision; that it increases in comparison to the vista. Then as man’s thoughts lift him heavenward, streets are lost in cities, cities in nations, nations in continents, continents in the earth, the earth in space, and space in an infinite eternity, until at last but two things remain: the Self and the goodness of God.
While man’s physical body resides with him and mingles with the heedless throng, it is difficult to conceive of man as actually inhabiting a world of his own-a world which he has discovered by lifting himself into communion with the profundities of his own internal nature. Man may live two lives. One is a struggle from the womb to the tomb. Its span is measured by man’s own creation–time. Well may it be called the unheeding life. The other life is from realization to infinity. It begins with understanding, its duration is forever, and upon the plane of eternity it is consummated. This is called the philosophic life. Philosophers are nor born nor do they die; for once having achieved the realization of immortality, they are immortal. Having once communed with Self, they realize that within there is an immortal foundation that will not pass away. Upon this living, vibrant base–Self–they erect a civilization which will endure after the sun, the moon, and the stars have ceased to be. The fool lives but for today; the philosopher lives forever.
When once the rational consciousness of man rolls away the stone and comes forth from its sepulcher, it dies no more; for to this second or philosophic birth there is no dissolution. By this should not be inferred physical immortality, but rather that the philosopher has learned that his physical body is no more his true Self than the physical earth is his true world. In the realization that he and his body are dissimilar–that though the form must perish the life will not fail–he achieves conscious immortality. This was the immortality to which Socrates referred when he said: “Anytus and Melitus may indeed put me to death, but they cannot injure me.” To the wise, physical existence is but the outer room of the hall of life. Swinging open the doors of this antechamber, the illumined pass into the greater and more perfect existence. The ignorant dwell in a world bounded by time and space. To those, however, who grasp the import and dignity of Being, these are but phantom shapes, illusions of the senses-arbitrary limits imposed by man’s ignorance upon the duration of Deity. The philosopher lives and thrills with the realization of this duration, for to him this infinite period has been designed by the All-Wise Cause as the time of all accomplishment.
Man is not the insignificant creature that he appears to be; his physical body is not the true measure of his real self. The invisible nature of man is as vast as his comprehension and as measureless as his thoughts. The fingers of his mind reach out and grasp the stars; his spirit mingles with the throbbing life of Cosmos itself. He who has attained to the state of understanding thereby has so increased his capacity to know that he gradually incorporates within himself the various elements of the universe. The unknown is merely that which is yet to be included within the consciousness of the seeker. Philosophy assists man to develop the sense of appreciation; for as it reveals the glory and the sufficiency of knowledge, it also unfolds those latent powers and faculties whereby man is enabled to master the secrets of the seven spheres.
From the world of physical pursuits the initiates of old called their disciples into the life of the mind and the spirit. Throughout the ages, the Mysteries have stood at the threshold of Reality–that hypothetical spot between noumenon and phenomenon, the Substance and the shadow. The gates of the Mysteries stand ever ajar and those who will may pass through into the spacious domicile of spirit. The world of philosophy lies neither to the right nor to the left, neither above nor below. Like a subtle essence permeating all space and all substance, it is everywhere; it penetrates the innermost and the outermost parts of all being. In every man and woman these two spheres are connected by a gate which leads from the not-self and its concerns to the Self and its realizations. In the mystic this gate is the heart, and through spiritualization of his emotions he contacts that more elevated plane which, once felt and known, becomes the sum of the worth-while. In the philosopher, reason is the gate between the outer and the inner worlds, the illumined mind bridging the chasm between the corporeal and the incorporeal. Thus godhood is born within the one who sees, and from the concerns of men he rises to the concerns of gods.
In this era of “practical” things men ridicule even the existence of God. They scoff at goodness while they ponder with befuddled minds the phantasmagoria of materiality. They have forgotten the path which leads beyond the stars. The great mystical institutions of antiquity which invited man to enter into his divine inheritance have crumbled, and institutions of human scheming now stand where once the ancient houses of learning rose a mystery of fluted columns and polished marble. The white-robed sages who gave to the world its ideals of culture and beauty have gathered their robes about them and departed from the sight of men. Nevertheless, this little earth is bathed as of old in the sunlight of its Providential Generator. Wide-eyed babes still face the mysteries of physical existence. Men continue to laugh and cry, to love and hate; Some still dream of a nobler world, a fuller life, a more perfect realization. In both the heart and mind of man the gates which lead from mortality to immortality are still ajar. Virtue, love, and idealism are yet the regenerators of humanity. God continues to love and guide the destinies of His creation. The path still winds upward to accomplishment. The soul of man has not been deprived of its wings; they are merely folded under its garment of flesh. Philosophy is ever that magic power which, sundering the vessel of clay, releases the soul from its bondage to habit and perversion. Still as of old, the soul released can spread its wings and soar to the very source of itself.
The criers of the Mysteries speak again, bidding all men welcome to the House of Light. The great institution of materiality has failed. The false civilization built by man has turned, and like the monster of Frankenstein, is destroying its creator. Religion wanders aimlessly in the maze of theological speculation. Science batters itself impotently against the barriers of the unknown. Only transcendental philosophy knows the path. Only the illumined reason can carry the understanding part of man upward to the light. Only philosophy can teach man to be born well, to live well, to die well, and in perfect measure be born again. Into this band of the elect–those who have chosen the life of knowledge, of virtue, and of utility–the philosophers of the ages invite YOU.