THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 9, July, 1964
(Pages 276-280; Size: 14K)
FROM "ISIS UNVEILED"(1)
PLATO'S method, like that of geometry, was to descend from universals to particulars. Modern science vainly seeks a first cause among the permutations of molecules; the former sought and found it amid the majestic sweep of worlds. For him it was enough to know the great scheme of creation and to be able to trace the mightiest movements of the universe through their changes to their ultimates. The petty details, whose observation and classification have so taxed and demonstrated the patience of modern scientists, occupied but little of the attention of the old philosophers. Hence, while a fifth-form boy of an English school can prate more learnedly about the little things of physical science than Plato himself, yet, on the other hand, the dullest of Plato's disciples could tell more about the great cosmic laws and their mutual relations, and demonstrate a familiarity with and control over the occult forces which lie behind them, than the most learned professor in the most distinguished academy of our day.
The unprofitableness of modern scientific research is evinced in the fact that while we have a name for the most trivial particle of mineral, plant, animal, and man, the wisest of our teachers are unable to tell us anything definite about the vital force which produces the changes in these several kingdoms. It is necessary to seek further for corroboration of this statement than the works of our highest scientific authorities themselves. And it requires no little moral courage in a man of eminent professional position to do justice to the acquirements of the ancients. When we meet with a case of the kind we gladly lay a laurel at the feet of the bold and honest scholar. Professor Jowett, speaking of "the physical philosophy of the ancients as a whole," gives them the following credit: (1) "That the nebular theory was the received belief of the early physicists." Therefore it could not have rested, as Draper asserts, upon the telescopic discovery made by Herschel I. (2) "That the development of animals out of frogs who came to land, and of man out of animals, was held by Anaximenes in the sixth century before Christ." The professor might have added that this theory antedated Anaximenes by some thousands of years, perhaps; that it was an accepted doctrine among Chaldeans, and that Darwin's evolution of species and monkey theory are of an antediluvian origin.
(3) "...that, even by Philolaus and the early Pythagoreans, the earth was held to be a body like the other stars revolving in space." Thus Galileo, studying some Pythagorean fragments, which are shown by Reuchlin to have yet existed in the days of the Florentine mathematician; being, moreover, familiar with the doctrines of the old philosophers, but reasserted an astronomical doctrine which prevailed in India at the remotest antiquity. (4) The ancients "...thought that there was a sex in plants as well as in animals." Thus our modern naturalists had but to follow in the steps of their predecessors. (5) "That musical notes depended on the relative length or tension of the strings from which they were emitted, and were measured by ratios of number." (6) "That mathematical laws pervaded the world and even qualitative differences were supposed to have their origin in number"; and (7), "the annihilation of matter was denied by them, and held to be a transformation only." "Although one of these discoveries might have been supposed to be a happy guess," adds Mr. Jowett, "we can hardly attribute them all to mere coincidences."
In short, the Platonic philosophy was one of order, system, and proportion; it embraced the evolution of worlds and species, the correlation and conservation of energy, the transmutation of material form, the indestructibility of matter and of spirit.
Why do not masters restore to us the lost arts of our postdiluvian forefathers? Why do they not give us the unfading colors of Luxor -- the Tyrian purple; the bright vermillion and dazzling blue which decorate the walls of this place, and are as bright as on the first day of their application? The indestructible cement of the pyramids and of the ancient aqueducts; the Damascus blade, which can be turned like a corkscrew in its scabbard without breaking; the gorgeous, unparalleled tints of the stained glass that is found amid the dust of old ruins and beams in the windows of ancient cathedrals; and the secret of the true malleable glass? And if chemistry is so little able to rival even with the early mediæval ages in some arts, why boast of achievements which, according to strong probability, were perfectly known thousands of years ago?
Why should we forget that, ages before the prow of the adventurous Genoese clove the Western waters, the Phoenician vessels had circumnavigated the globe, and spread civilization in regions now silent and deserted? What archæologist will dare assert that the same hand which planned the Pyramids of Egypt, Karnak, and the thousand ruins now crumbling to oblivion on the sandy banks of the Nile, did not erect the monumental Nagkon-Wat of Cambodia? Or trace the hieroglyphics on the obelisks and doors of the deserted Indian village discovered in British Columbia by Lord Dufferin; or those on the ruins of Palenque and Uxmal, of Central America?
"They were not without some knowledge of optics," Professor Draper magnanimously concedes to the ancients. "The convex lens found at Nimroud shows that they were not unacquainted with magnifying instruments." Cicero tells us that he had seen the entire Iliad written on a skin of such a miniature size that it could easily be rolled up inside a nut-shell, and Pliny asserts that Nero had a ring with a small glass in it, through which he watched the performance of the gladiators at a distance. ... Truly, when we are told that Mauritius could see from the promontory of Sicily over the entire sea to the coast of Africa, with an instrument called nauscopite, we must either think that all these witnesses lied, or that the ancients were more than slightly acquainted with optics and magnifying glasses.
Wendell Phillips states that he has a friend who possesses an extraordinary ring "perhaps three-quarters of an inch in diameter, and on it is the naked figure of the god Hercules. By the aid of glasses you can distinguish the interlacing muscles, and count every separate hair on the eyebrows. Rawlinson brought home a stone about twenty inches long and ten wide, containing an entire treatise on mathematics. It would be perfectly illegible without glasses."
It is worthy of admiration to follow in various modern works the cautious attempts to draw a line of demarcation between what we are and what we are not to believe, in ancient authors. No credit is ever allowed them without being followed by a qualifying caution. If Strabo tells us that ancient Nineveh was forty-seven miles in circumference, and his testimony is accepted, why should it be otherwise the moment he testifies to the accomplishment of Sibylline prophecies? Perhaps, after all, such a caution is more than ever necessary -- the disenchantment may prove too cruel.
Europe prides herself upon the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo, and now we are told that the astronomical observations of the Chaldeans extend back to within a hundred years of the flood; and Bunsen fixes the flood at not less than 10,000 years before our era. Moreover, a Chinese emperor, more than 2,000 years before the birth of Christ, put to death his two chief astronomers for not predicting an eclipse of the sun!
We will endeavor to briefly indicate the extraordinary similarity, or rather identity, of rites and ceremonial dress of the Christian clergy with that of the old Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, and other Pagans of hoary antiquity; the Latin Church having faithfully preserved in these, and in symbols and architecture, even in the very dress of her clergy, the public or exoteric ceremonies of old Pagan worship. Thus, if we would find the model of the Papal tiara, we must search the annals of the ancient Assyrian tablets. In Inman's Ancient and Modern Christian Symbolism, on page sixty-four, one will readily recognize the head-gear of the successor to St. Peter in the coiffure worn by gods or angels in ancient Assyria, "where it appears crowned by an emblem of the male trinity" (the Christian Cross).
"Immaculate is our Lady Isis," is the legend around an engraving of Serapis and Isis, described by King, in "The Gnostics and their Remains" -- the very terms applied afterwards to that personage (the Virgin Mary) who succeeded to her form, titles, symbols, rites, and ceremonies. Thus, her devotees carried into the new priesthood the former badges of their profession, the obligation to celibacy, the tonsure, and the surplice, omitting, unfortunately, the frequent ablutions prescribed by the ancient creed. The "Black Virgins," so highly reverenced in certain French cathedrals proved, when at last critically examined, basalt figures of Isis.
Before the shrine of Jupiter Ammon were suspended tinkling bells, from the sound of whose chiming the priests gathered the auguries. "A golden bell and a promegranate ... round about the hem of the robe," was the result with the Mosaic Jews. But in the Buddhistic system, during the religious services, the gods of the Deva Loka are always invoked, and invited to descend upon the altars by the ringing of bells suspended in the pagodas. The bell of the sacred table of Siva at Kuhama is described in Kailasa, and every Buddhist vihara and lamasery has its bells.
We thus see that the bells used by the Christians come to them directly from the Buddhist Thibetans and Chinese. The beads and rosaries have the same origin, and have been used by Buddhist monks for over 2,300 years. The title of "nun" is an Egyptian word, and had with them the actual meaning; the Christians did not take the trouble of translating from the word Nonna. The aureole of the saints was used by the antediluvian artists of Babylonia, whenever they desired to honor or deify a mortal's head. In a celebrated picture in Moore's Hindoo Pantheon, entitled "Christna nursed by Devaki, from a highly-finished picture," the Hindu Virgin is represented as seated on a lounge and nursing Christna (Krishna). The hair brushed back, the long veil, and the golden aureole around the Virgin's head, as well as around that of the Hindu Saviour, are striking.
What we desire to prove is, that underlying every ancient popular religion was the same ancient wisdom-doctrine, one and identical, professed and practiced by the initiates of every country, who alone were aware of its existence and importance. A philosophy so profound, a moral code so ennobling, and practical results so conclusive and so uniformly demonstrable is not the growth of a generation, or even a single epoch. The proofs of this identity of fundamental doctrine in the old religions are found in the prevalence of a system of initiation; in the secret sacerdotal castes who had the guardianship of mystical words of power, and a public display of a phenomenal control over natural forces, indicating association with preterhuman beings.
Every approach to the Mysteries of all these nations was guarded with the same jealous care, and in all, the penalty of death was inflicted upon initiates of any degree who divulged the secrets entrusted to them.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
JESUS, THE INITIATE
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been administered by force, and only those in power control it.
To you it is granted to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but it is not granted to them.
Whoever hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away the word which has been sown in his heart. (Matt. 11:12; 13: 11, 19.)
--Lamsa (Trans. from Aramaic)
NOTES ON THEOSOPHY AND EDUCATION
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