THEOSOPHY, Vol. 54, No. 1, November, 1965
(Pages 5-10; Size: 18K)

HERETICS AND THE RENAISSANCE

X--IN THE LIGHT OF THEOSOPHY(1)
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[Part 10 of a 10-part series]

IGNORANCE was enthroned as the mother of devotion [in the middle ages]. Learning was denounced, and savants prosecuted the sciences in peril of their lives. They were compelled to employ a jargon to conceal their ideas from all but their own adepts, and to accept opprobrium, calumny, and poverty. The votaries of the ancient worship were persecuted and put to death on charges of witchcraft. The Albigenses, descendants of the Gnostics, and the Waldenses, precursors of the Protestants, were hunted and massacred under like accusations. Martin Luther himself was accused of companionship with Satan in proper person. The whole Protestant world still lies under the same imputation. There is no distinction in the judgments of the Church between dissent, heresy, and witchcraft. And except where civil authority protects, they are alike capital offences. Religious liberty the Church regards as intolerance. But the reformers were nursed with the milk of their mothers. Luther was as bloodthirsty as the Pope; Calvin more intolerant than Leo or Urban. (Isis II, 502-3.)

"Ecclesia non novit Sanguinem!" meekly repeated the scarlet-robed cardinals. And to avoid the spilling of blood which horrified them, they instituted the Holy Inquisition. This immortal institution of Christianity did not remain without its Dante to sing its praise. "Macedo, a Portuguese Jesuit," says the author of Demonologia, "has discovered the origin of the Inquisition, in the terrestrial Paradise, and presumes to allege that God was the first who began the functions of an inquisitor over Cain and the workmen of Babel!" (Isis II, 58-59.)

Since the burning of the last witch, the great Revolution of France, so elaborately prepared by the league of the secret societies and their clever emissaries, had blown over Europe and awakened terror in the bosom of the clergy. It had, like a destroying hurricane, swept away in its course those best allies of the Church, the Roman Catholic aristocracy. A sure foundation was now laid for the right of individual opinion. The world was freed from ecclesiastical tyranny by opening an unobstructed path to Napoleon the Great, who had given the deathblow to the Inquisition. This great slaughter-house of the Christian Church -- wherein she butchered, in the name of the Lamb, all the sheep arbitrarily declared scurvy -- was in ruins, and she found herself left to her own responsibility and resources. (Isis II, 22.)

There has never been a religion in the annals of the world with such a bloody record as Christianity. ... The cruel, crafty politician, the plotting monk, glorified by ecclesiastical history with the aureole of a martyred saint. The despoiled philosophers, the Neo-Platonists, and the Gnostics, daily anathematized by the Church all over the world for long and dreary centuries. The curse of the unconcerned Deity hourly invoked on the magian rites and theurgic practice, and the Christian clergy themselves using sorcery for ages. Hypatia, the glorious maiden-philosopher, torn to pieces by the Christian mob. And such as Catherine de Medici, Lucrezia Borgia, Joanna of Naples, and the Isabellas of Spain, presented to the world as the faithful daughters of the Church -- some even decorated by the Pope with the order of the "Immaculate Rose," the highest emblem of womanly purity and virtue, a symbol sacred to the Virgin-mother of God! Such are the examples of human justice! (Isis II, 53-54.)

It is generally held by all the symbolic writers that the Ophites were found guilty of practicing the most licentious rites during their religious meetings. The same accusation was brought against the Manichaeans, the Carpocratians, the Paulicians, the Albigenses -- in short, against every Gnostic sect which had the temerity to claim the right to think for itself. (Isis II, 325.) We would remind Roman Catholic writers of certain bas-reliefs on the doors of St. Peter's Cathedral. They are as brazen-faced as the door itself; but less so than any author, who, knowing all this, feigns to ignore historical facts. A long succession of Popes have reposed their pastoral eyes upon these brazen pictures of the vilest obscenity, through those many centuries, without ever finding the slightest necessity for removing them. Quite to the contrary; for we might name certain Popes and Cardinals who made it a life-long study to copy these heathen suggestions of "nature-gods." (Isis II, 332.) Luther speaks of a fishpond at Rome, situated near a convent of nuns, which, having been cleared out by order of Pope Gregory, disclosed, at the bottom, over six thousand infant skulls; and of a nunnery at Neinburg, in Austria, whose foundations, when searched, disclosed the same relics of celibacy and chastity! (Isis II, 58.)

If we at times speak bitterly of popular modern Christianity, it is because we know that with all its other ennobling and saving tendencies it leads to the destruction of myriads of souls. For it leads to the belief that it signifies little what a man does, if he only finally believes that his sins are forgiven him, and that by relying on the merits of Jesus Christ he may escape the vengeance of the Lord. (THEOSOPHY 48:492.) Belief in the Bible literally, and in a carnalized Christ, will not last a quarter of a century longer. The Churches will have to part with their cherished dogmas, or the 20th century will witness the downfall and ruin of all Christendom, and with it, belief even in a Christis, as pure spirit. The very name has now become obnoxious, and theological Christianity must die out, never to resurrect again in its present form. This, in itself, would be the happiest solution of all, were there no danger from the natural reaction which is sure to follow: crass materialism will be the consequence and the result of centuries of blind faith, unless the loss of old ideals is replaced by other ideals, unassailable, because universal, and built on the rock of eternal truths instead of the shifting sands of human fancy. (THEOSOPHY 4:135.)

The Roman Catholic Church has two far mightier enemies than the "heretics" and the "infidels"; and these are -- Comparative Mythology and Philology. A conclusive opinion is furnished by too many scholars to doubt the fact that India was the Alma-Mater, not only of the civilization, arts, sciences, but also of all the great religions of antiquity; Judaism, and hence Christianity, included. (Isis II, 30.) No man, once he devotes himself to [such] comparative studies, can regard the religion of the West in any light but that of a pale and enfeebled copy of older and nobler philosophies. (THEOSOPHY 4:136-7.)

The origin of all religions -- Judæo-Christianity included -- is to be found in a few primeval truths, not one of which can be explained apart from all the others, as each is a complement of the rest in some one detail. And they are all, more or less, broken rays of the same Sun of truth, and their beginnings have to be sought in the archaic records of the Wisdom-religion. There was a universal mystery-language, in which all the World Scriptures were written, from the Vedas to "Revelation," from the "Book of the Dead" to the Acts. (THEOSOPHY 4:37.)

The first difficulty for the aspirant lies in the utter impossibility of his comprehending the meaning of the best books written by Hermetic philosophers. These, who mainly lived in the mediæval ages, prompted on the one hand by their duty towards their brethren, and by their desire to impart only to them and their successors the glorious truths, and on the other very naturally desirous to avoid the clutches of the bloodthirsty Christian Inquisition, enveloped themselves more than ever in mystery. They invented new signs and hieroglyphs, renovated the ancient symbolic language of the high priests of antiquity, who had used it as a sacred barrier between their holy rites and the ignorance of the profane, and created a veritable Kabalistic slang. This latter, which continually blinded the false neophyte, attracted towards the science only by his greediness for wealth and power which he would have surely misused were he to succeed, is a living, eloquent, clear language, but it is and can become such only to the true disciple of Hermes. (Modern Panarion, p. 53.) While many of the mediæval Hermetists were profoundly religious men, they were, in their innermost hearts -- like kabalists of every age -- the deadliest enemies of the clergy. (Isis II, 500.)

The greatest teachers of divinity agree that nearly all ancient books were written symbolically and in a language intelligible only to the initiated. The biographical sketch of Apollonius of Tyana affords an example. As every Kabalist knows, it embraces the whole of the Hermetic philosophy, being a counterpart in many respects of the traditions left us by King Solomon. It reads like a fairy story, but, as in the case of the latter, sometimes, facts and historical events are presented to the world under the colors of a fiction. The journey to India represents allegorically the trials of a neophyte. His long discourses with the Brahmans, their sage advice, and the dialogues with the Corinthian Menippus would, if interpreted, give the esoteric catechism. His visit to the empire of the wise men, and interview with their king Hiarchas, the oracle of Amphiaraüs, explain symbolically many of the secret dogmas of Hermes. They would disclose, if understood, some of the most important secrets of nature. (Isis I, 19.)

Every symbol -- in every national religion -- may be read esoterically, and the proof furnished for its being correctly read by transliterating it into its corresponding numerals and geometrical forms -- by the extraordinary agreement of all -- however much the glyphs and symbols may vary among themselves. For in their origin those symbols were all identical. (S.D. I, 443.) Judaism, earlier and later Gnosticism, Christianity, and even Christian Masonry, have all been erected upon identical cosmical myths, symbols, and allegories, whose full comprehension is possible only to those who have inherited the key from their inventors. (Isis II, 405. )

If the voice of the MYSTERIES has become silent for many ages in the West, if Eleusis, Memphis, Antium, Delphi, and Cresa have long ago been made the tombs of a Science once as colossal in the West as it is yet in the East, there are successors now being prepared for them. We are in 1887 and the nineteenth century is close to its death. The twentieth century has strange developments in store for humanity, and may even be the last of its name. (THEOSOPHY 4:73.)

Thus Magic exists, and has existed, ever since prehistoric ages. Beginning in history with the Samothracian Mysteries, it followed its course uninterruptedly, and ended for a time with the expiring theurgic rites and ceremonies of Christianized Greece; then reappeared for a time again with the Neo-Platonic, Alexandrian school, and, passing by initiation to sundry solitary students and philosophers, safely crossed the mediæval ages, and notwithstanding the furious persecutions of the Church, resumed its fame in the hands of such Adepts as Paracelsus and several others, and finally died out in Europe with the Count St. Germain and Cagliostro, to seek refuge from frozen-hearted scepticism in its native country of the East. (Modern Panarion, p. 61.)

It is nineteen centuries since, as we are told, the night of Heathenism and Paganism was first dispelled by the divine light of Christianity; and two-and-a-half centuries since the bright lamp of Modern Science began to shine on the darkness of the ignorance of the ages. Within these respective epochs, we are required to believe, the true moral and intellectual progress of the race has occurred. The ancient philosophers were well enough for their respective generations, but they were illiterate as compared with modern men of science. The ethics of Paganism perhaps met the wants of the uncultivated people of antiquity, but not until the advent of the luminous "Star of Bethlehem," was the true road to moral perfection and the way to salvation made plain. Of old, brutishness was the rule, virtue and spirituality the exception. Now, the dullest may read the will of God in His revealed word; men have every incentive to be good, and are constantly becoming better. (Isis I, ix.)

This is the assumption; what are the facts? On the one hand an unspiritual, dogmatic, too often debauched clergy; a host of sects, and three warring great religions; discord instead of union, dogmas without proofs, sensation-loving preachers, and wealth and pleasure-seeking parishioners' hypocrisy and bigotry, begotten by the tyrannical exigencies of respectability, the rule of the day, sincerity and real piety exceptional. On the other hand, scientific hypotheses built on sand; no accord upon a single question, rancorous quarrels and jealousy; a general drift into materialism. A death grapple of Science with Theology for infallibility -- "a conflict of ages." (Ibid.)

Sickly and deformed child as it now is, the materialism of To-Day is born of the brutal Yesterday. Unless its growth is arrested, it may become our master. It is the bastard progeny of the French Revolution and its reaction against ages of religious bigotry and repression. To prevent the crushing of spiritual aspirations, and the deadening of that intuition which teaches us of a God and a hereafter, we must show our false theologies in their naked deformity, and distinguish between living religion and human dogmas. Our voice is raised for spiritual freedom, and our plea made for enfranchisement from all tyranny, whether of SCIENCE or THEOLOGY. (Isis I, xlv.) The drift of modern thought is palpably in the direction of liberalism in religion as well as science. Centuries of subjection have not quite congealed the life-blood of men into crystals around the nucleus of blind faith; and the nineteenth is witnessing the struggles of the giant as he shakes off the Liliputian cordage and rises to his feet. The day of domineering over men with dogmas has reached its gloaming. Our work, then, is a plea for the recognition of the Hermetic philosophy, the anciently universal Wisdom Religion, as the only possible key to the Absolute in science and theology. (Isis I, vii.)

FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME THERE WAS BUT ONE POSITIVE SCIENCE -- OCCULTISM; IT WAS THE MYSTERIOUS LEVER OF ALL INTELLECTUAL FORCES. (Modern Panarion, p. 51.)

* * *

Sources used in this installment: Isis Unveiled; "Fragments of Occult Truth," reprinted in THEOSOPHY, Vol. 48; "The Esoteric Character of the Gospels," reprinted in THEOSOPHY, Vol. 4; "The Search after Occultism," and "The Science of Magic," reprinted in A Modern Panarion; and The Secret Doctrine.


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(1) NOTE.--This concluding article of the series is entirely from the writings of H. P. Blavatsky.
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