THE presence of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus marked that city as sacred to the Mystery religion, for the Seven Wonders of the ancient world were erected to indicate the repositories of recondite knowledge. Of Ephesus, H. P. Blavatsky writes:
"It was a focus of the universal 'secret' doctrines; the weird laboratory whence, fashioned in elegant Grecian phraseology, sprang the quintessence of Buddhistic, Zoroastrian, and Chaldean philosophy. Artemis, the gigantic concrete symbol of theosophico-pantheistic abstractions, the great mother Multimamma, androgyne and patroness of the 'Ephesian writings,' was conquered by Paul; but although the zealous converts of the apostles pretended to burn all their books on 'curious arts, τα περιεργα, enough of these remained for them to study when their first zeal had cooled off." (See Isis Unveiled.)
Being a great center of pagan learning, Ephesus has been the locale for many early Christian myths. The assertion has been made that it was the last domicile of the Virgin Mary; also that the tomb of St. John the Divine was located there. According to legend, St. John did not depart from this life in the usual manner but, selecting his vault, entered it while still alive, and closing the entrance behind him, vanished forever from mortal sight. A rumor was current in ancient Ephesus that St. John would sleep in his tomb until the return of the Savior, and that when the apostle turned over on his sepulchral couch the earth above moved like the coverlets of a bed.
Subjected to more criticism than any other book now incorporated in the New Testament, the Apocalypse--popularly accredited to St. John the Divine--is by far the most important but least understood of the Gnostic Christian writings. Though Justin Martyr declared the Book of Revelation to have been written by "John, one of Christ's apostles," its authorship was disputed as early as the second century after Christ. In the third century these contentions became acute and even Dionysius of Alexandria and Eusebius attacked the Johannine theory, declaring that both the Book of Revelation and the Gospel according to St. John were written by one Cerinthus, who borrowed the name of the great apostle the better to foist his own doctrines upon the Christians. Later Jerome questioned the authorship of the Apocalypse and during the Reformation his objections were revived by Luther and Erasmus. The once generally accepted notion that the Book of Revelation was the actual record of a "mystical experience" occurring to St. John while that seer was an exile in the Isle of Parmos is now regarded with disfavor by more critical scholars. Other explanations have therefore been advanced to account for the symbolism permeating the volume and the original motive for its writing. The more reasonable of these theories may be summed up as follows:
First, upon the weight of evidence furnished by its own contents the Book of Revelation may well be pronounced a pagan writing--one of the sacred books of the Eleusinian or Phrygian Mysteries. As a corollary, the real author of a work setting forth the profundities of Egyptian and Greek mysticism must have been an initiate himself and consequently obligated to write only in the symbolic language of the Mysteries.
Second, it is possible that the Book of Revelation was written to reconcile the seeming discrepancies between the early Christian and pagan religious philosophies. When the zealots of the primitive Christian Church sought to Christianize pagandom, the pagan initiates retorted with a powerful effort to paganize Christianity. The Christians failed but the pagans succeeded. With the decline of paganism the initiated pagan hierophants transferred their base of operations to the new vehicle of primitive Christianity, adopting the symbols of the new cult to conceal those eternal verities which are ever the priceless possession of the wise. The Apocalypse shows clearly the resultant fusion of pagan and Christian symbolism and thus bears irrefutable evidence of the activities of these initiated minds operating through early Christianity.
Third, the theory has been advanced that the Book of Revelation represents the attempt made by the unscrupulous members of a certain religious order to undermine the Christian Mysteries by satirizing their philosophy. This nefarious end they hoped to attain by showing the new faith to be merely a restatement of the ancient pagan doctrines, by heaping ridicule upon Christianity, and by using its own symbols toward its disparagement. For example, the star which fell to earth (Rev. viii. 10-11) could be construed to mean the Star of Bethlehem, and the bitterness of that star (called Wormwood and which poisoned mankind) could signify the "false" teachings of the Christian Church. While the last theory has gained a certain measure of popularity, the profundity of the Apocalypse leads the discerning reader to the inevitable conclusion that this is the least plausible of the three hypotheses. To those able to pierce the veil of its symbolism, the inspired source of the document requires no further corroborative evidence.