understood and thoroughly sifted by the light of Hermetic philosophy. The great sages of antiquity, those of the mediaeval ages, and the mystical writers of our more modern times also, were all Hermetists. Whether the light of truth had illuminated them through their faculty of intuition, or as a consequence of study and regular initiation, virtually, they had accepted the method and followed the path traced to them by such men as Moses, Gautama-Buddha, and Jesus. The truth, symbolized by some alchemists as dew from heaven, had descended into their hearts, and they had all gathered it upon the tops of mountains, after having spread CLEAN linen cloths to receive it; and thus, in one sense, they had secured, each for himself, and in his own way, the universal solvent. How much they were allowed to share it with the public is another question. That veil, which is alleged to have covered the face of Moses, when, after descending from Sinai, he taught his people the Word of God, cannot be withdrawn at the will of the teacher only. It depends on the listeners, whether they will also remove the veil which is “upon their hearts.” Paul says it plainly; and his words addressed to the Corinthians can be applied to every man or woman, and of any age in the history of the world. If “their minds are blinded” by the shining skin of divine truth, whether the Hermetic veil be withdrawn or not from the face of the teacher, it cannot be taken away from their heart unless “it shall turn to the Lord.” But the latter appellation must not be applied to either of the three anthropomorphized personages of the Trinity, but to the “Lord,” as understood by Swedenborg and the Hermetic philosophers — the Lord, who is Life and MAN.
The everlasting conflict between the world-religions — Christianity, Judaism, Brahmanism, Paganism, Buddhism, proceeds from this one source: Truth is known but to the few; the rest, unwilling to withdraw the veil from their own hearts, imagine it blinding the eyes of their neighbor. The god of every exoteric religion, including Christianity, not withstanding its pretensions to mystery, is an idol, a fiction, and cannot be anything else. Moses, closely-veiled, speaks to the stiff-necked multitudes of Jehovah, the cruel, anthropomorphic deity, as of the highest God, burying deep in the bottom of his heart that truth which cannot be “either spoken of or revealed.” Kapila cuts with the sharp sword of his sarcasms the Brahman-Yoggins, who in their mystical visions pretend to see the HIGHEST one. Gautama-Buddha conceals, under an impenetrable cloak of metaphysical subtilties, the verity, and is regarded by posterity as an atheist. Pythagoras, with his allegorical mysticism and metempsychosis, is held for a clever impostor, and is succeeded in the same estimation by other philosophers, like Apollonius and Plotinus, who are generally spoken of as visionaries, if not charlatans. Plato, whose write
ings were never read by the majority of our great scholars but superficially, is accused by many of his translators of absurdities and puerilities, and even of being ignorant of his own language; most likely for saying, in reference to the Supreme, that “a matter of that kind cannot be expressed by words, like other things to be learned”; and making Protagoras lay too much stress on the use of “veils.” We could fill a whole volume with names of misunderstood sages, whose writings — only because our materialistic critics feel unable to lift the “veil,” which shrouds them — pass off in a current way for mystical absurdities. The most important feature of this seemingly incomprehensible mystery lies perhaps in the inveterate habit of the majority of readers to judge a work by its words and insufficiently-expressed ideas, leaving the spirit of it out of the question. Philosophers of quite different schools may be often found to use a multitude of different expressions, some dark and metaphorical — all figurative, and yet treating of the same subject.
Like the thousand divergent rays of a globe of fire, every ray leads, nevertheless, to the central point, so every mystic philosopher, whether he be a devotedly pious enthusiast like Henry More; an irascible alchemist, using a Billingsgate phraseology — like his adversary, Eugenius Philalethes; or an atheist (?) like Spinoza, all had one and the same object in view — MAN. It is Spinoza, however, who furnishes perhaps the truest key to a portion of this unwritten secret. While Moses forbids “graven images” of Him whose name is not to be taken in vain, Spinoza goes farther. He clearly infers that God must not be so much as described.