AT that time, Naiton, King of the Picts, who inhabit the northern parts of Britain, taught by frequent meditation on the ecclesiastical writings, renounced the error whereby he and his nation had been holden till then, touching the observance of Easter, and brought himself and all his people to celebrate the catholic time of our Lord’s Resurrection. To the end that he might bring this to pass with the more ease and greater authority, he sought aid from the English, whom he knew to have long since framed their religion after the example of the holy Roman Apostolic Church. Accordingly, he sent messengers to the venerable Ceolfrid, abbot of the monastery of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, which stands at the mouth of the river Wear, and near the river Tyne, at the place called Ingyruum, which he gloriously governed after Benedict, of whom we have before spoken; desiring, that he would send him a letter of exhortation, by the help of which he might the better confute those that presumed to keep Easter out of the due time; as also concerning the form and manner of tonsure whereby the clergy should be distinguished, notwithstanding that he himself had no small knowledge of these things. He also prayed to have master-builders sent him to build a church of stone in his nation after the Roman manner, promising to dedicate the same in honour of the blessed chief of the Apostles. Moreover, he and all his people, he said, would always follow the custom of the holy Roman Apostolic Church, in so far as men so distant from the speech and nation of the Romans could learn it. The most reverend Abbot Ceolfrid favourably receiving his godly desires and requests, sent the builders he desired, and likewise the following letter:
“To the most excellent lord, and glorious King Naiton, Abbot Ceolfrid, greeting in the Lord. We most readily and willingly endeavour, according to your desire, to make known to you the catholic observance of holy Easter, according to what we have learned of the Apostolic see, even as you, most devout king, in your godly zeal, have requested of us. For we know, that whensoever the lords of this world labour to learn, and to teach and to guard the truth, it is a gift of God to his Holy Church. For a certain profane writer has most truly said, that the world would be most happy if either kings were philosophers, or philosophers were kings. Now if a man of this world could judge truly of the philosophy of this world, and form a right choice concerning the state of this world, how much more is it to be desired, and most earnestly to be prayed for by such as are citizens of the heavenly country, and strangers and pilgrims in this world, that the more powerful any are in the world the more they may strive to hearken to the commands of Him who is the Supreme Judge, and by their example and authority may teach those that are committed to their charge, to keep the same, tqgether with themselves.
“There are then three rules given in the Sacred Writings, whereby the time of keeping Easter has been appointed for us and may in no wise be changed by any authority of man; two whereof are divinely established in the law of Moses; the third is added in the Gospel by reason of the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. For the law enjoined, that the Passover should be kept in the first month of the year, and the third week of that month, that is, from the fifteenth day to the one-and- wentieth. It is added, by Apostolic institution, from the Gospel, that we are to wait for the Lord’s day in that third week, and to keep the beginning of the Paschal season on the same. Which threefold rule whosoever shall rightly observe, will never err in fixing the Paschal feast. But if you desire to be more plainly and fully informed in all these particulars, it is written in Exodus, where the people of Israel, being about to be delivered out of Egypt, are commanded to keep the first Passover, that the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.’ And a little after, ‘And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.’ By which words it most plainly appears, that in the Paschal observance, though mention is made of the fourteenth day, yet it is not commanded that the Passover be kept on that day; but on the evening of the fourteenth day, that is, when the fifteenth moon, which is the beginning of the third week, appears in the sky, it is commanded that the lamb be killed; and that it was the night of the fifteenth moon, when the Egyptians were smitten and Israel was redeemed from long captivity. He says, ‘Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread.’ By which words all the third week of that same first month is appointed to be a solemn feast. But lest we should think that those same seven days were to be reckoned from the fourteenth to the twentieth, He forthwith adds, ‘Even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread, from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel;’ and so on, till he says, ‘For in this selfsame day I will bring your army out of the land of Egypt.’
The intellect of the Atheist would find matter everywhere; but no Causing and Providing Mind: his moral sense would find no Equitable Will, no Beauty of Moral Excellence, no Conscience enacting justice into the unchanging law of right, no spiritual Order or spiritual Providence, but only material Fate and Chance. His affections would find only finite things to love; and to them the dead who were loved and who died yesterday, are like the rainbow that yesterday evening lived a moment and then passed away. His soul, flying through the vast Inane, and feeling the darkness with its wings, seeking the Soul of all, which at once is Reason, Conscience, and the Heart of all that is, would find no God, but a Universe all disorder; no Infinite, no Reason, no Conscience, no Heart, no Soul of things; nothing to reverence, to esteem, to love, to worship, to trust in; but only an Ugly Force, alien and foreign to us, that strikes down those we love, and makes us mere worms on the hot sand of the world. No voice would speak from the Earth to comfort him. It is a cruel mother, that great Earth, that devours her young,–a Force and nothing more. Out of the sky would smile no kind Providence, in all its thousand starry eyes; and in storms a malignant violence, with its lightning-sword, would stab into the darkness, seeking for men to murder.
No man ever was or ever can be content with that. The evidence of .God has been ploughed into Nature so deeply, and so deeply woven into the texture of the human soul, that Atheism has never become a faith, though it has sometimes assumed the shape of theory. Religion is natural to man. Instinctively he turns to God and reverences and relies on Him. In the Mathematics of the Heavens, written in gorgeous diagrams of fire, he sees law, order, beauty, harmony without end: in the ethics of the little nations that inhabit the ant-hills he sees the same; in all Nature, animate and inanimate, he sees the evidences of a Design, a Will, an Intelligence, and a God,–of a God beneficent and loving as well as wise, and merciful and indulgent as well as powerful.
To man, surrounded by the material Universe, and conscious of the influence that his material environments exercised upon his fortunes and his present destiny;–to man, ever confronted with the splendors of the starry heavens, the regular march of the
seasons, the phenomena of sunrise and moonrise, and all the evidences of intelligence and design that everywhere pressed upon and overwhelmed him, all imaginable questions as to the nature and cause of these phenomena constantly recurred, demanding to be solved, and refusing to be sent away unanswered. And still, after the lapse of ages, press upon the human mind and demand solution, the same great questions–perhaps still demanding it in vain.
Advancing to the period when man had ceased to look upon the separate parts and individual forces of the Universe as gods,–when he had come to look upon it as a whole, this question, among the earliest, occurred to him, and insisted on being answered: “Is this material Universe self-existent, or was it created? Is it eternal, or did it originate?”
And then in succession came crowding on the human mind these other questions:
“Is this material Universe a mere aggregate of fortuitous combinations of matter, or is it the result and work of intelligence, acting upon a plan?
“If there be such an Intelligence, what and where is it? Is the material Universe itself an Intelligent being? Is it like man, a body and a soul? Does Nature act upon itself, or is there a Cause beyond it that acts upon it?
“If there is a personal God, separate from the material Universe, that created all things, Himself uncreated, is He corporeal or incorporeal, material or spiritual, the soul of the Universe or wholly apart from it? and if He be Spirit, what then is spirit?
“Was that Supreme Deity active or quiescent before the creation; and if quiescent during a previous eternity, what necessity of His nature moved Him at last to create a world; or was it a mere whim that had no motive?
AMONG most of the Ancient Nations there was, in addition to their public worship, a private one styled the Mysteries; to which those only were admitted who had been prepared by certain ceremonies called initiations.
The most widely disseminated of the ancient worships were those of Isis, Orpheus, Dionusos, Ceres and Mithras. Many barbarous nations received the knowledge of the Mysteries in honor of these divinities from the Egyptians, before they arrived in Greece; and even in the British Isles the Druids celebrated those of Dionusos, learned by them from the Egyptians.
The Mysteries of Eleusis, celebrated at Athens in honor of Ceres, swallowed up, as it were, all the others. All the neighboring nations neglected their own, to celebrate those of Eleusis; and in a little while all Greece and Asia Minor were filled with the Initiates. They spread into the Roman Empire, and even beyond its limits, “those holy and august Eleusinian Mysteries,” said Cicero, “in which the people of the remotest lands are initiated.” Zosimus says that they embraced the whole human race; and Aristides termed them the common temple of the whole world.
There were, in the Eleusinian feasts, two sorts of Mysteries, the great, and the little. The latter were a kind of preparation for the former; and everybody was admitted to them. Ordinarily there was a novitiate of three, and sometimes of four years.
Clemens of Alexandria says that what was taught in the great Mysteries concerned the Universe, and was the completion and perfection of all instruction; wherein things were seen as they were, and nature and her works were made known.
The ancients said that the Initiates would be more happy after death than other mortals; and that, while the souls of the Profane on leaving their bodies, would be plunged in the mire, and remain buried in darkness, those of the Initiates would fly to the Fortunate Isles, the abode of the Gods.
Plato said that the object of the Mysteries was to re-establish the soul in its primitive purity, and in that state of perfection which it had lost. Epictetus said, “whatever is met with therein has been instituted by our Masters, for the instruction of man and the correction of morals.”
Proclus held that initiation elevated the soul, from a material, sensual, and purely human life, to a communion and celestial intercourse with the Gods; and that a variety of things, forms, and species were shown Initiates, representing the first generation of the Gods.
Purity of morals and elevation of soul were required of the Initiates. Candidates were required to be of spotless reputation and irreproachable virtue. Nero, after murdering his mother, did not dare to be present at the celebration of the Mysteries: and Antony presented himself to be initiated, as the most infallible mode of proving his innocence of the death of Avidius Cassius.
The Initiates were regarded as the only fortunate men. “It is upon us alone,” says Aristophanes, “shineth the beneficent day-star. We alone receive pleasure from the influence of his rays; we, who are initiated, and who practise toward citizen and stranger every possible act of justice and piety.” And it is therefore not surprising that, in time, initiation came to be considered as necessary as baptism afterward was to the Christians; and that not to have been admitted to the Mysteries was held a dishonor.
“It seems to me,” says the great orator, philosopher, and moralist, Cicero, “that Athens, among many excellent inventions, divine and very useful to the human family, has produced none comparable to the Mysteries, which for a wild and ferocious life have substituted humanity and urbanity of manners. It is with good reason they use the term initiation; for it is through them that we in reality have learned the first principles of life; and they not only teach us to live in a manner more consoling and agreeable, but they soften the pains of death by the hope of a better life hereafter.”
Where the Mysteries originated is not known. It is supposed that they came from India, by the way of Chaldæa, into Egypt, and thence were carried into Greece. Wherever they arose, they were practised among all the ancient nations; and, as was usual, the Thracians, Cretans, and Athenians each claimed the honor of
THIS is the first of the Philosophical Degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; and the beginning of a course of instruction which will fully unveil to you the heart and inner mysteries of Masonry. Do not despair because you have often seemed on the point of attaining the inmost light, and have as often been disappointed. In all time, truth has been hidden under symbols, and often under a succession of allegories: where veil after veil had to be penetrated before the true Light was reached, and the essential truth stood revealed. The Human Light is but an imperfect reflection of a ray of the Infinite and Divine.
We are about to approach those ancient Religions which once
ruled the minds of men, and whose ruins encumber the plains of the great Past, as the broken columns of Palmyra and Tadmor lie bleaching on the sands of the desert. They rise before us, those old, strange, mysterious creeds and faiths, shrouded in the mists of antiquity, and stalk dimly and undefined along the line which divides Time from Eternity; and forms of strange, wild, startling beauty mingled in the vast throngs of figures with shapes monstrous, grotesque, and hideous.
The religion taught by Moses, which, like the laws of Egypt, enunciated the principle of exclusion, borrowed, at every period of its existence, from all the creeds with which it came in contact. While, by the studies of the learned and wise, it enriched itself with the most admirable principles of the religions of Egypt and Asia, it was changed, in the wanderings of the People, by everything that was most impure or seductive in the pagan manners and superstitions. It was one thing in the times of Moses and Aaron, another in those of David and Solomon, and still another in those of Daniel and Philo.
At the time when John the Baptist made his appearance in the desert, near the shores of the Dead Sea, all the old philosophical and religious systems were approximating toward each other. A general lassitude inclined the minds of all toward the quietude of that amalgamation of doctrines for which the expeditions of Alexander and the more peaceful occurrences that followed, with the establishment in Asia and Africa of many Grecian dynasties and a great number of Grecian colonies, had prepared the way. After the intermingling of different nations, which resulted from the wars of Alexander in three-quarters of the globe, the doctrines of Greece, of Egypt, of Persia, and of India, met and intermingled everywhere. All the barriers that had formerly kept the nations apart, were thrown down; and while the People of the West readily connected their faith with those of the East, those of the Orient hastened to learn the traditions of Rome and the legends of Athens. While the Philosophers of Greece, all (except the disciples of Epicurus) more or less Platonists, seized eagerly upon the beliefs and doctrines of the East,–the Jews and Egyptians, before then the most exclusive of all peoples, yielded to that eclecticism which prevailed among their masters, the Greeks and Romans.
Under the same influences of toleration, even those who embraced Christianity, mingled together the old and the new, Christianity
and Philosophy, the Apostolic teachings and the traditions of Mythology. The man of intellect, devotee of one system, rarely displaces it with another in all its purity. The people take such a creed as is offered them. Accordingly, the distinction between the esoteric and the exoteric doctrine, immemorial in other creeds, easily gained a foothold among many of the Christians; and it was held by a vast number, even during the preaching of Paul, that the writings of the Apostles were incomplete; that they contained only the germs of another doctrine, which must receive from the hands of philosophy, not only the systematic arrangement which was wanting, but all the development which lay concealed therein. The writings of the Apostles, they said, in addressing themselves to mankind in general, enunciated only the articles of the vulgar faith; but transmitted the mysteries of knowledge to superior minds, to the Elect,–mysteries handed down from generation to generation in esoteric traditions; and to this science of the mysteries they gave the name of Γνῶσις; [Gnosis].
“Ego sum qui sum.” — An axiom of Hermetic Philosophy.
“We commenced research where modern conjecture closes its faithless wings. And with
us, those were the common elements of science which the sages of to-day disdain as
wild chimeras, or despair of as unfathomable mysteries.” — BULWER’S “ZANONI.” THERE exists somewhere in this wide world an old Book — so very old that our modern antiquarians might ponder over its pages an indefinite time, and still not quite agree as to the nature of the fabric upon which it is written. It is the only original copy now in existence. The most ancient Hebrew document on occult learning — the Siphra Dzeniouta — was compiled from it, and that at a time when the former was already considered in the light of a literary relic. One of its illustrations represents the Divine Essence emanating from ADAM like a luminous arc proceeding to form a circle; and then, having attained the highest point of its circumference, the ineffable Glory bends back again, and returns to earth, bringing a higher type of humanity in its vortex. As it approaches nearer and nearer to our planet, the Emanation becomes more and more shadowy, until upon touching the ground it is as black as night.
A conviction, founded upon seventy thousand years of experience, as they allege, has been entertained by hermetic philosophers of all periods that matter has in time become, through sin, more gross and dense than it was at man’s first formation; that, at the beginning, the
human body was of a half-ethereal nature; and that, before the fall, mankind communed freely with the now unseen universes. But since that time matter has become the formidable barrier between us and the world of spirits. The oldest esoteric traditions also teach that, before the mystic Adam, many races of human beings lived and died out, each giving place in its turn to another. Were these precedent types more perfect? Did any of them belong to the winged race of men mentioned by Plato in Phaedrus? It is the special province of science to solve the problem. The caves of France and the relics of the stone age afford a point at which to begin.
As the cycle proceeded, man’s eyes were more and more opened, until he came to know “good and evil” as well as the Elohim themselves. Having reached its summit, the cycle began to go downward. When the arc attained a certain point which brought it parallel with the fixed line of our terrestrial plane, the man was furnished by nature with “coats of skin,” and the Lord God “clothed them.”
This same belief in the pre-existence of a far more spiritual race than the one to which we now belong can be traced back to the earliest traditions of nearly every people. In the ancient Quiche manuscript, published by Brasseur de Bourbourg — the Popol Vuh — the first men are mentioned as a race that could reason and speak, whose sight was unlimited, and who knew all things at once. According to Philo Judaeus, the air is filled with an invisible host of spirits, some of whom are free from evil and immortal, and others are pernicious and mortal. “From the sons of EL we are descended, and sons of EL must we become again.”
And the unequivocal statement of the anonymous Gnostic who wrote The Gospel according to John, that “as many as received Him,” i.e., who followed practically the esoteric doctrine of Jesus, would “become the sons of God,” points to the same belief. (i., 12.) “Know ye not, ye are gods?” exclaimed the Master. Plato describes admirably in Phaedrus the state in which man once was, and what he will become again: before, and after the “loss of his wings”; when “he lived among the gods, a god himself in the airy world.”
From the remotest periods religious philosophies taught that the whole universe was filled with divine and spiritual beings of divers races. From one of these evolved, in the course of time, ADAM, the primitive man.
IT is difficult for this age to estimate correctly the profound effect produced upon the religions, philosophies, and sciences of antiquity by the study of the planets, luminaries, and constellations. Not without adequate reason were the Magi of Persia called the Star Gazers. The Egyptians were honored with a special appellation because of their proficiency in computing the power and motion of the heavenly bodies and their effect upon the destinies of nations and individuals. Ruins of primitive astronomical observatories have been discovered in all parts of the world, although in many cases modern archæologists are unaware of the true purpose for which these structures were erected. While the telescope was unknown to ancient astronomers, they made many remarkable calculations with instruments cut from blocks of granite or pounded from sheets of brass and cop per. In India such instruments are still in use, and they posses a high degree of accuracy. In Jaipur, Rajputana, India, an observatory consisting largely of immense stone sundials is still in operation. The famous Chinese observatory on the wall of Peking consists of immense bronze instruments, including a telescope in the form of a hollow tube without lenses.
The pagans looked upon the stars as living things, capable of influencing the destinies of individuals, nations, and races. That the early Jewish patriarchs believed that the celestial bodies participated in the affairs of men is evident to any student of Biblical literature, as, for example, in the Book of Judges: “They fought from heaven, even the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.” The Chaldeans, Phœnicians, Egyptians, Persians, Hindus, and Chinese all had zodiacs that were much alike in general character, and different authorities have credited each of these nations with being the cradle of astrology and astronomy. The Central and North American Indians also had an understanding of the zodiac, but the patterns and numbers of the signs differed in many details from those of the Eastern Hemisphere.
The word zodiac is derived from the Greek ζωδιακός (zodiakos), which means “a circle of animals,” or, as some believe, “little animals.” It is the name given by the old pagan astronomers to a band of fixed stars about sixteen degrees wide, apparently encircling the earth. Robert Hewitt Brown, 32°, states that the Greek word zodiakos comes from zo-on, meaning “an animal.” He adds: “This latter word is compounded directly from the primitive Egyptian radicals, zo, life, and on, a being.”
The Greeks, and later other peoples influenced by their culture, divided the band of the zodiac into twelve sections, each being sixteen degrees in width and thirty degrees in length. These divisions were called the Houses of the Zodiac. The sun during its annual pilgrimage passed through each of these in turn, Imaginary creatures were traced in the Star groups bounded by these rectangles; and because most of them were animal–or part animal–in form, they later became known as the Constellations, or Signs, of the Zodiac.
There is a popular theory concerning the origin of the zodiacal creatures to the effect that they were products of the imagination of shepherds, who, watching their flocks at night, occupied their minds by tracing the forms of animals and birds in the heavens. This theory is untenable, unless the “shepherds” be regarded as the shepherd priests of antiquity. It is unlikely that the zodiacal signs were derived from the star groups which they now represent. It is far more probable that the creatures assigned to the twelve houses are symbolic of the qualities and intensity of the sun’s power while it occupies different parts of the zodiacal belt.
On this subject Richard Payne Knight writes: “The emblematical meaning, which certain animals were employed to signify, was only some particular property generalized; and, therefore, might easily be invented or discovered by the natural operation of the mind: but the collections of stars, named after certain animals, have no resemblance whatever to those animals; which are therefore merely signs of convention adopted to distinguish certain portions of the heavens, which were probably consecrated to those particular personified attributes, which they respectively represented.” (The Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology.)
Some authorities are of the opinion that the zodiac was originally divided into ten (instead of twelve) houses, or “solar mansions.” In early times there were two separate standards–one solar and the other lunar–used for the measurement of the months, years, and seasons. The solar year was composed of ten months of thirty-six days each, and five days sacred to the gods. The lunar year consisted of thirteen months of twenty-eight days each, with one day left over. The solar zodiac at that time consisted often houses of thirty-six degrees each.
WHEN Solomon–the beloved of God, builder of the Everlasting House, and Grand Master of the Lodge of Jerusalem–ascended the throne of his father David he consecrated his life to the erection of a temple to God and a palace for the kings of Israel. David’s faithful friend, Hiram, King of Tyre, hearing that a son of David sat upon the throne of Israel, sent messages of congratulation and offers of assistance to the new ruler. In his History of the Jews, Josephus mentions that copies of the letters passing between the two kings were then to be seen both at Jerusalem and at Tyre. Despite Hiram’s lack of appreciation for the twenty cities of Galilee which Solomon presented to him upon the completion of the temple, the two monarchs remained the best of friends. Both were famous for their wit and wisdom, and when they exchanged letters each devised puzzling questions to test the mental ingenuity of the other. Solomon made an agreement with Hiram of Tyre promising vast amounts of barley, wheat, corn, wine, and oil as wages for the masons and carpenters from Tyre who were to assist the Jews in the erection of the temple. Hiram also supplied cedars and other fine trees, which were made into rafts and floated down the sea to Joppa, whence they were taken inland by Solomon’s workmen to the temple site.
Because of his great love for Solomon, Hiram of Tyre sent also the Grand Master of the Dionysiac Architects, CHiram Abiff, a Widow’s Son, who had no equal among the craftsmen of the earth. CHiram is described as being “a Tyrian by birch, but of Israelitish descent,” and “a second Bezaleel, honored by his king with the title of Father.” The Freemason’s Pocket Companion (published in 1771) describes CHiram as “the most cunning, skilful and curious workman that ever lived, whose abilities were not confined to building alone, but extended to all kinds of work, whether in gold, silver, brass or iron; whether in linen, tapestry, or embroidery; whether considered as an architect, statuary [sic]; founder or designer, separately or together, he equally excelled. From his designs, and under his direction, all the rich and splendid furniture of the Temple and its several appendages were begun, carried on, and finished. Solomon appointed him, in his absence, to fill the chair, as Deputy Grand-Master; and in his presence, Senior Grand-Warden, Master of work, and general overseer of all artists, as well those whom David had formerly procured from Tyre and Sidon, as those Hiram should now send.” (Modem Masonic writers differ as to the accuracy of the last sentence.)
Although an immense amount of labor was involved in its construction, Solomon’s Temple–in the words of George Oliver–“was only a small building and very inferior in point of size to some of our churches.” The number of buildings contiguous to it and the vast treasure of gold and precious stones used in its construction concentrated a great amount of wealth within the temple area. In the midst of the temple stood the Holy of Holies, sometimes called the Oracle. It was an exact cube, each dimension being twenty cubits, and exemplified the influence of Egyptian symbolism. The buildings of the temple group were ornamented with 1,453 columns of Parian marble, magnificently sculptured, and 2,906 pilasters decorated with capitals. There was a broad porch facing the east, and the sanctum sanctorum was upon the west. According to tradition, the various buildings and courtyards could hold in all 300,000 persons. Both the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies were entirely lined with solid gold plates encrusted with jewels.
King Solomon began the building of the temple in the fourth year of his reign on what would be, according to modern calculation, the 21st day of April, and finished it in the eleventh year of his reign on the 23rd day of October. The temple was begun in the 480th year after the children of Israel had passed the Red Sea. Part of the labor of construction included the building of an artificial foundation on the brow of Mount Moriah. The stones for the temple were hoisted from quarries directly beneath Mount Moriah and were trued before being brought to the surface. The brass and golden ornaments for the temple were cast in molds in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredatha, and the wooden parts were all finished before they reached the temple site. The building was put together, consequently, without sound and without instruments, all its parts fitting exactly “without the hammer of contention, the axe of division, or any tool of mischief.”
AS appropriate emblems of various human and divine attributes birds were included in religious and philosophic symbolism that of pagans and of Christians alike. Cruelty was signified by the buzzard; courage by the eagle; self-sacrifice by the pelican; and pride by the peacock. The ability of birds to leave the earth and fly aloft toward the source of light has resulted in their being associated with aspiration, purity, and beauty. Wings were therefore often added to various terrene creatures in an effort to suggest transcendency. Because their habitat was among the branches of the sacred trees in the hearts of ancient forests, birds were also regarded as the appointed messengers of the tree spirits and Nature gods dwelling in these consecrated groves, and through their clear notes the gods themselves were said to speak. Many myths have been fabricated to explain the brilliant plumage of birds. A familiar example is the story of Juno’s peacock, in whose tail feathers were placed the eyes of Argus. Numerous American Indian legends also deal with birds and the origin of the various colors of feathers. The Navahos declare that when all living things climbed to the stalk of a bamboo to escape the Flood, the wild turkey was on the lowest branch and his tail feathers trailed in the water; hence the color was all washed out.
Gravitation, which is a law in the material world, is the impulse toward the center of materiality; levitation, which is a law in the spiritual world, is the impulse toward the center of spirituality. Seeming to be capable of neutralizing the effect of gravity, the bird was said to partake of a nature superior to other terrestrial creation; and its feathers, because of their sustaining power, came to be accepted as symbols of divinity, courage, and accomplishment. A notable example is the dignity attached to eagle feathers by the American Indians, among whom they are insignia of merit. Angels have been invested with wings because, like birds, they were considered to be the intermediaries between the gods and men and to inhabit the air or middle kingdom betwixt heaven and earth. As the dome of the heavens was likened to a skull in the Gothic Mysteries, so the birds which flew across the sky were regarded as thoughts of the Deity. For this reason Odin’s two messenger ravens were called Hugin and Munin–thought and memory.
Among the Greeks and Romans, the eagle was the appointed bird of Jupiter and consequently signified the swiftly moving forces of the Demiurgus; hence it was looked upon as the mundane lord of the birds, in contradistinction to the phœnix, which was symbolic of the celestial ruler. The eagle typified the sun in its material phase and also the immutable Demiurgic law beneath which all mortal creatures must bend. The eagle was also the Hermetic symbol of sulphur, and signified the mysterious fire of Scorpio–the most profoundly significant sign of the zodiac and the Gate of the Great Mystery. Being one of the three symbols of Scorpio, the eagle, like the Goat of Mendes, was an emblem of the theurgic art and the secret processes by which the infernal fire of the scorpion was transmuted into the spiritual light-fire of the gods.
Among certain American Indian tribes the thunderbird is held in peculiar esteem. This divine creature is said to live above the clouds; the flapping of its wings causes the rumbling which accompanies storms, while the flashes from its eyes are the lightning. Birds were used to signify the vital breath; and among the Egyptians, mysterious hawklike birds with human heads, and carrying in their claws the symbols of immortality, are often shown hovering as emblems of the liberated soul over the mummified bodies of the dead. In Egypt the hawk was the sacred symbol of the sun; and Ra, Osiris, and Horns are often depicted with the heads of hawks. The cock, or rooster, was a symbol of Cashmala (Cadmillus) in the Samothracian Mysteries, and is also a phallic symbol sacred to the sun. It was accepted by the Greeks as the emblem of Ares (Mars) and typified watchfulness and defense. When placed in the center of a weather vane it signifies the sun in the midst of the four corners of creation. The Greeks sacrificed a rooster to the gods at the time of entering the Eleusinian Mysteries. Sir Francis Bacon is supposed to have died as the result of stuffing a fowl with snow. May this not signify Bacon’s initiation into the pagan Mysteries which still existed in his day?
THE art of healing was originally one of the secret sciences of the priestcraft, and the mystery of its source is obscured by the same veil which hides the genesis of religious belief. All higher forms of knowledge were originally in the possession of the sacerdotal castes. The temple was the cradle of civilization. The priests, exercising their divine prerogative, made the laws and enforced them; appointed the rulers and controlled than; ministered to the needs of the living, and guided the destinies of the dead. All branches of learning were monopolized by the priesthood, who admitted into their ranks only those intellectually and morally qualified to perpetuate their arcanum. The following quotation from Plato’s Statesman is apropos of the subject: ” * * * in Egypt, the King himself is not allowed to reign, unless he have priestly powers; and if he should be one of another class, and have obtained the throne by violence, he must get enrolled in the priestcraft.”
Candidates aspiring to membership in the religious orders underwent severe tests to prove their worthiness. These ordeals were called initiations. Those who passed them successfully were welcomed as brothers by the priests and were instructed in the secret teachings. Among the ancients, philosophy, science, and religion were never considered as separate units: each was regarded as an integral part of the whole. Philosophy was scientific and religious; science was philosophic and religious I religion was philosophic and scientific. Perfect wisdom was considered unattainable save as the result of harmonizing all three of these expressions of mental and moral activity.
While modern physicians accredit Hippocrates with being the father of medicine, the ancient therapeutæ ascribed to the immortal Hermes the distinction of being the founder of the art of healing. Clemens Alexandrinus, in describing the books purported to be from the stylus of Hermes, divided the sacred writings into six general classifications, one of which, the Pastophorus, was devoted to the science of medicine. The Smaragdine, or Emerald Tablet found in the valley of Ebron and generally accredited to Hermes, is in reality a chemical formula of a high and secret order.
Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician, during the fifth century before Christ, dissociated the healing art from the other sciences of the temple and thereby established a precedent for separateness. One of the consequences is the present widespread crass scientific materialism. The ancients realized the interdependence of the sciences. The moderns do not; and as a result, incomplete systems of learning are attempting to maintain isolated individualism. The obstacles which confront present-day scientific research are largely the result of prejudicial limitations imposed by those who are unwilling to accept that which transcends the concrete perceptions of the five primary human senses.
THE PARACELSIAN SYSTEM OF MEDICAL PHILOSOPHY
During the Middle Ages the long-ignored axioms and formulæ of Hermetic wisdom were assembled once more, and chronicled, and systematic attempts were made to test their accuracy. To Theophrastus of Hohenheim, who called himself Paracelsus (a name meaning “greater than Celsus”), the world is indebted for much of the knowledge it now possesses of the ancient systems of medicine. Paracelsus devoted his entire life to the study and exposition of Hermetic philosophy. Every notion and theory was grist to his mill, and, while members of the medical fraternity belittle his memory now as they opposed his system then, the occult world knows that he will yet be recognized as the greatest physician of all times. While the heterodox and exotic temperament of Paracelsus has been held against him by his enemies, and his wanderlust has been called vagabondage, he was one of the few minds who intelligently sought to reconcile the art of healing with the philosophic and religious systems of paganism and Christianity.
In defending his right to seek knowledge in all parts of the earth, and among all classes of society, Paracelsus wrote: “Therefore I consider that it is for me a matter of praise, not of blame, that I have hitherto and worthily pursued my wanderings. For this will I bear witness respecting nature: he who will investigate her ways must travel her books with his feet. That which is written is investigated through its letters, but nature from land to land-as often a land so often a leaf. Thus is the Codex of Nature, thus must its leaves be turned.” (Paracelsus, by John Maxson Stillman.)