The Theosophical Forum – February 1951

THE MYSTERY-SCHOOLS — Clifton Meek

An interesting fact, especially to people of Europe and America, and startling too, is that all the great historic religions of mankind, as well as every one of their important sacred books have originated in Asia. . . .

We of America sometimes approach others with an air of superiority and even arrogance. But it is good to see the rest of the world in perspective. Non-Europeans and non-Americans are behind us, but only in material things. . . . I think it is good for us who are products of Western civilization to make a few honest comparisons once in a while. We sometimes criticize and condemn a little too ignorantly and lightly. We must realize that we have no monopoly on nobility and character.

The basic truth of life is that all men have groped and searched for God and have tried to learn his will. To this search, we brought our ignorances, our superstitions and our cruelties because we were only human. To each of us has been granted some glimpse of the truth, and this truth embodied itself in our religions.

Our religions, despite the human weaknesses we injected into them, have nourished humanity's higher life as nothing else has done. They have given to man's spirit its deepest consolations, its brightest hopes and its strongest wings.

Through the web of religious experience runs a single, common thread, the desire to understand life — that is the desire to know God and to live by His will. It is the unity in the diversity of religion. It makes us humble before the task of achieving one world, but it compels us to recognize that it is possible and with God's help it will be achieved.
      — Rabbi Samuel Schwartz, Congregation Beth El, Norwalk, Connecticut

After being so thoroughly deluged with sectarian propaganda . on the radio, screen, and in the press, it was like a breath of intellectual fresh air to read The Norwalk Hour account of the very interesting and broad-minded approach to religion made by Rabbi Samuel Schwartz in his recent talk before a local service club. Unfortunately, all too few religious leaders show an inclination to look beyond the confines and doctrines of their own creeds for spiritual values, and speak with such a high degree of intellectual honesty. It is high time that western minds were outgrowing the medieval concept that their religion is something entirely different and superior to other historic religious movements, and that preceding its revelation, for incalculable ages mankind had been a cosmic orphan — evil, barbaric and devoid of spiritual attributes — completely ignored and neglected by its supposedly loving Creator who followed a unique code of behaviorism in celestial snobbery.

No greater illusion and error has ever been inflicted upon trusting human hearts and believing minds than that some particular exoteric religion is the sole repository of truth. European, and even our own early American history reveals what bigotry and spiritual corrosion such illusions can engender in the hearts of men.

There was one point in particular brought out by Rabbi Schwartz that I would like to comment on. He said, and rightly so, that all of the historic world religions, including their sacred books, were of Eastern origin. However efficient we may be in producing a highly materialistic civilization and a war every generation, the East always has been, and still is, our master in things of the spirit. Their sacred literature, the oldest known to mankind, embraces a lofty religious-philosophical concept of life from which all other religions, including Christianity, albeit second-hand from Jewish and Greek sources, have drawn. Today Christian theology is but a feeble and distorted reflection of teachings of the ancient sanctuaries, the Mystery Schools, and from which the real meaning and spiritual aroma have long since been distilled. The Christian idea of Deity is a strange mixture of misunderstood Kabbalistic thought derived from Jewish sources, and Neo-Platonic concepts borrowed from the teaching of the Mystery Schools of Greece. Such a thing as a "new" religion simply does not exist and never has. All have borrowed from older sources, with the result that the world is filled with multiple versions and distortions of the one primordial truth about Man and the Cosmos in which he lives, moves, and has his being. Every religious impulse which has been inaugurated from age to age is but the restatement of truths as old as mankind, a re-veiling rather than a revealing, of the Mystery-teachings, clothed in the language and poetical imagery of the day, and each such effort a part of a single movement manifesting at periodical and cyclic times of human history to enlighten superstitious man, for that is exactly what mankind is at our present stage of evolution.

These teachings never have been revealed publicly in their entirety for the reason that the mass of mankind is as yet intellectually and spiritually unprepared to receive and understand them, and they have been given out only in a degree commensurate with the understanding and enlightenment of any particular age in which they may have been given.

The Christian movement itself, in its very beginnings, was an attempt made by one of the Elder Brothers whose incarnation was very closely associated with that of the Buddha, to found and establish a Mystery School, the purpose of which was to ameliorate, at least in some degree if possible, the effects of the dark cycle which was slowly but surely settling over the Mediterranean civilization, by keeping alive the dying embers of spirituality in the hearts and minds of the men of that day.

Deterioration of the Mystery Schools had begun about five centuries previously, and at the time of the beginning of the Christian era had become little more than mere form and ceremony, much as orthodox religion is today, and from which the spirit had fled. Actually, for many centuries, the noblest minds of Greece had journeyed to ancient Hindusthan for spiritual enlightenment and Initiation into the Mysteries, and returning home had founded similar schools, passing the light to other minds and producing a cultural civilization which has since been unequalled — a fact verified by many leading scholarly minds of today.

Religion, Science and Philosophy were taught as a synchronized unit, each being but a single aspect of TRUTH, and not as three separate and conflicting schools of thought as they are today, thanks to the limited vision and understanding of the church fathers who very conveniently arranged a speedy divorce, the most notorious one of our age. Facts of Universal Nature which conflicted with their ever-increasing number of dogmas, simply were not tolerated. Several of them, particularly Origen and Clement of Alexandria, had some understanding of the Neo-Platonic thought underlying Christian doctrines, and tried nobly but vainly to preserve some of the intellectual and spiritual aroma of these noble teachings, but the trend towards dogmatism was too powerful, and the befogged minds that believed and taught that the earth was flat won the day.

Theologians found it far more important to enter into lengthy disputations as to how many angels could dance on the point of a pin than to teach men that "the Father and the kingdom of heaven are within."

In lieu of this, men were given theological crutches upon which to lean lest they learn to walk on their own spiritual feet, and were told that by simply "believing" something they would be transported to heaven on a spiritual featherbed. Today, western civilization, particularly Europe, is harvesting the bitter fruit of this historic betrayal. Why is it that in countries where ecclesiasticism has been the strongest for centuries there is more vice and crime, poverty and wretchedness, and the people turn more readily to any "ism" that offers them the ghost of a chance of escape from their hellish plight?

That the very early Christian movement was an attempt to found such a Mystery School is evidenced by several quotations in the canonical books of the New Testament. Jesus is quoted as saying that to the multitude he spoke in parables, for having eyes they saw not, and having ears they heard not, while to his few chosen disciples He taught Mysteries.

Again, in the picturesque but somewhat uncomplimentary jargon of the day He warned against casting pearls before swine and giving holy things unto dogs lest they turn and rend you. Several centuries later, the tragic death of Hypatia whose memory and martyrdom are today enshrined in Christian sainthood under the name of St. Cecelia, and who was stoned to death by the fanatical Christian mob under the leadership of the monks, might be cited as one historical example of the grim necessity of this age-old law of occultism, and why there have been in the past, and still are, Mystery Schools.

The "resurrection" or "raising" of the Christos was enacted in the Mystery Schools of Greece for centuries before the beginning of the Christian era. Christos is the Divine Principle in every man, crucified on the cross of material existence during its earthly pilgrimage, awaiting recognition and resurrection. In another school of thought, it is the Grand Architect who lies buried in the rubbish of the temple. It is the drama of the ages, the central theme of every religion under whatever name or allegorical presentation. One version of this mystery wherein the hero of the tale bears another name, and derived from Jewish Kabbalistic sources and preserved for posterity via the "underground" of the dark ages, comes down to us today in Freemasonry. It is based on the allegorical story of the building of King Solomon's temple, which symbolizes man's final attainment of Divine Wisdom in future ages by conscious union with his own Inner God.

Truly then he will have found the lost word. This is one historic example where the early church fathers, and some later ones as well, did not quite succeed in obliterating every vestige of the much maligned "pagan" thought and teachings in their effort to eliminate all evidence from whence their doctrines had been derived. It is no disgrace to wear a borrowed robe, but it is hypocritical and a gross deception to claim that it is an original creation.

I trust that at this sacred season of the year which has been revered by religious minded people of every age, and particularly so by those who have had some understanding of its deeper import, that no one will misinterpret what I have said as voicing any irreverence regarding the Great Teacher for whom the present holiday is named, or what He himself taught. For Him, and his teachings, I hold the highest regard and respect. But for the veritable Collyar Mansion of man-made accretions and dogmas which were no part of his program, and which have virtually nullified the noble effort he made to rekindle ancient truths in the hearts of men in an unfortunate age, in all honesty and frankness I must say I have none.

     — Courtesy The Norwalk Hour, Norwalk, Conn.


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