The Path – October 1886

APOLLONIUS AND THE MAHATMAS: I

The journey to India made by the great adept, Apollonius, of Tyana, was a special interest for us modern students of occultism. The story of this journev, related in the life of Apollonius by Philostratus, has been held by many to be a fable, and Mr. Tredwell, in his laudable work, omits any account of it. To an earnest Theosophist, however, the internal evidence if the narration is too strong to be resisted, although it is told at third hand probably with the adornments, which an accomplished Greek author thought needful for the requisite grace of style.

Apollonius may perhaps be said to have been the Master whose mission was to set the temples in order for the departure of the glorious classic era. Born in the same century as Jesus of Nazareth, nowhere did the teachings of the two, so far as it appears, come into open contact, although the fame of the former spread far and wide in Europe, Asia and Africa during his lifetime. It is said, however, that although no creed bears his name, his work in the world was nevertheless immense and his teachings have, in many unperceived ways, influenced millions of human beings down to the present day.

Apollonius was still a young man when he went to India, but even then he was famous for his wisdom. He had been sent, as a boy of fourteen years, to school in Tarsus by his wealthy father, but he did not like the ways of that city and he was allowed to remove to Aegae, also in Sicily, where he studied the great philosophers and was specially drawn to the teachings of Pythagoras. At the age of sixteen he fully adopted the Pythagorean life and held firmly to it ever after, letting his hair grow long, eating no flesh, and drinking no wine, and wearing no clothing made of animal products. He took up his abode in the temple of Asclepius, and thousands were attracted thither by the wisdom of the wonderfully beautiful youth. Grown to manhood, he made a vow of silence and spoke not a word for five years. Then for a time he taught in Antioch. When asked how the wise man should treat questions of learning, he replied: "Like the law-giver. For the law-giver must make that, of whose truth he has convinced himself, into commandments for the multitude."

He now conceived the idea of a journey to India to meet the wise men known as Brahmins and Hyrkanians. He afterwards told the Egyptian Gymnosophists that his thoughts were directed to them in his youth, but his teacher pointed out to him that in India lived the men who stood nearest the source of wisdom, and from whom the Egyptians themselves derived their light. His seven disciples in Antioch had not the courage to undertake the journey with him, and he departed with two of his family servants, "one for writing rapidly and the other finely," according to Philostratus. At Ninus he was joined by Damis the Ninivite. This young Assyrian was thenceforth his devoted disciple, accompanying him on all his many journeys throughout his long career. It is to Damis that we chiefly owe the detailed accounts of the doings of the Master thenceforward. We are thereby enabled to see Apollonius in his daily life; in his various deeds and actions, his familiar sayings recorded as he talks with his faithful companion about the common sights and occurrences around them. The picture is therefore exceptionally intimate, and the man himself is brought near to us as well as his divine teachings. When Damis was reproached for writing down such trifles about his master, and compared with a dog devouring the crumbs from a table, he replied: "When the gods are feasting they doubtless have servants who take care that no crumbs of ambrosia are lost."

A year and eight months were spent in Babylon, where King Bardanus, who was a friend of wisdom, received Apollonius with great honors. Considerable intercourse was had with the Magi; he learnt something of them and also taught them something. Damis was forbidden to accompany him in his visits to them, but he said that Apollonius visited them at noon and at midnight. Once Damis asked "What are the Magi?" and was answered, "They are indeed wise, but not in everything." The King became ill, and Apollonius spoke so much and so divinely about the soul that the monarch said to those around: "Apollonius not only relieves me of concern for the Kingdom, but also for Death."

Apollonius, in departing, refused all gifts, but the King provided him with camels and all things needful for the journey. When the King asked what he would bring him from India he replied, "A joyful gift, O King! For if intercourse with the men there makes me wiser, I shall come back to thee better than I now am."

Upon this the King embraced him and said: "May'st thou but come: for this gift is great."

They crossed what they called the Caucasus mountains, separating India and Medea. May it not be that from this ancient designation we get the name of the Caucasian race, rather than from what is now known as the Caucasus? This would make the place of origin identical with that commonly ascribed to the Aryans.

Crossing the Indus they soon came to Taxila, which they called the capital of India. It is difficult to trace out their exact course, the present names of most geographical features being quite different from the designations given by Damis. It would probably require a thorough Occultist to tell just what places they did visit. King Phraotes was the ruler at Taxila, and in him Apollonius found an initiate. The latter was struck with the modest simplicity of the monarch's surroundings on entering the palace, and inferred that he must be a philosopher. The King told Apollonius the course which a youth took who proposed to dedicate himself to the pursuit of Wisdom. When he had reached his 18th year he had to cross the Hyphasis river to those men who had attracted Apollonius to India. Beforehand, however, he had to make his intention publicly known, in order that he might be restrained in case he was not pure. To be pure one had to be without blemish in respect to father and mother, and moreover with an upright ancestry for three generations. If without fault in this respect the youth himself was then examined as to whether he had a good memory, whether he was naturally inclined to uprightness or would only have it appear so, whether given to drink or gluttony, of boastful habits, evil or foolish ways, whether obedient to father, mother and instructors, and finally if he had made no evil use of the bloom of his youth. "Since wisdom stands in great esteem here," said the King, "and is honored by the Indians, it is of great moment that those who seek to devote themselves unto it should be carefully examined and made to undergo thousand-fold tests."

(Concluded in December.)


The Path

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