Theosophical University Press Online Edition
[[Chapter 7, Part 2]]
travelling in this country, did in a recent conversation with us about Niepang (Nirvana). "This condition," he remarked, "we all understand to mean a final reunion with God, coincident with the perfection of the human spirit by its ultimate disembarrassment of matter. It is the very opposite of personal annihilation."
Nirvana means the certitude of personal immortality in Spirit, not in Soul, which, as a finite emanation, must certainly disintegrate its particles a compound of human sensations, passions, and yearning for some objective kind of existence, before the immortal spirit of the Ego is quite freed, and henceforth secure against further transmigration in any form. And how can man ever reach this state so long as the Upadana, that state of longing for life, more life, does not disappear from the sentient being, from the Ahancara clothed, however, in a sublimated body? It is the "Upadana" or the intense desire which produces WILL, and it is will which develops force, and the latter generates matter, or an object having form. Thus the disembodied Ego, through this sole undying desire in him, unconsciously furnishes the conditions of his successive self-procreations in various forms, which depend on his mental state and Karma, the good or bad deeds of his preceding existence, commonly called "merit and demerit." This is why the "Master" recommended to his mendicants the cultivation of the four degrees of Dhyana, the noble "Path of the Four Truths," i.e., that gradual acquirement of stoical indifference for either life or death; that state of spiritual self-contemplation during which man utterly loses sight of his physical and dual individuality, composed of soul and body; and uniting himself with his third and higher immortal self the real and heavenly man merges, so to say, into the divine Essence, whence his own spirit proceeded like a spark from the common hearth. Thus the Arhat, the holy mendicant, can reach Nirvana while yet on earth; and his spirit, totally freed from the trammels of the "psychical, terrestrial, devilish wisdom," as James calls it, and being in its own nature omniscient and omnipotent, can on earth, through the sole power of his thought, produce the greatest of phenomena.
"It is the missionaries in China and India, who first started this falsehood about Niepang, or Niepana (Nirvana)," says Wong-Chin-Fu. Who can deny the truth of this accusation after reading the works of the Abbe Dubois, for instance? A missionary who passes forty years of his life in India, and then writes that the "Buddhists admit of no other God but the body of man, and have no other object but the satisfaction of their senses," utters an untruth which can be proved on the testimony of the laws of the Talapoins of Siam and Birmah; laws, which prevail unto this very day and which sentence a sahan, or punghi (a learned man; from the Sanscrit pundit), as well as a simple Talapoin, to death by
decapitation, for the crime of unchastity. No foreigner can be admitted into their Kyums, or Viharas (monasteries); and yet there are French writers, otherwise impartial and fair, who, speaking of the great severity of the rules to which the Buddhist monks are subjected in these communities, and without possessing one single fact to corroborate their skepticism, bluntly say, that "notwithstanding the great laudations bestowed upon them (Talapoins) by certain travellers, merely on the strength of appearances, I do not believe at all in their chastity."*
Fortunately for the Buddhist talapoins, lamas, sahans, upasampadas,** and even samenairas,*** they have popular records and facts for themselves, which are weightier than the unsupported personal opinion of a Frenchman, born in Catholic lands, whom we can hardly blame for having lost all faith in clerical virtue. When a Buddhist monk becomes guilty (which does not happen once in a century, perhaps) of criminal conversation, he has neither a congregation of tender-hearted members, whom he can move to tears by an eloquent confession of his guilt, nor a Jesus, on whose overburdened, long-suffering bosom are flung, as in a common Christian dust-box, all the impurities of the race. No Buddhist transgressor can comfort himself with visions of a Vatican, within whose sin-encompassing walls black is turned into white, murderers into sinless saints, and golden or silvery lotions can be bought at the confessional to cleanse the tardy penitent of greater or lesser offenses against God and man.
Except a few impartial archaeologists, who trace a direct Buddhistic element in Gnosticism, as in all those early short-lived sects we know of very few authors, who, in writing upon primitive Christianity, have accorded to the question its due importance. Have we not facts enough to, at least, suggest some interest in that direction? Do we not learn that, as early as in the days of Plato, there were "Brachmans" — read Buddhist, Samaneans, Saman, or Shaman missionaries — in Greece, and that, at one time, they had overflowed the country? Does not Pliny show them established on the shores of the Dead Sea, for "thousands of ages"? After making every necessary allowance for the exaggeration, we still have several centuries B.C. left as a margin. And is it possible that their influence should not have left deeper traces in all these sects than is generally thought? We know that the Jaina sect claims Buddhism as derived from its tenets — that Buddhism existed before Siddhartha, better known as Gautama-Buddha. The Hindu Brahmans who, by the
* Jacolliot: "Voyage au Pays des Elephants."
** Buddhist chief priests at Ceylon.
*** Samenaira is one who studies to obtain the high office of a Oepasampala. He is a disciple and is looked upon as a son by the chief priest. We suspect that the Catholic seminarist must look to the Buddhists for the parentage of his title.
European Orientalists, are denied the right of knowing anything about their own country, or understanding their own language and records better than those who have never been in India, on the same principle as the Jews are forbidden, by the Christian theologians, to interpret their own Scriptures — the Brahmans, we say, have authentic records. And these show the incarnation from the Virgin Avany of the first Buddha — divine light — as having taken place more than some thousands of years B.C., on the island of Ceylon. The Brahmans reject the claim that it was an avatar of Vishnu, but admit the appearance of a reformer of Brahmanism at that time. The story of the Virgin Avany and her divine son, Sakyamuni, is recorded in one of the sacred books of the Cinghalese Buddhists — the Nirdhasa; and the Brahmanic chronology fixes the great Buddhistic revolution and religious war, and the subsequent spread of Sakya-muni's doctrine in Thibet, China, Japan, and other places at 4,620 years B.C.*
It is clear that Gautama-Buddha, the son of the King of Kapilavastu, and the descendant of the first Sakya, through his father, who was of the Kshatriya, or warrior-caste, did not invent his philosophy. Philanthropist by nature, his ideas were developed and matured while under the tuition of Tir-thankara, the famous guru of the Jaina sect. The latter claim the present Buddhism as a diverging branch of their own philosophy, and themselves, as the only followers of the first Buddha who were allowed to remain in India, after the expulsion of all other Buddhists, probably because they had made a compromise, and admitted some of the Brahmanic notions. It is, to say the least, curious, that three dissenting and inimical religions, like Brahmanism, Buddhism, and Jainism, should agree so perfectly in their traditions and chronology, as to Buddhism, and that our scientists should give a hearing but to their own unwarranted speculations and hypotheses. If the birth of Gautama may, with some show of reason, be placed at about 600 B. C., then the preceding Buddhas ought to have some place allowed them in chronology. The Buddhas are not gods, but simply individuals overshadowed by the spirit of Buddha — the divine ray. Or is it because, unable to extricate themselves from the difficulty by the help of their own researches only, our Orientalists prefer to obliterate and deny the whole, rather than accord to the Hindus the right of knowing something of their own religion and history? Strange way of discovering truths!
The common argument adduced against the Jaina claim, of having been the source of the restoration of ancient Buddhism, that the principal
* Jacolliot declares, in his "Fils de Dieu," that he copied these dates from the "Book of the Historical Zodiacs," preserved in the pagoda of Vilenur.
tenet of the latter religion is opposed to the belief of the Jainas, is not a sound one. Buddhists, say our Orientalists, deny the existence of a Supreme Being; the Jainas admit one, but protest against the assumption that the "He" can ever interfere in the regulation of the universe. We have shown in the preceding chapter that the Buddhists do not deny any such thing. But if any disinterested scholar could study carefully the Jaina literature, in their thousands of books preserved — or shall we say hidden — in Rajpootana, Jusselmere, at Patun, and other places;* and especially if he could but gain access to the oldest of their sacred volumes, he would find a perfect identity of philosophical thought, if not of popular rites, between the Jainas and the Buddhists. The Adi-Buddha and Adinatha (or Adiswara) are identical in essence and purpose. And now, if we trace the Jainas back, with their claims to the ownership of the oldest cave-temples (those superb specimens of Indian architecture and sculpture), and their records of an almost incredible antiquity, we can hardly refuse to view them in the light which they claim for themselves. We must admit, that in all probability they are the only true descendants of the primitive owners of old India, dispossessed by those conquering and mysterious hordes of white-skinned Brahmans whom, in the twilight of history, we see appearing at the first as wanderers in the valleys of Jumna and Ganges. The books of the Srawacs — the only descendants of the Arhatas or earliest Jainas, the naked forest-hermits of the days of old, might throw some light, perhaps, on many a puzzling question. But will our European scholars, so long as they pursue their own policy, ever have access to the right volumes? We have our doubts about this. Ask any trustworthy Hindu how the missionaries have dealt with those manuscripts which unluckily fell into their hands, and then see if we can blame the natives for trying to save from desecration the "gods of their fathers."
To maintain their ground Irenaeus and his school had to fight hard with the Gnostics. Such, also, was the lot of Eusebius, who found himself hopelessly perplexed to know how the Essenes should be disposed of. The ways and customs of Jesus and his apostles exhibited too close a resemblance to this sect to allow the fact to pass unexplained. Eusebius tried to make people believe that the Essenes were the first Christians. His efforts were thwarted by Philo Judaeus, who wrote his historical account of the Essenes and described them with the minutest care, long before there had appeared a single Christian in Palestine. But, if there were no Christians, there were Christians long before the era of Christianity; and the Essenes belonged to the latter as well as to all other initi-
* We were told that there were nearly 20,000 of such books.
ated brotherhoods, without even mentioning the Christnites of India. Lepsius shows that the word Nofre means Chrestos, "good," and that one of the titles of Osiris, "Onnofre," must be translated "the goodness of God made manifest."* "The worship of Christ was not universal at this early date," explains Mackenzie, "by which I mean that Christolatry had not been introduced; but the worship of Chrestos — the Good Principle — had preceded it by many centuries, and even survived the general adoption of Christianity, as shown on monuments still in existence. . . . Again, we have an inscription which is pre-Christian on an epitaphial tablet (Spon. Misc. Erud., Ant., x. xviii. 2). [[Uachinthe Larisaion Demosie Eros Chreste Chaire]], and de Rossi (Roma Sotteranea, tome i. tav. xxi.) gives us another example from the catacombs — 'AElia Chreste, in Pace.' "** And, Kris, as Jacolliot shows, means in Sanscrit "sacred."
The meritorious stratagems of the trustworthy Eusebius thus proved lost labor. He was triumphantly detected by Basnage, who, says Gibbon, "examined with the utmost critical accuracy the curious treatise of Philo, which describes the Therapeutae," and found that "by proving it was composed as early as the time of Augustus, he has demonstrated, in spite of Eusebius and a crowd of modern Catholics, that the Therapeutae were neither Christians nor monks."
As a last word, the Christian Gnostics sprang into existence toward the beginning of the second century, and just at the time when the Essenes most mysteriously faded away, which indicated that they were the identical Essenes, and moreover pure Christists, viz.: they believed and were those who best understood what one of their own brethren had preached. In insisting that the letter Iota, mentioned by Jesus in Matthew (v. 18), indicated a secret doctrine in relation to the ten aeons, it is sufficient to demonstrate to a kabalist that Jesus belonged to the Free-masonry of those days; for I, which is Iota in Greek, has other names in other languages; and is, as it was among the Gnostics of those days, a pass-word, meaning the SCEPTRE of the FATHER, in Eastern brotherhoods which exist to this very day.
But in the early centuries these facts, if known, were purposely ignored, and not only withheld from public notice as much as possible, but vehemently denied whenever the question was forced upon discussion. The denunciations of the Fathers were rendered bitter in proportion to the truth of the claim which they endeavored to refute.
"It comes to this," writes Irenaeus, complaining of the Gnostics,
* Lepsius: "Konigsbuch," b. 11, tal. i. dyn. 5, h. p. in 1 Peter ii. 3, Jesus is called "the Lord Crestos."
** Mackenzie: "Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia," p. 207.
"they neither consent to Scripture nor tradition."* And why should we wonder at that, when even the commentators of the nineteenth century, with nothing but fragments of the Gnostic manuscripts to compare with the voluminous writings of their calumniators, have been enabled to detect fraud on nearly every page? How much more must the polished and learned Gnostics, with all their advantages of personal observation and knowledge of fact, have realized the stupendous scheme of fraud that was being consummated before their very eyes! Why should they accuse Celsus of maintaining that their religion was all based on the speculations of Plato, with the difference that his doctrines were far more pure and rational than theirs, when we find Sprengel, seventeen centuries later, writing the following? — "Not only did they (the Christians) think to discover the dogmas of Plato in the books of Moses, but, moreover, they fancied that, by introducing Platonism into Christianity, they would elevate the dignity of this religion and make it more popular among the nations."**
They introduced it so well, that not only was the Platonic philosophy selected as a basis for the trinity, but even the legends and mythical stories which had been current among the admirers of the great philosopher — as a time-honored custom required in the eyes of his posterity such an allegorical homage to every hero worthy of deification — were revamped and used by the Christians. Without going so far as India, did they not have a ready model for the "miraculous conception," in the legend about Periktione, Plato's mother? In her case it was also maintained by popular tradition that she had immaculately conceived him, and that the god Apollo was his father. Even the annunciation by an angel to Joseph "in a dream," the Christians copied from the message of Apollo to Ariston, Periktione's husband, that the child to be born from her was the offspring of that god. So, too, Romulus was said to be the son of Mars, by the virgin Rhea Sylvia.
It is generally held by all the symbolical writers that the Ophites were found guilty of practicing the most licentious rites during their religious meetings. The same accusation was brought against the Manichaeans, the Carpocratians, the Paulicians, the Albigenses — in short, against every Gnostic sect which had the temerity to claim the right to think for itself. In our modern days, the 160 American sects and the 125 sects of England are not so often troubled with such accusations; times are changed, and even the once all-powerful clergy have to either bridle their tongues or prove their slanderous accusations.
We have carefully looked over the works of such authors as Payne
* "Adv. Haer.," iii., 2, § 2.
** Sprengel: "Histoire de la Medecine."
Knight, C. W. King, and Olshausen, which treat of our subject; we have reviewed the bulky volumes of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Sozomen, Theodoret; and in none but those of Epiphanius have we found any accusation based upon direct evidence of an eye-witness. "They say"; "Some say"; "We have heard" — such are the general and indefinite terms used by the patristic accusers. Alone Epiphanius, whose works are invariably referred to in all such cases, seems to chuckle with delight whenever he couches a lance. We do not mean to take upon ourselves to defend the sects which inundated Europe at the eleventh century, and which brought to light the most wonderful creeds; we limit our defense merely to those Christian sects whose theories were usually grouped under the generic name of Gnosticism. These are those which appeared immediately after the alleged crucifixion, and lasted till they were nearly exterminated under the rigorous execution of the Constantinian law. The greatest guilt of these were their syncretistic views, for at no other period of the world's history had truth a poorer prospect of triumph than in those days of forgery, lying, and deliberate falsification of facts.
But before we are forced to believe the accusations, may we not be permitted to inquire into the historical characters of their accusers? Let us begin by asking, upon what ground does the Church of Rome build her claim of supremacy for her doctrines over those of the Gnostics? Apostolic succession, undoubtedly. The succession traditionally instituted by the direct Apostle Peter. But what if this prove a fiction? Clearly, the whole superstructure supported upon this one imaginary stilt would fall in a tremendous crash. And when we do inquire carefully, we find that we must take the word of Irenaeus alone for it — of Irenaeus, who did not furnish one single valid proof of the claim which he so audaciously advanced, and who resorted for that to endless forgeries. He gives authority neither for his dates nor his assertions. This Smyrniote worthy has not even the brutal but sincere faith of Tertullian, for he contradicts himself at every step, and supports his claims solely on acute sophistry. Though he was undoubtedly a man of the shrewdest intellect and great learning, he fears not, in some of his assertions and arguments, to even appear an idiot in the eyes of posterity, so long as he can "carry the situation." Twitted and cornered at every step by his not less acute and learned adversaries, the Gnostics, he boldly shields himself behind blind faith, and in answer to their merciless logic falls upon imaginary tradition invented by himself. Reber wittily remarks: "As we read his misapplications of words and sentences, we would conclude that he was a lunatic if we did not know that he was something else."*
* "Christ of Paul," p. 188.
So boldly mendacious does this "holy Father" prove himself in many instances, that he is even contradicted by Eusebius, more cautious if not more truthful than himself. He is driven to that necessity in the face of unimpeachable evidence. So, for instance, Irenaeus asserts that Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, was a direct hearer of St. John;* and Eusebius is compelled to show that Papias never pretended to such a claim, but simply stated that he had received his doctrine from those who had known John.**
In one point, the Gnostics had the best of Irenaeus. They drove him, through mere fear of inconsistency, to the recognition of their kabalistic doctrine of atonement; unable to grasp it in its allegorical meaning, Irenaeus presented, with Christian theology as we find it in its present state of "original sin versus Adam," a doctrine which would have filled Peter with pious horror if he had been still alive.
The next champion for the propagation of Apostolic Succession, is Eusebius himself. Is the word of this Armenian Father any better than that of Irenaeus? Let us see what the most competent critics say of him. And before we turn to modern critics at all, we might remind the reader of the scurrilous terms in which Eusebius is attacked by George Syncellus, the Vice-Patriarch of Constantinople (eighth century), for his audacious falsification of the Egyptian Chronology. The opinion of Socrates, an historian of the fifth century, is no more flattering. He fearlessly charges Eusebius with perverting historical dates, in order to please the Emperor Constantine. In his chronographic work, before proceeding to falsify the synchronistic tables himself, in order to impart to Scriptural chronology a more trustworthy appearance, Syncellus covers Eusebius with the choicest of monkish Billingsgate. Baron Bunsen has verified the justness if not justified the politeness of this abusive reprehension. His elaborate researches in the rectification of the Egyptian List of Chronology, by Manetho, led him to confess that throughout his work, the Bishop of Caesarea "had undertaken, in a very unscrupulous andarbitrary spirit, to mutilate history." "Eusebius," he says, "is the originator of that systematic theory of synchronisms which has so often subsequently maimed and mutilated history in its procrustean bed."*** To this the author of the Intellectual Development of Europe adds: "Among those who have been the most guilty of this offense, the name of the celebrated Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea . . . should be designated!"****
It will not be amiss to remind the reader that it is the same Eusebius who is charged with the interpolation of the famous paragraph concerning
* "Adv. Haer.," v. 33, § 4.
** Eusebius: "Hist. Eccles.," iii., p. 39.
*** Bunsen: "Egypt," vol. i., p. 200.
**** "Intellectual Development of Europe," p. 147.
Jesus,* which was so miraculously found, in his time, in the writings of Josephus, the sentence in question having till that time remained perfectly unknown. Renan, in his Life of Jesus, expresses a contrary opinion. "I believe," says he, "the passage respecting Jesus to be authentic. It is perfectly in the style of Josephus; and, if this historian had made mention of Jesus, it is thus that he must have spoken of him."
Begging this eminent scholar's pardon, we must again contradict him. Laying aside his cautious "if," we will merely show that though the short paragraph may possibly be genuine, and "perfectly in the style of Josephus," its several parentheses are most palpably later forgeries; and "if" Josephus had made any mention of Christ at all, it is not thus that he would "have spoken of him." The whole paragraph consists of but a few lines, and reads: "At this time was Iasous, a 'WISE MAN,'** if, at least, it is right to call him a man! ([[andra]]) for he was a doer of surprising works, and a teacher of such men as receive 'the truths' with pleasure. . . . This was the ANOINTED (!!). And, on an accusation by the first men among us, having been condemned by Pilate to the cross, they did not stop loving him who loved them. For he appeared to them on the third day alive, and the divine prophets having said these and many other wonderful things concerning him."
This paragraph (of sixteen lines in the original) has two unequivocal assertions and one qualification. The latter is expressed in the following sentence: "If, at least, it is right to call him a man." The unequivocal assertions are contained in "This is the ANOINTED," and in that Jesus "appeared to them on the third day alive." History shows us Josephus as a thorough, uncompromising, stiff-necked, orthodox Jew, though he wrote for "the Pagans." It is well to observe the false position in which these sentences would have placed a true-born Jew, if they had really emanated from him. Their "Messiah" was then and is still expected. The Messiah is the Anointed, and vice versa. And Josephus is made to admit that the "first men" among them have accused and crucified their Messiah and Anointed!! No need to comment any further upon such a preposterous incongruity,*** even though supported by so ripe a scholar as Renan.
As to that patristic fire-brand, Tertullian, whom des Mousseaux apotheosizes in company with his other demi-gods, he is regarded by Reuss, Baur, and Schweigler, in quite a different light. The untrustworthiness of statement and inaccuracy of Tertullian, says the author
* "Antiquities," lib. xviii., cap. 3.
** Wise man always meant with the ancients a kabalist. It means astrologer and magician. "Israelite Indeed," vol. iii., p. 206. Hakim is a physician.
*** Dr. Lardner rejects it as spurious, and gives nine reasons for rejecting it.
of Supernatural Religion, are often apparent. Reuss characterizes his Christianism as "apre, insolent, brutal, ferrailleur."It is without unction and without charity, sometimes even without loyalty, when he finds himself confronted with opposition. "If," remarks this author, "in the second century all parties except certain Gnostics were intolerant, Tertullian was the most intolerant of all!"
The work begun by the early Fathers was achieved by the sophomorical Augustine. His supra-transcendental speculations on the Trinity; his imaginary dialogues with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the disclosures and covert allusions about his ex-brethren, the Manicheans, have led the world to load Gnosticism with opprobrium, and have thrown into a deep shadow the insulted majesty of the one God, worshipped in reverential silence by every "heathen."
And thus is it that the whole pyramid of Roman Catholic dogmas rests not upon Proof, but upon assumption. The Gnostics had cornered the Fathers too cleverly, and the only salvation of the latter was a resort to forgery. For nearly four centuries, the great historians nearly cotemporary with Jesus had not taken the slightest notice either of his life or death. Christians wondered at such an unaccountable omission of what the Church considered the greatest events in the world's history. Eusebius saved the battle of the day. Such are the men who have slandered the Gnostics.
The first and most unimportant sect we hear of is that of the Nicolaitans, of whom John, in the Apocalypse, makes the voice in his vision say that he hates their doctrine.* These Nicolaitans were the followers, however, of Nicolas of Antioch, one of the "seven" chosen by the "twelve" to make distribution from the common fund to the proselytes at Jerusalem (Acts ii. 44, 45, vi. 1-5), hardly more than a few weeks, or perhaps months, after the Crucifixion;** and a man "of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom"(verse 3). Thus it would appear that the "Holy Ghost and wisdom" from on high, were no more a shield against the accusation of "haeresy" than though they had never overshadowed the "chosen ones" of the apostles.
It would be but too easy to detect what kind of heresy it was that offended, even had we not other and more authentic sources of information in the kabalistic writings. The accusation and the precise nature of the "abomination" are stated in the second chapter of the book of Revelation, verses 14, 15. The sin was merely — marriage. John was a
* Revelation i and ii.
** Philip, the first martyr, was one of the seven, and he was stoned about the year A.D. 34.
"virgin"; several of the Fathers assert the fact on the authority of tradition. Even Paul, the most liberal and high-minded of them all, finds it difficult to reconcile the position of a married man with that of a faithful servant of God. There is also "a difference between a wife and a virgin."* The latter cares "for the things of the Lord," and the former only for "how she may please her husband." "If any man think that he behaveth uncomely towards his virgin . . . let them marry. Nevertheless, he that standeth steadfast in his heart, and hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed . . . that he will keep his virgin, doeth well." So that he who marries "doeth well . . . but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better." "Art thou loosed from a wife?" he asks, "seek not a wife" (27). And remarking that according to his judgment, both will be happier if they do not marry, he adds, as a weighty conclusion: "And I think also that I have the spirit of God" (40). Far from this spirit of tolerance are the words of John. According to his vision there are "but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth," and "these are they which were not defiled with women; for they were virgins."** This seems conclusive; for except Paul there is not one of these primitive Nazari, there "set apart" and vowed to God, who seemed to make a great difference between "sin" within the relationship of legal marriage, and the "abomination" of adultery.
With such views and such narrow-mindedness, it was but natural that these fanatics should have begun by casting this iniquity as a slur in the faces of brethren, and then "bearing on progressively" with their accusations. As we have already shown, it is only Epiphanius whom we find giving such minute details as to the Masonic "grips" and other signs of recognition among the Gnostics. He had once belonged to their number, and therefore it was easy for him to furnish particulars. Only how far the worthy Bishop is to be relied upon is a very grave question. One need fathom human nature but very superficially to find that there seldom was yet a traitor, a renegade, who, in a moment of danger turned "State's evidence," who would not lie as remorselessly as he betrayed. Men never forgive or relent toward those whom they injure. We hate our victims in proportion to the harm we do them. This is a truth as old as the world. On the other hand, it is preposterous to believe that such persons as the Gnostics, who, according to Gibbon, were the wealthiest, proudest, most polite, as well as the most learned "of the Christian name," were guilty of the disgusting, libidinous actions of which Epiphanius delights to accuse them. Were they even like that "set of tatterde-
* 1 Corinthians, vii. 34.
** Revelation xiv. 3, 4.
malions, almost naked, with fierce looks," that Lucian describes as Paul's followers,* we would hesitate to believe such an infamous story. How much less probable then that men who were Platonists, as well as Christians, should have ever been guilty of such preposterous rites.
Payne Knight seems never to suspect the testimony of Epiphanius. He argues that "if we make allowance for the willing exaggerations of religious hatred, and consequent popular prejudice, the general conviction that these sectarians had rites and practices of a licentious character appears too strong to be entirely disregarded." If he draws an honest line of demarcation between the Gnostics of the first three centuries and those mediaeval sects whose doctrines "rather closely resembled modern communism," we have nothing to say. Only, we would beg every critic to remember that if the Templars were accused of that most "abominable crime" of applying the "holy kiss" to the root of Baphomet's tail,** St. Augustine is also suspected, and on very good grounds, too, of having allowed his community to go somewhat astray from the primitive way of administering the "holy kiss" at the feast of the Eucharist. The holy Bishop seems quite too anxious as to certain details of the ladies' toilet for the "kiss" to be of a strictly orthodox nature.*** Wherever there lurks a true and sincere religious feeling, there is no room for worldly details.
Considering the extraordinary dislike exhibited from the first by Christians to all manner of cleanliness, we cannot enough wonder at such a strange solicitude on the part of the holy Bishop for his female parishioners, unless, indeed, we have to excuse it on the ground of a lingering reminiscence of Manichean rites!
It would be hard, indeed, to blame any writer for entertaining such suspicions of immorality as those above noticed, when the records of many historians are at hand to help us to make an impartial investigation. "Haeretics" are accused of crimes in which the Church has more or less openly indulged even down to the beginning of our century. In 1233 Pope Gregory IX. issued two bulls against the Stedingers "for various heathen and magical practices,"**** and the latter, as a matter of course, were exterminated in the name of Christ and his Holy Mother. In 1282 a parish priest of Inverkeithing, named John, performed rites on Easter day by far worse than "magical." Collecting a crowd of young girls, he forced them to enter into "divine ecstasies" and Bacchanalian fury, danc-
* Philopatris, in Taylor's "Diegesis," p. 376.
** King's "Gnostics and their Remains."
*** "Aug. Serm.," clii. See Payne Knight's "Mystic Theology of the Ancients," p. 107.
**** Baronius: "Annales Ecclesiastici," t. xxi., p. 89.
ing the old Amazonian circle-dance around the figure of the heathen "god of the gardens." Notwithstanding that upon the complaint of some of his parishioners he was cited before his bishop, he retained his benefice because he proved that such was the common usage of the country.* The Waldenses, those "earliest Protestants," were accused of the most unnatural horrors; burned, butchered, and exterminated for calumnies heaped upon them by their accusers. Meanwhile the latter, in open triumph, forming their heathen processions of "Corpus Christi," with emblems modelled on those of Baal-Peor and "Osiris," and every city in Southern France carrying, in yearly processions on Easter days, loaves and cakes fashioned like the so-much-decried emblems of the Hindu Sivites and Vishnites, as late as 1825!**
Deprived of their old means for slandering Christian sects whose religious views differ from their own, it is now the turn of the "heathen," Hindus, Chinese, and Japanese, to share with the ancient religions the honor of having cast in their teeth denunciations of their "libidinous religions."
Without going far for proofs of equal if not surpassing immorality, we would remind Roman Catholic writers of certain bas-reliefs on the doors of St. Peter's Cathedral. They are as brazen-faced as the door itself; but less so than any author, who, knowing all this, feigns to ignore historical facts. A long succession of Popes have reposed their pastoral eyes upon these brazen pictures of the vilest obscenity, through those many centuries, without ever finding the slightest necessity for removing them. Quite the contrary; for we might name certain Popes and Cardinals who made it a life-long study to copy these heathen suggestions of "nature-gods," in practice as well as in theory.
In Polish Podolia there was some years ago, in a Roman Catholic Church, a statue of Christ, in black marble. It was reputed to perform miracles on certain days, such as having its hair and beard grow in the sight of the public, and indulging in other less innocent wonders. This show was finally prohibited by the Russian Government. When in 1585 the Protestants took Embrun (Department of the Upper Alps), they found in the churches of this town relics of such a character, that, as the Chronicle expresses it "old Huguenot soldiers were seen to blush, several weeks after, at the bare mention of the discovery." In a corner of the Church of St. Fiacre, near Monceaux, in France, there was — and it still is there, if we mistake not — a seat called "the chair of St. Fiacre,"
* "Chron. de Lanercost," ed. Stevenson, p. 109.
** Dulaure: "Histoire Abregee des Differents Cultes," vol. ii., p. 285; Martezzi: "Pagani e Christiani," p. 78.
which had the reputation of conferring fecundity upon barren women. A rock in the vicinity of Athens, not far from the so-called "Tomb of Socrates," is said to be possessed of the same virtue. When, some twenty years since, the Queen Amelia, perhaps in a merry moment, was said to have tried the experiment, there was no end of most insulting abuse heaped upon her, by a Catholic Padre, on his way through Syra to some mission. The Queen, he declared, was a "superstitious heretic!" "an abominable witch!" "Jezebel using magic arts." Much more the zealous missionary would doubtless have added, had he not found himself, right in the middle of his vituperations, landed in a pool of mud, outside the window. The virtuous elocutionist was forced to this unusual transit by the strong arm of a Greek officer, who happened to enter the room at the right moment.
There never was a great religious reform that was not pure at the beginning. The first followers of Buddha, as well as the disciples of Jesus, were all men of the highest morality. The aversion felt by the reformers of all ages to vice under any shape, is proved in the cases of Sakya-muni, Pythagoras, Plato, Jesus, St. Paul, Ammonius Sakkas. The great Gnostic leaders — if less successful — were not less virtuous in practice nor less morally pure. Marcion, Basilides,* Valentinus, were renowned for their ascetic lives. The Nicolaitans, who, if they did not belong to the great body of the Ophites, were numbered among the small sects which were absorbed in it at the beginning of the second century, owe their origin, as we have shown, to Nicolas of Antioch, "a man of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom." How absurd the idea that such men would have instituted "libidinous rites." As well accuse Jesus of having promoted the similar rites which we find practiced so extensively by the mediaeval orthodox Christians behind the secure shelter of monastic walls.
If, however, we are asked to credit such an accusation against the Gnostics, an accusation transferred with tenfold acrimony, centuries later, to the unfortunate heads of the Templars, why should we not believe the same of the orthodox Christians? Minucius Felix states that "the first Christians were accused by the world of inducing, during the ceremony of the "Perfect Passover," each neophyte, on his admission, to plunge a knife into an infant concealed under a heap of flour; the body then serving for a banquet to the whole congregation. After they had become the dominant party, they (the Christians) transferred this charge to their own dissenters."**
* Basilides is termed by Tertullian a Platonist.
** C. W. King: "The Gnostics and their Remains," p. 197, foot-note 1.
The real crime of heterodoxy is plainly stated by John in his Epistles and Gospel. "He that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh . . . is a deceiver and an antichrist" (2 Epistle 7). In his previous Epistle, he teaches his flock that there are two trinities (7, 8) — in short, the Nazarene system.
The inference to be drawn from all this is, that the made-up and dogmatic Christianity of the Constantinian period is simply an offspring of the numerous conflicting sects, half-castes themselves, born of Pagan parents. Each of these could claim representatives converted to the so-called orthodox body of Christians. And, as every newly-born dogma had to be carried out by the majority of votes, every sect colored the main substance with its own hue, till the moment when the emperor enforced this revealed olla-podrida, of which he evidently did not himself understand a word, upon an unwilling world as the religion of Christ. Wearied in the vain attempt to sound this fathomless bog of international speculations, unable to appreciate a religion based on the pure spirituality of an ideal conception, Christendom gave itself up to the adoration of brutal force as represented by a Church backed up by Constantine. Since then, among the thousand rites, dogmas, and ceremonies copied from Paganism, the Church can claim but one invention as thoroughly original with her — namely, the doctrine of eternal damnation, and one custom, that of the anathema. The Pagans rejected both with horror. "An execration is a fearful and grievous thing," says Plutarch. "Wherefore, the priestess at Athens was commended for refusing to curse Alkibiades (for desecration of the Mysteries) when the people required her to do it; for, she said, that she was a priestess of prayers and not of curses."*
"Deep researches would show," says Renan, "that nearly everything in Christianity is mere baggage brought from the Pagan Mysteries. The primitive Christian worship is nothing but a mystery. The whole interior police of the Church, the degrees of initiation, the command of silence, and a crowd of phrases in the ecclesiastical language, have no other origin. . . . The revolution which overthrew Paganism seems at first glance . . . an absolute rupture with the past . . . but the popular faith saved its most familiar symbols from shipwreck. Christianity introduced, at first, so little change into the habits of private and social life, that with great numbers in the fourth and fifth centuries it remains uncertain whether they were Pagans or Christians; many seem even to have pursued an irresolute course between the two worships." Speaking further of Art, which formed an essential part of the ancient religion, he says that "it had to break with scarce one of its traditions. Primitive Christian art is
* Plutarch: "Roman Questions," p. 44.
really nothing but Pagan art in its decay, or in its lower departments. The Good Shepherd of the catacombs in Rome is a copy from the Aristeus, or from the Apollo Nomius, which figure in the same posture on the Pagan sarcophagi, and still carries the flute of Pan in the midst of the four half-naked seasons. On the Christian tombs of the Cemetery of St. Calixtus, Orpheus charms the animals. Elsewhere, the Christ as Jupiter-Pluto, and Mary as Proserpina, receive the souls that Mercury, wearing the broad-brimmed hat and carrying in his hand the rod of the soul-guide (psychopompos), brings to them, in presence of the three fates. Pegasus, the symbol of the apotheosis; Psyche, the symbol of the immortal soul; Heaven, personified by an old man, the river Jordan; and Victory, figure on a host of Christian monuments."
As we have elsewhere shown, the primitive Christian community was composed of small groups scattered about and organized in secret societies, with passwords, grips, and signs. To avoid the relentless persecutions of their enemies, they were obliged to seek safety and hold meetings in deserted catacombs, the fastnesses of mountains, and other safe retreats. Like disabilities were naturally encountered by each religious reform at its inception. From the very first appearance of Jesus and his twelve disciples, we see them congregating apart, having secure refuges in the wilderness, and among friends in Bethany, and elsewhere. Were Christianity not composed of "secret communities," from the start, history would have more facts to record of its founder and disciples than it has.
How little Jesus had impressed his personality upon his own century, is calculated to astound the inquirer. Renan shows that Philo, who died toward the year 50, and who was born many years earlier than Jesus, living all the while in Palestine while the "glad tidings" were being preached all over the country, according to the Gospels, had never heard of him! Josephus, the historian, who was born three or four years after the death of Jesus, mentions his execution in a short sentence, and even those few words were altered "by a Christian hand,"says the author of the Life of Jesus. Writing at the close of the first century, when Paul, the learned propagandist, is said to have founded so many churches, and Peter is alleged to have established the apostolic succession, which the Irenaeo-Eusebian chronology shows to have already included three bishops of Rome,* Josephus, the painstaking enumerator and careful historian of even the most unimportant sects, entirely ignores the existence of a Christian sect. Suetonius, secretary of Adrian, writing in the first quarter of the second century, knows so little of Jesus or his history as to say that the Emperor Claudius "banished all the Jews, who were continually
* Linus, Anacletus, and Clement.
making disturbances, at the instigation of one Crestus" meaning Christ, we must suppose.* The Emperor Adrian himself, writing still later, was so little impressed with the tenets or importance of the new sect, that in a letter to Servianus he shows that he believes the Christians to be worshippers of Serapis.** "In the second century," says C. W. King, "the syncretistic sects that had sprung up in Alexandria, the very hot-bed of Gnosticism, found out in Serapis a prophetic type of Christ as the Lord and Creator of all, and Judge of the living and the dead."*** Thus, while the "Pagan" philosophers had never viewed Serapis, or rather the abstract idea which was embodied in him, as otherwise than a representation of the Anima Mundi, the Christians anthropomorphized the "Son of God" and his "Father," finding no better model for him than the idol of a Pagan myth! "There can be no doubt," remarks the same author, "that the head of Serapis, marked, as the face is, by a grave and pensive majesty, supplied the first idea for the conventional portraits of the Saviour."****
In the notes taken by a traveller — whose episode with the monks on Mount Athos we have mentioned elsewhere — we find that, during his early life, Jesus had frequent intercourse with the Essenes belonging to the Pythagorean school, and known as the Koinobi. We believe it rather hazardous on the part of Renan to assert so dogmatically, as he does, that Jesus "ignored the very name of Buddha, of Zoroaster, of Plato"; that he had never read a Greek nor a Buddhistic book, "although he had more than one element in him, which, unawares to himself, proceeded from Buddhism, Parsism, and the Greek wisdom."***** This is conceding half a miracle, and allowing as much to chance and coincidence. It is an abuse of privilege, when an author, who claims to write historical facts, draws convenient deductions from hypothetical premises, and then calls it a biography — aLife of Jesus. No more than any other compiler of legends concerning the problematical history of the Nazarene prophet, has Renan one inch of secure foothold upon which to maintain himself; nor can any one else assert a claim to the contrary, except on inferential evidence. And yet, while Renan has not one solitary fact to show that Jesus had never studied the metaphysical tenets of Buddhism and Parsism, or heard of the philosophy of Plato, his oppo-
* "Life of Claudius," sect. 25.
** "Vita Saturnini Vopiscus."
*** "The Gnostics and their Remains," p. 68.
**** In Payne Knight's "Ancient Art and Mythology," Serapis is represented as wearing his hair long, "formally turned back and disposed in ringlets falling down upon his breast and shoulders like that of women. His whole person, too, is always enveloped in drapery reaching to his feet" (§ cxlv.). This is the conventional picture of Christ.
***** "Vie de Jesus," p. 405.
nents have the best reasons in the world to suspect the contrary. When they find that — 1, all his sayings are in a Pythagorean spirit, when not verbatim repetitions; 2, his code of ethics is purely Buddhistic; 3, his mode of action and walk in life, Essenean; and 4, his mystical mode of expression, his parables, and his ways, those of an initiate, whether Grecian, Chaldean, or, Magian (for the "Perfect," who spoke the hidden wisdom, were of the same school of archaic learning the world over), it is difficult to escape from the logical conclusion that he belonged to that same body of initiates. It is a poor compliment paid the Supreme, this forcing upon Him four gospels, in which, contradictory as they often are, there is not a single narrative, sentence, or peculiar expression, whose parallel may not be found in some older doctrine or philosophy. Surely, the Almighty — were it but to spare future generations their present perplexity — might have brought down with Him, at His first and only incarnation on earth, something original — something that would trace a distinct line of demarcation between Himself and the score or so of incarnate Pagan gods, who had been born of virgins, had all been saviours, and were either killed, or otherwise sacrificed themselves for humanity.
Too much has already been conceded to the emotional side of the story. What the world needs is a less exalted, but more faithful view of a personage, in whose favor nearly half of Christendom has dethroned the Almighty. It is not the erudite, world-famous scholar, whom we question for what we find in his Vie de Jesus, nor is it one of his historical statements. We simply challenge a few unwarranted and untenable assertions that have found their way past the emotional narrator, into the otherwise beautiful pages of the work — a life built altogether on mere probabilities, and yet that of one who, if accepted as an historical personage, has far greater claims upon our love and veneration, fallible as he is with all his greatness, than if we figure him as an omnipotent God. It is but in the latter character that Jesus must be regarded by every reverential mind as a failure.
Notwithstanding the paucity of old philosophical works now extant, we could find no end of instances of perfect identity between Pythagorean, Hindu, and New Testament sayings. There is no lack of proofs upon this point. What is needed is a Christian public that will examine what will be offered, and show common honesty in rendering its verdict. Bigotry has had its day, and done its worst. "We need not be frightened," says Professor Muller, "if we discover traces of truth, traces even of Christian truth, among the sages and lawgivers of other nations."
After reading the following philosophical aphorisms, who can believe that Jesus and Paul had never read the Grecian and Indian philosophers?
SENTENCES FROM SEXTUS, THE PYTHAGOREAN, AND OTHER HEATHEN.
1. "Possess not treasures, but those things which no one can take from you."
2. "It is better for a part of the body which contains purulent matter, and threatens to infect the whole, to be burnt, than to continue so in another state (life)."
3. "You have in yourself something similar to God, and therefore use yourself as the temple of God."
4. "The greatest honor which can be paid to God, is to know and imitate his perfection."
5. "What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men" (Analects of Confucius, p. 76; See Max Muller's The Works of Confucius).
6. "The moon shines even in the house of the wicked" (Manu).
7. "They who give, have things given to them; those who withhold, have things taken from them" (Ibid.).
8. "Purity of mind alone sees God" (Ibid.) — still a popular saying in India.
VERSES FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT.*
1. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal" (Matthew vi. 19).
2. "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter unto life maimed, than go to hell," etc. (Mark ix. 43).
3. "Know ye not ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians, iii. 16).
4. "That ye may be the children of your Father, which is in Heaven, be ye perfect even as your Father is perfect"(Matthew v. 45-48).
5. "Do ye unto others as ye would that others should do to you."
6. "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew v. 45).
7. "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given . . . but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away" (Matthew xiii. 12).
8. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew v. 8).
Plato did not conceal the fact that he derived his best philosophical doctrines from Pythagoras, and that himself was merely the first to reduce them to systematic order, occasionally interweaving with them metaphysical speculations of his own. But Pythagoras himself got his recondite doctrines, first from the descendants of Mochus, and later, from the Brahmans of India. He was also initiated into the Mysteries among the hierophants of Thebes, the Persian and Chaldean Magi. Thus, step by step do we trace the origin of most of our Christian doctrines to Middle Asia. Drop out from Christianity the personality of Jesus, so sublime, because of its unparalleled simplicity, and what remains? History and
* See "Pirke Aboth"; a Collection of Proverbs and Sentences of the old Jewish Teachers, in which many New Testament sayings are found.
comparative theology echo back the melancholy answer, "A crumbling skeleton formed of the oldest Pagan myths!"
While the mythical birth and life of Jesus are a faithful copy of those of the Brahmanical Christna, his historical character of a religious reformer in Palestine is the true type of Buddha in India. In more than one respect their great resemblance in philanthropic and spiritual aspirations, as well as external circumstances is truly striking. Though the son of a king, while Jesus was but a carpenter, Buddha was not of the high Brahmanical caste by birth. Like Jesus, he felt dissatisfied with the dogmatic spirit of the religion of his country, the intolerance and hypocrisy of the priesthood, their outward show of devotion, and their useless ceremonials and prayers. As Buddha broke violently through the traditional laws and rules of the Brahmans, so did Jesus declare war against the Pharisees, and the proud Sadducees. What the Nazarene did as a consequence of his humble birth and position, Buddha did as a voluntary penance. He travelled about as a beggar; and — again like Jesus — later in life he sought by preference the companionship of publicans and sinners. Each aimed at a social as well as at a religious reform; and giving a death-blow to the old religions of his countries, each became the founder of a new one.
"The reform of Buddha," says Max Muller, "had originally much more of a social than of a religious character. The most important element of Buddhist reform has always been its social and moral code, not its metaphysical theories. That moral code is one of the most perfect which the world has ever known . . . and he whose meditations had been how to deliver the soul of man from misery and the fear of death, had delivered the people of India from a degrading thraldom and from priestly tyranny." Further, the lecturer adds that were it otherwise, "Buddha might have taught whatever philosophy he pleased, and we should hardly have heard his name. The people would not have minded him, and his system would only have been a drop in the ocean of philosophic speculation by which India was deluged at all times."*
The same with Jesus. While Philo, whom Renan calls Jesus's elder brother, Hillel, Shammai, and Gamaliel, are hardly mentioned — Jesus has become a God! And still, pure and divine as was the moral code taught by Christ, it never could have borne comparison with that of Buddha, but for the tragedy of Calvary. That which helped forward the deification of Jesus was his dramatic death, the voluntary sacrifice of his life, alleged to have been made for the sake of mankind, and the later convenient dogma of the atonement, invented by the Christians. In
* "Buddhism," p. 217.
India, where life is valued as of no account, the crucifixion would have produced little effect, if any. In a country where — as all the Indianists are well aware — religious fanatics set themselves to dying by inches, in penances lasting for years; where the most fearful macerations are self-inflicted by fakirs; where young and delicate widows, in a spirit of bravado against the government, as much as out of religious fanaticism, mount the funeral pile with a smile on their face; where, to quote the words of the great lecturer, "Men in the prime of life throw themselves under the car of Juggernath, to be crushed to death by the idol they believe in; where the plaintiff who cannot get redress starves himself to death at the door of his judge; where the philosopher who thinks he has learned all which this world can teach him, and who longs for absorption into the Deity, quietly steps into the Ganges, in order to arrive at the other shore of existence,"* in such a country even a voluntary crucifixion would have passed unnoticed. In Judea, and even among braver nations than the Jews — the Romans and the Greeks — where every one clung more or less to life, and most people would have fought for it with desperation, the tragical end of the great Reformer was calculated to produce a profound impression. The names of even such minor heroes as Mutius Scaevola, Horatius Cocles, the mother of the Gracchi, and others, have descended to posterity; and, during our school-days, as well as later in life, their histories have awakened our sympathy and commanded a reverential admiration. But, can we ever forget the scornful smile of certain Hindus, at Benares, when an English lady, the wife of a clergyman, tried to impress them with the greatness of the sacrifice of Jesus, in giving his life for us? Then, for the first time the idea struck us how much the pathos of the great drama of Calvary had to do with subsequent events in the foundation of Christianity. Even the imaginative Renan was moved by this feeling to write in the last chapter of his Vie de Jesus, a few pages of singular and sympathetic beauty.**
* Max Muller: "Christ and other Masters"; "Chips," vol. i.
** The "Life of Jesus" by Strauss, which Renan calls "un livre, commode, exact, spirituel et consciencieux"(a handy, exact, witty, and conscientious book), rude and iconoclastic as it is, is nevertheless in many ways preferable to the "Vie de Jesus," of the French author. Laying aside the intrinsic and historical value of the two works — with which we have nothing to do, we now simply point to Renan's distorted outline-sketch of Jesus. We cannot think what led Renan into such an erroneous delineation of character. Few of those who, while rejecting the divinity of the Nazarene prophet, still believe that he is no myth, can read the work without experiencing an uneasy, and even angry feeling at such a psychological mutilation. He makes of Jesus a sort of sentimental ninny, a theatrical simpleton, enamored of his own poetical divagations and speeches, wanting every one to adore him, and finally caught in the snares of his enemies. Such was not Jesus, the Jewish philanthropist, the adept and mystic of a [[Footnote continued on next page]]
Apollonius, a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, was, like him, an enthusiastic founder of a new spiritual school. Perhaps less metaphysical and more practical than Jesus, less tender and perfect in his nature, he nevertheless inculcated the same quintessence of spirituality, and the same high moral truths. His great mistake was to confine them too closely to the higher classes of society. While to the poor and the humble Jesus preached "Peace on earth and good will to men," Apollonius was the friend of kings, and moved with the aristocracy. He was born among the latter, and himself a man of wealth, while the "Son of man," representing the people, "had not where to lay his head"; nevertheless, the two "miracle-workers" exhibited striking similarity of purpose. Still earlier than Apollonius had appeared Simon Magus, called "the great Power of God." His "miracles" are both more wonderful, more varied, and better attested than those either of the apostles or of the Galilean philosopher himself. Materialism denies the fact in both cases, but history affirms. Apollonius followed both; and how great and renowned were his miraculous works in comparison with those of the alleged founder of Christianity as the kabalists claim, we have history again, and Justin Martyr, to corroborate.*
Like Buddha and Jesus, Apollonius was the uncompromising enemy of all outward show of piety, all display of useless religious ceremonies and hypocrisy. If, like the Christian Saviour, the sage of Tyana had by preference sought the companionship of the poor and humble; and if instead of dying comfortably, at over one hundred years of age, he had been a voluntary martyr, proclaiming divine Truth from a cross,** his
[[Footnote continued from previous page]] school now forgotten by the Christians and the Church — if it ever was known to her; the hero, who preferred even to risk death, rather than withhold some truths which he believed would benefit humanity. We prefer Strauss who openly names him an impostor and a pretender, occasionally calling in doubt his very existence; but who at least spares him that ridiculous color of sentimentalism in which Renan paints him.
* See Chap. iii., p. 97.
** In a recent work, called the "World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors" (by Mr. Kersey Graves) which attracted our notice by its title, we were indeed startled as we were forewarned on the title-page we should be by historical evidences to be found neither in history nor tradition. Apollonius, who is represented in it as one of these sixteen "saviours," is shown by the author as finally "crucified .. . having risen from the dead . . . appearing to his disciples after his resurrection, and" — like Christ again — "convincing a Tommy (?) Didymus" by getting him to feel the print of the nails on his hands and feet (see note, p. 268). To begin with, neither Philostratus, the biographer of Apollonius, nor history says any such thing. Though the precise time of his death is unknown, no disciple of Apollonius ever said that he was either crucified, or appeared to them. So much for one "Saviour." After that we are told that Gautama-Buddha, whose life and death have been so minutely described by several authorities, Barthelemy St. Hilaire included — was also "crucified by his enemies near the foot of the [[Footnote continued on next page]]
blood might have proved as efficacious for the subsequent dissemination of spiritual doctrines as that of the Christian Messiah.
The calumnies set afloat against Apollonius, were as numerous as they were false. So late as eighteen centuries after his death he was defamed by Bishop Douglas in his work against miracles. In this the Right Reverend bishop crushed himself against historical facts. If we study the question with a dispassionate mind, we will soon perceive that the ethics of Gautama-Buddha, Plato, Apollonius, Jesus, Ammonius Sakkas, and his disciples, were all based on the same mystic philosophy. That all worshipped one God, whether they considered Him as the "Father" of humanity, who lives in man as man lives in Him, or as the Incomprehensible Creative Principle; all led God-like lives. Ammonius, speaking of his philosophy, taught that their school dated from the days of Hermes, who brought his wisdom from India. It was the same mystical contemplation throughout, as that of the Yogin: the communion of the Brahman with his own luminous Self — the "Atman." And this Hindu term is again kabalistic, par excellence. Who is "Self"? is asked in the Rig-Veda; "Self is the Lord of all things . . . all things are contained in this Self; all selves are contained in this Self. Brahman itself is but Self,"* is the answer. Says Idra Rabba: "All things are Himself, and Himself is concealed on every side."*** The "Adam Kadmon of the kabalists contains in himself all the souls of the Israelites, and he is himself in every soul," says the Sohar.**** The groundwork of the Eclectic School was thus identical with the doctrines of the Yogin, the Hindu mys-
[[Footnote continued from previous page]] Nepal mountains" (see p. 107); while the Buddhist books, history, and scientific research tell us, through the lips of Max Muller and a host of Orientalists, that "Gautama-Buddha, (Sakya-muni) died near the Ganges. . . . He had nearly reached the city of Kusinagara, when his vital strength began to fail. He halted in a forest, and while sitting under a sal tree he gave up the ghost" (Max Muller: "Chips from a German Workshop," vol. i., p. 213). The references of Mr. Graves to Higgins and Sir W. Jones, in some of his hazardous speculations, prove nothing. Max Muller shows some antiquated authorities writing elaborate books " . . . in order to prove that Buddha had been in reality the Thoth of the Egyptians; that he was Mercury, or Wodan, or Zoroaster, or Pythagoras. . . . Even Sir W. Jones . . . identified Buddha first with Odin and afterwards with Shishak." We are in the nineteenth century, not in the eighteenth; and though to write books on the authority of the earliest Orientalists may in one sense be viewed as a mark of respect for old age, it is not always safe to try the experiment in our times. Hence this highly instructive volume lacks one important feature which would have made it still more interesting. The author should have added after Prometheus the "Roman," and Alcides the Egyptian god (p. 266) a seventeenth "crucified Saviour" to the list, "Venus, god of the war," introduced to an admiring world by Mr. Artemus Ward the "showman"!
* "Khandogya-upanishad," viii., 3, 4; Max Muller: "Veda."
** "Idra Rabba," x., 117.
*** Introd. in "Sohar," pp. 305-312.
tics, and the earlier Buddhism of the disciples of Gautama. And when Jesus assured his disciples that "the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him," dwells with and in them, who "are in Him and He in them,"* he but expounded the same tenet that we find running through every philosophy worthy of that name.
Laboulaye, the learned and skeptical French savant, does not believe a word of the miraculous portion of Buddha's life; nevertheless, he has the candor to speak of Gautama as being only second to Christ in the great purity of his ethics and personal morality. For both of these opinions he is respectfully rebuked by des Mousseaux. Vexed at this scientific contradiction of his accusations of demonolatry against Gautama-Buddha, he assures his readers that "ce savant distingue n'a point etudie cette question."**
"I do not hesitate to say," remarks in his turn Barthelemy St. Hilaire, "that, except Christ alone, there is not among the founders of religions, a figure either more pure or more touching than that of Buddha. His life is spotless. His constant heroism equals his convictions. . . . He is the perfect model of all the virtues he preaches; his abnegation, his charity, his unalterable sweetness of disposition, do not fail him for one instant. He abandoned, at the age of twenty-nine, his father's court to become a monk and a beggar . . . and when he dies in the arms of his disciples, it is with the serenity of a sage who practiced virtue all his life, and who dies convinced of having found the truth."*** This deserved panegyric is no stronger than the one which Laboulaye himself pronounced, and which occasioned des Mousseaux's wrath. "It is more than difficult," adds the former, "to understand how men not assisted by revelation could have soared so high and approached so near the truth."**** Curious that there should be so many lofty souls "not assisted by revelation"!
And why should any one feel surprised that Gautmna could die with philosophical serenity? As the kabalists justly say, "Death does not exist, and man never steps outside of universal life. Those whom we think dead live still in us, as we live in them. . . . The more one lives for his kind, the less need he fear to die."***** And, we might add, that he who lives for humanity does even more than him who dies for it.
The Ineffable name, in the search for which so many kabalists — unacquainted with any Oriental or even European adept — vainly consume their knowledge and lives, dwells latent in the heart of every man. This
* John xiv.
** "Les Hauts Phenomenes de la Magie," p. 74.
*** Barthelemy St. Hilaire: "Le Buddha et sa Religion," Paris, 1860.
**** "Journal des Debats," Avril, 1853.
***** "Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie."
mirific name which, according to the most ancient oracles, "rushes into the infinite worlds [[achoimeto srophaligni]]," can be obtained in a twofold way: by regular initiation, and through the "small voice" which Elijah heard in the cave of Horeb, the mount of God. And "when Elijah heard it he wrapped his face in his mantle and stood in the entering of the cave. And behold there came the voice."
When Apollonius of Tyana desired to hear the "small voice," he used to wrap himself up entirely in a mantle of fine wool, on which he placed both his feet, after having performed certain magnetic passes, and pronounced not the "name" but an invocation well known to every adept. Then he drew the mantle over his head and face, and his translucid or astral spirit was free. On ordinary occasions he wore wool no more than the priests of the temples. The possession of the secret combination of the "name" gave the hierophant supreme power over every being, human or otherwise, inferior to himself in soul-strength. Hence, when Max Muller tells us of the Quiche "Hidden majesty which was never to be opened by human hands," the kabalist perfectly understands what was meant by the expression, and is not at all surprised to hear even this most erudite philologist exclaim: "What it was we do not know!"
We cannot too often repeat that it is only through the doctrines of the more ancient philosophies that the religion preached by Jesus may be understood. It is through Pythagoras, Confucius, and Plato, that we can comprehend the idea which underlies the term "Father" in the New Testament. Plato's ideal of the Deity, whom he terms the one everlasting, invisible God, the Fashioner and Father of all things,* is rather the "Father" of Jesus. It is this Divine Being of whom the Grecian sage says that He can neither be envious nor the originator of evil, for He can produce nothing but what is good and just,** is certainly not the Mosaic Jehovah, the "jealous God," but the God of Jesus, who "alone is good." He extols His all-embracing, divine power,*** and His omnipotence, but at the same time intimates that, as He is unchangeable, He can never desire to change his laws, i.e., to extirpate evil from the world through a miracle.**** He is omniscient, and nothing escapes His watchful eye.***** His justice, which we find embodied in the law of compensation and retribution, will leave no crime without punishment, no virtue without its reward;****** and therefore he declares that the only way to honor God is to cultivate moral purity. He utterly rejects not only the anthropomorphic
* "Timaeus"; "Tolit.," 269, E.
** "Timaeus," 29; "Phaedrus," 182, 247; "Repub.," ii., 379, B.
*** "Laws," iv., 715, E.; x., 901, C.
**** "Repub.," ii., 381; "Thaet.," 176, A.
***** "Laws," x., 901, D.
****** "Laws," iv., 716, A.; "Repub.," x., 613, A.
idea that God could have a material body,* but "rejects with disgust those fables which ascribe passions, quarrels, and crimes of all sorts to the minor gods."** He indignantly denies that God allows Himself to be propitiated, or rather bribed, by prayers and sacrifices.***
The Phaedrus of Plato displays all that man once was, and that which he may yet become again. "Before man's spirit sank into sensuality and was embodied with it through the loss of his wings, he lived among the gods in the airy [spiritual] world where everything is true and pure." In the Timaeus he says that "there was a time when mankind did not perpetuate itself, but lived as pure spirits." In the future world, says Jesus, "they neither marry nor are given in marriage," but "live as the angels of God in Heaven."
The researches of Laboulaye, Anquetil Duperron, Colebrooke, Barthelemy St. Hilaire, Max Muller, Spiegel, Burnouf, Wilson, and so many other linguists, have brought some of the truth to light. And now that the difficulties of the Sanscrit, the Thibetan, the Singhalese, the Zend, the Pehlevi, the Chinese, and even of the Burmese, are partially conquered, and the Vedas, and the Zend-Avesta, the Buddhist texts, and even Kapila's Sutras are translated, a door is thrown wide open, which, once passed, must close forever behind any speculative or ignorant calumniators of the old religions. Even till the present time, the clergy have, to use the words of Max Muller — "generally appealed to the deviltries and orgies of heathen worship . . . but they have seldom, if ever, endeavored to discover the true and original character of the strange forms of faith and worship which they call the work of the devil."**** When we read the true history of Buddha and Buddhism, by Muller, and the enthusiastic opinions of both expressed by Barthelemy St. Hilaire, and Laboulaye; and when, finally, a Popish missionary, an eye-witness, and one who least of all can be accused of partiality to the Buddhists — the Abbe Huc, we mean — finds occasion for nothing but admiration for the high individual character of these "devil-worshippers"; we must consider Sakya-muni's philosophy as something more than the religion of fetishism and atheism, which the Catholics would have us believe it. Huc was a missionary and it was his first duty to regard Buddhism as no better than an outgrowth of the worship of Satan. The poor Abbe was struck off the list of missionaries at Rome,***** after his
* "Phaedrus," 246, C.
** E. Zeller: "Plato and the Old Academy."
*** "Laws," x., 905, D.
**** Max Muller: "Buddhism," April, 1862.
***** Of the Abbe Huc, Max Muller thus wrote in his "Chips from a German Workshop," vol. i., p. 187: "The late Abbe Huc pointed out the similarities between the Buddhist and Roman Catholic ceremonials with such a naivete, that, to his surprise, he found his delightful 'Travels in Thibet' placed on the 'Index.' 'One cannot fail [[Footnote continued on next page]]
book of travels was published. This illustrates how little we may expect to learn the truth about the religions of other people, through missionaries, when their accounts are first revised by the superior ecclesiastical authorities, and the former severely punished for telling the truth.
When these men who have been and still are often termed "the obscene ascetics," the devotees of different sects of India in short, generally termed "Yogi," were asked by Marco Polo, "how it comes that they are not ashamed to go stark naked as they do?" they answered the inquirer of the thirteenth century as a missionary of the nineteenth was answered. "We go naked," they say, "because naked we came into the world, and we desire to have nothing about us that is of this world. Moreover, we have no sin of the flesh to be conscious of, and therefore, we are not ashamed of our nakedness any more than you are to show your hand or your face. You who are conscious of the sins of the flesh, do well to have shame, and to cover your nakedness."*
One could make a curious list of the excuses and explanations of the clergy to account for similarities daily discovered between Romanism and heathen religions. Yet the summary would invariably lead to one sweeping claim: The doctrines of Christianity were plagiarized by the Pagans the world over! Plato and his older Academy stole the ideas from the Christian revelation — said the Alexandrian Fathers!! The Brahmans and Manu borrowed from the Jesuit missionaries, and the Bhagaved-gita was the production of Father Calmet, who transformed Christ and John into Christna and Arjuna to fit the Hindu mind!! The trifling fact that Buddhism and Platonism both antedated Christianity, and the Vedas had already degenerated into Brahmanism before the days of Moses, makes no difference. The same with regard to Apollonius of Tyana. Although his thaumaturgical powers could not be denied in the face of the testimony of emperors, their courts, and the populations of several cities; and although few of these had ever heard of the Nazarene prophet whose "miracles" had been witnessed by a few apostles only, whose very individualities remain to this day a problem in history, yet Apollonius has to be accepted as the "monkey of Christ."
[[Footnote continued from previous page]] being struck,' he writes, 'with their great resemblance with the Catholicism. The bishop's crosier, the mitre, the dalmatic, the round hat that the great lamas wear in travel . . . the mass, the double choir, the psalmody, the exorcisms, the censer with five chains to it, opening and shutting at will, the blessings of the lamas, who extend their right hands over the head of the faithful ones, the rosary, the celibacy of the clergy, the penances and retreats, the cultus of the Saints, the fasting, the processions, the litanies, the holy water; such are the similarities of the Buddhists with ourselves.' He might have added tonsure, relics, and the confessional."
* "Crawford's Mission to Siam," p. 182.
If of really pious, good, and honest men, many are yet found among the Catholic, Greek, and Protestant clergy, whose sincere faith has the best of their reasoning powers, and who having never been among heathen populations, are unjust only through ignorance, it is not so with the missionaries. The invariable subterfuge of the latter is to attribute to demonolatry the really Christ-like life of the Hindu and Buddhist ascetics and many of the lamas. Years of sojourn among "heathen" nations, in China, Tartary, Thibet, and Hindustan have furnished them with ample evidence how unjustly the so-called idolators have been slandered. The missionaries have not even the excuse of sincere faith to give the world that they mislead; and, with very few exceptions, one may boldly paraphrase the remark made by Garibaldi, and say that: "A priest knows himself to be an impostor, unless he be a fool, or have been taught to lie from boyhood."