At or near the beginning of the present century all the books called Hermetic were loudly proclaimed and set down as simply a collection of tales, of fraudulent pretences and most absurd claims, being, in the opinion of the average man of science, unworthy of serious attention. They "never existed before the Christian era," it was said; "they were all written with the triple object of speculation, deceit and pious fraud"; they were all, the best of them, silly apocrypha. In this respect, the nineteenth century proved a most worthy progeny of the eighteenth. For in the age of Voltaire, as well as in this, everything that did not emanate direct from the Royal Academy was false, superstitious and foolish, and belief in the wisdom of the Ancients was laughed to scorn, perhaps more even than it is now. The very thought of accepting as authentic the works and vagaries of false Hermes, a false Orpheus, a false Zoroaster, of false Oracles, false Sibyls, and a thrice false Mesmer and his absurd "fluids," was tabooed all along the line. Thus all that had its genesis outside the learned and dogmatic precincts of Oxford and Cambridge,l or the Academy of France, was denounced in those days as "unscientific" and "ridiculously absurd." This tendency has survived to the present day.
One feels dwarfed and humbled in reading what the great modern "Destroyer" of every religious belief, past, present and future M. Renan has to say of poor humanity and its powers of discernment. "Mankind," he believes, "has but a very narrow mind; and the number of men capable of seizing acutely (finement)the true analogy of things is quite imperceptible" (Études Religieuses). Upon comparing, however, this statement with another opinion expressed by the same author, namely, that "the mind of the true critic should yield, hands and feet bound, to facts, to be dragged by them wherever they may lead him" (Études Historiques),2 one feels relieved. When, moreover, these two philosophical statements are strengthened by that third enunciation of the famous Academician, who declares that "tout parti pris à priori doit etre banni de la science," there remains little to fear. Unfortunately M. Renan is the first to break the golden rule.
The evidence of Herodotus, called, sarcastically no doubt, "the father of history," since in every question upon which modern thought disagrees with him his testimony goes for nought; the sober and earnest assurances in the philosophical narratives of Plato and Thucydides, Polybius and Plutarch, and even certain statements of Aristotle himself; all these are invariably laid aside whenever they are involved with what modern criticism is pleased to regard as a myth. It is some time since Strauss proclaimed that "the presence of a supernatural element or miracle in a narrative is an infallible sign of the presence in it of a myth," and such is the criterium adopted tacitly by every modern critic. But what is a myth to begin with? Are we not told distinctly by the ancient classics that mythus is equivalent to the word tradition? Was not its Latin equivalent the term fabula, a fable, a synonym with the Romans of that which was told, as having happened in prehistoric time, and not necessarily an invention? Yet with such autocrats of criticism and despotic rulers as M. Renan in France, and most of the English and German Orientalists, there may be no end of surprises in store for us in the century to come historical, geographical, ethnological and philological surprises travesties in philosophy having become so common of late that we can be startled by nothing in that direction. We have already been told by one learned speculator that Homer was simply a mythical personification of the Epopee,3 by another that Hippocrates, son of Esculapius "could only be a chimera," that the Asclepiadæ their seven hundred years of duration notwithstanding might after all prove simply a fiction; that the city of Troy Dr. Schliemann notwithstanding "existed only on the maps," etc., etc. Why should we not be invited after this to regard every hitherto historical character in days of old as a myth? Were not Alexander the Great needed by philology as a sledge-hammer to break the heads of Brâhmanical chronological pretensions, he would have become long ago simply a symbol for annexation, or a genius of Conquest, as De Mirville neatly put it.
Blank denial is the only means left, the most secure refuge and asylum, to shelter for some little time to come the last of the sceptics. When one denies unconditionally it becomes unnecessary to go to the trouble of arguing, and, what is worse, of having to yield occasionally a point or two before the irrefutable arguments and facts of one's opponent. Creuzer, greatest of the symbologists of his time, the most learned among the masses of erudite German mythologists, must have envied the placid self-confidence of certain sceptics, when he found himself forced in a moment of desperate perplexity to admit, "Decidedly and first of all we are compelled to return to the theories of trolls and genii, as they were understood by the ancients, a doctrine without which it is absolutely impossible to explain to oneself anything with regard to the mysteries."4
Occultism, all over the globe, is intimately connected with Chaldean Wisdom, and its records show the forefathers of the Aryan Brâhmans in the sacred offices of the Chaldees an Adept caste (different from the Babylonian Chaldeans and Caldees) at the head of the arts and sciences, of astronomers and seers, confabulating with the "stars," and "receiving instructions from the brilliant sons of Ilu" (the concealed deity). Their sanctity of life and great learning the latter passing to posterity made the name for long ages a synonym of Science. Yes; they were indeed mediators between the people and the appointed messengers of heaven, whose bodies shine in the starry heavens, and they were the interpreters of their wills. But is this Astrolatry or Sabeanism? Have they worshipped the stars we see, or is it the modern (following in this the mediæval) Roman Catholics, who, guilty of the same worship to the letter, and having borrowed it from the later Chaldees, the Lebanon Nabatheans and the baptized Sabeans (not from the learned Astronomers and Initiates of the days of old), would now veil it by anathematizing the source whence it same? Theology and Churchianism would fain trouble the clear spring that fed them from the first, to prevent posterity from looking into it and thus seeing their reflection. The Occultists, however, believe the time has come to give every one his due. As to our other opponents the modern sceptic and the epicurean, the cynic and the Sadducee they may find our answer to their denials in our earlier writings (see Isis Unveiled, Vol. I, p. 535). We say now what we said then, in reply to the many unjust aspersions thrown on the ancient doctrines: "The thought of the present day commentator and critic as to the ancient learning is limited to and runs round the exotericism of the temples; his insight is either unwilling or unable to penetrate into the solemn adyta of old, where the hierophant instructed the neophyte to regard the public worship in its true light. No ancient sage would have taught that man is the king of creation, and that the starry heaven and our mother earth were created for his sake."
When we find such works as the Rivers of Life and Phallicism appearing in our day in print, under the auspices of Materialism, it is easy to see that the day for concealment and travesty has passed away. Science in philology, symbolism, and comparative religions has progressed too far to deny any longer, and the Church is too wise and cautious not to be now making the best of the situation. Meanwhile, the "rhombs of Hecate" and the "wheels of Lucifer,"5 daily exhumed on the site of Babylon, can no longer be used as a clear evidence of Satan-worship, since the same symbols are shown in the ritual of the Latin Church. The latter is too learned to be ignorant of the fact that even the later Chaldees, who had gradually fallen into dualism, reducing all things to two primal principles, had no more worshipped Satan or idols than have the Zoroastrians, who are now accused of the same, but that their religion was as highly philosophical as any; their dual and exoteric Theosophy became the heirloom of the Jews, who, in their turn, were forced to share it with the Christians. Parsis are charged to this day with heliolatry, and yet in the Chaldean Oracles, under the "Magical and Philosophical Precepts" of Zoroaster, the following is found:
There is a vast difference between the true worship taught to those who showed themselves worthy, and the state religions. The Magians are accused of all kinds of superstition, but the Chaldean Oracle proceeds:
Surely it is not those who warn people against "mercenary fraud" who can be accused of it; as said elsewhere: "If they accomplished acts which seem miraculous, who can with fairness presume to deny that it was done merely because they possessed a knowledge of natural philosophy and psychological science to a degree unknown to our schools." The above-quoted stanzas form a rather strange teaching to come from those who are universally believed to have worshipped the sun, and moon, and the starry host, as Gods. The sublime profundity of the Magian precepts being beyond the reach of modern materialistic thought, the Chaldean philosophers are accused, together with the ignorant masses, of Sabeanism and sun-worship, cults which were simply those of the uneducated masses.
Things of late have changed, true enough; the field of investigation has widened; old religions are a little better understood; and, since that memorable day when the Committee of the French Academy, headed by Benjamin Franklin, investigated Mesmerss phenomena but to proclaim them charlatanry and clever knavery, both "heathen philosophy" and mesmerism have acquired certain rights and privileges, and are now viewed from quite a different standpoint. Is full justice rendered them withal, and are they appreciated any better? We are afraid not. Human nature is the same now, as when Pope said of the force of prejudice, that:
Thus, in the first decades of our century, Hermetic Philosophy was regarded by both Churchmen and men of science from two quite opposite points of view. The former called it sinful and devilish, the latter denied point-blank its authenticity, notwithstanding the evidence brought forward by the most erudite men of every age, including our own. The learned Father Kircher, for one, was not even noticed; and his assertion, that all the fragments known under the titles of works by Mercury Trismegistus, Berosus, Pherecydes of Syros, etc., were rolls escaped from the fire that devoured one hundred thousand volumes of the great Alexandrian Library, was simply laughed at. Nevertheless, the educated classes of Europe knew then, as they do now, that the famous Alexandrian Library "the marvel of the ages" was founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus; and that most of its MSS. were carefully copied from hieratic texts and the oldest parchments, Chaldean, Phoenician, Persian, etc., these transliterations and copies amounting in their turn to another hundred thousand, as Josephus and Strabo assert.
Moreover, there is the additional evidence of Clemens Alexandrinus, that ought to be credited to some extent,7 and he testifies to the existence of thirty thousand additional volumes of the Books of Thoth, placed in the library of the tomb of Osyman-diasus, over the entrance of which were inscribed the words, "A Cure for the Soul."
Since then, as everyone knows, entire texts out of the "apocryphal" works of the "false" Pymander, and the no less "false" Asclepiades, were found by Champollion inscribed within the most ancient monuments of Egypt. After having devoted their whole lives to the study of the records of the old Egyptian wisdom, both Champollion-Figeac and Champollion Junior, publicly declared, notwithstanding many biassed judgments, hazarded by certain hasty and unwise critics, that the Books of Hermes:
None will question the merit of Champollion as an Egyptologist, and if he declares that everything demonstrates the accuracy of the writings of the mysterious Hermes Trismegistus, that their antiquity runs back into the night of time, and that they are corroborated in their minutest details, then indeed criticism ought to' be fully satisfied. "These inscriptions," says Champollion, "are only the faithful echo and expression of the most ancient verities."8
Since this was written by him some of the apocryphal verses by the mythical Orpheus have also been found copied word for word in certain inscriptions of the Fourth Dynasty in hieroglyphics, addressed to various deities.
Finally, Creuzer discovered and pointed out the numerous passages borrowed from Orphic hymns by Hesiod and Homer; and Christians appealed, in their turn, to the testimony of Æschylus, as showing "prescience in at least one of the Sibyls of old," says De Mirville.9
Thus gradually the ancient claims came to be vindicated, and modern criticism had to submit to evidence. Many are now the writers who confess that such kind of literature as the Hermetic works of Egypt can never be dated too far back into the prehistoric ages. It was also found that the texts of many of those ancient works Enoch included deemed and so loudly proclaimed apocryphal just at the beginning of this century, are now discovered and recognized in the most secret and sacred sanctuaries of . Chaldea, India, Phnicia, Egypt and Central Asia.
But even such proofs have failed to convince Materialism. The reason for it is very simple and self-evident. Those texts, studied and held in universal veneration at one time, copied and transcribed by every philosopher, and found in every temple; often mastered, whole lives of incessant mental labour having been devoted to them, by the greatest sages living, by statesmen and classic writers, kings and renowned Adepts what were they? Treatises on Magic and Occultism, pure and simple; the now tabooed and derided Theosophy and Occult Sciences, laughed to scorn by modern Materialism. Were the people so simple and credulous in the days of Plato and Pythagoras? Were the millions of Babylonia and Egypt, of India and Greece, during the periods of learning and civilization that preceded the year One of our era (giving birth but to the intellectual darkness of the fanaticism of the Middle Ages), so simple and credulous that so many, otherwise great, men should have devoted their lives to an illusion, a mere hallucination? It would seem so, had we to be content with the word and conclusions of our modern philosophers.
However, every art and science, whatever its intrinsic merit, must have had a discoverer, and subsequently proficients in it to teach it to others. What is the origin of Occultism? Who are its most renowned professors? and what is known of these, whether in history or legend? We find Clemens Alexandrinus, one of the most learned and intelligent of the early Church Fathers, putting these same questions and answering them. "If," correctly argues that ex-pupil of the Neo-Platonic school and its philosophers,"if there is a science, there must necessarily be a professor of it." And he goes on to say that Cleanthes had Zeno to teach him; Theophrastus, Aristotle; Metrodorus, Epicurus; Plato, Socrates, etc.; and that when he looked further back to Pythagoras, Pherecydes and Thales, he had still to search and enquire who were their master and masters. The same for the Egyptians, the Indians, the Babylonians, and the Magi themselves. He would not cease questioning, he says, in order to learn who it was they all had for their masters. And when he should have forcibly brought down the enquiry to the very cradle of mankind, to the birth of the first man, he would reiterate once more his questioning, and ask him(Adam, no doubt) "who had been his professor?" Surely, argues Clemens, "his master would turn out no man this once," and even when we should have reached as high as the angels, the same query would have to be offered to them: "who were their [meaning the divine and the fallen angels] masters and doctors of Sciences?''l0
The aim of the good Father's long argument is of course to discover two distinct Masters, one the preceptor of Biblical Patriarchs, the other, the teacher of the Gentiles. But the Secret Doctrine need go to no such trouble. Her professors are well aware who were the Masters of their predecessors in Occult Sciences and Wisdom.
The two Professors are finally traced out by Clement, and they are, as might be expected, God, and His eternal and everlasting enemy and opponent, the Devil; the subject of Clement's enquiry relating to the dual aspect of the Hermetic Philosophy as cause and effect. Admitting the moral beauty and virtues preached in every Occult work he was acquainted with, Clement wants to know the cause of the apparent contradiction between doctrine and practice, good and bad Magic, and he comes to the conclusion that Magic has two origins divine and diabolical. He perceives its bifurcation into two channels; hence his inference and deduction.
We perceive it too, without necessarily designating this bifurcation the "left Path"; we judge it as it issued from the hands of its founder. Otherwise, judging also by the effects of Clemens' own religion, and the walk in life of certain of its professors since the death of their Master, the Occultists would have a right to come to about the same conclusion, and say that while Christ, the Master of all true Christians, was in every way godly, those who resorted to the horrors of the Inquisition, to the extermination and torture of heretics, Jews, and Alchemists, the Protestant Calvin who burned Servetus, and the Catholic and Protestant persecuting successors, down to the whippers and burners of witches in America, must have had for their Master the Devil. But Occultists, not believing in the Devil, are precluded from retaliating in this way. Clemens' testimony, however, is valuable in so far as it shows (1) the enormous number of works on Occult Sciences extant in his day; and (2) the extraordinary powers acquired through those sciences by certain men.
He devotes the whole of his sixth volume of the Stromateis to this research of the first two "Masters" of the true and the false philosophies respectively, both preserved in the sanctuaries of Egypt. And thereupon he apostrophizes the Greeks, asking why they should not believe in the miracles of Moses when their own philosophers claim the same privileges. "It is Æacus," he says, "obtaining through his powers a marvellous rain; it is Aristæus who causes the winds to blow, Empedocles quieting the gale, and forcing it to cease,"l1 etc., etc.
The books of Mercurius Trismegistus attracted his attention the most. Their extreme wisdom, he remarks, ought always to be in everyone's mouth.l2 He is loud in his praise of Hystaspes (or Gushtasp), and of the Sibylline Books and even of astrology.
There have been use and abuse of Magic in all ages, as there are use and abuse of Mesmerism or Hypnotism in our own. The ancient world had its Apolloniuses and its Pherecydes, and intellectual people could discriminate between them, as they can now. While not one classic or pagan writer has ever found one word of blame for Apollonius of Tyana, for instance, it is not so with regard to Pherecydes. Hesychius of Miletus, Philo of Byblos and Eustathius charge him with having built his philosophy and science on demoniacal traditions. Cicero declares that Pherecydes is, potius divinus quam medicus, "rather a soothsayer than a physician"; and Diogenes Laërtius gives a vast number of stories relating to his predictions. One day Pherecydes of Syros prophesies the shipwreck of a vessel hundreds of miles away from him; another time he predicts the capture of the Lacedæmonians by the Arcadians; finally, he foresees his own wretched end.l3
Such imputations as these prove very little, except, perhaps, the presence of clairvoyance and prevision in every age. Had it not been for the evidence brought forward by his own co-religionists, that Pherecydes abused his powers, there would have been no proof at all against him, either of sorcery or of any other malpractice. Such evidence as is given by Christian writers is of no value. Baronius, for instance, and De Mirville find an unanswerable proof of demonology in the belief of a philosopher in the coëternity of matter with spirit. Says De Mirville:
The first statement is "known to every school-boy" without De Mirville going to the trouble of explaining it; as to the deduction, every Occultist will deny it point-blank, and only smile at the folly. But now we come to the conclusion.
The résumé of the views of the Latin Church as given by various authors of the same type as the Marquis is that the Hermetic Books their wisdom notwithstanding, and this wisdom is fully admitted in Rome are "the heirloom left by Cain, the accursed, to mankind." It is "absolutely proven," says a modern memorialist of "Satan in History," "that immediately after the flood, Ham and his descendants had propagated anew the ancient teachings of the accursed Cainites and of the submerged Race." This proves, at any rate, that Magic, or Sorcery as he calls it, an Antediluvian Art, and thus one point is gained. For, as he says, "the evidence of Berosus is there" (Antiq. i. 3), and he shows Ham to be identical with the first Zoroaster(!), the famous founder of Bactria (!!), and the first author of all the Magic Arts of Babylonia. Zoroaster, on the same authority, is the Chemesenua or Ham (Cham),l4 the infamous,l5 who left the faithful and loyal Noachians, the blessed, and he is the object of the adoration of the Egyptians, who after receiving from him their country's name Chemia (chemistry?), built in his honour a town called Chemmis, or the "city of fire."l6 Ham adored fire, it is said, whence the name Chammaim, given to the pyramids; which, in their turn, having become vulgarized, passed on their name to our modern "chimney" (cheminée).l7
This statement is entirely wrong. Egypt was the cradle of chemistry and its birthplace this is pretty well known by this time. Kenrick and others show the root of the word to be chemi or chem, which is not Cham or Ham, but Khem, the Egyptian Phallic God of the Mysteries.
We may leave the pious Marquis to his own orthodox beliefs, as he, at any rate, seems quite sincere in his views; nevertheless, his able arguments will have to be sapped at their foundation, for it must be shown on mathematical grounds who, or rather what, Cain and Ham really were. De Mirville is only the faithful son of his Church, interested in keeping Cain in his anthropomorphic character and present place in Holy Writ. The student of Occultism, on the other hand, is solely interested in the truth. But the age has to follow the natural course of its evolution. As I said in Isis:
Lucifer, June, 1892
1 We think we see the sidereal phantom of the old philosopher and mystic, Henry More, once of Cambridge University, moving about in the astral mist, over the old moss-covered roofs of the ancient town from which he wrote his famous letter to Glanvil about "witches." The soul seems restless and indignant, as on that day, May the 5th, 1678, when the Doctor complained so bitterly to the author of Sadducismus Triumphatus of Scot, Adie and Webster. "Our new inspired saints," the soul is heard to mutter, "sworn advocates of the witches, who . . . against all sense and reason . . . will have even no Samuel in the scene but a confederate knave . . . these inblown buffoons, puffed up with . . . ignorance, vanity and stupid infidelity." (See Letters to Glanvil, quoted in Isis Unveiled I, p. 206.)
back to text
2 Mèmoire read at the Académie
des Inscriptions et des Belles Lettres, 1859.
3 See Alfred Maury's Grèce,
Vol. I. p. 248. and the speculations of Holymann.
4 Creuzer's Introduction des Mystères,
Vol. III, p. 456.
5 De Mirville's Pneumatologie, "Religion
6 Psellus. 4. See Cory's Ancient Fragments,
p. 269, 2nd. Ed
7 The forty-two Sacred Books of the Egyptians,
mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, as having existed in his time. were
but a portion of the Books of Hermes. Iamblichus, on the authority of the
Egyptian priest Abammon. attributes twelve hundred, and Manetho thirty-six
thousand, of such Books to Hermes. But the testimony of Iamblichus as a
Neo-Platonist and theurgist, is of course rejected by modern critics. Manetho,
who is held by Bunsen in the highest consideration as a "purely historical
personage," with whom "none of the later native historians can
be compared" (see Egypte, i. p. 97), suddenly became
a Pseudo-Manetho, as soon as the ideas propounded by him clashed with the
scientific prejudices against Magic and the Occult knowledge claimed by
the ancient priests. However, none of the archæologists doubt for
a moment the almost incredible antiquity of the Hermetic books. Champollion
shows the greatest regard for their authenticity and truthfulness, corroborated
as they are by many of the oldest monuments. And Bunsen brings irrefutable
proofs of their age. From his researches, for instance, we learn that there
was a line of sixty-one kings before the days of Moses, who preceded the
Mosaic period by a clearly-traceable civilization of several thousand years.
Thus we are warranted in believing that the works of Hermes Trismegistus
were extant many ages before the birth of the Jewish: law-giver. "Styli
and inkstands were found on monuments of the Fourth Dynasty, the oldest
in the world," says Bunsen. If the eminent Egyptologist rejects the
period of 48,863 years before Alexander, to which Diogenes Laërtius
carries back the records of the priests, he is evidently more embarrassed
with the ten thousand of astronomical observations, and remarks that "if
they were actual observations, they must have extended over 10,000 years"
(p. 14). "We learn, however," he adds, "from one of their
own old chronological works . . . that the genuine Egyptian traditions concerning
the mythological period, treated of myriads of years" (Egypte,
i. p. 15).
8 Egypte, 143.
9 Pneumatologie, vi. Section 2,
10 Strom., i, vi.
11 Therefore Empedocles is called "the
dominator of the wind." Diogenes, L. 8. 60.
12 See Stroma., I, vi. ch.
13 Diogenes, 1.. i. I § 146.
14 The English-speaking people who spell
the name of Noah's disrespectful son "Ham," have to be reminded
that the right spelling is Kham, or Cham.
15 Black Magic, or Sorcery, is the evil
result obtained in any shape or way through the practice of Occult Arts;
hence it has to be judged only by its effects. The name of Ham or Cain,
when pronounced, has never killed anyone; whereas, if we are to believe
that same Clemens Alexandrinus, who traces the professor of every Occultist,
outside Christianity, to the Devil, the name of Jehovah (pronounced Jevo
and in a peculiar way) had the effect of killing any man at a distance.
The mysterious Schemhamphorasch were not always used for holy purposes
by the Kabalists, especially on the Sabbath or Saturday, sacred to Saturn
or the evil Shani.
16Chemmis, the prehistoric city, may or
may not have been built by Noah's son, but it was not his name that
was given to the town, but that of the mystery goddess Khmnu or Chmnis
(Greek form), the deity that was created by the ardent fancy of the neophyte,
who was thus tantalized during his "twelve labours" of probation
before his final initiation. Her male counterpart is Khem; Chemmis
or Khemmis (to-day Akhmim) was the chief seat of the god Khem. The Greeks,
identifying Khem with Pan, called this city Panopolis.
17 Pneumatologie, Vol. II, p. 210.
This looks more like pious vengeance than philology. The picture, however,
is incomplete, as the author ought to have added to the "chimney"
a witch flying out of it on a broomstick.
18 How could they escape from the deluge unless
God so willed it?
19 There is a curious work in Russia,
written in the Slavonian Sacerdotal language. by the famous Archbishop Peter,
on Mogela (the tomb). It is a book of Exorcisms (and, at the same time,
Evocations) against the dark powers that trouble the monks and nuns in preference
to all. Some who had the good fortune to get it for its sale is strictly
forbidden and kept secret tried to read it aloud for the purposes of exorcising
these powers. Some became lunatics; others died at the sight of what took
place. A lady got it by paying two thousand roubles for an incomplete copy.
She used it once and then threw it into the fire the same day, thereafter
becoming deadly pale whenever the book was mentioned.