THEOSOPHY, Vol. 56, No. 3, January, 1968
(Pages 76-81; Size: 20K)
(Number 3 of a 36-part series)


PAGAN ROOTS: The Neo-Platonists

IN the foregoing lies the foundation of the fierce hatred of the Christians toward the "Pagans" and the theurgists. Too much had been borrowed; the ancient religions and the Neo-platonists had been laid by them under contribution sufficiently to perplex the world for several thousand years. Had not the ancient creeds been speedily obliterated, it would have been found impossible to preach the Christian religion as a New Dispensation, or the direct Revelation from God the Father, through God the Son, and under the influence of God the Holy Ghost. As a political exigence the Fathers had -- to gratify the wishes of their rich converts -- instituted even the festivals of Pan. They went so far as to accept the ceremonies hitherto celebrated by the Pagan world in honor of the God of the gardens, in all their primitive sincerity. It was time to sever the connection. Either the Pagan worship and the Neo-platonic theurgy, with all ceremonial of magic, must be crushed out forever, or the Christians become Neo-platonists.

The fierce polemics and single-handed battles between Irenæus and the Gnostics are too well known to need repetition. They were carried on for over two centuries after the unscrupulous Bishop of Lyons had uttered his last religious paradox. Celsus, the Neo-platonist, and a disciple of the school of Ammonius Saccas, had thrown the Christians into perturbation, and even had arrested for a time the progress of proselytism by successfully proving that the original and purer forms of the most important dogmas of Christianity were to be found only in the teachings of Plato. Celsus accused them of accepting the worst superstitions of Paganism, and of interpolating passages from the books of the Sybils, without rightly understanding their meaning. The accusations were so plausible, and the facts so patent, that for a long time no Christian writer had ventured to answer the challenge. Origen, at the fervent request of his friend, Ambrosius, was the first to take the defense in hand, for, having belonged to the same Platonic school of Ammonius, he was considered the most competent to refute the well-founded charges. But his eloquence failed, and the only remedy that could be found was to destroy the writings of Celsus themselves.(1) This could be achieved only in the fifth century, when copies had been taken from this work, and many were those who had read and studied them. If no copy of it has descended to our present generation of scientists, it is not because there is none extant at present, but for the simple reason that the monks of a certain Oriental church on Mount Athos will neither show nor confess they have one in their possession.(2) Perhaps they do not even know themselves the value of the contents of their manuscripts, on account of their great ignorance.

The dispersion of the Eclectic school had become the fondest hope of the Christians. It had been looked for and contemplated with intense anxiety. It was finally achieved. The members were scattered by the hand of the monsters Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, and his nephew Cyril -- the murderer of the young, the learned, and the innocent Hypatia!(3)

It was no doubt, also, according to strict "necessity" that the Neo-platonists were so summarily dealt with by the Christian mob. In those days, the doctrines of the Hindu naturalists and antediluvian Pyrrhonists were forgotten, if they ever had been known at all, to any but a few philosophers; and Mr. Darwin, with his modern discoveries, had not even been mentioned in the prophecies. In this case the law of the survival of the fittest was reversed; the Neo-platonists were doomed to destruction from the day when they openly sided with Aristotle.

At the beginning of the fourth century crowds began gathering at the door of the academy where the learned and unfortunate Hypatia expounded the doctrines of the divine Plato and Plotinus, and thereby impeded the progress of Christian proselytism. She too successfully dispelled the mist hanging over the religious "mysteries" invented by the Fathers, not to be considered dangerous. This alone would have been sufficient to imperil both herself and her followers. It was precisely the teachings of this Pagan philosopher which had been so freely borrowed by the Christians to give a finishing touch to their otherwise incomprehensible scheme, that had seduced so many into joining the new religion; and now the Platonic light began shining so inconveniently bright upon the pious patchwork, as to allow every one to see whence the "revealed" doctrines were derived. But there was a still greater peril. Hypatia had studied under Plutarch, the head of the Athenian school, and had learned all the secrets of theurgy. While she lived to instruct the multitude, no divine miracles could be produced before one who could divulge the natural causes by which they took place. Her doom was sealed by Cyril, whose eloquence she eclipsed, and whose authority, built on degrading supersitions, had to yield before hers, which was erected on the rock of immutable natural law. It is more than curious that Cave, the author of the Lives of the Fathers, should find it incredible that Cyril sanctioned her murder on account of his "general character." A saint who will sell the gold and silver vessels of his church, and then, after spending the money, lie at his trial, as he did, may well be suspected of anything. Besides, in this case, the Church had to fight for her life, to say nothing of her future supremacy. Alone, the hated and erudite Pagan scholars, and the no less learned Gnostics, held in their doctrines the hitherto concealed wires of all these theological marionettes. Once the curtain should be lifted, the connection between the old Pagan and the new Christian religions would be exposed; and then, what would have become of the Mysteries into which it is sin and blasphemy to pry? With such a coincidence of the astronomical allegories of various Pagan myths with the dates adopted by Christianity for the nativity, crucifixion, and resurrection, and such an identity of rites and ceremonies, what would have been the fate of the new religion, had not the Church, under the pretext of serving Christ, got rid of the too-well-informed philosophers? To guess what, if the coup d' état had then failed, might have been the prevailing religion in our own century would indeed, be a hard task. But, in all probability, the state of things which made of the middle ages a period of intellectual darkness, which degraded the nations of the Occident, and lowered the European of those days almost to the level of a Papuan savage -- could not have occurred.

With the death of the martyred daughter of Theon, the mathematician, there remained no possibility for the Neo-platonists to continue their school at Alexandria. During the life-time of the youthful Hypatia, her friendship and influence with Orestes, the governor of the city, had assured the philosophers security and protection against their murderous enemies. With her death they had lost their strongest friend. How much she was revered by all who knew her for her education, noble virtues, and character, we can infer from the letters addressed to her by Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais, fragments of which have reached us. "My heart yearns for the presence of your divine spirit," he wrote in 413 A.D., "which more than anything else could alleviate the bitterness of my fortunes." At another time he says: "Oh, my mother, my sister, my teacher, my benefactor! My soul is very sad. The recollection of my children I have lost is killing me.... When I have news of you and learn, as I hope, that you are more fortunate than myself, I am at least only half-unhappy."

What would have been the feelings of this most noble and worthy of Christian bishops, who had surrendered family and children and happiness for the faith into which he had been attracted, had a prophetic vision disclosed to him that the only friend that had been left to him, his "mother, sister, benefactor," would soon become an unrecognizable mass of flesh and blood, pounded to jelly under the blows of the club of Peter the Reader -- that her youthful, innocent body would be cut to pieces, "the flesh scraped from the bones," by oyster-shells and the rest of her cast into the fire, by order of the same Bishop Cyril he know so well -- Cyril, the CANONIZED Saint!!(4)

There has never been a religion in the annals of the world with such a bloody record as Christianity. All the rest, including the traditional fierce fights of the "chosen people" with their next of kin, the idolatrous tribes of Israel, pale before the murderous fanaticism of the alleged followers of Christ! Even the rapid spread of Mahometanism before the conquering sword of the Islam prophet, is a direct consequence of the bloody riots and fights among Christians. It was the intestine war between the Nestorians and Cyrilians that engendered Islamism; and it is in the convent of Bozrah that the prolific seed was first sown by Bahira, the Nestorian monk. Freely watered by rivers of blood, the tree of Mecca has grown till we find it in the present century overshadowing nearly two hundred millions of people. The recent Bulgarian atrocities are but the natural outgrowth of the triumph of Cyril and the Mariolaters.

The cruel, crafty politician, the plotting monk, glorified by ecclesiastical history with the aureole of a martyred saint. The despoiled philosophers, the Neo-platonists, and the Gnostics, daily anathematized by the Church all over the world for long and dreary centuries. The curse of the unconcerned Deity hourly invoked on the magian rites and theurgic practice, and the Christian clergy themselves using sorcery for ages. Hypatia, the glorious maiden-philosopher, torn to pieces by the Christian mob. And such as Catherine de Medici, Lucrezia Borgia, Joanna of Naples, and the Isabellas of Spain, presented to the world as the faithful daughters of the Church -- some even decorated by the Pope with the order of the "Immaculate Rose," the highest emblem of womanly purity and virtue, a symbol sacred to the Virgin-mother of God! Such are the examples of human justice! How far less blasphemous appears a total rejection of Mary as an immaculate goddess, than an idolatrous worship of her, accompanied by such practices.

The famous Catholic theologian, Tillemont, assures us in his work that "all the illustrious Pagans are condemned to the eternal torments of hell, because they lived before the time of Jesus, and therefore, could not be benefited by the redemption!!" He also assures us that the Virgin Mary personally testified to this truth over her own signature in a letter to a saint.

When dying on the cross, the martyred Man of Sorrows forgave his enemies. His last words were a prayer in their behalf. He taught his disciples to curse not, but to bless, even their foes. But the heirs of St. Peter, the self-constituted representatives on earth of that same meek Jesus, unhesitatingly curse whoever resists their despotic will. Besides, was not the "Son" long since crowded by them into the background? They make their obeisance only to the Dowager Mother, for -- according to their teaching -- again through "the direct Spirit of God," she alone acts as a mediatrix. The Ścumenical Council of 1870 embodied the teaching into a dogma, to disbelieve which is to be doomed forever to the "bottomless pit." The work of Don Pasquale di Franciscis is positive on that point; for he tells us that, as the Queen of Heaven owes to the present Pope "the finest gem in her coronet," since he has conferred on her the unexpected honor of becoming suddenly immaculate, there is nothing she cannot obtain from her Son for "her Church."

That the Neoplatonists were not always despised or accused of demonolatry is evidenced in the adoption by the Roman Church of their very rites and theurgy. The identical evocations and incantations of the Pagan and Jewish Kabalist, are now repeated by the Christian exorcist, and the theurgy of Iamblichus was adopted word for word. "Distinct as were the Platonists and Pauline Christians of the earlier centuries," writes Professor A. Wilder, "many of the more distinguished teachers of the new faith were deeply tinctured with the philosophical leaven. Synesius, the Bishop of Cyrene, was the disciple of Hypatia. St. Anthony reiterated the theurgy of Iamblichus. The Logos, or word of the Gospel according to John, was a Gnostic personification. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and others of the fathers drank deeply from the fountains of philosophy. The ascetic idea which carried away the Church was like that which was practiced by Plotinus ... all through the middle ages there rose up men who accepted the interior doctrines which were promulgated by the renowned teacher of the Academy."

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PAGAN ROOTS: Christian Dogmas
(Part 4 of a 36-part series)

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(5) NOTE.--"The Christian Scheme," begun in November, 1967, is collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky. It recounts the historical background and early development of Christianity.
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(1) The Celsus above mentioned, who lived between the second and third centuries, is not Celsus the Epicurean. The latter wrote several works against Magic, and lived earlier, during the reign of Hadrian.
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(2) We have the facts from a trustworthy witness, having no interest to invent such a story. Having injured his leg in a fall from the steamer into the boat in which he was to land at the Mount, he was taken care of by these monks, and during his convalescence, through gifts of money and presents, became their greatest friend, and finally won their entire confidence. Having asked for the loan of some books, he was taken by the Superior to a large cellar in which they keep their sacred vessels and other Property. Opening a great trunk, full of old musty manuscripts and rolls, he was invited by the Superior to "amuse himself." The gentleman was a scholar, and well versed in Greek and Latin text. "I was amazed," he says, in a private letter, "and had my breath taken away, on finding among these old parchments, so unceremoniously  treated, some of the most valuable relics of the first centuries, hitherto believed to have been lost." Among others he found a half-destroyed manuscript, which he is perfectly sure must be a copy of the "True Doctrine" of Celsus, out of which Origen quoted whole pages. The traveller took as many notes as he could on that day, but when he came to offer to the Superior to purchase some of these writings he found, to his great surprise, that no amount of money would tempt the monks. They did not know what the manuscripts contained, nor "did they care," they said. But the "heap of writing," they added, was transmitted to them from one generation to another, and there was a tradition among them that these papers would one day become the means of crushing the "Great Beast of the Apocalypse," their hereditary enemy, the Church of Rome. They were constantly quarrelling and fighting with the Catholic monks, and among the whole "heap" they knew that there was a "holy" relic which protected them. They did not know which, and so in their doubt abstained. It appears that the Superior, a shrewd Greek, understood his bevue and repented of his kindness, for first of all he made the traveller give him his most sacred word of honor, strengthened by an oath he made him take on the image of the Holy Patroness of the Island, never to betray their secret, and never mention, at least, the name of their convent. And finally, when the anxious student who had passed a fortnight in reading all sorts of antiquated trash before he happened to stumble over some precious manuscript, expressed the desire to have the key, to "amuse himself" with the writings once more, he was very naïvely informed that the "key had been lost," and that they did not know where to look for it. And thus he was left to the few notes he had taken.
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(3) See the historical romance of Canon Kingsley, Hypatia, for a highly picturesque account of the tragical fate of this young martyr.
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(4) We beg the reader to bear in mind that it is the same Cyril who was accused and proved guilty of having sold the gold and silver ornaments of his church, and spent the money. He pleaded guilty, but tried to excuse himself on the ground that he had used the money for the poor, but could not give evidence of it. His duplicity with Arius and his party is well known. Thus one of the first Christian saints, and the founder of the Trinity, appears on the pages of history as a murderer and a thief!
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