Mysticism and its Results - Being an Inquiry into the Uses and Abuses of Secrecy
by John Delafield
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Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected: they are listed at the end of the text.

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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1857, BY JOHN DELAFIELD, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, in and for the District of Missouri.

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SAVAGE & McCREA, STEREOTYPERS, 13 Chambers Street, N.Y.

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TO MY ALMA MATER, COLUMBIA COLLEGE, NEW YORK, This Essay is respectfully Inscribed, BY THE WRITER.

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"THE WORD WAS GOD." That "WORD IS TRUTH." Truth can never change, or it would contradict itself. Past, present, and future, must be governed by immutable laws. Experience is acquired by the careful study of history, and the present condition of all things. All is governed now by that same law of truth, which was from the beginning of the world, and ever shall be. What serious lessons, then, may be learned by a careful examination of past ages; and how useful may they not be to us and our children for future ages? We can only judge of that which is to come hereafter, by studying the past, and carefully noting the present.

This little book has collated some facts, perhaps, somewhat out of the usual range of reading; but which it is sincerely trusted may be of practical {6} utility. If it only induces thought, study, or research, by intellectual and honest minds, its object will have been attained. The writer can only claim the indulgence of the reader to consider the essay suggestive—not didactic. Many a far abler pen may enlarge upon and carry out the ideas presented. May it be

J. D.

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Secrecy; its Uses and Abuses.—Mystery; its Definition.—Mysticism, and its Definition. ... PAGE 9


The Distinction between the Early Elohistic and Jehovahstic Ages of Primeval Patriarchal Times.—The Secrecy of Original Worship on Mountain Tops.—The Collation and Reconciliation of the Patriarchal Traditions brought together by Moses.—The Commencement of the Jehovahstic Age.—The Origin of Mythology.—The Magi; their Organization and Modes of Worship.—The Deification of Nimrod, and the Source of Political Power at its Beginning.—The Secret Writings they adopted.—The Dead Invokers.—The Mysteries of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. ... 16


The Origin of the Cabbalistae; the Chaldeans, and their Antagonism to Patriarchal Tradition.—The Hand-Writing on Belshazzar's Wall.—The Secret Writings of the Cabbalistae.—How Daniel read the Same.—Ezra.—The Origin of the Masoretic Text.—Zoroaster.—His Reformation and Reconstruction of the Religion of the Magi.—Pythagoras, and his "League."—The Thugs.—The Druids. ... 41


The Discipline of the Secret in the Origin of the Christian Church.—The Inquisition.—The Mystics.—The Rise of Monachism.—The Mendicant Orders.—The Orders of Knighthood.—The Jesuits, their Organization and History.—The Rosicrucians, &c. ... 71


The Struggle between an alleged Jus Divinum Regum, and Popular Sovereignty.—And the Efforts now attempted to destroy our Grand Experiment of Self-Government.—Practical Results. ... 104

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Secrecy; its Uses and Abuses.—Mystery; its Definition.—Mysticism, and its Definition.

It is not true, as has been sometimes said, that wherever there is secrecy there is error.

Secrecy, like most all else, hath its uses and abuses: its uses, as developed in modesty and domestic virtue, in religious meditation, self-examination, and prayer, and in prudence in the affairs of life: its abuses, in prudery, asceticism, superstitious awe, undue veneration of power, and when used as a cloud to conceal crime so hideous that nothing but the truth of God, vindicated by human laws founded thereon, directed by wisdom, can dispel it.

Virtue and modesty shrink from public gaze. Each looks alone to its innate sense, the gift of God, and to the sole approval of the great "I AM."

The hidden sincere aspirations of the heart are known only to Him who "breathed into man the {10} breath of life, and he became a living soul." These are a secret between the created being and its Almighty Father. At the lonely hour, when the burdened soul, knowing no earthly refuge from overwhelming troubles, but a mightier Hand than that of man, seeks on bended knee and with penitential tear, a blessing from on high, no word is spoken, no sound uttered save the sob from a contrite heart. The aspiration has gone forth inaudibly to Him who said to all mankind, then and for future ages, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."[1]

"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, Uttered or unexpressed, The motion of a hidden fire That trembles in the breast. It is the burden of a sigh, The falling of a tear, The upward glancing of an eye When none but God is near."[2]

What knoweth the outer world of this? Yet wrong can not exist in such secret communion between a penitent heart and its Maker. Pure religious meditation, leading us from earth to heaven, is only promoted by secret study and reflection in solitude. Neither philosophy nor religion can be cultivated in the midst of the vortices of commerce or other business requiring constant intercourse with hundreds of {11} men during the day, nor in the whirl of fashion in the evening.

Thus, then, do we trace one of the uses of secrecy. Both its use and its abuse we shall hereinafter find exemplified in marked effects not only on individual minds, but also on the masses of mankind in past history: its use, in the development of true piety: its abuse, in asceticism, superstition, and overweening spiritual power resulting in crimes, which were "a sin unto death." Another abuse of secrecy has been manifested in means heretofore employed in the constant effort to obtain and maintain worldly power. This was by affecting the imagination and blinding the reason of the masses. Some time ago, an ephemeral work was published, even the name of which is not recollected by this writer, wherein was a picture showing the section of a handsome tent with curtains closely drawn. Within, is a man eating and feasting like other mortals. Without, is a stand on which are exposed to view the usual emblems and insignia of royalty, before which there is a kneeling crowd. An admirable illustration! True it is, that "no man is a hero to his valet-de-chambre." Fashionable wealth and power depend upon exclusiveness to accomplish their usual attendant influences. Royalty hides every hour in secrecy from public gaze, except when it occasionally becomes necessary to treat the subjects to a mere pageant or show of military costume and outside appearances. When Lola Montes displayed to {12} the world the mere humanity of the old king of Bavaria, where had he any prestige left? Schamyl has attained his extraordinary influence and power by his seclusion, asceticism, and pretended revelations; and bravery having crowned his efforts, he is a favorite of fortune, and the idol of a superstitious veneration. What did not Mohammed accomplish in the same manner? But, in illustration of the opposite effect, so well known to the sad experience of all, hath not a mightier One testified that, "a prophet hath no honor in his own country?"[3]

But doth not also common prudence in worldly affairs demand the use of secrecy?

What good general will detail, even to his own forces, and still less make public for the use of his adversary, his plans and intentions for an ensuing campaign?—what business man communicate to the public or to his rivals his hard thought and well-planned speculation?—what inventor publish his new machine or discovery until he has secured his patent-right?

In what follows, then, let us discriminate between the use and abuse of secrecy; so that, by the lessons of the past and the present, we may be safely guided in our course through the future.

Before going into matters of historic detail, it were well to understand the definition of the word "mystery." {13}

Many suppose it to mean "something which is incomprehensible." This is all a mistake.

"[Greek: Musterion]" means simply "a revealed secret." In other words, "mystery," which we derive from the Greek word quoted, means neither more nor less than a secret revealed and explained to us. A man of mature years and finished education knows that which no school-boy can comprehend. To the elder a secret has been revealed. He is in possession of the mystery. To the younger it is yet a secret, not incomprehensible, but which can only be attained in the progress of learning. To the scientific many of the mysteries of nature are unfolded, but they are a secret to the world at large. To those Christians in the earlier days of the church, who had attained its highest instruction, and after the "Ite, missa est" had dismissed the rest of the congregation, remained to participate in the "pure offering" (or "clean oblation") prophesied by Malachi[4] to be thereafter offered in every place to Him whose name thenceforth should be great among the Gentiles—to them "it was given to know the mysteries of God:"[5] not to understand things incomprehensible. That would be a contradiction in terms: a thing impossible. How can a person comprehend that which passeth all understanding? But it may be said, there are things which are incomprehensible. Not so. They may be a secret to us while, in this school-house, the earth, the {14} pedagogue Necessity is teaching us only the rudiments of the laws of God as developed in nature or in mind; but, when the scintilla divinitatis, hidden in these "earthen vessels,"[6] shall have been set free, and (while "the dust returns to the earth as it was") rises unto Him that breathed into us that "spiritus" or "breath of life"—when we shall hereafter have been "newly born" into a spiritual state of higher existence—then may we hope that what is secret to us now, may become a mystery or revealed secret to us hereafter. It is not all of life to terminate our existence on this earth. This is but the school-house in the commencement of eternity. These mysteries, now secrets to us, are created and maintained by the fixed laws of Him "who is without variableness or shadow of turning." The revelations thereof belong to a higher kingdom, which "flesh and blood can not inherit," yet in which every soul "shall be made alive."[7] Then shall these secrets be unfolded in proportion to the cultivation of the mind and talents here: for the unchangeable laws of God have placed all matter in constant and regular mutation; and whether of matter or of mind, all is governed by a certain law of progress, compelling us to attain excellence and strength only by constant endeavors to surmount difficulties: and it is thus alone we can, by severe study and deep meditation, in investigating these laws of mutation and progress in things physical and {15} moral, bring the mind, even in this life, to a nearer approximation to, and capability of, appreciating the wonderful truths we must hereafter learn. As in all other laws of God, the cultivation of our talents must then carry its proportionate reward hereafter.[8]

Let us then examine into the uses and abuses of secrecy in past history, and at the present day—but more particularly will these be manifested by "MYSTICISM;" by which is meant, the revelation of learning, social, religious, and political, the teaching of which has been, and is, preserved secret from the world, by societies, associations, and confraternities.[9]

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The Distinction between the Early Elohistic and Jehovahstic Ages of Primeval Patriarchal Times.—The Secrecy of Original Worship on Mountain Tops.—The Collation and Reconciliation of the patriarchal Traditions brought together by Moses.—The Commencement of the Jehovahstic Age.—The Origin of Mythology.—The Magi; their Organization and Modes of Worship.—The Deification of Nimrod, and the Source of Political Power at its Beginning.—The Secret Writings they adopted.—The Dead Invokers.—The Mysteries of Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

In a critical study of the books of Moses two eras seem to be discernible. The earlier, the Elohistic, when God was only known by the name, "Elohim." The latter, the "Jehovahstic," beginning at a later period.[10]

Though not altogether germain to our subject, may we here be permitted to inquire—par parenthese—whether this simple rule does not furnish to us the means of reconciliation of apparent contradictions?

All instruction originally was traditional alone. The patriarch was priest and teacher, as well as ruler of his tribe. Each handed down to his successor the {17} traditions he had received from his ancestors orally. As tribes became nomadic, or else sought permanently new settlements and homes, traditions in course of time necessarily became variant. Moses seems honestly to have collated these traditions, and has, no doubt, given them in their respective versions as he received them from Jethro, his father-in-law, and from the patriarchal instruction among the elders of his people in Egypt. Thus we can recognize those in which the name Elohim is used as being of much earlier date than the same tradition differently told, where the word Jehovah indicates the name of Deity. For instance, we find in one place[11] the command of God to Noah to take the beasts and fowls, &c., into the ark by sevens. But again, in the same chapter,[12] we find them taken only by pairs. Are these not variant traditions of one event? So, of the story of Abraham passing off his wife for his sister before Pharaoh, king of Egypt,[13] and also before Abimelech, king of Gerar,[14] and the farther tradition of Isaac and Rebecca having done the same thing before Abimelech, king of Gerar.[15] Are not these variant traditions of one fact? The legal experience of the writer for many years, convinces him that no two persons without collusion view a transaction generally exactly alike. Frequently—and each equally sincere and honest—they widely vary in their testimony. {18} Collusion may produce a story without contradiction. Slight discrepancies show there is no fraud, only that the witnesses occupied different stand points, or gave more or less attention to what was the subject matter.

But, asking pardon for this digression, let us return to our theme.

We know little or nothing about the teaching of the patriarchs in the Elohistic age. Neither writing nor sculpture thereof existed in the time of Moses, except, perhaps, the lost book of Enoch, or, unless—which we are inclined to doubt—the book of Job had just before his era been reduced to writing by the Idumean, Assyrian, or Chaldean priesthood. We find at that period that sacrifices were offered on mountain tops. Why? Abraham went to such a place to offer up his son. Was it not for secrecy in the religious rite? If the earliest instruction was from God, whose truth is unchangeable and eternal, were not the earliest sacrifices offered in secret by reason of the same command which subsequently obliged the high priest of his chosen people to offer the great sacrifice in secret within the veils, first of the Tabernacle, afterward of the Temple? The Elohistic age ended with the first official act of Moses, after he, also, had met with Aaron on "the mount of God."[16]

A new era then commenced. As men dispersed {19} themselves over the earth, the original belief in the one true God (Monotheism) was lost, and people fell into the worship of many deities (Polytheism), adoring the visible works of creation, more particularly the sun and the stars of heaven, or else reverencing the operative powers of nature as divine beings. Faith in the one Great JEHOVAH was preserved by the children of Israel alone. Idols were erected within gorgeous temples. With the Chaldean, Phoenician, and Assyrian, Moloch began the dreadful cruelty of human sacrifices, chiefly of children. If, at first, the image of the idol was only a visible symbol of a spiritual conception, or of an invisible power, this higher meaning was lost in progress of time in the minds of most nations, and they came at length to pay worship to the lifeless image itself. The priests alone were acquainted with any deeper meaning, but refused to share it with the people; they reserved it under the veil of esoteric (secret) doctrines, as the peculiar appanage of their own class. They invented endless fables which gave rise to Mythology. They ruled the people by the might of superstition, and acquired wealth, honor, and power, for themselves.[17] We arrive then at nearly the culminating point of Egyptian priestcraft, the days of "wise men," "sorcerers," and "magicians."[18] Such men ever {20} have, and we presume ever will employ secrecy as the chief element of their clever jugglery. Mankind love to be deceived. Let an Adrian, Blitz, or Alexander—while they tell you, and you well know it, that their tricks are a deception—put forth notices of an exhibition, and they will attract crowds, where an Arago, or a Faraday, would not be listened to. Maelzel's automata, or Vaucanson's duck, will attract the world, when Bacon's, or Newton's, or Laplace's works may remain in dust on the book-shelves. Human nature is always the same, and thus it was in the days of Moses and Pharaoh. The wise men, sorcerers, and magicians, held undisputed sway, not only over the superstitions of the people, but over their educated monarchs and princes. Egypt possessed, at an inconceivably early period, numberless towns and villages, and a high amount of civilization. Arts, sciences, and civil professions, were cherished there, so that the Nile-land has generally been regarded as the mysterious cradle of human culture; but the system of castes checked free development and continuous improvement. Everything subserved a gloomy religion and a powerful priesthood, who held the people in terror and superstition. Their doctrine, that, after the death of man, the soul could not enter into her everlasting repose unless the body were preserved, occasioned the singular custom of embalming the corpses of the departed to preserve them from decay, and of treasuring them up in the shape of {21} mummies in shaft-like passages and mortuary chambers. Through this belief, the priests, who, as judges of the dead, possessed the power of giving up the bodies of the sinful to corruption, and by this means occasioning the transmigration of their souls into the bodies of animals, obtained immense authority. Notwithstanding the magnificence of their architectural productions, and the vast technical skill and dexterity in sculpture and mechanical appliances which they display, the Egyptians have produced but little in literature or the sciences; and even this little was locked up from the people in the mysterious hieroglyphical writing, which was understood by the priests alone.[19] The following translation is a quotation from a Latin work: "Among the ancient Egyptians, from whom we learn the rudiments of speech, besides the three common kinds of letters, other descriptions of characters are used which have been generally consecrated to their peculiar mysteries. In a dissertation on this subject, that celebrated antiquarian (conditor stromatum), Clement, of Alexandria, teaches in his writings, thus: 'Those who are taught Egyptian, first, indeed, learn the grammar and chirography called letter-writing, that is, which is apt for ordinary correspondence; secondly, however, that used by the priests, called sacred writing, to commemorate sacred things; the last also, hieroglyphic, meaning sacred sculpture, one of the first elements of which is {22} cyriologism, meaning, properly speaking, enunciating truth by one or another symbol, or in other words, portraying the meaning by significant emblems.' With Clement agrees the Arabian, Abenephi, who uses this language: (This Arabic writing is preserved in the Vatican library, but not as yet printed: it is often quoted by Athanasius Kircher, in his Treatise on the Pamphilian Obelisk, whence these and other matters stated by us have been taken.) 'But there were four kinds of writing among the Egyptians: First, that in use among the populace and the ignorant; secondly, that in vogue among the philosophers and the educated; thirdly, one compounded of letters and symbols, without drawn figures or representations of things; the fourth was confined solely to the priesthood, the figures or letters of which were those of birds, by which they represented the sacred things of Deity.' From which last testimony we learn that erudite Egyptians used a peculiar and different system of writing from that of the populace, and it was for the purpose of teaching their peculiar doctrines. For example, they show that this writing consisted of symbols, partly of opinions and ideas, partly of historic fables accommodated to a more secret method of teaching. But Clement, of Alexandria, went further. In book v. of Antiquities (stromata, 'foundation of things'), he says: 'All who controlled theological matters, Barbarian as well as Greek, have concealed their principles, hiding the truth in enigmas, signs, symbols, as {23} well as allegories, and also in tropes, and have handed them down in various symbols and methods.'"[20] This passage led subsequently to the brilliant discoveries of Champollion.

Who, then, were the "erudite Egyptians" who used a peculiar system of writing" for the purpose of teaching their peculiar doctrines?" Who were {24} these "magi," "wise men," "sorcerers," and "magicians"? Nowhere do we find Pharaoh in the midst of his troubles calling for a priest. It is always for the wise men, magicians, and sorcerers. Were they not the priests?—were they not those who controlled the mysteries—who practised divination? When Moses and Aaron cast down their rods, the magicians of Egypt "also did in like manner with their enchantments," and the result was the same.[21] When Moses smote the waters that they became blood, the acuteness of the priests, or magi, in their mysteries taught them a lesson whereby they were able to do the same.[22] When the frogs came up on Pharaoh and on all his people, and on all his servants, and covered the land of Egypt, we learn "the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt."[23] If the ancient Egyptians were like their descendants, it is singular the magi could not accomplish the next plague, that is, of lice. But here their power ended. The magi originated in Media. According to oriental custom, to them was intrusted the preservation of scientific knowledge, and the performance of the holy exercises of Religion. Afterward, in a special sense, the magi were a caste of priests of the Medes and Persians, deriving the name of Pehlvi; Mag, or Mog, generally signifies in that language, a priest. They are expressly mentioned by Herodotus as a Median tribe. Zoroaster was not their founder, {25} but was their reformer, and the purifier of their doctrines. The Magi of his time were opposed to his innovations; and they, therefore, were condemned by him. When afterward, however, they adopted his reforms, he effected their thorough organization, dividing them into APPRENTICES, MASTERS, and PERFECT MASTERS. Their study and science consisted in observation of their holy rites, in the knowledge of their sacred forms of prayer, and liturgies by which Ormuzd was worshipped, and in the ceremonies attendant on their prayers and sacrifices. They only were permitted to act as mediators between God and man. To them alone was the will of God declared. They only could penetrate the future. And they alone predicted the future to those who sought of them therefor. In later days the name Magi became synonymous with sorcerer, magician, alchemist, &c.[24]


The magi of Egypt were the priests, the founders and preservers of the mysteries of the secret grades of instruction, and of the hieratic and hieroglyphic writings and sculptures. In secret they were the priesthood. In public, in religious matters, the same. But in public secular affairs they seem to be recognised as Magi.

When mythology was invented, most of the gods, if not all of them, were received as symbolical, physical beings, the poets made of them moral agents; and as such they appear in the religions of the people of earlier days. The symbolical meaning would have been lost, if no means had been provided to insure its preservation. The MYSTERIES, it seems, afforded such means. Their great end, therefore, was to preserve the knowledge of the peculiar attributes of those divinities which had been incorparated into the popular religion under new forms; what powers and objects of nature they represented; how these, and how the universe came into being; in a word, cosmogonies, like those contained in the Orphic instructions. But this knowledge, though it was preserved by oral instruction, was perpetuated no less by {27} symbolic representations and usages; which, at least in part, consisted of sacred traditions and fables. "In the sanctuary of Sais," says Herodotus (l.c.), "representations are given by night of the adventures of the goddess; and these are called by the Egyptians mysteries; of which, however, I will relate no more. It was thence that these mysteries were introduced into Greece."[25] The temples of India and of Egypt seem to be identical in architecture and in sculpture.[26] Both nations seem to have sprung from the old Assyrian stock.[27] The magi of both countries appear to have had a common origin; and their teachings must have been, therefore, traditionally the same. We may, then, presume that there were three grades in the instructions of these mysteries, by whatever name they may have been called—whether Apprentices, Masters, and Perfect Masters, or otherwise; that they were sacred in their character; and that their symbolic meanings were revealed in these MYSTERIES, and in no other manner, while they were kept a secret from the world at large. But this was not all. They spread, with emigration and commerce, into all then known countries. Their common origin, or at least that of most of them, is still perceptible. CERES had long wandered over the earth, before she was received at Eleusis, and erected there her {28} sanctuary. (Isocrat. Paneg. op., p. 46, ed. Steph., and many other places in Meursii Eleusin., cap. 1.) Her secret service in the Thesmophoria, according to the account of Herodotus (iv. 172), was first introduced by Danaus; who brought it from Egypt to the Peloponnesus.[28] One writer says that mysteries were, among the Greeks, and afterward also among the Romans, secret religious assemblies, which no uninitiated person was permitted to approach. They originated at a very early period. They were designed to interpret those mythological fables and religious rites, the true meaning of which it was thought expedient to conceal from the people. They were perhaps necessary in those times, in which the superstitions, the errors, and the prejudices of the people, could not be openly exposed without danger to the public peace. Upon this ground they were tolerated and protected by the state. Their first and fundamental law was a profound secrecy. In all mysteries there were dramatic exhibitions, relating to the exploits of the deities in whose honor they were celebrated.[29] We may thus trace all ancient pagan religion to a common origin, with similarity of human means to accomplish a general result, variant in name, or in practice, as to the deity, or form of its worship, but resting on a unity as to its commencement and its object.


We can hardly penetrate the veil which hides from us the pagan worship of that early human stock the race of Ham, which—without the divine light granted only to the Israelites—was the origin of false worship. We can only arrive at conclusions, but these are the result of strong presumptions arising from undisputed historical facts. What are they?

One of the principal chiefs of the earliest race, whence came the magi, &c., was Nimrod, afterward deified by the name of Bel to the Chaldeans, Baal to the Hebrews, [Greek: Belos] to the Greeks, and Belus to the Romans; and when, in later days, statues received adoration (which at first was only accorded to the being of whom the statue was a type), he became worshipped under a multiplication of statues, they were in the Hebrew language called "Baalim," or the plural of Baal. Nimrod was the son of Cush, grandson of Ham, and great-grandson of Noah. "And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, 'Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.' And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. And out of that land he went forth to Assyria, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city."[30] While, then, {30} the children of Shem and Japheth pursued the patriarchal course, and preserved the ancient traditions subsequently handed down, the descendants of Ham, suffering under the patriarchal malediction of Noah, built cities composed of families, and a great kingdom composed of cities and nations. This kingdom was the origin of pagan worship. They lost the patriarchal traditions, and were the first to establish on this earth the concentration of power in a political system. That power once attained, the daring energy of the king became in the hand of the priesthood a subject of deification for two reasons. 1. The king was mortal, and must die. 2. The power must be preserved. When afterward, under Peleg, this race, at their {31} building of Ba-Bel—their temple of Bel—became dispersed, and left to us only their ruin of that temple, now called Birs Nimroud, the magi, or priests, preserved the power he attained to themselves, by means of secrecy in their mysteries, and which were dispersed subsequently through the earth in different languages and forms, varying with the poetry and climate of the country or countries thereafter occupied, and adapted from time to time to the existing exigencies of the times. Thence sprang the origin of mythologies, or, in other words, fabulous histories of the fructifying energies of Nature, whether developed in the germination of the vegetable kingdom, or in an occasional poetical version of some heroic act of one in power.

This nation, the old Assyrian, became dispersed at the destruction of their great temple. But their political power everywhere was mysteriously preserved. When the magi became organized in Media, they spread in every direction. From earliest days we find their worship amid the nations conquered by Joshua. We see them in the traces of the [Greek: Oi Poimenes], or shepherd-kings of Egypt, and in the sorcerers of the days of Moses. We, find them reformed by Zoroaster in Persia. They are conspicuous among the Greeks, who derived their mysteries from Egypt; and in the worship of Isis at Rome, never indigenous there. And even in later days (those of Darius, Belshazzar, and Cyrus), they seem to be thoroughly {32} re-established in their original birthplace. And, strange as it may appear, we find their power over kings, generals, nations, and people, in the hands of the priesthood, by means of their mysteries, from all early history, until affected by the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Regarding, then, the off-shoot from patriarchal tradition to be the origin of pagan worship; referring also to the first formation of cities, and of one immense kingdom, by the descendants of Ham (accursed by his prophetic ancestor), by whom an empire was first established; to Nimrod's deification; to the preservation in the priesthood of future political power; to the fact that after his death they would and might thereby perpetuate the same; that wherever thereafter dispersed, they did so by their revelations by mysteries, in which they controlled not only the masses of the people, but those who governed them, in whatsoever nation then known—we arrive at the conclusion that the mysteries were the elements of religious and consequently of political power.

The important Greek mysteries, of the details whereof we know most, were—1. The Eleusinian. 2. The Samothracian, which originated in Crete and Phrygia, and were celebrated in the former country in honor of Jupiter. From these countries they were introduced among the Thracians or Pelasgians in the island of Samothrace, and extended thence into Greece. They were sometimes celebrated in honor {33} of Jupiter, sometimes of Bacchus, and sometimes of Ceres. 3. The Dionysia, which were brought from Thrace to Thebes, and were very similar to the former. They were celebrated every second year. The transition of men from barbarism to civilization was likewise represented in them. The women were clothed in skins of beasts. With a spear (thyrsus), bound with ivy, in their hands, they ascended Mount Cithaeron; when, after the religious ceremonies, wild dances were performed, which ended with the dispersion of the priestesses and the initiated in the neighboring woods. They had also symbols, chiefly relating to Bacchus, who was the hero of these mysteries. These celebrations were forbidden in Thebes, even in the time of Epaminondas, and afterward in all Greece, as prejudicial to the public peace and morals. 4. The Orphic, chiefly deserving mention as the probable foundation of the Eleusinian. 5. The mysteries of Isis, not in vogue in Greece, but very popular in Rome.[31] The offspring of Egyptian priestcraft, they were instituted with a view to aggrandize that order of men, to extend their influence, and enlarge their revenues. To accomplish these selfish projects, they applied every engine toward besotting the multitude with superstition and enthusiasm. They taught them to believe that they were the distinguished favorites of Heaven; that celestial doctrines had been revealed to them, too holy to be communicated to the profane {34} rabble, and too sublime to be comprehended by vulgar capacities. Princes and legislators, who found their advantage in overawing and humbling the multitude, readily adopted a plan so artfully fabricated to answer these purposes. The views of those in power were congenial with those of the priests, and both united in the same spirit to thus control the respect, admiration, and dependence, of the million.

They made their disciples believe that in the next world the souls of the uninitiated should roll in mire and dirt, and with difficulty reach their destined mansion. Hence, Plato introduces Socrates as observing that "the sages who introduced the Teletae had positively affirmed that whatever soul should arrive in the infernal mansions unhouselled and unannealed should lie there immersed in mire and filth."—"And as to a future state," says Aristides, "the initiated shall not roll in mire and grope in darkness, a fate which awaits the unholy and uninitiated." When the Athenians advised Diogenes to be initiated, "It will be pretty enough," replied he, "to see Agesilaus and Epaminondas wallowing in the mire, while the most contemptible rascals who have been initiated are strolling in the islands of bliss!" When Antisthenes was to be initiated, and the priests were boasting of the wonderful benefit to ensue, "Why, forsooth, 'tis wonder your reverence don't hang yourself, in order to come at it sooner," was his remark. When, however, such benefits were expected to be derived from the {35} mysteries, it is no wonder the world crowded to the Eleusinian standard. Initiation was, in reality, a consecration to Ceres and Proserpine. Its result was, honor and reverence from the masses. They believed all virtue to be inspired by these goddesses. Pericles says: "I am convinced that the deities of Eleusis inspired me with this sentiment, and that this stratagem was suggested by the principle of the mystic rites." So also Aristophanes makes the chorus of the initiated, in his Ranae, to sing:—

"Let us to flowery mead repair, With deathless roses blooming, Whose balmy sweets impregn the air, Both hills and dales perfuming. Since fate benign one choir has joined, We'll trip in mystic measure; In sweetest harmony combined, We'll quaff full draughts of pleasure. For us alone the power of day A milder light dispenses, And sheds benign a mellow ray To cheer our ravished senses. For we beheld the mystic show, And braved Eleusis' dangers; We do and know the deeds we owe To neighbors, friends, and strangers."

It is believed that the higher orders of magi went further, and pretended to hold intercourse with, and cause to appear, the very [Greek: eidolon] of the dead. In the days of Moses it was practised. "There shall not be found among you ... a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer."[32] {36} Diodorus Siculus mentions an oracle near Lake Avernus, where the dead were raised, as having been in existence before the age of Hercules.[33] Plutarch, in his life of Cimon, relates that Pausanias, in his distress, applied to the Psychagogi, or dead-evokers, at Heraclea, to call up the spirit of Cleonice (whose injured apparition haunted him incessantly), in order that he might entreat her forgiveness. She appeared accordingly, and informed him that, on his return to Sparta, he would be delivered from all his sorrows—meaning, by death. This was five hundred years before Christ. The story resembles that of the apparition of Samuel before Saul: "To-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me."[34] The appearance of Samuel was regarded as a real transaction by the writer of Ecclesiasticus, for he says: "By his faithfulness he was found a true prophet, and by his word he was known to be faithful in vision; for after his death he showed the king his end, and lift up his voice from the earth in prophecy."[35] The rabbins say that the woman was the mother of Abner; she is said to have had the spirit of Ob, which Dean Milman has remarked is singularly similar in sound to the name of the Obeah women in Africa and the West Indies. Herodotus also mentions Thesprotia, in Epirus, as the place where Periander evoked the spirit of his wife Melissa, whom he had murdered.[36]


It was a very general opinion, in later days, that demons had power over the souls of the dead, until Christ descended into Hades and delivered them from the thrall of the "Prince of Darkness." The dead were sometimes raised by those who did not possess a familiar spirit. These consulters repaired to the grave at night, and there lying down, repeated certain words in a low, muttering tone, and the spirit thus summoned appeared. "And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust."[37]

Euripides also refers to necromancy.[38]

ADMETUS. [Greek: hora ge me ti phasma nerteron tod e]? HERCULES. [Greek: ou psuchagogon tond' epoieso xenon].

ADM. See! is not this some spectre from the dead?

HER. No dead-invoker for thy guest hast thou.

Seneca describes the spirits of the dead as being evoked by the Psychagogus in a cave rendered gloomy and as dark as night by the cypress, laurel, and other like trees.[39] Claudian refers to the same superstition.[40] And Lucan,[41] where Erictho recalls a spirit to animate {38} the body it had left, by horrid ceremonies. So Tibullus:[42]—

"Haec cantu finditque solum, manesque sepulchris, Elicit, et tepido devocat ossa toro."

The celebrated Heeren, in his "Politics of Ancient Greece" (ch. iii., p. 67, Am. ed.), remarks, in reference to the mysteries of Eleusis, that they exhibited the superiority of civilized over savage life, and gave instructions respecting a future life and its nature. For what was this more than an interpretation of the sacred traditions which were told of the goddess as the instructress in agriculture, of the forced descent of her daughter to the lower world, etc.? And we need not be more astonished if, in some of their sacred rites, we perceive an excitement carried to a degree of enthusiastic madness which belonged peculiarly to the East, but which the Hellenes were very willing to receive. For we must not neglect to bear in mind that they shared the spirit of the East; and did they not live on the very boundary-line between the East and the West? As those institutions were propagated farther to the west, they lost their original character. We know what the Bacchanalian rites became at Rome; and had they been introduced north of the Alps, what form would they have there assumed? But to those countries it was possible to {39} transplant the vine, not the service of the god to whom the vine was sacred. The orgies of Bacchus suited the cold soil and inclement forests of the North as little as the character of its inhabitants.

Without going further into detail (the minutiae of which are thus opened to every scholar), we must presume that the mythology of the children of Ham, the origin of pagan worship, fostered by variant mysteries to obtain and maintain temporal power, spread itself through the then known world. So far as we know, the secret doctrines which were taught in the mysteries may have finally degenerated into mere forms and an unmeaning ritual. And yet the mysteries exercised a great influence on the spirit of the nation, not of the initiated only, but also on the great mass of the people; and perhaps they influenced the latter still more than the former. They preserved the reverence for sacred things, and this gave them their political importance. They produced that effect better than any modern secret societies have been able to do. The mysteries had their secrets, but not everything connected with them was secret. They had, like those of Eleusis, their public festivals, processions, and pilgrimages, in which none but the initiated took a part, but of which no one was prohibited from being a spectator. While the multitude was permitted to gaze at them, it learned to believe that there was something sublimer than anything with which it was acquainted, revealed only to the initiated; and {40} while the worth of that sublimer knowledge did not consist in secrecy alone, it did not lose any of its value by being concealed. Thus the popular religion and the secret doctrines, although always distinguished from each other, united in serving to curb the people. The condition and the influence of religion on a nation were always closely connected with the situation of those persons who were particularly appointed for the service of the gods, the priests. The scholar will readily call to mind a Calchas, a Chryses, and others. The leaders and commanders themselves, in those days, offered their sacrifices (see the description which Nestor makes to Pallas, Od. iii., 430, &c.), performed the prayers, and observed the signs which indicated the result of an undertaking. In a word, kings and leaders were at the same time PRIESTS.[43]

How far may this have been a reason why Pharaoh did not call on a priest for help, but rely on the supposed superior knowledge of the Magi? a higher grade of secret instruction, perhaps, than he had received.

* * * * *



The Origin of the Cabbalistae; the Chaldeans, and their Antagonism to Patriarchal Tradition.—The Hand-writing on Belshazzar's Wall.—The Secret Writings of the Cabbalistae.—How Daniel read the Same.—Ezra.—The Origin of the Masoretic Text.—Zoroaster.—His Reformation and Reconstruction of the Religion of the Magi.—Pythagoras, and his "League."—The Thugs.—The Druids.

So far as the children of Shem and Japheth are concerned, it is believed true religion was preserved, except where tradition became adulterated with extraneous matter. And for the preservation of that religion, Almighty God, in his mercy, established of that lineage a certain race, with rules, partly signifying his truth, partly merely political, which should thereafter shine as a moral light to the world, no matter how dim the light might be, through the imperfection of human nature under peculiar circumstances of temptation or otherwise.

Here, at once, was an antagonism with the pagan religion, which was of the children of Ham, under his father's patriarchal curse.

When Moses, the servant with the watchword, "I AM THAT I AM," presented himself to the Shemitic and {42} Japhetic races, he was everywhere received and acknowledged by them as their leader, in opposition to both the temporal and theological power of the Magi and of Pharaoh.

Here came the clashing between pagan and traditional theology preserved by the patriarchs. And Almighty God, to show the truth of his laws, sanctioned their promulgation by signs and miracles, which the Magi could not equal nor counteract.

Pass by the Israelitish history until the loss and destruction of the first temple, when we find this religious race, although imbued with the principles of truth, fallen from their high estate, and led captive into a strange land, subject to the very people that insisted on the opposite of their own religion. They were then under the control of a monarch who was governed by the laws of the Medes and Persians, that is, of the Magi; and who, in turn, relied upon their emperor, who trusted only to his magicians, sorcerers, and Chaldeans. They were in BABYLON itself.

To confirm what has been said, and to elucidate what is to follow, we will pause a moment to learn what is meant by "the Chaldeans."

The accounts that have been transmitted to us by the Chaldeans themselves of the antiquity of their learning, are blended with fable, and involved in considerable uncertainty. At the time when Callisthenes was requested by Aristotle to gain information concerning the origin of science in Chaldea, he was {43} informed that the ancestors of the Chaldeans had continued their astronomical observations through a period of 470,000 years; but upon examining the ground of this report, he found that the Chaldean observation reached no further backward than 1,903 years, or that, of course (adding this number to 331, B.C., the year in which Babylon was taken by Alexander), they had commenced in the year 2,234, B.C. Besides, Ptolemy mentions no Chaldean observations prior to the era of Nabonassar, which commenced 747 years B.C. Aristotle, however, on the credit of the most ancient records, speaks of the Chaldean Magi as prior to the Egyptian priests, who, it is well known, cultivated learning before the time of Moses. It appears probable that the philosophers of Chaldea were the priests of the Babylonian nation, who instructed the people in the principles of religion, interpreted its laws, and conducted its ceremonies. Their character was similar to that of the Persian Magi, and they are often confounded by the Greek historians. Like the priests in most other nations, they employed religion in subserviency to the ruling powers, and made use of imposture to serve the purposes of civil policy. Accordingly Diodorus Siculus relates (lib. ii., p. 31, compared with Daniel ii. 1, &c., Eccles. xliv. 3) that they pretended to predict future events by divination, to explain prodigies, interpret dreams, and avert evils or confer benefits by means of augury and incantations. For many ages they {44} retained a principal place among diviners. In the reign of Marcus Antoninus, when the emperor and his army, who were perishing with thirst, were suddenly relieved by a shower, the prodigy was ascribed to the power and skill of the Chaldean soothsayers. Thus accredited for their miraculous powers, they maintained their consequence in the courts of princes. (See Cic. de Divin. l. i., Strabo l. xv.—Sext. Emp. adv. Matt. l. v. Sec. 2, Aul. Gell. l. xiv. s. 1, Strabo l.c.) The mysteries of Chaldean philosophy were revealed only to a select few, and studiously concealed from the multitude; and thus a veil of sanctity was cast over their doctrine, so that it might more easily be employed in the support of civil and religious tyranny. The sum of the Chaldean cosmogony, as it is given in Syncellus (Chronic. p. 28), divested of allegory is, that in the beginning all things consisted of darkness and water; that BELUS, or a divine power, dividing this humid mass formed the world, and that the human mind is an emanation from the divine nature. (Perizon. in Orig. Bab. Voss. de Scient. Math. c. xxx. Sec. 5. Hottinger Hist. Or. p. 365. Herbelot Bib. Or. Voc. Zor. Anc. Un. Hist. vol. iii. Prid. Conn. b. iv. Shuckford, b. viii. Burnet Archaeol. Phil. l. i. c. 4. Brucker's Hist. Phil., by Enfield, vol. i. b. i, c. 3.)[44]

Now, we read that, "in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed {45} dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king."[45] But when by the king required not only to interpret but to reveal the very phantasm itself, they declared it beyond the power of their own or human art. Daniel, however, of the captive race, revealed it by supernal influence. Then did the monarch admit as to Deity, that God (JAH, Ps. lxviii. v. 4) was God of gods (Baalim, the representations of Baal).[46] His second dream was again only understood by the inspired representative of the Hebrews. But when, finally, appeared the stupendous handwriting on the wall, and when Belshazzar and his court were overwhelmed with amazement, so that "the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another, the king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers."[47] They came; but all in vain. Daniel interpreted the hand-writing at sight, and his reading proved true. Some theories prevail about this, which, whether correct or not, are entitled to be understood and considered. They have, at least, direct reference to our subject of secret instruction and writing.


The wonderful miracles of God at the exodus did not prevent that nation from repeated lapse into paganism, and acts of open disobedience to the Theocratic law. Still less were they debarred thereby the mere oriental customs of imparting moral instruction in secret associations, or the pursuit of science in hidden confraternities. But the train of thought and instruction in the Hebrew societies was singularly pure, and directly at variance with the mysteries of paganism. While the whole result of the teaching of the heathen mysteries was to represent, symbolically, the fructifying energies of nature (which they supposed to be the sum of both science and theology), that of the Israelites was the inculcation alone of virtue, the acquisition of science, and the preservation of the name of Deity under peculiar forms and ceremonies, the recognition of which by members of the initiated, opened from one to the other every heart in perfect confidence, constantly reminding them of their duty to him as well as to each other. The whole system of oriental instruction, save that proclaimed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, was secret. Even the name of Deity could not be pronounced except at low breath, or in a whisper, under prescribed forms. Has the reader ever asked himself the meaning of the passage in the Lord's Prayer, "Hallowed be thy name?" The Hebrews had a visible manifestation of God. That was not the only object of reverence. It was limited {47} not to any manifestation, but to the name of Deity. And that teaching has received the express recognition of our Saviour, by his making it a part of the selections from the Jewish euchologies which form his prayers. We profess to worship Deity in spirit and in truth. Do we hallow his name? Mere abstinence from profanation is a negative duty. How must it be hallowed? That is a positive duty. Christianity, rejecting the Hebrew form, regards this as a mere Hebraism, substituting the name for the being himself. The Israelites do not: and one secret society still existing, whose origin we shall trace in this essay, still preserves the Hebraistic sanctification of the original holy name as their form of recognition of each other, under solemnities which hallow it.

We know that Moses[48] "was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds." At his day pagan hieratic and hieroglyphic symbols only were written on papyrus, or carved and engraved on stone.

Take, then, the fact, that the Hebrew patriarchs and their tribes of his time were suffering under the persecution of hard task-masters in Egypt. How could their patriarchs teach to their classes the lessons of virtue and morality? We can readily suppose at the conclusion of a toilsome day, when all is dark, and tired nature would otherwise be at rest, he that had patriarchal authority, at dead of night, when {48} their pagan rulers could not hear, and while due guard was kept, whether on high hills, or in low vales, would summon together those who were worthy TO RECEIVE instruction in moral science, virtue, and their patriarchal traditions, and there—taking as emblems their instruments of daily toil—preserve the lessons which thus alone could be imparted. This we believe to be the origin of the CABBALISTS, or Kabbalistae, a secret society among the Hebrews, whose origin is lost in antiquity, yet whose knowledge may, under God's blessing, have been an instrument in accomplishing his great results. Their very name is derived from the Hebrew word [Hebrew: QBL] (Cabbala, "to receive"). This society of Cabbalistae, had various methods of secret writing. Their first was the scriptura coelestis; the second, that of angels, or kingly or dominant power; the third, that of the passage of the flood (Scriptura transitus fluvii). Breithaupt[49] says: "It is to be recollected, that the more ancient of the Kabbalistae, studied out even a secret method of writing, consisting of four lines intersecting each other at right angles, forming a square in the middle, {49} after the following method. The figure of the four lines is thus:—

shin lamed gimel resh kaph beth qoph yod aleph mem* samekh vav kaph* nun he tav mem daleth tsade* tsade tet pe* pe chet nun* ayin zayin

In each section three letters they place from right to left. When, therefore, they intend the first of the three, they write the figure of that section in which it is found, with one point ([Symbol: L with one dot]). If another (or the next), the same figure with two points ([Symbol: L with two dots]); if the third, the same again with three points ([Symbol: L with three dots]), and so on. But the Cabbalistae had also a simpler writing: "The sublime philosophy of those who are called the Kabbala, embraces within itself different kinds to which the following appertain. In their most famous magic pamphlet Rasiel, which the Kabbalistae hold in great respect, in the first place three secret alphabets are read, which, in many things, are wanting in the common form and syntax of usual Hebrew. The first is called Scriptura coelestis (the writing of heaven); the next, [Hebrew: ML'KYM] or [Hebrew: MLKYM], that is, of angels or kings (angelorum sive regum); and the third the writing of the crossing of the flood."[50] There {50} are extant also, drawings of these letters preserved by Hern. Corn. Agrippa, in his work "De Occult. Phil. lib. iii. c. 30," the copying of which would be merely matter of curiosity to no end.

But Breithaupt goes much further, and refers to a book, "In Oenigmatibus Judaeorum Religiosissimis. Helmst. 1708, editio, p. 49," wherein he says,[51] that Herm. Vonder Hardt, the most celebrated philologist of our age, remembers two singular alphabets used by the Jews in preparing their amulets. The first is {51} when the next succeeding is substituted for the preceding letter in every instance, as to wit: [Hebrew: B] for [Hebrew: '], [Hebrew: G] for [Hebrew: B], and so forth. They are said to have concealed in this manner their recognition of the one true God, which they recite daily, early and toward evening, and as to which they persuade themselves that it is the most efficacious safeguard against idolatry, fortified wherewith they can not lapse from true to false religion. The other secret alphabet consisted in this, that in inversed order they change the last letter [Hebrew: T] with the first [Hebrew: '], and this and another in turn, and so on through the rest, which inversion it is the custom to call [Hebrew: 'TBSH]. From this they produce, by such letters, in their more elaborate amulets, the noted symbol [Hebrew: MTSPTS], which is nothing else than the name of God, [Hebrew: YHWH]. St. Jerome,[52] a celebrated father of the early church, contends that the prophet Jeremiah used this kind of writing, and not to irritate the king of Babylon against the Hebrews, for king, [Hebrew: BBL], said [Hebrew: SHSHK]. But some, also, among the Jews, declare that these words in Daniel,

[Hebrew: MN' MN' TQL WPRSYN,]

which, at the supper of the King Belzhazzar miraculously appeared upon the wall, to the astonishment of all, were written in this mode; and hence think this artificial transposition of letters originated with God. But these things are to be passed by as {52} uncertain. If this last be true, the handwriting on the wall would have appeared thus:

[Hebrew: YT'T YT'T 'RB PWGCHMT'][53]

But according to the first system referred to, the following would have been the appearance.[54]

(See Conf. Jan. Hercvles de Svnde in Steganologia, lib. v., num. 4., p. 148. seqq.)

If the society of Kabbalistae originated among the Israelites as early as the time of Moses, their secret writings must having been only known to him and few besides, with their successors. Solomon, to whom Almighty God declared "wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee,"[55] must have learned them; or, if it originated with him, Daniel and Ezra, who lived in a succeeding age; after the great temple had been destroyed, during the captivity, and at the rebuilding of the second temple, both inspired servants of God, equally knew them; and when the inscriptions on the wall, or on the ark, or in the sacred rolls, were lost and unknown to the people, they were easily deciphered by means of the knowledge of the Kabbalistic character, no matter what its form. Thus when Daniel saw the handwriting on {53} the wall he read it at once, possessed as he may have been of the knowledge how to read that cipher, while it can readily be seen why the Magi of Chaldea, and of Media and Persia, were at fault. It was a secret writing of the Hebrews, known only to the select few. Ezra, in the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, "was chief-priest. This Ezra went up from Babylon, and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given."[56] This was, then, no new matter to him. The book of the law had been lost during the captivity. Yet, at the rebuilding of the temple, Ezra was a ready scribe in that lost writing. As such he went up from Babylon to Jerusalem.

The wisdom of God granted to Solomon, must have provided against the foreseen loss of the sacred rolls, and determined a way for their discovery, and the manner of reading them. The lost rolls were brought forth by Ezra, and were read, notwithstanding the ignorance of their ancient language. In what way, so consistent with reason, as by his understanding the secret writing known only to the learned of that race—the hidden scripture and instruction of a mysterious society, whose only teaching was pure, in accordance with the divine commands of the theocracy, and with the oriental manner of instruction in matters of science and morality? Did this not furnish him a key to the original text? The words of {54} the one must have been recognised by their original use in application to the reading of the other; and though the language may have changed, the old cipher must have interpreted all. We learn that, "after the second veil, the tabernacle, which is called the holiest of all, which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant," were entered.[57]

The book (or rolls) of the law was commanded to be put within the ark.[58] The end of laying it there was, that it, as the original, might be reserved there as the authentic copy, by which all others were to be corrected and set right.[59] Prideaux contends that, the ark deposited in the second temple was only a representative of a former ark on the great day of expiation, and to be a repository of the Holy Scriptures, that is, of the original copy of that collection which was made of them after the captivity, by Ezra and the men of the great synagogue; for when this copy was perfected, it was then laid up in it. And in imitation hereof, the Jews, in all their synagogues, have a like ark or coffer,[60] of the same size or form, in which they keep the Scriptures belonging to the {55} Synagogue; and whence they take it out with great solemnity, whenever they use it, and return it with the like when they have done with it. What became of the old ark, on the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, is a dispute among the Rabbins. The Jews—and herein they are supported by the traditions of the most ancient secret society on earth—contend that it was hid and preserved, by Jeremiah, say some, out of the second book of Maccabees.[61] But most of them will have it, that King Josiah, being foretold by Huldah, the prophetess, that the temple would speedily, after his death, be destroyed, caused the ark to be put in a vault under ground, which Solomon, foreseeing this destruction, had caused of purpose to be built for the preserving of it. And, for the proof hereof, they produce the text where Josiah commands the Levites[62] to put the holy ark in the house, "which Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel, did build."[63] Whether within or without the ark, or within a secret vault or not, EZRA, the scribe, brought forth the lost book or rolls of the law, and established the rules for its future perpetuity, whether by writing, or in oral explanation. And here, again, we note the use of secrecy in matters of power. From him is derived the present method of reading Hebrew, by what is usually known as the {56} vowel points in the Masoretic text. The Masorites were a set of men whose profession it was to write out copies of the Hebrew Scriptures. And the present vowel points were used by them, as derived from the secret writings of the Cabbalists. The Jews believe that, when God gave to Moses the law in Mount Sinai, he taught him first the true readings of it; and, secondly, the true interpretation of it; and that both these were handed down, from generation to generation, by oral tradition only, till at length the readings were written by the accents and vowels, in like manner as the interpretations were, by the Mishna and Gemara. The former they call Masorah, which signifieth "tradition." The other is called Cabbala, which signifieth "reception;" but both of them denote the same thing, that is, a knowledge down from generation to generation, in the doing of which, there being tradition on the one hand, and reception on the other, that which relates to the readings of the Hebrew Scriptures hath its name from the former, and that which relates to the interpretations of them from the latter. As those who studied and taught the Cabbala were called the Cabbalists, so those who studied and taught the Masorah were called the Masorites. As the whole business of the Cabbalists and Masorites was the study of the true reading of the Hebrew Scriptures, to preserve and teach the proper text, they certainly are justly held the most likely to have invented, or at least {57} received and preserved these vowel points, because the whole use of these points is to serve to this purpose.[64]

About this time, in the reign of Darius, otherwise Artaxerxes, who sent Ezra and Nehemiah to Jerusalem to restore the state of the Jews, first appeared in Persia the famous prophet of the Magi, whom the Persians call Zerdusht, or Zaratush, and the Greeks Zoroastres: born of mean and obscure parentage, with all the craft and enterprising boldness of Mohammed, but much more knowledge. He was excellently skilled in all the learning of the East that was in his time; whereas the other could neither read nor write. He was thoroughly versed in the Jewish religion, and in all the sacred writings of the Old Testament that were then extant, which makes it most likely that he was, in his origin, a Jew. It is generally said of him, that he had been a servant to one of the prophets of Israel, and that it was by this means that he came to be so well skilled in the Holy Scriptures, and all other Jewish knowledge. From the collation of authorities made by Dr. Prideaux,[65] it would seem that it was Daniel under whom he served; besides whom there was not any other master in those times, under whom he could acquire all that knowledge, both in things sacred and profane, which he was so well furnished with. He founded no new {58} religion, but only reformed the old one. He found that the eminent of the Magi usurped the sovereignty after the death of Cambyses. But they were destroyed, and by the slaughter which was then made of all the chief men among them, it sunk so low, that it became almost extinct, and Sabianism everywhere prevailed against it, Darius and most of his followers on that occasion going over to it. But the affection which the people had for the religion of their forefathers, and which they had all been brought up in, not being easily to be rooted out, Zoroastres saw that the revival of this was the best game of imposture that he could then play; and having so good an old stock to engraft upon, he with greater ease made his new scions grow. He first made his appearance in Media, now called Aderbijan, in the city of Xix, say some; in that of Ecbatana, now Tauris, say others. The chief reformation which he made in the Magian religion was in the first principles of it: for whereas before they had held the being of TWO FIRST CAUSES, the first light, or the good God, who was the author of all good; and the other darkness, or the evil god, who was the author of all evil; and that of the mixture of these two, as they were in a continual struggle with each other, all things were made; he introduced a principle superior to them both, ONE SUPREME GOD, who created both light and darkness, and out of these two, according to the alone pleasure of his own will, made all things else that are, according to what is {59} said:[66] "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." These words, directed to Cyrus, king of Persia, must be understood as spoken in reference to the Persian sect of the Magians, who then held light and darkness, or good and evil, to be the supreme beings, without acknowledging the great God who is superior to both. To avoid making God the author of evil, Zoroaster's doctrine was, that God originally and directly created only light or good, and that darkness, or evil, followed it by consequence, as the shadow doth the person; that light or good had only a real production from God, and the other afterward resulted from it as the defect thereof. In sum, his doctrine as to this particular was, that there was one Supreme Being, independent and self-existent from all eternity. That under him were two angels, one the angel of light, who is the author and director of all good; and the other the angel of darkness, who is the author and director of all evil; and that these two, out of the mixture of light and darkness, made all things that are; that they are in a perpetual struggle with each other; and that when the angel of light prevails, then the most {60} is good, and when the angel of darkness prevails, then the most is evil; that this struggle shall continue to the end of the world; that then there shall be a general resurrection, and a day of judgment, wherein just retribution shall be rendered to all according to their works, &c. And all this the remainder of that sect, which is now in Persia and India do, without any variation, after so many ages still hold, even to this day. Another reformation which he made in the Magian religion was, that he caused fire temples to be built wherever he came: this being to prevent their sacred fires, on the tops of hills, from being put out by storms, and that the public offices of their religion might be the better performed before the people. Zoroaster pretended he was taken up into heaven, there to be instructed in those doctrines which he was to deliver unto men. Mohammed pretended to have seen God. Zoroaster was too well informed for such imposture. He only claimed to have heard him speaking to him out of the midst of a great and most bright flame of fire; and he, therefore, taught his followers that fire was the truest shechinah of the divine presence. His followers thereafter worshipped the sun as the most perfect fire of God. But this was an original usage of the Magi (referred to in Ezekiel viii. 16), where it is related, that the prophet being carried in a vision to Jerusalem, had there shown him "about five-and-twenty men standing between the porch and the altar, with {61} their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun." The meaning of which is, that they had turned their backs upon the true worship of God, and had gone over to that of the Magians.[67] The Kebla, or point of the heavens toward which they directed their worship being toward the rising sun, that of the Jews in Jerusalem to the Holy of Holies on the west end of the temple; of those elsewhere toward Jerusalem; of the Mohammedans toward Mecca, and the Sabians toward the meridian.

Come whence it may, what is the meaning of the use of fire in any divine worship?

1. Burnt-offerings of old required it.

2. It descended on the altars of Elijah, and of Solomon, from God himself.

3. The Magi, from the time of Zoroaster, have deemed it the symbol of purity.

4. The pagan mysteries in Egypt, Greece, and Rome, all preserved the "sacred fire." Most religions seem to have adopted its use. Why?

5. The Catholic church has ever preserved its use in burning tapers, lamps, and smoking incense.

In his reformation of the customs and rites of the Magi, Zoroaster, as has been hereinbefore said, preserved their three grades of APPRENTICES, MASTERS, and PERFECT MASTERS.[68] The first were the inferior clergy, who served in all the common offices of their {62} divine worship; next above them were the superintendents, who in their several districts governed the inferior clergy, as bishops do with us; and above all was the perfect-master, the archimagus, who was the head of the whole religion. Accordingly their places of worship were of three sorts. The lowest sort were parochial oratories served by the inferior clergy, where they read the daily offices out of their liturgy, and on solemn occasions read part of their sacred writings to the people. In these churches there were no fire altars; but the small scintilla of sacred fire preserved in them, was kept only in a lamp. Next above these were their fire temples, in which fire was continually burning on a sacred altar. The highest church of all was "the fire-temple," the residence of the archimagus, first established by Zoroaster at Balch, but removed in the seventh century to Kerman, a province in Persia on the southern ocean. To gain the better reputation to his pretensions, Zoroaster first retired to a cave, and there lived a long time as a recluse, pretending to be abstracted from all earthly considerations, and to be given wholly to prayer and divine meditations; and the more to amuse the people who there resorted to him, he dressed up his cave with several mystical figures, representing Mithra, and other mysteries of their religion. In this cave he wrote his book, called Zendavesta, or Zend, meaning "fire-kindler," or "tinder-box." This book contains much borrowed {63} from the Old Testament. He even called it the book of Abraham, and his religion the religion of Abraham; for he pretended that the reformation which he introduced was no more than to bring back the religion of the Persians to that original purity in which Abraham practised it, by purging it of all those defects, abuses, and innovations, which the corruptions of after-times had introduced into it.[69]

Is it not singular that all the nations of the earth still trace their teaching in pure religion to Abraham, whether under the name of Brahma, or otherwise?

These ancient Magi were great mathematicians, philosophers, and divines of the ages in which they lived, and had no other knowledge but what by their own study, and the instructions of the ancients of their sect they had improved themselves in. All of the Magi were not thus learned, only those of the higher order. The priesthood, like the Jewish, was communicated only from father to son, except to the royal family,[70] whom they were bound to instruct, the better to fit them for government. Whether it were that these Magians thought it would bring the greater credit to them, or the kings, that it would add a greater sacredness to their persons, or from both these causes, the royal family of Persia, so long as the Magi prevailed among them, was always reckoned {64} of the sacerdotal tribe.[71] The kings of Persia were looked on to be of that sacerdotal order, and were always initiated into the sacred rites of the Magians, before they took on them the crown, or were inaugurated into the kingdom.[72]

PYTHAGORAS next assumed, in the west, the most prominent place for learning. He was the scholar of Zoroaster at Babylon, and learned of him most of that knowledge which afterward rendered him so famous. So saith Apulcius (Floridorum secundo), and so say Jamblichus (in vita Pythag. c. 4), Porphyry (Ibid. p. 185. edit. Cant.), and Clemens Alexandrinus (Stromata i. p. 223) for the Zabratus or Zaratus of Porphyry, and the Na-Zaratus of Clemens, were none other than this Zoroaster; and they relate the matter thus: that when Cambyses conquered Egypt he found Pythagoras there on his travels, for the improvement of himself in the learning of that country; that, having taken him prisoner, he sent him, with other captives, to Babylon, where Zoroaster (or Zabratus, as Porphyry calls him) then lived; and that he there became his disciple, and learned many things of him in the eastern learning. There may be error as to date, but that Pythagoras was at Babylon, and learned there a great part of that knowledge which he was afterward so famous for, is agreed by {65} all. His stay there, Jamblichus tells us, was twelve years; and that, in his converse with the Magians, he learned from them arithmetic, music, the knowledge of divine things, and the sacred mysteries pertaining thereto. But the most important doctrine which he brought home thence, was that of the immortality of the soul; for it was generally agreed among the ancients (Porphysius in vita Pythagorae p. 188, edit., Cant. Jamblichus in vita Pyth. c. 30), that he was the first of all the Greeks that taught it. Prideaux says he takes this for certain, that Pythagoras had this from Zoroaster, for it was his doctrine, and he is the earliest heathen on record who taught it.[73] But Pythagoras seems to have combined the notions he then received with those of the Egyptian Magi; for he taught immortality to consist in constant transmigration from one body to another. The Egyptian Magi claimed to be judges of the dead,[74] and taught this doctrine. Zoroaster taught a resurrection from the dead, and an immortal state as we understand it. And it is probable Pythagoras adopted this notion after he fled from Samos to Egypt to escape from the government of Polycrates.

Be this as it may, he was a master-spirit in a secret society with its lodges spread through Magna Graecia, originating in one he established at Crotona in Lower Italy. Like that of the Cabbalists, this society had no connection whatever with the dominant religion. {66} The Kabbalistae taught virtue and science, and thus were, perhaps, an auxiliary, but certainly no opponent to the sacred teachings of the holy law. The Pythagorean league taught philosophy alone; full instruction was given in the liberal arts and sciences in accordance with the learning of that age. But, after it was thought destroyed (and it was suppressed by Cylon and his faction, about the year 500 B.C.), it still exercised a great influence over all Greece, in such manner as that Heeren speaks of it as a phenomenon which is in many respects without a parallel. The grand object of the moral reform of Pythagoras was SELF-GOVERNMENT. By his dignity, moral purity, dress, and eloquence, he excited not only attention but enthusiasm. In that day an aristocracy prevailed in Magna Graecia, based chiefly on the corrupting tendencies of wealth and luxury. Against this class a popular movement commenced, by the influence whereof Sybaris was destroyed, and thereupon five hundred nobles fled for safety to Crotona, and prayed for protection from that city, which they obtained principally by the advice of Pythagoras. (Diod. Sic. xii. p. 77. Wechel.) Aristocratic evils he abrogated. A friend of the people, he recognised their equal rights: and it would seem that, while he adopted grades in knowledge and moral worth, he considered mankind on "a level" so far as all political power was concerned. To accomplish this end, he prescribed in his own society, and their affiliated {67} lodges, or meetings, a certain manner of life, distinguished by a most cleanly but not luxurious clothing, a regular diet, a methodical division of time, part of which was to be appropriated to one's self, and part to the state. Heeren remarks, that when a secret society pursues political ends, it naturally follows that an opposing party increases in the same degree in which the preponderating influence of such a society becomes more felt. In this case, the opposition existed already in the popular party. It therefore only needed a daring leader, like Cylon, to scatter the society by violence; the assembly was surprised, and most of them cut down, while a few only, with their master, escaped. They are said, so far as their political views were concerned, to have regarded anarchy as the greatest evil, because man can not exist without social order. They held that everything depended on the relation between the governing and the governed; that the former should be not only prudent but mild; and that the latter should not only obey, but love their magistrates; that it was necessary to grow accustomed, even in boyhood, to regard order and harmony as beautiful and useful, disorder and confusion as hateful and injurious. They were not blindly attached to a single form of government, but insisted that there should be no unlawful tyranny. Where a regal government existed, kings should be subject to the laws, and act only as the chief magistrates. They regarded a {68} mixed constitution as the best, and where the administration rested principally in the hands of the upper class, they reserved a share of it for the people. The writings of the Pythagoreans commanded high prices, but gained political importance only so far as they contributed to the education of distinguished men, of whom Epaminondas was one.[75]

Another scion of these methods of secret instruction, wherein, however, religion was the engine of political power, came from the ancient Assyrian stock with Phoenician emigration to Great Britain. The DRUIDS controlled the learning of that country in religion as in science; and by their mysteries exerted an overwhelming influence upon the rulers and the masses.

Dr. Parsons[76] says, what were the filids, and bards, and the Druids, but professors of the sciences among the Gomerians, and Magogians or Scythians, and it is plain that, from Phenius downward, there were always, in every established kingdom among the Scythians, philosophers and wise men, who, at certain times, visited the Greek sages, after they had found their schools? It is no easy matter to point out the first rise and ages of the Druids. They taught the same opinions of the renovated state of the earth, and of souls, with the Magi. According to Caesar, in his time these Druids instructed their youth in the {69} nature and motion of the stars, in the theory of the earth, its magnitude, and of the world, and in the power of the immortal gods. On the continent of Europe, he says, the Druids grew into such power and ascendency over the minds of the people, that even the kings themselves paid an implicit slavish obedience to their dictates; insomuch, that their armies were brave in battle, or abject enough to decline even the most advantageous prospects of success, according to the arbitrary prognostics of this set of religious tyrants; and their decisions became at last peremptory in civil, as well as in the affairs of religion. One of the kings of Ireland, the learned Carmac o' Quin, great in law and philosophy, who was not afraid to inveigh openly against the corruptions and superstition of the Druids, and maintained, in his disputations against them, that the original theology consisted in the worship of one omnipotent, eternal Being, that created all things; that this was the true religion of their ancestors; and that the numerous gods of the Druids were only absurdity and superstition—proved fatal to him. For, as this society saw an impending danger of their dissolution, they formed a deep conspiracy against him, and he was murdered. The Druids on the continent never committed their mysteries to writing, but taught their pupils memoriter. The Irish and Scotch Druids wrote theirs, but in secret character. These were well understood by the learned men who were in great numbers, and had {70} not only genius but an ardent inclination to make researches into science. St. Patrick, then, with the general consent and applause of the learned of that day, committed to the flames almost two hundred tracts of their pagan mysteries.[77] And with his day ended the last of druidical superstition. The Druids preserved the mistletoe evergreen as an emblem of nature's fructifying energy, and of immortality.

The Thugs, Assassins, Phanzigars, or by what other name they may be known, were no society for the development of philosophy or religion; and, although they began about this time, are unworthy of farther mention. Their mysteries, if any, were only those of the highway robber, murderer, or other violater of God's law. Their only secrecy was the concealment of their crime.

* * * * *



The Discipline of the Secret in the Origin of the Christian Church.—The Inquisition.—The Mystics.—The rise of Monachism.—The Mendicant Orders.—The Order of Knighthood.—The Jesuits, their Organization, and History.—The Rosicrucians, &c.

But next appeared upon the stage of human life, our Lord and Saviour, JESUS CHRIST; "The sun of Righteousness, rising with healing on his wings:" that LIGHT of this world, which was to draw all men unto him, at the mention of whose name "every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth."[78]

His lessons to man were all oral. The church he established received none but traditional instruction. The gospels of his life were written more than half a century after the crucifixion. The apostles, commissioned to go forth and preach the Gospel, held their meetings in upper chambers, and in secrecy, and part of their manner of teaching, if not all, was founded upon the still-prevailing systems of the Kabbalistae and philosophers. There were grades observed in the orders of ministry. The diaconate, the {72} presbyter, priest or elder, and the [Greek: episkopos] or bishop. So there were three grades of the laity—catechumens, (not yet baptized,) baptized persons, and "the faithful." The policy of the apostles (who, when they were taught to be harmless, were to be wise) adapted itself to the then existing state of affairs. It was not only for fear of the Jews, as at first, that they adopted the method of instruction in secret, and which is to this day recognised by the catholic church as the then disciplina arcani, or "discipline of the secret;" but they kept it up even during the times of persecution, down to the time of St. Augustin. When our Saviour was insulted by the scribes and Pharisees, saying, "why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?" &c. He said to them, "why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"[79] Still more did he rebuke them, when they asked him, "why walk not thy disciples according to the traditions of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?" In his answer, he replied, "laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups, &c., &c. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition."[80] St. Paul afterward, well knowing the then systems of philosophy, and their then traditional instruction, wrote to them at Philippi,[81] "Beware lest any man spoil you through {73} philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments (or elements) of this world, and not after Christ." Then St. Paul, guarding the early Christians so carefully, writes to the faithful in Thessaly, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which ye have received of us,"[82] &c. When St. Paul preached on the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread, it was in an upper chamber where they were gathered together.[83] At an earlier date, the first day of the week after the crucifixion, in the evening, "when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, came Jesus, and stood in the midst," &c.[84] When Pliny was proconsul in Judea, such charges were made against the Christians on account of their secrecy, as caused severe persecution, not for matters of religion, but for supposed cannibalism. He writes to Trajan, that he took all pains to inform himself as to the character of the Christian sect. To do this he questioned such as had for many years been separated from the Christian community, but though apostates rarely speak well of the society to which they formerly belonged, he could find out nothing. He then applied torture to two female-slaves, deaconesses, to extort from them the truth. After all, he could learn only that the {74} Christians were in the habit of meeting together on a certain day; that they then united in a hymn of praise to their God, Christ; and that they bound one another—not to commit crimes, but to refrain from theft, from adultery, to be faithful in performing their promises, to withhold from none the property intrusted to their keeping; and then separated and afterward assembled at a simple and innocent meal.[85]

Evidently, the Christian mysteries were preserved secret from the Romans as from the Jews, or such crime could never have been imputed to them. Alluding to the secret traditional instruction prevalent in Judea and adopted by the early church, St. Augustin writes, "You have heard the great mystery. Ask a man, 'Are you a Christian?' He answers you, 'I am not.' 'Perhaps you are a pagan, or a Jew?' But if he has answered 'I am not;' then put this question to him, 'Are you a catechumen, or one of the faith?' If he shall answer you, 'I am a catechumen;' he is anointed but not yet baptized. But, whence anointed? ask him. And he replies. Ask of him in whom he believes. From the fact that he is a catechumen, he says, in Christ."

This is the third lecture of St. Augustin on the ninth chapter of St. John's gospel, where our Saviour is portrayed as healing the blind man, by mixing earth with spittle and anointing his eyes therewith. And St. Augustin adds, "Why have I spoken of {75} spittle and of mud? Because the word is made flesh; this the catechumens hear; but it is not sufficient for them as to what they were anointed; let them hasten to the font, if they desire light."[86]

But still further to mark the distinction between these grades of Christian secret instruction, St. Augustin, in the eleventh tract on the Gospel of St. John, treating of the conversation between Nicodemus and our Saviour, as to regeneration, says, "If, therefore, Nicodemus was of the multitude who believed in his name, now in that Nicodemus we comprehend why Jesus did not trust them. Jesus answered and said to him, 'Verily, verily I say unto you, unless any one shall have been born again, he can not see the kingdom of God.' Jesus placed faith, therefore, in those who were born again. Lo! they believed in him, and Jesus did not trust in them. Such are all catechumens: they now believe in the name of Christ, but Jesus does not confide in them. Let your love comprehend and understand this. If we say to a catechumen, 'Do you believe in Christ?' He answers, {76} 'I do,' and signs himself with Christ's cross: he bears it on his forehead, and blushes not at his Lord's cross. Lo! he believes in his name. Let us ask him, 'Do you eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood?' He knows not what we say, because Jesus has not trusted him."[87]

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