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20. Delusion and deception were inseparable from this Gnosis: deception from within, deception from without. Gifts, which were such exclusive property, which were received through inspiration from above, or through traditions from Pythagoras, Plato, Abraham and Moses, or through rare or single manuscripts, only to be found in Alexandria, were of course not readily disposed of. They were not imparted to every one: Schools were formed, and these schools were called "the teaching of the sages of old.” In this way Zoroaster's state and temple service came to have its three orders, disciples, masters and past masters: So Pythagoras had his orders, and enjoined a silence of years upon his initiates: so there crept in gradually, even where there were no peculiarly secret associations, a distinction between the exoteric and esoteric instruction, merely because a new time was commenting upon an old one. Old laws and customs were intended to have force where they could have it no longer: they did not wish to pull down the decaying temple, and they had not the heart to say what it wanted for the times. Accordingly this kindled in it the flame, Gnosis, which they did not suffer every unworthy one to gaze upon, lest it should be peryerted from its uses.
21. So was it, for instance, with the philosophy of Plato. According to its age it wore the dress of mythology; but this age was now no more. His Jupiter and Eros, the Jews and Neo-Platonists, could not use with the same propriety with which he had once introduced them in attic phrase: they refined upon them. They explained, omitted, rendered anew, passed over in silence, refused to communicate to all, and made classes among their disciples: the genius of the times had changed; and, since they did not remark the change, or were unwilling to mention it, they taught the Gnosis, or truth chained to unreal things, contained in antiquated forms. *
Pythagoras and Plato speaking to their scholars, as they formerly did in Crotona and Athens: it was the teacher of traditions, speaking to his pupils—the mystic to his initiated, or even the Demon to the Daiominisomeno, (Demoniac.)
*If one wishes to see an ideal of the Jewish-Hellenistic Gnosis, let him read the descriptions of wisdom in the book of Sirach and the so called book of Wisdom. (Sirach xxiv:1–47. xlii: 15--26. 43–50. Wisdom i: 6--19.) He will see here, on the one hand, how the ideas of wisdom were then enlarged, both as respects physiology, politics and religion; and, on the other hand, how much they strove to klothe them in the old forms, the old history of the people.
22. But wo to the times in which men think that they must convert the light of day, the shining sun, into a mere torch of light, lest it should hurt their eyes! and blessings to the man who at least does not misuse his buried lamp for secret deception! A light, which, in the spirit of the Dons, must be brought up from the grave of Zoroaster, Moses, Pythagoras or Plato, and not rise in mid-day, is a dangerous night-light in the hands of every idle man.
23. To speak freely, to what was Gnosticist, that half true and half false distinction of an inner and an outer doctrine, most indebted? To the misery and weakness of the times.
After the nurseries of Grecian philosophy, the republics, were brought under the yoke, philosophy, while it parted with its natural aspect, lost at the same time its original determinate and practical character: it went into exile. In Asia, in Egypt, in Rome,-every where it was but a slave or freedwoman, on whom they imposed at will every good or evil service.
The conquests of Alexandria had mingled together the modes of thinking of all nations, although they could not root out their primitive, characteristic, national ideas, (urandenken): For, though in Persia the state religion of Zoroaster had fallen to the ground, yet his system, his castes of priests, remained. Thrown thus out of their genuine sphere of action, what could they be, in course of time, but a band of impostors, whose establishment and whose symbols were perverted. From the name, mag, or priest, so honored in the Persian state, came the sorcerer, the impostor, (magus.) Greeks, returning to the west, carried with them spurious writings of Zoroaster, set up the mysteries of Mythra, and spread them by fraud and delusion. From distracted Egypt were brought forth the the mysteries of Osiris and of Iris, in a form certainly different from any under which the old temples had known them, and at last became a laughing-stock to the Romans.
24. Still more decidedly did the misery of the times lead to Gnosticism, from the fact, that, through the wars of Alexander's successors, and the splendid conquests of the Romans, which soon followed, all the institutions of the conquered nations were obliged to part with their genius, their essential power, without receiving any thing better in its place. Native inhabitants were not suffered to act out in their national
character; countries were stripped of their peculiar blessings; every thinker, who could do it, drew himself back, fled to the deserts, and thought over the evil of the world, an evil to which he could see no limits. Pressed down by the misery of the times, he began to think depreciatingly of all mankind: He consoled himself with speculations about the pure, original being, and with calculating how many orders of æons our race must have fallen down to be solow! and from that he very naturally would pass to projects and hopes of his future restoration.
25. In short, the victories and oppressions themselves, what could they prove but internal weakness and licentiousness, and all-consuming luxury? With it came silent Nemesis, quick to punish: She punished inexorably, mysteriously, dreadfully. The oppressed turned traitors; they, whose national doctrine and national science had been taken from them, brought all their ingenuity and toil to bear upon one object, viz.: to profit by the wants or the luxury of others, and to miscolour for their own advantage the little light which here and there was still burning on. The soft voluptuary, unnerved by extorted wealth, by pride and dissipation, had no powers left for any thing else than merely to believe. Absorbed in care about his wretched life, trembling before the future and the powers unseen, too timid and too impotent to study the course of nature, he offered himself a willing victim to fables, prophecies, inspirations, initiations, flatteries and frauds. No! Bellona is not the guardian goddess of our race, the benefactress of mankind: She destroys, and builds not up; with the smoke she leaves behind, she darkens the hearts and the eyes, and in the prey which she hugs, she spreads the surest destruction.
26. Such were the times before and after the coming of Christ. And is it to be wondered that, when the heavenly drops of his doctrine sank into this boiling whirlpool of powerless, vague opinions, hopes and speculations, the waves closed in on all sides, to swallow up the drops and absorb them into their own substance? The so called Gnostics,* whom we know only through Christianity, rose like water-bubbles on the surface of Christianity, and vanished in its stream. From Simon Magus down, they were all founders of sects—meta
*They appeared openly at the close of the first and beginning of the second contury; but, that the germ of their Gnosis had existed there still earlier, and had Aourished under different names, is matter of plain inference from the above facts. They, the Christian Gnostics, should not be called a school of philosophy, still less of any peculiar oriental philosophy: they were sectarians, each of whom formed a system for himself.
physical expounders, who wished to fasten upon Christianity their speculations about God, creation, the human race, and about the origin and final expulsion of evil in the world; who each made a religion for himself, beyond the bounds of reason, and saw only himself therein. That loud call, “The Saviour has come,'' had drawn them forth hurriedly from their holes; and so they all set out to show, each from his own genealogical tables and figures, what celestial aon this redeemer must necessarily be; how their own eastern or western dreams could be made to correspond with his person and appearance, and in what way, according to their sense, the salvation of the world could be alone hoped for. After what we have remarked of Zoroaster, Plato and Philo, and what the whole bitter history of the dissentions of those times proves, we have nothing to do but present, merely as a sort of child's play, a few of the phantoms of the imaginations of these metaphysical expounders of Christianity. As to their origin and worth, they will speak for themselves.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)
C. P. C.
PERSECUTION OF THE JEWS AT DAMASCUS.
RESTORATION OF THE JEWS TO PALESTINE.
* But the most barefaced acts of tyranny and oppression were practised against the Jews, who were entirely out of the protection of law, were extremely odious, from the bigotry of the people, and were abandoned to the immeasurable rapacity of the King and ministry.
“Besides many other indignities to which they were continually exposed, it appears that they were once all thrown into prison, and the sum of sixty thousand marks exacted for their liberty. At another time, Isaac, the Jew, paid, alone, five thousand one hundred marks; Brun, three thousand marks; Jurnet, two thousand; Bennet, five hundred: At another, Secoria, widow of David, the Jew, of Oxford, was required to pay six thousand marks; and she was delivered over to six of the richest and discreetest Jews in England, who were to answer for the game.
“ Henry III. borrowed five thousand marks from the Earl of Cornwall; and, for his repayment, consigned over to him all the Jews in England. The revenue arising from exactions upon this nation, was so considerable, that there was a particular Court of Exchequer set apart for managing it."
Such is the language of Mr. Hume: and what a wretched picture of the social and political condition of the Jews does it present! They were literally outcasts previous to and under the reign of John-disowned by the church, out of the protection of the law, martyrs to the rapacity of tyrants, or the fiercer bigotry of the people. Nor have many years elapsed since this oppression has ceased-since kings thought it no wrong, and their subjects no injustice, for pelf or for revenge, to torture and torment this lone and forsaken race.
But the civilized world has grown wiser, and England is in part redeemed from this iniquity. The throne on which the Saxon sat is still firm, and the power to rule still centers there; but, fortunately for society, this power is limited by law, so that the successors of John and Henry dare no longer outrage the person, or seize the property, of the poorest peasant in the land. The spirit of the people, too, has become more liberal and enlarged. Socially, the Jews are now scarcely oppressed. They are left free to win, if they can, the goal of distinction; and on 'change, in the legislature, in the walks of literature and in society, may reach the highest rank. As some evidence of this reform, and in broad contrast, too, to the remarks of the historian, let us refer to the call for a public meeting, over which a member of the royal family was to preside, and which was to be holden within trumpet sound of the royal residence in London.
6+ Cruelty to the Jews at Damascus.—The barbarity of the rulers in this city ought not to be bome by civilized Europe, and Government should interfere to artest and punish them. Let there be a full meeting this evening to determine what, ought to be done. The Duke of Sussex will take the chair."