Date: Sunday, August 29, 1999 12:49 PM
THE PHILOSOPHY OF ANCIENT GREECE - THE SCHOOL OF PYTHAGORAS - THE DELPHIC MYSTERIES.
We have all heard the famous inscription on the Temple of Delphi, "Know thyself and thou wilt know the universe and the gods." On the basis of this maxim the entire theosophical system of the ancient Greeks was based. The three leading propositions of all the Esoteric Schools are summed up in the sentence frequently quoted as the gist of the teaching of Pythagoras: "Evolution is the law of life; number is the law of the universe; unity is the law of God."
The wonderful character known as Orpheus is no mythical personage, but a genuine adept of antiquity around whose wonderful career, as in all similar cases, multitudes of fairy tales have gathered. The work of Orpheus, like that of all other great spiritual teachers, did not consist in establishing a sect or party, but in disseminating truths of universal import which gradually percolated through many existing systems, constituting an inner body of doctrine of which simply literalists were always ignorant. Pythagoras, the Sage of Samos, though his period was not earlier than 600 B.C., is regarded as quite a legendary character by many who have not deeply studied the history of that epoch, and as in the case of so many other great leaders who worked from a spiritual standpoint, fierce persecution assailed this renowned Initiate and all who had the hardihood to publicly espouse his doctrines and remain faithful to his cause. The more we study history, the more convinced must we become that the persecuting spirit, which has relentlessly attacked all the world's great reformers, is excited not by religious conviction in any case originally, but by scheming demagogues, whose tyrannical authority, whether in Church or State, is always threatened by the spread of knowledge, and particularly by a real understanding of the Mysteries. In the case of Pythagoras and his followers, this persecution took place in Sicily, from which island many of the instructed fled to Greece, which furnished them a safe asylum. It is to Plato that we owe almost all our information concerning Pythagoras and his teachings; for, like other great spiritual enlighteners, this noble master gave instruction orally and never transferred his esoteric teachings to writing except under cover of symbolical signs, which only his disciples were able to interpret. It appears that all masters have adopted the two-fold method of giving moral instruction freely to multitudes, but confiding the deeper meaning of their teaching exclusively to those disciples who had prepared themselves to profit by more interior instruction. No sensible or thoughtful person can fail to see the wisdom and complete justice of this course, for no one was excluded from the deeper teaching who was prepared to receive it, and preparation consisted in thoroughly digesting and practically applying the general teaching given openly to the multitudes. All sorts of curious names have been given to this inner teaching by those who referred to it metaphorically. In India the curious title of "Boar's flesh" has been sometimes applied to an inner philosophy which was concealed from the masses, a similitude which has led to the ludicrous mistake entertained by some shallow critics that one of the Buddhas died from gourmandizing on flesh, when it is well known in the East that those who occupy high spiritual stations are always vegetarians. In the School of Pythagoras, great stress was laid on simple diet, as one means for purifying the body of a candidate seeking admission into the inner circle of disciples, for if was stoutly contended that no one could become thoroughly clairvoyant, in the higher acceptance of the term, who partook of animal food, or who used any stimulants or narcotics. The Sage of Samos was not an ordinary theurgist or worker of miracles, serving merely to create transitory sensational interest, his avowed mission being to assist humanity in the work of such complete regeneration that strife should cease upon the earth, both in the inward lives of his disciples and in the outer world also, so far as their influence extended. The essence of the Pythagorean Doctrine has come down to us in the Golden Verses of Lysis, in the commentary of Hierocles, and especially in the Timaeus of Plato, which contains a perfect system of cosmogony. All the great writers of ancient Greece radiate the spirit of Pythagoras, whom they admired so greatly that they never tire of relating anecdotes depicting the wisdom and beauty of his teaching and his marvelous power over all with whom he came in contact. He is quoted as an authority by the Gnostics of the early Christian Church as well as by the Neoplatonists of Alexandria. This teaching constitutes a magnificent whole, and serves greatly to simplify the mysterious symbolism of India and Egypt, which often requires a clear Hellenic mind to portray it in intelligible language consistently with rational and ennobling ideas of human liberty. That wonderful period which witnessed the life and work of Pythagoras was also the age of Lao-Tse in China, and of Buddha Sakya-Muni in India. Pythagoras was a great traveler; he is said to have crossed the whole of the ancient world before delivering his message in Greece, to which country he brought the ripe fruits of a thoroughly matured philosophy. A fascinating account of this wonderful teacher is given by the gifted French author, Edouard Schure, who enters with much picturesque detail into an account of the early years and extended travels of this brilliant yet calm philosopher, who was the son of noble-minded parents. His father was a wealthy jeweler of Samos; his mother a woman of much refinement. It is said that the Pythoness of Delphi, when consulted by these good people shortly after their marriage, promised them a son who would be useful to all men throughout all times. The oracle directed them to Sidon in Phoenicia, where the child could be born far from the disturbing influences which then ruled in their native land. Before his birth Pythagoras was fervently consecrated to Apollo, the God of Light. When the child was only a year old, acting on advice received from a priest of Delphi, his mother took him to an Israelitish temple in a valley of Lebanon where the high priest gave the infant a special blessing. Parthenis, the mother of this wondrous babe, is reported to have been a singularly beautiful and gentle woman, highly intellectual and of a very gracious temper. As the boy grew toward manhood, his parents encouraged him in that pursuit of wisdom in which he took a most keen delight, and so earnest a student was he that when only eighteen years of age he had studied in classes composed almost exclusively of thoroughly mature and particularly able men. But though, when at the age of twenty three, he had enjoyed conference with Thales and Anazimander at Miletus, and others of the greatest among philosophers, none of these distinguished teachers had satisfied his yearning for the knowledge of perfect truth. Their teachings seemed to him contradictory, and he was ever searching for a grand synthesis. We translate freely the following paragraphs from the french of Edouard Schure describing the hour when this marvelous genius seemed to attain his first complete glimpse of the great mission which lay before him: "Through the length of a glorious night Pythagoras directed his gaze now to the earth, now to the temple, and now to the starlit skies. Demeter, the Earth-Mother, that Nature whose secrets he sought to penetrate, was there outspread beneath him and around. He imbibed her potent exhalations and felt the invincible attraction uniting him, a thinking atom, to her bosom, an inseparable portion of herself. The Sages whom he had consulted had told him that it was from her that all things spring. From nothing comes nothing. The soul proceeds from water and from fire, but this subtle emanation of the primal element issues from them only to revert. Nature, said they, is sightless and inflexible; resign thyself to her unchanging laws. The sole merit thou canst have consists in this, that thou knowest them and art resigned to them. Then he gazed upon the firmament and sought to decipher the letters of flame formed by the Constellations in the fathomless depths of space. These signs, said he, must have a meaning, for if the infinitesimal, the motion of atoms, has its reason for existence, surely then also the immeasurably great, the wide-extended stars whose constellations represent a body of the universe! Verily each of these worlds must have its law, for all move unitedly according to number and in perfect harmony. But who will decipher this starry alphabet? The priests of Juno had told him this universe is the abode of the gods which existed before the earth. 'Thy soul cometh' (said they) 'from thence. Pray to the gods that it may remount to heaven.' Then we are told that his meditations were interrupted, first by the chants of the Lesbian women and the Bacchic airs chanted by the youths, but these melodious sounds were soon interrupted by piercing mournful cries issuing from men who were to be sold as slaves and were being cruelly struck by those who were compelling them to embark for Asia. Then it was that a painful thrill ran through his frame, for a mighty problem presented itself before him, as he contrasted vividly the different estates of the various classes of human beings who were thus brought before his notice. Whatever others might say and whatever appearances might indicate, the young Pythagoras cried out for liberty, liberty from all the pain, slavery and madness so abundantly spread around him. Who were right? he asked. The Sages who taught a doctrine of blind fatality, the priests who attributed everything to Divine Providence, or the great mass of humanity who stood between the two with no well defined philosophy? All voices, he decided, declared some aspect of truth, but none gave to him the true solution of the problem. The three worlds, elaborately described in ancient cosmology, undoubtedly existed, and it was in the law of their equilibrium that the secret of the Kosmos lay. Having given utterance to this discovery, he rose to his feet, his glance fixed on the majestic temple which seemed transfigured in the moonbeams. In that magnificent temple he believed he saw an ideal image of the universe. The Cosmos guided and penetrated by God formed the sacred Quaternion, which is the source of Nature whose cause is eternal. Concealed in the geometrical lines of the Delphic Temple, he thought he found the key of the universe. The base, columns, architrave and triangular pediment represented to his view the three-fold nature of humanity and the universe: of the Microcosm and the Macrocosm crowned by divine unity, itself a trinity. The three worlds natural, human and divine, sustaining one another anal performing a universal drama in an ascending and descending movement signified to him the balance of earth and heaven, of which human liberty holds control. It was then that he conceived of human purification and liberation by triple initiation. But he must prove by reason what his simple intelligence had received from the Absolute. This needs a human life; this is the task of Hercules. But where could he find the necessary knowledge to conduct this mighty labor? Nowhere but in his own soul. It was then that he forsook all allegiance to existing schools, and began the great task of working out for himself that wonderfully complete and simple, though seemingly intricate system, which we have learned to venerate as Pythagorean philosophy. "
Modern natural philosophy has always been compelled to acknowledge an imponderable universal agent, and has, therefore, sometimes quite unconsciously, fallen largely into line with the ideas of both ancient and modern Theosophists.
In the ancient Greek thought, Cybele-Maia reigns everywhere; for this is the name given to the soul of the world, that plastic, vibrating substance through which creative spirit acts. Oceans of ether unite all worlds, and this mysterious element is galled the great mediator between invisible and visible, between spirit and matter, between the interior and exterior of the universe. The modern Theosophical doctrine of the "astral light" is practically identical with the doctrine of the Logos and its many manifestations, as held in ancient Greece as well as all over the Orient. With these ancient concepts the philosophy of Pythagoras is very largely in accord; but when he visited the temple of Delphi and infused new life into the doctrines taught there, he gave to his disciples a very much loftier idea of the universe and of humanity than was then popularly known among the frequenters of that world-famous shrine. Pythagoras visited Delphi after visiting all the other Grecian temples, and at a time when its art of divination had somewhat deteriorated. His mission everywhere was both to restore and to infuse new light. In that wonderful temple he found Theoclea, a priestess of Apollo, who belonged to one of the leading hereditary priestly families. This remarkable girl positively disliked most things which attracted others, and she was of so deeply spiritual a nature that she seemed to require none of those accessories to devotion, or aids to mystic development, which seem usually necessary. She is reported to have heard spiritual voices in open daylight, and on exposing herself to the rays of the rising sun, their mystical vibration developed in her a true ecstasy, during which she listened to the singing of choirs celestial. Feeling herself attracted to some higher world than earth, to which she had not yet found the key, she was at once attracted by that much deeper teaching, and by the far nobler influence exerted by Pythagoras than she was able to obtain from the priests of the Delphic temple, whose instructions and ceremonies by no means satisfied her inmost spirit. It is said that he and she recognized each other immediately as kindred souls, who must work together for the elevation of humanity. Pythagoras at that time was in his prime; his eloquence was amazing, and his presence so enchanting that the very atmosphere became lighter, and the intelligence of those around him awakened to an extent far beyond the usual. From this time on the work of this mighty Sage made an impression in Greece far greater than that of any other teacher, and his school was at once renowned for the extreme purity of its philosophy and its astounding depth of insight into the profoundest mysteries of the universe. Pythagoras and Theoclea worked together for a full year at Delphi in complete spiritual concert, and before he took his departure he had fully prepared her to carry on a ministry virtually identical with his own; thus did he demonstrate the underlying principle of ancient CoMasonry which always assigns to woman an equal place with man in the celebration of all mysteries, wisely drawing a horizontal line between classes of individuals solely on account of qualification, never an absurd perpendicular line based on sex differentiation.
After leaving Delphi, Pythagoras worked in Croton, where the famous Pythagorean Institute arose, which was a college and a model city under the direction of this great Initiate. Through a wise combination of art and science, that magical harmony of soul and intellect which Pythagoreans regarded as the arcanum of philosophy was established. Science and religion were entirely at one, and it would be well indeed for many in this modern world, who are vainly endeavoring to reconcile false notions of religion with partly comprehended facts of science, to quaff a deep draft of inspiration from the Pythagorean synthesis.
Edouard Schure gives us a fascinating narrative descriptive of the white dwelling of the Pythagorean Initiates situated on a hill encircled by olive and cypress trees. The following is a free translation from the exquisite french of this delightful author: "On ascending the hill, the porticos, gardens and gymnasium were distinctly seen. The Temple of the Muses, with its circular colonnade, light and elegant, towered above the two wings of the building. The terrace of the surrounding gardens overlooked the town and its harbor. In the far distance stretched the gulf, between sharp, rugged portions of the coast, as though in a frame of agate, while the Ionian Sea enclosed the horizon with a line of azure. One might often see women dressed in many-colored costumes making their way on the left side of the hill down to the sea through an alley of cypresses. These were on their way to worship in the temple of Ceres. On the right side men were often seen mounting in white robes to the temple of Apollo. It was a great attraction to the keen imagination of youth to realize that the school of Initiates was under the protection of these divinities, one of whom (Ceres) held the profound mysteries of Woman and of Earth, while the other (Apollo) revealed those of Man and of Heaven."
Pythagoras soon sustained a reputation for sternness in discipline by refusing to admit unworthy novices, for he said that "not every kind of wood was suitable for the making of a Mercury." Young men who desired to enter the association must undergo severe tests. When introduced by their parents or one of the masters, they were first allowed to enter the gymnasium in which the youths played games appropriate to their age; but every newcomer noticed at once that this was a gymnasium of a very peculiar sort, quite unlike those of the Grecian towns in which were heard the violent cries of clamorous groups boasting of their strength, challenging each other and proudly exhibiting their muscles. Here were only groups of well-behaved and singularly fine looking young men walking in couples beneath the porticos or playing rationally in the arena. They always invited a stranger to join them with kind simplicity, making him feel at once at home among them and never subjecting him to any annoyance or humiliation, a lesson which modern colleges in Europe and America need to mark, learn and inwardly digest until the disgraceful practice of hazing and similar abominations are once for all eliminated root and branch from all educational institutions claiming respectability and seeking the patronage of an enlightened public.
Before we can reasonably hope to make any real progress in spiritual or ethical directions we must lay a firm foundation in physical and mental culture. The gymnasium, according to Pythagorean philosophy, is a valuable vestibule to the inner temple in which profound instruction is given pertaining to mind and spirit; but as during a soul's terrestrial embodiment it needs to operate through a physical instrument, the part of reason is to provide as perfect an instrument as possible, and keep that vehicle in excellent working order. In the system of Pythagoras there is consistently maintained, from first to last, the idea of perfect equilibrium. Here is to be found neither voluptuous indulgence nor harsh asceticism. The body is not treated as though it were the foe of the spirit, but it is never allowed to usurp any throne of mastery.
In this matchless school of ancient Greece every principle of virtue and nobility was inculcated and exemplified which the foremost educators of to-day are endeavoring to impress upon the gradually awakening consciousness of colleges and churches, and it must prove somewhat humiliating to the haughty heads of Christian seats of learning to find that a "Pagan" philosopher, several centuries before the Christian era, had carried out successfully a scheme of discipline which excluded all objectionable features, such as stupid, and often brutal, wrestling while it afforded vigorous young athletes ample opportunity and encouragement to cultivate their muscles to the utmost within the reasonable bounds of healthy exercise and good behaviour. On the question of friendly feelings between fellow students, Pythagoras took uncomprising ground. True friendship can never exist in company with brutality, nor can real courage be developed by cultivating envy or catering to unrighteous pride. Hatred makes us inferior to those we hate, precisely as terror puts us in the power of what we dread. Heroes are developed in schools where honest mutual esteem is cultivated to the utmost, and should it ever be necessary for a hero to fight he could do so with great courage and ability, but without a shade of fury. The Pythagorean method was both simple and conclusive. Fresh arrivals at the college were encouraged to express their own views freely among their new acquaintances, and as no restriction was placed upon the expression of their sentiments, they soon registered themselves as suitable or unsuitable for admission into the classes. If any new applicant proved himself intelligently appreciative of the high standard in vogue among the Initiates, he was cordially welcomed; but if he evinced a preference for the cruder standard of the popular gymnasia of the towns, he properly drifted thither. While a new candidate was expressing his sentiments without restraint, the teachers were taking note of all he said, and it never took them long to ascertain whether he showed fitness for admission or otherwise. Pythagoras himself would often appear unexpectedly in the presence of the stranger, and study his words and gestures, in estimating which he was never at fault; he paid particular attention to gait and laughter, which are always faithful indexes of character; he had also made so profound a study of the human face that he read dispositions at a glance. Pythagoras introduced some of the Egyptian tests into his system, but the severer among these he wisely modified. After a few months of preliminary training, the candidate was submitted to an ordeal intended to test his bravery and prove his spirit.
One of these tests consisted in spending a night in a cave which had the reputation of being haunted with mysterious elementals who appeared to the aspirant in gruesome shapes. If his courage withstood this ordeal, he was accounted worthy to pass on to higher initiations, but if he shrank in terror from this external test he was considered too irresolute to be eligible for advancement. Being accepted for the preliminary degree, it was usually not long before the candidate was put through moral trials accompanied by severe tests of intellectual character. Among these the ready solution of intricate mathematical problems held prominent place. For example, a teacher would call upon a student without warning to explain the meaning of a triangle within a circle, or to answer such a question as, Why is the dodecahedron, contained within a sphere, the symbol of the universe? When passing these tests, the student was required to spend twelve consecutive hours in his cell, during which time he might partake of bread and water, but no other food was allowed him. To young men of sybaritic temperament, such discipline might seem excessively severe, but to those of frugal tastes and sincerely bent on study, this was only healthy mental exercise. Lichen these twelve hours were ended the youth was taken into a company of assembled novices, who were allowed to ridicule him to test his metal; if he withstood all jibes and sneers complacently, he was regarded by the teachers as truly an embryonic philosopher, but if he became angry and resentful, Pythagoras would inform him that such lack of self-control demonstrated ineligibility for advancement.
It was only in extreme cases of misconduct, how ever, that this thoroughly equitable master expelled students from his school, and when he did so he always addressed them calmly and graciously, explaining to them that it could be of no use to them to attempt to continue their studies when they were quite out of harmony with the requirements and discipline of the college. These tests of temper proved conclusively the degree of self-control already attained by the young men who wished to become renowned in future as philosophers. Rejected candidates would sometimes inveigh bitterly against the college and its head; among these was the fanatical Cylon, who never forgave the college for his dismissal, and finally excited the populace to bring about its downfall. Those who bore everything with firmness were welcomed into the novitiate and received enthusiastic congratulations from their new companions.
The First Degree was called Preparation. This lasted from two to five years. Novices were called Listeners; during lessons they were subject to the rule of complete silence. They were not permitted to offer objections or to enter into discussions, for they must absorb the teaching before they could be prepared to discuss it intelligently. The Second Degree was called Purification. During this process of study the novice was welcomed into the house of Pythagoras and numbered among his disciples; real initiation now began. A rational exposition of occult doctrine was now given, which consisted especially in a study of the Science of Numbers, the esoteric meaning of which was concealed from the people at large, and only communicated to students who had proven their worth. A great distinction was made between sacred and secular mathematics; the latter alone are known to European savants, but the knowledge of the former has always been carefully preserved in the East.
The number One necessarily is all-including, as perfect white contains all colors; but as we cannot conceive of the Absolute Unmanifest with our finite intellects, all expressions of Divinity must be dual, consequently the Dyad reveals the Monad. Here we find another link between the Pythagorean and the Jewish conception of Divinity, as set forth in the opening chapters of the Pentateuch. Man and Woman hold equal rank in all ancient philosophies, but the feminine is always regarded as interior, while the masculine is external; therefore it often happens that short-sighted or unreflecting students imagine that the masculine is more sacred than the feminine, according to the teaching of ancient and Oriental philosophies. During the traiping of the Initiate in the Second Degree, the student was instructed in a doctrine very similar to much of the teaching with which we are familiar through the epistles of S. Paul, who was undoubtedly familiar with Greek philosophy as well as with Hebrew and Roman law. In the scheme of Pythagoras the number 7 (compound of square and triangle) signifies the union of Man and Divinity. It is the figure of all great Initiates, who understand that there are 7 degrees in involution and evolution. The number 10 represented completeness; it is called the perfect number in the highest sense, for it represents all principles of divinity evolved and reunited in a new unity. We have all heard of the 9 Muses personifying the sciences, grouped 3 by 3, presiding over the triple ternary evolved in 9 worlds, which together with Hestia, Guardian of the Primordial Fire, constitute the sacred Decad.
The Third Degree was called Perfection, as among the Essenes. In this degree psychology and cosmogony were the leading studies. While the lessons in the earlier degrees were given in daylight, often in the full blaze of the outdoor sun, these deeper teachings were usually given during the night season in the open air by the seaside, or sometimes in the crypts of the temple which were gently illuminated by lamps of naphtha. It was at these times that clairvoyance asserted itself, and the inner faculties of the students began to enable them to personally verify by their own experience that which the teachers taught. It cannot be doubted by any who have studied deeply the records of ancient esoteric teaching that the old astronomical glyph, which everywhere presents itself, was chiefly a veil thrown over the secret teaching, which related far more to the evolution of the human soul than to the movements of the literal planets. Ancient astrology was something very different from the misguided substitute with which in these days we are often made disagreeably familiar. In sacred astrology there are no "malific" planets or "evil" aspects, though it is very clearly taught that one star does indeed differ greatly from another; but as members of one family may be persons of widely different temperament, occupation and appearance, and yet all be good and useful, so in a family of worlds like our solar system the different planets may be spoken of as brothers and sisters, the sun being the parent of them all. We can only understand the famous saying quoted by present-day astrologers of the better type, "The wise man rules his stars, the fool obeys them," when we contemplate the significance of the personal pronoun in the sentence, for no man, however wise, can regulate the motions of the stars, but we can learn to regulate their correspondences within his own nature. Pythagorean astrology is founded upon the acknowledgment of universally diffused intelligence, which is now coming to be largely recognized by Western as well as Eastern philosophers, and indeed the whole scientific world of to-day is coming very near to an acceptance of that ancient esoteric teaching which alone accounts intelligently for the behaviour of all forms of existence observable under the microscope. The celestial history of Psyche formed the climax of the instruction given by Pythagoras to his disciples. What is the human soul? he asked. "A portion of the mighty soul of the world, a spark of Divine Spirit, an immortal Monad. Still, through its possible future opens out into the unfathomable splendors of Divine consciousness, its mysterious dawn dates back to the origin of organized matter. To become what it is in present-day humanity, it must have passed through all the reigns of nature, the whole scale of beings gradually developing through a series of innumerable existences. The spirit which fashions the worlds and condenses cosmic matter into enormous masses manifests itself with varying intensity and an ever greater concentration in the successive reigns of nature. A blind and confused force in the mineral, individualized in the plant, polarized in the sensation-and instincts of animals, it stretches towards the conscious monad in this slow elaboration; and the elementary monad is visible in the most inferior of animals.
The animal and spiritual element accordingly exists in every kingdom, though only in infinitesimal quantities in the lower kingdoms. The souls which exist in the state of germs in the lower kingdoms stay there without moving away for immense periods of time, and it is only after great cosmic revolutions that, in changing planets, they pass to a higher reign. All they can do during a planet's period of life is to mount a few degrees. Where does the Monad begin? As well ask at what hour a nebula was formed or a sun shone for the first time. Anyhow, what constitutes the essence of any man must have evolved for millions of years through a chain of lower planets and kingdoms, keeping through all these existences an individual principle which follows it everywhere. This obscure but indestructible individuality constitutes the Divine seal of the Monad in which God wills to manifest Himself through consciousness.
The higher one ascends in the series of organisms, the more the Monad develops the principles latent in it. Polarized force becomes capable of sensation capacity of sensation becomes instinct, and instinct becomes intelligence. In proportion as the flickering flame of consciousness is lit, this soul becomes more independent of the body, more capable of existing freely. The fluid, non-polarized soul of minerals and vegetables is bound to the elements of earth. That of animals, strongly attracted by terrestrial fire, stays there for some time after living in the body, and then returns to the surface of the globe to reincarnate in its species without ever having the possibility of leaving the lower layers of the air. These are peopled with elementals or animal souls which play their part in atmospheric life and have a great occult influence over man. The human soul alone comes from the sky and returns there after death. At what period of its long cosmic existence has the elementary become the human soul? Through what incandescent crucible, what ethereal flame has it passed? The transformation has been possible in an interplanetary period only by the meeting of human souls already fully formed which have developed in the elementary soul, its spiritual principle, and have impressed their Divine prototype like a seal of fire in its plastic substance." (Quoted from J. Rothwell's Translation.) According to the esoteric traditions of India and Egypt, we began our human existence on other planets where matter is far less dense than here. Human bodies were then almost vaporous, and it was quite easy for the soul to accomplish incarnation. Here we note a close resemblance between the teaching of Pythagoras and that profound Oriental doctrine which we have summarized in the section of this volume dealing especially with Hindu doctrine and tradition. We must refer our readers to the fine work of Edouard Schure, from which we have already quoted freely, for further dissertation on this exhaustless theme, and pass on to a mere mention of the teaching of the Fourth Degree, called Epiphany, meaning vision from above. The initiation of intelligence must be followed by that of will, the most difficult of all. The disciple must become deeply imbued with truth in his inmost being, and must put the high teachings into practice in daily life. To attain this ideal, one must unite three kinds of perfection, called respectively realization of truth in intellect; virtue in soul; purity in body. The astral body participates in all the acts of the physical; it does indeed give effect to them. A doctrine of regeneration, which Pythagoras expounded very clearly, teaches how a second nature must replace the first, and finally the intellect must reach wisdom beyond mere knowledge till it can distinguish good from evil in every department of existence, and behold a revelation of God in the smallest of creatures, as well as in universal immensities.
On reaching this altitude, man becomes an adept, and enters into conscious possession of new faculties and powers; the inner senses of the soul expand and the physical senses are dominated by radiant will. Bodily magnetism, penetrated by the potency of the astral soul, electrified by will, acquires force apparently miraculous. Among the accepted Initiates, many healed the sick by their simple presence, though others resorted to the laying on of hands. Clairvoyance, like that of Apollonius of Tyana in one age and of Swedenborg in another, was frequently exhibited; indeed, all the wonders recorded of saints and seers throughout the literature of the ages seem to have been demonstrated in the school of this mighty master whose name to-day is being pronounced with ever increasing reverence. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, so much misunderstood, because so deeply veiled in mystery, was rendered far more intelligible by Pythagoras six hundred years before the beginning of the Christian era than by those controversial Fathers of the Church who rejected the Divine Feminine, and therefore made quite unintelligible the original doctrine of the procession of the Logos. Father, Mother and Child we can understand; but Father, Son and Holy Spirit is an unintelligible phrase until we know that the Holy Spirit originally stood for the Divine Feminine. The Pythagorean Trinity is described as Spirit, Soul, and Heart of the Living Universe. The life of Pythagoras was extremely beautiful, and in the truest sense both spiritual and natural. When sixty years of age he married one of his pupils, a maiden of great beauty and singular intelligence. This noble woman, Theano, entered so thoroughly into her husband's thought and life that after he had passed from earth she became the centre of the Pythagorean Order. Two sons and one daughter were the result of this union, and the whole family offered a high model for all other families to follow. On all political questions Pythagoras was as highly enlightened as in the transcendent domain of directly spiritual philosophy, for he was a reformer in the widest and highest acceptance of the term. The system of government which he advocated united the best elements of democracy and aristocracy, and it will be well indeed if those who are wrestling with modern legislative problems investigate more deeply the wise teachings of those true Initiates of old, who, while loving the whole people devotedly, and desiring in every way to promote the common interest, wisely realized that only the most intelligent and in every way enlightened among the people were competent to represent the multitudes as governors or legislators.
Cylon, the inveterate persecutor of the Pythagorean school, from which he had been expelled, was a fair sample of the unscrupulous modern demagogue. Tradition asserts that one evening, when forty of the principal members of the Order had assembled, this outrageous man, who was then a tribune, surrounded the house with an enraged crowd and set fire to the buildings. Thirty-eight of the disciples, together with Pythagoras himself, were either burned to death or massacred by their assailants, but the Order did not die; it was only dispersed, and continued for two hundred and fifty years to exert a benign, regenerating influence wherever it was established. Many of the predictions of Pythagoras were literally fulfilled, and this fact in itself inclined many to investigate the sublime doctrines of an Order which had had for its founder a sage and seer of such wonderful graces and lucidity. Truly has it been said that Pythagoras was an Adept and Initiate of the highest type; he enjoyed a direct spiritual vision, and had found the key to the occult sciences and to the spiritual world. He drew supplies of knowledge from the primal fount of truth, and united with a wondrous intellect a high moral nature, which commanded the respect and love of all capable of appreciating real nobility. The philosophic edifice he reared was never destroyed. Plato took from Pythagoras his entire system of metaphysics. The closing words of Edouard Schure's magnificent french treatise may be translated thus: "The school of Alexandria occupied the upper stories of the edifice, while modern science has possessed itself of the ground floor and strengthened its foundations. Many philosophicalschools and mystical or religious sects have dwelt within its numerous chambers. No philosophy, however, has yet embraced it in its harmonious entirety."
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