The Post-Christian Successors to the Mysteries
Pages 305-307, Collected Writings, Vol. 14.
“Thus it is not Judaism and Christianity that remodelled the ancient Pagan Wisdom, but rather the latter that put its heathen curb, quietly and insensibly, on the new faith; and this, moreover, was still further influenced by the Eclectic Theosophical system, the direct emanation of the Wisdom-Religion. All that is grand and noble in Christian theology comes from Neo-Platonism. It is too well-known now to need much repetition that Ammonius Saccas, the God-taught (theodidaktos) and the lover of the truth (philalethes), in establishing his school, made a direct attempt to benefit the world by teaching those portions of the Secret Science that were permitted by its direct guardians to be revealed in those days. The modern movement of our own Theosophical Society was begun on the same principles; for the Neo-Platonic school of Ammonius aimed, as we do, at the reconcilement of all sects and peoples, under the once common faith of the Golden Age, trying to induce the nations to lay aside their contentions—in religious matters at any rate—by proving to them that their various beliefs are all the more or less legitimate children of one common parent, the Wisdom-Religion.
Nor was the Eclectic Theosophical system—as some writers inspired by Rome would make the world believe—developed only during the third century of our era; but it belongs to a much earlier age, as has been shown by Diogenes Laërtius. He trace it to the beginning of the dynasty of the Ptolemies; to the great seer and prophet, the Egyptian Priest Pot-Amun, of the temple of the God of that name—for Amun is the God of Wisdom. Unto that day the communication between the Adepts of Upper India and Bactria and the Philosophers of the West had never ceased.
Under Philadelphus . . . the Hellenic teachers became rivals of the College of Rabbis of Babylon. The Buddhistic, Vedântic and Magian systems were expounded along with the philosophies of Greece.
Aristobulus, the Jew, declared that the ethics of Aristotle were derived from the Law of Moses [!]; and Philo, after him, attempted to interpret the Pentateuch in accordance with the doctrines of Pythagoras and the Academy. In Josephus it is said that, in the book of the Genesis, Moses wrote philosophically—that is, in the figurative style; and the Essenes of Carmel were reproduced in the Therapeutae of Egypt, who, in turn, were declared by Eusebius to be identical with the Christians, though they actually existed long before the Christian Era. Indeed, in its turn, Christianity also was taught at Alexandria, and underwent an analogous metamorphosis. Pantaenus, Athenagoras and Clement were thoroughly instructed in the Platonic philosophy, and comprehended its essential unity with the oriental systems.
Ammonius, though the son of Christian parents, was a lover of the truth, a true Philaletheian foremost of all. He set his heart upon the work of reconciling the different systems into a harmonious whole, for he had already perceived the tendency of Christianity to raise itself on the hecatomb which it had constructed out of all other creeds and faiths. What says history?
The ecclesiastical historian, Mosheim, declares that “Ammonius, conceiving that not only the philosophers of Greece, but also all those of the different barbarous nations, were perfectly in unison with each other with regard to every essential point, made it his business so to temper and expound the tenets of all these various sects, as to make it appear they had all of them originated from one and the same source, and all tended to one and the same end.” Again, Mosheim says that Ammonius taught that “the religion of the multitude went hand in hand with philosophy, and with her had shared the fate of being by degrees corrupted and obscured with mere human conceits, superstition and lies; that it ought, therefore, to be brought back to its original purity by purging it of this dross and expounding it upon philosophical principles; and that the whole which Christ had in view was to reinstate and restore to its primitive integrity the Wisdom of the ancients. . . .”
Now what was that “Wisdom of the Ancients” that the Founder of Christianity “had in view”? The system taught by Ammonius in his Eclectic Theosophical School was made of the crumbs permitted to be gathered from the antediluvian lore; those Neo-Platonic teachings are described in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia as follows:
He [Ammonius] adopted the doctrines which were received in Egypt concerning the Universe and the Deity, considered as constituting one great whole, concerning the eternity of the world, the nature of souls, the empire of Providence [Karma] and the government of the world by demons [daimôns or spirits, archangels]. He also established a system of moral discipline which allowed the people in general to live according to the laws of their country and the dictates of nature; but required the wise to exalt their minds by contemplation, and to mortify the body,† so that they might be capable of enjoying the presence and assistance of the demons [including their own daimôn or Seventh Principle], and ascending after death to the presence of the Supreme [Soul] Parent. In order to reconcile the popular religions, and particularly the Christian, with this new system, he made the whole history of the heathen gods an allegory, maintaining that they were only celestial ministers‡ entitled to an inferior kind of worship; and he acknowledged that Jesus Christ was an excellent man and the friend of God, but alleged that it was not his design entirely to abolish the worship of demons,§ and that his only intention was to purify the ancient religion.”