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Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

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Author Topic: Fragments of a Faith Forgotten  (Read 1168 times)
Peggie Welles
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« on: January 25, 2009, 01:02:16 am »

Unfortunately most of those who immediately followed him, imagined that his dialectical method was an end in itself, and so instead of living the life of philosophy and seeking the clear vision of true initiation, they degenerated into empty argument and ended in negation.

Aristotle followed with his admirable method

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of analysis and exact observation of phenomena, and as he treated of the without rather than of Aristotle and Scepticism. he within he was from one point of view better understood than Plato, but from another more misunderstood, in that his method also was taken as an end in itself rather than as a means simply. And so we come to the three centuries prior to the present era, when the intellectual life of Greece was centred at Alexandria.

It was a far more extended Greece than the Hellas of Plato; it was a Greece whose physical prowess had conquered the Orient, and which boasted itself that its intellectual vigour would conquer the world. Everywhere it matched its vigorous intellect against the ancient East, and for a time imagined that victory was with it.

Its independence of thought had given rise to innumerable schools warring with each other, and the spectacle it offers us is very similar to the spectacle of modern Europe during the last three hundred years.

We see there at work, though on a smaller scale--in germ as it were--the same intellectual activity which has characterized the rise of the modern scientific method, and with it the same breaking down of old views, the same unrest, the same spirit of scepticism.

If we look to the surface of things merely, we might almost say that Greece had entirely forgotten the Mystery-tradition and gloried solely in the unaided strength of her intellect. But if we look deeper we shall find that this is not the case. In

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the days of Plato the Orient and Egypt were brought to Greece so to speak, whereas later on Greece went to Egypt and the East.

Now the ancient wisdom had its home in Egypt East and West. and Chaldæa and the Orient generally, so that though the Orphic and Pythagorean communities of Plato's time imported into Greece a modified Orientalism which they adapted to the Greek genius along the lines of their own ancient wisdom-tradition, when the Greeks in their thousands went forth into the East, those of them who were prepared by contact with these schools, came into closer intimacy with the ancient wisdom of the East, and drank it in readily.

As for the generality, just as the introduction of Orientalism into Greece among the people brought with it abuses and enthusiastic rites of an undesirable character, while at the same time it intensified the religious life and gave greater satisfaction to the religious emotions, so the Greek conquest of the Orient spread abroad a spirit of scepticism and unbelief, while sharpening the intellectual faculties.

But all this was a very gradual process, and the more scepticism increased, the intenser became the desire of numbers to withdraw from the warring clash of opinions, and seek refuge in the contemplative life that offered them knowledge. Oriental thinkers and mystics became Hellenized along the lines of Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy, and Greek philosophers became Orientalized by contact with members of the many communities that honeycombed not only Egypt and the rest of the

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[paragraph continues] "barbarian" nations subject to Greece, but also Asia Minor and even Hellas herself. How numerous were these communities in the first century may be seen from a study of the writings of Philo Judæus and the life of Apollonius of Tyana, and from the picture of mystic Greece which may be recovered from the ethical and theosophical essays of Plutarch, and also from the many recently discovered inscriptions relating to the innumerable Religious Associations in Greece.

When the Greek kingdoms of the Successors of Alexander were in their turn humbled beneath Rome. the conquering power of Rome, the organizing Italic genius policed the world, somewhat in a similar way to the fashion of the present British occupation of India. The legal mind and practical genius of Rome was never really at home in the metaphysical subtleties of Greek philosophy, or the mysticism of the East. In literature and art she could only copy Greece; in philosophy she sought for a rule of conduct rather than a system of knowledge, and so we find her, in the persons of her best men, the follower of Stoic naturalism, which summed up its code of ethics in the ideal of "honestas."

Nevertheless Rome could no more than Greece avoid religious contact with the East, and we The Mysteries of Mithras. find her passing through the same experiences as Greece, though in much more modified form. The chief point of contact among the many religions of the Roman Empire was in the common worship of the Sun, and the inner core of this most popular cult was, from about B.C. 70

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onwards, to be found in the Mysteries of Mithras.

"The worship of Mithras, or of the sun-god, was the most popular of heathen cults, and the principal antagonist of the truth during the first four centuries of our period." Such is the statement of one who looks at it from the point of view of a Christian ecclesiastic, and indeed the Church Fathers from the time of Justin Martyr onward have declared that the Devil, in the Mysteries of Mithras, had plagiarized their most sacred rites by anticipation.

The Mithriac Mysteries represented the esoteric side of a great international religious movement, which the uniting together of many peoples into the Græco-Roman world had made possible, and which resulted from the contact of Greece and Rome with the thought of the East.

National and local cults were gradually influenced by the form of symbolism employed by the modified Chaldæo-Persian tradition; the worship of the Spiritual Sun, the Logos, with the natural symbol of the glorious orb of day, which was common in one form or other to all great cults, and the rest of the solar symbolism, gradually permeated the popular indigenous forms of religion. In course of time, Mithra, the visible sun for the ignorant, the Spiritual Sun, the Mediator between the Light and Darkness, as Plutarch tells us, for the instructed, caused his rays to shine to the uttermost limits of the Roman Empire. And just as his outer cult dominated the restricted forms of national worship, so did the

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tradition of his Mysteries modify the Mystery-cultus of the ancient Western world.



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