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vol. 3, p. 132
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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< Ancient Theosophy (continued from page 3-131) >

philosophy founded on the sublime neo-platonic and Pythagorean principles, and embodying the vast spiritistic know ledge acquired by years of study among the brahmins of India and Gymnosophists of Egypt, through which he was “enabled to put spirits of impurity to flight, to foretell future events, to discern the secret thoughts of others, to be visible or invisible at will," and evoke the spirits of the dead.

Philostratus, who compiled the account of his extraordinary career by command of the Emperor Septimus, Severus tells us, on good authority, of the prophecy of a pestilence at Ephesus foretold by Apollonius, and of the death of the Emperor Domitian at the moment it occurred. He also narrates the following in his fourth book: —

“A young woman of beautiful person was laid out upon a bier, and was in the act of being conveyed to the tomb. She was followed by a multitude of friends, weeping and lamenting, and among others, by a young man to whom she had been on the point to be married. Apollonius met the procession and commanded those who bore it to set down the bier. He exhorted the proposed bridegroom to dry up his tears. He enquired the name of the deceased, and saluting her accordingly, took hold of her hand, and murmured over her certain mysterious words. At this act the maiden raised himself on her seat, and presently returned home, whole and sound, to the house of her father.”

Among the numerous examples given of the wondrous power of Apollonius is the statement of rendering himself invisible before the whole Roman court and the Emperor Domitian on the occasion of his having been cited before the Emperor, and when he described the proper discrimination which should be made between the varying schools of Theosophy. Of his death, no particulars were ever found, but after his disappearance cities were raised in his honor; and they were not unmerited, for of all the adepts he stands preeminently one of the purest and best.

Truly, the remarks of Godwin on the old leading spiritists apply to Apollonius, for verily he was one of those who exercised their wisdom—

“in its genuine and unadulterated form, at all times applied it to purposes of goodness and benevolence, and that their interference was uniformly the signal of some unequivocal benefit either to mankind in general or to those individuals of mankind who are best entitled to their aid. It was theirs to succor virtue in distress, and to interpose the divine assistance in cases that most loudly and unquestionably call for it.’’

(to be continued)
From the Spiritual Scientist

Ancient Theosophy; or Spiritism in the Past

From the sacred books of a tribe of Bedouin Arabs who worshipped Alvah or Allah, the Beni-Israel or Hebrews, we have brought down to us much matter of the deepest interest. The accidental sale of a shepherd boy has given us, independent of Greek or Egyptian sources, a far better knowledge of ancient Theosophy and its branches than in any other records.

The two distinct classes of wise men and sorcerers of Egypt, and their enchantments, appear in the pages of these remarkable books. The divination of the dreams of one of her kings, the probable initiation of Abraham and the certain reception of Moses into the mysteries of Isis, lend a wonderful charm to the deemed miraculous character of the early history of the Jews, which, by the aid of Theurgical experience, can now be easily explained that the patriarchs and prophets were often under influence of elementary and higher spirits, and in this condition had visions and prophecied. These referred to natural causes, it serves to dissipate the halo cast around a race who were less gifted, and no more peculiar, than those of other nations around them.

In the Pentateuch,—whether written by Moses or not is immaterial,—we find numerous commands given respecting magic and sorcery. Learned as Moses was “in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” which we can discern by his having known the old allegorical Chaldean and Hindoo myth traceable to serpent worship of Adina and Heva, (which simply signified that so long as humanity held in harmony with nature or simple principles all went well), he was doubtless aware of the prejudicial effects of the misuse of Spiritism; and we therefore are able to know from the Pentateuch, as well as the Talmud and Zohar, that it was divided into three classes— Astrology, and Black and White Magic.

We thus learn that evil enchantments, magical cures, the citation of evil spirits, and the invoking of the dead was supposed to be common among the Jews. Further, that those I who invoked the dead should be condemned to death, and the questioner to scourging. It was simply forbidden by Moses to practice magic, not to have knowledge thereof or study it; for the Sanhedrim, necessarily composed of adepts, with wisdom gained in the secret schools of the nabim, were acquainted with theosophical principles, otherwise they would have been unable to give judgment for offences.

In defiance of these enactments, magic seem to have been pretty rife; for the medium of Endor raised up the spirit of Samuel for Saul. Balaam, too, had powerful mediumistic powers, and King Manasseh, as we are told in the second Book of Kings, “observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards." As a further proof of the high state of development, the practicers of the science was divided into eight classes—the user of divination, the observer of dreams, the serpent charmer, the sorcerer, the charmer, consulter of familiar spirits, the wizard, magician, or wise one, and the necromancer or consulter of departed spirits.

It has been asserted that the Jews had no conception of a future life, but that all ended in Sheal—the grave. Judging from what I have narrated, such cannot have been the case; particularly when we remark their knowledge of good and evil spirits, and of an unseen universe.

Josephus tells us that Solomon was enabled “to learn that skill which expels demons, a science which is useful and sanative lo sun. He composed such incantations, also, by which distempers are alleviated; and he left behind him the manner of using such exorcisms, by which they drive away demons so that they never return.”

How different is the Masonry of today, which claims to leach the hidden secrets of nature and science, compared with what the builder of the Temple and his initiates knew. Alas! the occult mysteries have degenerated into a jingle of empty words and mere ceremonial, with Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth remaining a glittering shell; but the kernel, the spiritistic culture of the Magus, the Grand Master Solomon is gone with the twenty-four elders with faces toward the east. The materiality is there, but the glory, the spiritality seems departed forever.

Through the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, “by the waters of which they sat down and wept,” spiritism assumed the phase we can trace up to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in the Hebrew cabalists.

In the Book of Job is plainly discernable Chaldean influence, and all will remember when Nebuchadnezzar “commanded to be called to him the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans” of his kingdom; and his son Belshazzar doing the same. Josephus narrates the account of Eleazar before the Emperor Vespasian and his army casting forth evil spirits by the application of a ring, “like that spoken of by Solomon,” and metallic basin of water, which cannot but forcibly call to mind of those who have studied this subject, of the similar methods exhibited in Egyptian monuments, and described ty the Greek and Roman authorities, and also used to this day in India,

The learned Professor de Lara, in one of his essays, says “that Christianity is a word that no one understands;” and I think all must agree with him that it is a most convertible one, for the term Christian being now-a-days applied to members of all creeds,—to the Jew, Infidel, Turk, and even the Atheist. That the aggregate of Christians for the last eighteen centuries have been believers in Spiritism is unquestionable; and none can doubt but a considerable portion of the erratic peculiarities has been derived from the theological ideas engrafted on the simple system taught by the architect’s son.

It is unnecessary to our present inqniry whether, as some have supposed, that Christ is a mythical personage, or identified with the Hindoo virgin’s son Chrishna, called Jereus, signifying in the Sanskrit, “the Divine Essence;” also, whether Josephus did write the debated passage, and that history is silent on the Massacre of the Innocents, and the other stale arguments repeated ad nauseam.

All this, in the presence of the ethics we have for our study in the body of truth in the New Testament, mixed up with the apocryphal matter, Seeley, in his “Ecce Homo,” admirably winnows away, and it is undesirable to enter it. For I have no doubt you will agree, despite of orientalism, that Christ was an actual living personage, and was crucified; leaving humanity, whether allegorically or not, one of the sublimest examples of abnegation for truth’s sake which the world has ever yet been taught. It is recognized by most thinkers, that <... continues on page 3-131 >

Editor's notes

  1. Ancient Theosophy; or Spiritism in the Past by Sotheran, Charles, Spiritual Scientist, v. 4, No. 11, May 18, 1876, pp. 124-5