Chapter 2 – Christianity’s Relation to Pagan Practices; Pagan Mysteries compared to Christianity and Hinduism (Christian Crimes and Heathen Virtues)
This lengthy chapter is quite a tour-de-force and also has probably some of her most scathing critique of Christianity. The 20-odd pages that cover abuses of the Roman Catholic Church are quite harrowing and has some of her most vehement critiques of ecclesiastical abuses. At the same time, the writing is well-researched as she avails herself to an impressive array of popular and obscure works on magic, sorcery and the like, constituting an trailblazing study on the Salem Witch Hunt and the Spanish Inquisition which have since become proverbial symbols of fanatical persecution.
Some may assume that she is radically anti-Christian, but I don’t think that that is the case. The chapter ends with a brief summary of her critical stance, and one can see that there is a definite appreciation of various aspects of Christianity and her arguments are quite articulate and nuanced, based on contemporary historical research. She is basically pushing for reforms (I think that the subsequent history of Christianity has shown how urgent these reform issues were).
Moreover, in comparative religion mode, she also begins to undertake an insightful analysis of ancient symbology in theology and ritual. Her section on the ancient pagan mysteries compared to Indian mysticism is particularly striking in its depth and originality. It is quite a wide coverage of diverse topics, but it all seems to hold together in a compelling exploration of Pagan and Christian history.
1- Magical Practices in Roman Catholic Church (55)
Persecution and Torture by Roman Catholics 55 / Pope Sylvester II practiced magic 57 / 900 witches burned 58
Nowhere, during the middle ages, were the arts of magic and sorcery more practiced by the clergy than in Spain and Portugal. The Moors were profoundly versed in the occult sciences, and at Toledo, Seville, and Salamanca, were, once upon a time, the great schools of magic. The kabalists of the latter town were skilled in all the abstruse sciences; they knew the virtues of precious stones and other minerals, and had extracted from alchemy its most profound secrets. (59-60)
2- Persecution of Witchcraft and the Spanish Inquisition (59)
Torquemada 59 / Magic in Spain and Portugal 59 / Monks with Magical powers 60 / Books on witchcraft 61 / Witch Burnings 62
* Besides these burnings in Germany, which amount to many thousands, we find some very interesting statements in Prof. Draper’s “Conflict between Religion and Science.” On page 146, he says: “The families of the convicted were plunged into irretrievable ruin. Llorente, the historian of the Inquisition, computes that Torquemada and his collaborators, in the course of eighteen years, burned at the stake 10,220 persons, 6,860 in effigy, and otherwise punished 97,321! . . . With unutterable disgust and indignation, we learn that the papal government realized much money by selling to the rich, dispensations to secure them from the Inquisition.” (62)
Sorcery in India 69-70 / Vision and Saints and Spiritualists 73 / Exorcisms 73
And now we will quote in this connection the truthful remark of a writer who passed years in India in the study of the origin of such superstitions: “Vulgar magic in India, like a degenerated infiltration, goes hand-in-hand with the most ennobling beliefs of the sectarians of the Pitris. It was the work of the lowest clergy, and designed to hold the populace in a perpetual state of fear. It is thus that in all ages and under every latitude, side by side with philosophical speculations of the highest character, one always finds the religion of the rabble.“* In India it was the work of the lowest clergy; in Rome, that of the highest Pontiffs. But then, have they not as authority their greatest saint, Augustine, who declares that “whoever believes not in the evil spirits, refuses to believe in Holy Writ?”** (69-70)
4- Mystical Visions in the Church (73)
Christian and Pagan subdue animals 77
We fancy that it would be hard to demonstrate to satisfaction that the visions of Catholic saints, are, in any one particular instance, better or more trustworthy than the average visions and prophecies of our modern “mediums.” The visions of Andrew Jackson Davis — however our critics may sneer at them — are by long odds more philosophical and more compatible with modern science than the Augustinian speculations. Whenever the visions of Swedenborg, the greatest among the modern seers, run astray from philosophy and scientific truth, it is when they most run parallel with theology. Nor are these visions any more useless to either science or humanity than those of the great orthodox saints. (73)
5- Fabulations and Deceptions in the Medieval Church (79)
Buddhist and Christian fetishes 79 / Inman on critiquing Christianity 80 / Universal Deity 81
These two anecdotes, chosen at random from among hundreds, if rivalled are not surpassed by the wildest romances of the Pagan thaumaturgists, magicians, and spiritualists! And yet, when Pythagoras is said to have subdued animals, even wild beasts, merely through a powerful mesmeric influence, he is pronounced by one-half of the Catholics a bare-faced impostor, and by the rest a sorcerer, who worked magic in confederacy with the Devil. Neither the she-bear, nor the eagle, nor yet the bull that Pythagoras is said to have persuaded to give up eating beans, were alleged to have answered with human voices; while St. Benedict’s “black raven,” whom he called “brother,” argues with him, and croaks his answers like a born casuist. When the saint offers him one-half of a poisoned loaf, the raven grows indignant and reproaches him in Latin as though he had just graduated at the Propaganda! (77-78)
6- Pagan Influence on Christianity (84)
Universal wisdom 84 / Logos 87 / Cross 88 / Augustine diverted bible 88 / Paul an initiate 90 /Soma and the mysteries 91 / Peter and the mysteries 92 / Roman Catholic and Pagan costumes 94
Would we push our inquiries farther, and seek to ascertain as much in relation to the nimbus and the tonsure of the Catholic priest and monk?* We shall find undeniable proofs that they are solar emblems. Knight, in his Old England Pictorially Illustrated, gives a drawing by St. Augustine, representing an ancient Christian bishop, in a dress probably identical with that worn by the great “saint” himself. The pallium, or the ancient stole of the bishop, is the feminine sign when worn by a priest in worship. On St. Augustine’s picture it is bedecked with Buddhistic crosses, and in its whole appearance it is a representation of the Egyptian (tau), assuming slightly the figure of the letter . “Its lower end is the mark of the masculine triad,” says Inman; “the right hand (of the figure) has the forefinger extended, like the Assyrian priests while doing homage to the grove. . . . When a male dons the pallium in worship, he becomes the representative of the trinity in the unity, the arba, or mystic four.”** (94)
7- Pagan Mysteries compared to Christianity and Hinduism (97)
Nature of ancient mysteries 99 / Trials of Initiation 100 / Mysteries ennobling 100 / Communion with god 102 / Indian initiation 103 / Pitris 107 / Eleusynian Mysteries 108 / Immaculate Conception 110 / Christian Hindu syncretism 110 / Eleusynian Mysteries 111 / Plato and Buddha 111 / Eleusis 112 / Indian Initiation 114 / Supreme Soul 116 / Socrates 118 / Mediumship118 / Talmud 119
And now we will try to give a clear insight into one of the chief objects of this work. What we desire to prove is, that underlying every ancient popular religion was the same ancient wisdom-doctrine, one and identical, professed and practiced by the initiates of every country, who alone were aware of its existence and importance. To ascertain its origin, and the precise age in which it was matured, is now beyond human possibility.
A single glance, however, is enough to assure one that it could not have attained the marvellous perfection in which we find it pictured to us in the relics of the various esoteric systems, except after a succession of ages. A philosophy so profound, a moral code so ennobling, and practical results so conclusive and so uniformly demonstrable is not the growth of a generation, or even a single epoch. Fact must have been piled upon fact, deduction upon deduction, science have begotten science, and myriads of the brightest human intellects have reflected upon the laws of nature, before this ancient doctrine had taken concrete shape.
The proofs of this identity of fundamental doctrine in the old religions are found in the prevalence of a system of initiation; in the secret sacerdotal castes who had the guardianship of mystical words of power, and a public display of a phenomenal control over natural forces, indicating association with preterhuman beings.
Every approach to the Mysteries of all these nations was guarded with the same jealous care, and in all, the penalty of death was inflicted upon initiates of any degree who divulged the secrets entrusted to them. We have seen that such was the case in the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, among the Chaldean Magi, and the Egyptian hierophants; while with the Hindus, from whom they were all derived, the same rule has prevailed from time immemorial. (99)
8 – Phallic Symbolism (120)
Phallic symbolism 120
If that abstract sentiment called Christian charity prevailed in the Church, we would be well content to leave all this unsaid. We have no quarrel with Christians whose faith is sincere and whose practice coincides with their profession. But with an arrogant, dogmatic, and dishonest clergy, we have nothing to do except to see the ancient philosophy — antagonized by modern theology in its puny offspring — Spiritualism — defended and righted so far as we are able, so that its grandeur and sufficiency may be thoroughly displayed. It is not alone for the esoteric philosophy that we fight; nor for any modern system of moral philosophy, but for the inalienable right of private judgment, and especially for the ennobling idea of a future life of activity and accountability.
We eagerly applaud such commentators as Godfrey Higgins, Inman, Payne Knight, King, Dunlap, and Dr. Newton, however much they disagree with our own mystical views, for their diligence is constantly being rewarded by fresh discoveries of the Pagan paternity of Christian symbols. But otherwise, all these learned works are useless. Their researches only cover half the ground. Lacking the true key of interpretation they see the symbols only in a physical aspect. They have no password to cause the gates of mystery to swing open; and ancient spiritual philosophy is to them a closed book. Diametrically opposed though they be to the clergy in their ideas respecting it, in the way of interpretation they do little more than their opponents for a questioning public. Their labors tend to strengthen materialism as those of the clergy, especially the Romish clergy, do to cultivate belief in diabolism. 120
In burning the works of the theurgists; in proscribing those who affect their study; in affixing the stigma of demonolatry to magic in general, Rome has left her exoteric worship and Bible to be helplessly riddled by every free-thinker, her sexual emblems to be identified with coarseness, and her priests to unwittingly turn magicians and even sorcerers in their exorcisms, which are but necromantic evocations. Thus retribution, by the exquisite adjustment of divine law, is made to overtake this scheme of cruelty, injustice, and bigotry, through her own suicidal acts. (120)
The following works are important references for this chapter:
Demonologia: Or, Natural Knowledge Revealed (S. Forsyth 1827)
Roger Gougenot des Mousseaux (1805–76)
Mœurs et pratiques des démons ou des esprits visiteurs du spiritisme ancien et moderne (1865)
Thomas Wright (1810-1877)
Narratives of sorcery and magic, from the most authentic sources (1852)
The Golden Legend
Thomas Inman (1820-1876)
Ancient pagan and modern Christian symbolism (1869)