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reverence for parents and aged persons; a fraternal affection for the whole human species; and a compassionate tenderness even for the brute creation.”
It was his aim and purpose to reconcile all sects and peoples, under this common faith, to induce them to lay aside their contentions and quarrels, and unite together as one family, the children of a common mother. A writer in the Edinburgh Encyclopædia says:
“He 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, and the government of the world by demons. 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, and ascending after death to the presence of the Supreme 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."
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,--to reduce within bounds the universally prevailing dominion of superstitionand in part to correct, and in part to exterminate the various errors that had found their way into the different popular religions."
Ammonius declared that the system of doctrine and moral life, denominated WISDOM, was taught in the Books of Thoth, or Hermes Trismegistus, from which records Pythagoras as well as Plato derived his philosophy. They were regarded by him as being substantially identical with the teachings of the sages of the remote East. As the name Thoth means a college or assembly, it is not altogether improbable that the books were so named as being the collected oracles and doctrines of the sacerdotal fraternity of Memphis. Rabbi Wise has suggested a similar hypothesis in relation to the divine utterances recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. But the Indian writers assert that during the reign of King Kansa, the Yadus or sacred tribe left India and migrated to the west, carrying the four Vedas with them. There was certainly a great resemblance between the philosophical doctrines and religious customs of the Egyptians and Eastern Buddhists ; but whether the four Hermetic books and the Vedas were alike, cannot now be known.
It is certain, however, that there was in every ancient country having claims to civilization, an esoteric doctrine, a system which was designated WISDOM;* and those who were
The writings extant in olden times after personified Wisdom as an emanation and associate of the Creator. Thus we have the Hindoo Buddha, the Babylonian Nebo, the Thoth of Memphis, the Hermes of Greece ; also the female divinities, Neitha Metis, Athena and the Gnostic potency Achamoth or Sophia. The Samaritan Pentateuch denominated the book of Genesis, Akamautha or Wisdom, and two remnants of old
devoted to its prosecution were first denominated sages, or wise men. Afterward, the epithet of philosophers, or lovers of wisdom, was adopted. Pythagoras termed this system ó γνωοις των οντων, the Gnosis or knowledge of things that
Under the noble designation of WISDOM, the ancient teachers, the sages of India, the magians of Persia and Assyria, the seers and prophets of Israel, the hierophants of Egypt and Arabia, and the philosophers of Greece and the West, included all knowledge which they considered as essentially divine; classifying a part as esoteric and the remainder as exterior. The Hebrew Rabbiis called the exterior and secular series the Mercavah, as being the body or vehicle which contained the higher knowledges. Theology, worship, vaticination, music, astronomy, the healing art, morals and statesmanship were all thus comprised.
Thus Ammonius found his work ready to his hand. His deep spiritual intuition, his extensive learning, his familiarity with the Christian fathers, Pantænus, Clement and Athenagoras, and with the most erudite philosophers of the time, all fitted him for the labor which he performed so thoroughly. He was successful in drawing to his views the greatest scholars and public men of the Roman Empire, who had little taste for wasting time in dialectic pursuits or superstitious observances. The results of his ministration are perceptible at the present day, in every country of the Christian world; every prominent system of doctrine now bearing the marks of his plastic hand. Every ancient philosophy has had its votaries among the moderns; and even Judaism, oldest of
treatises, the Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Jesus, relate to the same matter. The book of Mashali—the Discourses or Proverbs of Solomon, thus personifies wisdom as the auxiliary of the Creator:
“Jehovah possessed me, the beginning of his way,
them all, has taken upon itself changes which were suggested by the “God-taught " Alexandrian.
The peculiarity of the Philaletheians, their division into neophytes, initiates, and masters, was copied from the Mysteries and philosophical systems. It is recorded that Ammonius obligated his disciples by oath not to divulge his higher doctrines, except to those who had been thoroughly instructed and exercised. How far this condition was proper is easily perceived when we contemplate the peculiar mystical, profound character of such of the doctrines as have escaped from the crypt.
The system, it must be acknowledged, provided for the highest spiritual development. Plutarch says, “The end of the Egyptian rites and mysteries was the knowledge of the One God who is the Lord of all things, and to be discerned only of the soul. Their theosophy had two meanings, the one holy and symbolical, and the other popular and literal. The figures of animals which abounded in their temples, and which they were supposed to worship, were only so many hieroglyphics to represent the divine qualities.” These mysteries, it will be remarked, are said to have constituted the basis of the Eclectic system.
The efflux from the divine Being was imparted to the human spirit in unreserved abundance, accomplishing for the soul a union with the Divine, and enabling it while in the body to be partaker of the life which is not of the body. Thus, says Iamblichus, the soul, in contemplating blessed spectacles, acquires another life, operates according to another energy, and is thus rightly considered as no longer ranking in the common order of mankind. Frequently, likewise, abandoning her own life, she exchanges it for the most felicitous energy of celestial beings. By supplicating, we are led to the object of supplication ; we acquire its similitude from this intimacy, and gradually attain divine perfection. Being thus adapted to participate in the divine nature, we possess God himself.
This is a transcript from the very words of Plato : “Prayer is the ardent turning of the soul toward God; not
to ask any particular good, but for good itself—for the universal supreme Good. We often mistake what is pernicious and dangerous for what is useful and desirable. Therefore remain silent in the presence of the divine ones, till they remove the c!ouds from thy eyes, and enable thee to see by the light which issues from themselves, not what appears as good to thee, but what is really good.”
Plotinus also taught that every person has the interior sense or faculty denominated intuition, or spiritual instinct which is developed by proper cultivation, and enables to perceive and apprehend actual and absolute fact more perfectly than can be done through the mere exercising of the reasoning powers and outward sensibility. It is a projecting of the consciousness from the subjective into the objective, so that what pertains to the selfhood of the person—what is in the mind and heart--is made to appear as constituting the things which may be seen around him. In this way, dreams are constituted; we see and converse with persons around us, and observe objects and events,--all of them being but the creation of our own mind, or the reflection from our mind into a species of surrounding mirror. Persons have detected themselves, while awake, seemingly in earnest conversation with an invisible being, but presently perceived that it was only a talking with themselves, or a process of ratiocination, which was really subjective while it seemed to be objective.
“There is a faculty of the human mind,” says Iamblichus, " which is superior to all which is born or begotten. Through it we are enabled to attain union with the superior intelligences, of being transported beyond the scenes and arrangements of this world, and of partaking the higher life and the peculiar powers of the heavenly ones. faculty we are made free from the domination of Fate, and are made, so to speak, the arbiters of our own destinies. For when the more excellent parts of us become filled with energy, and the soul is elevated to natures loftier than itself, it becomes separated from those conditions which keep it under the dominion of the present every-day life of the world, exchanges the present for another life, and abandons