Secret Societies of All Ages - Charles Heckethorn

II. The Apocalypse

134. The Apocalypse.—This book, hitherto accepted as one of genuinely Christian authorship, is now by competent critics, received in its main substance, and throughout by far the greater part of it, as a purely Jewish composition; in fact, as a Jewish Apocalypse put into a Christian dress after the fall of Jerusalem, A.D. 70. The first, three chapters are Christian, of course, but in the fourth chapter the book begins again, and from that to the end, with the exception of a few short passages, which are interpolations, all is purely Jewish, or rather a medley of occidental, Judaic, and sectarian doctrines.

The bulk of the work is a description of the Pagan mysteries, which the Christianising adapter transforms into those of the Christian myth; to the latter it is what the "Golden Ass" of Apuleius and the "Sixth Book" of Virgil is to the Pagan mysteries, from which its whole machinery is borrowed. The woman clothed with the sun, standing upon the moon, and symbolising the true Church, is the Egyptian Isis; the attack upon the woman and her offspring by the deluging serpent, which is frustrated by the earth's absorption of the water, is perfectly analogous to the attack of the diluvian serpent Python upon Osiris, or Latona, or Horus, which is similarly frustrated by the destruction of that monster; the false Church, bearing the name of Mystery—of course, referring to the Pagan Mystery—floating on the waters, or riding on a terrific beast, and ultimately plunged into the infernal lake, exhibits the very same aspect as the Great Mother of Paganism sailing over the ocean, riding on the lion, venerated with certain mysteries, and during their celebration plunged into the waters of a sacred lake, denominated the lake of Hades.

St Paul himself personates an aspirant about to be initiated, and accordingly the images presented to his mind's eye closely resemble the pageants of the mysteries. The prophet first beholds a door opened in the magnificent temple of heaven, and into this he is invited to enter by one who plays the hierophant. Here he witnesses the unsealing of the sacred book, and immediately he is assailed by a troop of ghastly apparitions. Among these are pre-eminently conspicuous a vast serpent, the well-known symbol of the Great Father; and two wild beasts, severally coming up out of the sea and out of the earth. Such hideous figures correspond with the canine phantoms in the Orgies, and with the polymorphic images of the principal hero-god, who was universally deemed the offspring of the sea. Passing these terrific monsters in safety, the prophet, constantly attended by his angel-hierophant, is conducted into the presence of a female, and, like Isis emerging from the sea, and exhibiting herself to the eyes of the aspirant Apuleius, this female divinity, upborne upon the marine wild beast, appears to float upon the surface of many waters. She is said to be an open and systematic harlot, just as the Great Mother was the declared female principle of fecundity, and as she was often propitiated by literal fornication reduced to a religious system; and as the initiated were made to drink a prepared liquor out of a sacred goblet, so this harlot is represented as intoxicating the kings of the earth with the golden cup of her prostitution. On her forehead the very name Mystery is inscribed; its nature the officiating hierophant undertakes to explain. To the sea-born Great Father was ascribed a threefold state; he lived, he died, and he revived, and these changes of condition were duly exhibited in the mysteries. To the sea-born wild beast is similarly ascribed a threefold state; he lives, he dies, and he revives. While dead he lies floating on the mighty ocean, just like Horus, or Osiris, or Siva, or Vishnu; when he revives he emerges from the waters, and whether alive or dead, he bears seven heads and ten horns, numbers that have their prototypes in the mysteries (18, etc.). And as the worshippers of the Great Father bore his special mark, and were distinguished by his name, so the worshippers of the maritime beast equally bear his mark, and are equally designated by his appellation. At length the first or doleful part of these sacred mysteries draws to a close, and the last or joyful part is rapidly approaching.

After the prophet has beheld the enemies of God plunged into a dreadful lake or inundation of liquid fire (64), which corresponds with the infernal lake or deluge of the Egyptian mysteries, he is introduced into a splendidly illuminated region expressly adorned with the characteristics of that paradise which was the ultimate scope of the ancient aspirants, while without the holy gate of admission are the whole multitude of the profane, sorcerers, and whore-mongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth or maketh a lie; but first of all dogs, i,e., the uninitiated, the cowans of Freemasonry. For some modern thinkers the Apocalypse has neither meaning nor value.

135. Pagan Impostors.—The spread of Christianity produced also many opponents to it, either avowed or secret; the latter, however, in most cases desired to see Paganism reformed, not abolished; though rejecting Christianity, they attempted to form a sort of Christianised Paganism. Clever impostors in those days reaped a rich harvest from the credulity of mankind, and sects without end sprang up. Two of the most successful leaders of such were Apollonius of Tyana and Alexander of Abonoteichos. Their doctrines, ceremonies, and tricks in mystery-mongering were largely founded on the religious and philosophical charlatanism of Pythagoras; they had their day, and passed away, to be constantly resuscitated.