Secret Societies of All Ages - Charles Heckethorn

VII. — Chinese and Japanese Mysteries

77. Chinese Metaphysics.—In Chinese cosmogony we discover traces of the once universally prevailing knowledge of the properties of eternal Nature. Matter—the first material principle—is assumed to act upon itself, and thus to evolve the dual powers. This first material principle is called Tai-Keik, and described as the first link in the chain of causes; it is the utmost limit in the midst of illimitableness, though in the midst of nonentity there always existed an infinite Le, or "principle of order." The Le is called infinite, because t is impossible to represent it by any figure, since it is the "Eternal Nothing." This undoubted fragmentary tradition of the most ancient metaphysical system in the world has been ridiculed by many modern writers; but any reader will see that, however imperfectly expressed, it is the theosophic doctrine. It appears very strikingly in the great veneration in which the Chinese hold the number seven, which is the number of death, of destruction, as the material end, and the celestial beginning (11).

78. Introduction of Chinese Mysteries.—The Chinese practised Buddhism in its most simple form, and worshipped an invisible God, until a few centuries before the Christian era. From the teaching of Confucius, who lived five centuries before that era, it appears that in his time there were no mysteries; they only became necessary when the Chinese became an idolatrous nation. The chief end of initiation then was an absorption into the deity O-Mi-To Fo. Omito was derived from the Sanscrit Armida, "immeasurable," and Fo was only another name for Buddha. The letter T represented the triune God, and was indeed the ineffable name of the Deity, the Tetractys of Pythagoras, and the Tetragrammaton of the Jews. The rainbow was a celebrated symbol in the mysteries, for it typified the reappearance of the sun; and this not only in China, but even in Mexico (85).

79. Parallel between Buddhism and Christianity.—The general resemblance between Buddhism and Romanism is so marked, that it is acknowledged by the Romanists themselves, who account for this fact by the supposition that Satan counterfeited the true religion. This correspondence holds in minute particulars.

Buddha descended, as the legend says, from heaven to be born as a man, the avowed purpose of his mission being to give peace and rest to all flesh, to remove all sorrow and grief from the world, and to preach the truth. At the time of his birth a bright light shone through the universe, and the devas who announced his entrance into the world, saluted his mother with the words: "All joy be to you, Queen Maya! Rejoice and be glad, for the child you have borne is holy!" We have seen in ii that Maja, is a virgin—the worship also of Simon in the Temple finds its reflection in the adoration paid by the venerable Axite to the infant Buddha. Further, the Buddhist and the Christian (Roman Catholic) Church have a supreme and infallible head; we find in both the celibacy of the priesthood, monasteries, and nunneries, prayers in an unknown tongue, prayers to saints and intercessors, and especially, and principally too, a virgin with a child; also prayers for the dead, repetition of prayers with the use of a rosary, works of merit and supererogation; self-imposed austerities and bodily inflictions; a formal daily service, consisting of chants, burning of candles, sprinkling of holy water, bowings, prostrations; fast days and feast days, religious processions, images and pictures and fabulous legends, the worship of relics, the sacrament of confession, purgatory, etc. In some respects their rites resemble those of the Jews; they propitiate the Supreme Deity with the blood of bulls and goats, and also offered holocausts. The resemblance is easily accounted for. Romanism and some other creeds are only modernised Buddhism; and many religions are but superstitious perversions of the knowledge of natural phenomena. The tradition about Prester John has its origin in this resemblance between Buddhism and a corrupted Christianity. In the twelfth century there was in China a great Mongol tribe professing Buddhism, which by travellers was mistaken for an Oriental Christian religion. The Nestorian Christians, dwelling among the Mongols, called its head John the Priest, and hence arose the tradition that in the heart of Asia there was a Christian Church, whose popes bore the title of Prester John,

80. Lau-Tze.—Confucius was the religious lawgiver of China, but Lau-Tze was its philosopher. He excelled the former in depth and independence of thought. The word Lau or Le, is difficult to render; the Chinese itself defines it as "a thing indefinite, impalpable, and yet therein are forms." Lau-Tze himself seems to make it equivalent to "intelligence." His philosophy is peaceful and loving, and in this respect presents various commendable points of resemblance to Christian doctrine.

81. Japanese Mysteries.—The Japanese held that the world was enclosed in an egg before the creation, which egg was broken by a bull—the ever-recurring astronomical allegory, alluding to the Bull of the zodiac, which in former times opened the seasons, the vernal equinox. It is the same bull Apis which Egypt adored (51), and which the Jews in the Wilderness worslupped as the golden calf; also the bull which, sacrificed in the mysteries of Mithras, poured out its blood to fertilise the earth. The Japanese worshipped a deity who was styled the Son of the Unknown God, considered the creator of sun and moon, and called Tensio-Dai-Sin. The aspirants for initiation were conducted through artificial spheres, formed of movable circles, representing the revolutions of the planets. The mirror was a significant emblem of the all-seeing eye of their chief deity (11). In the closing ceremony of preparation the candidate was enclosed in the pastes, the door of which was said to be guarded by a terrible divinity, armed with a drawn sword. During the course of his probation the aspirant sometimes acquired so high a degree of enthusiasm as to refuse to quit his confinement in the pastes, and to remain there until he literally perished of famine. To this voluntary martyrdom was attached a promise of never-ending happiness hereafter. Their creed indeed is Buddhism slightly modified. "Diabolo ecclesiam Christi imitante!" exclaimed Xavier, on seeing how the practices of the Japanese resembled those of the Romanists in Europe; and, as has been observed of Buddhism in China and Thibet, all the practices of the Japanese ritual are so tinged with the colour of Romanism, that they might well justify the exclamation of Xavier, who was neither a savant nor a philosopher.

82. Japanese Doctrines.—The god Tensio-Dai-Sin has twelve apostles, and the sun, the planetary hero, fights with monsters and the elements. The ministers of the Temple of the Sun wear tunics of the colour of fire, and annually celebrate four festivals, the third day of the third month, the fifth day of the fifth, the seventh day of the seventh, and the ninth day of the ninth month respectively; and at one of these festivals they represent a myth similar to that of Adonis, and Nature is personified by a priest dressed in many colours. The members of this society are called Jammabos and the initiated are enjoined a long time to abstain from meat and to prepare themselves by many purifications.

83. The Lama.—The Grand Lama, the god of Thibet, becomes incarnate in man; thus much the priests reveal to the people. But the true religion, which consists of the doctrine of the supposed origin of the worid, is only made known in the almost inaccessible mysteries. The man in whom the Grand Lama has for the time become incarnate, and who is the pontiff, is held in such veneration, that the people eat pastilles, accounted sacred, and made from the unclean remains of the food which had contributed to the sustenance of his body. This disgusting practice, however, with them is simply the result of their belief in the metem-psychosis—parallel with the Indian doctrine of corruption and reproduction, symbolised by the use of cow-dung in the purification of the aspirant; and ltd real meaning is to show that all the parts of the universe are incessantly absorbed, and pass into the substance of one another. It is upon the model of the serpent who devours his tail. The dignity of the Lama dates from the thirteenth century. In the fourteenth a portion of the clergy seceded and formed a rival sect; the two religious bodies are distinguished and known by the titles of the Red Tassels and the Yellow Caps, from their headgear.