Secret Societies of All Ages - Charles Heckethorn




Book III—Christian Initiations

126. Myth of Horus Christianised.—When the story of the Egyptian Horus had, by a concatenation of circumstances too long to be described here, in Alexandria, been elaborated into the myth of Christ, the latter was at once fitted out with mysteries and initiations there into. Traces of them may be found in all the evangelists, but most in St. Paul; and the trials of Christian initiation, as some suppose, are described in Luke xiv., and according to others, Matthew xvii. contains a full declaration of the mysteries made to the elect or initiated. If so, they are conveyed in language as enigmatical as that of the Alchymists. But the story of the Transfiguration on the Mount is an imperfect description of the holding of a quasi-masonic lodge of association in the highest degree. The more the society extended, chiefly by the ambitious schemes of Cerinthus, the more such initiations increased, and thus there gradually arose in the Church the secret discipline. The Cerinthus just mentioned, and who was also ironically called Merinthus—i.e., the "rope"—was really a Gnostic. St. John held him in such abhorrence, that on one occasion he would not bathe with him in the Baths of Ephesus for fear the vault would crumble over the heretic. The primitive Church believed that the Gospel of St. John had been written against Cerinthus, who, to revenge himself, attributed the Apocalypse to St. John.

127. Christian Mysteries.—In the writings of the Fathers the mention of mysterious designations and distinctions becomes more frequent. St. Augustin gives the reason why the secret discipline was adopted by the new believers: Firstly, because the mysteries, so incomprehensible to human intellect, and their simple rites, should not be derided by the Gentiles and those not fully initiated; secondly, to secure greater veneration for those rites; and thirdly, that the holy curiosity of the catechumens should be excited to obtain a perfect knowledge of them.

128. Similarity of Christian with Pagan Rites.—At least twenty different incarnate gods were celebrated in the East and West, to each of whom was attributed a history, similar in general details to that of the Christian Messiah, and these various incarnations were all supposed to have preceded Christ in point of chronology; the miracles attributed to Him had been sculptured in temples hoary with age before the date assigned to His birth. In all the ancient mysteries we have seen a representation of the death of the sun; according to some writers, this ceremony was imitated in the Christian mysteries by the symbolical slaying of a child, which, in the lower degrees, of course meant the death of Christ. We may here mention, just to show how old is the custom of the followers of an ancient religion to attribute horrible practices to the professors of a new creed, that the Romans asserted that, on being initiated into the Christian faith, the aspirant had placed before him a male child, covered with flour, whom he had to stab till he was dead, whereupon all present greedily licked up the blood, tore the body to pieces, and ate them, by which ceremony they were bound to one common silence.

The initiated were divided into three classes: hearers, catechumens, and faithful. The hearers formed a noviciate, and were prepared to be instructed in the Christian dogmas. One portion of these dogmas was hidden from the catechumens, who after the prescribed purifications, received baptism or initiation into the theogenesis (divine generation); they then became servants of the faith, and were admitted into the temples, and recognised each other by the sign of the cross. Solemn dances were performed in all the initiations, and the expression, "to come from the ball," which, for instance, we meet with in Aelius Aristides, the rhetorician (circa 150 A.D.), meant "to betray the mysteries."

129. Christian Symbols taken from Pagan Symbols.—Most of the hieroglyphics and symbols of Paganism passed into Christianity. The vine, and the processes of converting its fruit into the most universal of beverages, all belonging among the heathens to the rites of Bacchus, were by the first Christians rendered symbolical of the labours in the vineyard of faith. The ear of corn of Ceres furnished the emblem for the bread which Christ divided among His disciples. The palm and crown, which denoted worldly victories, among the Christians signified spiritual triumphs. The wings of the doves were given to the angels and cherubim; the dove of Venus became the Holy Ghost; Diana's stag, the Christian soul panting for the living water; Juno's peacock, that soul after resurrection. The sphinx, the griffin, and the chimera of mythology were by the Christians adopted as having the same power of warding off evil spirits and fornication, which was supposed to belong to the Gorgon's head. The keys of Janus, with St. Peter, expressed the highest power to set free and bind. In the primitive ages the pontiff wore a girdle whence depended seven keys and seven seals, symbols of the mysteries he was to preside over and keep secret. The cross (53) at first was a symbol not openly displayed, and it was not till the sixth century that the body of Christ was exhibited on it. The fish was not a Christian symbol of the Saviour merely because the Greek word for fish,[], contained the initials of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour, as is generally alleged, but because throughout the ancient world water was connected with the idea of salvation: Isis was associated with the fish, Moses means "drawn from the water," Joshua was the sun of Nun, "the fish." Vishnu's first incarnation in the form of a fish and the Cannes of the Chaldeans all have the same meaning.

130. Celebration of the Mysteries.—They were divided into two parts. The first was called the "mass of the catechumens," because the members of that degree were allowed to be present at it, and it embraced what was said from the beginning of the service to the Apostles' Creed. The second was called the "mass of the faithful," and comprised the preparation for the sacrifice, the sacrifice itself, and thanksgiving. When this latter commenced, a deacon intimated to the catechumens to go out, and the phrase used by him on that occasion savours but little of the pretended meekness and toleration of the youthful Church: Sancta Sanctis foris canas. The faithful being left alone recited the Apostles' Creed, whereby it was seen that all present had been fully initiated, and that all metaphorical or enigmatical language might be dispensed with.

131. Astronomical Meaning of Christianity.—Then the real mystery was unveiled, and the astronomical meaning of Christianity, similar to that of the ancient mysteries, was laid bare. The limits of this work will not allow me to enter into full details, but what follows will sufficiently explain the nature of the secret doctrines of the early Christians. Thus to them the Seven Churches of Asia were the seven months from March to September, both inclusive, as is proved by their names. Christ represented the sun, and His first miracle is turning water into wine, which the sun does every year; His agony in Gethsemane was the juice of the grape put in the wine-press; His descent into hell was the sun in the winter season; His crucifixion on Calvary (calvus = bald = shorn of His rays) His crossing the equator in the autumn; and His crucifixion in Egypt (Rev. xi. 8) His crossing it in the spring. The beheading of John the Baptist was shown to them to be John, Janus, or Aquarius, having his head cut off by the line of the horizon on the 29th August, wherefore his festival occurs on that day. They knew the Virgin Mary to be the Virgo of the zodiac, the goddess Ceres, who holds out to Adam, or man, the produce of the harvest; the Virgin, wedded to Joseph, astronomically Bootes, which constellation always rises and sets with her. These analogies might be pursued still further, but enough has been said for our present purpose.

132. Prometheus Bound.—The myth of Christ had been foreshadowed 500 years before our era in the tragedy of Aeschylus' "Prometheus Bound." Hence the disinclination of the Athenians, to whom this tragedy was familiar, to believe in a Jesus, crucified amidst the most astounding terrestrial and astronomical phenomena, of which, however, no one except the propounders of the new doctrine had ever heard.

The name Prometheus deserves attention; it is a compound word: Proma-theos, i.e., Brahma-theos. In the Tamul, a language derived from the Sanscrit, Brahma is pronounced Prahma. The Indian a has also been turned into o, for navam, nine, is undoubtedly the etymon of novem; pada, poda, etc. The converse of the change of B into P is found in Baphomet, from Papa and Mahomet. To return to Prometheus: he and Christ perish on a hill; both submit to the law of another god to save mankind; both have their right sides pierced, Prometheus by a vulture, Jesus by a lance, the former on a rock, the latter on a cross; and in the moment of death both expiatory victims utter the same sentiments, that is to say, the Gospels repeat the words put into the mouth of Prometheus 500 years before Christ. What strengthens the identity is the fact that Prometheus has a friend called Oceanus, who in the ancient mythologies is also called Piereus (Pierre), Peter. Now in the tragedy of Aeschylus we read that Oceanus denied his friend at the moment when the anger of God made him a victim for the sins of the human race. St. Peter, who lived by the ocean or sea, did the same under similar circumstances.

133. Abolition of Mysteries.—The number of the faithful having greatly increased—the Christians from being persecuted having become persecutors, and that of the most grasping and barbarous kind—the Church in the seventh century instituted the minor orders, among whom were the doorkeepers, who took the place of the deacons. In 692 every one was ordered thenceforth to be admitted to the public worship of the Christians, their esoteric teaching of the first ages was entirely suppressed, and what had been pure cosmology and astronomy was turned into a pantheon of gods and saints. Nothing remained of the mysteries but the custom of secretly reciting the canon of the Mass. Nevertheless in the Greek Church the priest celebrates divine worship behind a curtain, which is only removed during the elevation of the host, but since at that moment the worshippers prostrate themselves, they are supposed not to see the holy sacrament.