The East is the cradle of secret societies. For whatever end they may have been employed, the inspiration and methods of most of those mysterious associations which have played so important a part behind the scenes of the world’s history will be found to have emanated from the lands where the first recorded acts of the great human drama were played out–Egypt, Babylon, Syria, and Persia. On the one hand Eastern mysticism, on the other Oriental love of intrigue, framed the systems later on to be transported to the West with results so tremendous and far-reaching.
In the study of secret societies we have then a double line to follow–the course of associations enveloping themselves in secrecy for the pursuit of esoteric knowledge, and those using mystery and secrecy for an ulterior and, usually, a political purpose.
But esotericism again presents a dual aspect. Here, as in every phase of earthly life, there is the revers de la médaille– white and black, light and darkness, the Heaven and Hell of the human mind. The quest for hidden knowledge may end with initiation into divine truths or into dark and abominable cults. Who knows with what forces he may be brought in contact beyond the veil ? Initiation which leads to making use of spiritual forces, whether good or evil, is therefore capable of raising man to greater heights or of degrading him to lower depths than he could ever have reached by remaining on the purely physical plane. And when men thus unite themselves in associations, a collective force is generated which may exercise immense influence over the world around. Hence the importance of secret societies.
Let it be said once and for all, secret societies have not always been formed for evil purposes. On the contrary, many have arisen from the highest aspirations of the human mind–the desire for a knowledge of eternal verities. The evil arising from such systems has usually consisted in the perversion of principles that once were pure and holy. If I do not insist further on this point, it is because a vast literature has already been devoted to the subject, so that it need only be touched on briefly here.
Now, from the earliest times groups of Initiates or ” Wise Men” have existed, claiming to be in possession of esoteric doctrines known as the ” Mysteries,” incapable of apprehension by the vulgar, and relating to the origin and end of man, the life of the soul after death, and the nature of God or the gods. It is this exclusive attitude which constitutes the essential difference between the Initiates of the ancient world and the great Teachers of religion with whom modern occultists seek to confound them. For whilst religious leaders such as Buddha and Mohammed sought for divine knowledge in order that they might impart it to the world, the Initiates believed that sacred mysteries should not be revealed to the profane but should remain exclusively in their own keeping. So although the desire for initiation might spring from the highest aspiration, the gratification, whether real or imaginary, of this desire often led to spiritual arrogance and abominable tyranny, resulting in the fearful trials, the tortures physical and mental, ending even at times in death, to which the neophyte was subjected by his superiors.
According to a theory current in occult and masonic circles, certain ideas were common to all the more important “Mysteries,” thus forming a continuous tradition handed down through succeeding groups of Initiates of different ages and countries. Amongst these ideas is said to have been the conception of the unity of God. Whilst to the multitude it was deemed advisable to preach polytheism, since only in this manner could the plural aspects of the Divine be apprehended by the multitude, the Initiates themselves believed in the existence of one Supreme Being, the Creator of the Universe, pervading and governing all things. Le Plongeon, whose object is to show an affinity between the sacred mysteries of the Mayas and of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Greeks, asserts that ” The idea of a sole and omnipotent Deity, who created all things, seems to have been the universal belief in early ages, amongst all the nations that had reached a high degree of civilization. This was the doctrine of the Egyptian priests.”(1) The same writer goes on to say that the ” doctrine of a Supreme Deity composed of three parts distinct from each other yet forming one, was universally prevalent among the civilized nations of America, Asia, and the Egyptians,” and that the priests and learned men of Egypt, Chaldea, India, or China “. . . kept it a profound secret and imparted it only to a few select among those initiated in the sacred mysteries.”(2) This view has been expressed by many other writers, yet lacks historical proof.
That monotheism existed in Egypt before the days of Moses is, however, certain. Adolf Erman asserts that ” even in early times the educated class ” believed all the deities of the Egyptian religion to be identical and that ” the priests did not shut their eyes to this doctrine, but strove to grasp the idea of the one God, divided into different persons by poesy and myth. . . . The priesthood, however, had not the courage to take the final step, to do away with those distinctions which they declared to be immaterial, and to adore the one God under the one name.”(3) It was left to Amenhotep IV, later known as Ikhnaton, to proclaim this doctrine openly to the people. Professor Breasted has described the hymns of praise to the Sun God which Ikhnaton himself wrote on the walls of the Amarna tomb-chapels :
They show us the simplicity and beauty of the young king’s faith in the sole God. He had gained the belief that one God created not only all the lower creatures but also all races of men, both Egyptians and foreigners. Moreover, the king saw in his God a kindly Father, who maintained all his creatures by his goodness. . . . In all the progress of men which we have followed through thousands of years, no one had ever before caught such a vision of the great Father of all.(4)
May not the reason why Ikhnaton was later described as a ” heretic ” be that he violated the code of the priestly hierarchy revealing this secret doctrine to the profane ? Hence, too, perhaps the necessity in which the King found himself of suppressing the priesthood, which by persisting in its exclusive attitude kept what he perceived to be the truth from the minds of the people.
The earliest European centre of the Mysteries appears to have been Greece, where the Eleusinian Mysteries existed at a very early date. Pythagoras, who was born in Samos about 582 B.C. spent some years in Egypt, where he was initiated into the Mysteries of Isis. After his return to Greece, Pythagoras is said to have been initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries and attempted to found a secret society in Samos ; but this proving unsuccessful, he journeyed to Crotona in Italy, where he collected around him a great number of disciples and finally established his sect. This was divided into two classes of Initiates–the first admitted only into the exoteric doctrines of the master, with whom they were not allowed to speak until after a period of five years’ probation ; the second consisting of the real Initiates, whom all the mysteries of the esoteric doctrines of Pythagoras were unfolded. This course of instruction, given after the manner of the Egyptians, by means of images and symbols, began with geometrical science, in which Pythagoras during his stay in Egypt had become an adept, and led up finally to abstruse speculations concerning the transmigration of the soul and the nature of God, who was represented under the conception of a Universal Mind diffused through all things. It is however, as the precursor of secret societies formed later in the West of Europe that the sect of Pythagoras enters into the scope of this book. Early masonic tradition traces Freemasonry partly to Pythagoras, who is said to have travelled in England, and there certainly some reason to believe that his geometrical ideas entered into the system of the operative guilds of masons.
THE JEWISH CABALA(5)
According to Fabre d’Olivet, Moses, who ” was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” drew from the Egyptian Mysteries a part of the oral tradition which was handed down through the leaders of the Israelites.(6) That such an oral tradition, distinct from the written word embodied in the Pentateuch, did descend from Moses and that it was later committed to writing in the Talmud and the Cabala is the opinion of many Jewish writers.(7)
The first form of the Talmud, called the Mischna, appeared in about the second or third century A.D.; a little later a commentary was added under the name of the Gemara. These two works compose the Jerusalem Talmud, which was revised in the third to the fifth century. This later edition was named the Babylonian Talmud and is the one now in use.
The Talmud relates mainly to the affairs of everyday life — the laws of buying and selling, of making contracts–also to external religious observances, on all of which the most meticulous details are given. As a Jewish writer has expressed it :
. . . the oddest rabbinical conceits are elaborated through many volumes with the finest dialectic, and the most absurd questions are discussed with the highest efforts of intellectual power ; for example, how many white hairs may a red cow have, and yet remain a red cow ; what sort of scabs require this or that purification ; whether a louse or a flea may be killed on the Sabbath–the first being allowed, while the second is a deadly sin ; whether the slaughter of an animal ought to be executed at the neck or the tail ; whether the high priest put on his shirt or his hose first ; whether the Jabam, that is, the brother of a man who died childless, being required by law to marry the widow, is relieved from his obligation if he falls off a roof and sticks in the mire.(8)
But it is in the Cabala, a Hebrew word signifying ” reception,” that is to say ” a doctrine orally received,” that the speculative and philosophical or rather the theosophical doctrines of Israel are to be found. These are contained in two books, the Sepher Yetzirah and the Zohar.
The Sepher Yetzirah, or Book of the Creation, is described by Edersheim as a monologue on the part of Abraham, in which, by the contemplation of all that is around him, he ultimately arrives at the conclusion of the unity of God”(9) ; but since this process is accomplished by an arrangement of the Divine Emanations under the name of the Ten Sephiroths, and in the permutation of numerals and of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, it would certainly convey no such idea–nor probably indeed any idea at all–to the mind uninitiated into Cabalistic systems. The Sepher Yetzirah is in fact admittedly a work of extraordinary obscurity(10) and almost certainly of extreme antiquity. Monsieur Paul Vulliaud, in his exhaustive work on the Cabala recently published,(11) says that its date has been placed as early as the sixth century before Christ and as late as the tenth century A.D., but that it is at any rate older than the Talmud is shown by the fact that in the Talmud the Rabbis are described as studying it for magical purposes.(12) The Sepher Yetzirah is also said to be the work referred to in the Koran under the name of the ” Book of Abraham.”(13)
The immense compilation known as the Sepher-Ha-Zohar, or Book of Light, is, however, of greater importance to the study of Cabalistic philosophy. According to the Zohar itself the ” Mysteries of Wisdom ” were imparted to Adam by God whilst he was still in the Garden of Eden, in the form of a book delivered by the angel Razael. From Adam the book passed on to Seth, then to Enoch, to Noah, to Abraham, and later to Moses, one of its principal exponents.(14) Other Jewish writers declare, however, that Moses received it for the first time on Mount Sinai and communicated it to the Seventy Elders, by whom it was handed down to David and Solomon, then to Ezra and Nehemiah, and finally to the Rabbis of the early Christian era.(15)
Until this date the Zohar had remained a purely oral tradition, but now for the first time it is said to have been written down by the disciples of Simon ben Jochai. The Talmud relates that for twelve years the Rabbi Simon and his son Eliezer concealed themselves in a cavern, where, sitting in the sand up to their necks, they meditated on the sacred law and were frequently visited by the prophet Elias.(16) In this way, Jewish legend adds, the great book of the Zohar was composed and committed to writing by the Rabbi’s son Eliezer and his secretary the Rabbi Abba.(17)
The first date at which the Zohar is definitely known to have appeared is the end of the thirteenth century, when it was committed to writing by a Spanish Jew, Moses de Leon, who, according to Dr. Ginsburg, said he had discovered and reproduced the original document of Simon ben Jochai ; his wife and daughter, however, declared that he had composed it all himself.(18) Which is the truth ? Jewish opinion is strongly divided on this question, one body maintaining that the Zohar is the comparatively modern work of Moses de Leon, the other declaring it to be of extreme antiquity. M. Vulliaud, who has collated all these views in the course of some fifty pages, shows that although the name Zohar might have originated with Moses de Leon, the ideas it embodied were far older than the thirteenth century. How, he asks pertinently, would it have been possible for the Rabbis of the Middle Ages to have been deceived into accepting as an ancient document a work that was of completely modern origin ? (19) Obviously the Zohar was not the composition of Moses de Leon, but a compilation made by him from various documents dating from very early times. Moreover, as Vulliaud goes on to explain, those who deny its antiquity are the anti-Cabalists, headed by Graetz, whose object is to prove the Cabala to be at variance with orthodox Judaism. Theodore Reinach goes so far as to declare the Cabala to be ” a subtle poison which enters into the veins of Judaism and wholly infests it ” ; Salomon Reinach calls it ” one of the worst aberrations of the human mind.”(20) This view, many a student of the Cabala will hardly dispute, but to say that it is foreign to Judaism is another matter. The fact is that the main ideas of the Zohar find confirmation in the Talmud. As the Jewish Encyclopædia observes, ” the Cabala is not really in opposition to the Talmud,” and ” many Talmudic Jews have supported and contributed to it.”(21) Adolphe Franck does not hesitate to describe it as ” the heart and life of Judaism.”(22) ” The greater number of the most eminent Rabbis of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries believed firmly sacredness of the Zohar and the infallibility of its teaching.”(23)
The question of the antiquity of the Cabala is therefore in reality largely a matter of names. That a mystical tradition existed amongst the Jews from remote antiquity will hardly be denied by anyone (24) ; it is therefore, as M Vulliaud observes, “only a matter of knowing at what moment Jewish mysticism took the name of Cabala.”(25) Edersheim asserts that–
It is undeniable that, already at the time of Jesus Christ, there existed an assemblage of doctrines and speculations that were carefully concealed from the multitude. They were not even revealed to ordinary scholars, for fear of leading them towards heretical ideas. This kind bore the name of Kabbalah, and as the term (of Kabbalah, to receive, transmit) indicates, it represented the spiritual traditions transmitted from the earliest ages, although mingled in the course of time with impure or foreign elements.(26)
Is the Cabala, then, as Gougenot des Mousseaux asserts, older than the Jewish race, a legacy handed down from the first patriarchs of the world ? (27) We must admit this hypothesis to be incapable of proof, yet it is one that has found so much favour with students of occult traditions that it cannot be ignored. The Jewish Cabala itself supports it by tracing its descent from the patriarchs–Adam, Noah, Enoch, and Abraham–who lived before the Jews as a separate race came into existence. Eliphas Lévi accepts this genealogy, and relates that ” the Holy Cabala” was the tradition of the children of Seth carried out of Chaldea by Abraham, who was ” the inheritor of the secrets of Enoch and the father of initiation in Israel.”(28)
According to this theory, which we find again propounded by the American Freemason, Dr. Mackey,(29) there was, besides the divine Cabala of the children of Seth, the magical Cabala of the children of Cain, which descended to the Sabeists. or star-worshippers, of Chaldea, adepts in astrology and necromancy. Sorcery, as we know, had been practised by the Canaanites before the occupation of Palestine by the Israelites ; Egypt, India, and Greece also had their soothsayers and diviners. In spite of the imprecations against sorcery contained in the law of Moses, the Jews, disregarding these warnings, caught the contagion and mingled the sacred tradition they had inherited with magical ideas partly borrowed from other races partly of their own devising. At the same time the speculative side of the Jewish Cabala borrowed from the philosophy of the Persian Magi, of the Neo-Platonists,(30) and of the Neo-Pythagoreans. There is, then, some justification for the anti-Cabalists’ contention that what we know to-day as the Cabala is not of purely Jewish origin.
Gougenot des Mousseaux, who had made a profound study of occultism, asserts that there were therefore two Cabalas : the ancient sacred tradition handed down from the first patriarchs of the human race ; and the evil Cabala, wherein the sacred tradition was mingled by the Rabbis with barbaric superstitions, combined with their own imaginings and henceforth marked with their seal.(31) This view also finds expression in the remarkable work of the converted Jew Drach, who refers to–
The ancient and true Cabala, which . . . we distinguish from the modern Cabala, false, condemnable, and condemned by the Holy See, the work of the Rabbis, who have falsified and perverted the Talmudic tradition. The doctors of the Synagogue trace if back to Moses, whilst at the same time admitting that the principal truths it contains were those known by revelation to the first patriarchs of the world.(32)
Further on Drach quotes the statement of Sixtus of Sienna, another converted Jew and a Dominican, protected by Pius V :
Since by the decree of the Holy Roman Inquisition all books appertaining to the Cabala have lately been condemned, one must know that the Cabala is double ; that one is true, the other false. The true and pious one is that which . . . elucidates the secret mysteries of the holy law according to the principle of anagogy (i.e. figurative interpretation). This Cabala therefore the Church has never condemned. The false and impious Cabala is a certain mendacious kind of Jewish tradition, full of innumerable vanities and falsehoods, differing but little from necromancy. This kind of superstition therefore, improperly called Cabala, the Church within the last few years has deservedly condemned.(33)
The modern Jewish Cabala presents a dual aspect– theoretical and practical ; the former concerned with theosophical speculations, the latter with magical practices. It would be impossible here to give an idea of Cabalistic theosophy with its extraordinary imaginings on the Sephiroths, the attributes and functions of good and bad angels, dissertations on the nature of demons, and minute details on the appearance of God under the name of the Ancient of Ancients, from whose head 400,000 worlds receive the light. ” The length of this face from the top of the head is three hundred and seventy times ten thousand worlds. It is called the ‘ Long Face,’ for such is the name of the Ancient of Ancients.”(34) The description of the hair and beard alone belonging to this gigantic countenance occupies a large place in the Zoharic treatise, Idra Raba.(35)
According to the Cabala, every letter in the Scriptures contains a mystery only to be solved by the initiated.(36) By means of this system of interpretation passages of the Old Testament are shown to bear meanings totally unapparent to the ordinary reader. Thus the Zohar explains that Noah was lamed for life by the bite of a lion whilst he was in the ark,(37) the adventures of Jonah inside the whale are related with an extraordinary wealth of imagination,(38) whilst the beautiful story of Elisha and the Shunnamite woman is travestied in the most grotesque manner.(39)
In the practical Cabala this method of ” decoding ” is reduced to a theurgic or magical system in which the healing of diseases plays an important part and is effected by means of the mystical arrangement of numbers and letters, by the pronunciation of the Ineffable Name, by the use of amulets and talismans, or by compounds supposed to contain certain occult properties.
All these ideas derive from very ancient cults ; even the art of working miracles by the use of the Divine Name, which after the appropriation of the Cabala by the Jews became the particular practice of Jewish miracle-workers, appears to have originated in Chaldea.(40) Nor can the insistence on the Chosen People theory, which forms the basis of all Talmudic and Cabalistic writings, be regarded as of purely Jewish origin ; the ancient Egyptians likewise believed themselves to be ” the peculiar people specially loved by the gods.”(41) But in the hands of the Jews this belief became a pretension to the exclusive enjoyment of divine favour. According to the Zohar, ” all Israelites will have a part in the future world,” (42) and on arrival there will not be handed over like the goyim (or non-Jewish races) to the hands of the angel Douma and sent down to Hell.(43) Indeed the goyim are even denied human attributes. The Zohar again explains that the words of the Scripture ” Jehovah Elohim made man ” mean that He made Israel.(44) The seventeenth-century Rabbinical treatise Emek ha Melek observes : ” Our Rabbis of blessed memory have said : ‘ Ye Jews are mea because of the soul ye have from the Supreme Man (i.e. God). But the nations of the world are not styled men because they have not, from the Holy and Supreme Man, the Neschama (or glorious soul), but they have the Nephesch (soul) from Adam Belial, that is the malicious and unnecessary man, called Sammael, the Supreme Devil.’ ” (45)
In conformity with this exclusive attitude towards the rest of the human race, the Messianic idea which forms the dominating theme of the Cabala is made to serve purely Jewish interests. Yet in its origins this idea was possibly not Jewish. It is said by believers in an ancient secret tradition common to other races besides the Jews, that a part of this tradition related to a past Golden Age when man was free from care and evil non-existent, to the subsequent fall of Man and the loss of this primitive felicity, and finally to a revelation received from Heaven foretelling the reparation of this loss and the coming of a Redeemer who should save the world and restore the Golden Age. According to Drach :
The tradition of a Man-God who should present Himself as the teacher and liberator of the fallen human race was constantly taught amongst all the enlightened nations of the globe. Vetus et constans opinio, as Suetonius says. It is of all times and of all places.(46)
And Drach goes on to quote the evidence of Volney, who had travelled in the East and declared that–
The sacred and mythological traditions of earlier times had spread throughout all Asia the belief in a great Mediator who was to come, of a future Saviour, King, God, Conqueror, and Legislator who would bring back the Golden Age to earth and deliver men from the empire of evil.(47)
All that can be said with any degree of certainty with regard to this belief is that it did exist amongst the Zoroastrians of Persia as well as amongst the Jews. D’Herbelot, quoting Abulfaraj, shows that five hundred years before Christ, Zerdascht, the leader of the Zoroastrians, predicted the coming of the Messiah, at whose birth a star would appear. He also told his disciples that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, that they would be the first to hear of Him, and that they should bring Him gifts.(48)
Drach believes that this tradition was taught in the ancient synagogue,(49) thus explaining the words of St. Paul that unto the Jews ” were committed the oracles of God ” (50) :
This oral doctrine, which is the Cabala, had for its object the most sublime truths of the Faith which it brought back incessantly to the promised Redeemer, the foundation of the whole system of the ancient tradition.(51)
Drach further asserts that the doctrine of the Trinity formed a part of this tradition :
Whoever has familiarized himself with that which was taught by the ancient doctors of the Synagogue, particularly those who lived before the coming of the Saviour, knows that the Trinity in one God was a truth admitted amongst them from the earliest times.(52)
M. Vulliaud points out that Graetz admits the existence of this idea in the Zohar : ” It even taught certain doctrines which appeared favourable to the Christian dogma of the Trinity ! ” And again : ” It is incontestable that the Zohar makes allusions to the beliefs in the Trinity and the Incarnation.” (53) M. Vulliaud adds : ” The idea of the Trinity must therefore play an important part in the Cabala, since it has been possible to affirm that ‘ the characteristic of the Zohar and its particular conception is its attachment to the principle of the Trinity,’ ” (54) and further quotes Edersheim as saying that ” a great part of the explanation given in the writings of the Cabalists resembles in a surprising manner the highest truths of Christianity.” (55) It would appear, then, that certain remnants of the ancient secret tradition lingered on in the Cabala. The Jewish Encyclopodia, perhaps unintentionally, endorses this opinion, since in deriding the sixteenth-century Christian Cabalists for asserting that the Cabala contained traces of Christianity, it goes on to say that what appears to be Christian in the Cabala is only ancient esoteric doctrine.(56) Here, then, we have it on the authority of modern Jewish scholars that the ancient secret tradition was in harmony with Christian teaching. But in the teaching of the later synagogue the philosophy of the earlier sages was narrowed down to suit the exclusive system of the Jewish hierarchy and the ancient hope of a Redeemer who should restore Man to the state of felicity he had lost at the Fall was transformed into the idea of salvation for the Jews alone (57) under the ægis of a triumphant and even an avenging Messiah.(58) It is this Messianic dream perpetuated in the modern Cabala which nineteen hundred years ago the advent of Christ on earth came to disturb.
THE COMING OF THE REDEEMER
The fact that many Christian doctrines, such as the conception of a Trinity, the miraculous birth and murder of a Deity, had found a place in earlier religions has frequently been used as an argument to show that the story of Christ was merely a new version of various ancient legends, those of Attis, Adonis, or of Osiris, and that consequently the Christian religion is founded on a myth. The answer to this is that the existence of Christ on earth is an historical fact which no serious authority has ever denied. The attempts of such writers as Drews and J. M. Robertson to establish the theory of the ” Christ-Myth ” which find an echo in the utterances of Socialist orators,(59) have been met with so much able criticism as to need no further refutation. Sir John Frazer, who will certainly not be accused of bigoted orthodoxy, observes in this connexion :
The doubts which have been cast on the historical reality of Jesus are, in my judgement, unworthy of serious attention. . . . To dissolve the founder of Christianity into a myth, as some would do is hardly less absurd than it would be to do the same for Mohammed, Luther, and Calvin.(60)
May not the fact that certain circumstances in the life of Christ were foreshadowed by earlier religions indicate, as Eliphas Lévi observes, that the ancients had an intuition of Christian mysteries ? (61)
To those therefore who had adhered to the ancient tradition, Christ appeared as the fulfilment of a prophecy as old as the World. Thus the Wise Men came from afar to worship the babe of Bethlehem, and when they saw His star in the East they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. In Christ they hailed not only Him who was born King of the Jews, but the Saviour of the whole human race.(62)
In the light of this great hope, that wondrous night in Bethlehem is seen in all its sublimity. Throughout the ages the seers had looked for the coming of the Redeemer, and lo ! He was here ; but it was not to the mighty in Israel, to the High Priests and the Scribes, that His birth was announced, but to humble shepherds watching their flocks by night. And these men of simple faith, hearing from the angels ” the good tidings of great joy ” that a Saviour, ” Christ the Lord,” was born went with haste to see the babe lying in the manger, and returned ” glorifying and praising God.” So also to the devout in Israel, to Simeon and to Anna the prophetess, the great event appeared in its universal significance, and Simeon, departing in peace, knew that his eyes had seen the salvation that was to be ” a light to lighten the Gentiles ” as well as the glory of the people of Israel.
But to the Jews, in whose hands the ancient tradition had been turned to the exclusive advantage of the Jewish race, the Rabbis, who had, moreover, constituted themselves the sole guardians within this nation of the said tradition, the manner of its fulfilment was necessarily abhorrent. Instead a resplendent Messiah who should be presented by them to the people, a Saviour was born amongst the people themselves and brought to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord ; a Saviour moreover who, as time went on, imparted His divine message to the poor and humble and declared that His Kingdom was not of this world. This was clearly what Mary meant when she said that God had ” scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,” that He had ” put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.” Christ was therefore doubly hateful to the Jewish hierarchy in that He attacked the privilege of the race to which they belonged by throwing open the door to all mankind, and the privilege of the caste to which they belonged by revealing sacred doctrines to the profane and destroying their claim to exclusive knowledge.
Unless viewed from this aspect, neither the antagonism displayed by the Scribes and Pharisees towards our Lord nor the denunciations He uttered against them can be properly understood. ” Woe unto you, Lawyers ! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge : ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. . . . Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men : for ye neither go in your selves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” What did Christ mean by the key of knowledge ? Clearly the sacred tradition which, as Drach explains, foreshadowed the doctrines of Christianity.(63) It was the Rabbis who perverted that tradition, and thus ” the guilt of these perfidious Doctors consisted in their concealing from the people the traditional explanation of the sacred books by means of which they would have been able to recognize the Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ.” (64) Many of the people, however, did recognize Him ; indeed, the multitude acclaimed Him, spreading their garments before Him and crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David ! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord ! ” Writers who have cited the choice of Barabbas in the place of Christ as an instance of misguided popular judgement, overlook the fact that this choice was not spontaneous ; it was the Chief Priests who delivered Christ “from envy” and who ” moved the people that Pilate should rather release unto them Barabbas.” Then the people obediently cried out, ” Crucify Him ! “
So also it was the Rabbis who, after hiding from the people the meaning of the sacred tradition at the moment of its fulfilment, afterwards poisoned that same stream for future generations. Abominable calumnies on Christ and Christianity occur not only in the Cabala but in the earlier editions of the Talmud. In these, says Barclay–
Our Lord and Saviour is ” that one,” ” such a one,” ” a fool,” “the leper,” ” the deceiver of Israel,” etc. Efforts are made to prove that He is the son of Joseph Pandira before his marriage with Mary. His miracles are attributed to sorcery, the secret of which He brought in a slit in His flesh out of Egypt. He is said to have been first stoned and then hanged on the eve of the Passover. His disciples are called heretics and opprobrious names. They are accused of immoral practices, and the New Testament is called a sinful book. The references to these subjects manifest the most bitter aversion and hatred.(65)
One might look in vain for passages such as these in English or French translations of the Talmud, for the reason that no complete translation exists in these languages. This fact is of great significance. Whilst the sacred books of every other important religion have been rendered into our own tongue and are open to everyone to study, the book that forms the foundation of modern Judaism is closed to the general public. We can read English translations of the Koran, of the Dhammapada, of the Sutta Nipata, of the Zend Avesta, of the Shu King, of the Laws of Manu, of the Bhagavadgita, but we cannot read the Talmud. In the long series of Sacred Books of the East the Talmud finds no place. All that is accessible to the ordinary reader consists, on one hand, in expurgated versions or judicious selections by Jewish and pro-Jewish compilers, and, on the other hand, in ” anti-semitic ” publications on which it would be dangerous to place reliance. The principal English translation by Rodkinson is very incomplete, and the folios are nowhere indicated, so that it is impossible to look up a passage.(66) The French translation by Jean de Pavly professes to present the entire text of the Venetian Talmud of 1520, but it does nothing of the kind.(67) The translator, in the Preface, in fact admits that he has left out ” sterile discussions ” and has throughout attempted to tone down ” the brutality of certain expressions which offend our ears.” This of course affords him infinite latitude, so that all passages likely to prove displeasing to the ” Hébraïsants,” to whom his work is particularly dedicated, are discreetly expunged. Jean de Pauly’s translation of the Cabala appears, however, to be complete.(68) But a fair and honest rendering of the whole Talmud into English or French still remains to be made.
Moreover, even the Hebrew scholar is obliged to exercise some discrimination if he desires to consult the Talmud in its original form. For by the sixteenth century, when the study of Hebrew became general amongst Christians, the anti-social and anti-Christian tendencies of the Talmud attracted the attention of the Censor, and in the Bâle Talmud of 1581 the most obnoxious passages and the entire treatise Abodah Zara were suppressed.(69)
In the Cracow edition of 1604 that followed, these passages were restored by the Jews, a proceeding which aroused so much indignation amongst Christian students of Hebrew that the Jews became alarmed. Accordingly a Jewish synod, assembled in Poland in 1631, ordered the offending passages be expunged again, but–according to Drach–to be replaced by circles which the Rabbis were to fill in orally when giving instruction to young Jews.(70) After that date the Talmud was for a time carefully bowdlerized, so that in order to discover its original form it is advisable to go back to the Venetian Talmud of 1520 before any omissions were made, or to consult a modern edition. For now that the Jews no longer fear the Christians, these passages are all said to have been replaced and no attempt is made, as in the Middle Ages, to prove that they do not refer to the Founder of Christianity.(71)
Thus the Jewish Encyclopodia admits that Jewish legends concerning Jesus are found in the Talmud and Midrash and ” the life of Jesus (Toledot Yeshu) that originated in the Middle Ages. It is the tendency of all these sources to belittle the person of Jesus by ascribing to Him illegitimate birth, magic, and a shameful death.”(72)
The last work mentioned, the Toledot Yeshu, or the Sepher Toldos Jeschu, described here as originating in the Middle Ages, probably belongs in reality to a much earlier period. Eliphas Lévi asserts that ” the Sepher Toldos, to which the Jews attribute a great antiquity and which they hid from the Christians with such precautions that this book was for a long while unfindable, is quoted for the first time by Raymond Martin of the Order of the Preaching Brothers towards the end of the thirteenth century. . . . This book was evidently written by a Rabbi initiated into the mysteries of the Cabala.”(73) Whether then the Toledot Yeshu had existed for many centuries before it was first brought to light or whether it was a collection of Jewish traditions woven into a coherent narrative by a thirteenth-century Rabbi, the ideas it contains can be traced back at least as far as the second century of the Christian era. Origen, who in the middle of the third century wrote his reply to the attack of Celsus on Christianity, refers to a scandalous story closely resembling the Toledot Yeshu, which Celsus, who lived towards the end of the second century, had quoted on the authority of a Jew.(74) It is evident, therefore, that the legend it contains had long been current in Jewish circles, but the book itself did not come into the hands of Christians until it was translated into Latin by Raymond Martin. Later on Luther summarized it in German under the name of Schem Hamphorasch ; Wagenseil in 1681 and Huldrich in 1705 published Latin translations.(75) It is also to, be found in French in Gustave Brunet’s Evangiles Apocryphes.
However repugnant it is to transcribe any portion of this blasphemous work, its main outline must be given here in order to trace the subsequent course of the anti-Christian secret tradition in which, as we shall see, it has been perpetuated up to our own day. Briefly, then, the Toledot Yeshu relates with the most indecent details that Miriam, a hairdresser of Bethlehem,(76) affianced to a young man named Jochanan, was seduced by a libertine, Joseph Panther or Pandira, and gave birth to a son whom she named Jehosuah or Jeschu. According to the Talmudic authors of the Sota and the Sanhedrim, Jeschu was taken during his boyhood to Egypt, where he was initiated into the secret doctrines of the priests, and on his return to Palestine gave himself up to the practice of magic.(77) The Toledot Yeshu, however, goes on to say that on reaching manhood Jeschu learnt the secret of illegitimacy, on account of which he was driven out of the Synagogue and took refuge for a time in Galilee. Now, there vas in the Temple a stone on which was engraved the Tetragrammaton or Schem Hamphorasch, that is to say, the Ineffable Name of God ; this stone had been found by King David when the foundations of the Temple were being prepared and was deposited by him in the Holy of Holies. Jeschu, knowing this, came from Galilee and, penetrating into the Holy of Holies, read the Ineffable Name, which he transcribed on to a piece of parchment and concealed in an incision under his skin. By this means he was able to work miracles and to persuade the people that he was the son of God foretold by Isaiah. With the aid of Judas, the Sages of the Synagogue succeeded in capturing Jeschu, who was then led before the Great and Little Sanhedrim, by which he was condemned to be stoned to death and finally hanged.
Such is the story of Christ according to the Jewish Cabalists, which should be compared not only with the Christian tradition but with that of the Moslems. It is perhaps not sufficiently known that the Koran, whilst denying the divinity of Christ and also the fact of His crucifixion,(78) nevertheless indignantly denounces the infamous legends concerning Him perpetuated by the Jews, and confirms in beautiful language the story of the Annunciation and the doctrine of the Miraculous Conception.(79) ” Remember when the angels said, ‘ O Mary ! verily hath God chosen thee and purified thee, and chosen thee above the women of the worlds.’. . . Remember when the angels said : ‘ O Mary ! verily God announceth to thee the Word from Him : His name shall be Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, illustrious in this world, and in the next, and one of those who have near access to God.’ “
The Mother of Jesus is shown to have been pure and to have ” kept her maidenhood ” (80) ; it was the Jews who spoke against Mary “a grievous calumny.” (81) Jesus Himself is described as ” strengthened with the Holy Spirit,” and the Jews are reproached for rejecting “the Apostle of God, ” (82) to whom was given ” the Evangel with its guidance and light confirmatory of the preceding Law.”(83)
Thus during the centuries that saw the birth of Christianity, although other non-Christian forces arrayed themselves against the new faith, it was left to the Jews to inaugurate a campaign of vilification against the person of its Founder, whom Moslems this day revere as one of the great teachers of the world.(84)
A subtler device for discrediting Christianity and undermining belief in the divine character of our Lord has been adopted by modern writers, principally Jewish, who set out to prove that He belonged to the sect of the Essenes, a community of ascetics holding all goods in common, which had existed in Palestine before the birth of Christ. Thus the Jewish historian Graetz declares that Jesus simply appropriated to himself the essential features of Essenism, and that primitive Christianity was ” nothing but an offshoot of Essenism.”(85) The Christian Jew Dr. Ginsburg partially endorses this view in a small pamphlet (86) containing most of the evidence that has been brought forward on the subject, and himself expresses the opinion that ” it will hardly be doubted that our Saviour Himself belonged to this holy brotherhood.” (87) So after representing Christ as a magician in the Toledot Yeshu and the Talmud, Jewish tradition seeks to explain His miraculous works as those of a mere healer–an idea that we shall find descending right through the secret societies to this day. Of course if this were true, if the miracles of Christ were simply due to a knowledge of natural law and His doctrines were the outcome of a sect, the whole theory of His divine power and mission falls to the ground. This is why it is essential to expose the fallacies and even the bad faith on which the attempt to identify Him with the Essenes is based.
Now, we have only to study the Gospels carefully in order to realize that the teachings of Christ were totally different from those peculiar to the Essenes.(88) Christ did not live in a fraternity, but, as Dr. Ginsburg himself points out, associated with publicans and sinners. The Essenes did not frequent the Temple and Christ was there frequently. The Essenes disapproved of wine and marriage, whilst Christ sanctioned marriage by His presence at the wedding of Cana in Galilee and there turned water into wine. A further point, the most conclusive of all, Dr. Ginsburg ignores, namely, that one of the principal traits of the Essenes which distinguished them from the other Jewish sects of their day was their disapproval of ointment, which they regarded as defiling, whilst Christ not only commended the woman who brought the precious jar of ointment, but reproached Simon for the omission : ” My head with oil thou didst not anoint : but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment.” It is obvious that if Christ had been an Essene but had departed from His usual custom on this occasion out of deference to the woman’s feelings, He would have understood why Simon had not offered Him the same attention, and at any rate Simon would have excused himself on these grounds. Further if His disciples had been Essenes, would they not have protested against this violation of their principles, instead of merely objecting that the ointment was of too costly a kind ?
But it is in attributing to Christ the Communistic doctrines of the Essenes that Dr. Ginsburg’s conclusions are the most misleading–a point of particular importance in view of the fact that it is on this false hypothesis that so-called “Christian Socialism” has been built up. ” The Essenes,” he writes, had all things in common, and appointed one of the brethren as steward to manage the common bag ; so the primitive Christians (Acts ii. 44, 45, iv. 32-4; John xii. 6, xiii. 29).” It is perfectly true that, as the first reference to the Acts testifies, some of the primitive Christians after the death of Christ formed themselves into a body having all things in common, but there is not the slightest evidence that Christ and His disciples followed this principle. The solitary passage in the Gospel of St. John, which are all that Dr. Ginsburg can quote in support of this contention, may have referred to an alms-bag or a fund for certain expenses, not to a common pool of all monetary wealth. Still less is there any evidence that Christ advocated Communism to the world in general. When the young man having great possessions asked what he should do to inherit eternal life, Christ told him to follow the commandments, but on the young man asking what more he could do, answered: ” If thou wilt be perfect go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor.” Renunciation but not the pooling of al wealth was thus a counsel of perfection for the few who desired to devote their lives to God, as monks and nuns have always done, and bore no relation to the Communistic system of the Essenes.
Dr. Ginsburg goes on to say : ” Essenism put all its members on the same level, forbidding the exercise of authority of one over the other and enjoining mutual service ; so Christ (Matt. xx. 25-8 ; Mark ix. 35-7, x. 42-5). Essenism commanded its disciples to call no man master upon the earth, so Christ (Matt. xxiii. 8-10).” As a matter of fact, Christ strongly upheld the exercise of authority, not only in the oft-quoted passage, “Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s,” but His approval of the Centurion’s speech. ” I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me : and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and the another, Come, and he cometh ; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” Everywhere Christ commends the faithful servant and enjoins obedience to masters. If we look up the reference to the Gospel of St. Matthew where Dr. Ginsburg says that Christ commanded His disciples to call no man master on earth, we shall find that he has not only perverted the sense of the passage but reversed the order of the words, which, following a denunciation of the Jewish Rabbis, runs thus : ” But not ye called Rabbi : for one is your master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. . . . Neither be ye called masters : one is your master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” The apostles were, therefore, never ordered to call no man master, but not to be called master themselves. Moreover, if we refer to the Greek text we shall see that this was meant in a spiritual and not a social sense. The word for ” master ” here given is in the first verse i.e. teacher, in the second, literally guide, and the word for servant is . When masters and servants in the social sense are referred to in the Gospels, the word employed for master is and for servant . Dr. Ginsburg should have been aware of this distinction and that the passage in question had therefore no bearing on his argument. As a matter of fact it would appear that some of the apostles kept servants, since Christ commends them for exacting strict attention to duty :
Which of you, having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat ? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken ; and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink ? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded to him ? I trow not.(89)
This passage would alone suffice to show that Christ and His apostles did not inhabit communities where all were equal, but followed the usual practices of the social system under which they lived, though adopting certain rules, such as taking only one garment and carrying no money when they went on journeys. Those resemblances between the teaching of the Essenes and the Sermon on the Mount which Dr. Ginsburg indicates refer not to the customs of a sect, but to general precepts for human conduct–humility meekness, charity, and so forth.
At the same time it is clear that if the Essenes in general conformed to some of the principles laid down by Christ, certain of their doctrines were completely at variance with those of Christ and of primitive Christians, in particular their custom of praying to the rising sun and their disbelief in the resurrection of the body.(90) St. Paul denounces asceticism, warning the brethren that ” in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, . . . forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving . . . If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ.”
This would suggest that certain Essenean ideas had crept into Christian communities and were regarded by those who remembered Christ’s true teaching as a dangerous perversion.
The Essenes were therefore not Christians, but a secret society, practising four degrees of initiation, and bound by a terrible oaths not to divulge the sacred mysteries confided to them. And what were those mysteries but those of the Jewish secret tradition which we now know as the Cabala ? Dr. Ginsburg throws an important light on Essenism when, in one passage alone, he refers to the obligation of the Essenes ” not to divulge the secret doctrines to anyone, . . . carefully to preserve the books belonging to their sect and names of the angels or the mysteries connected with the Tetragrammaton and the other names of God and angels, comprised in the theosophy as well as with the cosmonogy which also played so important a part among the Jewish mystics and the Kabbalists.” (91) The truth is clearly that the Essenes were Cabalists, though doubtless Cabalists of a superior kind. The Cabala they possessed very possibly descended from pre-Christian times and had remained uncontaminated by the anti-Christian strain introduced into it by the Rabbis after the death of Christ.(92)
The Essenes are of importance to the subject of this book as the first of the secret societies from which a direct line of tradition can be traced up to the present day. But if in this peaceful community no actually anti-Christian influence is to be discerned, the same cannot be said of the succeeding pseudo-Christian sects which, whilst professing Christianity, mingled with Christian doctrines the poison of the perverted Cabala, main source of the errors which henceforth rent the Christian Church in twain.
The first school of thought to create a schism in Christianity was the collection of sects known under the generic name of Gnosticism. In its purer forms Gnosticism aimed at supplementing faith by knowledge of eternal verities and at giving a wider meaning to Christianity by linking it up with earlier faiths. ” The belief that the divinity had been manifested in the religious institutions of all nations ” (93) thus led to the conception of a sort of universal religion containing the divine elements of all.
Gnosticism, however, as the Jewish Encyclopædia points out, ” was Jewish in character long before it became Christian.”(94) M. Matter indicates Syria and Palestine as its cradle and Alexandria as the centre by which it was influenced at the time of its alliance with Christianity. This influence again was predominantly Jewish. Philo and Aristobulus, the leading Jewish philosophers of Alexandria, ” wholly attached to the ancient religion of their fathers, both resolved to adorn it with the spoils of other systems and to open to Judaism the way to immense conquests.” (95) This method of borrowing from other races and religions those ideas useful for their purpose has always been the custom of the Jews. The Cabala, as we have seen, was made up of these heterogeneous elements. And it is here we find the principal progenitor of Gnosticism. The Freemason Ragon gives the clue in the words : The Cabala is the key of the occult sciences. The Gnostics were born of the Cabalists.”(96)
For the Cabala was much older than the Gnostics. Modern historians who date it merely from the publication of the Zohar by Moses de Leon in the thirteenth century or from the school of Luria in the sixteenth century obscure this most important fact which Jewish savants have always clearly recognized.(97) The Jewish Encyclopædia, whilst denying the certainty of connexion between Gnosticism and the Cabala, nevertheless admits that the investigations of the anti-Cabalist Graetz ” must be resumed on a new basis,” and it goes on to show that ” it was Alexandria of the first century, or earlier, with her strange commingling of Egyptian, Chaldean, Judean, and Greek culture which furnished soil and seeds for that mystic philosophy,” (98) But since Alexandria was at the same period the home of Gnosticism, which was formed from the same elements enumerated here, the connexion between the two systems is clearly evident. M. Matter is therefore right in saying that Gnosticism was not a defection from Christianity but a combination of systems into which a few Christian elements were introduced. The result of Gnosticism was thus not to Christianize the Cabala, but to cabalize Christianity by mingling its pure and simple teaching with theosophy and even magic. The Jewish Encyclopædia quotes the opinion that ” the central doctrine of Gnosticism–a movement closely connected with Jewish mysticism–was nothing else than the attempt to liberate the soul and unite it with God “; but as this was apparently to be effected ” through the employment of mysteries, incantations, names of angels,” etc., it will be seen how widely even this phase of Gnosticism differ from Christianity and identifies itself with the magical Cabala of the Jews.
Indeed, the man generally recognized as the founder of Gnosticism, a Jew commonly known as Simon Magus, was not only a Cabalist mystic but avowedly a magician, who with a band of Jews, including his master Dositheus and his disciples Menander and Cerinthus, instituted a priesthood of the Mysteries and practised occult arts and exorcisms.(99) It was this Simon of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles that he ” bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one : to whom they all gave heed from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God,” and who sought to purchase the power of the laying on of hands with money. Simon, indeed, crazed by his incantations and ecstasies, developed megalomania in an acute form, arrogating to himself divine honours and aspiring to the adoration of the whole world. According to a contemporary legend, he eventually became sorcerer to Nero and ended his life in Rome.(100)
The prevalence of sorcery amongst the Jews during the first century of the Christian era is shown by other passages in the Acts of the Apostles ; in Paphos the ” false prophet,” a Jew, whose surname was Bar-Jesus, otherwise known as ” Elymas the sorcerer,” opposed the teaching of St. Paul and brought on himself the imprecation : ” O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord ? “
Perversion is the keynote of all the debased forms of Gnosticism. According to Eliphas Lévi, certain of the Gnostics introduced into their rites that profanation of Christian mysteries which was to form the basis of black magic in the Middle Ages.(101) The glorification of evil, which plays so important a part in the modern revolutionary movement, constituted the creed of the Ophites, who worshipped the Serpent () because he had revolted against Jehovah, to whom they referred under the Cabalistic term of the ” demiurgus,” (102) and still more of the Cainites, so-called from their cult of Cain, whom, with Dathan and Abiram, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, and finally Judas Iscariot, they regarded as noble victims of the demiurgus.(103) Animated by hatred of all social and moral order, the Cainites ” called upon all men to destroy the works of God and to commit every kind of infamy.”(104)
These men were therefore not only the enemies of Christianity but of orthodox Judaism, since it was against the Jehovah of the Jews that their hatred was particularly directed. Another Gnostic sect the Carpocratians, followers of Carpocrates of Alexandria and his son Epiphamus–who died from his debaucheries and was venerated as a god(105)–likewise regarded all written laws, Christian or Mosaic, with contempt and recognised only the or knowledge given to the great men of every nation–Plato and Pythagoras, Moses and Christ–which ” frees one from all that the vulgar call religion” and ” makes man equal to God.”(106)
So in the Carpocratians of the second century we find already the tendency towards that deification of humanity which forms the supreme doctrine of the secret societies and of the visionary Socialists of our day. The war now begins between the two contending principles : the Christian conception of man reaching up to God and the secret society conception of man as God, needing no revelation from on high and no guidance but the law of his own nature. And since that nature is in itself divine, all that springs from it is praiseworthy, and those acts usually regarded as sins are not to be condemned. By this line of reasoning the Carpocratians arrived at much the same conclusions as modern Communists with regard to the ideal social system. Thus Epiphanus held that since Nature herself reveals the principle of the community and the unity of all things, human laws which are contrary to this law of Nature are so many culpable infractions of the legitimate order of things. Before these laws were imposed on humanity everything was in common–land, goods, and women. According to certain contemporaries, the Carpocratians returned to this primitive system by instituting the community of women and indulging in every kind of licence.
The further Gnostic sect of Antitacts, following this same cult of human nature, taught revolt against all positive religion and laws and the necessity for gratifying the flesh ; the Adamites of North Africa, going a step further in the return to Nature, cast off all clothing at their religious service so as to represent the primitive innocence of the garden of Eden–a precedent followed by the Adamites of Germany in the fifteenth century.(107)
These Gnostics, says Eliphas Lévi, under the pretext of ” spiritualizing matter, materialized the spirit in the most revolting ways. . . . Rebels to the hierarchic order, . . . they wished to substitute the mystical licence of sensual passions to wise Christian sobriety and obedience to laws. . . . Enemies of the family, they wished to produce sterility by increasing debauchery.”(108)
By way of systematically perverting the doctrines of the Christian faith the Gnostics claimed to possess the true versions of the Gospels, and professed belief in these to the exclusion of all the others.(109) Thus the Ebionites had their own corrupted version of the Gospel of St. Matthew founded on the ” Gospel of the Hebrews,” known earlier to the Jewish Christians ; the Marcosians had their version of St. Luke, the Cainites their own ” Gospel of Judas,” and the Valentinians their ” Gospel of St. John.” As we shall see later, the Gospel of St. John is the one that throughout the war on Christianity has been specially chosen for the purpose of perversion.
Of course this spirit of perversion was nothing new ; many centuries earlier the prophet Isaiah had denounced it in the words : ” Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil ; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness ! ” But the rôle of the Gnostics was to reduce perversion to a system by binding men together into sects working under the guise of enlightenment in order to obscure all recognized ideas of morality and religion. It is this which constitutes their importance in the history of secret societies.
Whether the Gnostics themselves can be described as a secret society, or rather as a ramification of secret societies, is open to question. M. Matter, quoting a number of third century writers, shows the possibility that they had mysteries and initiations ; the Church Fathers definitely asserted this to be the case. (110) According to Tertullian, the Valentinians continued, or rather perverted, the mysteries of Eleusis, out of which they made a ” sanctuary of prostitution.”(111)
The Valentinians are known to have divided their members into three classes–the Pneumatics, the Psychics, and the Hylics (i.e. materialists) ; the Basilideans are also said to have possessed secret doctrines known to hardly one in a thousand of the sect. From all this M. Matter concludes that :
- The Gnostics professed to hold by means of tradition a secret doctrine superior to that contained in the public writings of the apostles.
- That they did not communicate this doctrine to everyone. . . .
- That they communicated it by means of emblems and symbols, as the Diagram of the Ophites proves.
- That in these communications they imitated the rites and trials of the mysteries of Eleusis.(112)
This claim to the possession of a secret oral tradition, whether known under the name of or of Cabala, confirms the conception of the Gnostics as Cabalists and shows how far they had departed from Christian teaching. For if only in this idea of ” one doctrine for the ignorant and another for a initiated,” the Gnostics had restored the very system which Christianity had come to destroy.(113)
Whilst we have seen the Gnostic sects working for more or less subversive purposes under the guise of esoteric doctrines, we find in the Manicheans of Persia, who followed a century later, a sect embodying the same tendencies and approaching still nearer to secret society organization.
Cubricus or Corbicius, the founder of Manicheism, was born in Babylonia about the year A.D. 216. Whilst still a child he is said to have been bought as a slave by a rich widow of Ctesiphon, who liberated him and on her death left him great wealth. According to another story–for the whole history of Manes rests on legends–he inherited from a rich old woman the books of a Saracen named Scythianus on the wisdom of the Egyptians. Combining the doctrines these books contained with ideas borrowed from Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, and Christianity, and also with certain additions of his own, he elaborated a philosophic system which he proceeded to teach. Cubricus then changed his name to Mani or Manes and proclaimed himself the Paraclete promised by Jesus Christ. His followers were divided into two classes–the outer circle of hearers or combatants, and the inner circle of teachers or ascetics described as the Elect. As evidence of their resemblance with Freemasons, it has been said that the Manicheans made use of secret signs, grips, and passwords, that owing to the circumstances of their master’s adoption they called Manes ” the son of the widow ” and themselves ” the children of the widow,” but this is not clearly proved. One of their customs is, however, interesting in this connexion. According to legend, Manes undertook to cure the son of the King of Persia who had fallen ill, but the prince died, whereupon Manes was flayed alive by order of the king and his corpse hanged up at the city gate. Every year after this, on Good Friday, the Manicheans carried out a mourning ceremony known as the Bema around the catafalque of Manes, whose real sufferings they were wont to contrast with the unreal sufferings of Christ.
The fundamental doctrine of Manicheism is Dualism– that is to say, the existence of two opposing principles in the world, light and darkness, good and evil–founded, however, not on the Christian conception of this idea, but on the Zoroastrian conception of Ormuzd and Ahriman, and so perverted and mingled with Cabalistic superstitions that it met with as vehement denunciation by Persian priests as by Christian Fathers. Thus, according to the doctrine of Manes, all matter is absolute, the principle of evil is eternal, humanity itself of Satanic origin, and the first human beings, Adam and Eve, are represented as the offspring of devils.(114) Much the same idea may be found in the Jewish Cabala, where it is said that Adam, after other abominable practices, cohabited with female devils whilst Eve consoled herself with male devils, so that whole races of demons were born into the world. Eve is also accused of cohabiting with the Serpent.(115) In the Yalkut Shimoni it is also related that during the 130 years that Adam lived apart from Eve, ” he begat a generation of devils, spirits, and hobgoblins “(116) Manichean demonology thus paved the way for the placation of the powers of darkness practised by the Euchites at the end of the fourth century and later by the Paulicians, the Bogomils and the Luciferians.
So it is in Gnosticism and Manicheism that we find evidence of the first attempts to pervert Christianity. The very fact that all such have been condemned by the Church as “heresies” has tended to enlist sympathy in their favour, yet even Eliphas Lévi recognizes that here the action of the Church was right, for the ” monstrous gnosis of Manes ” was a desecration not only of Christian doctrines but of pre-Christian sacred traditions.
- August le Plongeon, Sacred mysteries among the Mayas and the Quiches, p. 53 (1909).
- Ibid., pp. 56, 58.
- Adolf Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt, p. 45 (1894).
- J.H. Breasted, Ancient Times : a History of the Early World, p. 92 (1916).
- This word is spelt variously by different writers thus : Cabala, Cabbala, Kabbala, Kabbalah, Kabalah. I adopt the first spelling as being the one employed in the Jewish Encyclopædia.
- Fabre d’Olivet, La Langue Hébraïque, p. 28 (1815).
- According to the Jewish view God had given Moses on Mount Sinai alike the oral and the written Law, that is, the Law with all its interpretations and applications.”–Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, I. 99 (1883), quoting other Jewish authorities.
- Solomon Maimon : an Autobiography, translated from the German by J. Clark Murray, p. 28 (1888). The original appeared in 1792.
- Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, II. 689 (1883).
- ” There exists in Jewish literature no book more difficult to understand than the Sepher Yetzirah.”–Phineas Mordell in the Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. II. p. 557.
- Paul Vulliaud, La Kabbale Juive : histoire et doctrine, 2 vols. (Émile Nourry, 62 Rue des Écoles, Paris, 1923). This book, neither the work of a Jew nor of an ” anti-Semite,” but of a perfectly impartial student, is invaluable for a study of the Cabala rather as a vast compendium of opinions than as an expression of original thought.
- ” Rab Hanina and Rab Oschaya were seated on the eve of every Sabbath studying the Sepher Ietsirah ; they created a three-year-old heifer and ate it “–Talmud treatise Sanhedrim, folio 65.
- Koran, Sura LXXXVII. 10.
- Zohar, section Bereschith, folio 55, and section Lekh-Lekha, folio 76 (De Pauly’s translation, Vol. I. pp. 431, 446).
- Adolphe Franck, La Kabbale, p. 39 ; J.P. Stehelin, The Traditions of the Jews, I. 145 (1748).
- Adolphe Franck, op. cit., p. 68, quoting Talmud treatise Sabbath, folio 34 ; Dr. Christian Ginsburg, The Kabbalah, p. 85 ; Drach, De l’Harmonie entre l’Église et la Synagogue, I. 457.
- Adolphe Franck, op. cit., p. 69.
- Dr. Christian Ginsburg (1920), The Kabbalah, pp. 172, 173.
- Vulliaud, op. cit., I. 253.
- Ibid., p. 21, quoting Theodore Reinach, Histoire des Israélites, p. 221, and Salomon Reinach, Orpheus, p. 299.
- Jewish Encyclopædia, article on Cabala.
- Adolphe Franck, op. cit., p. 288.
- Vulliaud, op. cit., I. 256, quoting Greenstone, The Messiah Idea, p. 229.
- H. Loewe, in an article on the Kabbala in Hastings’ Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, says : ” This secret mysticism was no late growth. Difficult though it is to prove the date and origin of this system of philosophy and the influences and causes which produced it, we can be fairly certain that its roots stretch back very far and that the mediæval and Geonic Kabbala was the culmination and not the inception of Jewish esoteric mysticism. From the time of Graetz it has been the fashion to decry the Kabbala and to regard it as a later incrustation, as something of which Judaism had reason to be ashamed.” The writer goes on to express the opinion that ” the recent tendency requires adjustment. The Kabbala, though later in form than is claimed by its adherents, is far older in material than is allowed by its detractors.”
- Vulliaud, op. cit., I. 22.
- Ibid., I. 13, 14, quoting Edersheim, La Société Juive au temps de Jésus-Christ (French translation), pp. 363-4.
- See chapters on this question by Gougenot des Mousseaux in Le Juif, Judaïsme et la Judaïsation des Peuples Chrétiens, pp. 499 and following (2nd edition, 1886). The first edition of this book, published in 1869, is said to have been bought up and destroyed by the Jews, and the author died sudden death before the second edition could be published.
- Eliphas Levi, Histoire de la Magie, pp. 46, 105. (Eliphas Lévi was the pseudonym of the celebrated nineteenth-century occultist the Abbé Constant.)
- Lexicon of Freemasonry, p. 323.
- Ginsburg, op. cit., p. 105; Jewish Encyclopædia, article on Cabala.
- Gougenot des Mousseaux, Le Juif, le judaïsme et la Judaïsation des Peuples Chrétiens, p. 503 (1886).
- P.L.B. Drach, De l’Harmonie entre l’Église et la Synagogue, Vol. I. p. xiii (1844). M. Vulliaud (op. cit., II. 245) points out that, as far as he can discover, Drach’s work has never met with any refutation from the Jews, by whom it was received in complete silence. The Jewish Encyclopædia has an article on Drach in which it says he was brought up in a Talmudic school and afterwards became converted to Christianity, but makes no attempt to challenge his statements.
- Drach, op. cit., Vol. II. p. xix.
- Franck, op. cit., p. 127.
- De Pauly’s translation, Vol. V. pp. 336-8, 343-6.
- Zohar, treatise Beschala, folio 59b (De Pauly, III. 265).
- Zohar, Toldoth Noah, folio 69a (De Pauly, I. 408).
- Zohar, treatise Beschala, folio 48a (De Pauly, III. 219).
- Ibid., folio 44a (De Pauly, III. 200).
- Jewish Encyclopædia, article on Cabala.
- Adolf Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt, p. 32.
- Zohar, treatise Toldoth Noah, folio 59b (De Pauly, I. 347).
- Zohar treatise Lekh-Lekha, folio 94a (De Pauly, I. 535).
- Zohar treatise Bereschith, folio 26a (De Pauly, I 161).
- The Emek ha Melek is the work of the Cabalist Naphtali, a disciple of Luria.
- Drach, De l’Harmonie entre l’Église et la Synagogue, I. 272.
- Ibid., p. 273.
- D’Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale (1778), article on Zerdascht.
- Ibid., I. 18.
- Rom. iii. 2.
- Drach, De l’Harmonie entre l’Église et la Synagogue, II. 19.
- Ibid., I. 280.
- Vulliaud, op. cit., II. 255, 256.
- Ibid., p. 257, quoting Karppe, Études sur les Origines du Zohar, p. 494.
- Ibid., I. 13, 14. In Vol. 11. p. 411, M. Vulliaud quotes Isaac Meyer’s assertion that “the triad of the ancient Cabala is Kether, the Father ; Binah, the Holy Spirit or the Mother ; and Hochmah, the Word or the Son.” But in order to avoid the sequence of the Christian Trinity this arrangement has been altered in the modern Cabala of Luria and Moses of Cordovero, etc.
- Jewish Encyclopædia, article on Cabala, p. 478.
- “. . . All that Israel hoped for, was national restoration and glory. Everything else was but means to these ends ; the Messiah Himself only the grand instrument in attaining them. Thus viewed, the picture presented would be of Israel’s exaltation, rather than of the salvation of the world. . . . The Rabbinical ideal of the Messiah was not that of ‘ a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel ‘–the satisfaction of the wants of humanity, and the completion of Israel’s mission–but quite different even to contrariety.”– Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 164 (1883).
- Zohar, section Schemoth, folio 8; cf. ibid., folio 9b : ” The period when the King Messiah will declare war on the whole world ” (De Pauly, III. 32, 36)
- A blasphemous address entitled The God Man, given by Tom Anderson, the founder of the Socialist Sunday Schools, on Glasgow Green to an audience of over 1,000 workers in 1922 and printed in pamphlet form, was founded entirely on this theory.
- J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, Part VI. ” Scapegoat,” p. 412 (1914 edition) ; E.R. Bevan endorses this view.
- Histoire de la Magie, p. 69.
- The Magi or Wise Men are generally believed to have come from Persia this would accord with the Zoroastrian prophecy quoted above.
- Drach, op. cit., II. p. 32.
- Ibid., II. p xxiii.
- Joseph Barclay, The Talmud, pp. 38, 39; cf. Drach, op. cit., I. 167.
- The Talmud, by Michael Rodkinson (alias Michael Levy Rodkinssohn).
- Le Talmud de Babylone, (1900).
- Le Zohar, translation in 8 vols. by Jean de Pauly, published in 1909 by Emile Lafuma-Giraud. Wherever possible in quoting the Talmud or the Cabala I shall give a reference to one of the translations here mentioned.
- Jewish Encyclopædia, article Talmud.
- Drach, op. cit., I. 168, 169. The text of this encyclical is given by Drach in Hebrew and also in translation, thus : ” This is why we enjoin you, under pain of excommunication major, to print nothing in future editions, whether of the Mischna or of the Gemara, which relates whether for good or evil to the acts of Jesus the Nazarene, and to substitute instead a circle like this O, which will warn the Rabbis and schoolmasters to teach the young these passages only viva voce. By means of this precaution the savants amongst the Nazarenes will have no further pretext to attack us on this subject.” Cf. Abbé Chiarini, Le Talmud de Babylone, p. 45 (1831).
- On this point see Appendix I.
- Jewish Encyclopædia, article on ” Jesus.”
- Eliphas Lévi, La Science des Esprits, p. 40.
- Origen, Contra Celsum.
- S. Baring-Gould, The Counter-Gospels, p. 69 (1874).
- Cf. Baring-Gould, op. cit., quoting Talmud, treatise Sabbath, folio 104.
- Ibid., p. 55, quoting Talmud, treatise Sanhedrim, folio 107, and Sota, folio 47 ; Eliphas Lévi, La Science des Esprits, pp. 32, 33.
- According to the Koran, it was the Jews who said, ” ‘ Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an apostle of God.’ Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness. . . . No sure knowledge had they about him, but followed an opinion, and they did not really slay him, but God took him up to Himself.”–Sura iv. 150. See also Sura iii. 40. The Rev. J. M. Rodwell, in his translation of the Koran observes in a footnote to the latter passage : ” Muhammad probably believed that God took the dead body of Jesus to Heaven–for three hours, according to some,–while the Jews crucified a man who resembled him.”
- Sura iii. 30, 40.
- Sura xxi. 90.
- Sura iv. 150.
- Sura ii. 89, 250 ; v. 100
- Sura v. 50.
- In the masonic periodical Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. XXIV, a Freemason (Bro. Sydney T. Klein) observes : ” It is not generally known that one of the reasons why the Mohammedans removed their Kiblah from Jerusalem to Mecca was that they quarrelled with the Jews over Jesus Christ, and the proof of this may still be seen in the Golden Gate leading into the sacred area of the Temple, which was bricked up by the Mohammedans and is bricked up to this day, because they declared that nobody should enter through that portal until Jesus Christ comes to judge the world, and this is stated in the Koran.” I cannot trace this passage in the Koran, but much the same idea is conveyed by the Rev. J. M. Rodwell, who in the note above quoted adds : ” The Muhammadans believe that Jesus on His return to earth at the end of the world will slay the Antichrist, die, and be raised again. A vacant place is reserved for His body in the Prophet’s tomb at Medina.”
- Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, III. 216-52.
- The Essenes : their History and Doctrines, an essay by Christian D. Ginsburg, LL.D. (Longmans, Green & Co., 1864).
- Ibid., p. 24.
- Edersheim (op. cit., I. 325) ably refutes both Graetz and Ginsburg on this point and shows that ” the teaching of Christianity was in a direction opposite from that of Essenism.” M. Vulliaud (op. cit., I. 71) dismisses the Essene origin of Christianity as unworthy of serious attention. ” To maintain the Essenism of Jesus is a proof of frivolity or of invincible ignorance.”
- Luke xvii. 7-9.
- Ginsburg, op. cit., pp. 15, 22, 55.
- Ginsburg, op. cit., p. 12.
- Fabre d’Olivet thinks this tradition had descended to the Essenes from Moses : ” If it is true, as everything attests, that Moses left an oral law, it is amongst the Essenes that it was preserved. The Pharisees, who flattered themselves so highly on possessing it, only had its outward forms (apparences), as Jesus reproaches them at every moment. It is from these latter that the modern Jews descend, with the exception of a few real savants whose secret tradition goes back to the Essens.”–La Langue Hébraïque, p. 27 (1815).
- Matter, Histoire du Gnosticisme, I. 44 (1844).
- Jewish Encyclopædia, article on Cabala.
- Matter, op. cit., II. 58.
- Ragon, Maçonnerie Occulte, p. 78.
- ” The Cabala is anterior to the Gnosis, an opinion which Christian writers little understand, but which the erudites of Judaism profess with a legitimate assurance.”–Matter, op. cit., Vol. I. p. 12.
- Jewish Encyclopædia, article on Cabala.
- John Yarker, The Arcane Schools, p. 167; Matter, op. cit., II. 365, quoting Irenæus.
- Eliphas Lévi, Histoire de la Magie, p. 189.
- Eliphas Lévi, op. cit., p. 218.
- Dean Milman, History of the Jews (Everyman’s Library edition), II. 491.
- Matter, II. 171; E. de Faye, Gnostiques et Gnosticisme, p. 349 (1913).
- De Luchet, Essai sur la Secte des Illuminés, p. 6.
- Manuel d’Histoire Ecclésiastique, par R.P. Albers, S.J., adapté par René Hedde, O.P., p. 125 (1908); Matter, op. cit., II. 197.
- Matter, op. cit., II. 188.
- Matter, op. cit., II. 199, 215.
- Eliphas Lévi, Histoire de la Magie, pp. 217, 218.
- Matter, op. cit., II. 115, III. 14; S. Baring-Gould, The Lost and Hostile Gospels (1874).
- Matter, op. cit., II. 364.
- Ibid., p. 365.
- Ibid., p. 369.
- Some Notes on Various Gnostic Sects and their Possible Influence on Freemasonry, by D.F. Ranking, republished from Ars Quatour Coronatorum (Vol. XXIV, p. 202, 1911) in pamphlet form, p. 7.
- Hastings, Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, article on Manicheism.
- Zohar, treatise Bereschith, folio 54 (De Pauly’s translation, I. 315).
- The Yalkut Shimoni is a sixteenth-century compilation of Haggadic Midrashim.