THEOSOPHY, Vol. 58, No. 2, December, 1969
(Pages 45-50; Size: 20K)
(Number 26 of a 36-part series)
THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME(4)
HERESIES AND SECRET SOCIETIES: OPHITES AND NAZAREANS
WE shall notice the most important of the Christian secret sects -- the so-called "Heresies" which sprang into existence between the first and fourth centuries of our era.
Glancing rapidly at the Ophites and Nazareans, we shall pass to their scions which yet exist in Syria and Palestine, under the name of Druzes of Mount Lebanon; and near Basra or Bassorah, in Persia, under that of Mendæans, or Disciples of St. John. All these sects have an immediate connection with our subject, for they are of kabalistic parentage and have once held to the secret "Wisdom Religion," recognizing as the One Supreme, the Mystery-God of the Ineffable Name. Noticing these numerous secret societies of the past, we will bring them into direct comparison with several of the modern. We will conclude with a brief survey of the Jesuits, and of that venerable nightmare of the Roman Catholic Church -- modern Freemasonry. All of these modern as well as ancient fraternities -- present Freemasonry excepted -- were and are more or less connected with magic -- practically, as well as theoretically; and, every one of them -- Freemasonry not excepted -- was and still is accused of demonolatry, blasphemy, and licentiousness.
Our object is not to write the history of either of them; but only to compare these sorely-abused communities with the Christian sects, past and present, and then, taking historical facts for our guidance, to defend the secret science as well as the men who are its students and champions against any unjust imputation.
One by one the tide of time engulfed the sects of the early centuries, until of the whole number only one survived in its primitive integrity. That one still exists, still teaches the doctrine of its founder, still exemplifies its faith in works of power. The quicksands which swallowed up every other outgrowth of the religious agitation of the times of Jesus, with its records, relics, and traditions, proved firm ground for this. Driven from their native land, its members found refuge in Persia, and today the anxious traveller may converse with the direct descendants of the "Disciples of John," who listened, on the Jordan's shore, to the "man sent from God," and were baptized and believed. This curious people, numbering 30,000 or more, are miscalled "Christians of St. John," but in fact should be known by their old name of Nazareans, or their new one of Mendæans.
To term them Christians, is wholly unwarranted. They neither believe in Jesus as Christ, nor accept his atonement, nor adhere to his Church, nor revere its "Holy Scriptures." Neither do they worship the Jehovah-God of the Jews and Christians, a circumstance which of course proves that their founder, John the Baptist, did not worship him either. And if not, what right has he to a place in the Bible, or in the portrait-gallery of Christian saints? Still further, if Ferho was his God, and he was "a man sent by God," he must have been sent by Lord Ferho, and in his name baptized and preached? Now, if Jesus was baptized by John, the inference is that he was baptized according to his own faith; therefore, Jesus too, was a believer in Ferho, or Faho, as they call him; a conclusion that seems the more warranted by his silence as to the name of his "Father." And why should the hypothesis that Faho is but one of the many corruptions of Fho or Fo, as the Thibetans and Chinese call Buddha, appear ridiculous? In the North of Nepaul, Buddha is more often called Fo than Buddha. The Book of Mahawansa shows how early the work of Buddhistic proselytism began in Nepaul; and history teaches that Buddhist monks crowded into Syria(1) and Babylon in the century preceding our era, and that Buddhasp (Bodhisatva) the alleged Chaldean, was the founder of Sabism or baptism.
What the actual Baptists, el-Mogtasila, or Nazareans, do believe, is fully set forth in other places, for they are the very Nazarenes of whom we have spoken so much, and from whose Codex we have quoted. Persecuted and threatened with annihilation, they took refuge in the Nestorian body, and so allowed themselves to be arbitrarily classed as Christians, but as soon as opportunity offered, they separated, and now, for several centuries have not even nominally deserved the appellation. That they are, nevertheless, so called by ecclesiastical writers, is perhaps not very difficult to comprehend. They know too much of early Christianity to be left outside the pale, to bear witness against it with their traditions, without the stigma of heresy and backsliding being fastened upon them to weaken confidence in what they might say.... Unlucky for Christianity will be the day when some fearless and honest scholar shall persuade their elders to let him translate the contents of their secret books and compile their hoary traditions! It is a strange delusion that makes some writers think that the Nazareans have no other sacred literature, no other literary relics than four doctrinal works, and that curious volume full of astrology and magic which they are bound to peruse at the sunset hour, on every Sol's day (Sunday).
This search after truth leads us, indeed, into devious ways. Many are the obstacles that ecclesiastical cunning has placed in the way of our finding the primal source of religious ideas. Christianity is on trial, and has been, ever since science felt strong enough to act as Public Prosecutor. What of truth is there in this Theology? Through what sects has it been transmitted? Whence was it primarily derived? To answer, we must trace the history of the World Religion, alike through the secret Christian sects as through those of other great religious subdivisions of the race; for the Secret Doctrine is the Truth, and that religion is nearest divine that has contained it with least adulteration.
We will begin with the Ophites, Nazareans, and the modern Druzes. The personal views of the author, as they will be presented in the diagrams, will be most decidedly at variance with the prejudiced speculations of Irenæus, Theodoret, and Epiphanius (the sainted renegade, who sold his brethren), inasmuch as they will reflect the ideas of certain kabalists in close relations with the mysterious Druzes of Mount Lebanon. The Syrian okhals, or Spiritualists, as they are sometimes termed, are in possession of a great many ancient manuscripts and gems, bearing upon our presentsubject.
The first scheme -- that of the Ophites -- from the very start, as we have shown, varies from the description given by the Fathers, inasmuch as it makes Bythos or depth, a female emanation, and assigns her a place answering to that of Pleroma, only in a far superior region; whereas, the Fathers assure us that the Gnostics gave the name of Bythos to the First Cause. As in the kabalistic system, it represents the boundless and infinite void within which is concealed in darkness the Unknown Primal motor of all. It envelopes HIM like a veil: in short we recognize again the "Shekinah" of the En-Soph. Alone, the name of Iao marks the upper centre, or rather the presumed spot where the Unknown One may be supposed to dwell. Around the Iao, runs the legend, "The eternal Sun-Abrasax" (the Central Spiritual Sun of all the kabalists, represented in some diagrams of the latter by the circle of Tiphereth).
From this region of unfathomable Depth, issues forth a circle formed of spirals; which, in the language of symbolism, means a grand cycle, composed of smaller ones. Coiled within, so as to follow the spirals, lies the serpent -- emblem of wisdom and eternity -- the Dual Androgyne: the cycle representing Ennoia or the Divine mind, and the Serpent -- the Agathodaimon, Ophis -- the Shadow of the Light. Both were the Logoï of the Ophites; or the unity as Logos manifesting itself as a double principle of good and evil; for, according to their views, these two principles are immutable, and existed from all eternity, as they will ever continue to exist.
This symbol accounts for the adoration by this sect of the Serpent, as the Saviour, coiled either around the Sacramental loaf or a Tau.As a unity, Ennoia and Ophis are the Logos; when separated, one is the Tree of Life (Spiritual); the other, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Therefore, we find Ophis urging the first human couple -- the material production of Ilda-Baoth, but which owed its spiritual principle to Sophia-Achamoth -- to eat of the forbidden fruit, although Ophis represents Divine Wisdom.
Ilda-Baoth, the "Son of Darkness," and the creator of the material world, was made to inhabit the planet Saturn, which identifies him still more with the Jewish Jehovah, who was Saturn himself, according to the Ophites, and is by them denied his Sinaitic name. From Ilda-Baoth emanate six spirits, who respectively dwell with their father in the seven planets. These are Saba -- or Mars; Adonai -- Sol, or the Sun;(2) Ievo -- the Moon; Eloi -- Jupiter; Astaphoi -- Mercury (spirit of water); and Ouraïos -- Venus, spirit of fire.(3)
In their functions and description as given, these seven planets are identical with the Hindu Sapta-Loca, the seven places or spheres, or the superior and inferior worlds; for they represent the kabalistic seven spheres. With the Ophites, they belong to the lower spheres. The monograms of these Gnostic planets are also Buddhistic, the latter differing, albeit slightly, from those of the usual astrological "houses." In the explanatory notes which accompany the diagram, the names of Cirenthius (the disciple of Simon Magus), of Menander, and of certain other Gnostics, whose names are not to be met with in the Patristic writings, are often mentioned; such as Parcha (Ferho), for instance.
The author of the diagram claims, moreover, for his sect, the greatest antiquity, bringing forward, as a proof, that their "forefathers" were the builders of all the "Dracontia" temples, even of those beyond "the great waters." He asserts that the "Just One," who was the mouthpiece of the Eternal Æon (Christos), himself sent his disciples into the world, placing them under the double protection of Sige (Silence, the Logos), and Ophis, the Agathodæmon. The author alludes, no doubt, to the favorite expression of Jesus, "be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." On the diagram, Ophis is represented as the Egyptian Cnuphis or Kneph, called Dracontiæ. He appears as a serpent standing erect on its tail, with a lion's head, crowned and radiated, and bearing on the point of each ray one of the seven Greek vowels -- symbol of the seven celestial spheres. This figure is quite familiar to those who are acquainted with the Gnostic gems, and is borrowed from the Egyptian Hermetic books. The description given in the Revelation, of one "like unto the Son of Man," with his seven stars, and who is the Logos, is another form of Ophis.
The Nazarene diagram, except in a change of names, is identical with that of the Gnostics, who evidently borrowed their ideas from it, adding a few appellations from the Basiledean and Valentinian systems. To avoid repetition, we will now simply present the two in parallel.
Thus, we find that, in the Nazarene Cosmogony, the names of their powers and genii stand in the following relations to those of the Gnostics:
First Unity in a Trinity.
Lord FERHO -- the Life which is no Life -- the Supreme God. The Cause which produces the Light, or the Logos in abscondito. The water of Jordanus Maximus -- the water of Life, or Ajar, the feminine principle. Unity in a Trinity, enclosed within the ISH AMON. IAO -- the Ineffable Name of the Unknown Deity -- Abraxas, and the "Eternal Spiritual Sun." Unity enclosed within the Depth, Bythos, feminine principle -- the boundless circle, within which lie all ideal forms. From this Unity emanates the Second Trinity.
(The manifestation of the first.)
1. Lord MANO -- the King of Life and Light -- Rex Lucis. First LIFE, or the primitive man. 1. Ennoia -- mind. 2. Lord Jordan -- manifestation or emanation of Jordan Maximus -- the waters of grace. Second LIFE. 2. Ophis, the Agathodæmon. 3. The Superior Father -- Abatur. Third LIFE. 3. Sophia Androgyne -- wisdom; who, in her turn -- fecundated with the Divine Light -- produces This Trinity produces also a duad -- Lord Ledhoio, and Fetahil, the genius (the former, a perfect emanation, the latter, imperfect). Christos and Sophia-Achamoth (one perfect, the other imperfect), as an emanation. Lord Jordan -- "the Lord of all Jordans," manifests NETUBTO (Faith without Works). Sophia-Achamoth emanates Ilda-Baoth -- the Demiurge, who produces material and soulless creation. "Works without Faith" (or grace).
Moreover, the Ophite seven planetary genii, who emanated one from the other, are found again in the Nazarene religion, under the name of the "seven impostor-dæmons," or stellars, who "will deceive all the sons of Adam." These are Sol; Spiritus Venereus (Holy Spirit, in her material aspect), the mother of the "seven badly-disposed stellars," answering to the Gnostic Achamoth; Nebu, or Mercury, "a false Messiah, who will deprave the ancient worship of God"; SIN (or Luna, or Shuril); KIUN (Kivan, or Saturn); Bel-Jupiter; and the seventh, Nerig, Mars (Codex Nazarus, p. 57).
The Christos of the Gnostics is the chief of the seven Æons, St. John's seven spirits of God; the Nazarenes have also their seven genii or good Æons, whose chief is Rex Lucis, MANO, their Christos.
THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME
HERESIES AND SECRET SOCIETIES: IAO
(Part 27 of a 36-part series)
Back to the
"Christianity in the Light of Theosophy"
complete list of articles.
Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".
FOUR (4) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(4) NOTE.--"The Christian Scheme," begun in November, 1967, is collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky. It recounts the historical background and early development of Christianity.
Back to text.
(1) Not only did the Buddhist missionaries make their way to the Mesopotamian Valley, but they even went so far west as Ireland. The Rev. Dr. Lundy, in his work Monumental Christianity, referring to an Irish Round Tower, observes: "Henry O'Brien explains this Round Tower Crucifixion as that of Buddha; the animals as the elephant and the bull, sacred to Buddha, and into which his soul entered after death; the two figures standing beside the cross as Buddha's virgin mother, and Kama his favorite disciple. The whole picture bears a close likeness to the Crucifixion, in the cemetery of Pope Julius, except the animals, which are conclusive proof that it cannot be Christian. It came ultimately from the far East to Ireland, with the Phnician colonists, who erected the Round Towers as symbols of the life-giving and preserving power of man and nature, and how that universal life is produced through suffering and death."
When a Protestant clergyman is thus forced to confess the pre-Christian existence of the crucifix in Ireland, its Buddhistic character, and the penetration of the missionaries of that faith even to that then remote portion of the earth, we need not wonder that in the minds of the Nazarean contemporaries of Jesus and their descendants, he should not have been associated with that universally known emblem in the character of a Redeemer.
In noticing this admission of Dr. Lundy, Mr. Charles Sotheran remarked, in a lecture before the American Philological Society, that both legends and archæological remains unite in proving beyond question "that Ireland, like every other nation, once listened to the propagandists of Siddârtha-Buddha."
Back to text.
(2) SOL, being situated, on the diagram, exactly in the centre of the solar system (of which the Ophites appear to have been cognizant) -- hence, under the direct vertical ray of the Higher Spiritual Sun -- showers his brightness on all other planets.
Back to text.
(3) Speaking of Venus, Placidus, the astrologer, always maintained that "her bluish lustre denotes heat." As to Mercury, it was a strange fancy of the Ophites to represent him as a spirit of water, when astrologically considered he is as "a cold, dry, earthy, and melancholy star."
Back to text.