Day after day, century after century, epoch after epoch, there is flowing into the vast and restless Ocean of Humanity the waters of a Mighty River, the eternal Waters of Wisdom Divine. We play about on the shores, our gaze now on the Ocean, now on the River, now on the silent sands; we gaze up that great stream wistfully wondering, pondering on its source – far, far away. Some set out to explore its origin, and day by day pitch their tents nearer to the Mountain Top, – the Mountain of the Pristine Revelation of the Shining Immortals.
This River of Wisdom , with the secrets in its bosom, has come down from the towering hierophants of ancient Egypt , Chaldea , Greece , and other lands, right to modern times.
Happy Greece , where began the synthesis of all branches of the Old Lore; happy Egypt , the mother of the same Old Lore. Ages before the great and immortal Plato , Egypt guarded and taught the Hidden Wisdom.
From Plato to Proclus was the great focussing period of the Hermetists; these Philosophers received the Ancient Wisdom and more thoroughly developed its marvellous potentialities, especially at the latter part of this period, when the Alexandrian School flourished and laboured in the great Roman Empire for the weal of posterity; leaving works upon which all subsequent development of true Hermeticism can safely be based.
Little do people dream of the great power of this Wisdom, and its wonderful influence upon the human mind. Says Emerson of Plato: ‘the thinkers of posterity are tinged with his mind. How many great men Nature is incessantly sending up out of night, to be his men,- Platonists! The Alexandrians, a constellation of genius, the Elizabethans, not less.’ Europe has yet to learn her ancient spiritual greatness; she has yet to learn that the inheritors of that past glory have never left her; they move about us, even now, in little groups, working for the time when humanity shall re-enter its lost kingdom. That day will come. Many have foreseen it. Thomas Taylor, the greatest English Platonist said: ‘Prosperous gales of Philosophy will always succeed the tempests of folly. The time is not far distant when this change may take place. Desolation will be the harbinger of its future appearance.’
The signs are at hand; one is the increasing recognition, among the learned, both clerical and academic, of the greatness of Plotinus. The masses do not perceive the progress of this ancient Lore, for its operations move silently, but none the less surely. Deathlessness is its name, even though to the world it seemed as if the Roman Emperors, Theodosius and Justinian, had slain the Eternal Wisdom.
The Voice of the true Seeker of this age calls out for the return of the Shining Ones and for those who will guide. To meet this cry even if it be in but a small way, this work goes forth; it is a small seed, but may Heaven water it.
Europe has long been deprived of this precious Wisdom, mainly because of the blindness of her leaders of thought; but even in the dark night that followed the closing of the ancient Schools by Justinian’s Imperial Edict, bright luminaries shot athwart the Cimmerian gloom. Then came the Dawn when Thomas Taylor – ‘ England ’s Gentile Priest’ – made known to us the fullness and the glory and the truth of Ancient Wisdom. He had access to manuscripts that had never seen any other language but the Greek, and, sage and hero that he was, he gave his life to the Cause – unshakeably confident in its final triumph.
The study of the different phases and conditions under which the Hermetic Wisdom has manifested itself is extremely fascinating. It is the object of these articles to deal with its history, and to show that it is indeed a Golden Succession.
Hermetism is religion, none the less than philosophy and mysticism. As philosophy, Professor Butler says, ‘it rises before us in all the dignity of the mightiest and most permanent monument ever erected by unassisted human thought.’ As religion it is a consoler of afflictions, a purifier of the soul, a great light in the darkness, a joyful companionship with Immortals full of love, a leader of mankind to God.
To be continued…