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The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, [1887], at


The strange and obscene * ceremonies observed on the admission of neophytes into the various secret societies that

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flourished under the Lower Empire and in the Middle Ages are all of them no more than faint traditions of the penances, or "Twelve Tortures" that purchased admission into the Cave of Mithras. How widely diffused were these Mithraici, especially in the West, is attested by the innumerable tablets, altars, and inscriptions still remaining in Germany, France, and this country. The religion of Mithras was so readily embraced and flourished so extensively amongst all the Celtic races, in consequence of its analogy to the previously dominant Druidical religion.

This affinity had struck with astonishment that sagacious observer, the elder Pliny, who must have had ample opportunity for forming a correct judgment during his protracted military service upon the Rhine. He declares (Nat. Hist. xxx. 4): "Gallias utique possedit (Magica) et quidem ad nostram memoriam; namque Tiberii Cæsaris principatus sustulit Druidas eorum et hoc genus vatum medicorumque per senatus consultum. Quid ego hæc commemorem in arte Oceanum quoque transgressa, et ad Naturæ inane pervecta? Britannia hodieque celebrat, tantis ceremonies ut dedisse Persis videri possit; adeo ista toto mundo consensere quamquam discordi et sibi ignoto. Nee satis æstumari potest quantum Romanis debeatur, qui sustulere monstra in quibus hominem occidere religiosissimum erat, mandi verò etiam saluberrimum." A hundred years before, Cæsar (Bell. Gall. vi. 13) had stated: "Disciplina Druidica in Britannia reperta atque inde in Galliam translata esse æstimatur, et nunc qui diligentius eam rem cognoscere volunt plerumque eò discendi causa proficiscuntur." The subjects of study in the Druidical school were literally those of the Magian Gnosis, "Multa præterea de sideribus eorumque motu, de mundi ac terrarum magnitudine, de rerum natura, de deorum immortalium vi ac potestate disputant." For Pliny by his "Magica" understands the rites instituted by Zoroaster, and first promulgated by Osthanes to the outer world, this Osthanes having been "military chaplain" to Xerxes during his expedition into Greece. And this judgment of the Romans is fully borne out by native evidence, for Druidism (such as it appeared in its final struggle with Christianity during the short-lived independence of Britain after the withdrawal

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of the legions) is a religion agreeing most wonderfully in many important points with the doctrine of Zoroaster. Thus, it expressly teaches the eternal existence and antagonism of the Two Principles, the final triumph of Good, and the Renovation of all things. A most valuable fragment of early Druidical teaching Plutarch has preserved to us in his strange essay "On the Face in the Moon," by the title of the "Doctrine of the Sons of Saturn," which is full of Gnostic ideas; those of Manes for instance, and even of Gnostic expressions.

Now Manes himself started as a Zoroastrian priest, and framed his new creed (according to Epiphanius) by engrafting upon the original the transcendental Buddhistic notions picked up by his true master, Scythicus, during his travels in India. Is there not then a possibility that some sparks of the ancient Mithraic doctrine may have lingered unnoticed in the West * until made to blaze up anew by the congenial breath of the Paulician Apostles? Indeed, one may even now discern the awful antique ceremonial as parodied to the minutest particular in the procedure of the modern convivial hetæria; for Jerome's Miles, the lowest grade in the Cave of Mithras, the Templars’ "watchman placed on the roof of the house or church wherein the Chapter is held" (Art. 101), have their exact representative in the armed man, the "Tiler," lowest official, who stands sentinel at the door of the Freemasons’ secret conclave.

The Druidical temple, always circular in ground-plan, whether formed out of native rocks, or built with Gallo-Roman masonry as in its latest example at Lantef in Bretagne (figured by Caylus, vi. pl. 124), consisting of two concentric enclosures pierced with numerous arches, bears in this point a remarkable analogy to all other structures dedicated to the element of fire. Such is the plan of the temple of Moloch (uncovered at Carthage by Davis), the Roman Vesta's temple, the Guebre fire temples at Balkh, to this day circular towers, and the great Sassanian temple at Gazacas destroyed by Heraclius in his

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invasion. The spherical edifice within the palace containing the abominable idol of Chosroes, the image of himself, enthroned as in heaven, and all round him the sun, moon, and stars, which the superstitious king worshipped as gods: angels also had he placed standing about him like sceptre-bearers. Moreover, this enemy of God had so contrived by means of certain mechanism that drops of water should fall from the ceiling to imitate rain, and that sounds of thunder should reverberate therefrom. Our Verulamium also boasted a Mithraic temple commensurate to the importance of the place; until destroyed by the superstitious barbarian, Ealdred, eighth Abbot of St. Albans, for to no other purpose could have served "the very deep grotto, covered with an unbroken hill of earth, and approached by a subterraneous passage," the ruins of which were yet visible when Matthew Paris wrote. "Specus quoque profundissimum monte continuo circumseptum, cum spelunca subterranea quam quondam Draco ingens fecerat et inhabitavit, in loco qui Wurmenhert dicitur, in quantum potuit explanavit, vestigia tamen æterna habitationis serpentinae derelinquens." *


420:* "Art. 26. Item, quod in receptione Fratrum hujus Ordinis, vel circa, interdum recipiens et receptus aliquando se deosculabantur in ore, vel in umbilico seu in ventre nudo, vel in ano seu in spina dorsi."

"Art. 29. Item, aliquando in virga virili."

"Art. 30. Item, quod in receptione sua illa faciebant juxta eos quos recipiebant quod Ordinem non exierint."

422:* Similarly there is every reason to believe that the mediæval Witches' Sabbat preserved uninterrupted the ceremonial of the ancient rural orgia, the only change being in the name of the presiding deity. Michelet is of this opinion in describing the immense Sabbats of the 17th century.

423:* Gesta Abbatum S. Albani, ed. H. T. Riley, vol. i., page 25.

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