The Christian attitude towards knowledge is problematic, and has not drastically changed. What caused this? If it had, there would be more understanding with the traditions of the Mysteries and Esotericism. This understanding could bring new inspiration for new enthusiasts to pick up the work and vastly expand upon the generations of similar minded individuals and adepts, who pointed in similar directions. It would also discard the 20th century experimentation with alternative religiosity mixed with drug and sexual liberation, leading to new efforts—genuine philosophical standard.
THE ORIGINS OF PROBLEMATIC CHRISTIAN ATTITUDES TO KNOWLEDGE MOST LIKELY PREVENT CONVENTIONAL RELIGIONISTS FROM SYMPATHIZING WITH THEOSOPHISTS
The Christian attitude to knowledge relies heavily on the profession of faith in Jesus Christ, as Lord, Saviour, and Son of God, which is not only odd for Theosophists, but counter-productive and opposite of our attitude to obtaining knowledge. This very profession of faith is often inherently antignosis and antignostic. The attitude of the early and modern Christians affected how people began to approach education, science, philosophy and theology. Interest in non-Christian Philosophy was selectively chosen—used to hone polemics.
The great Roman thinkers that witnessed this, demonstrate how little Christianity fundamentally evolved since then, as noted in Edward Gibbon’s work. “The True Christians died with the Last of the Gnostics” also deals with the issue. We can now address the fact, that many aspects of the mystery language were adopted into the varied dogmas and rites in the exotericism of the Catholic Church. The Christian religion makes its Jesus a kind of semideus, and ignores pre-existing concepts such as avatars, rishis, mages, tirtankaras or buddhas, &c., explaining these as false doctrines and false-gods.
The great demarcating line that creates this abyss between the Semitic and Asian systems, although built on the same foundation, is mainly in the problem of the Jewish conception of cosmogony and its phases; God and Man — his image; and its numbers and measures (calculations of the time-periods or ‘cycles’). The Jewish system has a limitation. A limitation passed onto its boastful offshoots, each claiming to be “divinely-revealed revelations,” to usurp each other.
The One Infinite Deity is seen as a Creator, directly involved in the generation and conception of Man. Take the Indian systems, which does not define its highest principle as a direct creator. The “Creators” as the trimurti are not the direct creators and “forefathers of men,” because creation is seen as the works of a collective of “minor gods.” Hence, reading of elohim in certain contexts in Bere’shith in the plural. The “creators” or “minor gods” occupy a lower scale.
The idea we have of religions divided into animism, polytheism, and monotheism is superficial. The heretical Gnostics made Jehovah a lower Aeon, or in the extreme, a fiend. While Christians make them heretical, other ancient systems held to the conception of the primordial deity as chaos, the self-existent principle and cosmic substance, globally. There is a system of “exact science, geometrical, numerical, and astronomical” (see The Secret Doctrine, The Jews and their System, Vol. 1, pg. 313) theosophy points to—a language contained in, and concealed under the Hebrew text of the Bible.
H.P.B. argued, the Jewish system never contained the full mysteries.
There is an issue when we find someone like Epicurus who lived in 300-200 B.C.E. stating, that what the masses believe of the gods, are not what they are. Little adds up when fitting the data collected, into the Christian dogma and assertions. To question the authoritative claims of Christianity and Judaism is central against its polemics.
“The Occultists . . . believe the time has come to give everyone his due.”
GREAT THEOSOPHISTS—THE GNOSTICS
“Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, published an edict giving freedom to all slaves who would embrace Christianity, and promising a white robe and twenty pieces of gold to all Roman citizens who would profess the Christian faith. As a result of this edict, twenty thousand men, with a proportionate number of women and children, were baptized in the city of Rome alone. This method of procuring converts naturally added nothing to the dignity of the Christian religion, and may have had something to do with the silence of contemporary historians.
Another reason for their silence may be found in the Christian attitude toward knowledge. The adoption of the Christian religion depended then, as it depends now, upon the profession of faith. The pursuit of knowledge was condemned by the Church from the first, and those who professed knowledge were first denounced, then persecuted and finally burned at the stake. As early as the second century we find Tertullian, the Church Father, declaring that,
“Schoolmasters and professors of literature are in affinity with manifest idolatry and sin.”
In the fourth century Eusebius complained against some of the more enlightened who continued their intellectual studies after their conversion to Christianity. He accused them of abandoning the rule of faith in favor of the “subtile precepts of logic,” and declared that they were corrupting the simplicity of the Gospels by the refinements of reason.
Passing over the Middle Ages, where any man who professed knowledge was in danger of his life, and coming to the enlightened year of 1870, we find Pope Pius IX making this assertion:
“We therefore pronounce false every assertion which is contrary to the enlightened rule of faith. Moreover, the Church holds likewise from God the right and the duty to condemn knowledge falsely so-called, lest any man be cheated by philosophy and vain deceit.”
This hostile attitude toward knowledge seems to have been confined entirely to the Christians. Before the days of the first Christian Emperor, we can search in vain for any enactment against the acquisition of knowledge, or for any persecution of those who possessed it. Every one was allowed intellectual freedom, and men like Galen, Lucian and Plotinus, who in the Middle Ages would have been burned at the stake, lived in perfect peace and security under the Roman standard, fully protected by the Roman law.
Perhaps it was this denunciation of knowledge and this criticism of those who possessed it which kept men like Seneca, the older and the younger Pliny, Tacitus, Plutarch, Dion Cassius, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius from evincing any interest in Christianity. For, as Gibbon says in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
“All these men overlooked or rejected the perfection of the Christian system. Those among them who condescend to mention the Christians consider them only as obstinate and perverse enthusiasts, who exacted an implicit submission to their mysterious doctrines, without being able to produce a single argument that could engage the attention of men of sense and learning.”
It must be remembered that this period of history was particularly brilliant. The Roman Empire of that day was filled with minds well-schooled in the philosophy of Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle and Zeno. The religious and philosophical systems of Egypt, Chaldea, Persia and India were known to many scholars. The work of Apollonius had greatly augmented the already existing interest in the philosophies of the Far Fast. Thousands of students were pouring out of the great Schools of Alexandria and Ephesus each year, and all of them were armed with knowledge.
How could men like these accept the idea that the Jews were the only nation to whom God had revealed Himself? Knowing the Scriptures of other nations, how could they acknowledge the Jewish Bible as the only revelation of God? Being fully acquainted with the lives of other great Teachers, how could they accept Jesus as the only one? But some of them could, and did, accept Jesus as the last of a long line of teachers. They recognized that his teachings were only repetitions of ancient ethical precepts, and that the legends surrounding his life were identical with those of his predecessors. Knowing that Truth is universal, and that expressions of Truth had appeared in different lands at different times, they took those universal truths, wove them into the Christian tradition, and presented them to the world as the true spirit of Christianity.
These men tried to show the philosophical basis of Jesus’ teachings. They tried to prove that there is a science of the soul as well as a science of the body. They tried to present Christianity in a form which would appeal not only to the untutored mind, but at the same time give the greatest minds their fullest scope. These men were known by many names. The world today calls them the “Christian” Gnostics, but the Church of that day called them Heretics, and the whole history of the second and third centuries of Christianity revolves around the attempts of the Church to refute and destroy their teachings.
The original source from which the Gnostics drew their teachings is known as the Gnosis. The word means knowledge, and refers to the ancient Wisdom-Religion, the secret science of sciences from which all true systems of religion and philosophy have sprung. The Gnosis has always existed, and there have always been the knowers of it: the true Gnostics. These are the great Adepts of history, the Mahatmas, the spiritual Teachers of the race.” (Great Theosophists Series—The Gnostics, Theosophy Magazine, Vol. 24, No. 11, September, 1936)
The Early Church saw the Gnostic’s intellectual form of Christianity incapable of reaching the poor and uneducated masses (Catholic Bishop of Lyon Disputes with Gnostic Narcissus).
RICHARD CARRIER ON SCIENTIFIC THINKING OF PAGANS
Dr. Richard Carrier had an interesting lecture about this issue. The lecture is very intriguing, but you can begin from the 34:34 mark —