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and man, show that the wisdom of all their speculations is embodied in ethical myths, physical traditions, in the knowledge of antiquity and astronomy. The most ancient myths are nothing more than verbal symbols, and thus in the symbolical East the nations are represented as beasts."
Both the symbolising spirit of the ancient natural science and the myth are prior to history, and the mysteries belong to a previous world, from which there have descended to us no evidences to prove whether they were the product of a lost world of civilization, or of the primeval poetical spirit of young humanity. With such speculations we have nothing further to do, but will look around and see how far the mysteries were the interpreters of nature; and what signs they may have contained of the working of nature which yet remain for our contemplation. To this end passages from poetical and historical descriptions of the ancients will avail us, as well as the agreement of modern discoveries of natural -philosophy regarding the fixed laws of nature, in the variations and anomalies of phenomena. That great difficulties are to be found here in arriving at truth is obvious, since we are so prone to seize upon what is new as identical with the old, where there is frequently an apparent similarity; and since the antiquities of the mythical ages were so darkly and enigmatically treated by their first transmitters, who, according to all probability, knew far more than they made known. Herodotus says frequently,-"I shrink from speaking of divine things;" that is, of the mysteries, out of which the people's religion first proceeded. Herodotus, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Orpheus, Thales, Parmenides, &c. travelled into Egypt and the East, in order there more perfectly to instruct themselves in natural philosophy and theology; and Herodotus says expressly that he visited the oldest temple in Tyre, in order to inform himself perfectly of the myth of Hercules. Homer himself, to whom Herodotus ascribes only the more extended organization of the Grecian mythology from Egyptian sources, touches lightly on the natural philosophy of the mysteries. Like Herodotus, Cicero also says that he avoids speaking of these things, or passes superficially over them: "I am silent on Eleusis," he makes Cotta say; "those sacred and venerable rites, where the people of the farthest zones go for consecration :
pass over what is celebrated in Samothrace and Lemnos with nocturnal ceremonies, concealed by woody hedges."
Even far out in the earliest times the material was drawn from ages prior to history. "The ancient, and especially the Grecian art of poetry drew its images out of an ante-historical time," says Schweigger, "for which the sacred sagas interwoven with them, the mysteries, served as a foundation." Plato, in the Book of Laws, states that in Egypt neither the painters nor the artists were allowed within the sphere of religion to invent anything new; but that which had been painted or hewn out ten thousand years before, they were compelled to imitate, and to make the same subjects neither handsomer nor uglier, but precisely of the same fashion. And," adds he, "when we say ten thousand years before, we mean it not as an ordinary figure of speech, but actually." Thus Plato clearly indicates not a mere period of ten thousand years, but the antehistorical type of that world of imagery.
The ancient poets also drew from the same mysteries; and, as Schweigger says, the tragic poets carried this so far, and especially Eschylus, that his representations of some of them occasioned complaints. In the course of time the mysteries became more accessible; and Plato complains of it, wishing that the initiation into them was made more difficult by greater sacrifices. With common people it was forbidden to talk of these things, since they could not comprehend them, and were not accustomed to believe what they did not see. They were also to be on their guard against conversing with ignorant priests and youths upon them. On future occasions the tragedians were the only persons who spoke to the people of the high and solemn truths, at a time when religious culture consisted merely of offerings and ceremonies. "In the mysteries, the truths of nature only were discussed," says Schweigger; and amongst the ancients poetical is to be distinguished from probability in its ordinary sense; for which reason the ancient poets cannot be fully understood "without a knowledge of the mysteries, which are only accessible through a knowledge of natural history."
The Samothracian mysteries are also connected with those of the East and of Egypt, and then again with the later
Grecian and Roman. There is then a continuous, accordant, mysterious, secret doctrine of natural philosophy and theology, so that by the discovery of the knowledge of one we might come eventually upon that of all, as Schweigger has fully shown. But how comes it, it may be asked, that so little has become known of these mysteries, and of their particular contents, through so many ages and amongst so many different times and people? The answer is, that it is owing to the universally strict silence of the initiated. Another cause may be found in the destruction and total loss of all the written memorials of the secret knowledge of the remotest antiquity, so that, besides the votive tables and certain scattered relics of signs and hieroglyphics, nothing remains. What the Persian invasions, and the repeated devastations of the barbarians in Egypt and Greece-what the laying waste with fire and sword and plunder had not annihilated, was completed by the rudeness of the Romans, who, as Pliny relates, on the conquest of Carthage found no book worthy of being translated into Latin but one on agriculture. All the other writings and libraries were given to the small African kings. The Roman people, wandering through the world in desolating wars, learned nothing of the science of the ancient subjected nations: what relics of the secret learning were in existence amongst themselves were for the most part annihilated by the burning of the books of Numa; and the few scattered fragments which yet remained, after several abortive attempts, were finally destroyed by fire. Numa's books, described by Livy, consisting of natural philosophy, were found in his tomb; but they were not allowed to be made known, lest they should reveal the most secret mysteries of the state religion. The Prætor of that time must take an oath that those books should not be published, as destructive to the national religion. The senate and the tribunes of the people determined that the discoverers of these books should be indemnified, but that the books themselves should be burnt, which was done before the people, by the performers of the sacrifices, in a fire kindled for the purpose.
When, however, here and there, any portions of the old natural philosophy were made known, on the spread of Christianity, or a defence of the philosophical nature of the an
cient myths of Paganism, then arose the Christians withafiery zeal against the whole of the heathen doctrines, and especially those which reposed on natural science. All miracles which, according to their opinion, God did not perform, were heathen works of the devil; natural philosophers and even mathematicians were obliged to fly, in order to save their lives. From these causes it is not to be wondered that all the remains of ancient natural science were destroyed with the temples and their libraries.
Natural philosophy, poetry, and religion, from their very nature were closely united in the primeval ages, and the most ancient historical accounts show them still maintaining the same alliance; and especially was the science of medicine united with poetry and theology, in the strictest connection, in Egypt, in the East, and in Greece. The Grecian songs upon medical science are ascribed to Orpheus, the poet of hymns. Fragments of poems on natural philosophy, by Parmenides and Empedocles, still remain. Prognostications through natural philosophy were peculiar to the earliest Grecian philosophers; and the doctrine of the gods was established as a part of physiology by Pythagoras, by Plato, and the Stoics. Plutarch, on Isis and Osiris, brings together many ancient attempts at interpretation of important physical myths. That some very widely-extended mystic circles are connected with the most ancient systems of natural philosophy, as in Samothrace, and that heathenism has its origin in a misunderstood science of nature, Schweigger has sufficiently demonstrated in his treatise on the most ancient theory of physics.
But through these medical and philosophical secrets, books and symbols of the ancient world being held secret in their totality, as well as in their fragments, as is still the case in India with astronomical science, this evil arose,—that not only did there cease to be any progress through experimental research, but more and more mistakes were continually arising. For, as Diodorus of Sicily states, the laws of healing diseases were strictly prescribed in the ancient sacred books, and any physician who dared in any degree to depart from them in practice was liable to be arraigned on a capital charge. The science of the early world would, therefore, necessarily remain stationary, or
rather would retrograde from the elevation and the splendour at which it had arrived,-as the perfect memorials of astronomy, of architecture, of painting, of the preparation of mummies, testify; all of which display a profound physical and chemical knowledge. And hereby is explained the singular fact, that, according to Herodotus, in Egypt the art of healing was so distributed amongst the people, that each physician, besides those of the temples, was appointed to the cure of one class of diseases, and not to many; and therefore the country was full of physicians. Some were for the eye, some for the head, others for the teeth, others for the lower part of the body, and others for hidden complaints. All these circumstances worked in direct opposition to progress, and led deeper and deeper down to perfect ignorance; so that the untoward fantasy could at length mould the original meanings at will into poems and legends.
If we wish now to discover the fundamental meaning from the number of mythic envelopments, we must necessarily go back to the primeval wells of mythology themselves, but which lie so far distant, that we need not seek them amongst the Greeks and Romans; for Herodotus has already said that the origin of the significant myth of Hercules seemed to him to lie as remote from his times as it appears to do from our own—that is, in the night of long past ages. Now we know the world in greater circles, and in the knowledge of the natural sciences we stand on an elevation hitherto unknown in history, in which we, by a comparison of the remaining fragments, and by a laborious unravelling of the historical records, entangled as it were in a net, again can discover the original meaning of the symbols. This solution, however, we are in a condition to obtain only by the help of magnetism and the natural sciences, and not in the sense of the literati, by the aid of written records. For the restoration of the ancient text, we can now make use of the discovered remains of signs on the ancient pyramids, and of fallen temples; as the scattered petrefactions enable the professors of natural history to reconstruct and to present before us the primeval creations which existed only before the Flood. Surely there requires for this the learning and the acumen of a Cuvier