Zeo, the Greek word for "to boil," underwent but, a small transformation when it was adopted into English, where it became zeal. A man is zealous when he works swiftly, with enthusiasm, up to his top pitch, and permits nothing either to delay or to stop him; when, as the metaphor concealed in the word suggests, he "is at the boil." To be a zealot. On the other hand, has no connection with zeal, but belongs to another order of things, and denotes a fanatic. (In Eighteenth Century England zealots were called "enthusiasts"; enthusiasm means "to have the breath of God in one" but a genuine zealot refuses to believe that any man has it except himself.)
Perhaps because of its etymology the word zeal has for some centuries been associated with charcoal. Charcoal is carbonized wood or bone or vegetable. In the centuries before the discovery of the use of coal, steam, electricity, and oil, charcoal stood at the top of importance in crafts which employed great heat, especially in metallurgy and in chemistry; and it is now known, and thanks to recent discoveries, that both Ancient and Medieval Craftsmen were very expert in its use, and by means of bellows and cunningly devised containers, forges, or stones, and by mixing it with other materials, could develop a very high degree of heat, sufficient at least to make glass, and to glaze pottery. (Even the American Indians learned how to glaze by mixing charcoal and chicken bones, and using a bellows.) The Operative Masons made much use of charcoal itself, or drew on other crafts which did, because they needed much glass, metal-work, forging, and glazing, and required many tools, machines and engines.
A completed building is static, immovable, steadfast, motionless, and it is one of the purposes of the builder to make it so, because if it is too flexible it will destroy itself in storms, settlings, and ground vibrations. But in the work of building it, and especially to the builders when at work, it is a hive of industriousness; and though we lack detailed description of the old Operative Masons at work, we know that they were either paid by the day or by the piece, and probably worked far more tirelessly than modern workmen in the same trades. But it is equally certain that they did not hurry or crowd themselves, because they were
too highly skilled to become nervous or impatient—if they were zealous it was not in the modern sense of being in a hurry, or excited, or enthusiastic.
In the modern sense zeal also refers to men thernselves, and means not that a thing is zealous but that a man is. There is nowhere an indication that Medieval builders ever develops ed zeal in that way, or that a workman would himself aspire to be zealous. The word "zeal," or its Medieval synonym, denoted something in the work, rather than in the man. In that work there was the use of force and energy, and of instrv.ments or engines employing them; there also were tasks in which every man had to become tense, or speed up, or be alert, or to bring his whole being to bear. Those were zealous things, or they were zealous to do, and it was expected that any trained workmen would be zealous at such times. This is still the meaning in the RituaL No Lodge desires a member to become zealous in the sense of speeding up in order to forge ahead of others because to move too swiftly is as disastrous to cooperation as to move too slowly; but each and every member (not a few only) is expected to work swiftly and tirelessly when the work itself calls for him to do so.
ZEUS, NATURE, AND THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES.
4. Maya Mater,
6. Isis, Horus, Osiris.
7. Samothracian Mysteries.
8. Mystery Cult of Sabazius.
In one of his more solemn and grandiloquent orations Gladstone exclaimed of Zeus that "he is first, and there is no second." It is plain that Gladstone had begun by thinking of the infinite and eternal God of modern Protestant Christianity, as did other well-schooled men of the Victorian age, and had then gone on to take it that Zeus was nothing tnore than the Greek name for God, and that therefore anything said about God would have been true about Zeus. In his Hercules My Shipmate (published in 1946 A.D.) Robert Graves gives a very different picture of Zeus, a strikingly different one, and though his Herc7sle., is a story of Jason's expedition in search of the Golden Fleece in fiction form, it is a fiction for which he made use of facts, as archeologists had learned the facts in the years since Gladstone uttered his famous phrase; and there is no doubt in the world but that Gravest picture is infinitely nearer to the truth about the Greek's Zeus than was Gladstone's.
Hercules is a panorama of almost bewildering richness filled with a confusion of gods and goddesses; and also, and what was far more important at the time, of cults and priests and oracles, each of which held the patent for a religion of its own. As there was a ceaseless and quarrelsome competition among the cults and the priests so was there, by an inevitable mirror effect, a corresponding competition among the gods and goddesses; and not they alone, but also other supernatural beings of another kind, including skyey animals birds, reptiles, animated stones, intelligent thunderbolts and much supernatural machinery for them to use. In that horde of chattering and quarreling deities, running here and there and always getting into mischief like school boys in a village, Zeus was only one among a million; nor was he one to compel awe, because in his boyish cavorting he was more often than not a figure of fun.
The search for the Golden Fleece itself (the Fleece was Zeus' property) began as the sequel to what had been in essence nothing more than a practical joke.
Startling apparitions arise out of the moGring picture of Graves' book of tribes and small peoples, fifty or sixty of them, which in a disorderly conglomerate populated the over-loaded peninsula of Greece at that time. Somewhere in even more ancient times some tribe or people had hit on the device of using a totem as a means to preserve the identity of the people, which nearly always was small in numbers, and almost never had a country of its own with fixed boundaries, a capitol, or a language, and therefore was always in danger of being melted away in the flux. As the soldiers in the melee of a Medieval battle could find or stay with their own contingent by watching their Lord's banner, so could an ancient people keep its men and families together by tying them to the totem.
This totem could be an animal, a tree, a fish, a bird, an insect, or even an inanimate object like a river or a hill; the people called themselves by its name; they became little more than a cult for watching and guarding and consulting and worshipping it. If two peoples or tribes united, as the Walloons and the Flemings united to form Belgium, or as the Chichens and the Itsas united in Yucatan, each of the combinees continued to cling to its own totem, and their politicians had to invent schemes of compromise to avoid having the totems quarrel with each other.
Thus an ancient Greek people was a toternistic people, married to it, wearing a costume designed to please it, in colors approved by it, and carrying it about with them everywhere. As these totemistic peoples emerge in Graves' story they give the reader the impression of a great game of charades being acted out against the back-drop of Mt. Olympus. One people had the ant for their totem; they were therefore called the Myrmidons. Another had the horse; they were therefore the Centaur people. Another had a leather shield to protect the left eye from the intense heat of the charcoal in their forges; they became thereby the One-eyed, or Cyclops, etc.
As time passed, and as one strong people absorbed weaker tribes, and as gradually the populations became somewhat unified under the name of Hellenes, many of these old peoples and tribes continued with their totexn cults long after the cult had ceased to have any practical use; their totems became gods, their roll-eall became a procession to a shrine, the orders shouted out by chieftains developed into cult ceremonies, and old centers and small capitals became shrines. The multitude of totem cults thus became finally a number of religions. Among these were a number which admitted men into membership only after an initiation, and held their assemblies in secret; they were Mystery Cults. There were, from first to last, many kinds of Mystery Cults; a survival of the cult practices of one of the old totemic tribes or peoples was one of them.
We Americans, most of us, are too handicapped by our school and college courses to be able to have a true and living picture of what we incorrectly but necessarily call the Ancient World. Our heavy and desiccated school texts which are little more than chronicles of kings and emperors and their pompous doings give us the impression that "Ancient" means something solemn, and give us an awe of anything ancient because, in our notions of them, Ancient men were themselves grave, solemn, awe-stricken men; the lofty and Miltonic translations of the Old Testament, which is almost the only Anezent book modern Americans ever read—and few read that—confirms us in that impression.
The whole picture is too full of kings and emperors, too full of train-sweeping priests, too many "sages," and other gentry of state and circumstance; in consequence we believe Ancient men and women to have been "Ancient" at the time they lived.
They were not. No early Greek, or Egyptian, or Assyrian baby was ever born ancient—least of all a Greek, who was far and away the liveliest man that has ever livedl on the contrary, Ancient men and women were personally and in their every-day life, and by contrast to standardized Twentieth Century Americans, a reckless, adventurous, restive, inventive, scheming, tireless, active lot; they were never still, never satisfied, nothing ever stayed put. More often than not some religion or dynasty or country which we have since been reading about for the past 2000 years did not itself last for 2,000 years; if it lasted 20 years it w as more stable than most things in that continuous boiling up, and boiling over, which we call the Ancient World. It is necessary for us to realize and vividly feel this in just this present connection, or we shall not understand the Mystery Cults.
They were anything hut solemn; anything but awesome; some of them were among the noisiest and rowdiest crowds which ever blew horns or got drunk—not all of them, but many of them.
It is plain from Dr. Albert G. Mackey's article on the Ancient Mysteries in the first edition of this Encyclopedia and from the chapters in his History of Freemasonry that he was possessed by the typically American feeling about the Ancient World as described in the preceding paragraph, and also, to an even larger extent, had the feeling that the Ancient Mystery Cults must have been both solemn and awesome; it was a feeling belonging to himself, therefore inviolably private, and it should not occasion comment here were it not that Dr. Mackey adopted the theory that Freemasonry had its origin in the Ancient Mysteries (along with the Collegia), and through that article and that book persuaded a number of Masons to adopt the same theory.
He pictured the conventicles of the Mysteries of the Eleusinia as somewhat like a university seminar, and somewhat like a convocation of bishops and sages, engaged in discussion
of the high themes of philosophy and theology.
The tens of thousands of inscriptions and documents discovered since his day, and which were documents made at the time by members of the Eleusinia and therefore of first authority, give us an impression of another kind. Doubtless an assembly gathered id a crypt in which the Mystery Cult had its meetings was grave and serious for an hour or so, but it also is not to be doubted that they did not continue grave and serious to the end, because they so often ended in a feast, or at least in the spirit of a picnic, with dancing and a great deal of strong wine, and more than one Eleusinian had to be helped home afterwards. Again the point is not worth discussion, except that it disabuses us of the belief (which Mackey and his generation held) that the Mysteries were seminaries of profound metaphysical and theological thinking, and therefore able to be the originators of philosophies and theologies after them.
And one can now also know that if Dr. Mackey had sat in a mithreum while a Candidate was being initiated in the Mysteries of Mithra (about which our knowledge is very detailed) he, and as a mid-Nineteenth Century American, would have looked on with queasiness as well as with uneasiness. With a poor devil of a
Candidate shivering under the grating, drenched by gobs of blood quashing down on him from the slaughtering of the bull-calf immediately over his head, with the bellowings and uproar of the bull-calf mingling with the bellowings and yellings of the soldiers on the sidelines, there would have been nothing high, or grave, or solemn in it, or any germ or starting-point for any large and true and luminous philosophy to come after it.
If by any chance any modern man continues to entertain the Nineteenth Century belief that the Mystery Cults were the teachers of Greece and Rome, and through them of the world, he can put his belief to the test by a crucial experiment. Let him first set down on the one side everything now known about the Ancient Mysteries, including the few random references in classical literature and in the thick volumes written by Origen and Jerome and Tertullian and others of the Church Fathers; and on the other side let him set down an accurate account of Greek (and to be followed by Roman) geometry and arithmetic, engineering, architecture, medicine, geology, geography, logic, and the other arts and sciences; let him then try to discover something in the latter which was contributed by the former!
He will find nothing. Even the classical philosophies, and not forgetting a dozen of Plato's pages, owed their origins mostly to Greek science, and owed very little to the Cults. This would not hold true of the Greek social life, or the theater, or literature, because in them were colorings from the Mysteries; but the fact is irrelevant here, because the present question is concerned with any teachings of the Mysterles which might have been inherited by Freemasonry; except for the A.B.C.'s of religious doctrine, which were commonplace to everybody, the Mysteries had no "teachings," and there were therefore no "teachings" for freemasonry to inherit.
The case of Egypt does not come in at this point either logically or topically but it is useful to discuss digressively and in one or two paragraphs the psycho logical connection between it and the comments immediately above; because if Americans have taken ancient people seriously and soJemmy, and because of its Antiquity, it has been the Egyptian people, and especially the Egyptian people's Mystery Cults. Because the Egyptians were so Ancient, so the argument runs, they were therefore very learned, very wise, had masses of secret knowledge. and occult philosophies, etc.; and in these deep matters so the argument continues, they Surpassed themselves in their Mysteries. Has not one erudite enthusiast after another accredited to Egypt everything that lives and moves in the Occidental half of the world, everything under its heavens and on its earth?
Did it not have "ancient" wisdom, and is it not a very awesome thing for anything to be "ancient?" Did it not have a wise man who wrote 3,600 books before the hairy mammoths had ceased to graze on the mesas of Montana, and before the dinosaurs became extinct in New Mexico? If the public and exoteric "wisdom" of Ancient Egypt was thus so great, how much more awesome must have been the "secret wisdom" and the "esoteric sciences" taught by adepts in its Mys tery Cults? It had Mystery Cults, a large number of them; and not much more than a century ago a number of very learned French brothers wrote works as long as the Encyclopedia Britannica to prove that Freemasonry was invented by them, or is a nowcamouflaged perpetuation of them.
This Egyptian theory undergoes a transformation when it is set down in the presence of a number of facts.
First, there were people in Egypt some 4000 B.C., but so also were there at that time many other peoples in the world.
Second, was there ever an Egyptian people, according to a strict definition of "people" by ethnology? Some writers believe there was, the present writer believes there was not but that there were a succession of peoples in the Nile Valley during suecessive eras of time; that the inhabitants in one period differed as much from the inhabitants of another period five or ten centuries before or after, as Hebrews differed from Arabs; and that any statement made about Aneient Egypt should always show which Egypt it is about.
Third, geographically Egypt was always a changeless unit (except locally) and more than once the line between it and the adjacent deserts was literally drawn with a chalk-line (at places), and this geographical unit gives the history and culture of the Egyptian peoples a specious unity—one they never really had.
Fourth, for many centuries the Egyptian peoples wrote and made inscriptions, though very few of them in view of their extremely long history, in hieroglyphics; these have the superficial appearance of being very erudite, and are taken to have been symbolic, but these famous hieroglyphics are nothing more than a crude and half-formed written language; and instead of reflectingthe great wisdom and learning of the Egyptian peoples they reflect the opposite, because a really intelligent people would have had an alphabet by at jeast 1000 B.C.; furthermore, out of the whole mass of hieroglyphically writF ten papyri and carved inscriptions little of importance has ever been contributed to the arts and sciences as compared with Ancient Palestine, Greece, and Rome it was nothing.
Fifth, the earliest Egyptian peoples, like the earliest Greek ones, were thematic and it is for that reason, rather than for any reason of "secret wisdom," that the Nile pantheons are menageries of birds, animals, and insects—an ordinary dung beetle being one of the most conspicuous of them; and the hybrid gods and goddesses were formed by the joining of two or more of the earliest totems. Sixth, in the later periods of pre-Christian times many new achievements were made in Egyptian culture but strangely enough (the fact is always ignored by Egypt-lovers) these were done not by the Egyptians but by the non-Egyptians who moved in, and of these there were great numbers, and they came in so often that a list of the settlements of foreigners in the valley reads like a catalog of every people of Ancient Times from India to Ireland—Turks, Jews, Assyrians, Greeks, Syrians, Romans, etc.:
the Greeks built Alexandria with its libraries, the Jewish Rabbis set up schools and universities, as did Arabs; the Romans did a hundred things. But it was the Greeks, far more than the Egyptians or any other people, who gave Egypt its sciences, mathematics, its scholarship, and its literature, in consequence of which the fame of "Egyptian" wisdom belongs far more to them than to Egypt itself —when Plato went to study in Egypt it was to Greek teachers that he went (he couldn't speak or write Egyptian), who had settled there for somewhat the same reasons that lead so many American scholars, writers, artists, and dramatists to settle in Los Angeles and Hollywood.
Seventh, we know what the once-famous Egyptian Mystery Cults were because they were removed to Greece and Italy (and much ignored) and left a wealth of detailed records behind them; they were in substance what the already-described Greek Mysteries were, half churches, half clubs, with little or no intelleetual content, with no scientific or philosophic content at all, which men and women attended usually for social purposes; even so, not many ever attended them, and they left behind them little or nothing to aftertimes except in poetry, drama, and romance.
If Freemasonry inherited anything from them it is difficult to know what it was, because two things less alike than the Operative Freemasonry of the Middle Ages and such a Cult as that of Isis it would be hard to find. As for the Pyramids which also have been brought in by other Egypt enthusiasts to account for the origin of Freemasonry (that question has been answered), they were nothing but pyramids, and little different from any other country's pyramids; they svere not architectural structures, but engineering achievements; the knowledge of geometry demanded of their builders was elementary; in any event there is nothing to link them to the Egyptian Mystery Cults except, that is, only in the way in which they might be embed to any other element m contemporary culture.
Why is it assumed that a man must have possessed wisdom, scholarship, etc., merely because he lived in 4000 s.c.? What does the date have to do with it? What advantage had he over a man in 2000 A.D.? Finally, why is it if the Ancient Egyptians possessed among themselves so much learning, literature, science, and scientific "secrets," that now after historians and archeologists have accumulated every scrap of it they could find (and especially in view of Egypt's 6000 years of history) it is so microscopically small?
In a famous essay which once again proved the truth of the saying that "any man can write a book but only a scholar can write an essay" Prof. Burnet brought the whole of his immense erudition to bear on the Greek word physic because it was the by-word in Greek science and philosophy, the polar star around which its cults and religions turned. He could neither give nor find the answer to it because the Greeks denoted by it an idea of their oom which they had but which we don't, and we are unable to thins it (it is similarly impossible for Ameriean white men to "think" the "ideas" of American Indians). Our school dictionaries render the word as "nature," and in so doing follow Eighteenth Century usage in which science was called Natural Philosophy, but "nature," by which we mean the uncultivated country, was not what the Greeks meant by physic
We also have given the word another place in our language by preserving it in "physics>" the name of the science whxeh has material things and forces for its subject matter; but the physieist's idea of matter would have been unintelligible to the Greeks; they had no means to think the idea of something which had in it no possible way for either men or plants and animals to have a place in it. We also preserve it in our "physiology," and when thus used, and in spite of their many protestations to the contrary, our physiologists and anatomists give it the meaning of "animal," but to a Greek this notion would have been infinitely distasteful because they certainly did not believe a man to be an animal; and it is evident that though they had a place in phygis for plants and animals it itself was neither.
Physts therefore is a Greek "word which was lost." But by watching them as they use it we can by reasoning come to some not too distant approximation to the meaning it had for them; they did not split the world up into mutually exclusive substances called rnatter, life, being, because their's was not an abstract idea of the world, but they saw in it what was not only nature, animals, plants, matter but also something other, something in which belong men's souls (psyche) and other untranslated entities which appear in their literature as gods, goddesses, nymphs, satyrs, etc. Zeus himself belonged to this last-named category.
He was not God, as theologians define God; he was not even one God among others—for a Greek "god" was not what we should mean by the word. Neither was Zeus an impersonation of a storm, thunder and lighting; still less was he the sky; he was not an animal, he was not matter; he was Zeus, and cannot be described as a member in a class of similar things. It is this and this intractable individuality of "his" that gives him his immense vitality in art, and made him so lively and as fascinating to the lively Greeks. He never became God in Greek thought; never was "the Deity;" from beginning to end he was only one among many, but he was head of the "family" on Mt. Olympus, and the Greeks preferred that he should never be anything more or other.
Zeus was the great figure in the Greek cults and religions, and although at times any one of the other gods, goddesses, nymphs,'heroes, etc., might for a season become very popular, and be, as we should say, "in fashion for a while," they always had to be pictured through their relation to him; he had to have the last word. (This personal pronoun is being used by accommodation, and in each instance carries invisible quotation marks around it.) But thts sodas not true of Mystery Cults. They did not center in Zeus, or revolve about him, or about any of the other gods; they centered in mon, and that is what sets them apart, and makes them so like and at the same time so unlike the Greek public religious cults.
This was something new for the Greeks, this having a system of worship and observance around man; it was revolutionary; it is for this reason, and not because the Mysteries left behind them a body of teachings that they are so important to history, and continue to be so interesting to thinkers. And for a like reason they continue to be of an especial interest to Freemasons, because while Freemasonry did not originate in them, and is not a survival of any one of them, and in itself is not even remotely similar to any one of them, it still has one point of identification with them, because it also, like them, revolves around man. The Mysteries thought of man as having a soul (identity) to be preserved in the midst of, and in spite of, the storms and confusion of things; Freemasonry thinks of man as a workman; neither is identical with the other but both center in man.
The word "mystery" in "Mystery Cult" was not our mysteriousness, or occultism, or magic, or anything akin to those prestidigitatic ideas; it had in general the sense of "close the eyes," and that phrase w as a circumlocution for initiation, the rule that the observances in a Mystery were kept private among its owm members. This also was revolutionary, because nothing could be more open than the Greek religions; their temples consisted of nothing but a roof and its supports, everything about them suggesting the opposite of anything private, reserved, or secret; any man at any time could lay a wreath on a Hero's statue, or go to an oracle, or say a ceremonious prayer, and for the most part every man was his own priest; even the oracles were open to any seeker, and were scarcely less public and only a shade more reticent than an American newspaper.
The Mysteries were in opposition to this general, and ancient, and wholesome practice at almost every point; they hid themselves; they permitted no admittance until after a man had taken an oath; they had a hierarchy of officers and rules, with severe penalties for dislovalty; and even among themselves they presented their idea not as an exoteric teaching but in the form of suggestions and hints, veiled in allegories and illustrated in symbols, held no public discussions like Socrates, delivered no lectures like Aristotle, and published no books like Plato.
Why? For the same reason that the Freemasons closed themselves in behind guarded doors. The Freemasons were not theological heretics or political rebels, but they were revolutionaries, and they were revolutionary about man, because their thought about man as a worker was in conflict with the orthodoxies at each point, not the professional orthodoxies of the priests and the politicians only, but the popular orthodoxies; it wasn't so much that they shut themselves in, as that they shut trouble-makers out. Popular Greek religions were joyous, lively, exciting, explosive, and oftentimes were rowdy, but even so they were
religions; and a religious man by virtue of the way he is made resists any questionings about his god; the more his emotions are engaged by his god, the more he loves, admires, worships, and obeys his god, the more will he anger himself, or fight, or hate an enemy of his god—an actual enemy, or a potential one.
A serene tolerance is religion's last and finest achievement—and its rarest. The Mysteries held something taught something, which, if it had been made public would have aroused that public ire, therefore they remained silent; there was no real reason for this, be cause if the Greek public could have understood thenl there was at bottom no necessary conflict between the hidden conventicles of the Eleusinia and the open Temple of Athena, but as long as the public believed there vs as, the Mysteries had to act as if that belief were true.
A theological discussion is taboo in the pages of any Masonic Encyclopedia (for which may Zeus be thanked!) but the subject of the Mystery Cults will not permit a complete silence on theology because their history eannot otherwise be told. I)id the Mysteries anticipate, or prophecy, or in some measure prepare for the coming of Christianity? At one point unquestionably they did; it was not a point of theology but of a postulate or presupposition, but was nevertheless one of a fundamental importance.
To the Greek "gods" a man was nothing, meant nothing, or next to nothing; there are old stories here and there which appear to contradict this; a goddess might, if Zeus were not looking, act almost as a "human;" but the gods as a whole went their own way and attended to their own business, and that business was thezr's in an absolute sense, and men counted only when the gods could make use of them.
When the dreaded Apollo glared down on the Greek earth he might smite a mountainside of pines, or turn a cliff into iron, and that was always his way; when by chance he looked down upon the nymph Daphne coming up from her bath in the river, he was startled to see something so white, so soft, so beautiful among the rocks; how did she get there? Whence came she? He wondered, but did nothing, and when he blasted a valley into desolation it meant nothing to him that he blasted Daphne along with it. If Zeus had any reason of his own to hurl a thunder-bolt through space, he hurled it; if unsuspecting and unprotected men, women, and children were destroyed by it, "he looked not but passed on by," men, women, and children counted not in his affairs.
The Mystery Cults held otherwise; they held that a man means much to the world; rather, to That by virtue of which the World is; man belongs as much to it, eternally and in the nature of things, as matter, life, or being; eternally and necessarily there is man, just as eternally and necessarily there is world, life, matter. This, unless a non-theologian has missed the whole point of theology, also is at the center of Chris tianity. There is a what, says religion, an Eternal Is, an I AM; because there is, then other things are, individual men among them; it is because it makes this assertion that religion is religion, and is unlike science or philosophy.
But even if that "Eternal Is" be given the name of God, it matters not to any gtren man that there is God, if the man means nothing to God. Before Christianity there were other religions, and there have been yet
others since, in which God is, but they have said that even so any given man can mean little to him; the cosmoss or the world, or the whole of men collectively, or some one race or people may mean much to him, but not merely one man, still less, any man. Christianity and insofar as its doctrine of God is concerned, holds otherwise; for in it a man, a "this particular man," a babe, or a boy, a nobody, even a wicked or a sinful or a criminal man, means as much to God as God's own Being is to Him, which is what is meant by the saying that "God is Love."
The Mystery Cults, and especially the better of them, had already reached within sight of that truth, but not quite; they saw that a man means as much to God as the world does; but they did not get as far as finding that God is love; but even though they came short, they nevertheless came, and it is certain that the small centers of the early religion of Christianity would have made a vastly slower progress if the great Mysteries had not been there before them.
It is in this large, this world-historical, this roundabout sense, that the same Mysteries left something behind which contributed to Freemasonry's own discovery that the man which means much to God is by his nature, and is necessarily, a worker, which is what is meant by the Masonic name of the Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe; and at the same time is why a Candidate stands upright before the altar instead, as in the Ancient cults and religions, of lying on his face on the floor in a helpless and despairing grovel.
If Man is in the nature of God, and if Man is there in the same sense that Matter, Life, and Being are there, it does not follow that man is therefore to be worshipped, no more than it follows that matter is to be worshipped, or life ("life being that by virtue of which there are plants and animals"), and still less, any particular man; it does follow that a man is not an animated lump of dirt or a conscious piece of stone or a quantum of self-conscious electricity (to believe which would be a very "Ancient" belief indeed), nor an animal, nor a plant; a man is a man, and the difference between him and a material thing or an animal is absolute.
To say that man stands at the center of Freemasonry in the same way that he stood at the center of the Mysteries is not to say that Freemasonry is a religion with man as its god; it is not a religion, it is a fraternity; it does not worship either men or any particular man, it does not worship, but works, beeause it is a fraternity of workers; and its teachings are wholly teachings about man as a worker.
Aristotle invented a verbal device for defining terms. According to his directions for its use, you first collect a number of particular things which have a sufficient number of attributes (or qualities) in common, and disregarding their attributes not in common; you then call this aggregate a class, and you describe or define the class in the terms of those common attributes; you define a word by discovering the class it belongs to, and what is tme of the class is true of it. If an historian or a theologian attempts to define the Mystery Cults by the conscious or unconscious use of this Aristotealian device he will fail, because he will find no general class to put them in. They are not religions, they are not sciences, they are not philosophies; they are uniquely themselves, and each Mystery must be defined or described (or both together) in terms of itself. A Mystery Cult is a mystery cult.
This resistance to being included in some general class of things set up outside them, this absolute and inalterable non conformity (Aristotle has always been the god of conformists, conservatives, and orthodoxies), operates also and necessarily among themselves. One Mystery Cult was very unlike another. There was no general system of them; no one was an organ or agent of any society with headquarters elsewhere. Each was inalienably independent. Each one had to be defined and described not in terms general or common to Mystery Cults, but in terms peculiar to itself alone. At only a few points of thought and in the cornrnon use of a few forms of organization could they be compared with each other. Therefore a student, Masonic or otherwise, must be on his guard against sweeping and exclusive statements about any doctrines they are supposed to have taught.
By the same token they disagreed with each other, competed with each other, and like modern sects which are too weak to be magnanimous often fought with each other. This is yet another reason for our parting company with Dr. Mackey when he sets up his theory that the Ancient Mysteries were the origin of Freemasonry, or at least had been one of the origins. That theory won't work because it is too sweeping. If they were as unlike each other as Judaism, Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, Christian Science, and Methodism are unlike each other—and they were —they could not have collectively been the origin of Freemasonry, or of anything else.
In order to be defended now, and with the wealth of archeologic data to use, the Mackeyan theory would have to be narrowed down. Which one exactly of the very many and very different Mystery Cults was the origin (or an origin) of Freemasonry? Until that is specified the theory has no meaning. The Eleusinian Mysteries? They had nothing in them about work or workman. The country women had a Mystery Cult of their own, and more than onee in their frenzy tore to pieces with their hands some man m ho had unintentionally invaded their precincts; Mackey must needs have left these women out; but if he did so, he had as weighty reasons for leaving out the Mysteries of Magna Mater, of Isis, of Serapis, and seores of others; and it is difficult to know what one he could have kept in.
The Mackeyan theory must also come to terms with the undisputed historical fact that as soon as Christianity controlled the government of Rome it immediately began the complete obliteration of the Mysteries. For the reasons given at the beginning of this section (theological reasons), a number of the Mysteries were too close to Christianity for comfort; they were superficially too similar to the Christian churches and more than once untaught or simple-minded men and women confused one with the other, or tool; Christianity itself to be a Mystery Cult—the superficial similarity between organized Christianity and organized Mithraism was so great that theologians declared that Satan had founded Mithraism expressly in order to deceive men away from Christianity. Manicheeism was a later form of Mithraism; St. Augustine himself had been a Manichee until about thirty; if that great man could be deccived, how much more easily could lesser men be led astray!
The theologians could think of no remedy except to destroy the Mysteries root and branch; they did so, and after the Fourth Century not a fragment remained of them; and for the same reason almost everything written by the Church Fathers was written by them as bitter foes of the Mysteries, and therefore is suspect; and most of even those one-sided writings were lost or destroyed. It is because of this obliteration that so very little could be found out about the Mvsteries in the Greek and Roman writings of 2000 years or so ago; that what little could be found wets misleading; that even so large a Mystery as Mithraism could be completely forgotten; that the great part of our present knowledge about them is owed to archeology.
The Mysteries were obliterated in the Fourth Century; Freemasonry did not (in its proper sense) begin until tne Twelfth Century, or in the Tenth at the very earliest. If the Mackeyan theory holds that one or more of the Mysteries survived, underground perhaps, and tnen reappeared as Freemasonry, it will have to prove it; how it can prove it with no facts in its favor to make use of, and with every known fact against it, it is impossible to see. It does not appear possible to build a bridge over that gulf of eight centuries (or, at best, of six) between the last of the Mystery Cults and the beginnings of Freemasonry.
In or about the Twelfth Century Roman Catholicism adopted as a pre-supposition, or a silent postulate, a doctrine for which there is no name, and for which it is difficult to improvise one; this postulate was implied in the name Catholic which was adopted because it means "universal," "everybody"; implicit in it was the idea that if everybody accepts a religion it is thereby proved to be true; that a religion with l00,000,000 members is more likely to be true than one with l,000; that if a religion grows beyond a certain point its very size proves it to be true; that if it is proved to be true it is therefore true for everybody, and that everybody should therefore join it and be compelled to join it by force if need be; and finally that there can be only one true religion in the whole world; and when divisions arose inside the Church, first, the division into the Western and Eastern Church, later, the division between Romanism and Protestantism, the same reasoning was applied, and Roman Catholics argued that their own division was truer than Protestantism because it was larger. (This reasoning would have been disastrous to Christianity itself if it had been applied in the First Century of it!)
No Ancient men or any Ancient people could have believed that theory, the Greeks least of any. They could not even have understood it had it been expounded to them. There was no trace of Catholieism in any one of them—no universality, no "internationalism," no "one world-ism"—they did not only not know about "one world" they knew nothing of any world, because the idea of a world, or a cosmos, or a universe (except among a small number of Greek philosophers) was impossible under the conditions of Ancient Culture. It did not disturb an Egyptian people that g few miles away the Hebrew people had another (and very different) religion; nor, could an Egyptian or Greek Dicture a world in which there was but one religion.
They accepted it as normal for each people to have its own religion, or even an after-world of its own, as they accepted it as normal that each people had its own costumes, language, and countrybecause they did not take a religion to be a set of statements of fact about God and the world, but rather thought of it as dro7nenon, "a thing done," 8 thing a people does for some purpose of its own—as in Greece the people had games and theaters because they enjoyed them, and because they were "Greek."
From that it follows that there never was any tote religion for any Ancient people; that, and especially among the Greeks, it is impossible to reason from ann One Greek Religion to another; that it mattered not to a Greek how many different gods or families of gods there might be, or how many unclassifiable cults, observances, mysteries, oracles, revelations, miracles —either how many in number or how many kinds there might be; nor did it disturb him (by the First Century A.D.) to have twenty or thirty Mystery Cults in his midst, no two alike. It is impossible to reason from any Greek cult or religion to what the Mystery Cults must have been, or from them to what public religion and cults might have been.
Warburton, Robin, Faber, Bunson, and Oliver (see page 698) tried to do this; they had a few scraps of texts from the Greek and Latin classics and from the Patristic writers; from these they attempted to piece out a picture of what Greek religion might have been ("the C;reek religion"); and from this went on by further reasoning to reconstruct what the Ancient Mysteries might have been. The attempt failed, as we now know from archeology; it was predestined to fail because even a Greek in 500 B.C. could not have reasoned from, say, the Cult of Demeter to an Aneient Mystery. If that is true it is again impossible to generalize about the possible historical connection between the Ancient Mysteries and early Freemasonry.