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CHAPTER VI

GREECE BEFORE SOCRATES

1

TO complete this brief survey of the primitive religions — this inquiry into the origins of the Great Secret — we must not overlook the pre-Socratic theogony.

Before the classic period the Greek philosophers, of whose works we possess only mutilated fragments — Pythagoras, Petronius Hippasus, Xenophanes, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Alcmmon, Parmenides of Elea, Leucippus, Democritus, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, — were already in the ridiculous and uncomfortable situation in which the Hebrew cabalists and the occultists of the middle ages found themselves about fifteen to twenty centuries later. They seem, like the latter, to have had a presentiment of the existence, or the dim tradition, of a religion more ancient and of a nobler character than their own, which had replied, or had endeavored to reply, to all the anxious questions as to divinity, the origin and the purpose of the world, eternal Becoming and impassive Being; the passage from chaos to the cosmos; the emergence from the vast sum of things and the return thereto; spirit and substance, good and evil; the birth of the universe and its end; attraction and repulsion; fate; man's place in the universe and his destiny.

Above all, this lost tradition, which we found in India all but intact, marks once for all the divorce between the knowable and the unknowable; and, attributing the lion's share to the latter, it had the courage to implant in the very heart of its doctrine a tremendous confession of ignorance.

But the Greeks do not seem to have realized the existence of this confession, simple, definite, and profound though it was, albeit it would have saved them a great deal of vain inquiry; or else, their intellect — subtle, more active, more enterprising than ours — was unwilling to admit it; and all their cosmogony, their theogony, and their metaphysics are merely an incessant endeavor to belittle it, by subdividing it, by triturating it ad infinitum, as though they hoped that, by dint of diminishing each separate particle of the unknowable, they would eventually succeed in learning all about it.

What a curious spectacle it is, that of this contest of the Greek intellect — lucid, exacting, fidgety, eager to obtain a clear idea of everything — with the imposing though often extravagant obscurities of the Asiatic religions! It has been said that the Greeks had no conception of the divine Absolute; and this is true, but of a later period. In the beginning their conceptions, as yet under the influence of mysterious traditions, were completely permeated by this sense of the Absolute, which had often led them, by the paths of reason alone, far higher, and perhaps nearer to the truth, than their more capable successors who had lost it.


2

But without speaking in detail of their gropings after a light of which they had some vague intuition, or which was buried deep in the ancestral memory or in myths which were no longer understood; without specifying the contribution of each of the Greek philosophers, which would involve explanations interesting enough but of disproportionate length, we shall merely note the essential points of agreement with the Vedic and Brahman theories.

Xenophanes the first, unlike the poets, affirmed the existence of a sole, immutable, and eternal god. "God," he said, "is not born, for He could not be born save of His like, or of His contrary; two hypotheses of which the first is futile, and the second absurd. One cannot call Him infinite, nor yet finite; for if infinite, having neither middle nor beginning nor end, He would be nothing at all; and if finite He would be encompassed by limitations and would cease to be One. For like reasons He is neither at rest nor in movement. In short, one cannot attribute to Him any characteristics but negative ones."1 This is really tantamount to admitting, in other words, that He is as unknowable as the First Cause of the Hindus.

This acceptance of the Unknowable is more clearly formulated by Xenophanes in another passage:

"No one understands, no one ever will understand, the truth concerning the gods and the things which I teach. If any one did happen to come upon the absolute truth he would never be aware of the encounter. Nowhere do we find anything more than probability."

Might we not repeat to-day what the founder of the Eleatic school affirmed more than twenty-five centuries ago? Was there, here, as elsewhere, an infiltration of the primitive tradition? It is probable; in any case, the filiation is clearly proved in other particulars. The Orphics whom we find at the legendary and prehistoric source of Hellenic poetry and philosophy were really, according to Herodotus, Egyptians.2 We have seen, on the other hand, that the Egyptian religion and the Vedic religion have probably a common origin, and that it is for the moment impossible to say which is the more ancient. Now the Pythagoreans borrowed from the Orphics the wanderings of the soul and the series of purifications. Others have taken from them the myth of Dionysus, with all its consequences; for Dionysus, the child-god, slain by the Titans, whose heart Athene saved by hiding it in a basket, and who was brought to life again by Jupiter, is Osiris, Krishna, Buddha; he is all the divine incarnations; he is the god who descends into or rather manifests himself, in man; he is Death, temporary and illusory, and rebirth, actual and immortal; he is the temporary union with the divine that is but the prelude to the final union, the endless cycle of the eternal Becoming.


3

Heraclitus, who was regarded as the philosopher of the mysteries, explains the nature of this cycle. "On the periphery of the circle the beginning and the end are one."3 "Divinity is itself," says Auguste Dies, "the origin and the end of the individual life. Unity is divided into plurality and plurality is resolved into unity, but unity and plurality are contemporaneous, and the emanation from the bosom of the divine is accompanied by an incessant return to divinity."4 All comes from God, all returns to God; all becomes one, one becomes all. God, or the world, is one: the divine idea is diffused through every quarter of the universe. In a word, the system of Heraclitus, like that of the "Vedas" and the Egyptians, is a unitarian pantheism.

In Empedocles, who follows Xenophanes and Parmenides, we find, in the province of cosmology, the Hindu theory of the expansion and contraction of the universe, of the god who breathes it in and breathes it out, of alternative externalization and internalization.

"In the beginning the elements are inextricably mingled in the absolute immobility of the Spheros. But when the force of repulsion, after remaining inactive on the external circumference, has resumed its movement toward the center, separation begins. It would proceed to absolute division and dispersal of the individual, were it not that an opposing force reassembles the scattered elements until the primitive unity is gradually reconstructed."5

The Greek genius, of which we have here an interesting example, seeks as far as possible to explain the inexplicable, whereas the Hindu genius contents itself with feeling it as something majestic and awe-inspiring, calls the force of repulsion hatred; the force of attraction, affection. These forces exist from all eternity. "They were, they will be, and never, to my thinking, will unending time contrive to throw them off. Now plurality resolves, by the aid of love, into unity; and now unity, in hatred and strife, divides itself into plurality."

But whence comes this duality in unity? Whence arise the opposing principles of attraction and repulsion, of hatred and love? Empedocles and his school do not tell us. They merely state that in division, repulsion, or hatred there is decadence, but in attraction, in the return to unity and love, there is ascent or reascent; and thus the Hindus referred the idea of decadence or downfall to matter, and the idea of reascension and return to divinity, to the spirit. The confession of ignorance is the same, and so is the means of emerging from hatred and escaping from matter. In the first place there is purification during life, a purification entirely spiritual. "Blessed is he," says the philosopher Agrigentes, "who acquires a treasury of divine ideas; but woe to him who has but a hazy conception of the gods."

Here again and above all we have purification by successive reincarnations. Empedocles goes further than the Vedic religion, which confirms itself — at all events until Manu's time — to the reincarnation of man in man. He, like the Pythagoreans, accepts metempsychosis: that is, the passing of the soul into animals, and even into plants, whereby it is led by a series of ascents, back to the divinity from which it emerged, and into which it enters and is reabsorbed, as into the Hindu Nirvana.


4

It is perhaps of interest in this respect to note that, as in the Vedic and Egyptian doctrine, there is no question of external rewards and punishments. In the pre-Socratic metempsychosis, as in Hindu reincarnation and before the tribunal of Osiris, the soul judges itself and automatically, so to speak, awards itself the happiness or the misery which is its right. There is no enraged and vengeful deity, no special place of damnation set aside for miscreants, or for expiation. We do not expiate our sins after death, because there is no death. We expiate them only in our lifetime, by our lives: or rather there is no expiation; only the scales fall from our eyes. The soul is happy or unhappy because it does or does not feel that it is in its proper place; because it can or cannot attain the height which it hoped to conquer. It is aware of its divinity only in so far as it has understood or understands God. Stripped of all that was material, all that had blinded it, it perceives itself suddenly on the farther shore, just as it was, though unknown to itself, on the hither side. Of all its possessions, of its happiness or its fame, nothing is left but its intellectual and moral acquisitions. For in itself it is nothing more than the thoughts which have possessed it and the virtues which it has practised. It sees itself as it is, and catches a glimpse of what it might have been; and if it is not satisfied it tells itself, "It must all be done over again"; and of its own free will it returns to life, aiming at a higher mark and reemerging happier and of greater stature.


5

On the whole, in the theology and the myths of the pre-Socratic period, as in the theologies and the myths of the religions which preceded them, there is no hell and no heaven. In the underground caverns of hades, as in the meadows of the Elysian fields, there are only the phantoms, the astral manes, the Egyptian doubles, the inconsistent relics of our discarnate shades. The instruments of their torment or the accessories of their pale felicity are but evidence of identity, by the aid of which, like the vague interlocutors of our spiritualists, they seek to make themselves known. Here, just as in India, hell is not a place but a state of the soul after death. The manes are not chastised in a place of semi-darkness; they simply continue to live there by the reflection of their former lives. There Tantalus is always thirsty; there Sisyphus rolls his rock; there the Danaides exhaust themselves in seeking to fill their bottomless measure; there Achilles brandishes his lance, Ulysses bears his oar, and Hercules draws his bow; their vain effigies repeat to infinity the memorable or habitual actions of their lives on earth; but the imperishable spirit, the immortal soul is not there; it is purifying itself elsewhere, in another body; it is advancing upon the long invisible path which leads it back to God.

At this stage, as in all remote beginnings, there is as yet no fear of death and the beyond. This fear does not manifest itself or develop in the great religions until the latter begin to be corrupted for the benefit of priests and kings. The intuition and intelligence of mankind have never again reached the height which they attained when they conceived the ideal of divinity of which we find the most authentic traces in the Vedic traditions. One might say that in those days man disclosed, at the topmost height of his stature, and there established, once for all, that conception of the divine which he subsequently forgot and frequently degraded; but despite oblivion and ephemeral perversion, its light was never lost. And that is why we feel, beneath all these myths, behind all these doctrines, which are sometimes so contradictory, the same optimism, or at all events the same ignorant confidence; for the most ancient secret of mankind is really a blind, stupendous confidence in the divinity from which it emerged without ceasing to form part of it and to which it will one day return.

There are still many points of contact which might well be singled out; for example, the atomic theory, which contains some extraordinary instances of intuition. Leucippus and Democritus in particular taught that the gyratory movement of the spheres exist from all eternity, and Anaxagoras developed the theory of elemental vortices which the science of our own days is rediscovering. But what we have just recorded will doubtless appear sufficient. For the rest, in this philosophy, which is only too generally regarded as a tissue of absurdities and puerile speculations, we are dealing with most of the great mysteries that perplex humanity. On examining it more closely we find in it some of the most wonderful efforts of human reason, which, secretly sustained by the truth contained in certain cloudy myths, approaches the probable and the plausible more closely than most of our modern theories.


6

We may suppose that the most important parts of this theosophy and philosophy, namely, those which treated of the Supreme Cause and the Unknowable, were gradually neglected and forgotten by the classic theosophy and philosophy, and became, as in Egypt and India, the secret of the hierophants, forming, together with more direct oral traditions, the foundations of the famous Greek mysteries, and notably of the Eleusinian mysteries, whose veil has never been pierced.

Here again the last word of the great secret must have been the confession of an invincible and inviolable ignorance. At all events, whatever negative and unknowable elements may already have existed in the myths and the philosophy of which he was constantly being reminded, they were enough to destroy, for the initiate, the gods adored by the vulgar, while at the same time he came to understand why a doctrine so perilous for those who were not in a position to realize its exalted nature had to remain occult. There was probably no more than this in the supreme revelation, because there is probably no other secret that man might conceive or possess; that there never can have existed, nor ever will exist, a formula that will give us the key of the universe.

But apart from this confession, which must have seemed overwhelming, or of the nature of a release, in accordance with the quality of the recipient's mind, it is probable that the neophyte was initiated into an occult science of a more positive nature, such as that possessed by the Egyptian and Hindu priests. Above all, he must have been taught the methods of attaining to union with the divine, or to immersion in the divine by means of ecstasy or trance. It is permissible to suppose that this ecstasy was obtained by the aid of hypnotic methods; but these methods were those of a hypnotism far more expert and more fully developed than our own, in which hypnotism properly so called, magnetism, mediumship, spiritualism, and all the mysterious forces — odic and otherwise — of the subconscious self, which were then more fully understood than they are to-day, were commingled and set to work.

The writer whom many persons regard as the greatest theosophist of our day — Rudolph Steiner — professes, as we shall see later on, to have rediscovered the means, or one of the means, of producing this ecstasy, and of placing one's self in communication with higher spheres of existence, and with God.


7

From the foregoing we may, so it seems, conclude that the higher initiates, or, to speak more precisely, the adepts of the esoteric religions, of the colleges of priests or the occult fraternities, did not know very much more concerning the beginning and the end of the universe, the unknowable nature of the First Cause, the father of the gods, and the duties and destinies of mankind, than that which the great primitive religions had taught, openly and to those who were capable of understanding it. They did not know more for the reason that as yet it was not possible to know more, or consequently to teach more. If they had known anything further we too should know it; for it is hardly conceivable that the gist of such a secret should not have transpired if so many thousands of men had known it for so many thousands of years. If it were possible to imagine that such a secret existed and that we could understand it, in understanding it we should no longer be men. There are limits to knowledge which the brain has not yet passed, and which it never will be able to pass without ceasing to be human. At most the confessions of irreducible agnosticism and absolute pantheism, which are the two poles between which the loftiest human thought has always hesitated, is hesitating now, and in all probability will always hesitate, might have been more definite, more clearly expressed, less wrapped in formalities, and more complete, and might have put those who received it on their guard against the fallacious appearances and the necessary lies of the official theogonies and mythologies.


8

Still, at a certain level there was no esoteric cosmogony, theogony, or theology, no secret code of morality. In this connection, as we have just seen, the primitive religions left nothing unexplored; not so much as a shadowy corner where the lovers of mystery, the investigators of the unknown might take refuge. Their ethic is from the first — or seems to be from the first, for we know nothing of the thousands of years during which it was elaborated — the loftiest and most perfect that any man could hope to practise. It has passed through every ordeal, has attempted and climbed every mountain in its way. Where it has passed — and it has passed everywhere, and above all over the most rugged pinnacles — nothing is left to be gleaned. We are still hundreds of centuries beneath its attainments on the heights of abregation, good-will, pity, self-sacrifice, and absolute self-devotion; and most of all in the search for what Novalis called "our transcendental me" — that is the divine and eternal part of our being.

As for the sanctions, they too went to the extreme, the utmost that the mind can conceive; for, emanating from the Unknowable, they could not, without contradiction, attribute to this Unknowable any sort of will whatever. They were consequently bound to place within us the rewards and punishments of a system of morality which could only have come into being within us. Here again there was not the least room for any occult doctrine.

There remains the riddle of the origin of evil, the apparent antagonism of spirit and matter, the necessity of sacrifice, pain, and expiation. Here again, under pain of contradiction, the occult tradition could not base anything on the unknowable. It had simply to admit, provisionally, the least material explanation of the esoteric religions, which regard matter and darkness, division and separation, not as evil in themselves, but as transitory states of the one and eternal substance, a phase of the unending flux and reflux of Becoming, from which one should strive to emerge as quickly as might be, in order to attain the spiritual state or phase. In this connection it had not, and of course, could not have had a more satisfying doctrine. In any case no echo of such doctrine has come down to us, and it is probable that it once more contented itself with emphasizing the confusion of its invincible ignorance.


9

Here then are the points — and they are the most important — on which the esoteric doctrine, if there was in the beginning such a doctrine, must necessarily be confounded with the public teaching of the primitive religions if considered fairly near their origin. It is probable, as I have already said, that this teaching did not assume a secret character until very much later, when the official religions were extraordinarily complicated and profoundly corrupted. Esoterism was then but a return to the original purity, just as in Greece the pre-Socratic doctrines — which were, whatever may have been said of them, obviously of Asiatic origin — became the teachings of the mysteries. It is therefore all but certain that the occultists of all times and nations knew as little of them as we do. But there are other spheres in which they seem to have had traditions which the official religions do not appear to have handed down to us, and whose secret the successors of the great adepts of India, Egypt, Persia, Chaldea, and Greece, with the cabalists, the Neoplatonists, the Gnostics, and the Hermetics of the middle ages, have more or less unsuccessfully sought to recover.


10

This province is that of the unknown forces of nature. We can hardly dispute the fact that the priests of India and Egypt, and the Magi of Persia and Chaldea, had a knowledge of chemistry, physics, astronomy, and medicine which we have undoubtedly surpassed in certain respects, but in others we are perhaps very far from having caught up with them. Without recalling here the blocks of stone weighing 1500 tons, transported by unknown means over enormous distances, or the rocking-stones, masses of rock weighing five hundred tons, which were never native to the soil upon which they now rest, and which date from the prehistoric era of the Atlanteans, it is an undoubted fact that the great pyramid of Cheops, for example, is a sort of stupendous hieroglyph, which, by its dimensions, its proportions, its internal arrangements, and its astronomical orientation, propounds a whole series of riddles of which only the most obvious have hitherto been deciphered. An occult tradition had always affirmed that this pyramid contained essential secrets, but only quite recently has any one begun to discover them. Abbé Moreux, the learned director of the Bourges Observatory, giving a complete summary of the question in his Enigmes de la Science,6 shows us that the meridian of the pyramid — the line tuning north and south passing through its apex — is the ideal meridian; that is, it is that which crosses the greatest amount of land and the smallest amount of sea, and if we calculate exactly the area of habitable territories, it will be found to divide them into two strictly equal halves. On the other hand, if we multiply the height of the pyramid by one million, we obtain the distance from the earth to the sun, or 198,208,000 kilometers, which is, within about one million kilometers, the distance which modern science has finally adopted, after long research and dangerous expeditions to distant lands, and thanks to the progress of celestial photography.

The well-known astronomer Clark has calculated, from recent measurements, the polar radius of the earth. He makes it 6,356,521 meters. Now this is precisely the cubit of the pyramid-builders, or 0.6336321 meters, multiplied by ten millions. Next, on dividing the side of the pyramid by the cubit used in its construction, we have the length of the sidereal year; that is, the time which the sun requires to return to the same point in the sky. Then, if we multiply the pyramid-builders' inch by one hundred millions, we shall obtain the distance which the earth travels in its orbit in one day of twenty-four hours, the approximation being closer than our modern measures — the yard or the meter — would permit of our making. Lastly, the entrance-passage of the pyramid pointed toward the pole star of the period; it must therefore have been orientated with reference to the precession of the equinoxes, according to which phenomenon the celestial pole returns, coinciding with the same stars, after the lapse of 25,796 years.

We see, then, that, as Abbé Moreaux tells us, "all these conquests of modern science are found in the Great Pyramid in the form of natural dimensions, measured, and always capable of measurement, needing only opportunity to shine forth in broad daylight with the metrical meaning contained in them.

It is impossible to attribute these extraordinary data to mere coincidence. They prove that the Egyptian priests, in geography, mathematics, geometry, and astronomy, possessed knowledge that we are barely beginning to reconquer, and there is nothing to tell us that this enigmatic pyramid does not contain a host of other secrets which we have not yet discovered. But the strangest, most disconcerting fact is that none of the innumerable hieroglyphs that have been deciphered, nothing, indeed, to be found in the whole literature of ancient Egypt, makes any allusion to this extraordinary knowledge. It is obvious even that the priests sought to conceal it; the sacred or pyramidal cubit, the key to all scientific measurements and calculations, was not employed in every-day use; and all this miraculous knowledge, coming whence no one knows, was deliberately and systematically buried in a tomb and propounded as a riddle or a challenge to the future centuries. Does not the revelation of such a mystery, due merely to chance, permit us to suspect that many other mysteries of various sorts are awaiting the hazard of a similar revelation, in the same pyramid or in other monuments or in the sacred writings?

In the meantime it is, after all, highly probable that the Egyptian priests taught the Magi of Chaldea the secret of what Eliphas Levi calls "a transcendental pyrotechnics," and that both were acquainted with electricity and had means of producing and directing it as yet unknown to us. Pliny, in fact, tells us that Numa, who was initiated into the mysteries of the Magi, understood the art of creating and directing the lightning, and that he successfully employed his terrible battery against a monster known as Volta, which was devastating the Roman Campagna. Forestalling the invention of the telephone, the Egyptian priests were able, we are told, to send instantaneous messages from temple to temple, no matter what the distance. For that matter, the Bible testifies to their knowledge and power when it shows them, in the midst of the ten plagues, which were only works of magic, fighting Moses by means of miracles, Moses himself being one of their initiates.


11

But it is more especially in connection with the subconscious, with mysteries of the Unknown Guest, and what we to-day call abnormal psychology; with the astral body, hypnotism, and spiritualism; with the properties of the ether, and of unknown fluids; with odylic medicine, hyper-chemistry, survival, and the knowledge of the future, that they must have possessed secrets to discover which the Hermetics of the middle ages wore themselves out amid their pentacles, their cryptograms, and their books of spells, corrupted and incomprehensible. It is apparently in these regions of occultism that there is something left for us to glean; and it is to them that our metaphysics is turning back, though by other roads.

It is likewise in these obscure regions that the last initiates of India, the heirs to the esoteric traditions, excel us so greatly in knowledge, producing those strange phenomena which cannot always be sufficiently explained by trickery and conjuring, and which astonish the most skeptical, the most suspicious of travelers.

Have they in reserve, as they claim, yet other secrets, notably those that enable them to manipulate certain terrible and irresistible forces, such as the intra-molecular energy, or the formidable and inexhaustible forces of gravitation, or of the ether? This is possible, but less certain. It is rather difficult to understand why, in cases of urgency, when there has been a question of life or death, they have never resorted to them. India, like Egypt, Persia, and Chaldea, has suffered terrible invasions which not only threatened her civilization, destroyed her wealth, burned her sacred books, and massacred her inhabitants, but also attacked her gods, violated her temples, and exterminated her priests. Yet we do not discover that she ever turned a supernatural weapon against her aggressors. It may be objected that because of the enormous expanse of the territories invaded the invasions were never complete; that the last initiates might have fled before them, taking refuge in inaccessible mountains; moreover that as their kingdom was not of this world they did not feel that they had the right to employ their superterrestial powers, for a fundamental axiom of the highest knowledge forbids its employment in pursuit of material profit; and this too is possible. It is none the less a fact that the British domination of Tibet, and above all the entry into that country of Colonel Young-husband's expedition, struck a very palpable blow at the prestige of their occult knowledge.


12

Until 1904, in fact, the occultists had regarded Tibet as the last refuge of their science. In Tibet, according to them, there were vast underground libraries, containing innumerable books, of which some dated back to the prehistoric times of the Atlanteans; and in these the supreme and immemorial revelations were recorded in tongues known only to a few adepts. In the heart of her lamaseries, swarming with thousands of monks, Tibet maintained a college of superior initiates, at the head of which was the initiate of initiates, the incarnation of God on earth, the dalai-lama.

No European, it was said, had ever violated the sacred territory of Tibet; which, by the way, was not quite correct, for in 1661, in 1715, and in 1719 two or three Jesuits and a few Capuchins had found their way into the country. In 1760 a Dutch traveler made a stay in Lhasa, and in 1813 an Englishman. Then, in 1846, the missionaries Huc and Gobet, disguised as lamas, contrived to slip into the country. But since then, despite many perilous attempts, of which the latest and best known was that of Sven Hedin, no explorer had succeeded in reaching the holy city. One may say, therefore, that of all the countries in the world Tibet was the most mysterious, the most illusive.

On the announcement of the sacrilegious expedition strange happenings were anticipated by the world of occultists. I remember the confidence, the serene certainty with which one of the sincerest and most learned of them told me, early in the year 1904: "They do not know what they are attacking. They are about to provoke, in this place of refuge, the most terrible powers. It is virtually certain that the last of the trans-Himalayan adepts possess the secret of the formidable etheric or sidereal force, the mash-maket of the Atlanteans, the irresistible vril of which Bulwer-Lytton speaks: that vibratory force which, according to information contained in the 'Astra-Vidya,' can reduce a hundred thousand men and elephants to ashes as easily as it would reduce a dead rat to powder. Extraordinary things are about to happen. They will never reach the inviolable Potala!"

And what happened? Nothing whatever; at least, nothing of what was anticipated. After long diplomatic negotiations, in which the incapacity, unintelligence, senility, and bad faith of the Chinese, and the childish cunning of the college of lamas were revealed in a most disconcerting fashion, Colonel Younghusband's force, consisting chiefly of Sikhs and Gurkhas, proceeded to enter the country. In those rugged regions, the most inhospitable in the world, on the high frozen plateaus of the Himalayas, desolate and uninhabitable, they had to overcome unheard-of difficulties; and in passes which a handful of men, under good leadership, would have rendered unassailable, they were met more than once by the unskilful though courageous resistance of the dalai-lama's soldiery, filled with fanatical valor by the mantras and spells of their priests, but armed with match-locks and inferior native artillery. At length the British force drew near to Lhasa; and for five days the distracted abbots of the great monasteries solemnly cursed the invaders, set thousands of prayer-wheels turning, and resorted to the supreme incantations: all to no avail. On August 9 Colonel Younghusband made his entry into the capital of Tibet, and occupied the holy of holies, the house of God, the Potala; an immense and fantastic structure which soars upwards from the hovels of the city, resembling, with its terraces, its flat roofs, and its buttresses, a fortress, a piled-up mass of Italian villas, a barracks with innumerable windows, and certain American sky-scrapers. The dalailama, the thirteenth incarnation of divinity, the Buddhist pope, the spiritual father of six hundred millions of souls, had shamefully taken to flight and made good his escape. The convents and sanctuaries, swarming with monks — there were more than thirty thousand of them, indifferent and resigned — were explored; but nothing was found save the relics of the noblest religion ever known to mankind, finally rotting and dwindling into puerile superstitions, mechanical prayer-wheels, and the most deplorable witchcraft. And thus collapsed the final refuge of mystery; thus were surrendered to the profane the ultimate secrets of the earth.


1 Albert Rivaud, Le Probleme du Devinir; p. 102.

2 Herodotus; II, 81.

3 Heraclitus, 102.

4 Auguste Dies, Le Cycle Mystique; p. 62.

5 Ibid.; pp. 84-85.

6 P. 5. et seg.

 


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