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CN THE RITES, CEREMONIES, AND INSTITUTIONS OF THE ANCIENTS.
THE disciples of Pythagoras were divided into two classes; the first were simple hearers, and the last such as were allowed to propose their difficulties, and learn the reasons of all that was taught. The figurative manner in which he gave instructions, was borrowed from the Hebrews, Egyptians, and other orientals.
If we examine how morality, or moral philosophy, is defined, we shall find that it is a conformity to those unalterable obligations which result from the nature of our existence, and the necessary relations of life; whether to God as our creator, or to man as our fellow-creature ;—or it is the doctrine of virtue, in order to attain the greatest happiness.
Pythagoras shewed the way to Socrates, though his examples were very imperfect, as he deduced his rules of morality from observations of nature; a degree of knowledge which he had acquired in his communion with the priests of Egypt. The chief aim of Pythagoras' moral doctrine, was to purge the mind from the impurities of the body, and from the clouds of the imagination. His morality seems to have had more purity and piety in it than the other system, but less exactness; his maxims being only a bare explication of divine worship, of natural honesty, of modesty, integrity, public-spiritedness, and other ordinary duties of life.
Socrates improved the lessons of Pythagoras, and reduced his maxims into fixed or certain principles.
Plato refined the doctrine of both these philosophers, and carried each virtue to its utmost height and accomplishment; mixing the idea of the universal principle of philosophy through the whole design.
The ancient masonic record [appendix'] also says, that Masons knew the way of gaining an understanding of Abrac. On this word all commentators (which "I have yet read) on the subject of Masonry, have confessed themselves at a loss.
Abrac, or Abracar, was a name which Basilides, a religious of the second century, gave to God, who he said was the author of three hundred and sixty-five.
The author of this superstition is said to have lived in the time of Adrian, and that it had its name after Abrasan, or Abraxas, the denomination which
Basilides gave to the Deity. He called him the
Supreme God, and ascribed to him seven subordinate powers or angels, who presided over the heavens :— and also, according to the number of the days in the year, he held that three hundred and sixty-five virtues, powers, or intelligences, existed as the emanations of, God: the value, or numerical distinctions, of the let? tew in the word, according to the ancient Greek numerals, made 365—A B R A X A 2.
1 3 100 1 60 1 400.
With antiquaries, Abraxas is an antique gem or stone, with the word abraxas engraven on it. There are a great many kinds of them, of various figures and sizes, mostly as old as the third century. Persons professing the religious principles of Basilides, wore this gem with great veneration, as an amulet; from whose virtues, and the protection of the Deity, to whom it was consecrated, and with whose name it was inscribed, the wearer presumed he derived health; prosperity, and safety.
The annexed plate is from a drawing taken in the British Museum, of a gem deposited there; is near, twice the size of the original, which is a beryl stone, the form of an egg. The head is in camio, and reversed in taglio. 'The head is supposed to represent the image of the Creator, under the denomination of Jupiter Ammon :*—the sun and moon on the reverse,
* Jupiter Ammon, a name given to the Supreme Deity, and who1 was worshipped under the symbol of the Sun. He was painted with terns, because with the astronomers the sign Aries in the zodiac is the beginning of the year: when the sun enters into the house of Aries, he commences his annual course. Heat, in the Hebrew tongue Hammab, in the prophet Isaiah Hammamin, is given as a name of such images. The error of depicting him with horns, grew from the doubtful signi-» fication of the Hebrew word, which at once expresses beat, splendour, or brightness, and also barns.
"The Sun was also worshipped by the house of Judah, under the •* name of tamuz, for Tamuz, saith Hierom, was Adonis, and Adonis, "u generally interpreted the Sun, from the, Hebrew word AJe«, the Osiris and Isis of the Egyptians ; and were used hieroglyphically to represent the omnipotence, omni.. presence, and eternity of God. The staff seems to be
"signifying daminus, the same as Baal or Moloch, formerly did the lord "or prince of tbt planets. The month which we call June, was IV the "Hebrews Called Tamuz; and the entrance of the sun into the sign "Cancer, was in the Jews' astronomy termed Tthupba Tamus, the re"volution of Tamua,—About the time of our Saviour, the Jews held; "it unlawful to pronounce that essential name of God Jehovah, and. "instead thereof read Adonaj, tp prevent the heathen blaspheming that "holy name, by the adoption of the name of Jove, &c. to the idols.—"Concerning Adonis, whom some ancient authors call Osiris, there are ■* two things remarkable j ctpxtio-fsoe, the death or loss of Adonis, and "the finding of him again: as there was great lamentation
** at his loss, so was there great joy at his finding. By the death or "loss of Adonis, we are to understand the departure of the Sun; by his "finding again, the return of that luminary. Now he seemeth to dc"part twice in the year; first, when he is in the tropic of Cancer, in "the farthest degree northward; and, secondly, when he is in the "tropic of Capricorn, in the farthest degree southward. Hence we .' may note, that the Egyptians celebrated their Adonia in the month "of November, when the sun began to be farthest southward, and the *' house of Judah theirs in the month of June, when the sun was) "farthest northward; yet both were for the same reasons. Some "authors say, that this lamentation was performed over an image in "the night season; and when they had sufficiently lamented, a candle "was brought into the room, which ceremony might mystically denote "the return of the Sun, then the priest, with a soft voice, muttered this "form of words, u Trust ye in God, for out of pains salvation is come unto u us"——~God'wyns Moses and Aaron,
f " Our next inquiry is, what idol was meant by Cbiun and "Jtempban, otherwise, in ancient copies, called Sepbam. By Chiun we "are to understand Hercules, who, in the Egyptian language, was called « Cbon. By Repham, we are to understand the same Hercules; for "Rephaim, in holy tongue, signifieth gyant. By Hercules, we may "understand the place of the Sun. There are etymologists that de~
used as a point only, but is an emblem of Prudence, the third emanation of the Basilidian divine person. The scorpion,* in hieroglyphics, represented malice and wicked subtlety, and the serpent|| an heretic;—the
"rive Hercules' name from the Hebrew Hiercol, illuminavit omnia t "the Greek etymology max; xXlsf, aeris gloria, holds correspondency "with the Hebrew, and both sigilifieth that universal light which "floweth from the Sun, as water from a fountain. Porphyry inter"preteth Hercules' twelve labours, so often mentioned by the poets, to "be nothing else but the twelve signs of the zodiac, through which the "sun passes yearly. But some may question whether the name of "Hercules was ever known to the Jews? It is probable it was, for "Hercules was god of the Tyrians, from whom the Jews learned much • idolatry, as being their near neighbours. It is apparent, that in the "time of the Maccabees the name was commonly known unto them; for "Jason the high priest sent three hundred drachms of silver to the
"sacrifice of Hercules, 2 Mac. iv. 19. The star of Remphan is
"thought to be the star which was painted in the forehead of Moloch; "neither was it unusual for the heathen to paint their idols with suck *' symbolica additamcnta"^—Godwyn s Moses and Aaron. The Egyptian Apis was to bear such mark.
* I own myself doubtful of the implication of these hieroglyphics: I am inclined to believe the whole of them implied the tenets of the Egyptian philosophy;—that the scorpion represents Egypt, being her ruling sign in the zodiac ;—and that the serpent represents a religious tenet. The learned Mr. Bryant proves to us, that it was adopted amongst the ancients, as the the most sacred and salutary symbol, and rendered a chief object of adoration j in so much, that the worship of the serpent prevailed so, that many places as well as people received their names from thence.
|| —" The corruptions flowing from the Egyptian philosophy, when "adapted to Christianity, were these: they held that the God of the "Jews was the Demiurgus: that to overthrow and subvert the power "and dominion of this Demiurgus, Jesus, one of the celestial JEons, was "sent by the Supreme Being to enter into the body of the man Christ, "in the shape of a dove .- that Christ, by his miracles and sufferings, "subverted the kingdom of the Demiurgus; but when he came to suf