PART VI: ANCIENT SECRETS
by Anthony Forwood (2011)
44: The Ancient Secret Schools
Psychic phenomena have been with the human species since the beginning of civilization. Ancient historical texts, such as the Bible, are filled with stories of great prophets, magi, and seers, as well as the less acclaimed but more common astrologers, diviners, and fortune-tellers. Many of these practitioners of the mystical arts were very powerful and important because of their great abilities to predict and influence events. Because of these abilities, if these mystics were not the ruling elite themselves then they were kept very close at hand by the elite, who regularly relied on their skills when dealing with matters of importance. The greatest of these men of wisdom from our earliest recorded history was probably Hermes Trismegistus (Trismegistus means ‘thrice majestic’ or ‘three times great’), and is known to be the founder of occult magic, which involved the art of alchemy and the Hermetic sciences. Such great occultists formed schools for learning and practicing the mystical arts – more commonly referred to as mystery schools or secret schools – in order for those skilled in the secret arts to share their occult knowledge between themselves and to study and expand on that knowledge, as well as to draw in those initiates who might become the dedicated adepts to whom they would pass on their most secret knowledge, and so preserve it through the ages.
There are also legends of certain great magi or prophets who traveled about and were known for their supernatural abilities and great knowledge and wisdom. Early on, these great men were in direct communication with the gods, who appeared to them as bright lights in the sky. These men were also credited with having lived extraordinarily long lives and to even be immortal beings existing in a higher spiritual state and able to incarnate in human form at will. These men were said to know the secrets of life and death, time and space, mind and matter. They were the providers of wisdom and the keepers of secrets. They held knowledge that went beyond the ordinary – occultic formulas and strange lore of incredible and mysterious things that were completely unknown to others. Stories surrounding these great magi stem back to our earliest times and even before. They seem to have been there to help humans during and after the founding of the first great civilizations after the ice age, but eventually they just faded from the Earth and were never heard of again, and all memory of who they really were and where they came from seems to have been all but forgotten, save for a few remnant tales that have survived as myths and fairy tales.
These great personages acted as the godfathers of humanity, and they seem to have arrived on the scene just after a great upheaval, and carried with them a wealth of knowledge that no ordinary human could have learned on their own and within a single lifetime, and must have either been acquired from the work of many people over a very long time, or these men had superhuman abilities. They certainly seemed to be more than human, but they were not considered to be gods either, nor their emissary angels. They were virtually identical to humans in appearance, but their slightly greater stature and superior intellect set them apart. They introduced the first occult sciences, such as alchemy and astrology, and the earliest spiritual understandings from which our first religions originated. Could these men have been the survivors of a lost race whose civilization befell a major catastrophe, and were they preserving and passing on much of the knowledge that their people had acquired in their time? The knowledge that these great figures held laid the foundations of the first mystery schools. They were regarded as saints and prophets in biblical times, those who communicated with the gods and were in their favor. Later, they were immortalized in our memories as the heroes and gods of Greek myth and legend, symbols of the very wisdom that had been bequeathed on us. These symbols were incorporated into the secret lore of the early mystery schools, masking these teachings in symbols, allegories, and metaphors, so as to preserve the deeper secrets within plain sight of the ignorant, who would understand only what they were meant to understand while the pure knowledge was masked in layers of deeper meanings that was only available to students of the mystery schools through degrees of initiation.
The majority of the greatest historical figures throughout the centuries, from Moses to Plato to Christopher Columbus to virtually every president of the United States, have been associated with these secret schools, or the more modern secret societies that stem from them. Their memberships have always included prominent figures in society, and the most powerful schools and societies have always included within their highest ranks the most powerful and important figures of the time. In the past, these members – both initiates and adepts – were far fewer in number and might just as likely have come from poor families as much as they might have come from rich and powerful families. Today, both the membership size and the number of degrees of initiation in many of these schools are much greater in number, but it seems that only those members who come from the more powerful bloodline families tend to be accepted into the higher ranks of the more powerful schools and societies. For acceptance into the higher degrees of these schools, it seems to have become a matter of what a person might be able to offer the school and what connections they have that makes them a possible candidate for acceptance into the higher ranks, more than anything else.
In ancient times, these mystery schools were centers of advanced learning where the initiate might be taught any number of subjects, including astronomy, philosophy, languages, mathematics, economics, and law. Other fields of study, reserved for higher adepts, included the more occultic sciences, such as alchemy, sorcery, and divination. As well as these, records of the true history of the Earth and its various inhabitants that had been carefully preserved were studied in secret, as was certain knowledge regarding the deeper metaphysical nature of the universe and the various forces and powers that operated within it. A lesser understanding of these things was taught to the lower initiates, stripped of the greater truths that would allow them to discover the secrets of their true place in the cosmos and the power that each person held within themselves. Initiates to each degree of advancement within these schools were only ever taught enough to satisfy them for a while but which would eventually lead them to wanting more, while at the same time drawing them into the servitude of the upper ranks and greater dependence on the greater knowledge and skills of those few in the highest degrees of adeptship who retained and controlled the complete body of secrets in its purest form. This knowledge was the remnant science and history of a once-great civilization, preserved in the hands of only a few remaining survivors, men of superior intellect and physical form who seemed to be there only to assist and guide our early ancestors as they were coming out of the long bleakness of an ice age, a period that had ended with major catastrophes that obliterated this civilization from the face of the Earth. Only a few of their sturdiest structures still remain as testament.
The earliest known secret schools originated in such diverse locations as Egypt, Tibet, and India. Ancient texts from our earliest civilizations record that there was once a direct relationship between these schools and the gods. Such evidence is clearly recorded throughout the Bible and elsewhere. In ancient Heliopolis in Egypt, for instance, the high-priests were directed by a pantheon of nine gods called the Ennead. Certain legends, primarily from ancient Sumer and India, depict these gods as flesh-and-blood beings. These legends describe these beings as gods, but often portray them as physical beings who were in many ways like humans with all their personal faults and weaknesses, but who were nonetheless far more advanced technologically and capable of performing miraculous feats, and this gave them the appearance of being all-powerful. These gods, according to most legends, once ruled over the human race and taught them various arts and sciences before they eventually disappeared, putting certain humans in charge to rule in their stead. These human proxies became the first ruling elite among humans, and for a time they remained in communication with the gods, as we see with the successive leaders of the Israelites throughout the Old Testament, such as Moses, who spoke with his god Yahweh through the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark was a technological device that was able to transmit the god’s voice much like a common radio does. Eventually, this communication with the gods, even remotely with the aid of such technology, seems to have stopped, and the high-priests that once oversaw these communications continued to dictate ‘the divine word of the gods’ as they saw fit. The masses had no way of knowing whether these dictates were from the gods or not, but out of fear and uncertainty they continued to believe that it was, and obeyed.
The high-priests of these secret schools were quite aware of the power they held over the masses, knowing that the people feared the gods enough to do whatever the priests dictated as divine law. The sanctity of their temples gave them the protection from anyone who might learn of their inner workings – the secret ceremonies and rituals that only the priests took part in – and the nature of their secret activities. In these chambers they began to follow a different doctrine than that of the non-initiates, one that recognized their special place between the gods and ordinary men. This created a caste division, giving those within the priesthood a sense of self-importance that was reflected in the privileges they extended to themselves and the honors that came to be expected from the population for their great achievements. At first, this privilege and honor was deserved, but because these priests were able to separate themselves from the rest of the people within their private sanctuaries where no one knew how they operated, they became corrupted, and began to take privileges they did not earn, and came to demand honors for things they did not do. The secrecy that surrounded them and their work overtook their true purpose, and soon they were conspiring against their own people, their goal being one of self-service rather than service to the community.
In order to hide their secret doctrine, they encapsulated it in symbology and metaphors, creating a language that only they could understand, while offering a secondary meaning in order to appease the masses and make them think that there was nothing untoward about their secret plans and activities.