Isis Unveiled: chapter I (an axiom of hermetic philosophy)

“The ancient Kabalist rested upon no hypothesis till he could lay its basis upon the firm rock of recorded experiment. But the too great dependence upon physical facts led to a growth of materialism and decadence of spirituality and faith.

 
At the time of Aristotle, this was the prevailing tendency of thought. And though the Delphic commandment was not as yet completely eliminated from Grecian thought; and some philosophers still held that “in order to know what man is, we ought to know what man was” – still materialism had already begun to gnaw at the root of faith.

 
The Mysteries themselves had degenerated in a very great degree into more priestly speculations and religious fraud. Few were the true adepts and initiates, the heirs and descendants of those who had been dispersed by the conquering swords of various invaders of Old Egypt.

 
The time predicted by the great Hermes in his dialogue with Æsculapius (Asclepius ?) had indeed come; the time when impious foreigners would accuse Egypt of adoring monsters, and naught but the letters engraved in stone upon her monuments would survive – enigmas incredible to posterity.

 
Their sacred scribes and hierophants were wanderers upon the face of the earth. Obliged from fear of a profanation of the sacred mysteries to seek refuge among the Hermetic fraternities – known later as the Essenes – their esoteric knowledge was buried deeper than ever.

 
The triumphant brand of Aristotle’s pupil swept away from his path of conquest every vestige of a once pure religion, and Aristotle himself, the type and child of his epoch, though instructed in the secret science of the Egyptians, knew but little of this crowning result of millenniums of esoteric studies.”

 
H. P. Blavatsky

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