“Bearing in mind that the Christian fathers have always claimed for themselves and their saints the name of “friends of God”, and knowing that they borrowed this expression, with many others, from the technology of the Pagan temples, it is but natural to expect them to show an evil temper whenever alluding to these rites. Ignorant, as a rule, and having had biographers as ignorant as themselves, we could not well expect them to find in the accounts of their beatific visions, a descriptive beauty such as we find in the Pagan classics.
Whether the visions and objective phenomena claimed by both the fathers of the desert and the hierophants of the sanctuary are to be discredited, or accepted as facts, the splendid imagery employed by Proclus and Apuleius in narrating the small portion of the final initiation that they dared reveal, throws completely into the shade the plagiaristic tales of the Christian ascetics, faithful copies though they were intended to be.
The story of the temptation of St. Anthony in the desert by the female demon, is a parody upon the preliminary trials of the neophyte during the Mikra, or minor Mysteries of Agrae – those rites at the thought of which Clemens railed so bitterly, and which represented the bereaved Demeter in search of her child, and her good-natured hostess Baubo.
Without entering again into a demonstration that in Christian, and especially Irish Roman Catholic churches, the same apparently indecent customs as the above prevailed until the end of the last century, we will recur to the untiring labors of that honest and brave defender of the ancient faith, Thomas Taylor, and his works. However much dogmatic Greek scholarship may have found to say against his “mistranslations”, his memory must be dear to every true Platonist, who seeks rather to learn the inner thought of the great philosopher than enjoy the mere external mechanism of his writings.
Better classical translators may have rendered us, in more correct phraseology, Plato’s words, but Taylor shows us Plato’s meaning, and this is more than can be said of Zeller, Jowett, and their predecessors. Yet, as writes Professor A. Wilder, “Taylor works have met with favor at the hands of men capable of profound and recondite thinking; and it must be conceded that he was endowed with a superior qualification – that of an intuitive perception of the interior meaning of the subjects which he considered. Others may have known more Greek, but he knew more Plato.””
H. P. Blavatsky