TWO REVIEWS from THE EQUINOX Vol. I, No. VI
THE APOCALYPSE UNSEALED. Being an Estoeric Interpretation of THE INITIATION OF IOANNES. By JAMES M. PRYSE. New York; John M. Pryse, 9-15 Murray Street, 1910. London: J. M. Watkins. 8s. 6d. net
It is possible to write upon this book in a freer manner, without offence, than upon any other book in the Canon of Scripture, for there is no other book which has caused so much disquiet to theologians, in all ages, as has the “Revelation of St John the Divine,” and it is but in comparatively recent times that it has been generally accepted as Canonical, and this even by those who admit that they do not understand it; and to such as these the Apocalypse Unsealed will be a veritable “Revelation” indeed. Mr James M. Pryse accepts it unreservedly as the work of the Apostle John, but we ought to mention that there is a long string of authorities against this view. Dionysius, who was surnamed the Great, of Alexandria, was a pupil of Origen, and he of Clement of Alexandria, all catechists of the “Arcane Discipline” which taught a Christianised version of the older Gnosis, which Clement and others had brought into the Church from the older secret, or occult, societies of which they were, or had been members. This Dionysius makes a certain John the Presbyter, as of note in Asia Minor in the 1st century, and distinct from the Apostle, to be the author of the book. Presbyter Cajus, or Gaius, of Rome, and the Alogi, attributed it to Cerinthus, a Gnostic of the independent sect of these, and Eusebius quotes both Dionysius and these Alogi; Nicephorus Callistus uses the same as saying that some who had preceded them had manipulated the book in such way, in every chapter, that the original could not be recognised. This may be an exaggeration, but amongst the eminent critics who have denied the authenticity of the book may be mentioned these, and what else can we expect when none to the present time could understand it? Against it are De Wett, Bleek, Ewald, Credner, Schott, Lucke, Neander, Michaelis, who treat the style as utterly foreign to that of John the Apostle. The first-named observes that “Revelation” is characterised by strong Hebraisms, ruggedness, and exhibits the absence of pure Greek words, whilst in the Gospel of John is to be found a calm, deep feeling, but in the Apocalypse we have great creative power of fancy; – the two minds are at variance with each other. St Jerome had an exalted opinion of the book, and says that it has much of mystery therein; possibly he saw it with the same eyes as Mr Pryse. Even both Luther and Erasmus were doubtful as to its acceptance. The Encyclopaedia Britannica argues that its allusions are of the 4th or 5th century. It may be mentioned here, that Dom John Chapman, D.O.S., has made an examination of the question this year, and argues, with doubtful success, that John the Presbyter and John the Apostle were the same person, and accepts both the Gospel and the Apocalypse as the works of Apostle John, and accounts for the difference in style as that of the amanuensis whom the Apostle John employed.
Two noticable, but irreconcilable, attempts have in recent years been made to interpret the book, theologically and historically. The learned Dr E. V. Kenealy made sense out of it, but overdid the subject. He believed it to represent the Apocalyptic church of Adam, and found in its addresses to the “Seven Churches” the existence of a great Asian hierarchy of the seven temples of the “twenty-four Ancients,” and further, in its various characters, the acts of the twelve divine incarnations, or messengers, who follow each other at periods of 600 years, as taught in regard to the manifestations of Vishnu.
Then, in 1906, we have a book of the astronomer, Nicholas Marazoff, verified by the astronomers Ramin and Lanin, who attempt an astrological view, grounded on the state of the heavens at Patmos on the 30th September 395, at 5 o'clock at night. Jupiter – the white horse – was then in Sagittarius; whilst Saturn – the pale horse – was in Scorpio; the sun in Virgo, and the moon under her feet. John Chrysostom was then in Patmos, and immediately after 395 was called to Rome to become a presbyter; but Rome finding that the “Second Coming” did not take place, it is argued that he was deprived and banished as a “false prophet.” Against this we have the fact that Chrysostom does not mention the book, but the date assigned agrees with criticisms as the book now stands.
We must defer to the superior knowledge of this modern “Unveiler,” though personally I am inclined to accept the views of those early Fathers who assign the authorship to Cerinthus, and also the later German critics, who believe that the first three chapters and the last have been added by a later hand, and other portions altered to agree with the Scriptures held to be orthodox. Of course this, if it were so, does not effect in any way the views of Mr Pryse, but rather strengthens them, as I look upon the imagery of the book as essentially that of the earlier and pre-Christian Gnostics. Though we may not have absolute proof of the great antiquity of the Gnosis, such as Mr Pryse unveils, yet it is clearly Aryan, dating from the time of Momu – the thinker; then again the development of the Kundalini – serpent fire – world's mother, also termed rousing the Brahm – is said to be shown as issuing from the foreheads of early Egyptian kings; Apollonius of Tyana, a contemporary of our Jesus, visited the Gymnosophists of the Upper Nile, but said that they were not equal to those of India. The British Druids must have had a knowledge of the “Serpent fire” in their secret instruction, or why exclaim, “I am a serpent.” The Mythraic Mysteries, and all the Eranoi Societies, were equally protected by the laws of Solon seven centuries B.C., and Mr Pryse observes that only once does the word Halleluiah occur in the Bible, yet we know that it formed the close of a chant in the “Rites of Purification” in a call to the slain god for deliverance, in pre-Christian centuries, and further there are Mythraic traces in Revelation. We also know from a large mass of inscriptions found in recent times, that the early Christians made use of the very ancient societies, and by that course spread their doctrine. Before the issue of the “Unsealing,” the same translator published the “Magical Message of Ioannes,” a translation of great value which receives much additional light from the later work, and the more so as it supplies, in a knowledge of Hermetic Greek, much meaning which escapes us in the authorised version.
In the “Unsealing,” Mr. Pryse goes solid for the book, the whole book, and nothing but the book, as the veritable work of the Apostle John, hence the clergy may extend a welcome hand to it. He quite believes it is a work of the Apostle John, and defends the style; amongst these there are some doubtless who are narrow-minded, but here, and still more prominently in America, there are broad-minded clergy who will welcome the Unsealing.
The Freemasons too in their higher grades, which have more or less reached us through the Rosicrucians, have very strong allusions to the Apocalypse, and may profit by it, and this refers to several systems practised throughout the world. Thus the Order of Heredom (Harodim) Rosy Cross, which has an unchanged Ritual from 1740, at least, draws upon Dionysius the Areopagite, a disciple of St Paul, and it has also a rhythmetical description of the New Jerusalem. Again, two entire degrees of the Scottish Rite of 33° are drawn from the Apocalypse, and certainly entered the Rite before 1758, and seem as if they were drawn bodily from the Rosicrucian Militia of the Cross: I allude to the 17° Knight of the East and West, and the 19° of Grand Pontiff, which treat upon the Heavenly Jerusalem, and the opening scene of the Revelations. It was rather a pity that when the late Albert Pike was revising the Rituals, he did not consolidate the Rite by changing the places of the 17° with the 20°, which latter treats of Zerubbabel. His predecessor Morin, in 1767, did a like thing by the Amalgamation of Prince Adept, which he had in his patent of 1762, with Knight of the Sun, and supplying the blank thus created with Patriarch Noachite. There is also the Royal Oriental Order of the Sat Bhai which was founded 1743-5 by a Brahmin Pundit at Prag, for certain Anglo-Indian officers, and which is now well established in America.
The idea that Revelation is a book of Initiation is not altogether new to Freemasons, as the late Dr Geo. Oliver elaborated that view at considerable length, but Mr Pryse's view is quite a different sort of Initiation; it is the development of the semi-miraculous powers of the Gnosis of Clement, Origen, and the early Christian Church, the birth of the divine three principles, the Crestos, in the human soul. The key to this “Unsealing” is the text itself, in which is found the Nos. 333, 444, 666, 777, 888, 999, 1000, as applied to the seven principal chakras of the human body, as taught by Greek Yogis. Apart altogether from the possession of a reliable literal translation of the book, there are seventy-five pages upon the development of the Kundalini, and each subject is followed in the text by a commentary in application. Mr Pryse expresses the view that the book is necessarily incomprehensible to the conventional theologian, yet easily comprehended by the esoteric Initiate, i.e. by him who possesses the Gnosis, and that the drama is perfect in all its parts. I may add that most of this class of Initiative books had a double interpretation, and hence that the same may be equally found in the Apocalypse, but into this Mr Pryse does not enter.
Mr Pryse has undoubtedly found the key of the Apocalypse, and many of his interpretations are profound and accurate. But he is afflicted by sexual mania to an extent positively shocking, and does not understand the harmony of the principles. Adeptship is balanced growth, not lopping. A rose dies if you remove the root and stalk, Mr Pryse!
He is unfortunately a poor scholar, and has developed the American literary sense to an incredible point. He translates akrasia, “impotence, lack of control,” as “sensuality,” aggeloV as “divinity,” and gives us “saucers” for “vials”!
Unfortunately, too, he has studied Eastern Mysticism at second-hand, through Theosophical spectacles. Nor has he kept even to Blavatsky the genius, but relied upon her commentators, who had neither her learning nor her experience.
But he has the key, and it opens the way for a real study of “St John” by a person of greater ability.
It is a very remarkable fact, however, that Akrasia (333) and Akolasia (333) should so accurately describe Choronzon (333). No higher test of the truth of “The Vision and the Voice” could be desired.
Again, 666 is 'H Fren, not the Lower Mind, as Mr Pryse unhellenically says, but Tiphereth, the Lion that lieth down with the Lamb. Nor, by the way, is Iacchos a phallic God except as 'O Nikwn himself is phallic, and has his mystic name written upon that organ, according to Mr Pryse! Iacchus = IAO = Jehovah, and concentrates I.N.R.I.
We recommend the book for its suggestion and insight; it is one of the best of the kind.
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