In the "History of the Christian Religion to
the year two hundred," by Charles B. Waite, A.M., announced and reviewed
in the Banner of Light (Boston), we find portions of the work relating
to the great thaumaturgist of the second century A.D. Apollonius
of Tyana, the rival of whom had never appeared in the Roman Empire.
"The time of which this volume takes special cognizance is divided
into six periods, during the second of which,A.D.
80 to A.D. 120, is included the 'Age of Miracles,'
the history of which will prove of interest to Spiritualists as a means
of comparing the manifestations of unseen intelligences in our time with
similar events of the days immediately following the introduction of Christianity.
Apollonius Tyaneus was the most remarkable character of that period, and
witnessed the reign of a dozen Roman emperors. Before his birth, Proteus,
an Egyptian god, appeared to his mother and announced that he was to be
incarnated in the coming child. Following the directions given her in a
dream, she went to a meadow to gather flowers. While there, a flock of swans
formed a chorus around her, and, clapping their wings, sung in unison. While
they were thus engaged, and the air was being fanned by a gentle zephyr,
Apollonius was born."
This is a legend which in days of old made of every remarkable
character a "son of God" miraculously born of a virgin. And what
follows is history. "In his youth he was a marvel of mental
power and personal beauty, and found his greatest happiness in conversations
with the disciples of Plato, Chrysippus and Aristotle. He ate nothing that
had life, lived on fruits and the products of the earth; was an enthusiastic
admirer and follower of Pythagoras, and as such maintained silence for five
years. Wherever he went he reformed religious worship and performed wonderful
acts. At feasts he astonished the guests by causing bread, fruits, vegetables
and various dainties to appear at his bidding. Statues became animated with
life, and bronze figures ' from their pedestals, took the position and performed
the labors of servants. By the exercise of the same power dematerializaton
occurred; gold and silver vessels, with their contents, disappeared; even
the attendants vanished in an instant from sight.
"At Rome, Apollonius was accused of treason. Brought to examination,
the accuser came forward, unfolded his roll on which the accusation had
been written, and was astounded to find it a perfect blank.
"Meeting a funeral procession he said to the attendants, 'Set down
the bier, and I will dry up the tears you are shedding for the maid.' He
touched the young woman, uttered a few words, and the dead came to life.
Being at Smyrna, a plague raged at Ephesus, and he was called thither. 'The
journey must not be delayed,' he said, and had no sooner spoken the words
than he was at Ephesus.
"When nearly one hundred years old, he was brought before the Emperor
at Rome, accused of being an enchanter. He was taken to prison. While there
he was asked when he would be at liberty? 'To-morrow, if it depends on the
judge; this instant, if it depends on myself.' Saying this, he drew his
leg out of the fetters, and said, 'You see the liberty I enjoy.' He then
replaced it in the fetters.
"At the tribunal he was asked: 'Why do men call you a god?'
" 'Because,' said he, 'every man that is good is entitled to the
" 'How could you foretell the plague at Ephesus?'
"He replied: 'By living on a lighter diet than other men.'
"His answers to these and other questions by his accusers exhibited
such strength that the Emperor was much affected, and declared him acquitted
of crime; but said he should detain him in order to hold a private conversation.
He replied: 'You can detain my body, but not my soul; and, I will add, not
even my body. Having uttered these words he vanished from the tribunal,
and that same day met his friends at Puteoli, three days' journey from Rome.
"The writings of Apollonius show him to have been a man of learning,
with a consummate knowledge of human nature, imbued with noble sentiments
and the principles of a profound philosophy. In an epistle to Valerius he
"'There is no death of anything except in appearance; and so, also,
there is no birth of anything except in appearance. That which passes over
from essence into nature seems to be birth, and that which passes over from
nature into essence seems, in like manner, to be death; though nothing really
is originated, and nothing ever perishes; but only now comes into sight,
and now vanishes. It appears by reason of the density of matter, and disappears
by reason of the tenuity of essence; but is always the same, differing only
in motion and condition.'
"The highest tribute paid to Apollonius was by the Emperor Titus.
The philosopher having written to him, soon after his accession, counselling
moderation in his government, Titus replied:
" 'In my own name and in the name of my country I give you thanks,
and will be mindful of those things. I have, indeed, taken Jerusalem, but
you have captured me.'
"The wonderful things done by Apollonius, thought to be miraculous,
the source and producing cause of which Modern Spiritualism clearly reveals,
were extensively believed in, in the second century, and hundreds of years
subsequent; and by Christians as well as others. Simon Magus was another
prominent miracle-worker of the second century, and no one denied his power.
Even Christians were forced to admit that he performed miracles. Allusion
is made to him in the Acts of the Apostles, viii: 9-10. His fame was world-wide,
his followers in every nation, and in Rome a statue was erected in his honor.
He had frequent contests with Peter, what we in this day would call miracle-matches
in order to determine which had the greater power. It is stated in 'The
Acts of Peter and Paul' that Simon made a brazen serpent to move, stone
statues to laugh, and himself to rise in the air; to which is added: 'as
a set-off to this, Peter healed the sick by a word, caused the blind to
see, &c.' Simon, being brought before Nero, changed his form: suddenly
he became a child, then an old man; at other times a young man. 'And Nero,
beholding this, supposed him to be the Son of God.'
"In 'Recognitions,' a Petrine work of the early ages, an account
is given of a public discussion between Peter and Simon Magus, which is
reproduced in this volume.
"Accounts of many other miracle-workers are given, showing most
conclusively that the power by which they wrought was not confined to any
one or to any number of persons, as the Christian world teaches, but that
mediumistic gifts were then, as now, possessed by many. Statements quoted
from the writers of the first two centuries of what took place will severely
tax the credulity of the most credulous to believe, even in this era of
marvels. Many of those accounts may be greatly exaggerated, but it is not
reasonable to suppose that they are all sheer fabrications, with not a moiety
of truth for their foundation; far less so with the revealments made to
men since the advent of Modern Spiritualism. Some idea of the thoroughness
with which every subject is dealt with in this volume may be formed when
we state that in the index there are two hundred and thirteen references
to passages relating to 'Jesus Christ'; from which, also, it may be justly
inferred that what is given must be of great value to those seeking information
that will enable them to determine whether Jesus was 'Man, Myth, or God.'
'The Origin and History of Christian Doctrines,' also 'The Origin and Establishment
of the Authority of the Church of Rome over other Churches,' are fully shown,
and much light thrown upon many obscure and disputed questions. In a word,
it is impossible for us, without far exceeding the limits prescribed
for this article, to render full justice to this very instructive book;
but we think enough has been said to convince our readers that it is one
of more than ordinary interest, and a desirable acquisition to the literature
of this progressive age."1
Some writers tried to make Apollonius appear a legendary character, while
pious Christians will persist in calling him an impostor. Were the
existence of Jesus of Nazareth as well attested by history and he himself
half as known to classical writers as was Apollonius no sceptic could doubt
to-day the very being of such a man as the Son of Mary and Joseph. Apollonius
of Tyana was the friend and correspondent of a Roman Empress and several
Emperors, while of Jesus no more remained on the pages of history than as
if his life had been written on the desert sands. His letter to Agbarus,
the prince of Edessa, the authenticity of which is vouchsafed for by Eusebius
alone the Baron Munchausen of the patristic hierarchy is called in the
Evidences of Christianity "an attempt at forgery" even
by Paley himself, whose robust faith accepts the most incredible stories.
Apollonius, then, is a historical personage; while many even of the Apostolic
Fathers themselves, placed before the scrutinizing eye of historical
criticism, begin to flicker and many of them fade out and disappear like
the "will-o'-the-wisp" or the ignis fatuus.
Theosophist, June, 1881
H. P. Blavatsky
1 Second Edition, I vol., 8vo., pp. 455. Chicago: C. V. Waite & Co. Thomas
J. Whitehead & Co., agents for New England, 5 Court Square, Room 9,
back to text