‘Island of Philae’. Aquarelle by Franz Christian Gau-1819.
In the ‘Akademie der Bildenden Künste’ in Wien.
Another sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, a dialog by Louis Menard, in ‘Les Rêveries d’un Paien Mystique’. Paris, George Cres, 1911. (From page 125 to 136). With this dialog, we are excited to share a cycle of texts devoted to Louis Menard’s memory in the coming days and weeks.
‘A French scholar and writer whose vision of ancient Greek religion and philosophy influenced the Parnassian poets. Ménard was a gifted chemist (an early investigator of collodion) as well as a painter and historian. He devoted himself to classical studies. In 1866 he translated the ‘Corpus Hermeticum’ in French with notes and a thorough study. He published in 1876 ‘Rêveries d’un païen mystique’ (“Rêveries of a Mystic Pagan”), which expounds his philosophy. He later held academic chairs in decorative art and universal history.’
‘A free-thinker and critic of both Christianity and attempts to overcome religion through reason and science, Ménard described his religious views as “mystical paganism”, which he expounded through his poetry and prose works. His ‘Du polythéisme hellénique ‘(1863) lays out his understanding of ancient Greek religion. ‘Rêveries d’un paien mystique’ (1876), which contained sonnets, philosophical dialogues and some stories, was followed in 1896 by ‘Poèmes et rêveries d’un paien mystique’. With his neo-paganism and Hellenism, which was similar to what earlier had been expressed by Gérard de Nerval, he had an impact on the Parnassian movement of poetry. There is an appreciation of Ménard in the opening chapter of Maurice Barrès’s ‘Le Voyage de Sparte’.’ (Source: Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Brittanica).
‘The wisdom of God is veiled
by a darkness and by a nameless chaos,
but it shines sometimes like a very pure light.
The wisdom of man is like a twilight and like a dawn
that gravitates between these two poles.’
‘The Message Rediscovered’,
Hermes: Put the lamp onto the ground, Asclèpius; only you and me know the underground entrance to this sanctuary, we are now safe.
Asclèpius: Why, O Trismegistus, did you bring me in the middle of the night in the vaults of the Philae temple? Are you going to reveal to me the last mysteries and have I reached the term of my initiation?
Hermes: You are my loyal disciple, Asclèpius, and the only friend that I have left on earth, since Tat and Ammon have been slaughtered by the monks of Syèna (Aswan). The foresight of a danger that concerns only me has warned that it was high time for me to transmit my duties of Hierophant. You will be called Hermes and your disciples, when you have found them will be called Tat, Asclèpius and Ammon. May the hieratic tetrad be completed, so that it must transmit, from one generation to another, the legacy of the sacred science.
Asclèpius: I fear that this wish could not be granted, O Trimegistus, unless we give shelter to an abandoned child, like you once did with me; how would I find a disciple in the midst of Christian Egypt?
Hermes: I know, Asclèpius, we live in the bad days foretold by our prophetic books. Egypt, this holy land, beloved by the gods for its dedication to their cult, has become a school of profanity; the children trample the religion of their fathers. Since Emperor Theodose‘s fatal edict, so easily accepted by the cowardice of the people, the statues of the gods are being broken, and on the walls of the temples, now serving as churches, their image are hammered and covered with lime. Only the sacred island of Philae, still harbors the antic wisdom, but I have reasons to fear that us two, its last loyal servants, we will be forced soon to leave this supreme sanctuary. This is why I wanted to entrust you a sacred treasure that you will carry further towards the source of the Nil, in the deserts where profanity cannot reach you. Have I not spoken often of the veil of Isis?
Asclèpius: More than once, in fact, you have spoken about this marvelous veil that no mortal hands have ever lifted, where all the flowers of earth are embroidered in shining colors, all the stars of the sky in golden glitter. But I never saw this magnificent veil, or rather, I think that your words were an enigma that I have failed to pierce its meaning.
Hermes: Open this big ebony trunk, of which here is the key. The one who was my initiator and master, the preceding Hermes, managed to withdraw it from the flames that were combusting the library of Alexandria at the time of the destruction of the temple of Serapis. It contains the sacred books of all the nations, and first of all, those of our ancestors; the ‘Book of the Manifestations to the Light’ with the additions from king Menkera; Pentaour’s poems about the wars of the great Ramses; the books of Thoth Trismegistus-not the unfaithful or falsified translations, but the original text-exactly as it was carved on Thoths ‘s columns in sacred characters. Next to it lies the most ancient collection of Greece’s most ancient poets; Homerus, and the whole epic cycle, Hesiod, Parmenides and Empedocles; the first collection of Orpheus’s hymns; poets who became so rare such as Alcius, Stesidorus and others of the lyrical genre; the original copies of the tragic genre borrowed by the Ptolemy from the Athenians; further we have the Chaldean and Phoenician books, consulted and copied by Berozius and Sanchoniaton; the Law and the prophecies of the Jews and even the books of the Just and on the wars of IAO, which were used by the priests of Jerusalem to compose their Bible and that the Jews have now lost; finally, the sacred books of the Brahmans and Magus, the Vedas and the Avesta brought to Alexandria by the very first Lagides, after Alexander’s expedition.
Asclèpius: This trunk contains a priceless treasure, O Trismegistus, but what is the link with the veil of Isis?
Hermes: These books contain the primitive forms of the religious revelation. There, the human intelligence, in the spring of its own virginity, has translated through multiple symbols the very first intuitions about the nature of things. Each nation has weaved with love a piece of this ornate mantle with flowers and stars. As speech translates thought, the immutable truth manifests itself by the changing spectacle of the appearances. This is the mystical veil of the great Isis. It was transparent for the clear eye of early humanity; the universal mother had no secrets for the child she was rocking in her arms. It became impenetrable for the aging races and no mortal eye can lift it. Heavenly lights dimmed in the evening shadow, nature wraps itself in silence and its oracles are mute for us. We dissect one by one the flowers of her robe, but life escapes analysis, the origin and end of things elude the eye of science, and we can only grasp the secret of our destiny by interrogating the language of the symbols, this mysterious language that our fathers spoke and that we do not understand anymore. Let’s preserve, O Asclèpius, this sacred legacy of the religious traditions; it is the heritage of the past that must be transmitted to the future. May it cross the dark centuries that are now unfolding for the world and reappear, spotless, to the very first sun rays of a new dawn !
Asclèpius: Do you foresee, O Trismegistus, a renaissance of the light, above the dark night into we are now entering ?
Hermes: All that vegetates and crawls on earth, O Asclèpius, everything that swims in the water and flies in the air, follows in its development the periodical revolution of the sun. It is the source of movement in the intelligences and in the bodies. The life of Man, between birth and death, imitates the alternate of day and night, the succession of the seasons of the year. Nation’s history reproduces the ascending and descending march of human life, as the whole is the magnified image of each of its parts, like we see when breaking a salt cube, it is formed by an infinity of elementary cubes. It is, therefore, natural that nations, like everything that is alive, have their growing and decline periods, mirror of the seasons and the hours. Youth correspond to the morning and to spring, maturity to summer and the mid-day, old age to autumn and evening. These successive phases are followed by death that resembles to night and winter. We must also believe, in history as in nature, spring will succeed to winter and dawn to the night.
Asclèpius: What do you mean by the death of a nation, O Trismegistus? If are talking about its enslavement by foreigners, Egypt is dead since the time of Cambyses.
Hermes: Conquest, O Asclèpius, can be compared not to death but to servitude. We must distinguish between the conquered nations those who always obeyed to kings and those who had the habit to govern themselves. When the republics of Greece were submitted by the Romans, we could apply Homer’s word: Man when enslaved loses half of his soul; while for Egypt, it doesn’t matter if its master is called Ramses or Cambises, Ptolemy or Cesar. It is different for the death of nations; it resembles to the death of Man and is identified by the same signs. Life ceases for Man when the soul leaves the body it loved: The soul of the nations is their religion; a nation that has denied its gods is a dead nation. This is what has happened since the victory of Christianity, not only to Egypt, but to all the nations that composed the Roman Empire. New nations will take their places. The empire established by Constantine in Byzantium is not the Roman empire, even though it kept its name; it is a new empire and will follow its fates. Gaul, Spain, Italy are already occupied by barbarians races, the same fate awaits Egypt, as Thoth’s prophecy is soon to be accomplished.
Asclèpius: But you often said, O Trismegistus, that death was only one of the modes of existence. Our fathers believed in the immortality of the soul and in its transmigrations. Nations also must find beyond death a new life in their descendants, and you spoke a while ago of a renaissance.
Hermes: Egypt will be reborn, but it will not be like in the past the great center of intelligence, because this center moves through time and goes from the east to the west, like the sun in the sky. A new race will rule in Egypt and will build temples for a new cult; but by the revolution of the ages these temples will fall in ruin and the monument erected by our ancestors will remain, even though mutilated, less by the injuries of time than the ungodliness of Man. The new empires will enter into the night and in the middle of their rubbles and the sand of the desert, the pylons of Thebes and the pyramids of Memphis.
Asclèpius: And what will happen in these distant centuries of the soul of the old Egypt?
Hermes: The souls, you know that, dwell in the ether, between the region of the clouds and the region of the stars. It is from there that they dispense their blessed influence. But, alike the sun cannot dispend its warmth and light to those who avoid its rays in hiding in caves, so the forgotten dead, in turn, also forget the living. They are present only to those who think about them and who pray to them. The thought of the ancient nations would shine like a lighthouse over the future, if the future would gather the lessons of the past like a son’s respect over his father’s memory; but the time has come, when according to Thoth’s word, we would prefer darkness over light and death over life. Ancient Egypt can sleep in the depth of its necropolis; at the time when science will invoke it, it would find a way to reveal the secret of its mysterious language to those who would interrogate it fervently.
Asclèpius: An indistinct noise comes to us here, Trismegistus; I fear that our refuge will be discovered; I will open the sluices, if it is still time.
Hermes: Why bother, Asclèpius? Let destiny fulfill itself; it is better to die together…He is gone and doesn’t hear me anymore. The noise is approaching, a clash of arms, hasty footsteps, death shouts. Let’s join him. But here he comes back. Are you wounded my son?
Asclèpius: I am dying, father. It was too late to close the way to them. They are now in the underground path following my blood’s trail. He dies; Bishop Theodorius enters followed by monks and soldiers.
Theodorius: Seize this old man and tie his hands, but respect his life, our God forbids the shedding of blood.
Hermes: Why then have you shed the blood of this young man?
A centurion: Rebellion and ungodliness are crimes. It has been sixty years now that an edict has proclaimed the closing of all of the idols ‘s temples . It is a shame for Egypt that the Demon still holds in Philae one last lair.
A monk: Deliver us the treasure that you keep hidden somewhere in these caves, and we will forget the punishment that you deserve.
Hermes: I would have delivered it to you to buy back the life if this young man; as you have killed him, my secret will die with me.
A soldier: Then die and may your fake religion disappear from this earth.
Hermes: I was awaiting this response and I am grateful to the hand that has stricken me.
The centurion: Let’s break this ebony trunk; the treasure must be there.
Hermes: It is all yours; it can be of use; keep it for your children.
Theodorius: What, only scrolls of papyrus? Without doubt books of magic: Let them be burned; our children have the Gospel and do not need any other reading. As soon as tomorrow, this temple will be purified and consecrated to the true God.
Hermes: Thoth’s prophecy is now accomplished; the great night is now overwhelming the world. You are blaspheming the gods of your fathers, you are destructing yourselves the work of centuries and give nothing for the barbarians to do. They will eventually come to avenge us; they will proscribe your religion like you proscribing ours. Egypt will offer its hands to the chains of slavery and in the future, when travelers will come from distant lands of the West to admire the ruins of our temples, if they would look for the descendants of this powerful race that was the ancestor and tutor of all nations, they would be seeing swarming the silt of the Nile a people of jackals, searching the earth where our dead are resting and violate their tombs to sell the coffins of their ancestor. I am dying and may the gods reunite me with he who was my disciple and my last friend. No pious hands will come bury, according to our sacred rites, the last two priests of a dead religion, but our delivered souls, will fly together towards the luminous spheres where dwell the souls of our fathers.