THEOSOPHY, Vol. 43, No. 11, September, 1955
(Pages 511-518; Size: 21K)



[Part 1 of a 5-part series]

Men and parties, sects and schools are but the mere ephemera of the world's day. TRUTH, high-seated upon its rock of adamant, is alone eternal and supreme. 

--Isis Unveiled
NOT one in a million perhaps of all those who call themselves "Christian" has the faintest conception of the history surrounding the early beginnings of his Church. Almost everyone is familiar with what is recorded in the New Testament concerning the differences of opinion that arose between Peter and Paul. But how many are aware of the fact that the cleavage here commenced, continued to grow; that for several centuries after the time of Jesus the best and most prominent of the Church Fathers were irreconcilably divided among themselves on issues of basic doctrine? How many even know that in order to retain power and authority, the dominant sectarians inaugurated a custom never before known in the recorded annals of religious history -- the custom of anathema? These men were too narrow and dogmatic in belief to allow room within the Church for natural divergencies of opinion, which alone could have made of Christianity a vital and healthy organism, and the result was a course of action diametrically opposed to the principle of tolerance reflected in the life of their supposed inspiration, Jesus of Nazareth. Having no faith in their capacity to win the adherence of thinking minds, the Church Fathers used anathema for the purpose of "persuading" those who could not be converted, and of silencing those not to be persuaded.

A central philosophical figure of this particular phase of Church History, the individual who contributed more perhaps than any other person to the true health and vigor of the living Church, was Origen -- philosopher, scientist, saint. Through the study of comparative religions, and especially with the help of Greek and Oriental inspiration, Origen sought to establish Christianity on a philosophic basis by showing the fundamental ideas beneath them all to be the same. According to Jerome, who adopted the words of Didymus, the blind theologian of Alexandria, Origen was "the greatest teacher of the Church after the apostles." This, of course, was before Jerome's enthusiasm for the teacher had cooled. The Encyclopædia Britannica says that Origen was "the most prominent of all the Church Fathers with the possible exception of Augustine." However this may be, the Church denounced Origen, and chose to follow the leadership of lesser lights. This decision began a series of anathemas, curses, and excommunications that drove from its membership the best and most elevated minds of the time.

Although Origen lived in the early part of the third century A.D., and although the anathema had been in use since about that time, it is to the sixth century especially, to an event that occurred in the year 543, that the student is invited to give all his attention. For the millennium "beginning with Buddha and Pythagoras at one end and the Neo-Platonists and Gnostics at the other, is the only focus left in History," says The Secret Doctrine, "wherein converge for the last time the bright rays of light streaming from the æons of time gone by, unobscured by the hand of bigotry and fanaticism."

The Fifth Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church was held in Constantinople in 553 A.D., and this date is sometimes taken by students of the ancient wisdom religions as marking the end of the "millennium of light" referred to by H.P.B. The Britannica, moreover, states that it was at this council that the Church pronounced the notorious "anathemas" against Origen, condemning as heretics all those who believe in and support his "impious" doctrines. The eminent Church historian, Robertson, however (according to Eirenicon for February-March, 1944), says that the anathemas were declared at an earlier local synod of Constantinople in 443. In any event, the Emperor Justinian, following the example of the Church, himself proclaimed a series of anathemas employing the following "Christian" sentiments:

If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their impious writings, as also all other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and by the aforesaid four Holy Synods and (if anyone does not equally anathematize) all those who have held and hold or who in their impiety persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned: let him be anathema. 

(The Fifth Ecumenical Council)

Anathema to Origen and to that Adamantius, who set forth these opinions together with their nefarious and execrable and wicked doctrine, and to whomsoever there is who thinks thus, or defends these opinions, or in any way hereafter at any time shall presume to protect them. 

(Emperor Justinian of Rome)
Whether the thousand years of darkness that hung over Europe was due to some force antagonistic to the Church, as is claimed by some religious historians, or to these very acts of the Church itself, is a question no one can decide for another, but which every sincere Christian ought to think about and attempt to answer for himself. Those who believe in "Karma, the universal Law of Justice," are able to detect in this scene what appears a perfect example of the operation of moral cause and effect: by refusing to allow sincere divergencies of opinion inside the Church, Christianity, as a result, found itself split, a thousand years later, into a multitude of sects without!

One phase of the work of the Theosophical Movement of the present age is the vindication of glorious but calumniated reputations. In Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky spared no effort to call the attention of thinking mankind to the abuses and slander, the tragic injustices perpetrated by the ruling faction of the early Church against its many opponents, among them being Origen. Vindication of the life and work of Origen, defender of the true spirit of Christianity, is long overdue; and this can best be achieved by declaring the true nature and character of Origen's teachings. Unfortunately, little remains of the writings; the works of Origen, with few exceptions, were destroyed. Yet the irony of this particular page of Church history is the astonishing fact that, by pronouncing its curses, the Church actually helped to preserve some of the teachings it intended to destroy.

It is proposed therefore to list the anathemas just as they stand, leaving each individual student to search out for himself the shreds of truth that remain. (In a forthcoming issue, effort will be made to suggest the similarities of doctrine, as here portrayed, between the system of Origen and that of the ancient Wisdom-Religion, or Theosophy. As is so often the case, the doctrines contrary to those of Origen -- in this instance the anathemas -- help to clarify Theo-sophia by contrast. Obviously, though, in such condensed treatment, the writer hopes merely to be provocative.)

The Fifth Ecumenical Council
The Second Council of Constantinople
A.D. 553


If anyone assert the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that the creation of all reasonable things includes only intelligences without bodies and altogether immaterial, having neither number or name, so that there is unity between them all by identity of substance, force and energy, and by their union with and knowledge of God, the Word; but that no longer desiring the sight of God, they gave themselves over to worse things, each one following his own inclinations, and that they have taken bodies more or less subtile, and have received names, for among the heavenly Powers there is a difference of names as there is also a difference of bodies; and thence some became and are called Cherubims, others Seraphims, and Principalities, and Powers, and Dominations, and Thrones, and Angels, and as many other heavenly orders as there may be: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that the sun, the moon, and the stars are also reasonable things, and that they have only become what they are because they turned towards evil: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that the reasonable creatures in whom the divine love had grown cold have been hidden in gross bodies such as ours, and have been called men, while those who have attained the lowest degree of wickedness have shared cold and obscure bodies and are become and called demons and evil spirits: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that a psychic condition has come from an angelic or archangelic state, and moreover that a demoniac and a human condition has come from a psychic condition, and that from a human state they may become again angels and demons, and that each order of heavenly virtues is either all from those below or from those above and below: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that there is a twofold race of demons, of which the one includes the souls of men and the other the superior spirits who fell to this, and that of all the number of reasonable beings there is but one which has remained unshaken in the love and contemplation of God, and that that spirit is become Christ and the king of all reasonable beings, and that he has created all the bodies which exist in heaven, on earth, and between heaven and earth; and that the world which has in itself elements more ancient than itself, and which exist by themselves, viz: dryness, damp, heat and cold, and the image to which it was formed, was so formed, and that the most holy and consubstantial Trinity did not create the world, but that it was created by the working intelligence which is more ancient than the world, and which communicates to it its being: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that Christ, of whom it is said that he appeared in the form of God, and that he was united before all time with God the Word, and humbled himself in those last days even to humanity, had (according to their expression) pity upon the divers falls which had appeared in the spirits united in the same unity (of which he himself is part), and that to restore them he passed through divers classes, had different bodies and different names, became all to all, an Angel among Angels, a Power among Powers, had clothed himself in the different classes of reasonable beings with a form corresponding to that class, and finally has taken flesh and blood like ours and is become man for man; [if anyone says all this] and does not profess that God the Word humbled himself and became man: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall not acknowledge that God the Word, of the same substance with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and who was made flesh and became man, one of the Trinity, is Christ in every sense of the word, but [shall affirm] that he is so only in an inaccurate manner, and because of the abasement, as they call it, of the intelligence; if anyone shall affirm that this intelligence united to God the Word, is the Christ in the true sense of the word, while the Logos is only called Christ because of this union with the intelligence, and e converso that the intelligence is only called God because of the Logos: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that it was not the Divine Logos made man by taking an animated body with a rational spirit (anima rationalis) and VOEPA, that he descended into hell and ascended into heaven, but shall pretend that it is the NOUS which has done this, that NOUS of which they say (in an impious fashion) he is Christ, properly called, and that he is become so by knowledge of the Monad: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that after the resurrection the body of the Lord was ethereal, having the form of a sphere, and that such shall be the bodies of all after the resurrection; and that after the Lord himself shall have rejected his true body and after the others who rise shall have rejected theirs, the nature of their bodies shall be annihilated: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that the future judgment signifies the destruction of the body and that the end of the story will be an immaterial [false appearance?] and that thereafter there will no longer be any matter, but only spirit: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that the heavenly Powers and all men and the Devil and evil spirits are united with the Word of God in all respects, as the NOUS which is by them called Christ and which is in the form of God, and which humbled itself as they say; and [if anyone shall say] that the kingdom of Christ shall have an end: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that Christ [i.e., the NOUS] is in no wise different from other reasonable beings, neither substantially nor by wisdom nor by his power and might over all things but that all will be placed at the right hand of God, as well as he that is called by them Christ [the NOUS], as also they were in the feigned pre-existence of all things: let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that all reasonable beings will one day be united in one, when the hypostases as well as the numbers and the bodies shall have disappeared, and that the knowledge of the world to come will carry with it the ruin of worlds, and the rejection of bodies as also the abolition of [all] names, and that there shall be finally an identity ... of the hypostasis; moreover, that in this pretended apocatastasis, spirits only will continue to exist, as it was in the feigned pre-existence; let him be anathema.


If anyone shall say that the life of the spirits shall be like to the life which was in the beginning while as yet the spirits had not come down or fallen, so that the end and the beginning shall be alike, and that the end shall be the true measure of the beginning; let him be anathema.

Constantinople, A.D. 553


Whoever says or thinks that human souls pre-existed, i.e., that they had previously been spirits and holy powers, but that, satiated with the vision of God, they had turned to evil, and in this way the divine love in them had died out and they had therefore become souls and had been condemned to punishment in bodies, shall be anathema.


If anyone says or thinks that the soul of the Lord pre-existed and was united with God the Word before the Incarnation and Conception of the Virgin, let him be anathema.


If anyone says or thinks that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ was first formed in the womb of the holy Virgin and that afterwards there was united with it God the Word and the pre-existing soul, let him be anathema.


If anyone says or thinks that the word of God has become like to all heavenly orders, so that for the cherubim he was a cherub, for the seraphim a seraph: in short, like all the superior powers, let him be anathema.


If anyone says or thinks that at the resurrection, human bodies will rise spherical in form and unlike our present form, let him be anathema.


If anyone says that the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the waters that are above heavens, have souls, and are reasonable beings, let him be anathema.


If anyone says or thinks that Christ the Lord in a future time will be crucified for demons, as he was for man, let him be anathema.


If anyone says or thinks that the power of God is limited, and that he created as much as he was able to compass, let him be anathema.


If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


What devout religious believer would not lie about some enemy of his religion, if by so doing he might prevent an attack on his faith or because it might possibly benefit by an untruth? The religious believer's conscience would not be "clear" if he did not resort to every devious means to defend his religion.

In 1378, when the infamous Urban VI became Pope, he, as head of the Roman Catholic Church, "made a solemn and general declaration against keeping faith with heretics." How convenient to resort to false reasoning and Jesuitical sophistry to support an untenable premise!

Martin Luther, after admonishing Philip of Hesse to tell a "good stout lie," defends his advice in the following words: "What would it matter if, for the sake of the Christian Church, one were to tell a big lie?"

Macaulay, in evaluating the doctrine, said that "pagans, who had never heard the name of Christ, and who were guided only by the highest light of nature, were more trustworthy members of civil society than men who had been formed from schools of the Popish casuists." 


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(1) Excerpted from A Selected Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Vol. 14, Series 2, entitled "The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church," edited by Henry R. Percival, M.A., D.D. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1900), pp. 318-20.
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