Tag Archives: Julian the Apostate

From Ancient Mysteries to Rome, Part 2

A study of history can, however, bring to light something else in this connection, that is of very great significance. Into the external exoteric culture of Greece flowed much of this threefold teaching of

  1. Zarathustra, teaching of the spiritual Sun
  2. Osiris, the elemental Sun and
  3. Anaxagoras, of Zeus, the Sun-flooded ether environment of the Earth.

The world would never have had such a sublime Greek art, nor such a wonderful Greek philosophy, nor a Plato or an Aristotle, were it not that into the art and philosophy of Greece flowed streams from this ancient wisdom.

A time came, however, when the initiation truths that were handed down from past epochs were no longer sufficiently protected from profanation. Many teachings that had their source in initiation wisdom passed into the hands of distinguished Romans, more especially the Roman emperors. Among them all, perhaps of Augustus alone can it be said that he still knew how to value the initiation wisdom that was imparted to him. In the Roman world there was, generally speaking, no understanding for the esoteric factor in Greek art and Greek wisdom, no recognition that these contained elements which could be traced back to the very most ancient wisdom teaching. Consequently, the hopelessly prosaic, the semi-barbarous civilization of Rome took over what we may call the surface brightness, the sheen, of Greek culture, but was quite incapable of handing on, in its true form, to later generations what lived at the heart of this culture. And so when Roman influences began to permeate the Christianity that had, ever since the Mystery of Golgotha, been making its way into the world, there was no possibility for Christianity to receive, along with all that came from Rome, the true essence of the ancient culture.

Because Rome did not know how to value and guard initiation, the genuine initiation truths of earlier times have been prevented from finding their way over to the West. We must realize that we, as human beings possessing the ordinary consciousness of modern times, have been debarred from the sacred truths of olden times because Rome was unable to understand these truths. As we know, it was a man who hailed from Rome that drove out of Europe the last remaining Greek philosophers and obliged them to seek refuge in the East.

Now, there was in a later time a man who came as near to the teachings of initiation as it was possible to come in the time in which he lived, and who was acquainted with the teaching o£ these three aspects of the Sun — the aspect of the Sun according to Zarathustra, the aspect of the Sun that is associated with Osiris, and the aspect of the Sun as seen and understood by Pythagoras and Anaxagoras. This man was Julian the Apostate. He was not able himself to behold the Sun in all three aspects, but he knew of the teaching; he knew it as a tradition that had come down in the Mystery Schools. And so impressed was Julian the Apostate by this teaching of the three aspects of the Sun that to him that which Christianity brought seemed small in comparison. For he still knew of the inexpressible glory and splendor into which Zarathustra had gazed; he had learned to know also of the activities of fire and of light, of the cosmic chemical forces, and of the cosmic life-forces, as man had been able to behold them in the ancient Mysteries. Of all this he, Julian, could in his time still learn, albeit only by tradition.

This whole teaching seemed to him so sublime, so mighty, that he found himself unable to accept Christianity. The thoughts and purposes of his mind were, in fact, turned in quite another direction. He seized with the desire to impart to mankind the ancient Mysteries into which he had himself been initiated up to a certain degree. And this, my dear friends, was what led at last to the unsheathing of the dagger that brought his life to a violent end. The hand that lifted the dagger belonged to one of those who counted it a sin to communicate the lofty teachings of initiation to the general run of mankind. Julian’s murderer wanted that people should hear of the Sun spoken of in an external manner only.

Julian the Apostate declared that the Sun has three aspects:Bust of Julian the Apostate

  1. its influence on the Earthly ether
  2. its heavenly light that is behind the Earthly ether, the warmth, the chemical, and the life forces
  3. the aspect of pure spiritual Being.

For this he was put out of the way arranged by one of his own soldiers (tradition says John Martyr the Warrior). And indeed it must be admitted that the moment had not yet come when mankind in general was ripe to receive such weighty and solemn truths. That time has now come.

Reevaluating Julian the Apostate

A complex person and emperor of Rome, Julian’s biographers have described him as “a man of unusually complex character: he was ‘the military commander, the theosophist, the social reformer, and the man of letters’. He was the last non-Christian ruler of the Roman Empire, and it was his desire to bring the Empire back to its ancient Roman values in order to save it from dissolution. He purged the top-heavy state bureaucracy and attempted to revive traditional Roman religious practices at the cost of Christianity. His rejection of Christianity in favor of Neo-platonic paganism caused him to be called Julian the Apostate (Ἀποστάτης Apostates, ‘a person who has abandoned their religion, principles’)

“Julian’s personal religion was both pagan and philosophical; he viewed the traditional myths as allegories, in which the ancient gods were aspects of a philosophical divinity. The chief surviving sources are his works To King Helios and To the Mother of the Gods.

“He learned theurgy from Maximus of Ephesus, a student of Iamblichus; his system bears some resemblance to the Neoplatonism of Plotinus; Polymnia Athanassiadi has brought new attention to his relations with Mithraism, although whether he was initiated into it remains debatable; and certain aspects of his thought (such as his reorganization of paganism under High Priests, and his fundamental monotheism) may show Christian influence. Some of these potential sources have not come down to us, and all of them influenced each other, which adds to the difficulties.” For more on Julian visit here on Wikipedia.

Continuing from the historical account from Wikipedia, Julian “restored pagan temples which had been confiscated since Constantine’s time, or simply appropriated by wealthy citizens; he repealed the stipends that Constantine had awarded to Christian bishops, and removed their other privileges, including a right to be consulted on appointments and to act as private courts. He also reversed some favors that had previously been given to Christians.

“On 4 February 362, Julian promulgated an edict to guarantee freedom of religion. This edict proclaimed that all the religions were equal before the law, and that the Roman Empire had to return to its original religious eclecticism, according to which the Roman state did not impose any religion on its provinces.

“In his Tolerance Edict of 362, Julian decreed the reopening of pagan temples, the restitution of confiscated temple properties, and the return from exile of dissident Christian bishops. During Julian’s brief reign from 361-363 CE, his popularity among the people and the army indicated that he might have brought paganism back to the fore of Roman public and private life [keep this point in mind].

“In 363, not long before Julian left Antioch to launch his campaign against Persia, he ordered the Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt.  A personal friend of his, Ammianus Marcellinus, wrote this about the effort:

‘Julian thought to rebuild at an extravagant expense the proud Temple once at Jerusalem, and committed this task to Alypius of Antioch. Alypius set vigorously to work, and was seconded by the governor of the province; when fearful balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations, continued their attacks, till the workmen, after repeated scorchings, could approach no more: and he gave up the attempt.’

The failure to rebuild the Temple has been ascribed to the Galilee earthquake of 363, and to the Jews’ ambivalence about the project. Sabotage is a possibility, as is an accidental fire. Julian’s support of Jews caused Jews to call him ‘Julian the Hellene.’

On 26 June 363, at the indecisive Battle of Samarra, received a wound from a spear that reportedly pierced the lower lobe of his liver, the peritoneum and intestines. Although the wound was not immediately deadly, Julian would die a few days later. In 364, Libanius stated that Julian was assassinated by a Christian who was one of his own soldiers.”

Sassanian relief of the investiture of Ardashir II showing (right to left) Shapur II, Mithra, and Ahura Mazda above a defeated Julian, lying prostrate.

Rudolf Steiner states that “Julian was brought face to face with the deeper implications of the problem of evil and the relation of Christ Jesus to this problem. He hoped to find an answer through initiation into the Persian Mysteries [Mithraic and Zarathustrian] and to return to Europe with the solution. But unfortunately he fell by an assassin’s hand during the Persian campaign. It can be proved historically that this was the work of an adherent of Constantine.  … In the following years the Augustinian principle triumphed – ideas that in any way echoed Manichaeism were forbidden, i.e. the inclusion of material ideas i spiritual thinking. The West therefore was driving to an abstract mode of thinking and in the course of time this mode of thinking permeated the whole of Western Europe. … Julian therefore was engaged in a titanic struggle. He finally attempted, by reviving Manichaeism, to bring about continuity in the evolution of the pagan Mysteries. … That he was doomed to fail was a necessity of the time. And we shall not understand the reason for his failure if we belittle his great achievements, if we fail to see him as a titanic figure, fighting for a realistic understanding of the relations between man and the universe. And it is of paramount importance today to recall these great moments in the historical evolution of the West. For we are living in an age from which we shall not emerge with a healthy outlook unless we make a fresh assessment of the aims of Julian the Apostate. It was not possible in his time – herein lies his great tragedy – to reconcile the old principle of initiation with the real essence of Christianity. Today this has become possible and we must not fail to translate the possibility into reality if the world and mankind are not to suffer evolutionary decline. People must realize the need for regeneration in all spheres of life and above all the crying need to restore communication with the spiritual world.

Coptic icon showing Saint Mercurius killing Julian. 

Julian understood the greatness of the ancient mysteries and had hoped to restore them for the guidance of mankind. He could not fully grasp Christianity as already in his time much was deceived and lost.

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