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by [?]

Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle make frequent references to Pythagoras. In order to impress men like these, the man must have taught a very exalted philosophy. In truth, Pythagoras was a teacher of teachers. And like all men who make a business of wisdom he sometimes came tardy off, and indulged in a welter of words that wrecked the original idea–if there were one.

There are these three: Knowledge, Learning, Wisdom. And the world has until very recent times assumed that they were practically one and the same thing.

Knowledge consists of the things we know, not the things we believe or the things we assume. Knowledge is a personal matter of intuition, confirmed by experience. Learning consists largely of the things we memorize and are told by persons or books. Tomlinson of Berkeley Square was a learned man. When we think of a learned man, we picture him as one seated in a library surrounded by tomes that top the shelves.

Wisdom is the distilled essence of what we have learned from experience. It is that which helps us to live, work, love and make life worth living for all we meet. Men may be very learned, and still be far from wise.

Pythagoras was one of those strange beings who are born with a desire to know, and who finally comprehending the secret of the Sphinx, that there is really nothing to say, insist on saying it. That is, vast learning is augmented by a structure of words, and on this is built a theogony. Practically he was a priest.

Worked into all priestly philosophies are nuggets of wisdom that shine like stars in the darkness and lead men on and on.

All great religions have these periods of sanity, otherwise they would have no followers at all. The followers, understanding little bits of this and that, hope finally to understand it all. Inwardly the initiates at the shrine of their own conscience know that they know nothing. When they teach others they are obliged to pretend that they, themselves, fully comprehend the import of what they are saying. The novitiate attributes his lack of perception to his own stupidity, and many great teachers encourage this view.

“Be patient, and you shall some day know,” they say, and smile frigidly.

And when credulity threatens to balk and go no further, magic comes to the rescue and the domain of Hermann and Kellar is poached upon.

Mystery and miracle were born in Egypt. It was there that a system was evolved, backed up by the ruler, of religious fraud so colossal that modern deception looks like the bungling efforts of an amateur. The government, the army, the taxing power of the State, were sworn to protect gigantic safes in which was hoarded–nothing. That is to say, nothing but the pretense upon which cupidity and self-hypnotized credulity battened and fattened.

All institutions which through mummery, strange acts, dress and ritual, affect to know and impart the inmost secrets of creation and ultimate destiny, had their rise in Egypt. In Egypt now are only graves, tombs, necropolises and silence. The priests there need no soldiery to keep their secrets safe. Ammon-Ra, who once ruled the universe, being finally exorcised by Yaveh, is now as dead as the mummies who once were men and upheld his undisputed sway.

* * * * *

The Egyptians guarded their mysteries with jealous dread.

We know their secret now. It is this–there are no mysteries.

That is the only secret upon which any secret society holds a caveat. Wisdom can not be corraled with gibberish and fettered in jargon. Knowledge is one thing–palaver another. The Greek-letter societies of our callow days still survive in bird’s-eye, and next to these come the Elks, who take theirs with seltzer and a smile, as a rare good joke, save that brotherhood and good-fellowship are actually a saving salt which excuses much that would otherwise be simply silly.