It is the worship of outer formal success and ignorance of the inner spiritual reality in religion which has led so often to the triumph of error and defeat of truth, to officialdom, organization, and worldliness. It is the same worship which, in a different sphere, is applied in history to the same unworthy objects with the same deceptive results. The belief that the nations like the religions go from bad to good to better is as falsely but frequently taught as is the belief that power and progress travel together. The same suffocation which overcame the original purity of Christianity overcame many of the finer elements who were crushed by the power of arms, cunning, or treachery. It is this worship of material splendour and military force--so far distant from true heroism--which has made the Roman Empire a subject for so much praise in so many books. Yet the ruthless brutality and vast bloodshed which accompanied both the growth and maintenance of that empire receive little denunciation. Writers and readers are impressed by the splendid buildings and straight roads but know little or nothing about the destroyed spiritual culture of the conquered "barbarians." The official history of religions is as much a mixture of the false with the true as the official history of nations. Those who are capable of independent thought, and who are willing to make the required research among the mutilated records salvaged from deliberate destruction, may hope to find out some part of what really happened and what was originally and really taught by the prophets. All others will have to be satisfied--and generally are--with substitutions, frauds, and perversions among which a remnant of the pure truth shines out the more brilliantly by contrast with its setting. For it was impossible to exclude all the truth from the teaching and the records, nor--let it be said in justice to the official teachers and historians--was it desired to do so.
He who is fully aware of this state of affairs, because he has explored the neglected by-currents of religious history and discovered things which can bring no reward of position, promotion, honour, or money, who has also devoted his time and life to learning the secret of time and understanding the meaning of life--such a lone individual will not be so imprudent as to oppose his forces against this universal current of admiration for what is spurious but successful, false but powerful, dishonest but accepted. If he does not seek martyrdom, he will prefer to remain withdrawn, obscure, retired, and dispense his knowledge or grace to the few who really seek Truth. As for the others, the multitude, who must attend throughout the day to their physical wants and have neither the leisure nor facilities nor inclination to probe such matters--what are they to do? Knowing no better, what else can they do than accept the lies along with the truths, the impostures along with the authenticities, the whole dubious mixture of good and bad. Until quite recently this lone individual could not help them even if he wished, for the attempt would at once call down official persecution and extinction. All that he could do was what in fact he did do, pass the truth to a closed circle and thence let it be transmitted in the same secret way to other closed circles through the centuries.
If today so much has been publicly released as to constitute a veritable revelation, we must thank these pioneers and initiates who both in Europe and in the Near-East and India kept the teachings intact during earlier times. And although nothing can still equal the personal initiation by a master in effectiveness, nevertheless the wider intellectual initiation of our times is itself an immense advance on the secrecy formerly imposed by harsh necessity and makes most of the teaching available to the multitude.
-- Notebooks Category 20: What Is Philosophy? > Chapter 2: Its Contemporary Influence > # 294