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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Apollonius of Tyana

(1st century CE). A philosopher and teacher of the first century to whom has been attributed the power to perform what appeared as miraculous feats. While many of the accounts about him seem mythical or legendary, he was undoubtedly a historical figure. He was frequently mentioned in the writings of the early Church fathers. A primary source of information about his life is the biography written by Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, which was written about a century later and which many critics consider to be unreliable. This work is based on various sources, such as the diary of a traveling companion of Apollonius named Damis, some letters and books purportedly written by Apollonius, and reports from other sources.

Apollonius was a neo-Pythagorean who was reported to have magical and healing powers. During his teens he entered the temple of Aesculapius from where he learned the art of healing. He is reported to have been asked to end the plague of Rome by the Emperor Domitian. Philostratus also reported that Apollonius resurrected a dead woman. He traveled to India and Egypt. He maintained an ascetic regimen, abstaining from wine and meat, and refused to take part in hunting.

He traveled to Athens to seek to be initiated into the mysteries of Eleusis. He was at first refused because of his reputation as a supposed charlatan. When later the hierophant changed his mind, it was Apollonius who declined to be initiated, predicting that he will be initiated by another hierophant whom he named. This was realized four years later.

During the reign of Emperor Domitian, Apollonius was put on trial, acquitted and miraculously vanished from the court, in the presence of Domitian and a large audience. He is said to have appeared an hour later in a grotto of Puteoli.

Helena P. BLAVATSKY considered Apollonius to be an Adept or an initiate who had acquired extraordinary powers. He was, she wrote, a NIRMANAKAYA, not an Avatar. Regarding the biography of Philostratus, she wrote:

The greatest teachers of divinity agree that nearly all ancient books were written symbolically and in a language intelligible only to the initiated. The biographical sketch of Apollonius of Tyana affords an example. As every Kabalist knows, it embraces the whole of the Hermetic philosophy, being a counterpart in many respects of the traditions left us of King Solomon. It reads like a fairy story, but, as in the case of the latter, sometimes facts and historical events are presented to the world under the colors of a fiction. The journey to India represents allegorically the trials of a neophyte. His long discourses with the Brahmans, their sage advice, and the dialogues with the Corinthian Menippus would, if interpreted, give the esoteric catechism. His visit to the empire of the wise men, and interview with their king Hiarchas, the oracle of Amphiaraüs, explain symbolically many of the secret dogmas of Hermes. They would disclose, if understood, some of the most important secrets of nature. (IU I:19)

V.H.C.

 

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