with their Egyptian fantasies . . . “rnWithin moments, Anicius was on the torturers’ hooks as arnsuspected Christian, and lambhchus’s plan for setting up an officialrnanti-Christian church was adopted unanimously by Maximianrnand Galerius, as it were, the two vohng members of therncommittee. “But,” Porphyr)’ suggested delicately, “What if?”rn”Wliat if they do win? They have so far reRised to be treatedrnas one more mystery cult, and if they once get control, they willrnhave to exterminate our religion, just as we have tried to exterminaterntheirs.”rnlamblichus saw the point at once. “To prepare for that event,rnwe must keep our plan a complete secret. Our little conspiracyrnwill be a mystical brotherhood, handing down the hiddenrnteachings from one generation to the next. When things getrnhot, we’ll pretend to be the most Christian of Christians, andrnwhen things cool down again—as everything in the course ofrnnature must—we’ll be able to come out again in the open. Inrnthe meantime, what’s to prevent us from infiltrating and takingrnover their entire conspiracy?”rnIamblichus’s plot seemed a little loopy to the Balkans bandittirnwho controlled the world, and, in the event, the divine emperorsrnhad enough to do in the next few years, fighting amongrnthemselves and, ulfimately, against Constantius’ son who eliminatedrnboth Galerius and Maxentius, the latter with the help ofrnthe Christians’ God, Who sent him a vision. Encouraged, Constantinernproceeded first to official toleration and then to activernencouragement of the Church.rnlamblichus, however, was not discouraged, and he passed hisrnsecret plan down to his disciples, especiallv to Aedesius, whorntaught the secret to Maximus, who b’ good fortune became thernmentor of Constantine’s talented nephew, Julian. Wlien Julian,rnby a stroke of luck, became emperor (just at the momentrnhis cousin Constantius was about to annihilate his imperial jjretensions),rnhe was in a position to begin turning back the clock.rnTo lessen the influence of Christians, he forbade them to teachrnpagan learning; he instituted an elaborate hierarchv of priesthoods,rnand spent so much of his free time in personally performingrnsacrifices that he was nicknamed the “slaughterer.”rnUnfortunately, old Priscus turned out to have been right.rnWhile there were riots and a fresh spate of mob actions and martyrdoms,rnpagans did not rally to the new religion. By now, mostrnof tiiem had Christian friends, and even those who hated thernChurch regarded the idealistic young emperor as a figure ofrnfun.rnJulian’s death and disastrous campaign against the Parthians,rnthough it was not foretold by his neopagan philosopher friendsrnwho egged him on, was predicted by the Sibylline books and byrnthe Etruscan soothsayers he took with him. It was as if therernwere still a drop of truth in the old-time religion, that the godsrnwere having one last laugh before they went to sleep, at the expensernof the neopagans. All of Julian’s work was rapidly dismantiedrnin the succeeding reigns of Jovian and Valentinian,rnand in a little more than 100 years, Chri.stianity was establishedrnand the old religions outlawed by Theodosius.rnThe underground conspiracy, however, went on. Therernwere still educated pagans both in the Latin West and in thernGreek East, and some of them were let in on the plot. Documentsrnare scarce, but every few hundred years we get a glimpserninto the conspiracy—Proclus, the late-fourth-centur)’ “philosopher”rnwho openly carried on the project of contaminating Platornwith pseudo-Orphic magical mysteries; Michael Psellus, thern11th-century Byzantine historian who alternated between deridingrnpagan myths and discovering in them “a deeper wisdom”—rnbut, for the most part, we are in the dark.rnThe light, so to speak, begins to dawn in the 15th century,rnwhen the Greek Platonist George Gemistus Plethon arrives inrnItaly in 1439 with his friend Bessarion, as part of the Greek delegationrnto the Council of Florence. In Florence, he makes arnbig impression on a local gangster-politician named Cosimo dernMedici, and Cosimo arranges a secret meeting to which he invites,rnin addition to both Plethon and Bessarion, several youngrnItalian intellectuals, including Marsilio Ficino.rnBoth sides are very wary. The town is crawling with believers,rnand no one trusts Bessarion; Rumor has it that he is even preparedrnto sell out the Greeks to the Latins —imagine what hernmight do if he could get a price for all their heads! Still, Plethonrnhas vouched for him, telling the gangster-banker: “He’s not arnreal member of the movement I’ve told you about, but he is arnsympathizer, a friendly companion on our great journey.”rnWTiat went on in the meeting will be revealed at a later time,rnbut the principal result was the formation of the famous PlatonicrnAcademy at Florence, whose members gathered up all thernneoplatonist superstition they could find and disseminated it asrnthe perennial wisdom of the ancients going back to the buildersrnof the pyramids. Plethon lived to a ripe old age, dying beforernthe Greek Church could give him the dismemberment whichrnhis openly pagan writings had invited. His friend Bessarion —rnnow a cardinal in the Roman Church—sent a beautiful eulogyrnto the family, saying that if Plethon’s belief in metempsychosisrnwere correct, then he must have been the reincarnation of Platornand Plotinus. Plethon would now be enjoying eternity in thernE]}’sian fields with his beloved Greek heroes.rnBessarion remained a good friend of Ficino, whom he addressedrnas “the Platonist” (as opposed, presumably, to a Christian).rnCardinal Bessarion conducted himself as an orthodoxrnChristian in public, but with Ficino he could afford to be morerndirect, and Ficino was bold enough to write Bessarion in 1469rnthat the darkness in which Plato’s thoughts had been cloakedrnwas dispelled—as earth is burnt out of gold —in the laboratory’rnof Plotinus, Porphyry, lamblichus, Proclus, and now of Bessarion,rnwho has written “the” book on Plato. A significant list, to sayrnthe least.rnWithin a hundred years, the movement has grown far andrnwide and developed so many branches that it is impossible tornkeep track of them. “Platonism” and “Hellenism” becomerncode words for an all-out attack on Aristotle, whose philosophyrnis identified with Christian orthodoxy. The Church itself is infected,rnand the misrule of Cosimo’s great-grandson (Pope LeornX) helps to drive Luther into open rebellion.rnBy the early 18th century, some of the extremists form evenrnmore bizarre societies of “freemasons,” using the nonsense inrnthe Chaldean Oracles and in Hermes Trismegistus to claim arn(nonexistent) Egyptian origin for their doctrines. In the 20thrncentury, these theories will emerge in a new form under thernguise of Afrocentrism, which merely changes the skin color ofrnthe pharaohs. In the meantime, a new nation had been createdrnin the Atlantean West, whose leaders were all initiates into thernlower levels of the mysteries. They laid out the capital of theirrnNew World according to the astrological theories of the Masters,rnand emblazoned on their most sacred object—a greenrnpiece of paper held in universal reverence —an image of thernpyramid surmounted by the Great Eye.rnThou hast triumphed, O Syrian. ‘^rn12/CHRONICLESrnrnrn