‘Hygeia and Aesculapius’, Thomas Bulfinch, The Age of Fable (Philadelphia: Henry altemus Company, 1897).
This sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an excerpt from Anna Kingsford,The Credo of Christendom: and Other Addresses and Essays on Esoteric Christianity. Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland. Edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart. John M. Watkins, London, 1916.
From the conference: ‘“VIOLATIONISM,” OR SORCERY IN SCIENCE’
…/…‘The science of medicine, placed originally under the direct patronage of the Gods, whether Egyptian, Oriental, Grecian, or Teutonic, and subsequently under that of the Christian Church, was among all nations in the days of faith associated with the priestly office. The relation between soundness of soul and soundness of body was then held to be of the closest, and the health-giving man, the therapeut, was one who cured the body by means of knowledge, Divine alike in its source and in its method. In Egypt, where the order of the Theraputae seems to have had its origin, healing was from the earliest times connected with religion, and there is good reason to believe that the practice of medicine was the exclusive and regularly exercised profession of the priesthood, the first hospital of which we have any record being within the consecrated precincts of the temple, and the sick being placed under the immediate care of its ministrants.
More than one deity was associated with medical and therapeutic science. According to Diodorus (lib. i.), the Egyptians held themselves indebted for their proficiency in these respects to Isis. Strabo speaks of the methodical treatment of disease in the Temple of Serapis, and Galen makes similar observations with regard to a temple at Memphis, called Hephaestium. As is well known, the name Paean, the Healer, was one of the most ancient designations of Apollo in his capacity of Sun-god. This title, and the function it implies, are ascribed to him in the Orphic Hymns, in the Odes of Pindar, and in the writings of Hippocrates, Plato, and all the later poets and historians, both Greek and Latin. Ovid attributes to Apollo the declaration: “Medicine is my invention; throughout the world I am honoured as the Healer, and the power of the herbs is subject to me.”
AEsculapius, reputed the son of Apollo, gave his name to medical science; and his temples, the principal of which were at Titana in Sicily, at Epidaurus in Peloponnesus, and at Pergamus in Asia Minor, were recognised schools of medicine, to whose hierophants belonged the double function of priest and physician. These medical temples were always built in localities noted for healthiness, and usually in the vicinity of mineral springs, that at Epidaurus, the most celebrated of them all, being situated on an eminence near the sea, its site having been determined doubtless rather by the beauty of the scenery and the purity of the air, than by the tradition that Epidaurus was the birthplace of AEsculapius himself.
The course of treatment adopted comprised hydropathy, shampooing, dieting, magnetism, fumigations, gymnastics, and herbal remedies, internally and externally administered, these remedies, being in all cases accompanied with prayers, music, and songs called νόμοι. In the hospitals of Pergamus and Epidaurus the use of wine was forbidden, and fasting was frequently enjoined. It was also held indispensable that the professors of so divine an art as that of medicine should be persons of profound piety and learning, of sound moral and spiritual integrity, and therefore of blameless lives. It was, as Ennemoser observes in his ‘History of Magic’, deemed necessary that the aspirant after medical honours should be “a priest-physician. Through his own health, especially of the soul, he is truly capable, as soon as he himself is pure and learned, to help the sick. But first he must make whole the inner man, the soul, for without inward health no bodily cure can be radical. It is therefore absolutely necessary for a true physician to be a priest.”
This was also the idea of the early Hebrew and Christian Churches, whose physicians always belonged to the sacred order.
Many of the primitive Christian religious communities were schools of medicine; and the visitation of the sick, not only in the priestly, but in the medical capacity was held to be a special function of the clergy. The custom still survives under a modified form in Catholic countries, where “religious” of both sexes are employed in hospitals as nurses and dressers, the higher duties of the calling having been wrested from them by the laity – often too justly designated the “profane.”
Such, universally, was the early character of medical science, and such the position of its professors. “Priest” and “Healer” were religious titles, belonging of right only to initiates in Divinity. For the initiate only could practise the true magic, which, originally, was neither more nor less than the science of religion or the Mysteries, that Divine knowledge, won by reverent and loving study of Nature, which made the Magian free of her secrets and gave him his distinctive power.’ …/…