THE OBJECTS OF THE MYSTERIES
The earliest Mysteries recorded in history are those of Samothrace. After the distribution of pure Fire, a new life began. This was the new birth of the Initiate, after which, like the Brâhmans of old in India, he became a dvija—a “twice born,”
Initiated into that which may be rightly called the most blessed of all Mysteries . . . being ourselves pure,*
says Plato. Diodorus Siculus, Herodotus and Sanchoniathon the Phoenician—the oldest of Historians—say that these Mysteries originated in the night of time, thousands of years probably before the historical period. Iamblichus informs us that Pythagoras
Was initiated in all the mysteries of Byblus and Tyre, in the sacred operations of the Syrians, and in the mysteries of the Phoenicians.†
As was said in Isis Unveiled:
When men like Pythagoras, Plato and Iamblichus, renowned for their severe morality, took part in the Mysteries, and spoke of them with veneration, it ill behooves our modern critics to judge them [and their Initiates] so rashly upon their merely external aspect.‡
Yet this is what has been done until now, especially by the Christian Fathers. Clement of Alexandria stigmatises the Mysteries as “indecent and diabolical” though his words, showing that the Eleusinian Mysteries were identical with, and even, as he would allege, borrowed from, those of the Jews, are quoted elsewhere in this work. The Mysteries were composed of two parts, of which the Lesser were performed at Agrae, and the Greater at Eleusis, and Clement had been himself
* Phaedrus, Cary’s translation, p. 326.
† Life of Pythagoras, p. 297. “Since Pythagoras,” he adds, “also spent two and twenty years in the adyta of the temples in Egypt, associated with the Magi in Babylon, and was instructed by them in their venerable knowledge;—it is not at all wonderful that he was skilled in magic or theurgy, and was therefore able to perform things which surpass merely human power, and which appear to be perfectly incredible to the vulgar. “ (p. 298).
‡ Vol. II, p. 100.
initiated. But the Katharsis, or trials of purification, have ever been misunderstood. Iamblichus explains the worst; and his explanation ought to be perfectly satisfactory, at any rate for every unprejudiced mind.
Exhibitions of this kind in the Mysteries were designed to free us from licentious passions, by gratifying the sight, and at the same time vanquishing all evil thought, through the awful sanctity with which these rites were accompanied.*
Dr. Wm. Warburton remarks:
The wisest and best men in the Pagan world are unanimous in this, that the Mysteries were instituted pure, and proposed the noblest ends by the worthiest means. †
Although persons of both sexes and all classes were allowed to take part in the Mysteries, and a participation in them was even obligatory, very few indeed attained the higher and final Initiation in these celebrated rites. The gradation of the Mysteries is given us by Proclus in the fourth book of his Theology of Plato.‡
The perfective rite, [, telete] precedes in order the initiation [, muesis], and initiation, the final apocalypse, epopteia.
Theon of Smyrna, in Mathematica, also divides the mystic rites into five parts:
The first of which is the previous purification; for neither are the Mysteries communicated to all who are willing to receive them; but there are certain persons who are prevented by the voice of the crier . . . . . . since it is necessary that such as are not expelled from the Mysteries should first be refined by certain purifications; but after purification, the reception of the sacred rites succeeds. The third part is denominated epopteia, or reception. And the fourth, which is the end and design of the revelation, is [the investiture] the binding of the head and fixing of
* [De Mysteriis . . ., I, ch. xi.]
† [Divine Legation of Moses . . ., II, p. 172.]
‡ [Taylor’s ed. London, 1816, p. 220.]
the crowns* . . . whether after this he [the initiated person] becomes a torchbearer, or an hierophant of the Mysteries, or sustains some other part of the sacerdotal office. But the fifth, which is produced from all these, is friendship and interior communion with God.†
And this was the last and most awful of all the Mysteries.
The chief objects of the Mysteries, represented as diabolical by the Christian Fathers and ridiculed by modern writers, were instituted with the highest and the most moral purpose in view. There is no need to repeat here that which has been already described in Isis Unveiled‡ that whether through temple Initiation or the private study of Theurgy, every student obtained the proof of the immortality of his Spirit, and the survival of his Soul. What the last epopteia was is alluded to by Plato in Phaedrus [250 B.C.]:
Being initiated in those Mysteries, which it is lawful to call the most blessed of all Mysteries . . . we were freed from the molestations of evils which otherwise await us in a future period of time. Likewise, in consequence of this divine initiation, we become spectators of entire, simple, immovable, and blessed visions, resident in a pure light.§
This veiled confession shows that the Initiates enjoyed Theophany—saw visions of Gods and of real immortal Spirits. As Taylor correctly infers:
The most sublime part of the [epopteia] or final revealing, consisted in beholding the gods [the high Planetary Spirits] themselves invested with a resplendent light.||
The statement of Proclus upon the subject is unequivocal:
* This expression must not be understood simply literally; for, as in the initiation of certain Brotherhoods, it has a secret meaning that we have just explained; it was hinted at by Pythagoras, when he describes his feelings after the Initiation, and says that he was crowned by the Gods in whose presence he had drunk “the waters of life”—in the Hindu Mysteries there was the fount of life, and soma, the sacred drink.
† Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, T. Taylor, p. 46, 47.
‡ II, 111; 113.
§ Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, p. 63.
|| Op.cit., p. 65.
In all the initiations and Mysteries, the gods exhibit many forms of themselves, and appear in a variety of shapes; and sometimes, indeed, a formless light of themselves is held forth to the view; sometimes this light is according to a human form and sometimes it proceeds into a different shape.*
Again we have
Whatever is on earth is the resemblance and shadow of something that is in the Sphere. While that resplendent thing [the prototype of the Soul-Spirit] remaineth in unchangeable condition, it is well also with its shadow. When that resplendent one removeth far from its shadow, life removeth [from the latter] to a distance. Again, that light is the shadow of something more resplendent than itself.†
Thus speaks the Desâtîr, in the Book of Shet the Prophet Zirtûsht, thereby showing the identity of its Esoteric doctrines with those of the Greek Philosophers.
The second statement of Plato confirms the view that the Mysteries of the Ancients were identical with the Initiations practised even now among the Buddhist and the Hindu Adepts. The higher visions, the most truthful, were produced through a regular discipline of gradual Initiations, and the development of psychical powers. In Europe and Egypt the Mystae were brought into close union with those whom Proclus calls “mystical natures,” “resplendent Gods,” because, as Plato says:
[We] were ourselves pure and immaculate, being liberated from this surrounding vestment, which we denominate body, and to which we are now bound like an oyster to its shell.‡
As to the East,
The doctrine of planetary and terrestrial Pitris was revealed entirely in ancient India, as well as now, only at the last moment of initiation, and to the adepts of superior degrees.§
* On Plato’s Republic, p. 380; quoted by Taylor, p. 66.
† Verses 35-38. [See: The Desatir or the Sacred Writings of the Ancient Prophets, tr. by Mulla Firuz Bin Kaus, Bombay, 1818, 2 vols.; with additional notes by Dhunjeebhoy Jamsetjee Medhora, Bombay, 1888; rpr. by Wizard’s Bookshelf, Minneapolis, 1975; 1979.—Compiler.]
‡ Phaedrus, 250 C, q. by Taylor, p. 64.
§ Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, p. 114.
The word Pitris may now be explained and something else added. In India the chela of the third degree of Initiation has two Gurus: One, the living Adept; the other the disembodied and glorified Mahâtma, who remains the adviser or instructor of even the high Adepts. Few are the accepted chelas who even see their living Master, their Guru, till the day and hour of their final and for ever binding vow. It is this that was meant in Isis Unveiled, when it was stated that few of the fakirs (the word chela being unknown to Europe and America in those days), however
Pure, and honest, and self-devoted, have yet ever seen the astral form of a purely human pitar (an ancestor or father), otherwise than at the solemn moment of their first and last initiation. It is in the presence of his instructor, the Guru, and just before the vatu-fakir [the just initiated chela] is despatched into the world of the living, with his seven-knotted bamboo wand for all protection, that he is suddenly placed face to face with the unknown PRESENCE [of his Pitar or Father, the glorified invisible Master, or disembodied Mahâtma] . He sees it, and falls prostrate at the feet of the evanescent form, but is not entrusted with the great secret of its evocation, for it is the supreme mystery of the holy syllable.*
The Initiate, says Éliphas Lévi, knows; therefore, “he dares all and keeps silent.” Says the great French Kabalist:
You may see him often sad, never discouraged or desperate; often poor, never humbled or wretched; often persecuted, never cowed down or vanquished. For he remembers the widowhood and the murder of Orpheus, the exile and solitary death of Moses, the martyrdom of the prophets, the tortures of Apollonius, the Cross of the savior. He knows in what forlorn state died Agrippa, whose memory is slandered to this day; he knows the trials that broke down the great Paracelsus, and all that Raymond Lully had to suffer before he arrived at a bloody death. He remembers Swedenborg having to feign insanity, and losing even his reason before his knowledge was forgiven to him; St. Martin, who had to hide himself all his life; Cagliostro, who died forsaken in the cells of the Inquisition†; Cazotte, who perished on the guillotine. Successor of so many victims, he dares, nevertheless, but understands the more the necessity to keep silent.‡
* Loc. cit.
† This is false, and the Abbé Constant (Éliphas Lévi) knew it was so. Why did he promulgate the untruth? [See B.C.W., Vol. XII, pp. 88; 727-30.]
‡ Dogme et Rituel de la haute magie, I, pp. 219-20. (Paris, G. Baillière, 1861.) [See p.90 of English tr. by Waite—Compiler.]
Masonry—not the political institution known as the Scottish Lodge, but real Masonry, some rites of which are still preserved in the Grand Orient of France, and that Elias Ashmole, a celebrated English Occult Philosopher of the XVIIth century, tried in vain to remodel, after the manner of the Indian and Egyptian Mysteries—Masonry rests, according to Ragon, the great authority upon the subject, upon three fundamental degrees: the triple duty of a Mason is to study whence he comes, what he is, and whither he goes; the study that is, of God, of himself, and of the future transformation.* Masonic Initiation was modelled on that in the lesser Mysteries. The third degree was one used in both Egypt and India from time immemorial, and the remembrance of it lingers to this day in every Lodge, under the name of the death and resurrection of Hiram Abiff, the “Widow’s Son.” In Egypt the latter was called “Osiris”; in India “Loka-chakshu” (Eye of the World), and “Dinakara” (day-maker) or the Sun—and the rite itself was everywhere named the “gate of death.” The coffin, or sarcophagus, of Osiris, killed by Typhon, was brought in and placed in the middle of the Hall of the Dead, with the Initiates all around it and the candidate near by. The latter was asked whether he had participated in the murder, and not withstanding his denial, and after sundry and very hard trials, the Initiator feigned to strike him on the head with a hatchet; he was thrown down, swathed in bandages like a mummy, and wept over. Then came lightning and thunder, the supposed corpse was surrounded with fire, and was finally raised.
Ragon speaks of a rumour that charged the Emperor Commodus— when he was at one time enacting the part of the Initiator—with having played this part in the initiatory drama so seriously that he actually killed the postulant when dealing him the blow with the hatchet. This shows that the lesser Mysteries had not quite died out in the second century A.D.
The Mysteries were carried into South and Central America, Northern Mexico and Peru by the Atlanteans in those days when
A pedestrian from the North [of what was once upon a time also India]
* Orthodoxie Maçonnique, p. 99 Paris, E. Dentu, 1853.
might have reached—hardly wetting his feet—the Alaskan Peninsula, through Manchooria, across the future Gulf of Tartary, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands; while another traveller furnished with a canoe and starting from the South, could have walked over from Siam, crossed the Polynesian Islands and trudged into any part of the continent of South America. *
They continued to exist down to the day of the Spanish invaders. These destroyed the Mexican and Peruvian records, but were prevented from laying their desecrating hands upon the many Pyramids—the lodges of an ancient Initiation—whose ruins are scattered over Puente Nacional, Cholula, and Teotihuacan. The ruins of Palenque, of Ococimgo in Chiapas, and others in Central America are known to all. If the pyramids and temples of Guiengola and Mitla ever betray their secrets, the present Doctrine will then be shown to have been a forerunner of the grandest truths in Nature. Meanwhile they have all a claim to be called Mitla, “the place of sadness” and “the abode of the (desecrated) dead.”
* [Five Years of Theosophy, 1885, p. 340. Cf. B.C.W., Vol. V, p. 222.]