The Arcane Schools by John Yarker

ORIGIN AND ANTIQUITY OF THE ARCANE SCHOOLS.
CHAPTER IV.
THE MYSTERIES IN RELATION TO PHILOSOPHY.

THE chief difficulty in the minds of writers who have written upon the Mysteries and Freemasonry is owing to the varieties of names by which the former have been known in different nations, and the comparatively modern designation of the latter Society. But this difficulty disappears in a great measure when we recognise that the Rites are of great antiquity, derived from a primitive source, that they had all the same general principles and varied chiefly but in the technicalities and language of the country in which they were celebrated. We may safely admit that the general characteristics of the Mysteries were the same in all nations.

Thus in the course of ages, by national divergence in the mode of expressing thought, new names for the old Rites arose, and translations made into new tongues. The Assyrian Dionisu is the Greek Dionysos, the Latin Bacchus, and the Egyptian Osiris. In other cases the Mysteries were known by their place of conferment, or by the name of the Hierophant who introduced them. In other cases names varied according to the particular degree of the writer; thus it is said that Bacchus the Lord of the Cross and the pine-cone, becomes Iacchus in the mouth of an epoptae addressing him as Lord of the planet. Similarly we learn from Plutarch that Ishter, Demeter, Ceres, and Isis are all one, and represent living matter, or matter vivified by spirit, which is a doctrine of the Mystae, or first grade of Initiation. The higher spiritual birth of the twice-born is taught in the martyrdom of these gods. {101} Each nation, however, gave to the Mysteries a tinge of its own culture, precisely as Osiris, Isis, and Horus, are counterparts of the two deific principles, and created forms, equally with the Christian Trinity of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Pausanius gives the name of Saotus or saviour to the Mystery-god, and he was designated Liberator, and ΥΗΣ.

Varron, the most learned of the Latins, in his treatise "De Lingun Latina," says, iv. p. 17: "The principal gods are Heaven and Earth. They are the same gods which in Egypt are named Serapis, Isis, and Harpocrates, which with Phoenicians are Thoth and Astarte, the same in Latin as Saturn and Ops (the earth). In effect the earth and the heavens are the sacred instruction of Samothrace, treated as the Great Gods." That is they are the active and passive principles of nature, and belong to the earlier and less cultured life of the Greeks. Tertullian says that they raised three altars to the great gods -- that is the male and female principles became three in their progeny -- the oldest of trinities.

The ostensible hero of the Mysteries of Greece was the sun-god, and Martinus Capellus, in his hymn to the sun written in the fifth century, says: --

"Thee, the dwellers on the Nile, adore as Serapis,

And Memphis worships thee as Osiris.

Thou art worshipped as Mithra, Dis, and cruel Typhon;

In the sacred rites of Persia thou art Mythras,

In Phrygia the beautiful Atys;

And Lybia bows down to thee as Amon,

Phoenician Byblos as Adonis;

Thus the whole world adores thee under different names."

Ausonius has verses to the like effect, adding Dionysos for India, and Liber for Italy: --

"Hail! true image of the gods and thy father's face,

Thou whose sacred name, surname, and omen,

Three letters that agree with the number 608."1 {101} YHS = 400 + 8 + 200 = 608. In Chaldee and Hebrew, Cham or Ham, heat, is also 608.

Although Cumberland, Bishop of Peterborough, in his "Origines Gentium Antiquissmae" has set himself the impossible task of deriving all mankind from Noah within the period of the Rabinical chronology, he has many valuable quotations which tend toe elucidate the Mysteries. He quotes Herodotus as affirming in his Euterpe, for a known truth, that Ceres or Demeter is also Isis; Clemens Alexandrinus also affirms it, and proves it out of a book of Leon, who wrote the history of the Egyptian gods. Diodorus Siculus is cited by Eusebius as saying that Osiris is Dionysus or Bacchus, and that Isis is Demeter or Ceres; Diodorus makes Prometheus the crucified Cabric God to be contemporary with Osiris. Plutarch quotes Anticlides to prove that Osiris is the same person as Dionysus or Bacchus. Prometheus is said to be son of Japhetus, or Japhet, and Isis the wife of Osiris his daughter, as is also asserted by Anticlides. Another son of Japhetus, according to Apollodorus, was Atlas. Pausanius affirms the Prometheus and his son Aetnaus planted the Cabiric Mysteries in Boetia, but that they received this sacred depositum from Ceres. Much of this is mystical, but it all goes to prove what we began by saying, namely, that the Mysteries were all one, and varied only in the language.

Herodotus speaks of the celebration at night, in Egypt, of the sufferings of a god whose name is too sacred to be written. The Phoenician Mysteries, as we learn from Meursius, and Plutarch, exhibited the corpse of a young man strewn with flowers, for whom the women mourned, and for whom a tomb was erected. Macrobius says that in the Mysteries of Adonis there was a nine days fast and lamentation which was succeeded by hymns of joy in honour of the risen god. Fermecius informs us the similar rites were used in the Mythraic Mysteries. The Chevalier Ramsay affirms that this is the characteristic of all the Mysteries, and that of their traditional history, {102} and is a prophesy of the coming of a suffering Messiah, who is symbolised by the sun.2

According to Herodotus the Mysteries entered Greece from Egypt, and from Greece they entered Italy; and he informs us in positive language that the Rites of the Egyptian Osiris and Latin Bacchus are the same, and were carried into Greece about 2,000 years before his time (450 B.C.) by Melampus, who either took them direct, or derived them from Cadmus and his Tyrian companions. The system of these which Orpheus propagated taught a divine trinity in unity, which, according to Damaskios, was represented by a Dragon with three heads, that of a bull, a lion, and between a god with wings of gold; these Rites, if we may rely on tradition, were devoted to music. Dionysius Halicarnassus says that the priests of Serapis chanted a hymn of seven vowels: the same had place in Greece, and there are representations of these seven heads, over each of which is seen one of the vowels.

All the Mysteries had three principal trials or baptisms, namely, by water, fire, and air; and there were three specially sacred emblems, the phallus, egg, and serpent, thus represented ΙΟΦ. The two generative emblems were sacred in all the Mysteries.

The advantages gained by initiation into these Rites are thus set forth by various writers: They diffuse a spirit of unity and humanity wherever introduced; purify the soul from ignorance and pollution; secure the peculiar aid of the gods; the means of arriving at the perfection of virtue; the serene happiness of a holy life; the hope of a peaceful death and endless felicity; also a distinguished place in the Elysian fields; whilst those who have not participated in Initiation shall dwell after death in places of darkness and horror.3

Porphyry gives the following as the precepts of the Mysteries: (1) Honour parents; (2) Venerate the Gods; (6) be Humane to animals. Plutarch (Laconic Apothegms {103} of Lysander) to confess all wicked acts. The pre-Hebrew commandments termed the seven precepts of the Noachidae are: (1) Abstain from Idolatry; (2) Blaspheme not; (3) Do no murder; (4) Commit not Adultery; (5) Do not steal; (6) Administer justice; (7) Eat not flesh cut from the live animal.

The Rites of Eleusis in Greece are those of which we have the fullest particulars, and we shall therefore take them as the complement of all the others, and give as much as can be gathered from prejudiced and unprejudiced sources, poets, philosophers, and their bitter enemies the Christians. The Rite is said to have followed the Orphic doctrine, and to have been established about 1423 B.C., in the reign of Erectheus King of Athens, which city had previously been occupied by a colony from Egypt. Though best known, yet not the most ancient, the Eleusinia would seem to have constituted rather a democratic society than a Sacerdotal College, as if their intention was to absorb all the popularity of these institutions; to be followed, at a later period, by the appropriation, by minor schools of Philosophers, of all the knowledge to be gained in these Colleges. It is, however, noteworthy that the tradition of the ancient unity of King and Priest was preserved in the title of Basileus or King given to the Presiding officer; and Lysias says that it was his duty to offer up prayers, and to preserve morality. These Mysteries were at the same time essentially secret and sacred, embodying a scenic representation, in which all classes might participate except bastards and slaves, who were especially excluded by the action of Euclid, the Archon, or chief, in 402 B.C., and a different person from the later Geometrician. It is worthy of note that the old Constitutional Charges of Free Masons exclude the same persons.

Although the Cabiric Mysteries, like those of Egypt, preserved, at least in name, an idea of the worldly sciences, the Eleusinia would seem to have abandoned the pretensions to these, and only required that the Neophyte should {104} in youth be liberally and appropriately educated. The time had arrived when art in Greece could be learned outside the Mysteries which constituted a holy drama, influencing the ancient theatre, and the "Mystery plays" of Christians. Mr. James Christie in his work upon the "Greek Vases" holds that phantasmal scenes in the Mysteries were shewn by transparencies, such as are yet used by the Chinese, Javanese, and Hindus. In symbol, he says, a ball of wool represents the thread of life not yet spun; gutta, fecundity; sesame, fertility; water, the creation of beings from that element; wine, the life; an olive leaf at the top of a vase, spirit; and a wavy line, water on which spirit acts.

There were Nine Archons, of whom the Chief was properly so called as the word means Commander, he had jurisdiction over all ecclesiastical and civil affairs, with the title of Eponymus. The second was Basileus or King, who superintended religious ceremonies, festivals, and Mysteries. The third was the Polemarchos, who had care of strangers and conduct of war. The other six were termed Thesmothetae, from two words -- "law," and "I establish" they formed a tribunal for judging minor offences. All were elected by lot, were free of taxes, and on their Induction took an oath to administer justice impartially.

Certain noted persons, of whom Pythagoras was one of the earliest and most remarkable, travelled over the whole known world, in order to obtain Initiation in the Mysteries of the countries that he visited. The society which Pythagoras established, as well as others of later date, was the result of an attempt to combine in one common society the knowledge to be gained in all the Mysteries; curiously enough the same principle has been followed in Freemasonry. The Pythagorean Society may thus be considered the forerunner of the various Arcane Schools which followed its decay; it has the closest analogy with the Masonic Society, and whether we look upon this Craft as a primitive system, an ancient imitation of the Mysteries, or a slightly altered branch of the Cabiri, we may {105} equally expect to find that there is the same doctrine, or the same wisdom religion which lay at the foundation of all the Arcane Mysteries; and this is what we shall find as we proceed; and at the same time it is one of the strongest proofs we can expect to have of the antiquity of Free-masonry.

We will now enquire into the general nature of the ceremonial of the Eleusinia as a fair representation of what was taught in these schools. They consisted of the Lesser and Greater Mysteries for which there was a general preparation or apprenticeship in the shape of "a preparation from youth in appropriate disciplines." Between the conferment of these two sections there was a probation extending from one to five years. The drama went on parallel lines with the Egyptian "Ritual of the Dead," which dwells upon the moral and spiritual qualities, which are necessary in this life, that the soul may obtain justification in a future state. The apocryphal book called the "Wisdom of Solomon" (c. 17) would seem to describe the Tartarean terrors of the Mysteries, applied to the plagues of Egypt.

The magnificent temple of Eleusis was lighted by a single window in the roof, and images of the sun, moon, and mercury were represented therein. Macrobius says that the temple of Bacchus at Thrace was also round and lighted also by a round window in the roof, by which to introduce the resplendent image of the sun. Proclus says that the proceedings were begun with a prayer in which "heaven" and "earth" were respectively invoked. In respect to the signs of the Zodiac the same writer informs us that six were considered male, and six female signs; and Porphyry assimilates the journey of the sun through these signs with the twelve labours of Hercules. The three chief hierophants of the Mysteries bore respectively the symbols of the sun, moon, and mercury; and as the Basileus represented the Demiurgos who fashions rude matter or chaos into created forms, so it was typified that the Basileus was to recreate the Neophyte or draw him {106} from imperfect nature to a more refined state, or as Masons equally would say, with the philosophers, work him from the rough to the perfect Ashlar. The Stolistes, according to Clemens Alexandrinus regulated the education of the young, and bore as their emblem of authority the square rule; and the prophet had suspended at the neck an urn with the water of regeneration.4

The ceremonial of Initiation began by a solemn proclamation5: "Let no one enter here whose hands are not clean, and whose tongue is not prudent."

The candidate was also, as a preliminary, desired to confess his sins, or at least the greatest crime he had ever committed. He was required to bathe in the pure sea in face of the sun, and pour water on his head three times. Certain fasts were enjoined, after which the sacrifice of an animal was made. After two days the shows began with a procession, then followed for three days and three nights the mourning of Demeter for her daughter. After which a sacramental meal of cakes and liquor was partaken.

Prior to the Initiation there was an opening catechism as follows: --

The Hierophant demands: "Who are fit to be present at this ceremony?"

To which the answer was: "Honest, good, and holy men."

The Hierophant then ordered: "Holy things for holy persons."

The Herald proclaimed: "Far hence the profane, the impious, all those polluted by sin." For an uninitiated person to remain after this was death.

Stobaeus quotes an ancient writer who says, that the first stage of Initiation "is a rude and fearful march through night and darkness," but this over, "a divine light displays itself, and shining plains and flowery meads open on all hands before them. There they are entertained with hymns and dances, with the sublime doctrines of faithful knowledge, and with revered and holy visions." {107} The first portion was emblematical of the wanderings of the soul in the paths of error and the punishments it would thereby bring upon itself; and the second part represented the dispersion of the shades of night, before the brilliant sun of the Mysteries.

Justin Martyr gives the oath of Initiation as follows: -- "So help me heaven, the work of God who is great and wise; so help me the Word of the Father which he spake when he established the whole universe in his wisdom." Dion Chrysostom speaks of Mystic sounds and alternations of light and darkness, and the performance of Mystic dances in imitation of the movements of the planets round the sun. Plato in "Euthydemus" speaks of Mystic dances in the Corybantic (or Cabiric) Mysteries where the cradle of the young Bacchus was guarded with Mystic dance and music.

The following remarks of a Naasene, or Ophite Gnostic, on these Mysteries are given by Hippolytus, Martyr 235 A.D., and confirms other quotations we shall give from Virgil. He says that: "The Lesser Mysteries are those of Proserpine below and the path which leads to them is wide and spacious to conduct those who are perishing." It is the truth which Chrishna the Hindu god taught to Arjuna, namely that those who give themselves up to worldly pleasures will be confined to the sphere of the earth and be reborn in such bodies as they have merited: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven"; "Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many there be that go in thereat; but straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth to life, and few there be that find it." Apuleius in his account of his reception into the Isisic Mysteries, after being relieved of his brutish nature by eating roses, which was a flower sacred to Isis, proceeds to say that he approached the confines of Hades, having been borne through the elements, and that he saw the sun at midnight.

The Latin Virgil, a poet, Platonist, astrologer, and {108} Geometrician, has some noteworthy passages which bear upon these details. Priam of Troy sent away his son Polydorus into Thrace, with a large treasure, and in order to obtain this his attendants murdered him. Aeneas, a Trojan Initiate and therefore a Cabir, happening, on reaching that part, to pull up a myrtle growing upon a hillock, discovered by the lamentations, which the plant is represented as magically making, the murdered body of Polydorus, upon which his remains are taken up and decently interred. The myrtle was a plant sacred in the Mysteries, and Virgil here speaks of the "secret rites of Cybele, mother of the gods"; and Cybele was the name for Ceres amongst the Phrygian Cabiri. Again when Queen Dido resorts to Magical arts to detain Aeneas from sailing: (Book iv.)

"A leavened cake in her devoted hands

She holds, and next the highest altar stands;

One tender foot was shod, the other bare,

Girt was her gathered gown, and loose her hair."

A maxim of Pythagoras was: "Sacrifice and adore unshod." Ovid describes Medea as having arms, breast, and knees made bare; and Roman Postulants for religious and political offices, assumed an air of humility, with cloak and tunic ungirt, arm and breast bare, and feet slipshod. The "toga candida" is yet used in Masonry.

Another quotation from Pythagoras is this: "The path of vice and virtue resembles the letter "Y"; from the excellence of the sentiment it was termed the "Golden Branch," of which the broad, left-hand line, symbolised the easy road to Tartarus, whilst the narrow right line represented the path to Elysium. Decius Magnus Ausonius, a poet of the fourth century says: "The Bough represents the dubious Y, or two paths of Pythagoras." The sacred branch of the Mysteries varied in the different rites: the erica or heath was sacred to Osiris, the rose to Isis, the ivy to Dionysos, the myrtle to Ceres, the lettuce to Adonis, the lotus to Hindus, the mistletoe to Druids, the acacia to Jews, the palm to Christians. {109}

Turn we now to Virgil's interesting book, which contains the account of the descent of Aeneas into Tartarus, and which undoubtedly embodies the drama of the Eleusinian representation of Hades and Elysium.

A Sybil, or prophetess, requires for the purpose to be undertaken, that Aeneas shall seek a Golden Branch which shoots from a small tree. It is the mistletoe of the Druids who were of this school, and styled the plant "pren" "puraur" or the tree of pure gold: it could only be cut by a pure, white-robed Druid with bare feet, and by using a golden sickle, it probably formed a part of the "brew of Ceridwen," which was given to the Initiate to aid the gift of intuition; the Aryo-Celts were then in Italy. This Golden Branch was to serve Aeneas as a passport, but as the Sybil informs him of the death of a friend, a fact unknown to him, the body has first to be found; this done we have Lamentations: --

"With groans and cries Misenius they deplore,

Old Coryanus compassed "thrice" the crew,

And dipped an "olive branch" in holy dew,

Which thrice he sprinkled round, and thrice aloud

Invoked the dead, and then dismissed the crowd."

Virgil is careful to inform us that these were ancient Rites to the manes of the dead, and "Ancient," or York, Masons of the last century, and even some in our day, used these Rites.

Aeneas now follows the Sybil to Tartarus, and Virgil describes the fearful scenes he witnessed by way of punishments inflicted upon those who left this life in an impure state. Arrived at the double path of the Branch:

"Before our further way the fates allow,

Here must we fix on high the Golden-bough."

and:

"These holy rites performed, they took their way,

Where long extended plains of pleasure lay."

He now reaches the Elysian fields, where he finds his father Anchises, who proceeds to instruct him in divine things, with prophetic intimations as to his future. {110}

Such was the nature of the Lesser Mysteries; the Greater were intended to shew the felicity of the soul, when purified from mortal passions, it was reborn to the realities of its spiritual nature. They are again an exemplification of the further teaching of Crishna to Arjuna, that he who worships good angels will go amongst them, but that he, who in thought and deed, joins himself to the Supreme Deity will enjoy an eternity of happiness: "Thou must be born again." An Initiate to the Lesser Mysteries, or those of Ceres, had his place in the Vestibule of the Temple, beyond the sacred curtain was reserved for Initiates into the Greater Mysteries or those of Bacchus.

Preparation for the Greater Mysteries required a nine days' fast and bathing in the river Ilyssus took place. The Mystic mundane egg of the Egyptians was a part of the symbolism, for Macrobius says: "Consult the Initiates of the Mysteries of Bacchus who honour with especial veneration the sacred egg." Seneca defines Bacchus as the universal life that supports nature. We have mentioned the Druid egg. Brother George Oliver, D.D., quotes the Orphic fragments as follows: -- "In these Mysteries after the people had for a long time bewailed the loss of a particular person, he was at length supposed to be restored to life; upon this the priests used to address the people in these memorable words: 'Comfort yourselves all ye who have been partakers of the Mystery of the deity thus preserved; for we shall now enjoy some respite from our labours.' To these were added the following remarkable words: 'I have escaped a great calamity and my lot is greatly mended.'" Julius Fermecius gives this in the lines following: --

"Courage, ye Mystae; lo! our god is safe,

And all our troubles speedily have end."

But the same writer informs us that the Initiate "personated the God," for he says: "In the solemn celebrations of the Mysteries all things had to be done which the youth either did, or suffered in his death." The remarks of Hippolytus from the source previously mentioned, are more {111} curious, as they seem to proceed from an Initiate who is comparing the ceremony with the Christian Mysteries. The Naasene Gnostic is made to say: --

"Those who are Initiated into the Lesser ought to pause and be admitted into the Greater and heavenly ones. Into these no unclean person shall enter. . . . . For this is the Virgin who carries in her womb, and conceives, and brings forth a son, not animal, not corporeal, but blessed for evermore." This Initiate, in the agricultural symbolism of Ceres, represents "an ear of corn reaped in silence." The re-birth of the Neophyte was represented pantomimically, for he says that the hierophant vociferates: "by night in Eleusis beneath a huge fire . . . . 'August Brimo hath brought forth a consecrated son Brimus,'" words which no doubt typified both the sun and the initiate. The word Brimus signifies Powerful and was one of the designations of the Cabiric gods.

Yet after all the Lesser and Greater Mysteries were rather a popular version than a full revelation, we have hinted that there were three-fold interpretations of the Mysteries and what almost approached real death and not drama. Others existed of a more spiritual nature at various centres. Sopatius says that even the Epoptae had only a part of the secret. Theodoritos says that "all do not know what the hierophants know, the majority 'see only what is represented.'" "The last term of the Epoptae" expressed high initiation. It may aid us to recall that these Mystics held all nature to emanate from two principles, of which Persephone and Dionysos, or Ceres and Bacchus, are the allegory. The first is soul, the second spirit. Lactantius,6 says: -- "Should anyone dare to deny the existence of souls after death, the Magician will soon convince him by making it appear." Irenaeus, Clemens, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, all affirm the same thing. The Mysteries knew equally well with the Christians, that if the purified soul remained attached {112} to spiritual things it would eventually purify itself, as the Alchemist purifies metals, and so attain immortal life.

We learn from various writers that the Mysteries had their secret signs of recognition. Apuleius mentions in his "Metamorphosis" that it was pointed out to him "in a dream" that he would recognise a certain priest by his walking as if with a lame ankle; in the "Apologia" we read: -- "If anyone happens to be present who has been initiated into the same Rites as myself, if he will give me the sign, he shall then be at liberty to hear what it is that I keep with so much care." Plautus7 has -- "Give me the sign if you are one of the Bacchae." Iamblichus writes -- "Give not your right hand easily (that is, draw not towards you improper and uninitiated persons by giving them your right hand), for to such as have not been tried by repeated disciplines and doctrines, and have not proved themselves to participate in the Mysteries, by a quinquennial silence and other trials, the right hand ought not to be given." Homer makes Achilles to greet Priam thus -- "The old man's right hand at the wrist he grasped, lest he should be alarmed in mind."

Proclus advanced further and taught that there were Mystic passwords that could carry a person from one order of spiritual beings to another still higher, till reaching the absolutely divine. The Egyptians8 and Gnostics held the same view. Origen9 says: "There are names of a natural virtue, such as those used by the wise-men in Egypt, the Magi in Persia, and the Brachmans in India. Magic, as it is called, is no vain and chimerical art as the Stoics and Epicurians pretend; neither were the names of Sabaoth and Adonai, made for created beings, but appertain to a mysterious theology concerning the Creator; hence comes the virtue of other names, when placed in order, and pronounced according to the rules."

The doctrine taught in regard to the nature of the soul in these Mysteries may be gathered from the Philosophers, but first we will see how they acquired the right to speak {113} upon the subject. The Chevalier Ramsay10 says that: "we may look upon the Pythagoric, the Platonic, and the Orphic theology as the same." Proklos, who was master of the School at Athens about 450 A.D., in his "Theology of Plato" says that: "Pythagoras was first taught the orgies of the gods by Aglophemus; Plato next received a perfect knowledge of them from the Pythagorean and Orphic schools." The last named Rites were those upon which the Eleusinia were established. Proklos, in speaking of matter says, "Plato was also of the same opinion concerning matter because he is supposed to have followed Hermes and the Egyptian philosophers." The philosophical schools, which followed the death of Plato, almost universally accepted him as their master, and he and Pythagoras had like veneration for the Chaldean and Magian teaching, and Ammanius Marcellenus11 teaches us that: "Platon, the greatest authority upon ancient doctrines, states that the Magian religion or Magia, known by the mystic name of MACH-AGISTIA, is the most uncorrupted form of worship in things divine, to the philosophy of which, in primitive times, Zoroastres made many additions, drawn from the Mysteries of the Chaldeans." The Emperor Julian12 seems to have been of a similar opinion and says: "Were I to touch upon the initiations and the secret Mysteries which the Chaldeans Bacchised respecting the seven rayed god, lighting up the soul through him, I should say things unknown to the rabble, very unknown, but well known to the blessed Theurgists."

We have, however, given such matters very fully in our previous chapters; the Egyptian Initiation of Plato is specially affirmed by several writers; and we may add here that the more closely philosophy approaches Cabiric rites, the more does it resemble Free Masonry.

There was, however, a refinement of the coarser part of the dramatic. "Aphanism" and "Euresis" -- the "concealment and the finding of the slain god" -- thus applied, in what follows. {114}

As to the nature of the recondite teaching of the Arcane Mysteries we will now quote various writers who have given us hints upon their doctrine. Plutarch says: "As to what thou hearest others say, who persuade the many that the soul, when once freed from the body, neither suffers . . . . evil, nor is conscious, I know that thou art better grounded in the doctrines received by us from our ancestors, and in the sacred orgies of Dionysos, than to believe them, for the Mystic symbols are well known to us who belong to the Brotherhood." Antoninus says: "Soul is all intelligence and a portion of the divinity." Proklos: "Know the divinity that is in you, that you may know, the divine One, of whom the soul is a ray." Heraclitus says of souls: "We live their death and die their life." That extraordinary man Apollonius of Tyana, who visited the Indians, entered the Mysteries of various nations, and reformed the Greeks, taught that both birth and death were equally an appearance, the first being the confinement of the "Real" in matter, and the second its release. Plotinus, who was a pupil of Ammonius Saccus, says: "for to be plunged into matter is to descend into Hades and there fall asleep," and of the doctrine itself he tells us that it is "what is taught in the Mysteries, and that liberation from the bonds of the body is an ascent from the cavern, and a progression to the intellectual." Macrobius13 says that the first death is when the soul falls into the body "as a sepulchre," and that "the second is the natural death."14 Plato in his "Hippias" says: "The supreme Beauty consists in their resemblance to the divine sun, or light of all intelligence"; he also refers to Orpheus as terming our natural body Σιυμα (soma) or Σγμα (sema), a sepulchre. Hierocles quotes the Chaldeans to the effect that, "the oracles called the etherial body, the thin and subtle vehicle or chariot of the soul," Suidas tells us, out of Isidorus, a Spanish bishop of the sixth century, what is interesting to {115} old Masons, especially as Isidore is quoted by the author of our old MSS. Constitutions called the "Cooke MS.," that, "according to some philosophers, the soul has a luminous vehicle, called "star-like," "sun-like," and immortal, which luciform body is shut up in this terrestrial (body) as light is in a dark lantern." Moderns would generally use the terms soul-body, and spirit, but Plato designates the former a "winged chariot." Here the reader may be reminded that a lantern in form of a five-pointed starlight, was formerly used by Masons, in the most solemn part of their ceremonies. There are portions of the "Divine Poemander" that must allude to Mystery-rites: "Hast thou not heard in the speeches, that from one soul of the universe are all those souls, which in all the world are tossed up and down and severally divided? Of these souls there are many changes, some into a more fortunate estate and some quite contrary; for they which are of creeping things are changed into those of watery things, living upon the land; and those of things living in the water to those of things living upon the land; and airy ones are changed into men; and human souls that lay hold of immortality are changed into daemons."15 "The like also happeneth to them that go out of the body; for when the soul runs back into itself the spirit is contracted into the blood, and the soul into the spirit, but the mind being made pure and free from these cloathings, and being divine by nature, taking a fiery body rangeth abroad in every place, leaving the soul to judgment, and to the punishment it hath deserved."16 Again, in the drama of the Mysteries: "Dost thou not see how many evils the wicked soul suffereth, roaring and crying out, 'I am burned, I am consumed, I know not what to say or do, I am devoured unhappy wretch, of the evils that compass and lay hold upon me, miserable that I am I neither see nor hear anything.'"17

It necessarily follows that to be entombed symbolically {116} and raised therefrom, as was done in these Mysteries, was emblematically, if not actually, to be spiritualised or exalted out of the body. Coupled with this recondite teaching as regards the soul was the theory of REMINISCENCE. According to this mystic doctrine which was advocated by Plato, Origen, and some of the early Christian Bishops, as Synesius, all souls have pre-existence and have descended from the spiritual world into the earthly prison of the body, but some souls are more divinely advanced than others. Reminiscence is therefore that faculty of knowledge which the soul brings from its heavenly source, never entirely obscured, and when its faculties are stimulated, by discipline and a pious abandonment of the passions, is the cause of all civilising influences and discoveries. More than this, but we have said all that is necessary. Socrates, at his trial by the Areopagus at Athens, and to the hour of his death by hemlock, asserted the guidance of his Daemon, or tutelary spirit, and has the following placed to his credit by Plato in his "Republic:" -- "The eye of the soul, which is blinded and buried by other studies, is alone naturally adapted to be resuscitated and excited by the mathematical disciplines." It is a repetition of the apothegm of the Persian Dervishes: "The 'man' must die that the 'saint' may be born"; it is the divinely illuminated eye of the Cabirian Cyclops, and the awakening or resuscitation of the consciousness of the divine image, implanted in the human soul.

As to the necessary Apprenticeship for even the Lesser Mysteries, we have some information in the writings of Theon of Smyrna, who was a disciple of Euclid, and an editor of his books. Theon is comparing the five liberal sciences as necessary for a mystically initiated philosopher with the five preparations for the Mysteries: --

"Again it may be said that Philosophy is the Initiation into, and tradition of, real and true Mysteries; but of Initiation there are five parts. That which has the precedency indeed, and is the first, is Purification. For the {117} Mysteries are not imparted to all who are willing to be initiated, but some persons are excluded by the voice of the Crier, such as those whose hands are not pure, and whose speech is inarticulate. It is also necessary that those who are not excluded from initiation should first undergo a certain purification; but the second thing, after purification, is the "Tradition" of the Mysteries. The third thing is denominated "Inspection." And the fourth which is the end of inspection, is binding the head and placing on it "Crowns;" so that he who is initiated is now able to deliver to others the Mysteries which he has received; whether it be the Mysteries of a Torchbearer, or the Interpreter of the sacred ceremonies, or of some other Priesthood. But the fifth thing which results from these is the "Felicity" arising from being dear to the divinity and the associate of the gods. Conformably to these things likewise is the tradition of the political doctrines, and in the first place a certain purification is requisite, such as the exercise from youth in appropriate disciplines, for Empedocles says, 'it is necessary to be purified from defilements by drawing from five fountains in a vessel of unmingled brass.' But Platon says, 'that purification is to be derived from five disciplines, namely, Arithmetic, Geometry, Stereometry, Music, and Astronomy.' The tradition, however, by philosophical, logical, political, and physical theories is similar to Initiation. But Platon denominates the occupation about intelligibles -- true beings; and ideas Epopteia or inspection; and the ability from what has been learned of leading others to the same theory must be considered analogous to binding the head, and being crowned; but the fifth, and most perfect thing, is the felicity produced from these, and, according to Platon, an assimilation as much as possible to God."

So far Theon, and his essay is a most important comparison between the relative value of philosophy and the Mysteries; it might be worth while to ask ourselves, whether these "five" parts of Initiation, five sciences, and five fountains, have any relation to the mystic pentagon, {118} {Symbol: Pentagram} and the Masonic five points of Fellowship, in the ancient aspect; for in these old times the Liberal arts and sciences were not seven, but five. We are informed by Diodorus that the Egyptians had an especial veneration for the number five, as they considered it to represent the Universe, because there were five elements -- earth, water, air, fire, and ether or spirit; and it is noteworthy that it was by these elements that the worthiness of the Neophyte was tested before Initiation. It is related that when the eminent Christian, Justin Martyr, applied for Initiation into the Society of Pythagoras, he was asked whether he had studied arithmetic, music, astronomy, and geometry, as these alone were capable of abstracting the soul from sensibles, and preparing it for intelligibles: as he could not reply affirmatively he was refused admission.18

We see from these extracts that the requirement of the Liberal arts and sciences were common to Theosophy and Philosophy, as they were of old to Freemasonry, and is a proof, to be added to many others, that these three had one, and the same origin, and were rites of the same Fellowship. Discipline was made to precede Initiation into the Mysteries in the same way that Freemasonry, having abandoned the teaching of the arts, and especially Geometry, now requires a certain amount of education from its candidates. The Lesser Mysteries were intended to teach the sciences which the Art Mysteries transmitted. The Greater Mysteries were essentially spiritual, embracing man's origin, rebirth or regeneration, and his final felicity, and this passed to Gnostics, Mystics, the Church, and the later Rosicrucians.

In explanation of the terms Inspection, and Seeing, Epoptae, which are frequently used by writers who comment upon the Mysteries, we will give some quotations to shew that the claim was actual and not metaphorical. Though not necessary to our subject, we may say, that Iamblichus in his letter upon the Mysteries, has left us in {119} no doubt as to the significance of Epopteia or Inspection, and Autopsia or Seeing, for he repeats, over and over again in unmistakable language, paragraph after paragraph, the fact of the visible presence of supermundane beings at the celebration of the Theurgic rites.19 These particulars, were it necessary, are too long for insertion here, but he proceeds to define with care, the appearance, functions, qualities and the good effects of beholding the gods, defining archangels, angels, daemons or tutelary spirits, potentates or demi-gods, hero-gods, and souls, with all the authority of one who had beheld and studied all their qualities. The means taken by these Philosophers for inducing the development of seership, was strict chastity and purity of life, accompanied by strict dietary, with fasts and prayer; principles adopted in all the sacerdotal Mysteries for superior Initiation. The following is recorded by Damaskios as to the appearance of the god in the Mysteries of Serapis: "In a manifestation which must not be revealed, there is seen on the walls of the temple a mass of light which appears at first at a very great distance. It is transformed, whilst unfolding itself, into a visage evidently divine and supernatural, by an aspect severe but with a touch of sweetness. Following the teachings of a mysterious religion, the Alexandrians honour it as Osiris or Adonis." This appearance corresponds, in its description, with what was said of Serapis in our last chapter.

Porphyrios, circa 270 A.D. records in his "Life of Plotinos," that that Philosopher in order to satisfy the curiosity of an Egyptian priest, repaired with him to the Temple of Isis in Rome, in order, as the most suitable place, to invoke his tutelary Daemon, which having done, a divine being made his appearance, apparently so much above the rank of the ordinary daemons as to greatly astonish the Egyptian. The eminent Platonist, Thomas Taylor, translates a passage of the "Phaidros" thus: "Likewise in consequence of this divine Initiation, we become spectators {120} of entire, simple, immovable, and blessed visions, resident in a pure light, and were ourselves pure and immaculate, and liberated from the surrounding vestment which we denominate body, and to which we are bound, as an oyster to its shell." Proklos, in his "Commentary" on the "Republic of Plato," has these words: "In all Initiations and Mysteries, the gods exhibit many forms of themselves, and appear in a variety of shapes, sometimes a formless light, shining from themselves, is thrown forth for contemplation, sometimes the luminosity is in a human figure, and sometimes it takes a different shape," into all of which Iamblichus also particularly enters.

The wondrous works of Homer, "The blind old man of Scio's rocky isle," are as full of the appearance of gods and angels to man, as the Jewish Scriptures. In book iv. of the "Odyssey," in describing the descent of Ulysses into the Cimmerian Cavern, leading to the abode of souls, he asserts that the fumes of the blood of the victims offered in sacrifice, and slain for the purpose, were used by the shades of the dead to reanimate and strengthen their corporeal faculties. Moses says, "the blood is the life." Pope thus words it, on the appearance of the prophet or seer, Tiresias: --

"Eagre he quaft the gore, and then expres't

Dark things to come, the counsels of his breast."

Again, when Ulysses observes the wan and melancholy shade of his mother, Anticlea, standing aloof, Tiresias the Seer thus informs him: --

"Know, to the spectre, that thy beverage's taste,

The scenes of life renew, and actions past." And when the mother approaches her son's sacrifice: --

"When near Anticlea moved, and drank the blood,

Straight all the mother in her soul awakes,

And owning her Ulysses thus she speaks."

St. Basil instructs us in this, that "the blood being evaporated by fire, and so attenuated, is taken into the substance of their body." It is said that in the Eleusinian Mysteries the Initiate took the solemn oath required of {121} him, standing upon the skins of the animals slain in sacrifice. The disgusting rites of the Taurobolium, said to have been practised in some of the Mysteries were of the nature described; and it is alleged that when the Aspirant was to receive this baptism of blood, he was put in a chamber, above which was another with the floor pierced with holes; in this a bull was slain and the Aspirant received the crimson stream upon him in the lower chamber. Prudentius has the following lines on the subject: --20

"All salute and adore him from afar

Who is touched with this uncleanliness,

And sullied with such recent sin-offering,

Because the vile blood of the dead ox

Has washed him who was hid in filthy caverns."

The reader of these pages will no doubt remark that details of such matters have no reference to Freemasonry; that is so, but we were minded to shew of what the Mysteries consisted, and what they actually professed and practised. Nevertheless a large amount of affinity with Masonic rites, and its symbolism, will be found in this chapter by the attentive observer, and considerably more in the next.

The perfectly metaphysical mind of Plato eminently fitted him for an exponent of Mysteries which had reached him from remote ages, and it may be said that the Mysteries were Platonism, and that Platonism was the Mysteries, and in this sense we may aptly apply the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who says: -- "Out of Plato come all things that are still written and debated among men of thought." "Plato is philosophy and philosophy Plato; at once the glory and the shame of mankind; since neither Saxon nor Roman have availed to add any ideas to his categories." Plato himself holds that of the 5 orders of things (of which we have just written) only 4 can be taught to the generality of men. {122}

 

1 Vide Pike's "Morals and Dogma," p. 587

2 "Nat. and Revd. Religion," ii, p. 200.

3 "Anacharsis" (Abbe Barthelemy, who gives the authors). v. p. 213.

4 Oliver's "Landmarks," i. p. 161.

5 "Origen Adv Celsus," iii. p. 59.

6 "Divine Institutions," vii.

7 "Miles Gloriosus," iv, 3

8 "Book of the Dead."

9 "Contra Celsus."

10 "Nat. and Revd. Religion."

11 xxviii, 6.

12 "Oratio."

13 "Dream of Scipio."

14 A translation by Brother W. W. Westcott has been recently printed.

15 "The Key," iv, 23.

16 "Ibid," 56.

17 Ibid, 70. (Reprints by R. H. Fryar, Bath, also by Dr. W. W. Westcott.)

18 Oliver's "Pythagorean Triangle." (John Hogg. London.

19 "On the Mysteries," par. ii, sec. iii to ix.

20 "Perieteranon," v. p. 146; "Fragments of Initiation," Bro. F. F. Schnitger.

 

Table of Contents | Archaic Legends | Proto-Aryan Civilisation and Mysteries | Aryan Civilisation and Mysteries | The Mysteries in Relation to Philosophy | Philosophy in Relation to Masonic Rites | The Mystic and Hermetic Schools in Christian Times | Recapitulated Proof of Ancient Masonry | Masonry in Saxon England | Masonry in Norman England | …