Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings

“Why then, are many ceremonies performed histrionically in the Sacred Rites, as though the gods were moved by passion?”

I think that this is said without an intelligent understanding in regard to the Sacerdotal technique of the Mysteries. For of the ceremonies performed from time to time in the Sacred Rites, some have an ineffable cause and a divine principle; others are consecrated to the Superior beings from eternity as symbols are consecrated <sup>1</sup>; others preserve some other image, just as Nature, the Supreme Genetrix also from invisible concepts, molds visible semblances. Others are brought forward from some motive of veneration, <sup>2</sup> or they are endeavors at figurative representation, or some concept of a family relationship. Some prepare us for something that is useful, or in some way purify and free our human passions, or turn away some of the evils that may be impending over us. Yet it may not be admitted that any part of the Holy Observance is performed to the gods or demons as to impressionable beings. For the essence which is subjectively everlasting and incorporeal is not of a nature to permit any change from the bodies (offered at the Rites. <sup>3</sup>)

Not even though it be admitted that it has use especially of such a kind, would it ever need it from human beings in a religious service of this kind. It is supplied from itself, and from the nature (or feminine principle) of the world, and from the abundance which is in the genesis (or generative energy); and if it is permissible to say this likewise, it receives a sufficiency before it can be in any want, through the unfailing complete supply of the world and its own ample abundance, and because all the superior races are fully supplied with the good things pertaining to them respectively. Let there be, therefore, this general encouragement for us in regard to the worship of the uncontaminate races, that they are likewise affiliated by kindred relationship to the beings that are otherwise superior to us, and on this account the pure are attracted to the pure, and the impassive to the impassive.

Following every point in its turn, we remark that the planting of “phallic images” is a special representing of the procreative power by conventional symbols, and that we regard this practice as an invocation to the generative energy of the universe. On this account many of these images are consecrated in the spring, when all the world is receiving from the gods the prolific force of the whole creation. <sup>4</sup>

I think, however, that the immodest language to which you refer, affords an illustration of the absence of moral virtues <sup>5</sup> in the realm of matter, and the unseemly rudeness existing beforehand with the unformed elements that are to be organized. These being utterly destitute of orderly arrangement, are passionately eager for it, so to speak, to such a degree as they are conscious of the unbecoming condition of things around themselves. Hence, again, perceiving from the speaking of vile utterances, what is vile, they follow to the (divine) sources of the ideals and more beauties.

They accordingly not only turn aside from evil action, but through the words, it is manifest in its forms and changes the impulse to a contrary direction. <sup>6</sup>

There is, however, still another reason of analogous character for these customs. The powers of the human passions that are in us, when they are barred on every side, become more vehement: but when they are brought into activity with moderation and reasonable measure, they are sufficiently delighted and satisfied, and becoming pure in consequence, are won over and set at rest. In the same way, likewise, in comedy and tragedy, when we behold the emotions of others, we repress our own, make them more moderate and are purified from them. In the Sacred Rites, also, we are, by certain spectacles and relations of ugly things, delivered from the harm that is likely to befall through the events represented by them. <sup>7</sup>

Things of this character are brought into use, therefore, for the healing of the soul within us, the moderating of the evils which have become nature to it through the genesis <sup>8</sup> or nativity, and likewise for the sake of its unloosing and deliverance from its bonds. On this account, probably, Herakleitos names them “Remedies<sup>9</sup> as being cures for terrible maladies, and restoring the souls sound from the experiences incident in the generated life.

But the objection is also made: “The invocations are made as to gods that are impressionable beings; so that it is implied that not the demons only are impressionable, but the gods likewise.”

This, however, is not as thou hast supposed. For the illumination which is present through the invocations is self-appearing and self-subsisting; it is also far removed from the being attracted downward, and goes forth into manifestation through the divine energy and perfection, and it excels voluntary choice and activity by so far as the Divine Purpose of the Absolute Goodness is superior to the deliberately chosen of life. By such a purpose, therefore, the gods being gracious and propitious, give forth light abundantly to the Theurgists, both calling their souls upward into themselves, providing for them union to themselves in the Chorus, <sup>10</sup> and accustoming them, while they are still in the body, to hold themselves aloof from corporeal things, and likewise to be led up to their own eternal and noetic First Cause. <sup>11</sup>

From these Performances <sup>12</sup> it is plain, that what we are now discoursing about is the Safe Return of the Soul, for while contemplating the Blessed Spectacles, <sup>13</sup> the soul reciprocates another life, is linked with another energy, and rightly viewing the matter, it seems to be not even a human, for the most blessed energy of the gods. If, indeed, the upward way through the invocations effects for the priests a purifying of the passions, a release from the condition of generated life, and likewise a union to the Divine First Cause, why, indeed, does any one impute to it any of the passion? <sup>14</sup> For such invocation does not draw down beings that are impassive and pure, to that which is susceptible and impure. On the contrary, it makes us who had become impressionable through the generated life, pure and steadfast. <sup>15</sup>

On the other hand, even the “favorable inclinations” do not bring the priests into union with the gods through a passive condition, but they open the way for an indissoluble communion through the attraction which binds the universe together. It is by no means, as the term seems to imply, an inclining of the mind of the gods to human beings, but on the contrary, as the truth itself will teach the adapting of the human intelligence to the participating of the gods, leading it upward to them, and bringing it into accord through persuasive harmonies. Hence, both the reverend names of the gods, and the other divine symbols, being of an elevating tendency, are able to connect the invocation with the gods. <sup>16</sup>

Proklos also declares that “the gods are readily persuaded by invocations and enable the initiants to behold perfect, tranquil, and genuine spectacles.”

What is more, “the propitiations of anger” will be plain enough if we learn thoroughly what the anger of the gods really is. It certainly is not, as some imagine, an inveterate and persistent rage. On the contrary, so far as the matter relates to the gods, it is a turning away from their beneficent guardianship. We ourselves turn away from this just as we bring darkness upon ourselves by shutting away the light at noon-day and so rob ourselves of the priceless gift of the gods. Hence the “propitiation” can turn us to the participation of the superior nature, <sup>17</sup> lead us to the guardian fellowship of the gods, which we had cast from us, and bind to each other harmoniously both those participating and the essences participated. Hence so far is it from accomplishing its particular work through a passive condition, that it leads us to desist from any passionate and disorderly turning away from, the gods.

Nevertheless, because evil is present in the regions of the earth, <sup>18</sup> the “expiatory sacrifices” act as a remedy and prepare us so that no change or any passive condition may occur with reference to us. Hence, whether it is through the gods or demons that a result of this kind takes place, it appeals to them as helpers, averters of evil, and as saviors, and through them turns away every harm that may be liable to follow from what has occurred. Let it be understood that those superior powers that turn away the blows incident to the realm of nativity and nature, are not preventing them in any way through passive conditions.

Indeed, if anyone has imagined that the intercepting of the protecting influence may bring on some chance injury, the endeavor at persuading of the Superior races “through the expiatory sacrifices” recalling them to their generosity, and taking away the sense of privation, may be in every respect pure and unchangeable. <sup>19</sup>

Further still, we will consider what are called “the necessities of the gods.” The whole fact is this: The “necessities” are peculiarities of the gods, and exist as pertaining to gods, not indeed as from without, nor as from compulsion; but, on the contrary, as the goodness is of use from necessity, so also are they likewise in every particular and they are not in any respect otherwise inclined. Such necessity is itself combined with a purpose ideally good and is the beloved consort of Love. <sup>20</sup>

It is not only the same and unalterable in the order pertaining to the gods, but because it is at the same time, and in like manner, circumscribed in one boundary, it abides in this and never goes out of it. For all these reasons the very contrary takes place to what was inferred. If in Theurgy there are really genuine powers of such a character as we have set forth, the conclusion is inevitable that the Divine Being is proof against enchantment, impassive and not to be compelled.

Nevertheless, after this, thou passest over to another classification of gods as contrasted with demons. For thou remarkest that “gods are pure mental essences,” proposing the opinion as the basis of an argument, or telling it as acceptable to certain individuals. Then thou addest: “that the demons are psychic beings, participating of mind.”

It is not hidden from me that these notions are entertained by many of the Grecian philosophers. <sup>21</sup> nevertheless, I do not think it proper to hide from thee the manifest truth, for all opinions of such a character are somewhat confusing. They carry the attention from demons to souls, for these are also partakers of mind; and they wander from the gods to mind that is non-material in respect to operation which the gods excel in every particular. Why, then, should we attribute these peculiarities to them, which are by no means exclusively theirs? This much will be sufficient in regard to this classification. Otherwise, so far as it may be thought worthy of a mention of such a kind, it is overmuch. But in regard to the matters of which thou art in doubt, they should have due attention inasmuch as they have to do with the sacerdotal function.

Having further affirmed that “pure mental essences are not to be charmed or mingled with things of sense,” thou doubtest whether it is necessary to pray to them. On my part, I do not think it necessary to pray to any others. For that something in us that is divine, mental essence and one – or mental alone, if you choose to call it so – is then vividly aroused in the prayers, and when it is awakened it longs vehemently for its counterpart, and becomes united to the absolute perfection.

If, however, it appears incredible to thee that an incorporeal being hears a voice in any way, and there is need of a special sense and of ears in order that the things uttered by us in the prayers may be heard, thou art voluntarily forgetful of the superior powers of the Primary Cause, both in the perceiving of all things, and the encompassing of them at once in themselves. The gods certainly do not receive the prayers in themselves through faculties of sense, or through organs, but they encompass in themselves the full purport and energies of the pious utterances, and especially of those which happen through the Sacred Rites to have been established and brought into one with the gods. For then the Divine essence itself is simply present to itself, and does not share the conceptions in the prayers as distinct from itself.

But thou affirmest that “the supplications which are offered are entirely foreign to the purity of mental substances.” Not at all: for it is on this very account, because we are excelled by the gods in power, purity, and everything, that it is most opportune to supplicate them even with exaggeration of speech. If we are judged by being compared to the gods, the consciousness of our own nothingness causes us to betake ourselves to supplication, and we are led from supplication to the object of supplication, and from the familiar intercourse we acquire a similarity to it, <sup>22</sup> and from imperfection we quietly receive the Divine Perfection. <sup>23</sup>

If, however, it is conceived that the sacerdotal supplications are inspired into human beings as from the gods themselves, that they are symbols or tokens of the very gods, and are recognized by the gods alone, and have likewise after a certain manner the same power with the gods, how may it be justly supposed that supplication of this kind is still a matter of the physical senses, but not divine and of the higher intelligence? Or, what may in any likelihood insinuate itself into it when the most excellent human morals cannot be easily made pure? <sup>24</sup>

“But,” it is remarked by thee, “the things that are offered are offered as to sensitive and psychic natures.” If, indeed, they consisted of corporeal and composite powers alone, or of such as pertained merely to the service of the physical organism, thou wouldst be correct. But since the offerings partake also of incorporeal ideals, special discourses, and simpler metres, the peculiar affinity of the offerings is to be considered from this point alone. And if any kindred relationship, near or far away, or any resemblance is present, it is sufficient for the union about which we are now discoursing. For there is not anything which is in the least degree akin to the gods, with which the gods are not immediately present and conjoined. It is not, then, as to “sensitive or psychic,” but actually to divine ideals and to the gods themselves, that the intimate union is effected so far as may be. Hence we have spoken sufficiently in opposition to this classification.

The next thing in thy letter is the question, “Are gods separated from demons by the distinction of bodied and unbodied?” <sup>25</sup>

This distinction is much more common than the former one; but it is so far from indicating their peculiarities of essence, that it does not even constitute a reasonable guess in respect to them, or anything incident to them. For it is not possible from these things to apprehend intelligently whether they are living beings or beings without life, and whether they are deprived of life or do not need it at all. Besides, also, it is not easy to form a judgment as to how these terms are to be applied, whether in Common or in relation to many different things. If they are to be applied in common, if both a piece of writing and a period of time, a god and demons likewise, and also fire and water, are under the same class as being incorporeal, the distinction is absurd. If, however, they are employed with reference to the chief differences, why, when thou speakest of incorporeal things, dost thou indicate gods rather than tokens; or when thou sayest “body” why should it not be taken to mean the Earth rather than demons? For this point is not itself defined, whether they have bodies as a part of themselves, or are carried by bodies as a vehicle, or make use of them on occasion, or encompass them, or are merely identical with the body.

Perhaps, however, it is not necessary to scrutinize this distinction critically; for thou dost not put it forward as thy own concept, but on the contrary, displayest it as the conjecture of others.

We will, therefore, take up in place of this subject, the matter in relation to the present opinion, about which thou seemest to be in doubt. For thou hast proposed this question: “If only the gods are incorporeal, how shall the Sun, the Moon, and the luminaries visible in the sky, be accounted as gods?”

We reply: That they are not encompassed by the bodies, but that on the contrary, they encompass the bodies with their own divine lives and energies; also that they are not converted to the body, but possess the body which has been converted to the divine cause; and that the body does not interfere with their spiritual and incorporeal completeness, nor occasion any obstacle to it by intervening. hence it does not even require more attention, but follows (the divinities) after a manner spontaneously, and by its own motion, not needing a self-operating superintendence, but urging on by itself <sup>26</sup> uniformly by the leading of the gods upward toward the One. <sup>27</sup>

If, however, it is necessary, we will say this: The body (of the divine guardian of the star) in the sky is very closely akin to the incorporeal essence of the gods. For the essence being one, the other is unique; that being undifferentiable this is undivided; that being unchangeable this is in like manner unchanged. <sup>28</sup> But if even it is taken for granted the energies of the gods are after one ideal, the divine one in the sky has also a single orbit. Nevertheless it also imitates their sameness in respect or a perpetual activity constantly in the same manner, by the same impulses, according to one law and one order of arrangement; and also the life of the gods which is the life natural to the bodies in the aether. Hence, their body is not constituted of incongruous and different elements in the way that our body is composed; nor does their soul join with the body to bring out from two, one living being. On the contrary, the living forms of the gods in the sky are, in every respect, similar and united, and are likewise complete, uniform and uncompounded through their entire substance. For the superior divinities are always excelling in these respects, and the lesser ones being dependent upon the rule of those that are prior and never obtaining this rule for themselves, the whole are brought into one joint arrangement and one common activity, and are all of them, in a manner, incorporeal and wholly divine. Hence, wherefore the divine ideal predominates in them, and implants through them all everywhere, the same One universal essence.

So, therefore, the gods that are visible in the sky, are likewise all of them in a certain sense, incorporeal.

Thy next question raises a difficulty in another form “How is it that some of these gods are givers of good and others bring evil?”

This conjecture is taken from the casters of nativities, but it falls short of actual fact in every particular. For they all are not only good, but in like manner, also the causes and authors of benefits, and they likewise all revolve (in their orbits) with reference simply to the One God, according to the beautiful and good alone. Nevertheless the bodies which are subject to them, <sup>29</sup> themselves possess extraordinary powers; some of these powers being firmly established in the divine bodies themselves; but others going forth from them into the productive principle of the world, even into the world itself, and likewise passing down in proper order through the whole realm of generation, <sup>30</sup> and extending without impediant even to incomplete races.

In respect, therefore, to the powers which inhere in the bodies of the divine ones in the sky, there is no doubt that they are all similar. Hence it is left for us that we shall discourse upon those which have been sent down here, and which have become intermingled with the sphere of generated existence. They extend in the same way preservation of the universe, and encompass the whole realm of generated existence after the same manner. They are both impassive and unchangeable, although they are present in the changeable and passive. The realm of generated existence being of many kinds and constituted of things diverse in character, contends against the oneness and indivisible essence of the gods with its own contrary and factious nature, discordantly and factiously. But it admits the impassive essence after the passive manner; and in short it participates of them according to its peculiar nature and not according to their power. As, therefore, that which comes into existence partakes of real being, as by heredity, and the body receives the incorporeal essence after a corporeal manner, so likewise the natural and material bodies in the realm of generated existence, it may be, participate in a disorderly and discordant manner of the non-material and ætherial bodies, which are above the realms of nature and generated existence. They are absurd, therefore, who attribute color, figure and the sense of feeling to mental forms, because those that participate of them are of such a kind; and so are they also who impute malignity to the bodies in the sky because their participants are sometimes bad. For unless the one who is participating had some such aberration at the beginning, there would be no such communication. But if that which is imparted is received as being foreign and inimical, it may, perhaps, become as something different, and to those belonging about the earth, it is evil and disorderly. This participation, therefore, and the commingling of aura of the realm of matter with that of the non-material realm, becomes a cause of much essential diversity in the inferior races; and besides these, that which is given forth in one way, is received after another. Thus, for example, the aura of Kronos (Seb) is dense, but that of Arês (Mandu) is impulsive; <sup>31</sup> yet the passive generative receptacle in those belonging in the realm of matter receives the former according to its consolidation and coolness, but the latter according to the warmth beyond the usual condition. Hence do not corrupting influence and the disproportionateness come through the deviation of the recipients, which is productive of inharmoniousness, pertaining to the realm of matter and impressionable? Hence the feebleness. incident to regions in the realm of matter and earthly existence, not being capable of the genuine power and absolutely pure life of the divine ones of the ætherial region, refers its own condition to the Primary Causes – just as though a person distempered in body and not able to endure the life-giving warmth of the Sun, should have the audacity to affirm from his own condition, the falsehood that the Sun is of no benefit to health or life.

Something of this kind, however, may be the case in the general order and constitution of the universe, as the same things may be the means of safety to the universe and to every one, through the completeness, both of the things that are possible and those by which they are possible, but are harmful to the imperfect through their specific lack of harmony. Likewise in the motion of the universe, the revolutions in like manner maintain order in every respect, but some one of the parts is injured now and then by another, as we see occurring in a dance. <sup>32</sup>

To repeat the statement once more, it is the natural tendency of partial and incomplete things to decompose and undergo change. It is not proper, however, to attribute this peculiarity to the universal and primary causes, either as being inherent in them or as extending from them into this lower region.

Hence, from considerations of such a nature, it is demonstrated that neither the gods (of the planets) in the sky themselves, nor their gifts, bring evil.

Come, then, let us dispose of that question also: “What is the bond of union that connects the divinities in the sky, that have bodies, with the gods that are unbodied?”

This also is clear from what has been said already. For though as being incorporeal, intelligent and united, they ride upon the celestial spheres, they have their origins in the realm of mind, <sup>33</sup> and comprehending their essential being as divine, they govern the whole sky by one infinite energy, and although present in the sky as existing separately, they conduct the perpetual revolutions by their solitary wills, and are themselves unmingled with sensation and coexist with the god of the realm of Mind.

It is proper, nevertheless, to examine the present question thoroughly. I state the proposition accordingly, that the images of the gods which are visible (in the sky) are from the divine models in the realm of Mind, and are engendered around them; <sup>34</sup> and having come into existence they are established in these absolutely, <sup>35</sup> and being extended to them, they have the likeness which has been produced from them. They are likewise wrought into another arrangement after a different manner. They are held here in connection with those models in one stable union, and the divine spiritual forms, which are present with the visible bodies of the gods, exist separately before them, but their noetic models unmingled and super-celestial remain permanently by themselves, all as one in their everlasting exaltation.

There is, therefore, the common indissoluble bond with reference to spiritual energies, but there is one also in the common participations of forms, since nothing separates these, and there is nothing intervening between them. Besides, the non-material and incorporeal essence, being neither parted by spaces nor by subject-bodies, nor marked off by delineations into separate parts, comes together at once, and coalesces into an absolute identity. The issuing forth of all from the One, the returning again into the One, and the absolute rule of the One in everything effect the communion of the gods themselves in the Cosmic world, with those that pre-exist in the realm of Mind.

Moreover, the conversion of the secondary to the superior spiritual beings and the bestowing of the same essence and power from the primary to the secondary gods, holds their association indissoluble in one. In regard to things of another quality, as for example, soul and body, and those of unlike kinds, such as material forms, and also of substances which are in some other way separated from each other, the natural union, which exists between them both, originates from the Powers above and is cast off in consequence of the limited periods of time. However far we may ascend in regard to the height and the unchangeable sameness of the divinities, who are first as to form and essence, and raise ourselves from imperfect beings to perfect, by this much the more do we find the union which is sempiternal, and likewise behold the self which is principle and dominant, <sup>36</sup> possessing diversity and multitude around itself and in itself.

Inasmuch as the gods are all arranged as absolutely one, the primary and secondary races, even the many that are self-existent with them, preside together over the universe as one, everything in them is one, and the first, the intermediate and lowest races coexist as the One itself. Hence, in respect to these, it is of no use to enquire whence the One is brought into reciprocal relations with them all, for the self-same essence that is indeed in them is the one of their own substance. <sup>37</sup> The secondary races not only remain together in the unity of the primary divinities, but the primary gods bestow upon the secondary races the oneness from themselves, and they all maintain the common bond of an indissoluble relationship to one another.

From the same cause, moreover, the gods that are entirely incorporeal are united with the gods (in the sky) that have bodies and are perceptible to the senses. For the gods that are visible are really outside of bodies, and therefore are in the world of Mind; and those of the world of Mind, through their unconditioned unity, encompass the visible divinities within their own substance, and both are established by a common union and a single energy. In like manner, also, this is characteristic of the cause and arrangement of the gods, and for this reason this very oneness of them all extends from above to the very last in the order of divine beings. Suppose, however, that this seems to be a statement to be doubted, the contrary supposition, that there is nothing of the kind, would be matter of wonderment.

So much may be declared in regard to the bond which unites the gods, that are established in a manner perceptible to the senses, with the gods of the world of Mind.

After this, however, thou takest up again the very questions in regard to which the things which have been stated already will suffice amply for a solution. Since, however, as the saying is, it is necessary to tell and examine often the things which are beautiful, we will not pass these matters by as having received sufficient answer, but by pounding away repeatedly with arguments we may perhaps get out of them all some complete and important benefit in true knowledge. For thou art still in doubt, as the question shows: “The gods that are visible (in the sky) being included in the same category with the invisible, what distinguishes the demons from the visible, and likewise the invisible gods?”

Beginning at this starting point, I will set forth the difference. It is because the gods in the sky are united with the gods in the world of Mind, and have the same idea or principle of existence with them; but the demons are far distant from them in essence, and scarcely compare with them in ally resemblance. On this account they are distinct from the visible divinities, while they differ from the invisible gods in regard to the difference of their peculiar invisibility. For the demons are indeed imperceptible to sight, and in no way to be apprehended by a sense; but the gods are beyond the scope of the knowledge and perception incident to the realm of matter. Because they are in these respects unknowable and invisible, they are so named, or it may be in a sense very different in respect to the demons that they are described as invisible. What, then, do the invisible gods have, so far as they are invisible, which is superior to the gods that are seen in the sky? Nothing at all. For the divine quality, whatever it may be, and whatever allotment it may have, possesses the same power and dominion over all subordinate things. Even if they were visible they would not be subordinate to the invisible daemons, and though they were to belong to the Earth, they would reign over the demons of the air. For neither the place nor the part of the world that may receive it, makes any change in the Supreme authority of the gods; but the entire essence of the gods, indivisible and unchangeable, which all the inferior races in the order of nature revere in like manner, remains everywhere the same.

Setting out from the same point of beginning, we also find another difference between them. For the visible and invisible gods concentrate in themselves the whole government of existing affairs, both in regard to the sky and world, and in relation to the entire invisible forces of the universe. But those that are allotted to authority among the demons, extending it over certain prescribed regions of the world, govern these, and themselves likewise have an incomplete form of essence and power. They are even in some manner akin and inseparable from those that are governed by them.

The gods, however, even those that go upon bodies as their vehicles, are separated and diverse from these in all respects. Hence the supervising of the bodies brings no specific lessening of rank to those to whom the body is subject; it is encompassed by the superior essence, and is turned back to it, and is no obstacle to it. But on the other hand, the close affiliation to the generative nature and the imperfection ensuing by it, give the demons necessarily an inferior destiny. In short, the divine race is predominant and takes precedence in the general arrangement among existing things; but the demonian order is ministrant, receiving whatever directions the gods may give, and responding promptly by own effort, in regard to whatever the gods contemplate, will and command.

Hence the gods are freed from the forces which incline downward to the realm of generated existence, but the demons are not wholly purified from these.

So much, therefore, we have subjoined in regard to this solution of the problem, and we think that from the former and the present arguments the matter will become better known.

For the reasons which we have before stated, the classification of passive and impassive which thou makest, should be rejected as not being suitable for any of the superior races, on account of the causes which we formerly mentioned. Indeed it deserves to be overturned, because it argues from the Sacred Dramas that “they are impression able.” What Holy Rite, and what act of worship performed according to the Sacerdotal Regulations, is accomplished through a passive condition, or effects any satisfying of passive conditions? Was it not ordained from the beginning, according to the ordinances <sup>38</sup> of the gods and likewise intelligently? The Rite both copies the order of the gods, both that of the gods of the world of Mind and that of the gods in the sky, and contains the eternal metres of things that are, and wonderful spectacles which were sent down from the Creator (Demiurgus) and Father of All, by which also the things of Silence are represented by arcane symbols, the things without form are held firmly in forms, the things which are superior to any likeness are represented unshapen, and everything is accomplished by a sole Divine Cause, which is so far remote from passive conditions that no reasoning faculty can reach to it.

This fact, therefore, I suppose, becomes the cause why many turn away to the multitude of projects. For men who are unable to acquire the deeper knowledge of the reasonings themselves, yet who imagine themselves able, are entirely carried away by their own peculiar human emotions, and form their judgment of matters relating to the gods from things incident to themselves. Hence they err in two ways: because they fail of the true concept of divine things; and because when they miss these, they drag their notions of these down to the level of human emotions themselves. <sup>39</sup> Nevertheless, it ought not to be supposed that the things which are performed alike to gods and human beings, – such as acts of homage, salutations, offerings, first-fruits, are to be regarded as after the same plan of action in both cases; but that each is established apart from the other with regard to the distinction of being more honorable – the one venerated as being for the gods and the other held in low esteem as relating to human concerns. Thus is given a completeness to passive conditions, both of those doing homage and those to whom it is rendered, for they are human and of a corporeal nature; but honor is to be bestowed unstintingly upon the operation of the others, as being performed through unchanging admiration and a reverent condition of mind, because they are rendered to the gods.


Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings1. Symbols constituted a prominent feature in the ancient religious worship. They were undoubtedly to a large extent fetishes, there being a measure of the essence and operation of the deity supposed to exist in them. The Egyptian, and indeed the whole Oriental worship consisted of them, and even at the present time, there is no ritual that is without them. But then, human language is made up of symbols and representative sounds.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings2. This is distinctly denied in Part V, Chapter VI.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings3. See Part V, Chapters II and IV.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings4. The custom here described was universal in ancient times, and it is still found in parts of India. Its remains also exist in architecture and ornamentation. In the worship of the Ashera and Venus of Eryx, and of the Great Mother in Syria and Western Asia, the observances were carried to greater extremes. King Asa of Judea is said to have deposed his mother, Maacha, from royal dignity for her participation – “because she made a phallos to an Ashera,” I Kings XV: XIII. It has been generally believed that the Festivals and Initiatory, or Perfective Rites, of the different countries, included the same feature, as indeed, is here admitted. It should be borne in mind, however, before any hasty judgment, that the different faiths had their two sides, like the right or the left, and that worshippers regarded them and took part in them according to their inherent disposition. Thus, in India, there are the Asceticsiva-worshippers, and the Saktas, to this day. In this way the Mysteries presented themes for the highest veneration, as well as phases that are esteemed as gross and lascivious. Every curious person, therefore, sees in them what he has eyes to see, and is often blind to the rest.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings5. Greek, kalwn from kalon, good, beauty, moral virtue, excellence. Mr. M. W. Hazeltine, in the New York Sun, remarks upon this apparent confounding of moral with physical beauty, which this word exhibits, that “the ancients had not that conception which forms the basis and aim of Æsthetics in our time. To a Greek, if a thing was beautiful it was good, and if it was good it was beautiful; that, at least, was the prevailing attitude of the Hellenic mind.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings6. These opinions were anciently entertained, the universe itself being regarded not as a fabric but as a birth, a creation or genesis, and evolution. But the philosophers generally disapproved of the doleful rites and immodest speech. Plutarch enumerates the various practices, such as the eating of raw flesh, the days of fasting and mourning for the slain divinity, (Matthew XI, 16; Amos VIII, 10) and the uttering of filthy and unseemly language. He explains that they were “not in honor of the gods, but rather to avert, mollify and appease the wrath of evil demons.” The Emperor Julian, however, forbade the using of words that should not be spoken or heard.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings7. “This doctrine is so rational,” says Mr. Thomas Taylor, “that it can never be objected to by any but quacks in philosophy and religion. For as he is nothing more than a quack in medicine who endeavors to remove a latent bodily disease before he has called it forth externally, and by this means diminished its fury, so he is nothing more than a pretender in philosophy, who attempts to remove the passions by violent repression, instead of moderate compliance and gentle persuasion.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings8. By the genesis or generation, Plutarch explains Plato to mean “only that substance or underlying principle which is subject to change and motion, placed between the forming cause and the thing formed, transmitting hither those shapes and figures which have been contrived and modelled” in the eternal world. Hence it means more than mere procreating, it is no less than transition from eternity where the soul is native, into the region of time and space, where it is only a sojourner.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings9. The Library of Alexandria bore the inscription of “Remedies for the Soul.” A similar term is said to have been placed over the collection of Papyri in the “House of Seti” at Thebes, in Egypt.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings10. Plato describes this chorus in the Phaidros. “Divine beauty was then splendid to the view,” says he, “when we, in company with Zeus, and others with other gods, beheld together with the Blessed Chorus, the divine Spectacle and were initiated into the Perfective Rites, which are rightly called most happy. Being ourselves entire and unaffected by the evils which await us in the Aftertime, we took part in the Orgiac Drama, and having become both Mystics and Beholders (mystæ and epoptæ) we beheld in the pure light, apparitions that were complete, unique, calm, and felicitous – being ourselves pure from earthly contamination and not encompassed in this investiture which we now call 'Body' and by which we are carried about, fastened like an oyster to his shell.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings11. Sokrates in his last discourse remarks that “While we live we shall approach nearest to the superior knowledge if we hold no partnership with the body, except what absolute necessity requires, and do not permit ourselves to be tainted by its nature, but keep ourselves uncontaminated by it till God himself shall release us.” This is what a later poet has portrayed as living above while in the world.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings12. The dramas or performances of the Mystic or Theurgic Rites and their ulterior significance are here denoted – the experiences of the Soul and its return to the Eternal World, as it enters into the conditions of worldly existence. The Egyptian “Book of the Dead” treats of the same matters.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings13. The histrionic scenes and ceremonies which were exhibited to the Beholders of the Rites.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings14. The Chaldaean Oracles reiterate this sentiment.
“The soul of articulate-speaking men will in some way bring God into itself.
“holding fellowship with nothing mortal, it is all intoxicated with God.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings15. This is explained by the hierophant in Moore's romance, The Epicurean. The aim of the initiation and “blessed spectacle” is thus set forth; “to retrieve the ruin of the blessed soul, to clear away from around her the clouds of earth, and, restoring her lost wings, facilitate her return to Heaven – such is the great task of our religion, and such the triumph of those Divine Mysteries, in whose inmost depths the life and essence of our holy religion is treasured.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings16. The names of the gods in the ancient Skythic and Euphratean languages were believed to possess some inherent virtue as well as charm. Hence the Oracle gives the injunction:
“Never change the barbarous names;
For among them are terms God-given,
That have ineffable virtue in Sacred Rites.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings17. Epistle of Peter II, 1, 4, “That by these ye might be partakers or communicants of the divine nature.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings18. Plato: Theætetos. “It is necessary that there should be always something opposed to God; and it cannot be seated among the gods, but of necessity hovers around this mortal nature and this region of earth.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings19. It was held that the vital emanation from the blood of the sacrificed animals was invigorating to spiritual beings (Odyssey, Book XI). But Plutarch is severe about it. He affirms that the murderous and lascivious customs at the festivals only served “to avert and appease the malice of certain evil spirits, or to satisfy the violent and raging lusts of some that either could not, or would not, enjoy with their bodies or by their bodies.” Such, he declared, bring plagues and famine into towns, raise wars and dissensions, till such time as they obtain and enjoy that which they love.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings20. Proklos affirms that the Divine Necessity was always coincident with the Divine Will and Purpose. Plato explains it as a habitude of the Efficient Cause or Author of Existence and Matter. Thus, also, there is a necessity in the thoughts and actions of human beings, yet the soul is self-moving, and so is its own “Cause.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings21. Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, and the Stoics generally held that the demons were beings of a psychic, rather than of an actual divine nature. Plutarch ascribed to them only a limited term of existence.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings22. It may be observed in this treatise that the divine personalities are very commonly indicated by terms in the neuter gender. The same is true in other instances. Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson was once in conversation with the Rev. Cyrus Bartol, the Transcendentalist clergyman of Boston. The latter mentioned the Supreme Being, using the masculine pronoun. “Why not say 'It,' ” Mr. Emerson asked?

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings23. Whatever we keep most closely in thought, whether with favor or aversion, we gradually become like in character. Paul wrote like a philosopher to the Corinthian disciples. After referring to Moses with a vail, he adds “We all with face unvailed, looking on the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed from glory to glory into the same image from his spirit.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings24. In the Theurgic discipline of neophytes, there were several stages to be surmounted before arriving at the degree denominated “Perfection” or purity. We may trace them in the chapter, as follows: 1. The coming to the divinity who is supplicated. 2. The assimilation into the likeness of the divinity, and 3. Perfection. In the first of these degrees the candidate was styled Most Excellent; in the second, Divine; and in the third, Theopator; as now being fully identified with Deity itself.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings25. Origen affirmed that the angels have bodies, and that God alone is a spiritual essence, without body. Hence the clause in the Confession, “without body, parts, or passions.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings26. Plato has explained this very similarity in the Timeus. “When each of the stars necessary for the constitution of Time had obtained a motion adapted to its condition, and their bodies bound or encompassed by living chains, had become beings possessing life, and had learned their prescribed duty, they pursued their course.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings27. That the Supreme Being is One and Absolute is the leading principle of every ancient faith, however bizarre and polytheistic it may be esteemed. Amon, the tutelar god of Thebes in Egypt who may have been in the mind of Abammon when writing was denominated: “The One, the Maker of all that have being.” The Mysteries of Ser-Apis (Serapis) were favored by Iamblichos, and the Rites of Mithras by Porphyry.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings28. Plato makes use or an expression signifying “not subject to decay or disease;” Aristotle, “not being increased or changed.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings29. These are the astral globes which these divinities, being themselves in reality spiritual essences, were supposed to encompass and permeate.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings30. In this sentence the feminine and masculine relation, as typifying the procedure of the divine operation, is very distinctly set forth. The phusis and genesis actually signify as much. In this treatise, as in other philosophic works, genesis signifies the descending of the creative energy from the sempersistent world into the sphere and condition of created existence, and phusis, or nature, is the female or productive agency, by which the transition is accomplished. The sentence admits accordingly to be also rendered as follows: “Others go forth from them into the womb of the world (Kosmos), even the world itself, and likewise descend in due order through the whole generative process, continuing, without hindrance, as far as the incomplete races.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings31. Abammon follows the Egyptian category and adopts the Grecian names for divinities supposed to be nearest in character and quality. In this description, Kronos or Saturn represents the centripetal and Aries or Mars the centrifugal force.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings32. It would be easy to imagine this as happening in the case or the hundred and more asteroids, that exist in the space between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter, or of the comets that so often come rushing through space.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings33. See Chapter VIII.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings34. Damaskios remarks that “the Divine Intelligence which encompasses all things after the manner of models, brings them forth from itself as likenesses.”

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings35. That is, all are brought back to their source and rooted in their cause.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings36. In other words, this atman, or self, is at once all-receptive and all-procreative, as having the joint powers of procreation and production.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings37. We are thus brought to the central principle of the ancient philosophy and worship; that the many divinities are in essence the One Sole Deity, and comprised in the Paternal Cause of the Universe. The Orphic Carmen in the same way inculcated that all the gods and both the sexes are included in the same Zeus. They are attributes, or qualities, of the One, personalities rather than individuals.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings38. The older laws of the Athenians were called thesmá as being ordained by the gods, or rather the priests. The laws of Drako were thesmoi, those of Solon nomoi or regulations.

Chapter 4. Rites, Symbols, and Offerings39. Damaskios remarks, that “we discourse after the manner of men respecting principles that are extolled as divine.”