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Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry , prepared for the Supreme Council of the Thirty Third Degree for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States. Charleston, 1871.

Chapter 24 - Prince of the Tabernacle


SYMBOLS were the almost universal language of ancient theology. They were the
most obvious method of instruction ; for, like nature herself, they addressed
the understanding through the eye ; and the most ancient expressions denoting
communication of religious knowledge, signify ocular exhibition. The first
teachers of mankind borrowed this method of instruction ; and it comprised an
endless store of pregnant hieroglyphics. These lessons of the olden time were
the riddles of the Sphynx, tempting the curious by their quaintness, but
involving the personal risk of the adventurous interpreter. "The Gods
themselves," it was said, "disclose their intentions to the wise, but to fools
their teaching is unintelligible ;" and the King of the Delphic Oracle was said
not to declare, nor onthe other hand to conceal; but emphatically to "intimate
or signify."
The Ancient Sages, both barbarian and Greek, involved their meaning in similar
indirections and enigmas ; their lessons were conveyed either in visible
symbols, or in those "parables and dark sayings of old," which the Israelites
considered it a sacred duty to hand down unchanged to successive generations.
The explanatory tokens employed by man, whether emblematical objects or
actions, symbols or mystic ceremonies, were like the mystic signs and portends
either in dreams or by the wayside, supposed to he significant of the
intentions of the Gods ; both required the aid of anxious thought and skillful
interpretation. It was only by a conect appreciation of analogous problems of
nature, that the will of Heaven could be understood iy the Diviner, or the
lessons of Wisdom become manifest to the Sage.
The Mysteries were a series of symbols ; and what was spoken there consisted
wholly of accessory explanations of the act or image ; sacred commentaries,
explanatory of established symbols; with little of those independent traditions
embodying physical or moral speculation, in which the elements or planets were
the Sage. actors, and the creation and revolutions of the world were
intermingled with recollections of ancient events: and yet with so much of that
also, that nature became her own expositor through the medium of an arbitrary
symbolical instruction; and the ancient views of the relation between the human
and divine received dramatic forms.
There has ever been an intimate alliance between the two systems, the symbolic
and the philosophical, in the allegories of the monuments of all ages, in the
symbolic writings of the priests of all nations, in the rituals of all secret
and mysterious societies; there has been a constant series, an invariable
uniformity of principles, which come from an aggregate, vast imposing, and
true, composed of parts that fit harmoniously only there.
Symbolical instruction is recommended by the constant and' uniform usage of
antiquity, - and it has retained its influence throughout all ages, as a system
of mysterious communication. The Deity, in his revelations to man, adopted the
use of material images for the purpose of enforcing sublime truths; and Christ
taught by symbols and parables. The mysterious knowledge of the Druids was
embodied in signs and symbols. Taliesin, describing his initiation, says : "The
secrets were imparted to me by the old Giantess (Ceridwen, or Isis), without
the use of audible language." And again he says, "I am a silent proficient"
Initiation was ,a school, in which were taught the truths of primitive
revelation, the existence and attributes of one God, the immortality of the
Soul, rewards and punishments in a future life, the phenomena of Nature, the
arts, the sciences, morality, regulation, philosophy, and philanthropy, and
what we now style psychology and metaphysics, with animal magnetism, and the
other occult sciences.
All the ideas of the Priests of Hindustan, Persia, Syria, Arabia, Chaldaea,
Phoenicia, were known to the Egyptian Priests. The rational Indian philosophy,
after penetrating Persia and Chaldaea, gave birth to the Egyptian Mysteries. We
find that the use of Hieroglyphics was preceded in Egypt by that of the easily
understood symbols and figures, from the mineral, animal, and vegetable
kingdoms, used by the Indians, Persians, and Chaldans to express their
thoughts; and this primitive philosophy was the basis of the modern philosophy
of Pythagoras and Plato. - All the philosophers and legislators that made
Antiquity illustrious, were pupils of the initiation; and all the beneficent
modifications in the religions of the different people instructed by them were
owing to their institution and extension of the Mysteries In the chaos of
popular superstitions, those Mysteries alone kept man from lapsing into
absolute brutishness. Zoroaster and Confucius drew their doctrines from the
Mysteries. Clement of Alexandria, speaking of the Great Mysteries, says : "Here
ends all instruction. Nature and all things are seen and known
moral truths alone been taught the Initiate, the Mysteries could never have
deserved nor received the magnificent eulogiums of the most enlightened alien
of Antiquity,-of Pindar, Plutarch, Isocrates, Diodorus, Plato, Euripides,
Socrates, Aristophanes, Cicero, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and others
;-philosophers hostile to the Sacerdotal Spirit, or historians devoted to the
investigation of Truth. No : all the sciences were taught there ; and those
oral on written traditions briefly communicated, which reached back to the
first age of the world.
Socrates said, in the Phaedo of Plato: "It well appears that those who
established the Mysteries, or secret assemblies of the initiated, were no
contemptible personages, but men of great genius, who in the early ages strove
to teach us, under enigmas, that he who shall go to the invisible regions
without being punfied, will be precipitated into the abyss ; while he who
arrives there, purged of the stains of this world, and accomplished in virtue,
will be admitted to the dwelling-place of the Deity . The jnitiated are certain
to attain the company of the Gods."
Pretextatus, Proconsul of Achaia, a man endowed with all the virtues, said, in
the 4th century, that to deprive the Greeks of those Sacred Mysteries which
bound together the whole human race, would make life insupportable.
Initiation was considered to be a mystical death ; a descent into the infernal
regions, where every pollution, and the stains and imperfection's of a corrupt
and evil life were purged away by fire and water ; and the perfect Epopt was
then said to be regenerated, new-born, restored to a renovated existence of
life, light, and purity; and placed under the Divine Protection.
A new language was adapted to these celebrations, and also a language of
hieroglyphics, unknown to any but those who had received the highest Degree.
And to them ultimately were confined the learning, the morality, and the
political power, of every people among which the Mysteries were practiced. So
effectually was the knowledge of the hieroglyphics of the highest Degree hidden
from all but a favored few, that in process of time their meaning was entirely
lost, and none could interpret them. If the same hieroglyphics were employed in
the higher as in the lower Degrees, they had a different and more abstruse and
figurative meaning. It was pretended, in later times, that the sacred
hieroglyphics and language were the same that were used by the Celestial
Deities. Everything that could heighten the mystery of initiation was
added, until the very name of the ceremony possessed a strange charm, and yet
conjured up the wildest fears. ache greatest rapture came to be expressed by
the word that signified to pass through the Mysteries.
The Priesthood possessed one third of Egypt. They gained much of their
influence by means of the Mysteries, and spared no means to impress the people
with a full sense of their importance. They represented them as the beginning
of a new life of reason and virtue : the initiated, or esoteric companions were
said to entertain the most agreeable anticipations respecting death and
eternity, to comprehend all the hidden mysteries of Nature, to have their souls
restored to the original perfection from which man had fallen ; and at their
death to be borne to the celestial mansions of the Gods. The doctrines of a
future state of rewards and punishments formed a prominent feature in the
Mysteries; and they were also believed to assure much temporal happiness and
good fortune, and afford absolute security against the most imminent dangers by
land and sea. Public odium was cast of those who refused to be initiated. They
were considered profane, unworthy of public employment or private confidence;
and held to be doomed to eternal punishment as impious. To betray the secrets
of the Mysteries, to wear on the stage the dress of an Initiate, or to hold the
Mysteries up do derision, was to incur death at the hands of public vengeance.
It is certain that up to the time of Cicero, the Mysteries still retained much
of their original character of sanctity and purity. And at a later day, as we
know, Nero, after committing a horrible crime, did not dare, even in Greece, to
aid in the celebration of the Mysteries ; nor at a still later day was
Constantine, the Christian Emperor, allowed to do so, after his murder of his
Everywhere, and in all their forms, the Mysteries were funereal ;
and celebrated the mystical death and restoration to life of some divine or
heroic personage : and the details of the legend and the mode of the death
varied in the different Countries where the Mysteries were practiced.
heir explanation belongs both to astronomy and mythology, and the Legend of
the Master's Degree is but another form of that of the Mysteries, reaching
back, in one shape or other, to the remotest antiquity.
Whether Egypt originated the legend, or borrowed it from India or Chaldea, it
is now impossible to know. But the Hebrews received the Mysteries from the
Egyptians; and of course were familiar with their legend,-known as it was to
those Egyptian Initiates, Joseph and Moses. It was the fable (or rather the
truth clothed in allegory and figures) of Osiris, the Sun, Source of Light and
Principle of good, and Typhon, the Principle of Darkness, and Evil. In all the
histories of the Gods and Heroes lay couched and hidden astronomical details
and the history of the operations of visible Nature; and those in their turn
were also symbols of higher and profounder truths. None but rude uncultivated
intellects could long consider the Sun and Stars and the Powers of Nature as
Divine, or as fit objects of Human Worship; and they will consider them so
while the world lasts ; and ever. remain ignorant of the great Spiritual Truths
of which these are the hieroglyphics and expressions.
A brief summary of the Egyptian legend will serve to show the leading idea on
which the Mysteries among the Hebrews were based. Osiris, said to have been an
ancient King of Egypt, was the Sun; and Isis, his wife, the Moon: and his
history recounts, in poetical and figurative style, the annual journey of the
Great Luminary of Heaven through the different Signs of the Zodiac. In the
absence of Osiris, Typhon, his brother, filled with envy and malice, sought to
usurp his throne ; but his plans were frustrated by Isis. Then he resolved to
kill Osiris. This he did,. by persuading him to enter a coffin or sarcophagus,
which he then flung into the Nile. Alter a Long search, Isis found the body,
and concealed it in the depths of a forest ; but Typhon, finding it there, cut
it into fourteen pieces, and scattered them hither and thither. After tedious
search, Isis found thirteen pieces, the fishes having oaten the other (the
privates), which she replaced of wood, and buried the body at Philae; where a
temple of surpassing magnificence was erected in honor of Osiris.
Isis, aided by her son Orus, Horus or Har-oeri, warred against Typhon, slew
him, reigned gloriously, and at her death was reunited to her husband, in the
same tomb. Typhon was represented as born of the earth ; the upper part of his
body covered with feathers, in stature reaching the clouds, his arms and legs
covered with scales, serpents darting from him on every side, and fire flashing
from his mouth. Horus, who aided in slaying him, became the God of the Sun,
answering to the Grecian Apollo; and Typhon is but the anagram of Python, the
great serpent slain by Apollo.
The word Typhon, like Eve, signifies a serpent, and life. By its form the
serpent symbolizes life, which circulates through all nature. When, toward the
end of autumn, the Woman (Virgo), in the constellations seems (upon the
Chaldean sphere) to crush with her heel the head of the serpent, this figure
foretells the coming of winter, during which life seems to retire from all
beings, and no longer to circulate through nature. This is why Typhon signifies
also a serpent, the symbol of winter, which, in the Catholic Temples, is
represented surrounding the Terrestrial Globe, which surmounts the heavenly
cross, emblem of redemption. If the word Typhon is derived from Tupoul) it
signifies a tree which produces apples (mala) evils), the Jewish origin of the
fall of man: Typhon means also one who supplants, and signifies the human
passions, which expel from our hearts the lessons of wisdom. In the Egyptian
Fable, Isis wrote the sacred word for the instruction of men, and Typhon
effaced it as fast as she wrote it. In morals, his name signifies Pride,
Ignorance and Falsehood.
When Isis first found the body, where it had floated ashore near Byblos, a
shrub of Erica or tamarisk near it had, by the virtue of the body, shot up into
a tree around it, and protected it; and hence our sprig of acacia. Isis was
also aided in her search by Anubis, in the shape of a dog. He was Sirius or the
Dog-Star, the friend and counselor of Osiris, and the inventor sf language,
grammar, astronomy, surveying, arithmetic, music, and medical science; the
first maker of laws; and who taught the worship of the Gods, and the building
of Temples.
In the Mysteries, the nailing up of the body of Osiris in the chest or ark was
termed the aphanism) or disappearance [of the Sun at the Winter Solstice, below
the Tropic of Capricorn], and the recovery of the different parts of his body
by Isis, the Euresis, or finding. The candidate went through a ceremony
representing this, in all the Mysteries everywhere. The main facts in the fable
were the same in all countries; and the prominent Deities were everywhere a
male and a female.
In Egypt they were Osiris and Isis: in India, Mahadeva and Bhavani : in
Phoenicia, Thammuz (or Adonis) and Astarte: in Phrygia, Atys and Cybele: in
Persia, Mithras and Asis: in Samothrace and Greece, Dionysus or Sabazeus and
Rhea: in Britain, Hu and Ceridwen : and in Scandinavia, Woden and Frea: and in
every instance these Divinities represented the Sun and the Moon.
The mysteries of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, seem to have been the model of all
other ceremonies of initiation subsequently established among the different
peoples of the world. Those of Atys and Cybele, celebrated in Phrygia; those of
Ceres and Proserpine, at Eleusis and many other places in Greece, were but
copies of them. This we learn from Plutarch, Diodorus Siculus, Lactantius, and
other writers; and in the absence of direct testimony should necessarily infer
it from the similarity of the adventures of these Deities ; for the ancients
held that the Ceres of he Greeks was the same as the Isis of the Egyptians; and
Dionusos or Bacchus as Osiris.
In the legend of Osiris and Isis, as given by Plutarch, are many details and
circumstances other than those that we have briefly mentioned; and all of which
we need not repeat here. Osiris married his sister Isis ; and labored publicly
with her to ameliorate he lot of men. He taught them agriculture, while Isis
invented laws. He built temples to the Gods, and established their worship.
Both were the patrons of artists and their useful inventions: and .introduced
the use of iron for defensive weapons and implements of agriculture, and of
gold to adorn the temples of the Gods. He went forth with an army to conquer
men to civilization, teaching he people whom he overcame to plant the vine and
sow grain for food.
Typhon, his brother, slew him when the sun was in the sign of e Scorpion, that
is to say, at the Autumnal Equinox. They had been rival claimants, says
Synesius, for the throne of Egypt, as Light and Darkness contend ever for the
empire of the world. Plutarch adds, that at the time when Osiris was slain, the
moon was at its full; and therefore it was in the sign opposite the Scorpion,
that is, the Bull, the sign of the Vernal Equinox.
Plutarch assures us that it was to represent these events and details that
Isis established the Mysteries, in which they were reproduced by images,
symbols, and a religious ceremonial, whereby they were imitated : and in which
lessons of piety were given, and consolations under the misfortunes that
afflict us here below. Those who instituted these Mysteries meant to strengthen
religion and console men in their sorrows by the lofty hopes found in a
religious faith, whose principles were represented to them covered by a pompous
ceremonial, and under the sacred veil of allegory.
Diodorus speaks of the famous columns erected near Nysa, in Arabia, where, it
was said, were two of the tombs of Osiris and Isis. On one was this
inscription: "I am Isis, Queen of this country. I was instructed by Mercury. No
one can destroy the laws which I have established. I am the eldest daughter of
Saturn, most ancient of the Gods. I am the wife and sister of Osiris the King.
I first made known tomortals the use of wheat. I am the mother of Orus the
King. In my honor was the city of Bubaste built. Rejoice, O Egypt, rejoice,
land that gave me birth!" ... And on the other was this: "I am Osiris the King,
who led my armies into all parts of the world, to the most thickly inhabited
countries of India, the North, the Danube, and the Ocean. I am the eldest son
of Saturn : I was born of the brilliant and magnificent egg, and my substance
is of the same nature as that which composes light. There is no place in the
Universe where I have not appeared, to bestow my benefits and make known my
discoveries." The rest was illegible.
To aid her in the search for the body of Osiris, and to nurse her infant child
Horus, Isis sought out and took with her Anubis, son of Osiris, and his sister
Nephte. He, as we have said, was Sirius, the brightest star in the Heavens.
After finding him, she went to Byblos, and seated herself near a fountain;
where she had learned that the sacred chest had stopped which contained the
body of Osiris. There she sat, sad and silent, shedding a torrent of tears.
Thither came the women of the C6urt of Queen Astarte, and she spoke to them,
and dressed their heir, pouring upon it deliciously perfumed ambrosia. This
known to the Queen, Isis was engaged as nurse for her child, in the palace, one
of the columns of which was made of the Erica or tamarisk, that had grown up
over the chest containing Osiris, cut down by the King, and unknown to him,
still enclosing the chest: which column Isis afterward demanded, and from it
extracted the chest and the body, which, the latter wrapped in thin drapery and
perfumed, she carried away with her.
Blue Masonry, ignorant of its import, still retains among its emblems one of a
woman weeping over a broken column, holding in her hand a branch of acacia,
myrtle, or tamarisk, while Time, we are told, stands behind her combing out the
ringlets of her hair. We need not repeat the vapid and trivial explanation
there given, of this representation of Isis, weeping at Byblos, over the column
torn from the palace of the living, that contained the body of Osiris, while
Horus, the God of Time, pours ambrosia on her hair.
Nothing of this recital was historical; but the whole was an allegory or
sacred fable, containing a meaning known only to those who were initiated into
the Mysteries. All the incidents were astronomical, with a meaning still deeper
lying behind that explanation, and so hidden by a double veil. The Mysteries in
which these incidents were represented and explained, were like those of
Eleusis in their object, of which Pausanias, who was initiated, says that the
Greeks, from the remotest antiquity, regarded them as the best calculated of
all things to lead mental piety : and Aristotle says they were the most
valuable of all religious instillations, and thus were called mysteries par
excellence; and the Temple of Eleusis was regarded as, in some sort, the common
sanctuary of the whole earth, where religion had brought together all that was
most imposing and most august.
The object of all the Mysteries was to inspire men with piety, and to console
them in the miseries of life. That consolation, so afforded, was the hope of a
happier future, and of pasting, after death, to a state of eternal felicity.
Cicero says that the Initiates not only received lessons which made life more
agreeable, but drew from the ceremonies happy hopes for the moment of death.
Socrates says that those who were so fortunate as to be admitted to the
Mysteries, possessed, when dying, the most glorious hopes for eternity.
Aristides says that they not only procure the Initiates consolations in the
present life, and means of deliverance from the great weight of their evils,
but also the precious advantage of passing after death to a happier state.
Isis was the Goddess of Sais; and the famous Feast of Lights was celebrated
there in her honor. There were celebrated the Mysteries, in which were
represented the death and subsequent restoration to life of the God Osiris, in
a secret ceremony and scenic representation of his sufferings, called the
Mysteries of Night.
The Kings of Egypt often exercised the functions of the Priesthood; and they
were initiated into the sacred science as soon as they attained the throne. So
at Athens, the First Magistrate, or Archon-King, superintended the Mysteries.'
This was an image of the union that existed between the Priesthood and Royalty,
in those early times when legislators and kings sought in religion a potent
political instrument.
Herodotus says, speaking of the reasons why animals were deified in Egypt: "If
I were to explain these reasons, I should be led to the disclosure of those
holy matters which I particularly wish to avoid, and which, but from necessity,
I should not leave discussed at all." So he says, "The Egyptians have at Sais
the tomb of a certain personage, whom I do not think myself permitted to
specify. It is behind the Temple of Minerva." [The latter, so called by the
Greeks, was really Isis, whose was the often-cited enigmatical inscription, "I
am what was and is and is to come. No mortal hath yet unveiled me."] So again
he says: "Upon this lake are represented by night the accidents which happened
to him whom I dare not name. The Egyptians call them their Mysteries.
Concerning these, at the same time that I confess myself sufficiently informed,
I feel myself compelled to be silent. Of the ceremonies also in honor of Ceres
I may not venture to speak, further than the obligations of religion will allow
It is easy to see what was the great object of initiation and the Mysteries ;
whose first and greatest fruit was, as all the ancients testify, to civilize
savage hordes, to soften their ferocious manners, to introduce among them
social intercourse, and lead them into a way of life more worthy of men. Cicero
considers the establishment of the EIeusiiiian Mysteries to be the greatest of
all the benefits conferred by Athens on other commonwealths ; their effects
381 having been, he says, to civilize men, soften their savage and ferocious
manners, `and teach them the true principles of morals, which initiate man into
the only kind of life worthy of him. The same philosophic orator, in a passage
where he apostrophizes Ceres and Proserpine, says that mankind owes these
Goddesses the first elements of moral life, as well as the first means of
sustenance of physical life ; knowledge of the laws, regulation of morals, and
those examples of civilization which have improved the manners of men and
Bacchus in Euripides says to Pentheus, that his new institution (the Dionysian
Mysteries) deserved to be known, and that one of its great advantages was, that
it prescribed all impurity : that these were the Mysteries of Wisdom, of which
it would be imprudent to speak to persons not initiated : that they were
established among the Barbarians, who in that showed greater wisdom than the
Greeks, who had not yet received them.
This double object, political and religious,-one teaching our duty to men, and
the other what we owe to the Gods; or rather, respect for the Gods calculated
to maintain that which we owe the laws, is found in that well-known verse of
Virgil, borrowed by him from the ceremonies of initiation : "Teach me to
respect Justice and the Gods." This great lesson, which the Hierophant
impressed on the Initiates, after they had witnessed a representation of the
Infernal regions, the Poet places after his description of the different
punishments suffered by the wicked in Tartarus, and immediately after the
description of that of Sisyphus.

Pausanias, likewise, at the close of the representation of the punishments of
Sisyphus and the daughters of Danaus, in the Temple at Delphi, makes this
reflection ; that the crime or impiety which in them had chiefly merited this
punishment, was the contempt which they had shown for the Mysteries of Eleusis.
From this reflection of Pausanias, who was an Initiate, it is easy to see that
the Priests of Eleusis, who taught the dogma of punishment in Tartarus,
included among the great crimes deserving these punishments, contempt for and
disregard of the Holy Mysteries; whose object was to lead men to piety, and
thereby to respect for justice and the laws, chief object of their institution,
if not the only one, and to fvhich the needs and interest of religion itself
were subordinate; since the latter was but a means to lead more surely to the
foyer ; for the whole force of religious opinions being in the hands of the
legislators to be wielded, they were sure of being better obeyed.
The Mysteries were not merely simple illustrations and the observation of some
arbitrary formulas and ceremonies ; nor a means of reminding men of the ancient
condition of the race prior to civilization: but they led men to piety by
instruction in morals and as to a future life; which at a very early day, if
not originally, formed the chief portion of the ceremonial.
Symbols were used in the ceremonies, which referred to agriculture, as Masonry
has preserved the ear of wheat in a symbol and in one of her words; but their
principal reference was to astronomical phenomena. Much was no doubt said as to
the condition of brutality and degradation in which man was sunk before the
institution of the Mysteries ; but the allusion was rather metaphysical, to the
ignorance of the uninitiated, than to the wild life of the earliest men.
The great object of the Mysteries of Isis, and in general of all the
Mysteries, was a great and truly politic one. It was to ameliorate our race, to
perfect, its manners and morals, and to restrain society by stronger bonds than
those that human laws impose. They were the invention of that ancient science
and wisdom which exhausted all its resources to make legislation perfect ; and
of that philosophy which has ever sought to secure the happiness of man, by
purifying his soul from the passions which can trouble it, and asia necessary
consequence introduce social disorder. And that they were the work of genius is
evident from their employment of all the sciences, a profound knowledge of the
human heart, and the means of subduing it.
It is a still greater mistake to imagine that they were the inventions of
charlatanism, and means of deception. They may in the lapse of time have
degenerated into imposture and schools of false ideas; but they were not so at
the beginning; or else the wisest and best men of antiquity have uttered toe
most willful falsehoods. In process 0f time the very allegories of the
Mysteries themselves, Tantalus and its punishments, Minos and the other judges
of the dead. came to be misunderstood, and to be false because they were so;
while at first they were true, because they were recognized as merely the
arbitrary forms in which truths were enveloped.
The object of the Mysteries was to procure for man a real felicity on earth by
the means of virtue; and to that end he was taught that his soul was immortal ;
and that error, sin, and vice must needs, by an inflexible law, produce their
consequences. The rude representations of physical torture in Tantalus was but
an image of , the certain, unavoidable, eternal consequences that flow by the
law of God's enactment from the sin committed and the vice indulged in. The
poets and mystagogues labored to propagate these doctrines of the soul's
immortality and the certain punishment of sin and vice, and to accredit them
with the people, by teaching them the former in their poems, and the latter in
the sanctuaries; and they clothed them with the charms, the one of poetry, and
the other of spectacles and magic illusions.
They painted, aided by all the resources of art, the virtuous man's happy
lif.e after death, and the horrors of the frightful prisons destined to punish
the vicious. In the shades of the sanctuaries, these delights and horrors were
exhibited as spectacles, and the Initiates witnessed religious dramas, under
the name of initiation and mysteries. Curiosity was excited by secrecy, by tie
difficulty experienced in obtaining admission, and by the tests to be
undergone. The candidate was amused by the variety of the scenery, the pomp of
the decorations, the appliances of machinery. Respect was inspired by the
gravity and dignity of the actors and the majesty of the ceremonial ; and fear
and hope, sadness and delight, were in turns excited.
The Hierophants, men of intellect, and well understanding the disposition of
the people and the art of controlling them, used every appliance to attain that
object, and give importance and impressiveness to their ceremonies. As they
covered those ceremonies with the veil of Secrecy, so they preferred that Night
, should cover them with its wings. Obscurity adds to impressiveness, and
assists illusion; and they used it to produce an effect upon the astonished
Initiate. The ceremonies were conducted in caverns dimly lighted : thick groves
were planted around the Temples, to produce that gloom that impresses the mind
with a religious awe.
The very word mystery, according to Demetrius Phalereus, was a metaphorical
expression that denoted the secret awe which darkness and gloom inspired. The
night was almost always the time fixed for their celebration ; and they were
ordinarily termed nocturnal ceremonies. Initiations into the Mysteries of
Samothrace tookplace at night ; as did those of Isis, of which Apuleius speaks.

Euripides makes Bacchus say, that his Mysteries were celebrated at night,
because there is in night something august and imposing. Nothing excites men's
curiosity so much as Mystery, concealing things which they desire to know : and
nothing so much increases curiosity as obstacles that interpose to prevent them
frown indulging in the gratification of their desires. Of this the Legislators
and Hierophants took advantage, to attract the people to their sanctuaries, and
to induce them to seek to obtain lessons from which they would perhaps have
turned away with indifference, if they had been pressed upon them. In this
spirit of mystery they professed to imitate the Deity who hides Himself from
our senses, and conceals from us the springs by which He moves the Universe.
They admitted that they concealed the highest truths under the veil of
allegory, the more to excite the curiosity of men, and to urge them to
investigation. The secrecy in which they buried their Mysteries, had that end.
Those to whom they were confided, bound themselves, by the most fearful oaths,
never to reveal `them. They were not allowed even to speak of these important
secrets with any others than the initiated ; and the penalty of death was
pronounced against any one indiscreet enough to reveal them, or found in the
Temple without being an Initiate; and any one who had betrayed those secrets,
was avoided by all, as excommunicated.
Aristotle was accused of impiety, by the Hierophant Eurymendon, for having
sacrificed to the manes of his wife, according to the rite used in the worship
of Ceres. He was compelled to flee to Chalcis ; and to purge his memory from
this stain, he directed, by his will, the erection of a Statue to that Goddess.
Socrates, dying, sacrificed to Esculapius, to exculpate himself from the
suspicion of Atheism. A price was set on the head of Diagoras because he had
divulged the Secret of the Mysteries. Andocides was accused of the same crime,
as was Alcibiades, and both were cited to answer the charge before the
inquisition at Athens, where the People were the Judges: Aeschylus the
Tragedian was accused of having represented the Mysteries on the. stage ; and
was acquitted only on proving that he had never been initiated.
Seneca, comparing Philosophy to initiation, says that the most sacred
ceremonies could be known to the adapts alone : but that man of their precepts
were known even to the Profane. Such 385 was the case with the doctrine of a
future life, and a state of rewards and punishments beyond the grave. The
ancient legislators clothed this doctrine in the pomp of a mysterious ceremony,
in mystic words and magical representations, to impress upon the mind the
truths they taught, by the strong influence of such scenic displays upon the
senses and imagination.
In the same way they taught the origin of the soul, its fall to the earth past
the spheres and through the elements, and its final return to the place of its
origin, when, during the continuance of its union with earthly matter, the
sacred fire, which formed its essence, had contracted no stains, and its
brightness had not been marred by foreign particles, which, denaturalizing it,
weighed it down and delayed its return. These metaphysical ideas, with
difficulty comprehended by the mass of the Initiates, were represented by
figures, by symbols, and by allegorical analogies; no idea being so abstract
that men do not seek to give it expression by, and translate it into, sensible
The attraction of Secrecy was enhanced by the difficulty of obtaining
admission. Obstacles and suspense redoubled curiosity. Those who aspired to the
initiation of the Sun and in the Mysteries of Mathias in Persia, underwent many
trials. `rhey commenced by easy tests and arrived by degrees at those that were
most cruel, in which the life of the candidate was often endangered. Gregory
Nazianzen terms them tortures and mystic punishments. No one call be initiated,
says Suidas, until after he has proven, by the most terrible trials, that he
possesses a virtuous soul, exempt from the sway of every passion, and at it
were impassible. There were twelve principal tests; and some make the number
The trials of the Eleusinian initiations were not so terrible ; but they were
severe ; and the suspense, above all in which the aspirant was kept for several
years [the memory of which is retained in Masonry by the ages of those of the
different Degrees ], or the interval between admission to the inferior and
initiation in the great Mysteries, was a species of torture to the curiosity
which it was desired to excite. Thus the Egyptian Priests tried Pythagoras
before admitting him to know the secrets of the sacred science. He succeeded,
by his incredible patience and the courage with which he surmounted all
obstacles, in obtaining admission to their society and receiving their lessons.
Among the Jews, the Essenes admitted none among them, until they had passed the
tests or several Degrees.
By initiation, those who before were fellow-citizens only, became brothers,
connected by a closer bond than before, by means. of a religious fraternity,
which, bringing men nearer together, united them more strongly : and the weak
and the poor could more readily appeal for assistance to the powerful and the
wealthy, with whom religious association gave them a closer fellowship.
The Initiate was regarded as the favorite of the Gods. For him alone Heaven
opened its treasures. Fortunate during life, he could, by virtue and the favor
of Heaven, promise himself after death an eternal felicity.
The Priests of the Island of Samothrace promised favorable winds and
prosperous voyages to those who wer initiated. It was promised them that the
CABIRI, and Castor and Pollux, the Dioscuri, should appear to them when the
storm raged, and give them calms and smooth seas: and the Scholiast of
Aristophanes says that those initiated in the Mysteries there were just men,
who were privileged to escape from great evils and tempests.
The Initiate in the Mysteries of Orpheus, after he was purified, was
considered as released from the empire of evil, and transferred to a condition
of life which gave him the happiest hopes. "I have emerged from evils'? he was
made to say, “and have attained good." Those initiated in the Mysteries of
Eleusis believed that the Sun blazed with a pure splendor for them alone. And,
as we see in the case of Pericles, they flattered themselves that Ceres and
Proserpine inspired them and gave them wisdom and counsel.
Initiation dissipated errors and banished misfortune and after having filled
the heart of man with joy during life, it gave him the most blissful hopes at
the moment of da We owe it to the Goddesses of Eleusis, says Socrates, that we
do not lead the wild life of the earliest men : and to them are due the
flattering hopes which initiation gives us for the moment of death and for all
eternity. The benefit which we reap from these august ceremonies, says
Aristides, is not only present joy, a deliverance and enfranchisement from the
old ills ; but also the sweet hope which we have in` death of passing to a more
fortunate state. And Theon says that participation of the Mysteries is the
finest of all things, and the source of the greatest blessings. The happiness
promised there was not limited to this mortal life ; but it extended beyond the
grave. There a new life was to commence, during which the Initiate was to enjoy
a bliss without alloy and without limit. The Corybantes promised eternal life
to the Initiates of the Mysteries of Cybele and Atys.
Apuleius represents Lucius, while still in the form of an ass, as addressing
his prayers to Isis, whom be speaks of as the same as Ceres, Venus, Diana, and
Proserpine, and as illuminating the walls of many cities simultaneously with
her feminine lustre, and substituting her quivering light for the bright rays
of the Sun. She appears to him in his vision as a beautiful female, "over whose
divine neck her long thick hair hung in graceful ringlets" Addressing him, she
says, "The parent of Universal nature attends thy call. The mistress of the
Elements, initiative germ of generations, Supreme of Deities, Queen of departed
spirits, first inhabitant of Heaven, and uniform type of all the Gods and
Goddesses, propitiated by thy prayers, is with thee. She governs with her nod
the luminous heights of the firmament, the salubrious breezes of the ocean; the
silent deplorable depths of the shades below ; one Sole Divintiy under mazy
forms, worshipped by the different nations of the Earth under many titles, and
with various a religious rites."
Directing him how to proceed, at her festival, to re-obtain his human shape,
she says : "Throughout the entire course of the remainder of thy life, until
the very last breath has vanished from thy lips, thou art devoted to my service
Under my protection will thy life be happy and glorious: and when, thy. days
being spent, thou shall descend to the shades below, and inhabit
the Elysian fields, there also, even in the subterranean hemisphere, shall thou
pay frequent worship fo me, thy propitious patron : and yet further : if
through sedulous obedience, religious devotion to my ministry, and inviolable
chastity, thou shall prove thyself a worthy object of divine favor, then shall
thou fell the influence of the power that I alone possess. The number of thy
days shall be prolonged beyond the ordinary decrees of fate." In the procession
of the festival, Lucius saw the image of the Goddess, on either side of which
were female attendants, that, "with ivory combs in their hands, made believe,
by the motion of their arms and the divesting of their fingers, to comb and
ornament the Goddess' royal hair." Afterward, clad in linen robes, came the
initiated, "The hair of the women was moistened by perfume, and
enveloped in a transparent covering; but the men, terrestrial stars, as it
were, of the great religion, were thoroughly shaven, and their bald heads shone
exceedingly." Afterward came the Priests, in robes of white linen. The first
bore a lamp in the form of a boat, emitting flame from an orifice in the middle
: the second, a small altar : the third, a golden palmtree : and the fourth
displayed the figure of a left hand, the palm open and expanded, "representing
thereby a symbol of equity and fair-dealing, of which the left hand, as slower
than the right hand, and more void of skill and craft, is therefore an
appropriate emblem."
After Lucius had, by the grace of Isis, recovered his human form, the Priest
said to him, "Calamity hath no hold on those whom our Goddess hath chosen for
her service, and whom her majesty hath vindicated." And the people declared
that he was fortunate to be "thus after a manner born again, and at once
betrothed to the service of the Holy Ministry."
When he urged the Chief Priest to initiate him, he was answered that there was
not "a single one among the initiated, of a mind so degraded, or so bent on his
own destruction, as, without receiving a special command from Isis, to dare to
undertake her ministry rashly and sacrilegiously, and thereby commit an act
certain to bring upon himself a dreadful injury." "For" continued the Chief
Priest,.” the gates of the shades below, and the care of our life being in the
hands of the Goddess,-the ceremony of initiation into the Mysteries is, as it
were, to suffer death, with the precarious chance of resuscitation. Wherefore
the Goddess, in the wisdom of her divinity, hath been accustomed to select as
persons to whom the secrets of her religion can with propriety be entrusted,
those who, standing as it were on the utmost limit of the course of life they
have completed, may through her Providence be in a manner born again, and
commence the career of a new existence." When he was finally to be initiated,
he was conducted to the nearest baths, and after having bathed, the Priest
first solicited forgiveness of the Gods, and then sprinkled him all over with
the clearest and purest water, and conducted him back to the Temple; "where,"
says Apuleius, "after giving me some instruction, that mortal tongue is not
permitted t0 reveal, he bade me for the succeeding ten days restrain my
appetite, eat no animal food, and drink no wine."
These ten days elapsed, the Priest led him into the inmost recesses of the
Sanctuary. "And here, studious reader," he continues "peradventure thou wilt be
suffciently anxious to know all that was said and done, which, were it lawful
to divulge, I would' tell thee; and, wert thou permitted to hear, thou shouldst
know. Nevertheless, although the disclosure would affix the penalty of rash
curiosity to my tongue as well as thy ears, yet will I, for fear thou shouldst
be too long tormented with religious longing, and suffer the pain of protracted
suspense, tell the truth notwithstanding. Listen then to what I shall relate.
I approached the abode of death; with my foot I pressed the threshold of
Proserpine's Palace. I was transported through the elements, and conducted back
again. At midnight I saw the bright light of the sun shining. I stood in the
presence of the Gods, the Gods of Heaven and of the Shades below; ay, stood
clear and worskipped. And now have I told thee such things that, hearing, thou
necessarily canst not understand ; and being beyond the comprehension of the
Profane, I can enunciate without committing a crime." After night had passed,
and the morning had dawned, the usual ceremonies were at an end. Then he was
consecrated by twelve stoles being put upon him, clothed, crowned with
palmleaves, and exhibited to the people. The remainder of that day was
celebrated as his birthday and passed in festivities; and on the third day
afterward, the same religious ceremonies were repeated, including a religious
breakfast, "followed by a final consummation of ceremonies."
A year afterward, he was warned to prepare. for initiation into the Mysteries
of "the Great God, Supreme Parent of all the other Gods, the invincible
Osiris." "For," says Apuleius, "although there is a strict connection between
the religions of both Deities, AND EVEN THE ESSENCE OF BOTH DIVINITIES IS
IDENTICAL, the ceremonies of the respective initiations are considerably
Compare with this hint the following language of the prayer of Lucius,
addressed to Isis ; and we may judge what doctrines were taught in the
Mysteries, in regard to the Deity: "O Holy and Perpetual Preserver of the Human
Race ! ever ready to cherish mortals by Thy munificence, and to afford Thy
sweet maternal affection to the wretched under misfortune ; Whose bounty is
never at rest, neither by day nor by night, nor throughout the very minutest
particle of duration; Thou who stretchest forth Thy health-bearing right hand
over the land and over the sea for the protection of mankind, to disperse the
storms of life, to unravel the inextricable entanglement of the web of fate, to
mitigate the tempests of fortune, and restrain the malignant infilences of the
stars,-the Gods in Heaven adore Thee, the Gods in the shades below do Thee
homage, tke stars obey Thee, the Divinities rejoice in Thee, the elements and
the revolving seasons serve Thee! At Thy nod the Winds breathe, clouds gather,
seeds grow, buds germinate; in obedience to Thee the Earth revolves AND THE SUN
Then he was initiated into the nocturnal Mysteries of Osiris and Serapis: and
afterward into those of Ceres at Rome: but of the ceremonies in these
initiations, Apuleius says nothing. Under the Archonship of Euclid, bastards
and slaves were excluded from initiation ; and the same exclusion obtained
against the Materialists or Epicureans who denied Providence and consequently
the utility of initiation. By a natural progress, it came at length to be
considered that the gates of Elysium would open only for the Initiates, whose
souls had been purified and regenerated in the sanctuaries. But it was never
held, on the other hand, that initiation alone sufficed. We learn from Plato,
that it was also necessary for the soul to be purified from every stain: and
that the purification necessary was such as gave virtue, truth, wisdom,
strength, justice, and temperance.
Entrance to the Temples was forbidden to all who had committed homicide, even
if it were involuntary. So it is stated by both Isocrates and Theon. Magicians
and Charlatans who made trickery a trade, and impostors pretending to be
possessed by evil spirits, were excluded from the sanctuaries. Every impious
person and criminal was rejected ; and Lampridius states that before the
celebration of the Mysteries, public notice was given, that none need apply to
enter but those against whom their consciences uttered no reproach, and who
were certain of their own innocence.
It was required of the Initiate that his heart and hands should be free from
any stain. Porphyry says that man's soul, at death, should be enfranchised from
all the passions, from hate, envy, and the others; and, in a word, be as pure
as it is required to be in the Mysteries. Of course it is not surprising that
parricides and perk jurors, and others who had committed crimes against God or
man, could not be admitted.
In the Mysteries of Mithras, a lecture was repeated to the Initiate on the
subject of Justice. And the great moral. Lesson of the Mysteries, to which all
their mystic ceremonial tended, expressed in a single line by Virgil, was to
practice Justice and revere the Deity, -thus recalling men to justice, by
connecting it with the justice of the Gods, who require it and punish its
infraction. The Initiate could aspire to the favors of the Gods, only because
and while he respected the rights of society and those of humanity. "The sun,"
says the chorus of Initiates in Aristophanes, "burns with a pure light for us
alone, who, admitted to the' Mysteries, observe the laws of piety in our
intercourse with strangers and our fellow-citizens." The rewards of initiation
were attached to the practice of the, social virtues. It was not enough to be
initiated merely. It was necessary to be faithful to the laws of initiation,
which imposed on men duties in regard to their kind. Bacchus allowed none to
participate in his Mysteries, but men who performed to the rules of piety and
justice. Sensibility, above all, and compassion for the misfortunes of others,
were precious virtues, which initiation strove to encourage. "Nature," says
Juvenal "has created us compassionate, since it has endowed us with tears.
Sensibility is the most admirable of our senses. What man is truly worthy of
the torch of the Mysteries; who such as the Priest of Ceres requires him to be,
if he regards the misfortunes of others as wholly foreign to himself?"
All who had not used their endeavors to defeat a conspiracy,
and those who had on the contrary fomented one; those citizens who had betrayed
their country, who had surrendered an advantageous post or place, or the
vessels of the State, to the enemy; all who had supplied the enemy with money;
and in general, all who had come short of their duties as honest men and good
citizens., were excluded from the Mysteries of Eleusis. To be admitted there,
one must have lived equitably, and with suffcient good fortune not to be
regarded as hated by the Gods.
Thus the Society of the Initiates was, in its principle, and according to the
true purpose of its institution, a society of virtuous men, who labored to free
their souls from the tyranny of the passions, and to develop the germ of all
the social virtues, And this was the meaning of the idea, afterward
misunderstood, that entry into Elysium was only allowed to the Initiates :
because entrance to the sanctuaries was allowed to the virtuous only, and
Elysium was created for virtuous souls alone.
The precise nature and details of the doctrines as to a future life, and
rewards and punishments there, developed in the Mysteries, is in a measure
uncertain. Little direct information in regard to it has corme down to us. No
doubt, in the ceremonies, there was a scenic representation of Tantalus and the
judgment of the dead, resembling that which we find in Virgil : but there is as
little doubt ihat these representations were explained to be allegorical. It is
not our purpose here to repeat the descriptions given We are only concerned
with the great fact that the Mysteries taught the doctrine of the soul's
immortality, and that, in some shape, suffering, pain, remorse, and agony, ever
follow sin as its consequences.
Human ceremonies are indeed but imperfect symbols; and the alternate baptisms
in fire and iwater intended to purify us into immortality, are ever in, this
world interrupted at the moment of their anticipated completion. Life its a
mirror which reflects only to deceive, a tissue perpetually. Interrupted and
broken, an urn forever fed, yet never ful1.
All initiation is but introductory to the great change of death. Baptism,
anointing, embalming, obsequies by burial or fire, are preparatory symbols,
like the initiation of Hercules before descending to the Shades, pointing out
the mental change which ought to prece4e the renewal of existence. Death is the
true initiation, to which sleep is the introductory or minor mystery. It is the
final rite which united the Egyptian with his God, and which opens the same
promise to all who are duly prepared for it.
The body was deemed a prison for the soul; but the latter was not condemned to
eternal banishment and imprisonment. The Father of the Worlds permits its
chains to be broken, and has provided in the course of Nature the means of its
escape. It was a doctrine of immemorial antiquity, shared alike by Egyptians,
Pythagoreans, the Orphici, and by that characteristic Bacchus Sage, "the
Preceptor of the Soul," Silence, that death is far better than life; that the
real death belongs to those who on earth are immersed in the Lethe of its
passions and fascinations, and that the true life commences only when the soul
is emancipated for its return.
And in this sense, as presiding over life and death, Dionysus is in the
highest sense the LIBERATOR : Since, like Osiris, he frees the soul, and guides
it in its migrations beyond the grave, preserving it from the risk of again
falling under the slavery of matter or of some inferior animal form, the
purgatory of Metempsychosis ; and exalting and perfecting its nature through
the purifying discipline of his Mysteries. "The great consummation of all
philosophy," said Socrates, professedly quoting from traditional and mystic
sources, "is Death: He who pursues philosophy aright, is studying how to die."
All soul is part of the Universal Soul, whose totality is Dionysus; and it is
therefore he who, as Spirit of Spirits, leads back the vagrant spirit to its
home, and accompanies it through the purifying processes, both real and
symbolical, of its earthly thansit. He is therefore emphatically the Mystic or
Hierophant, the great Spiritual Mediator of Greek religion.
The human soul is itself demonios a God withers the mind, capable through its
own power of rivaling the canonization of the Hero, of making itself immortal
by the practice of the good, and the contemplation of the beautiful and true.
The removal to the Happy Islands could only be understood mythically;
everything earthly must die; Man, like OEdipus, is wounded from his birth, his
realm elysium can exist only beyond the grave. Dionysus died and descended to
the shades. His passion was the great Secret of the Mysteries ; as Death is the
Grand Mystery of existence. His death, typical of Nature's Death, or of her
periodical decay and restoration, eras one of the many symbols of the
palingenesia or second birth of man.
Man descended from the elemental Forces or Titans [Elohim], who fed on the
body of the Pantheistic Deity creating the Universe by self-sacrifice,
commemorates in sacramental observance this mysterious passion ; and while
partaking of the raw flesh of the victim, seems to be invigorated by a fresh
draught from the fountain of unversal life, to receive a new pledge of
regenerated existence. Death is the inseparable antecedent of life; the seed
lies in order to produce the plant, and earth ishelf is rent asunder and dies
at the birth of Dionusos. Hence the significancy of the phallus, or of its
inoffensive substitute, the obelisk, rising as an emblem of resurrection by the
tomb of buried Deity at Lerna or it Sais.
Dionysus-Orpheus descended to the Shades to recover the lost Virgin of the
Zodiac, to bring back his mother to the sky as Thyone; or what has the same
meaning, to consummate his eventful marriage with Persephone, thereby securing,
like the nuptials of his father with Semele or Danae, the perpetuity of Nature.
His under-earth office is the depression of the year, the wintry aspect in the
alternations of bull and serpent, whose united` series makes up the continuity
of Time, and in whirls, physically speaking, the stash and dark are ever the
parents of the beautiful and bright.
the Mysteries : the human sufferer was consoled by witnessing the severer
trials of the Gods; and the vicissitudes of life and death, expressed by
apposite symbols, such as the sacrifice or submission of the Bull, the
extinction and re-illumination of the torch, excited corresponding emotions of
alternate grief and joy, that play of passion which was present at the origin
of Nature, and which accompanies all her changes.
The greater Eleusiniae were celebrated in the month Boedromion, when the seed
was buried in the ground, and when the year, verging to its decline, disposes
the mind to serious reflection. The first days of the ceremonial were passed in
sorrow and anxious silence, in fasting and expiatory or lustral offices. On a
sudden, the scene was changed : sorrow and lamentation were discarded, the glad
name of Bacchus passed from mouth to mouth, the image of the God, crowned with
myrtle and bearing a lighted torch, was borne in ,joyful procession from the
Ceramicus to Eleusis, where, during thee ensuing night, the initiation was
completed by an imposing revelation. The first scene was in the paonaos, or
outer court of the sacred enclosure, where amidst utter darkness, or while the
meditating God, the star illuminating the Nocturnal Mystery, alone carried an
unextinguished torch, the candidates were overawed with terrific sounds and
noises, while they painfully groped their way, as in the gloomy cavern of the
soul's sub lunar migration ; a scene justly compared to the passage of the
Valley of the Shadow of Death. For by the immutable law exemplified in the
trials of Psyche, man must pass through the terrors of the under-world, before
he can reach the height of Heaven. At length the gates of the adytum were
thrown open, a supernatural light streamed from the illuminated statue 395
of the Goddess, and enchanting sights and sounds, mingled with songs and
dances, exalted the communicant to a rapture of supreme felicity, realizing, as
far as sensuous imagery could depict, the anticipated reunion with the Gods.
In the dearth of direct evidence as to the detail of the ceremonies enacted,
or of the meanings connected with them, their tendency must be inferred from
the characteristics of the contemplated deities with their accessory symbols
and mythi, or from direct testimony as to the value of the
Mysteries generally. The ordinary phenomena of vegetation, the death of the
seed in
giving birth to the plant, connecting the sublimest hopes with the plainest
occurrences, was the simple yet beautiful formula assumed by the great mystery
in almost all religions, from the Zend-Avesta to the Gospel. As Proserpine, the
divine power is as the seed decaying and destroyed; as Artemis, she is the
principle of its destruction ; but Artemis Proserpine is also Core Soteria, the
Saviour, who leads the Spirits of Hercules and Hyacinthus to Heaven. Many other
emblems were employed in the Mysteries,-as the dove, the myrtle-wreath, and
others, all significant of life rising. out of death, and of the equivocal
condition of dying yet immortal man.
The horrors and punishments of Tantalus, as described in the Phaedo and the
AEneid, with a11 the ceremonies of the judgments of Minos, Eacus, and
Rhadamanthus, were represented, sometimes more and sometimes less fully, in the
Mysteries; in order to impress upon the minds of the Initiates this great
lesson,-that we should be ever prepared to appear before the Supreme Judge,
with a heart pure and spotless ; as Socrates teaches in the Gorgias. For the
soul stained with crimes, he says, to descend to the Shades, is the bitterest
ill. To adhere to Justice and Wisdom, Plato holds, is our duty, that we may
some day take that lofty road that leads toward the heavens, and avoid most of
. the evils to which the soul is exposed in its subterranean journey of a
thousand years. And so in the Phaedo, Socrates teaches that we should seek here
below to free our soul of its passions, in order to be ready to enter our
appearance, whenever Destiny summons us to the Shades.
Thus the Mysteries inculcated a great moral truth, veiled with a fable of huge
proportions and the appliances of an impressive spectacle, to ,which, exhibited
in the sanctuaries art and natural magic lent all they had that was imposing.
They sought to strengthen men against the horrors of death and the fearful idea
of utter annihilation. Death, says the author of the dialogue, entitled
Axiochus, included in the works of Plato, is but a passage to a happier state;
but one must have lived well, to attain that most fortunate result. So that the
doctrine of the immortality of the soul was consoling to the virtuous and
religious man alone; while to all others it came with menaces and despair,
surrounding them with" terrors and alarms that disturbed their repose during
all their life.
For the material horrors of Tantalus, allegorical to the Initiate, were real
to the mass of the Profane ; nor in latter times, did, perhaps many Iiiitiates
read rightly the allebaory. The triple-walled prison, which the condemned soul
first met, round which swelled and surged the fiery waves of Phlegethon,
wherein rolled roaring, huge, blazing rocks ; the great gate with columns of
adamant, which none save the Gods could crush; Tisiphone, their warder, with
her bloody robes ; the lash resounding on the mangled bodies of the miserable
unfortunates, their plaintive groans, mingled in horrid 'harmony with the
clashing of their chains; the Furies, lashing the guilty with their snakes; the
awful abyss where Hydra howls with its hundred heads, greedy to devour; Tityus,
prostrate, and his entrails fed upon by the cruel vulture; Sisyphus, ever
rolling his rock; Ixion on his wheel; Tantalus tortured by eternal thirst and
hunger, in the midst of water and with delicious fruits touching his head ; the
daughters, of Danaus at their eternal, fruitless task ; beasts biting and
venomous reptiles stinging ; and devouring flame eternally consuming bodies
ever renewed in endless agony; all these sternly impressed upon the people the
terrible consequences of sin and vice, and urged them to pursue the paths of
honesty and virtue.
And if , in the ceremonies of the Mysteries, these material horrors were
explained to the Initiates as mere symbols of the unimaginable torture,
remorse, and agony that would rend the immaterial soul and rack the immortal
spirit, they were feeble and insufficient in the same mode and measure only, as
all material images and symbols fall short of that which is beyond the
cognizance of our senses : and the grave Hierophant, the imagery, the
paintings, the dramatic horrors, the funeral sacrifices, the august rnysteries,
the solemn silence of the sanctuaries, were none the less impressive, because
they were known to be but symbols, that` with material shows and images made
the imagination to be the teacher of the intellect.
expiation; and the tests of water, air, and flre were represented ; by means
of which, during the march of many years, the soul could be purified, and rise
toward the ethereal regions ; that ascent being more or less tedious and
laborious, according as each soul was more or less clogged by the gross
impediments ,of its sins and vices. Herein was shadowed forth, (how distinctly
taught the Initiates we know not), the doctrine that pain and sorrow,
misfortune and remorse, are the inevitable consequences that flow from sin and
vice, as effect flows from cause; that by each sin and every act of vice the
soul drops back and loses ground in its advance toward perfection : and that
the ground so, lost is and will be in reality never so recovered as that the
sin shall be as if it never had been committed; but that throughout all the
eternity of its existence', each soul shall be conscious that every act of vice
or baseness it did on earth has made the distance greater between itself and
ultimate perfection.
We see this truth glimmering in the doctrine, taught in the Mysteries, that
though slight and ordinary offences could be expiated by penances, repentance,
acts of beneficence, and prayers, grave crimes were mortal sins, beyond the
reach of all such remedies. Eleusis closed her gates against Nero: and the
Pagan Priests told Constantine that among all their modes of expiation there
was none so potent as could wash from his soul the dark spots left by the
murder of his wife, and his multiplied perjuries and assassinations.
The object of the ancient initiations being to ameliorate mankind and to
perfect the intellectual part of man, the nature of the human soul, its origin,
its destination, its relations to the body and to universal nature, all formed
part of the mystic science; and to them in part the lessons given to the
Initiate were directed. For it was believed that initiation tended to his
perfection, and to preventing ,the divine part within him, overloaded with,
matter gross and earthy, from being plunged into gloom, and impeded in its
return to the Deity. The soul, with them, was not a mere conception or
abstraction ; but a reality including in itself life and thought; or, rather,
of whose essence it was to live and think. It was material ; but not brute,
inert, inactive, lifeless, motionless, formless, lightless matter. -It was held
to be active, reasoning, thinking; its natural home in the highest regions of
the Universe, whence it descended to illuminate, give form and movement to,
vivify, animate, and carry with itself the baser matter; and whither it
unceasingly tends to reascend, when and as soon as it can free itself from its
connection with that matter. From that substance, divine, infinitely .delicate
and active, essentially luminous, the souls of men were formed, and by it
alone, uniting with and organizing their bodies, men lived.
This was the doctrine of Pythagoras, who learned it when he received the
Egyptian Mysteries : and it was the doctrine of all who, by means of the
ceremonial of initiation, thought to purify the soul. Virgil makes the spirit
of Archives teach it to AEneas: and all the expiations and lustrations vised in
the 113`steries were but symbols of those intellectual olies by which the soul
was to be purged of its vice-spots and stains, and freed of the encumbrance of
its earthly prison, so that it might rise unimpeded to the source from which it
Hence sprung the doctrine of the transmigration of souls; which Pythagoras
taught as an allegory, and those who came after him received literally. Plato,
like him, drew, his doctrines from the East and the Mysteries, and undertook to
translate the language of the symbols used there, into that of Philosophy ; and
to prove by argument and philosophical deduction, what, felt by the
consciousness, the Mysteries taught by Symbols as an indisputable fact,-the
immortality of the soul. Cicero did the same ; and followed the Mysteries in
teaching that the Gods were but mortal men, who for their great virtues and
signal services had deserved that their souls should, after death, be raised to
that lofty rank.
It being taught in the Mysteries, either by way of allegory, the meaning of
which was not made known except to a select few, or, perhaps only at a later
day, as an actual reality, that the souls of the vicious dead passed into the
bodies of those animals to whose nature their vices had most affinity, it was
also taught that the soul could avoid these transmigrations, often successive
and numerous, by the practice of virtue, which would acquit it of thrum, free
it from the circle of successive generations, and restore it at once to its
source. Hence nothing was so ardently prayed far by the Initiates, says
Proclus, as this happy fortune, which, delivering them from the empire of Evil,
would restore them to their true life, and conduct them to the place of final
rest. To this doctrine probably referred those figures of animals and monsters
which were exhibited to the Initiate, before allowing him to see the sacred
light for which he sighed., Plato says, that souls will not reach the term of
their ills, until the revolutions of the world have restored them to their
primitive condition, and purified them from the stains which they have
contracted by the contagion of fire, earth, and air. And he held that they
could not be allowed to enter Heaven, until they had distinguished themselves
by the practice of virtue in some one of three several bodies. The Manicheans
allowed five: Pindar, the same. number as Plato; as did the Jews. And Cicero
says, that the ancient soothsayers, and the interpolators of the will of the
Gods, in their religious ceremonies and initiations, taught that we expiate
here below the crimes committed in a prior life ; and for that are born. It was
taught in these Mysteries, that the soul passes' through several states, and
that the pains and sorrows of this life are an expiation of prior faults.
This doctrine of transmigration of souls obtained, as Porphyry informs us,
among the Persians and Magi. It was held in the East and the West, and that
from the remotest antiquity. Herodotus found, it among the Egyptians, who made
the term of the circle of migrations from one human body, through animals,
fishes, and birds, to another human body,' three thousand years. Empedocles
even held that souls went into plants Of these, the laurel was the noblest, as
of animals the lion; both being consecrated to the Sun, to which, it was held
in the Orient, virtuous souls were to return. The Curds, the Chinese, the
Cabbalists, all held the same doctrine. So Origin held, and the Bishop
Synesius, the latter of whom had been initiated, and who thus prayed to God :
"O Father, grant that my soul, reunited to the light, may not be plunged again
into the defilements of earth," So the Gnostics held; and even the Disciples of
Christ inquired if the man who was born blind, was not so punished for some sin
that he had committed before his birth.
Virgil, in the celebrated allegory in which he develops the doctrines taught
in the Mysteries, enunciated the doctrine, held by" most of the ancient
philosophers, of the pre-existence of `souls, in the eternal fire from which
they emanate; that fire which animates the stars, and circulates in every part
of Nature: and the purifications of the soul, by fire, water, and air, of which
he speaks, and which three modes were employed in the Mysteries of Bacchus,
were symbols of the passage of the soul into different bodies.
The relations of the human soul with the rest of nature were a chief object of
the science of the Mysteries. The man was there brought face to face with
entire nature, The world, and the spherical envelope that surrounds it, were
represented by a mystic egg, by the side of the image of the Sun-God whose
Mysteries were celebrated. The famous Orphic egg was consecrated to Bacchus in
his Mysteries. It was, says Plutarch, an. image of the Universe, which,
engenders everything, and contains everything in its bosom."`Consult," says
Macrobius, "the Initiates of the? Mysteries of Bacchus, who honor with special
veneration the sacred egg." The rounded and almost spherical form of its shell,
he says, which encloses it on every side, and confines within itself the
principles of life, is a symbolic image of the world ; and the world is the
universal principle of all things.
This symbol was borrowed from the Egyptians, who also consecrated the egg to
Osiris, germ of Light, himself born, sans Diodorus, from that famous egg. In
Thebes, in Upper Egypt, he was represented as emitting it from his mouth, and
causing to issue from it the first principle of heat and light, or the
Fire-God, Vulcan, or Phtha. We find this egg even in Japan, between the horns
of the famous Mithriac Bull,- whose attributes Osiris, Apis, and Bacchus all
Orpheus, author of the Grecian Mysteries, which he carried from Egypt `to
Greece, consecrated this symbol : and taught that matter, untreated and
informers, existed from all eternity, unorganized, as chaos ; containing in
itself the Principles of all Existences confused and intermingled, light with
darkness, the dry with the humid, heat with cold; from which, it after long
ages :eking the shape of an immense egg, issued the purest matter, or First
substance, and the residue was divided into the four elements, From which
proceeded heaven and earth and all things else. This Grand Cosmogonic idea he
taught in the Mysteries; and thus the Hierophant explained the meaning of the
mystic egg, seen by the initiates in the Sanctuary.
Thus entire Nature, in her primitive organization, was presented 401 to him
whom it was wished to instruct in her secrets and initiate in her mysteries ;
and Clement of Alexandria might well say that initiation was a real physiology.

So Phanes, the Light-God, in the Mysteries of the New Orphics, emerged from
the egg of chaos: and the Persians had the great egg of Ormuzd. And
Sanchoniathon tells us that in the Phoenician theology, the matter of chaos
took the form of an egg; and he adds: "Such ,are the lessons which the Son of
Thabion~ first Hierophant of the Phoenicians,. turned into allegories, in which
physics and astronomy intermingled, and which he taught to the other
Hierophants, whose duty it was to preside at orgies and initiations ; and who,
seeking to excite the astonishment and admiration of mortals, faithfully
transmitted these things to their successors and the Initiates."
In the Mysteries was also taught the division of the Universal Cause into an
Active and a Passive cause; of which two, Osiris and Isis,-the heavens and the
earth were symbols. These two .First Causes, into which it was held that the
great Universal First Cause at the beginning of things divided itself, were the
two great Divinities, whose worship was, according to Varro, inculcated upon
the Initiates at Samothrace. "As is taught," he says, "in the initiation into
the Mysteries at Samothrace, Heaven and Earth are regarded as the two first
Divinities. They are the potent Gods worshipped in that Island, and whose
narr4es are consecrated in the books of our Augurs. One of them is male and the
other female; and they bear the same relation to each other as the soul does to
the body, humidity to dryness." The Curates, in Crete, had built an altar to
Heaven and to Earth; whose Mysteries they celebrated at Gnossus, in a cypress
These two Divinities, the Active and Passive Principles of the
Universe, were commonly symbolized by the generative pasts of man and woman ;
to which, in remote ayes, no idea of indecency was attached ; the Phallus and
Cteis, emblems of generation and production, and which, as such, appeared in
the Mysteries. The Indian Lingam was the union of both, as were the boat and
mast and the point within a circle: all of which expressed the same
philosophical idea as to the Union of the two great Causes of Nature, which
concur, one actively and the other passively, in the generation of all beings :
which were symbolized by what we now term Gemini, the Twos, at that remote
period when the Sun was in that Sign at the Vernal Equinox, and when they were
Male and Female; and of which the Phallus was perhaps taken from the generative
organ of the Bull, when about twenty-five hundred years before our era he
opened that equinox, and became to the Ancient World the symbol of the creative
and generative Power.
The Initiates at Eleusis, commenced, Process says, by invoking the two great
causes of nature, the Heavens and the Earth, on which in succession they fixed
their eyes, addressing to each a prayer. And they deemed it their duty to do
so, he adds, because they saw in them the Father and Mother of all generations.
The concourse of these two agents of the Universe was termed in theological
language a marriage. Tertullian, accusing the Valentinians of having borrowed
these symbols from the Mysteries of Eleusis, yet admits that in those Mysteries
they were explained in a manner consistent with decency, as representing the
powers of nature. He was too little of a philosopher to comprehend the sublime
esoteric meaning of these embalms, which will, if you advance, in other Degrees
be unfolded to you.
` The Christian Fathers contented themselves with reviling and ridiculing the
use of these emblems. But as they in the earlier' times created no indecent
ideas, and were worn alike by the most innocent youths and virtuous women, it
will be far wiser for us to seek to penetrate their meaning. Not only the
Egyptians, says Diodorus Sinuous, but every other people that consecrate this
symbol (the Phallus), deem that they thereby do honor to the Active ,Force of
the universal generation of all living things. For the same reason, as we learn
from the geographer Ptolemy, it was revered among the Assyrians and Persians.
Proclus remarks that , in the distribution of the Zodiac among she twelve great
Divinities, by ancient astrology, six signs were assigned to the male and six
to the female principle.
There is another division of nature, which has in all ages struck all men, and
which was not forgotten in the Mysteries; that of Light and Darkness, Day and
Night, Good and Evil ; which mingle with, and clash against, and pursue or are
pursued by eaeh other throughout the Universe. The Great Symbolic Egg
distinctly reminded the Initiates of this great division of the world.
plutarch, treating of the dogma of a Providence, and of that of the two
principles of Light and Darkness, which he regarded as the basis of the Ancient
Theology, of the Orgies and the Mysteries, as well among the Greeks as the
Barbarians,-a doctrine whose origin, according to him, is lost in the night of
time,-cites, in support of his opinion, the famous Mystic Egg of the disciples
of Zoroaster and the Initiates in the Mysteries of Mithras.
To the Initiates in the Mysteries of Eleusis was exhibited the spectacle of
these two principles, in the successive scenes of Darkness and Light which
passed before their eyes. To the profoundest darkness, accompanied with
illusions and horrid phantoms, succeeded the most brilliant light, whose
splendor blazed round the statue of the Goddess. The candidate, says Dion
Chrysostomus, passed into a 'mysterious temple, of astonishing magnitude and
beauty, where were exhibited to him many mystic scenes; where his ears were
stunned with many voices ; and where Darkness and Light successively passed
before him. And Themistius in like manner describes the Initiate, when about to
enter into that part of the sanctuary tenanted by the Goddess, as filled with
fear and religious awe, wavering, uncertain in what direction to advance
through the profound darkness that envelopes him. But when the Hierophant has
opened the entrance to the inmost sanctuary, and removed the robe that hides
the Goddess, he exhibits her to the Initiate, resplendent with divine light.
The thick `shadow and gloomy atmosphere which had enthroned the candidate
vanish ; he is filled with a vivid and glowing enthusiasm, that lifts his soul
out of the profound dejection in which it was , plunged ; ant the purest light
succeeds to the thickest darkness.
In a fragment of the same writer, preserved by Stobaeus, we learn that the
Initiate, up to the moment when his initiation is to be consummated, is alarmed
by every kind of sight: that astonishment and terror take his soul captive; he
trembles; cold sweat flows from his body; until the moment when the Light is
shown him,-a most astoundihg Light,-th? brilliant scene of Elysium, where he
sees charming meadows overarched by a clear sky, and festivals celebrated by
dances ; where he hears harmonious voices, and the majestic chants of the
Hierophants; and views the sacred spectacles. Then, absolutely free, and
enfranchised from the dominion of all ills, he mingles with the crowd of
Initiates, and, crowned with flowers, celebrates with them the holy orgies,' in
the brilliant realms of ether, and the dwelling-place of Ormuzd.
In the Mysteries of Isis, the candidate first passed through the dark valley
of the shadow of death; then into a place representing the elements or
sublunary world, where the two principles clash and contend ; and was finally
admitted to a luminous region, where the sun, with his most brilliant light,
put to rout the shades of night. Then he himself put on the costume of the
Sun-God, or the Visible Source o'f Ethereal Light, in whose Mysteries he was
initiated ; and passed from the empire of darkness to that of light. After
having set his feet on the threshold of the palace of Pluto, he ascended to the
Empyrean, to the bosom of the Eternal Principle of Light of the Universe, from
which all souls and intelligences emanate.
Plutarch admits that this theory of two Principles was the basis of all the
Mysteries, and consecrated in the religious ceremonies and Mysteries of Greece.
Osiris and Typhon, Ormuzd and Ahriman, Bacchus and the Titans and Giants, all
represented these principles. Phanes, the luminous God that issued from the
Sacred Egg, and Night, bore the scepters in the Mysteries of the New Bacchus.
Night and Day were two of the eight Gods adored in the Mysteries of Osiris. The
sojourn of Proserpine and also of Adonis, during six months of each year in the
upper world, abode of light, and six months in the lower or abode of darkness,
allegorically represented the same division of the Universe.
The connection of the-different initiations with the Equinoxes which separate
the Empire of the Nights from that of the Days, and fix the moment when one of
these principles begins to prevail over the other, shows that the Mysteries
referred to the continual contest between the two principles of light and
darkness, each alternately victor and vanquished. The very object proposed by
them shows that their basis was the theory of the two principles and their
relations with the soul. "We celebrate the august Mysteries of Ceres and
Proserpine," says the Emperor Julian, "at the Autumnal Equinox, to obtain of
the Gods that the soul may not experience the malignant action of the Power,of
Darkness that is then about to have sway and rule in Nature." Sallust the
Philosopher makes almost the same remark as to the relations of the soul with
the periodical march of light and darkness, during an annual revolution ; and
assures us that the mysterious festivals of Greece related to the same. And in
all the explanations given by Macrobius of the Sacred Fables in regard to the
sun, adored under the names of Osiris, Horus, Adonis, Atys, Bacchus, etc.. we
invariably see that they refer to the theory of the two Principles, Light and
Darkness, and the triumphs gained by one over the other. In April was
celebrated the first triumph obtained by the light of day over the length of
the nights ; and the ceremonies of mourning and rejoicing had, Macrobius says,
as their object the vicissitudes of the annual administration of the world.
This brings us naturally to the tragic portion of these religious' scenes, and
to the allegorical history of the different adventures of the Principle, Light,
victor and vanquished by turns, in the combats waged with Darkness during each
annual period. Here we reach the most mysterious part of the ancient
initiations, and that most interesting to the Mason who laments the death of
his Grand Master Khir-Om. Over it Herodotus throws the august veil of mystery
and silence. Speaking of the Temple of Minerva, or of that Isis who was styled
the Mother of the Sun-God, and whose Mysteries were termed Isiac, at Sais, he
specks of a Tomb in the Temple, in the rear of the Chapel and against the well
; and says, "It is the tomb of a man, whose name respect requires me to
conceal. Within the Temple were great obelisks of stone [phalli], and a
circular lake paved with stones and revetted with a parapet. It seemed to me as
large as that at Delos" [there the Mysteries of Apollo were celebrated]. "In
this lake the Egyptians celebrate, during the night, what they style the
Mysteries, in which are represented the sufferings of the God of whom I have
spoken above." . This God was Osiris, put to death by Typhon, and who descended
to the Shades and was restored to life; of which he had spoken before.
We are reminded, by this passage, of the Tomb of Khir-Om, his death, and his
rising from the grave, symbolical of restoration of life ; and also of the
brazen Sea in the Temple at Jerusalem. Herodotus adds : "I impose upon myself a
profound, silence in regard to these Mysteries, with most of which I am
acquainted. As little will I speak of the initiations of Ceres, known among the
Greeks as Thesmophoria. What I shall say will not violate the respect which I
owe to religion."
Athenagoras quotes this passage to show that not only the Statue but the Tomb
of Osiris was exhibited in Egypt, and a tragic representation of his
sufferings; and remarks that the Egyptians had mourning ceremonies in honor of
their Gods, whose deaths they, Lamented ; and to whom they afterward sacrificed
as having It is, however, not difficult, combining the different rays of light
that emanate from the different Sanctuaries, to learn the genius and the object
of these secret ceremonies. We have hints, and not details.
We know that the Egyptians worshipped the Sun, under the name of Osiris. The
misfortunes and tragical death of this God . were an allegory relating to the
Sun. Typhon, like Ahriman, represented Darkness. The sufferings and death of
Osiris in the Mysteries of the Night were a mystic image of the phenomena of
Nature, and the conflict of the two great Principle which share the empire of
Nature, and most infilenced our souls. the sun is neither born, dies, nor is
raised to life: and the recital of these events was but an allegory, veiling a.
higher truth Horus, son of Isis, and the same as Apollo or the Sun, also died
and was restored again to, life~ and to his mother; and the priests ,of Isis
celebrated these great events by mourning and joyous festival succeeding each
In the Mysteries of Phoenicia, established in honor of Thammuz or Adonis, also
the Sun, the spectacle of his death and resurrection was exhibited to the
Initiates. As we learn from Meursius and Plutarch, a figure was exhibited
representing the corpse of a young man. Flowers were strewed upon his body, the
women mourned for him ; a tomb was erected to him. And these feasts, as we
learn from Plutarch and Ovid, passed into Greece.
God was lamented, and his resurrection was celebrated with the most
enthusiastic expressions of joy. A corpse, we. learn from Julian , was shown
the Initiates, representing Mithras dead; and afterward his resurrection was
announced; and they were then invited to rejoice that the dead God was restored
to life, and had by means of his sufferings secured their salvation. Three
months before, his birth had been celebrated, under the emblem of an infant,
born on the.25th of December, or the eighth day before the Calends of January.
In Greece, in the mysteries of the same God, honored under the name of
Bacchus, a representation was given of his death, slain by the Titans ; of his
descent into hell, his ,subsequent resurrection, and his return toward his
Principle or the pure abode whence he had descended to unite himself with
matter. In the islands of Chios and Tenedos, his death was represented by the
sacrifice of a man,` actually immolated.
The mutilation and sufferings of the same Sun-God, honored in Phrygia under
the name of Atys, caused the tragic scenes that were, as we learn from Diodorus
Siculus, represented annually in the Mysteries of Cybele, mother of the Gods.
An image was borne there, representing the corpse of a young man, over whose
tomb tears were shed, and to whom funeral honors were paid.
At Samothrace, in the Mysteries of the Cabiri or great Gods, a representation
was given of the death of one if them. This name was given to the Sun, because
the Ancient Astronomers gave the name of Gods Cabiri, and of Samothrace to the
two Gods in the Constellation Gemini; whom others term Apollo and Hercules, two
names of the Sun.. Athenion says that the young Cabirus so slain was the same
as the Dionysus or Bacchus of the Greeks. The Pelasgi, ancient inhabitants of
Greece, and who settled Samothrace, celebrated these Mysteries, whose origin is
unknown : and they worshipped Castor and Pollux as patrons of navigation.
The tomb of Apollo was at Delphi, where his body was laid, after Python, the
Polar Serpent that annually heralds the coming of autumn, cold, darkness, and
winter, had slain him, and over whom. the God triumphs, on the 25th of March,
on his return to the lamb of the Vernal Equinox.
In Crete, Jupiter Ammon, on the Sun in Aries, painted with the attributes of
that equinoctial sign, the Ram or Lamb ;-that Ammon who, Martianus Copella
says, is the same as Osiris, Adoni, Adonis, Atys, and the other Sun-Gods,-had
also a tomb, and a religious initiation ; one of the principal ceremonies of
whi`ch consisted in clothing the Initiate with the skin of a white lamb. And in
this we see the origin of the apron of white sheep-skin, used in Masonry.
All these deaths and resurrections, these funeral emblems, these anniversaries
of mourning and joy, these cenotaphs raised in different places to the Sun-God,
honored under different names, had but a single object, the allegorical
narration of the events which happened here below-to the Light of Nature, that
sacred fire from which our souls were deemed to emanate, warring with matter
and the dark Principle resident therein, ever at variance with the Principle of
Good and Light poured upon itself by the Supreme Divinity. All these Mysteries,
says Clement of Alexandria, displaying to us murders and tombs alone, all these
religious tragedies, had a common basis, variously ornamented : and that basis
was the fictitious death and resurrection of the Sun, Soul of the World,
principle of life and movement in the Sublunary World, and source of our
intelligences, which are but a portion of the Eternal Light blazing in that
Star, their chief center.
It was in the Sun that Souls, it was said, were purified: and to it they
repaired. It was one of the gates of the soul, through which the theologians,
says Porphyry, say that it re-ascends toward the home of Light and the Good.
Wherefore, in the Mysteries of Eleusis, the Dadoukos (the first officer after
the Hierophant, who represented the Grand Demiourgos or Maker of the Universe),
who was casted in the interior of the Temple, and there received the
candidates, represented the Sun.
It was also held that the vicissitudes experienced by the Father of Light had
an influence on the destiny of souls; which, of the same substance as he,
shared his fortunes. This we learn from the Emperor Julian and Sallust the
Philosopher. They are afflicted when he suffers : they rejoice when he triumphs
over the Power of Darkness which opposes his sway and hinders the happiness of
Souls, to whom nothing is so terrible as darkness. The fruit of the sufferings
of the God, father of light and $ouls, slain.by the Chief of the Powers of
Darkness, and again restored to life, was received in the Mysteries. "His death
works your Salvation ;" said the High Priest of Mithras. That was the great
secret of this religious tragedy, and its expected fruit ;-the resurrection of
a God, who, repossessing Himself of His dominion over Darkness, should
associate with Him in His triumph those virtuous Souls that by their purity
were worthy to share His glory; and that strove not against the divine force
that drew them to Him, when, He had thus conquered.
To the Initiate were also displayed the spectacles of the chief agents of the
Universal Cause, and of the distribution of the world, in the detail of its
parts arranged in most regular order. The Universe itself supplied man with the
model of the first Temple reared to the Divinity. The arrangement of the Temple
of Solomon, the symbolic ornaments which formed its chief decorations, and the
dress of the High Priest,-all, as Clement of Alexandria, Josephus and Philo
state, had reference to ,the order of the world. Clement informs us that the
Temple contained many emblems of the Seasons, the Sun, the Moon, the planets,
the constellations Ursa Major and Minor, the zodiac, the elements, and the
other parts of the world.'
Josephus, in his description of the High Priest's Vestments, protesting
against the charge of impiety brought against the He brews by other nati~ons,
for condemning the Heathen Divinities, declares it false, because, in the
construction of the Tabernacle, in the vestments of the Sacrificers, and in the
Sacred vessels, the whole World was in some sort represented. Of the three
parts, he says, into which the Temple was divided, two represent Earth and Sea,
open to all men, and the third, Heaven, God's dwelling-place, reserved for Him
alone. The twelve loaves of Shew-bread signify the twelve months of the year.
The Candlestick represented the twelve signs through which the Seven Planets
run their courses; and the seven lights, those planets; the veils, of four
colors, the four elements; the tunic of the High Priest, the earth; the
Hyacinth, nearly blue, the Heavens ; the. aphid, of four colors, the whole of
nature; the gold, Light; the breast-plate, in the middle, this earth in the
center of the world ; the two Sardonyxes, used as clasps, the Sun and Moon ;
and the twelve precious stones of the breast-plate arranged by threes, like the
Seasons, the twelve months, and the twelve signs of the zodiac. Even the loaves
were arranged in two groups of six, like the zodiacal signs above and below the
Equator. Clement, the learned Bishop of Alexandria, and Philo, adopt all these
Hermes calls the Zodiac, the Grent Tent,-Tabernaculum. In the Royal Arch
Degree of the American Rite, the Tabernacle has four veils, of different
colors, to each of which. Belongs a banner. the colors of the four are White,
Blue, Crimson, and Purple, and the banners bear the images of the Bull, the
Lion, the Man, ant the Eagle, the Constellations answering 2500 years before
our era to the Equinoctial and Solstitial points : to which belong four stars,
aldebaran, Regulus, Fomalhaut, and Antares. At each of these veils there are
three words : and to each division of the Zodiac, belonging to each of these
Stars, are three Signs. The four signs,
Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius, were termed the fixed signs, and are
appropriately assigned to the four veils.
`SO the Cherubim, according to Clement and Philo,- represented the two
hemispheres ; their wings, the rapid course of the firmament, and of time which
revolves in the Zodiac. "For the Heavens fly;" says Philo, speaking of the
wings of the Cherubim : which were winged representations of the Lion, the
Bull, the Eagle, and the Man; of two of which, the human-headed, winged bulls
and lions, so many have been found at Nimrod ; adopted as beneficent symbols,
when the Sun entered Taurus at the Vernal Equinox and Leo at the Summer
Solstice : and when, also, he entered Scorpio, far which, on account of its
malignant influences, Aquila, the eagle was substituted, at the autumnal
equinox; and Aquarius (the water-bearer) at the Winter Solstice.
So, Clement says, the candlestick with seven branches represented the seven
planets, like which the seven branches were arranged and regulated, preserving
that musical proportion and system of harmony of which the sun was the centre
and connection. They were arranged, says Philo, by threes, like the planets
above and those below the sun; between which two groups was the branch that
represented him, the mediator or moderator of the celestial harmony. He is, in
fact, the fourth in the musical scale, as Philo remarks, and Martianus Capella
in his hymn to the Sun.
Near the candlestick were other emblems representing the heavens, earth, and
the vegetative matter out of whose bosom the vapors arise. The whole temple was
an abridged image of the world. There were candlesticks with four branches,
symbols of the elements and the seasons ; with twelve, symbols of the signs;
and even with three hundred and sixty, the number of days in the year, without
the supplementary days. Imitating the famous Temple of Tyre, where were the
great columns consecrated to the winds and fire, the Tyrian artist placed two
columns of bronze at the entrance of the porch of the temple. The hemispherical
brazen sea, supported by four groups of bulls, of three each, looking to the
four cardinal points of the compass, represented the bull of the Vernal
Equinox, and at Tyre were consecrated to Astarte; to whom Hiram, Josephus says,
had built a temple, and who wore on her head a helmet bearing the image of a
bull. And the throne of Solomon, with bulls adopting its arms, and supported on
lions, like those of Horus in Egypt and of the Sun at Tyre; likewise referred
to the Vernal Equinox and Summer Solstice. Those who in Thrice adored the sun,
under the name of Saba Zeus, the Grecian Bacchus, blinded to him, says
Macrobius, a temple on Mount Zelmisso, its round form representing the world
and the sun. A circular aperture in the roof admitted the light, and introduced
the image of the sun into the body of the sanctuary, where he seemed to blaze
as in the heights of Heaven, and to dissipate the darkness within that temple
which was a representation symbol of the world. There the passion, death, and
resurrection of Bacchus were represented.
So the Temple of Eleusis was lighted by a window in the roof. The sanctuary so
lighted, Dion compares to the Universe, from which he says it differed in size
alone; and in it the great lights of nature played a great part and were
myopically represented. The images of the Sun, Moon, and Mercury were
represented there, (the latter the same as Anubis who accompanied Isis) ; and
they are still the three lights of a Masonic Lodge ; except that for Mercury,
the Master of the Lodge has been absurdly substituted.
Eusebius names as the principal Ministers in the Mysteries of Eleusis, first,
the Hierophant, clothed with the attributes of the Grand Architect (Demiourgos)
of the Universe. After him came the Dadoukos, or torch-bearer, representative
of the Sun : then the altar-bearer, representing the Moon : and last, the
Hieroceryx, bearing the caduceus, and representing Mercury. It was not
permissible to reveal the different emblems and the mysterious pageantry of
initiation to the Profane; and therefore we do not. know the attributes,
emblems, and ornaments of these and other officers ; of which Apuleius and
Pausanias dared not speak.
We know only that everything recounted there was marvelous; everything done
there tended to astonish the Initiate: and that eyes and ears were equally
astounded. The Hierophant, of lofty height, and noble features, with long hair,
of a great age, grave and dignified, with a voice sweet and sonorous, sat upon
a throne, clad in a long trailing robe; as the Motive-God of Nature was held to
be enveloped in His work and hidden under a veil which no mortal can raise.
even his name was concealed, like that of the Demiourgos, whose name was
The Dadoukos also wore a long robe, his hair long, and a bandeau on his
forehead. Callias, when holding that office, fighting on the great day of
Marathon, clothed with the insignia of his office, was taken by the Barbarians
to be a King. The Dadoukos led the procession of the Initiates, and was charged
with the purification.
WE do set know the functions of the Epibomos or assistant at the altar, who
represented the moon. That planet was one of the two homes of souls, and one of
the two great gates by which they descended and reascended. Mercury was charged
with the conducting of souls through the two great gates; and in going from the
sun to the moon they passed immediately by him. He admitted or rejected them as
they were more or less pure, and therefore the Hieroceryx or Sacred Herald, who
represented Mercury, was charged with the duty of excluding the Profane from
the Mysteries.
The same offsets are found in the procession of Initiates of Isis, described
by Apuleius. All clad in robes of white linen, drawn tight across the breast,
and close-fitting down to the very feet, came, first, one bearing a lamp in the
shape of a boat; second, one carrying an altar; and third, one carrying a
golden palm-tree and the caduceus. These are ihe same as the three officers at
Eleusis, after the Hierophant. Then one carrying an open hand, and pouring milk
on the ground from a golden vessel in the shape of a woman's breast. The hand
was that of justice: and the milk alluded to the Galaxy or Milky Way, along
which souls descended and remounted. Two others followed, one bearing a
winnowing fan, and the other a water-vase; symbols of the purification of souls
by air and water; and the third purification, by earth, was represented by an
image of the animal that cultivates it, the cow or ox, borne by another
Then followed a chest or ark, magnificently ornamented, containing an image of
the organs of generation of Osiris, or perhaps of both sexes ; emblems of the
original generating and producing Powers. When Typhon, said the Egyptian fable,
cut up the body of Osiris into pieces, he flung his genitals into the Nile,
where a fish devoured them. Atys mutilated himself, as his Priests afterward
did in imitation of him; and Adonis was in that part of his body wounded by the
boar: all of which represented the loss by the Sun of his vivifying and
generative power, when he reached the Autumnal Equinox (the Scorpion that on
old monuments bites those parts of the Vernal Bull), and descended toward the
region of darkness and Winter.
Then, says Apuleius, came "one who carried in his bosom an object that
rejoiced the heart of the bearer, a venerable effigy of the Supreme Deity,
neither bearing resemblance to man, cattle, bird, beast, or any living creature
: an exquisite invention, venerable from the novel originality of the
fashioning; a wonderful, ineffable symbol of religious mysteries, to'be looked
upon in profound silence. Such as it was, its figure was that of a small urn of
burnished gold, hollowed very ,artistically, rounded at the bottom, and covered
all over the outside with the wonderful hieroglyphics of the Egyptians. The
spout was not elevated, but extended laterally, projecting like a long rivulet;
while on the opposite side was the handle, which, with similar lateral
extension, bore on its summit an asp, curling its body into folds, and
stretching upward, its wrinkled, scaly, swollen throat."
The salient basilisk, ,or royal ensign of the Pharaohs, often occurs on the
monuments-a serpent in folds, with his head raised erect above the folds. The
basilisk was the Phoenix of the serpent-tribe; and the vase or urn was probably
the vessel, shaped like a cucumber, with a projecting spout, out of which, on
the monuments of Egypt, the priests are represented pouring streams of the Cruz
ansasta or Tau Cross, and of scepters, over the kings.
In the Mysteries of Mithras, a sacred cave, representing the whole arrangement
of the world, was used for the reception of the Initiates. Zoroaster, says
Eubulus, first introduced this custom of consecrating caves. They were also
consecrated, in Crete, to Jupiter; in Arcadia, to, the Moon and Pan; and in the
Island of Naxos, to Bacchus. The Persians, in the cave where the Mysteries of
Mithras were celebrated, fixed the seat of . that God, Father of Generation, or
Demiourgos, near the equinoctial point of Spring, with the Northern portion of
the world on his right, and the Southern on his left.
Mithras, says Porphyry, presided over the Equinoxes, seated on a Bull the
symbolical animal of the Demiourgos, and bearing a sword. The equinoxes were
the gates through which souls passed to and fro, between the hemisphere of
light and that of darkness. The milky way was also represented, passing near
each of these gates: and it was, in the old theology, termed the pathway of
souls. It is, according to Pythagoras, vast troops of souls that form that
luminous belt. The route followed by souls, according to Porphyry, or rather
their progressive march in the world, lying through the fixed stars and
planets, the Mithriac cave not only displayed the zodiacal and other
constellations, and marked gates at the four equinoctial and Solstitial points
of the zodiac, whereat souls enter into and escape from the world of
generational and through which they pass to and fro between the realms of light
and darkness; but it represented the seven planetary spheres which they needs
must traverse, in descending from the heaven of the fixed stars to the elements
that envelop the earth ; and seven gates were marked, one for each. planet,
through which they pass, in descending or returning.
We learn this from Celsus, in Origen; who says that the symbolical image of
this passage among the stars, used in the Mithriac Mysteries, was a ladder,
reaching from earth to Heaven, divided into seven steps or stages, to each of
which was a gate, and at the summit an eighth, that of the fixed stars. The
first gate, says Celsus, was that of Saturn, and of lead, by the heavy nature
whereof his dull slow progress was symbolized. The second, of tin, was that of
Venus, symbolizing her soft splendor and easy flexibility. The third, of brass,
was that of Jupiter, emblem of his solidity and dry nature. The fourth, of
iron, was that of Mercury, expressing his indefatigable activity and sagacity.
The ,fifth, of copper, was that of Mars, expressive of his inequalities and
variable nature. The sixth, of silver, was that of the Moon: and the seventh,
of gold, that of the Sun. This order is not the real order ,of these Planet's
but a mysterious one, like that of the days of the Week consecrated to them,
commencing with Saturday, and retrograding to Sunday. It was dictated, Celsus
says, by certain harmonic relations, those of the fourth.
Thus there was an intimate connection between the Sacred Science of the
Mysteries, and ancient astronomy and physics ; and the grand spectacle of the
Sanctuaries was that of the order of the renown Universe, or the spectacle of
Nature itself, surrounding the soul of the Initiate, as it surrounded it when
it first descended through the planetary gates, and by the equinoctial and
Solstitial doors, along the Milky Way, to be for the first time immured in its
prison-house of matter. But the Mysteries also represented to the candidate, by
sensible symbols, the invisible forces which move this visible Universe, and
the virtues, qualities, and powers attached to matter, and which maintain the
marvellous order observed therein. Of this Porphyry informs us.
The world, according to the philosophers of antiquity, was not a purely
material and mechanical machine. A great Soul, diffused everywhere, vivified
all the members of the immense body of the Universe ; and an Intelligence,
equally great, directed all its movements, and maintained the eternal harmony
that resulted therefrom. Thus the Unity of the Universe, represented bv the
symbolic egg, contained in itself two units the Soul and the Intelligence,
which pervaded all its parts : and they were to the Universe,' considered as an
animated and intelligent being, what intelligence and the soul of life are to
the individuality of man.
The doctrine of the Unity of God, in this sense, was taught by Orpheus. Of
this his hymn or palinode is a proof ; fragments of which are quoted by many of
the Fathers, as Justin, Tatian, Clemens of Alexandria, Cyril, and Theodoret,
and the whole by Eusebius, quoting from Aristobulus. The doctrine of the Locos
(word) or the Noos (intellect), his incarnation, death, resurrection or
transfiguration ; of his union with matter, his division in the visible world,
which he pervades, his return to the original Unity, and the whole theory
relative to the origin of the soul and its destiny, were taught in the
Mysteries, if which they were the , great object.
The Emperor Julian explains the Mysteries of Atys and Cybele by the same
metaphysical principles, respecting the demiurgical Intelligence, its descent
into matter, and its return to its origin: and extends this explanation to
those of Ceres. And so likewise does Sallust the Philosopher, who admits in God
a secondary intelligent Force, which descends into the generative matter to
organize it. These mystical ideas naturally formed a part of the sacred
doctrine and of the ceremonies of initiations the object of which, Sallust
remarks, was to unite man with the World and the Deity, and the final term of
perfection whereof was, according to Clemens, the contemplation of nature, of
real beings, and of causes. The definition of Sallust is correct. The Mysteries
were practiced as a means of perfecting the souls of making it to know its own
dignity, of reminding. It of its noble origin and immortality, and consequently
of its relations with the Universe and the Deity.
What was meant by real beings, was invisible beings, genii, the faculties or
powers of nature ; everything not a part of the visible world, which was
called, by way of opposition, apparent existence. The theory of Genii, or
Powers of Nature, and its Forces, personified, made part of the Sacred Science
of initiation, and of that religious spectacle of different beings exhibited in
the Sanctuary. It resulted from that belief in the providence and
superintendence of the Gods, which was one of the primary bases of initiation.
The administration of the Universe by Subaltern Genii, to vihom it is confided,
and by whom good and evil are dispensed in the world, was a consequence of this
dogma, taught in the Mysteries of Mithias, where was shown that famous egg,
shared between Ormuzd and Ahriman, each ,of whom commissioned twenty-four Genii
to dispense the good and evil found therein; they being under twelve Superior
Gods, six on the side of Light and Good, and six on that of Darkness and Evil.
This doctrine of the Genii, depositaries of the Universal Provedence, was
intimately connected with the Ancient Mysteries, and adopted in the sacrifices
and initiations 'both of Greeks and Barbarians. Plutarch says that the Gods, by
means of Genii, who are intermediates between them and men, draw near to
mortals in the , ceremonies of initiation, at which the Gods charge them to
assist, and to distribute punishment and blessing. Thus not the Deity, but His
ministers, or a Principle and Power of Evil, were deemed the authors of vice
and sin and suffering: and thus the Genii or angels differed in character like
men, some being good and some evil; some Celestial Gods, Archangels, Angels,
and some Infernal Gods, Demons and fallen Angels.
At the head of the latter was their Chief, Typhon, Ahriman, or Shaitan, the
Evil Principle ; who, having wrought disorder in nature, brought troubles on
men by land and sea, and caused the greatest ills, is at last punished for his
crimes. It was these events and incidents, says Plutarch, which Isis desired to
represent in the ceremonial ,of the Mysteries, established by her in memory of
her sorrows and wanderings, whereof she exhibited an image and representation
in her Sanctuaries, where also were afforded encouragements to piety and
consolation in misfortune. The dogma of a Providence, he says, administering
the Universe by means of intermediary Powers, who maintain the connection of
man with the Divinity, was eonsecrated in the hlysteries of the Egyptians,
Phrygians, and Thracians, of the Magi and the Disciples of Zoroaster; as is
plain by their initiations, in which mournful and funereal ceremonies mingled.
It was an essential part of the lessons given the Initiates, to teach them the
relations of their own souls with Universal Nature, the greatest lessons of
all, meant to dignify man in his own eyes, and teach him his place in the
Universe of things.
Thus the whole system of the Universe was displayed in all its parts to
the eyes of the Initiate ; and the symbolic cave which reps resented it was
adorned and clothed with all the attributes of that Universe. To this world so
organized, endowed with a double force, active and passive, divided between
light and darkness, moved by a living and intelligent Force, governed by Genii
or Angels who preside over its different parts, and whose nature and character
are more lofty or low i# proportion as they possess a greater or less portion
of dark matter,-to this world descends the soul, emanation of the ethereal
fire, and exiled from the luminous region above the world. It enters into this
dark matter, wherein the hostile principles, each seconded by his troops of
Genii, are ever in convict, there to submit to one or more organizations in the
body which is its prison, until it shall at last return to its place of origin,
its true native country, from which daring this life it is an exile.
But one thing remained,-to represent its return, through the constellations
and planetary spheres, to its original home. The celestial fire, the
philosophers said, soul of the world and of fire, an universal principle,
circulating above the Heavens, in a region infinitely pure and wholly luminous,
itself pure, simple, and unmixed, is above the world by its specific lightness.
If any part of it (say a human soul) descends, it acts against its nature in
doing so, urged by an inconsiderate desire of the intelligence, a perfidious
love for matter which causes it to descend, to know what passes here below,
where good and evil are in conflict. The Soul, a simple substance, when
unconnected with matter, a ray or partscle of the Divine Fire, whose home is in
Heaven, ever turns toward that home, while united with the body, and
struggles to return thither.
Teaching this, the Mysteries strove to recall man to his divine origin, and
point out to him the means of returning thither. The grist science acquired in
the Mysteries was knowledge of man's self, of the nobleness of his origin, the
grandeur of his destiny, and his superiority over the animals, which can never
acquire this knowledge, and whom he resembles so long as he does not reject
upon his existence and sound the depths of his own nature.
By doing and suffering, by virtue and piety and good deeds, the soul was
enabled at length to free itself from the body, and ascend along the path of
the Milky Way, by the gate of Capricorn and by the seven spheres. to the place
whence by many graduations and successive lapses and enthrallments it had
descended. And thus the theory of the spheres, and of the signs and
intelligences which preside there, and the whole system of astronomy, were
connected with that of the soul and its destiny; and so were taught in the
Mysteries, in which were developed the great principles of physics and
metaphysics as to the origin of the soul, its condition here below, its
destination, and its future fate.
The Greeks fix the date of the establishment of the Mysteries of Eleusis at
the year 1423 B. C., during the reign of Erechtheus at Athens. According to
some authors, they were instituted by Ceres herself; and according to others,
by that Monarch, who brought them from Egypt, where, according to Diodorus of
Sicily, he was born. Another tradition was, that Orpheus introduced them into
Greece, together with the Dionysian ceremonies, copying the latter from the
Mysteries of Osiris, and the former from those of Isis.
Nor was it at Athens only, that the worship and Mysteries of Isis,
metamorphosed into Ceres, were established. The Boeotians worshipped the Great
or Cabiric Ceres, in the recesses of a sacred grove, into which none but
Initiates could enter; and the ceremonies there observed, and the sacred
traditions of their Mysteries, were connected with those of the Cabiri in
So in Argos, Phocis, Arcadia, Achaia, Messenia, Corinth, and many other parts
of Greece, the Mysteries were practiced, revealing everywhere their Egyptian
origin and everywhere having the same general features; but those of Eleusis,
in Attica, Pausanias informs us, had been regarded by the Greeks, from the
earliest times, as being as far superior to all the others, as the Gods are to
mere Heroes.
Similar to these were the Mysteries of Bona Dea, the Good Goddess, whose name,
say Cicero and Plutarch, it was not permitted to any man to know, celebrated at
Rome frorm the earliest times of that city. It was these Mysteries, practiced
by women alone, the secrecy of which was impiously violated by Claudius. They
were held at the Kalends of May; and, according to Plutarch, much of the
ceremonial greatly resembled that of the Mysteries of Bacchus.
The Mysteries of Venus and Adonis belonged principally to Syria and Phoenicia,
whence they passed into Greece and Sicily. Venus or Astarte was the Great
Female Deity of the Phoenicians, as Hercules, Melkarth or Adoni was their Chief
God. Adoni, called by the Greeks Adonis, was the lover of Venus. Slain by a
wound in the thigh inflicted by a wild boar in the chase, the flower called
anemone sprang from his blood. Venus received the corpse and obtained from
Jupiter the boon that her lover should thereafter pass six months of each year
with her, and the other six in the Shades with Proserpine; an allegorical
description of the alternate residence of the Sun in the two hemispheres. In
these Mysteries his death was represented and mounted, and after this
maceration and mourning were concluded, his resurrection and ascent to Heaven
were announced.
Ezekiel speaks of the festivals of Adonis under the name of those of Thammuz,
an Assyrian Deity, whom every year the women mourned, seated at the doors of
their dwellings. These Mysteries, like the others, were celebrated in the
Spring, at the Vernal Equinox, when he was restored to life; at which time,
when they-were instituted, the Sun (Adoni, Lord, or Master) was in the Sign
Taurus, the domicile of Venus. He was represented with horns, and the hymn of
Orpheus in his honor styles him "the two-horned God ;" as in Argos Bacchus was
represented with the feet of a bull.
Plutarch says that Adonis and Bacchus were regarded as one' and the same
Deity; and that this opinion was founded on the great similarity in very many
respects between the Mysteries of
these two Gods.
The Mysteries of Bacchus were known as the Sabazian, Orphic and Dionysian
Festivals. They went back to the remotest antiquity among the Greeks, and were
attributed by some to Bacchus himself, and by others to Orpheus. The
resemblance in ceremonial between the observances established in honor of
Osiris in Egypt, and those in honor of Bacchus in Greece, the mythological
traditions of the two Gods, and the symbols used in the festivals of each,
amply prove their identity. Neither the name of Bacchus, nor the word orgies
applied to his feasts, nor the sacred words used in his Mysteries, are Greek,
but of foreign origin. Bacchus was an Oriental Deity, worshipped in the East,
and his orgies celebrated there, long before the Greeks adopted them. In the
earliest times he was worshipped in India, Arabia, and Bavaria.
He was honored in Greece with public festivals, and in simple or complicated
Mysteries, varying in ceremonial in various places, as was natural, because his
worship had come thither from different countries and at different periods, The
people who celebrated the complicated Mysteries were ignorant of the meaning
of. many words which they used, and of many embalms which they revered. In the
Sabazian Feasts, for example [from Saba-Zeus, an oriental name of this Deity],
the words EVOI, SABOI, Were used, which are in nowise Greek; and a serpent of
gold was thrown into the bosom of the Initiate, in allusion to the fable that
Jupiter had, in the form of a serpent, had connection with Proserpine, and
begotten Bakchos, the bull ; whence the enigmatical saying, repeated to the
Initiates, that a bull engendered a dragon or serpent, and the serpent in turn
engendered the bull, who became Bakchos : the meaning if which was, that the
bull [Taurus, which then opened the Vernal Equinox, and the Sun in which Sign,
figuratively represented by the Sign itself, was Bakchos, Dionysus, Saba-Zeus,
Osiris, etc.], and the Serpent, another constellation, occupied such relative
positions in the Heavens, that when one rose the other set, and vice versa.
The serpent was a familiar symbol in the Mysteries of Bakchos. The Initiates
grasped them with their hands, as Orphiucus does on the celestial globe, and
the Orpheo-telestes, or purifier of candidates did the same, crying, as
Demosthenes taunted. AEschines with doing in public at the head of the women
whom his mother was to imitate, EVOI, SAB0I, HYES ATTE, ANTE, HYES!
The Initiates in these Mysteries had preserved the ritual and ceremonies that
accorded with the simplicity of the earliest ages, and the manners of the first
men. The rules of Pythagoras were followed there. Like the Egyptians, who held
wool unclean, they buried no Initiate in woolen garments. They abstained from
bloody sacrifices; and lived on fruits or vegetables or inanimate things. They
imitated the life of the contemplative Sects of the Orient; thus approximating
to the tranquility of the first men, who lived exempt from trouble and crimes
in the bosom of a profound peace. One of the most precious advantages promised
by their initiation was, to put a man in communion with the Gods, by purifying
his soul of all the passions that interfere with that enjoyment, and dim the
rays of divine light that are communicated to every soul capable of receiving
them, and that imitate their purity. One of the degrees of initiation was the
state of inspiration to which the adapts were claimed to attain. The Initiates
in the Mysteries of the Lamb, at Pepuza, in Phrygia, professed to be inspired,
and prophesied and it was claimed that the soul, by means of these religious
ceremonies, purified of any stain, could see the Gods in this life, and
certainly, in all cases, after death. The sacred gates of the Temple, where the
ceremonies of initiation were performed, were opened but once in each year, and
no stranger was ever allowed to enter. It. night threw her veil over these
august Mysteries, which could be revealed to no, one. There the sufferings of
Bakchos were represented, who, like Osiris, died, descended to hell and rose to
life again; and raw flesh was distributed to the Initiates, which each ate, in
memory of the death df the Deity, torn in pieces by the Titans.
These Mysteries also were celebrated at the Vernal Equinox; and the emblem of
generation, to express the active energy and generative power of the Divinity,
was a principal symbol. The Initiates wore garlands and crowns of myrtle and
In these Mysteries, the aspirant was kept in terror and darkness to perform
the three days and nights; and was then made Afa?ismos , Of Ceremony
representing the death of Bakchos, the same mythological personage with Osiris.
This was effected by coffining him in a close cell, that he might seriously
reflect, in solitude and darkness, on the business he was engaged in : and his
mind be prepared for the reception of the sublime and mysterious truths of
primitive revelation and philosophy. This was a symbolic death ; the
deliverance from it, regeneration ; after which he was called difn?s or
twin-born. While confined in the cell, the pursuit of Typhon after the mangled
body of Osiris, and the search of Rhea or Isis for the same, were enacted in
his hearing; the initiated crying aloud the names, of that Deity derived from
the Sanskrit. Then it was announced that the body was found ; and the aspirant
was liberated amid shoots of joy and exultation.
Then he passed through a representation of Hell and Elysium. "Then," said an
ancient writer, "they are entertained with hymns and dances, with the sublime
doctrines of sacred knowledge, and with wonderful and holy visions. And now
become perfect and initiated, they are FREE, and no longer under restraint ;
but, crowned, and triumphant, they walk up and down the regions of the blessed,
converse with pure and holy men, and celebrate the sacred Mysteries at
pleasure." They were taught the nature and objects of the Mysteries, and the
means of making themselves known, and received the name of Epopts; were fully
instructed ie the nature and attributes of the Divinity, and the doctrine of a
future state; and made acquainted with the unity and attributes of the Grand
Architect of the Universe, and the true meaning of the fables in regard to the
Gods of Paganism: the great Truth being often proclaimed, that "Zeus is the
primitive Source of all things; there is one God; one power, and one rule over
all." And after full explanation of the many symbols and emblems that
surrounded them, they were dismissed with the barbarous words Kog? Ompa?,
corruptions of the Sanskrit words, Kanska Aom Pakscha; meaning, object of our
wishes, God, Silence, or Worship the Deity in Silence.
. Among the emblems used was the rod of Bakchos; which once, it was said, he
cast on the ground, and it became a serpent; and at another time he struck the
rivers Orontes and Hydaspes with it,. and the waters receded and he passed over
dry-shod. Water was obtained, during the ceremonies, by striking a rock with
it. The Bakchae crowned their heads with serpents, carried them in vases and
baskets, and at the Evehois, or finding, of the body of Osiris, cast one,
alive, into the aspirant's bosom.
The Mysteries of Atys in Phrygia, and those of Cybele his mistress, like their
worship, much resembled those of Adonis and Bakchos, Osiris and Isis. Their
Asiatic origin is universally admitted, and was with great plausibility claimed
by Phrygia, which contested the palm of antiquity with Egypt. They, more than
any other people, mingled allegory with their. religious worship, and were
great inventors of fables ; and their sacred traditions as to Cybele and Atys,
whom all admit to be Phrygian Gods, were very various. In all, as we learn irom
Julius Firmicus, they represented by allegory the phenomena ,of nature, and the
succession of physical facts, under the veil of a marvelous history.
Their feasts occurred at the equinoxes, commencing with lamentation, mourning,
groans, and pitiful cries for the heath of Atys; and ending with rejoicings at
his restoration to life.
We shall not recite the different versions of the legend of Atys and Cybele,
given by Julius Firmicus, Diodorus, Arnobius, Lactantius, Servius, Saint
Augustine, and Pausanias. It is enough to say that it is in substance this:
that Cybele, a Phrygian Princess, who invented musical instruments and dances,
was enamored of Atys, a youth; that either he in a fit of frenzy mutilated
himself or was mutilated by her in a paroxysm of jealousy ; that he died, and
afterward, like Adonis, was restored to life.' It is the Phoenician fiction as
to the Sun-God, expressed in other terms, under other 'forms, and with other
names.' Cybele was worshipped in Syria, under the name of Rhea.
Lucian says that the Lydian Atys there established her worship and built her
temple. The name of Rhea is also found in the ancient cosmogony of the
Phoenicians by Sanchoniathon. It was' Atys the Lydian, says Lucian, who, having
been mutilated, first established the Mysteries of Rhea, and taught the
Phrygians, the Lydians, and the people of Samothrace to celebrate them. Rhea,
like Cybele, was represented drawn by lions, bearing a drum, and crowned with
flowers. - According to Varro, Cybele represented the earth. She partook of the
characteristics of Minerva, Venus, the Moon, Diana, Nemesis, and the Furies ;
was clad in precious stones ; and her High Priest wore a robe of purple and a
tiara of gold.
`The Grand Feast of the Syrian Goddess, like that of the Mother of the Gods at
Rome, was celebrated at the Vernal Equinox. Precisely at that equinox the
Mysteries of Atys were celebrated,' in which thi Initiates were taught to
expect the rewards of a future life, and the flight of Atys from the jealous
fury of Cybele was described, his concealment in the mountains and in a cave,
and. His self-mutilation in a fit of delirium ; in which act his priests
imitated him. The feast of the passion of Atys continued three days; the first
of which was passed in mourning and tears; to which afterward clamorous
rejoicings succeeded ; by which, Macrobius says, the Sun was adored under the
name of Atys. The ceremonies were all allegorical, some of which, according to
the Emperor Julian, could be explained, but more remained covered with the veil
of mystery. Thus it is that symbols outlast their explanations, as many have
done in Masonry, and ignorance and rashness substitute new ones.
In another legend, given by Pausanias, Atys dies, wounded like Adonis by a
wild boar in the `organs of generation ; a mutilation with which all the
legends ended. The pine tree under which he was said to have died, was sacred
to him; and, was found upon many monuments, with a bull and a ram near it; one
the sign of exaltation of the Sun, and the other of that of the Moon.
The worship of the Sun under the name of Mithras belonged to Persia, whence
that name came, as did the erudite symbols of that worship. The Persians,
adorers of Fire, regarded the Sun as; the most brilliant abode of the
fecundating energy of that element, which gives life to the earth, and
circulates in every part of the Universe, of which it is, as it were, the soul.
This worship passed from Persia into Armenia, Cappadocia, and Cilicia, long
before it was known at Rome. The Mysteries of Mithras flurished more than any
others in the imperial city. The worship of Mithras commenced to prevail there
under Trojan. Hadrian prohibited these Mysteries, on account of the cruel
scenes represented in their ceremonial : for human victims were immolated
therein, and the events of futurity looked for in their palpitatirig entrails.
They reappeared in greater splendor than ever under Commodus, who with his own
hand sacrificed a victim to Mithras : and they were still more practiced under
Constantine and his successors, when the Priests of Mithras were found
everywhere in the Roman Empire, and the monuments of his worship appeared even
in Britain.
Caves were consecrated to Mithras, in which were collected a multitude of
astronomical emblems ; and cruel tests were required of the Initiates. The
Persians built no temples ; but worshipped upon the summits of hills, in
enclosures of unhewn stones. They abominated images, and made the Sun and Fire
emblems of the Deity. The Jews borrowed this from them, and represented God as
appearing to Abraham in a flame of fire, and to Moses as a fire at Horeb and on
With the Persians, Mithras, typified in the Sun, was the invisible Deity, the
Parent of the Universe, the Mediator. In Zoroaster's cave of initiation, the'
Sun and Planets were represented overhead, in gems and gold, as also was the
Zodiac. The Sun appeared emerging from the back of Taurus. Three great pillars,
Eternity, Fecundity, and Authority, supported the roof; and the whole was at
emblem of the Universe.
Zoroaster, like Moses, claimed to have conversed face to face, as man with
man, with the Deity; and to have received from Him a system of pure worship, to
be communicated only to the virtue ous, and those who would devote themselves
to the study of Philosophy.- His fame spread over the world, and pupils came to
hi~n from every country. Even Pythagoras was his scholar.
After his novitiate, the candidate entered the cavern of initiation, and was
received on the point of a sword presented to his 425 naked left breast, by
which he was slightly wounded. Being crowned with olive, anointed with balsam
of benzoin, and other wise prepared, he was purified with fire and. Water, and
went through seven stages of initiation, The symbol of these stages was a high
ladder with seven rounds or steps. In them, he went through many fearful
trial's in which darkness displayed a principal part. He saw a representation
of the wicked in Hides ; and finally emerged from darkness into light. Received
it a place representing Elysium, in the brilliant assembly of the initiated,
where the Arch magus presided, robed in blue, he assumed the obligations of
secrecy, and was entrusted with the Sacred Words, of which the Ineffable Name
of God was the chief.
Then all the incidents of his initiation were explained to him: he was taught
that these ceremonies brought him nearer the Deity; and that he should adore
the consecrated Fire, the gift of that Deity and His visible residence. He was
taught the sacred characters known only to the initiated; and instructed in
regard to the creation of . the world, and the true philosophical meaning of
the vulgar mythology ; and especially of the legend of Ormuzd and Ahriman, and
the symbolic meaning of the six Amshaspands created by the former : Bahman, the
Lord of Light; Ardibehest, the Genius of Fire ; Shariver, the Lord of Splendor
and Metals; Stapandomad, the Source of Fruitfulness; Kkordad, the Genius of
Water. and Time ; and Amerdad, the protector of the Vegetable World, and the
prime cause of growth. And finally he was taught the true nature of the Supreme
Being, Creator of Ormuzd and Ahriman, the' Absolute First 'Cause, styled
In the Mithriac initiation were several Degrees. The first, Tertullian says,
was that of Soldier of Mithras. The ceremony oi reception consisted in
presenting the candidate a crown, supported by a sword. It was placed near his
head, and he repelled it, saying, "Mithras is my ,crown." Then he was declared
the soldier of Mithras, and had the right to call the other Initiates fellow
soldiers or companions in arms. Hence the title Companions in the Royal Arch
Degree of the American Rite.
Then he passed, Porphyry says, through. the Degree of the Lion, the
constellation Leo, domicile of the Sun and symbol of Mithras,. found on his
monuments. These ceremonies were termed at Rome Leontic and Helium ; and
Coracia or Hiero-Coracia, of 426 Heavens below the Lion, with the Hydra,
and also appearing on the Mithras monuments.
Thence he passed to a higher Degree, where the Initiates were 'called Perses
and children of the - Sun. Above them were the Fathers, whose chief or
Patriarch was styled Father of Fathers, or Pater Patratus. The Initiates also
bore the title of Eagles and Hawks, birds consecrated to the Sun in Egypt, the
former sacred to the God Mendes, and the latter the emblem of the Sun and
The little island of Samothrace was long the depositary of certain august
Mysteries, and many went thither from all parts of Greece to be initiated. It
was said to have been settled by the ancient Pelasgi, early Asiatic colonists
in Greece. The Gods adored in the Mysteries of this island were termed CABIRI,
an oriental word, from Caber, great. Varro calls the Gods of Samothrace, Potent
(Gods. In Arabic, Venus is called Caber. Varro says thai the Great Deities
whose Mysteries were practiced there, were Heaven and Earth. These were but
symbols of the Active and Passive Powers or Principles of universal generation.
The two Twin, Castor and Pollux, or the Dioscuri, were also called the Gods of
Samothrace; and the Scholiast of Apollonius, citing Mnaseas, gives the names of
Ceres, Proserpine, Pluto, and Mercury, as the four Cabiric Divinities
worshipped at Samothrace, as Axieros, Axiocersa, Axiocersus, and Casmillus.
Mercury was, there as everywhere, the minister and messenger of the Gods ; and
the young servitors of the altars and the children employed in the Temples were
called Mercuries or Casmillus, as they were in Tuscany, by the Etrusci and
Pelasgi, who worshipped the Great Gods.
Tarquin the Etruscan was an Initiate of the mysteries of Samothrace; and
Etruria had its Cabiri as Samothrace had. For the worship of the Cabiri spread
from that island into Etruria, Phrygia, and Asia Minor : and it probably came
from Phoenicia into Samothrace : for the Cabiri are mentioned by Sanchoniathon;
and the word Caber belongs to the Hebrew, Phoenician, and Arabic languages.
The Dioscuri, tutelary Deities of Navigation, with Venus, were invoked in the
Mysteries of Samothrace. The constellation Auriga, or Phaeton, was also honored
there with imposing ceremonies. Upon the Aeronautic expedition, Orpheus, an
Initiate of these 427 Mysteries, a storm arising, counseled his companions
to put into Samothrace. They did so, the storm ceased, and they
were initiated into the Mysteries there, and sailed again with the
assurance of a fortunate voyage, under the auspices of the Dioscuri,
of sailors and navigation.
But much more than that was promised the Initiates. The
Hierophants of Samothrace made something infinitely greater to be the object of
their initiations ; to wit, the consecration of men to the Deity, by
pledging them to virtue ; and the assurance of those rewards which
the justice of the Gods reserves for Initiates after death. This,
above all else, made these ceremonies august, and inspired
everywhere so great a respect for them, and so great a desire to
be admitted to them. `that originally caused the island to be
styled Sacred. It was respected by all nations. The Romans, when
masters of the world, left it its liberty and laws. It was an
asylum for the unfortunates and a sanctuary inviolable.
There men were absolved of the crime of homicide, if not
committed in a temple. Children of tender age were initiated there, and
invested with the sacred robe, the purple tincture, and the crown of olive, and
seated upon a throne, like other Initiates. In the ceremonies was
represented the death if the youngest of the Cabiri, slain by his
brothers, who fled into Etruria, carrying with them the chest or
ark that contained, his genitals: and there the Phallus and the
sacred ark were adored.. Herodotus says that the Samothracian
Initiates understood the object and origin of this reverence paid
the Phallus, and why it was exhibited in the Mysteries. Clement
of Alexandria says that the Cabiri taught the Tuscany to revere
it. It was consecrated at Heliopolis in Syria, where the mysteries of a
Divinity having many points of resemblance with. Atys and Cybele were
represented. The Pelasgi connected it with Mercury ;and it appears
on the monuments of Mathias ; always and every-where a symbol of
the life-giving power of the Sun at the Vernal Equinox.
In the Indian Mysteries, as the candidate made his three circuits, he paused
each time he reached the South, and said, "I copy the example of the
Sun, and follow his beneficent course." Blue Masonry has renamed
the Circuits, but has utterly lost the explanation; which is, that in
the Mysteries the candidate invariably represented the Sun, descending
Southward' toward the reign of. 428 the Evil Principle, Ahriman,
Sita, or Typhon (darkness and winter) ; there figuratively to be slain, and
after a few days to rise again from the dead, and commence to ascend to the
Northward. Then the death of Sita was bewailed ; or that of Cama, slain by
Iswara, aid committed to the waves on a chest, like Osiris and Bacchus; during
which the candidate was terrified by phantoms and horrid noises.
Then he was made to personify Vishnu, and perform his avatars, or labors. In
the first two he was taught in allegories the legend of the Deluge: in the
first he took three steps at right angles, representing the three huge steps
taken by Vishnu in that avatar; and hence the three steps in the Master's
Degree ending at right angles.
The nine avatars finished, he was taught the necessity of faith, as superior
to sacrifices, acts of charity, or mortifications of the flesh. Then he was
admonished against five crimes, and took a solemn obligation never to commit
them. He was then introduced into a representation of Paradise; the Company of
the Members of the Order, magnificently arrayed, and the Altar with a fire
blazing upon it, as an emblem of the Deity.
Then a new name was given him, and he was invested in a white robe and tiara,
and received the signs, tokens, and lectures. A cross was marked on his
forehead, and an inverted level, or the Tau Cross, on his breast. He received
the sacred cord, and divers amulets or talismans; and was then invested with
the sacred Word or Sublime Name, known only to the initiated, the Trilateral A.
U. M.
Then the multitude of emblems was explained to the candidate ; the arcana of
science hidden under them, and the different virtues of which the mythological
figures were more personifications. And he thus learne4 the meaning of those
symbols, which, to the uninitiated, were but a maze of unintelligible
figures. 429 Godhead, the happiness of the patriarchs, the destruction by
the Deluge, the depravity of the heart, and the necessity of a mediator, the
instability of life, the final destruction of all created things, and the
restoration of the world in a more perfect form. They inculcated the Eternity
of the Soul, explained the meaning of the doctrine of the Metempsychosis, and
held the-doctrine of a state of future rewards and punishments: and they also
earnestly urged that sins could only be atoned for by repentance, reformation,
and voluntary penance; and not by mere ceremonies and sacrifices.
The Mysteries among the Chinese and Japanese came frown India, and were
founded on the same principles and with similar rites. The word given to the
new Initiate was O-Mi-To Fo, in which we recognize the original name A. U. M.,
coupled at a much later time with that of Fo, the Indian Buddha, to show that
he was the Great Deity Himself.
The equilateral triangle was one of their symbols; and so was the mystical Y;
both alluding to the Triune God, and the latter being the ineffable name of the
Deity. A ring supported by two serpents was emblematical of the world,
protected by the power and wisdom of the Creator; and that is the origin of the
two parallel lines (into which time has changed the two serpents), that support
the circle in our Lodges.
Among the Japanese, the term of probation for the highest Degree was twenty
The main features of the Druidical Mysteries resembled those of the Orient.
The ceremonies commenced with a hymn to the sun. The candidates were arranged
in ranks of threes, fives, and sevens, according to their qualifications; and
conducted nine times around the Sanctuary, from East to West. The candidate
underwent many trials, one of which had direct reference to the legend of
Osiris. He was placed in a boat, and sent out to sea alone, having to rely on
his own skill and presence of mind to reach the opposite shore in safety. The
death of Hu was represented in his hearing, with every external mark of sorrow,
while he was in utter darkness. He met with many obstacles, had to prove his
courage, and expose his life against armed enemies; represented various
animals, and at last, attaining the permanent light, he was instructed by the
Arch-Druid in regard to the Mysteries, and in the morality of the third Degree
was a life of seclusion, after the Initiate's children were capable of
providing for themselves ; passed in the forest, in the practice of prayers and
ablutions, and living only on vegetables. He was then said to be born again.
The fourth was absolute renunciation of the world, self-contemplation add
self-torture ; by which Perfection was thought to be attained, and the soul
merged in the Deity.
In the second Degree, the Initiate was taught the Unity of the 430 Order,
incited to act bravely in war, taught the great truths of the immortality of
the soul and a future state, solemnly enjoined not to neglect the worship of
the Deity, nor the practice of rigid morality; and to avoid' sloth, contention,
and folly.
The aspirant attained only the exoteric knowledge in the first two Degrees.
The third was attained only by a few, and they persons of rank and consequence,
and after long purification, and study of all the arts and sciences known to
the Druids, in solitude, for nine months. This was the symbolical death and
burial of these` Mysteries.
The dangerous voyage upon the actual open sea, in a small boat covered with a
skin, on the evening of the 29th of April, was the last trial, and closing
scene, of initiation. If he declined this trial, he was dismissed with
contempt. If he made it and succeeded, he was termed thrice-born, was eligible
to all the dignities of the State, and received complete instruction in the
philosophy= cal and religious doctrines of the Druids.
The Greeks also styled the ,Epopihz T?ig??o?, thrice-born; and in India
perfection was assigned to the Yogi who had accomplished many births.
The general features of the initiations among the Goths were the same as in
all the Mysteries. A long probation, of fasting and mortification, circular
processions, representing the march of the celestial bodies, many fearful tests
and trials, a descent into the infernal regions, the killing of the God Balder
by the Evil Principle, Lok, the placing of his body in a boat and sending it
abroad upon the waters ; and, in short, the Eastern Legend, under different
names, and with some variations.
The Egyptian Anubis appeared there, as the dog guarding the gates of death.
The candidate was immured in the representation of a tomb; and when released,
goes in search of the body of Balder, and finds him, at length, restored to
life, and seated upon a throne. He was obligated upon a naked sword (as is
still the custom in the Rit Moderne), and sealed his obligation by drinking
mead out of a human skull.
Then all the ancient primitive truths were made known to him, so far as they
had survived the assaults of time: and he was informed as to the generation of
the Gods, the creation of the world, the deluge, and the resurrection, of which
that of Balder was a type. He was marked with the sign of the cross and a ring
was given 431 to him as a symbol of the Divine Protection; and also as an
emblem of Perfection; from which comes the custom of giving a ring to the
Aspirant in the 14th Degree.
The point within Circle, and the Cube, emblem of Odin, were explained to him;
and lastly, the nature of the Supreme God, "the author of everything that
existeth, the Eternal, the Ancient, the Living and Awful Being, the Searcher
into concealed things', the Being that never changeth ;" with whom Odin the
Conqueror was by the vulgar confounded : and the Triune God of the Indians was
reproduced, as Odin, the Almighty FATHER, FREA, (Rhea or Phre), his wife
(emblem of universal matter), and Thor his son (the Mediator). Here we
recognize Osiris, Isis, and Hor or Horus. Around the head of Thor, as if to
show his eastern origin, twelve stars were arranged in a circle.
He was also taught the ultimate destruction of the world, and the rising of a
new one, in which the brave and virtuous shall enjoy everlasting happiness and
delight: as the means of securing which happy fortune, he was taught to
practise the strictest morality and virtue. The Initiate was prepared to
receive the great lessons of all the Mysteries, by long trials, or by
abstinence and chastity. For many days he was required to fast and be
continent, and to drink liquids calculated to diminish his passions and keep
him chaste. Ablutions were also required, symbolical of the purity necessary to
enable the soul to escape from its bondage in matter. Sacred butts and
preparatory baptisms were used, lustrations, immersions, lustral sprinklings,
and purifications of every kind. At Athens they bathed in the Ilissus, which
thence became a sacred river; and before enteringthe Temple of Eleusis, all
were required to wash their hands in a vase of lustral water placed near the
entrance. Clean hands and a pure heart were required of the candidates.
Apuleius bathed seven times in the sea, symbolical of the Seven Spheres through
which the Soul must reascend ; add the Hindus must bathe in the sacred river
Clement of Alexandria cites a passage of Meander, who speaks of a purification
by sprinkling three times with salt and water Sulphur, resin, and the laurel
also served for purification as did air, earth, water, and fire. The Initiates
at Heliopolis, in Syria, says Lucian, sacrificed the sacred lamb, symbol of
Aries, then the sign of the Vernal Equinox ; ate his flesh, as the Israelites.
did at the Passover; and then touched his head and feet to theirs, and knelt
upon the fleece. Then they bathed in warm water, drank of the same, and slept
upon the ground.
There was a distinction between the lesser and greater Mysteries. One must
have been for some years admitted to the former,' before he could receive the
latter, which were but a preparation for them, the Vestibule of the temple, of
which those of Eleusis were the Sanctuary. There, in the lesser Mysteries, they
were prepared to receive the holy truths taught in the greater. The Initiates
in the lesser were called simply Mystic, or Initiates ; but those in the
greater, Epopts) or Seers. An ancient poet says that the former were an
imperfect shadow of the latter, as sleep is of Death. After admission to the
former, the Initiate was taught lessons of morality, and the rudiments of the
sacred science, the most sublime and secret part of which was reserved for the
Epopt, who saw the Truth in its nakedness, while the Mystic only viewed it
through a veil and under emblems fitter to excite than to satisfy his
Before communicating the first secrets and primary dogmas of initiation, the
priests required the candidate to take a fearful oath never to divulge the
secrets. Then he made his vows, prayers, and sacrifices to the Gods. The skins
of the victims consecrated to Jupiter were spread on the ground, and he was
made to set his feet upon them. He was then taught some enigmatic formulas, as
answers to questions, by which to make himself known. He was then enthroned,
invested with a purple tincture, and crowned with flowers, or branches of palm
or olive.
We do not certainly know the time that was required to elapse between the
admission to the Lesser and Greater Mysteries of Eleusis. Most writers fix it
at five years. It was a singular mark of favor when Demetrius was made Mystic
and Epopt in one and the same ceremony. When at length admitted to the Degree
of perfection, the Initiate was brought face to face with entire nature, and
learned that the soul was the whole of man; that earth was but his place of
exile; that Heaven was his native country; that for the soul to be born is
really to die; and that death was for it the return to a new life. Then he
entered the sanctuary; but he did not receive the whole instruction at once. It
continued through several years. There were, as it were, many apartments,
through which be advanced by degrees, and between which thick veils intervened.
There were Statues and Paintings, says Proclus, in the inmost sanctuary,
showing the forms assumed by the Gods. Finally the last veil fell, the sacred
covering dropped from the image of the Goddess, and she stood revealed in all
her splendor, -surrounded by a divine light, which, filling the whole
sanctuary, dazzled the eyes and penetrated the soul of the Initiate. Thus is
symbolized the final revelation of the true doctrine as to the nature of Deity
and of the soul, and of the relations of each to matter. This was preceded by
frightful scenes, alternations of fear and joy, of light and darkness; by
glittering lightning and the crashed thunder, and apparitions of specters, or
magical illusions, impressing at once the eyes and ears. This Claudian
describes, in his poem on the rape of Proserpine, where he alludes to what
passed in her Mysteries. "The temple is shaken," he cries; “fiercely gleams the
lightning, by which the Deity announces his presence. Earth trembles ; and a
terrible noise is heard in the midst of these terrors. The Temple of the Son of
Cecrops resounds with long-continued roars; Eleusis uplifts her sacred torches
; the serpents of Triptolemus are heard to hiss ; and fearful Hecate appears
The celebration of the Greek Mysteries continued, according to the better
opinion, for nine days. On the first the Initiates met. It was the day of the
full moon, of the month Boedromion ; when the moon was full at the end of the
sign Aries, near the Pleiades and the place of her exaltation in Taurus.
The second day there was a procession to the sea, for purification by bathing.
The third was occupied with offerings, expiatory sacrifices, and other
religious rites, such as fasting, mourning, continence, etc.A mullet was
immolated, and offerings of grain and living animals made. On the fourth they
carried in procession the mystic wreath of flowers, representing that which
Proserpine dropped when seized by Pluto, and the Crown of Ariadne in the
Heavens. It was borne on a triumphal car drawn by oxen; and women followed
bearing mystic chests or boxes, wrapped with purple clothe, captaining grains
of sesame, pyramidal biscuits, salt, pomegranates and the mysterious serpent,
and perhaps the mystic phallus. On the fifth was the superb procession of
torches, commemorative of the search for Proserpine by Ceres ; the Initiates
marching by trios, and each bearing a torch; while at the head of the
procession marched the Dadoukos.
The sixth was consecrated to Iakchos, the young Light-God, son of Ceres,
reared in the sanctuaries and bearing the torch of the Sun-God. The chorus in
Aristophanes terms him the luminous star that lights the nocturnal initiation.
He was brought from the sanctuary, his head crowned with myrtle, and borne from
the gate of the Ceramicus to Eleusis, along the sacred way, amid dances, sacred
songs, every mark of joy, and mystic cries of Iakchos.
On the seventh there were gymnastic exercises and combats, the victors in
which were crowned and rewarded.
On the eighth was the feast of AEsculapius.
On the ninth the famous libation was made for the souls of the departed. The
Priests, according to Athenaus, filled two vases, placed one in the East and
one in the West, toward the gates of day and night, and overturned them,
pronouncing a formula of mysterious prayers. Thus they invoked Light and
Darkness, the two great' principles of nature.
During all these days no one could be arrested, nor any suit brought, on pain
of death, or at least a heavy fine: and no one was allowed, by the display of
unusual wealth or magnificence, to
endeavor to rival this sacred pomp. Everything was for religion. Such were the
Mysteries ; and such the Old Thought, as in scattered and widely separated
fragments it has come down to us.
The human mind still speculates upon the great mysteries of nature, and still
finds its ideas anticipated by the ancients, whose profoundest thoughts are to
be looked for, not in `their philosophies, but in their symbols, by which they
endeavored to express the great ideas that vainly struggled for utterance in
words, as they viewed fhe great circle of phenomena,-Birth, Life, Death, or
Decomposition, and New Life out of Death and Rottenness,- to them the greatest
of mysteries. Remember, while you study their symbols, that they had a
profounder sense of these wonders than we have. To them the transformations of
the worm were a greater wonder than the stars; and hence the poor dumb
scarabaeus or beetle was sacred to them. Thus their faiths are condensed into
symbols or expanded into allegories, which they understood, but were not always
able to explain in language; for there are thoughts and ideas which no language
ever spoken by man has words to express

MORALS and DOGMA by Albert Pike | Go to BOOK INDEX

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