THEOSOPHY, Vol. 54, No. 8, June, 1966
(Pages 244-247; Size: 12K)


AS Plato and many other sages of antiquity affirm, the Mysteries were highly religious, moral and beneficent as a school of ethics. The Sacred Mysteries were enacted in the ancient temples by the initiated Hierophants for the benefit and instruction of the candidate. The sacerdotal secret jargon employed by the initiated priests, and used only when discussing sacred things, was the Mystery language. Every nation had its own "mystery" tongue, unknown save to those admitted to the Mysteries.

The reason why in every age so little has been generally known of the mysteries of initiation, is two-fold. The first has been explained by more than one author, and lies in the terrible penalty following the least indiscretion. The second, is the superhuman difficulties and even dangers which the daring candidate of old had to encounter, and either conquer, or die in the attempt, when, what is still worse, he did not lose his reason. There was no real danger to him whose mind had become thoroughly spiritualized, and so prepared for every terrific sight. He who fully recognized the power of his immortal spirit, and never doubted for one moment its omnipotent protection, had naught to fear. But woe to the candidate in whom the slightest physical fear -- sickly child of matter -- made him lose sight and faith in his own invulnerability. He who was not wholly confident of his moral fitness to accept the burden of these tremendous secrets was doomed.

The Mysteries were observances, generally kept secret from the profane and uninitiated, in which were taught by dramatic representation and other methods the origin of things, the nature of the human spirit, its relation to the body, and the method of its purification and restoration to a higher life. They were, in every country, a series of dramatic performances, in which the mysteries of cosmogony and nature, in general, were personified by the priests and neophytes, who enacted the parts of the various gods and goddesses, repeating supposed scenes (allegories) from their respective lives. These were explained in their hidden meaning to the candidate, and incorporated into philosophical doctrines. Physical science, medicine, the laws of music, divination, were all taught in the same manner by dramatic representation.

To disbelieve that there exist in man certain arcane powers, which, by psychological study he can develop in himself to the highest degree, become an hierophant and then impart to others under the same conditions of earthly discipline, is to cast an imputation of falsehood and lunacy upon a number of the best, purest, and most learned men of antiquity and of the middle ages. What the hierophant was allowed to see at the last hour is hardly hinted at by them. And yet Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus, Iamblichus, Proclus, and many others knew and affirmed their reality.

The philosophy of Plato was taught and illustrated in the Mysteries. Augustine of Hippo declares that the doctrines of the Alexandrian Platonists were the original esoteric doctrines of the first followers of Plato, and describes Plotinus as a Plato resuscitated. He also explains the motives of the great philosopher for veiling the interior sense of what he taught. In the Mysteries were symbolized the pre-existent condition of the spirit and soul, the lapse of the latter into earth-life and Hades, the miseries of that life, the purification of the soul, and its restoration to divine bliss, or reunion with spirit. "Out of Plato," says Emerson, "come all things that are still written and debated among men of thought."

It is certain that Pythagoras awakened the deepest intellectual sympathy of his age, and that his doctrines exerted a powerful influence upon the mind of Plato. His cardinal idea was that there existed a permanent principle of unity beneath the forms, changes, and other phenomena of the universe. The key to Pythagorean dogmas is the general formula of unity in multiplicity, the one evolving the many and pervading the many. This is the ancient doctrine of emanation in a few words. Even the apostle Paul accepted it as true. "Out of him and through him and in him all things are." This is purely Hindu and Brahmanical: "When the dissolution, Pralaya, had arrived at its term, the great Being -- Paramatma and Parapurusha, the Lord existing through himself, out of whom and through whom all things were, are and will be -- resolved to emanate from his own substance the various creatures" (Manava-Dharma-Shastra).

So shrouded in mystery was the Hermetic Philosophy that Volney asserted that the ancient peoples worshipped the gross material symbols as divine in themselves; whereas these were only considered as representing esoteric principles. Dupuis, after devoting many years of study to the problem, mistook the symbolic circle, and attributed their religion solely to astronomy. ... How, without possessing a knowledge of the Mysteries was it possible for these men or others not endowed with the finer intuition of a Champollion, to discover the esoteric half of that which was concealed, behind the veil of Isis, from all except the adepts? The merit of Champollion as an Egyptologist none will question. He declares that everything demonstrates the ancient Egyptians to have been profoundly monotheistical. The accuracy of the writings of the mysterious Hermes Trismegistus, whose antiquity runs back into the night of time, is corroborated by him to their minutest details. Ennemoser also says: "Into Egypt and the East went Herodotus, Thales, Parmenides, Empedocles, Orpheus, and Pythagoras, to instruct themselves in Natural Philosophy and Theology." There, too, Moses acquired his wisdom, and Jesus passed the earlier years of his life. Thither gathered students of all countries before Alexandria was founded. "How comes it," Ennemoser goes on to say, "that so little has become known of these Mysteries, through so many ages and amongst so many different times and peoples? The answer is that it is owing to the universally strict silence of the initiated. Another cause may be found in the destruction and total loss of all the written memorials of the secret knowledge of the remotest antiquity."

"In ancient India, the mystery of the Triad, known but to the initiates, could not, under penalty of death, be revealed to the vulgar," says Vrihaspati. Neither could it in the ancient Grecian and Samothracian Mysteries. It is in the hands of the adepts, and must remain a mystery to the world so long as the materialistic savant regards it as an undemonstrated fallacy, an insane hallucination, and the dogmatic theologian a snare of the Evil One.

Aristotle was no trustworthy witness. He misrepresented Plato, and he almost caricatured the doctrines of Pythagoras. There is a canon of interpretation, which should guide us in our examinations of every philosophical opinion: "The human mind has, under the necessary operation of its own laws, been compelled to entertain the same fundamental ideas, and the human heart to cherish the same feelings in all ages." The unity of God, the immortality of the spirit, belief in salvation only through our works, merit and demerit; such are the principle articles of faith of the Wisdom-religion, and the groundwork of Vedaism, Budhism, Parsism, and such we find to have been even that of ancient Osirism, when we, after abandoning the popular sun-god to the materialism of the rabble, confine our attention to the Books of Hermes, the thrice-great.

Too great dependence upon physical facts led to a growth of materialism and a decadence of spirituality and faith. At the time of Aristotle, this was the prevailing tendency of thought. And though the Delphic commandment was not as yet completely eliminated from Grecian thought; and some philosophers still held that "in order to know what man is, we ought to know what man was" -- still materialism had already begun to gnaw at the root of faith. The Mysteries themselves had degenerated in a very great degree into mere priestly speculations and religious fraud. Few were the true adepts and initiates, the heirs and descendants of those who had been dispersed by the conquering swords of various invaders of Old Egypt.

Schweigger shows that a lost natural philosophy of antiquity was connected with the most important religious ceremonies. He demonstrates in the amplest manner, that magic in the prehistoric period had a part in the Mysteries and that the greatest phenomena, the so-called miracles -- whether Pagan, Jewish, or Christian -- rested in fact on the arcane knowledge of the ancient priest of physics and all the branches of chemistry, or rather alchemy.

Our physicists pride themselves on the achievements of our century [19th] and exchange antiphonal hymns of praise. ... Do they forget, or are they utterly unaware of the fact, that in the absence of [nature's] legitimate sovereign, this throne is but a whitened sepulchre, inside of which all is rottenness and corruption! That matter without the spirit which vivifies it, and of which it is but the "gross purgation," to use a hermetic expression, is nothing but a soulless corpse, whose limbs, in order to be moved in a predetermined direction, require an intelligent operator at the great galvanic battery called LIFE!

Plato's method, like that of geometry, was to descend from universals to particulars. ... The dullest of Plato's disciples could tell more about great cosmic laws and their mutual relations, and demonstrate a familiarity with and control over occult forces which lie behind them, than the most learned professor in the most distinguished academy of our day.

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