TRANSLATOR OF “PLATO,” “PLOTINUS,” “PORPHYRY,” “IAMBLICHUS,” “PROCLUS,” “ARISTOTLE,” ETC., ETC.
EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION, NOTES, EMENDATIONS, AND GLOSSARY,
ALEXANDER WILDER, M. D.
Εν ταις ΤΕΛΕΤΑΙΣ καθαρσεις ἡγουνται και περιρῥαντηρια και αγνισμοι, ἁ των εν απορῥητοις δρωμενων, και της του θειου μετουσιας γυμνασματα εισιν.
Proclus: Manuscript Commentary upon Plato, I. Alcibiades.
WITH 85 ILLUSTRATIONS BY A. L. RAWSON.
J. W. BOUTON, 8 WEST 28th STREET.1891.
Copyright 1891, by
J. W. Bouton.
The De Vinne Press.
THE GREATEST BOOKSELLER OF ANCIENT OR MODERN TIMES
This volume is respectfully dedicatedBY THE PUBLISHER
Fable is Love’s World, Poem by Schiller
Section I., Eleusinian Mysteries
Section II., Bacchic Mysteries
Hymn to Minerva
Hymn of Cleanthes
List of Illustrations
“’Tis not merely
The human being’s pride that peoples space
With life and mystical predominance,
Since likewise for the stricken heart of Love
This visible nature, and this common world
Is all too narrow; yea, a deeper import
Lurks in the legend told my infant years
That lies upon that truth, we live to learn,
For fable is Love’s world, his home, his birthplace;
Delightedly he dwells ’mong fays and talismans,
And spirits, and delightedly believes
Divinities, being himself divine.
The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
The fair humanities of Old Religion,
The Power, the Beauty, and the Majesty,
That had their haunts in dale or piny mountain,
Or forests by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
Or chasms or wat’ry depths;—all these have vanished.
They live no longer in the faith of Reason,
But still the heart doth need a language; still
Doth the old instinct bring back the old names.”
Schiller: The Piccolomini, Act. ii. Scene 4.
INTRODUCTION TO THE THIRD EDITION.
IN offering to the public a new edition of Mr. Thomas Taylor’s admirable treatise upon the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, it is proper to insert a few words of explanation. These observances once represented the spiritual life of Greece, and were considered for two thousand years and more the appointed means for regeneration through an interior union with the Divine Essence. However absurd, or even offensive they may seem to us, we should therefore hesitate long before we venture to lay desecrating hands on what others have esteemed holy. We can learn a valuable lesson in this regard from the Grecian and Roman writers, who had learned to treat the popular religious rites with mirth, but always considered the Eleusinian Mysteries with the deepest reverence.
It is ignorance which leads to profanation. Men ridicule what they do not properly understand. Alcibiades was drunk when he ventured to touch what his
countrymen deemed sacred. The undercurrent of this world is set toward one goal; and inside of human credulity—call it human weakness, if you please—is a power almost infinite, a holy faith capable of apprehending the supremest truths of all Existence. The veriest dreams of life, pertaining as they do to “the minor mystery of death,” have in them more than external fact can reach or explain; and Myth, however much she is proved to be a child of Earth, is also received among men as the child of Heaven. The Cinder-Wench of the ashes will become the Cinderella of the Palace, and be wedded to the King’s Son.
The instant that we attempt to analyze, the sensible, palpable facts upon which so many try to build disappear beneath the surface, like a foundation laid upon quicksand. “In the deepest reflections,” says a distinguished writer, “all that we call external is only the material basis upon which our dreams are built; and the sleep that surrounds life swallows up life,—all but a dim wreck of matter, floating this way and that, and forever evanishing from sight. Complete the analysis, and we lose even the shadow of the external Present, and only the Past and the Future are left us as our sure inheritance. This is the first initiation,—the vailing [muesis] of the eyes to the external. But as epoptæ, by the synthesis of this Past and Future in a living nature, we obtain a higher, an ideal Present, comprehending within itself all that can be real for us within us or without. This is the second
initiation in which is unvailed to us the Present as a new birth from our own life. Thus the great problem of Idealism is symbolically solved in the Eleusinia.” These were the most celebrated of all the sacred orgies, and were called, by way of eminence, The Mysteries. Although exhibiting apparently the features of an Eastern origin, they were evidently copied from the rites of Isis in Egypt, an idea of which, more or less correct, may be found in The Metamorphoses of Apuleius and The Epicurean by Thomas Moore. Every act, rite, and person engaged in them was symbolical; and the individual revealing them was put to death without mercy. So also was any uninitiated person who happened to be present. Persons of all ages and both sexes were initiated; and neglect in this respect, as in the case of Socrates, was regarded as impious and atheistical. It was required of all candidates that they should be first admitted at the Mikra or Lesser Mysteries of Agræ, by a process of fasting called purification, after which they were styled mystæ, or initiates. A year later, they might enter the higher degree. In this they learned the aporrheta, or secret meaning of the rites, and were thenceforth denominated ephori, or epoptæ. To some of the interior mysteries, however, only a very select number obtained admission. From these were taken all the ministers of holy rites. The Hierophant who presided was bound to celibacy, and required to devote his entire life to his sacred office.
[paragraph continues] He had three assistants,—the torch-bearer, the kerux or crier, and the minister at the altar. There were also a basileus or king, who was an archon of Athens, four curators, elected by suffrage, and ten to offer sacrifices.
The sacred Orgies were celebrated on every fifth year; and began on the 15th of the month Boëdromian or September. The first day was styled the agurmos or assembly, because the worshipers then convened. The second was the day of purification, called also aladé mystai, from the proclamation: “To the sea, initiated ones!” The third day was the day of sacrifices; for which purpose were offered a mullet and barley from a field in Eleusis. The officiating persons were forbidden to taste of either; the offering was for Achtheia (the sorrowing one, Demeter) alone. On the fourth day was a solemn procession. The kalathos or sacred basket was borne, followed by women, cistæ or chests in which were sesamum, carded wool, salt, pomegranates, poppies,—also thyrsi, a serpent, boughs of ivy, cakes, etc. The fifth day was denominated the day of torches. In the evening were torchlight processions and much tumult.
The sixth was a great occasion. The statue of Iacchus, the son of Zeus and Demeter, was brought from Athens, by the Iacchogoroi, all crowned with myrtle. In the way was heard only an uproar of singing and the beating of brazen kettles, as the votaries danced and ran along. The image was borne “through the sacred Gate, along the sacred way, halting by the
sacred fig-tree (all sacred, mark you, from Eleusinian associations), where the procession rests, and then moves on to the bridge over the Cephissus, where again it rests, and where the expression of the wildest grief gives place to the trifling farce,—even as Demeter, in the midst of her grief, smiled at the levity of Iambé in the palace of Celeus. Through the ‘mystical entrance’ we enter Eleusis. On the seventh day games are celebrated; and to the victor is given a measure of barley,—as it were a gift direct from the hand of the goddess. The eighth is sacred to Æsculapius, the Divine Physician, who heals all diseases; and in the evening is performed the initiatory ritual.
“Let us enter the mystic temple and be initiated,—though it must be supposed that, a year ago, we were initiated into the Lesser Mysteries at Agræ. We must have been mystæ (vailed), before we can become epoptæ (seers); in plain English, we must have shut our eyes to all else before we can behold the mysteries. Crowned with myrtle, we enter with the other initiates into the vestibule of the temple,—blind as yet, but the Hierophant within will soon open our eyes.
“But first,—for here we must do nothing rashly,—first we must wash in this holy water; for it is with pure hands and a pure heart that we are bidden to enter the most sacred enclosure [μυστικος σηκος, mustikos sekos]. Then, led into the presence of the Hierophant,
he reads to us, from a book of stone [πετρωμα, petroma], things which we must not divulge on pain of death. Let it suffice that they fit the place and the occasion; and though you might laugh at them, if they were spoken outside, still you seem very far from that mood now, as you hear the words of the old man (for old he he always was), and look upon the revealed symbols. And very far, indeed, are you from ridicule, when Demeter seals, by her own peculiar utterance and signals, by vivid coruscations of light, and cloud piled upon cloud, all that we have seen and heard from her sacred priest; and then, finally, the light of a serene wonder fills the temple, and we see the pure fields of Elysium, and hear the chorus of the Blessed;—then, not merely by external seeming or philosophic interpretation, but in real fact, does the Hierophant become the Creator [δημιουργος, demiourgos] and revealer of all things; the Sun is but his torch-bearer, the Moon his attendant at the altar, and Hermes his mystic herald [κηρυξ, kerux]. But the final word has been uttered ‘Conx Om pax.’ The rite is consummated, and we are epoptæ forever!”
Those who are curious to know the myth on which
the “mystical drama” of the Eleusinia is founded will find it in any Classical Dictionary, as well as in these pages. It is only pertinent here to give some idea of the meaning. That it was regarded as profound is evident from the peculiar rites, and the obligations imposed on every initiated person. It was a reproach not to observe them. Socrates was accused of atheism, or disrespect to the gods, for having never been initiated. Any person accidentally guilty of homicide, or of any crime, or convicted of witchcraft, was excluded. The secret doctrines, it is supposed, were the same as are expressed in the celebrated Hymn of Cleanthes. The philosopher Isocrates thus bears testimony: “She [Demeter] gave us two gifts that are the most excellent; fruits, that we may not live like beasts; and that initiation—those who have part in which have sweeter hope, both as regards the close of life and for all eternity.” In like manner, Pindar also declares: “Happy is he who has beheld them, and descends into the Underworld: he knows the end, he knows the origin of life.”
The Bacchic Orgies were said to have been instituted,
or more probably reformed by Orpheus, a mythical personage, supposed to have flourished in Thrace. The Orphic associations dedicated themselves to the worship of Bacchus, in which they hoped to find the gratification of an ardent longing after the worthy and elevating influences of a religious life. The worshipers did not indulge in unrestrained pleasure and frantic enthusiasm, but rather aimed at an ascetic purity of
life and manners. The worship of Dionysus was the center of their ideas, and the starting-point of all their speculations upon the world and human nature. They believed that human souls were confined in the body as in a prison, a condition which was denominated genesis or generation; from which Dionysus would liberate them. Their sufferings, the stages by which they passed to a higher form of existence, their katharsis or purification, and their enlightenment constituted the themes of the Orphic writers. All this was represented in the legend which constituted the groundwork of the mystical rites.
Dionysus-Zagreus was the son of Zeus, whom he had begotten in the form of a dragon or serpent, upon the person of Kore or Persephoneia, considered by some to have been identical with Ceres or Demeter, and by others to have been her daughter. The former idea is more probably the more correct. Ceres or Demeter was called Koré at Cnidos. She is called Phersephatta in a fragment by Psellus, and is also styled a Fury. The divine child, an avatar or incarnation of Zeus, was denominated Zagreus, or Chakra (Sanscrit) as being destined to universal dominion. But at the instigation of Hera the Titans conspired to murder him.
[paragraph continues] Accordingly, one day while he was contemplating a mirror, they set upon him, disguised under a coating of plaster, and tore him into seven parts. Athena, however, rescued from them his heart, which was swallowed by Zeus, and so returned into the paternal substance, to be generated anew. He was thus destined to be again born, to succeed to universal rule, establish the reign of happiness, and release all souls from the dominion of death.
The hypothesis of Mr. Taylor is the same as was maintained by the philosopher Porphyry, that the Mysteries constitute an illustration of the Platonic
philosophy. At first sight, this may be hard to believe; but we must know that no pageant could hold place so long, without an under-meaning. Indeed, Herodotus asserts that “the rites called Orphic and Bacchic are in reality Egyptian and Pythagorean.” The influence of the doctrines of Pythagoras upon the Platonic system is generally acknowledged. It is only important in that case to understand the great philosopher correctly; and we have a key to the doctrines and symbolism of the Mysteries.
The first initiations of the Eleusinia were called Teletæ or terminations, as denoting that the imperfect and rudimentary period of generated life was ended and purged off; and the candidate was denominated a mysta, a vailed or liberated person. The Greater Mysteries completed the work; the candidate was more fully instructed and disciplined, becoming an epopta or seer. He was now regarded as having received the arcane principles of life. This was also the end sought by philosophy. The soul was believed to be of composite nature, linked on the one side to the eternal world, emanating from God, and so partaking of Divinity. On the other hand, it was also allied to the phenomenal or external world, and so liable to be subjected to passion, lust, and the bondage of evils. This condition is denominated generation; and is supposed to be a kind of death to the higher form of life. Evil is inherent in this condition; and the soul dwells
in the body as in a prison or a grave. In this state, and previous to the discipline of education and the mystical initiation, the rational or intellectual element, which Paul denominates the spiritual, is asleep. The earth-life is a dream rather than a reality. Yet it has longings for a higher and nobler form of life, and its affinities are on high. “All men yearn after God,” says Homer. The object of Plato is to present to us the fact that there are in the soul certain ideas or principles, innate and connatural, which are not derived from without, but are anterior to all experience, and are developed and brought to view, but not produced by experience. These ideas are the most vital of all truths, and the purpose of instruction and discipline is to make the individual conscious of them and willing to be led and inspired by them. The soul is purified or separated from evils by knowledge, truth, expiations, sufferings, and prayers. Our life is a discipline and preparation for another state of being; and resemblance to God is the highest motive of action.
Proclus does not hesitate to identify the theological doctrines with the mystical dogmas of the Orphic system. He says: “What Orpheus delivered in hidden allegories, Pythagoras learned when he was initiated into the Orphic Mysteries; and Plato next received a perfect knowledge of them from the Orphean and Pythagorean writings.”
Mr. Taylor’s peculiar style has been the subject of repeated criticism; and his translations are not accepted by classical scholars. Yet they have met with favor at the hands of men capable of profound and recondite thinking; and it must be conceded that he was endowed with a superior qualification,—that of an intuitive perception of the interior meaning of the subjects which he considered. Others may have known more Greek, but he knew more Plato. He devoted his time and means for the elucidation and dissemination of the doctrines of the divine philosopher; and has rendered into English not only his writings, but also the works of other authors, who affected the teachings of the great master, that have escaped destruction at the hand of Moslem and Christian bigots. For this labor we cannot be too grateful.
The present treatise has all the peculiarities of style which characterize the translations. The principal difficulties of these we have endeavored to obviate—a labor which will, we trust, be not unacceptable to readers. The book has been for some time out of print; and no later writer has endeavored to replace it. There are
many who still cherish a regard, almost amounting to veneration, for the author; and we hope that this reproduction of his admirable explanation of the nature and object of the Mysteries will prove to them a welcome undertaking. There is an increasing interest in philosophical, mystical, and other antique literature, which will, we believe, render our labor of some value to a class of readers whose sympathy, good-will, and fellowship we would gladly possess and cherish. If we have added to their enjoyment, we shall be doubly gratified.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE AUTHOR’S EDITION.
AS there is nothing more celebrated than the Mysteries of the ancients, so there is perhaps nothing which has hitherto been less solidly known. Of the truth of this observation, the liberal reader will, I persuade myself, be fully convinced, from an attentive perusal of the following sheets; in which the secret meaning of the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries is unfolded, from authority the most respectable, and from a philosophy of all others the most venerable and august. The authority, indeed, is principally derived from manuscript writings, which are, of course, in the possession of but a few; but its respectability is no more lessened by its concealment, than the value of a diamond when secluded from the light. And as to the philosophy, by whose assistance these Mysteries are developed, it is coeval with the universe itself; and, however its continuity may be broken by opposing systems, it will make its appearance at different periods of time, as long as the sun himself shall continue to illuminate the
world. It has, indeed, and may hereafter, be violently assaulted by delusive opinions; but the opposition will be just as imbecile as that of the waves of the sea against a temple built on a rock, which majestically pours them back,
Broken and Vanquish’d, foaming to the main.
0^ Atlantic Monthly, vol. iv. September, 1859.
1^ In the Oriental countries the designation פתר Peter (an interpreter), appears to have been the title of this personage; and the petroma consisted, notably enough, of two tablets of stone. There is in these facts some reminder of the peculiar circumstances of the Mosaic Law which was so preserved; and also of the claim of the Pope to be the successor of Peter, the hierophant or interpreter of the Christian religion.
3^ Ancient Symbol-Worship, page 12, note. “Socrates was not initiated, yet after drinking the hemlock, he addressed Crito: ‘We owe a cock to Æsculapius.’ This was the peculiar offering made by initiates (now called kerknophori) on the eve of the last day, and he thus symbolically asserted that he was about to receive the great apocalypse.”
See, also, “Progress of Religious Ideas,” by Lydia Maria Child, vol. ii. p. 308; and “Discourses on the Worship of Priapus,” by Richard Payne Knight.
4^ Euripides: Rhaesus. “Orpheus showed forth the rites of the hidden Mysteries.”
Plato: Protagoras. “The art of a sophist or sage is ancient, but the men who proposed it in ancient times, fearing the odium attached to it, sought to conceal it, and vailed it over, some under the garb of poetry, as Homer, Hesiod, and Simonides: and others under that of the Mysteries and prophetic manias, such as Orpheus, Musæus, and their followers.”
Herodotus takes a different view—ii. 49. “Melampus, the son of Amytheon,” he says, “introduced into Greece the name of Dionysus (Bacchus), the ceremonial of his worship, and the procession of the phallus. He did not, however, so completely apprehend the whole doctrine as to be able to communicate it entirely: but various sages, since his time, have carried out his teaching to greater perfection. Still it is certain that Melampus introduced the phallus, and that the Greeks learnt from him the ceremonies which they now practice. I therefore maintain that Melampus, who was a sage, and had acquired the art of divination, having become acquainted with the worship of Dionysus through knowledge derived from Egypt, introduced it into Greece, with a few slight changes, at the same time that he brought in various other practices. For I can by no means allow that it is by mere coincidence that the Bacchic ceremonies in Greece are so nearly the same as the Egyptian.”
5^ Hera, generally regarded as the Greek title of Juno, is not the definite name of any goddess, but was used by ancient writers as a designation only. It signifies domina or lady, and appears to be of Sanscrit origin. It is applied to Ceres or Demeter, and other divinities.
6^ The mirror was a part of the symbolism of the Thesmophoria, and was used in the search for Atmu, the Hidden One, evidently the same as Tammuz, Adonis, and Atys. See Exodus xxxviii. 8; 1 Samuel ii. 22; and Ezekiel viii. 14. But despite the assertion of Herodotus and others that the Bacchic Mysteries were in reality Egyptian, there exists strong probability that they came originally from India, and were Sivaic or Buddhistical. Coré-Persephoneia was but the goddess Parasu-pani or Bhavani, the patroness of the Thugs, called also Gorée; and Zagreus is from Chakra, a country extending from ocean to ocean. If this is a Turanian or Tartar Story, we can easily recognize the “Horns” as the crescent worn by lama-priests: and translating god-names as merely sacerdotal designations, assume the whole legend to be based on a tale of Lama Succession and transmigration. The Titans would then be the Daityas of India, who were opposed to the faith of the northern tribes; and the title Dionysus but signify the god or chief-priest of Nysa, or Mount Meru. The whole story of Orpheus, the institutor or rather the reformer of the Bacchic rites, has a Hindu ring all through.
7^ Herodotus: ii. 81.
8^ Many of the early Christian writers were deeply imbued with the Eclectic or Platonic doctrines. The very forms of speech were almost identical. One of the four Gospels, bearing the title “according to John,” was the evident product of a Platonist, and hardly seems in a considerable degree Jewish or historical. The epistles ascribed to Paul evince a great familiarity with the Eclectic philosophy and the peculiar symbolism of the Mysteries, as well as with the Mithraic notions that had penetrated and permeated the religious ideas of the western countries.
THE ELEUSINIAN AND BACCHIC MYSTERIES
❦ SECTION I. ❦
DR. WARBURTON, in his Divine Legation of Moses, has ingeniously proved, that the sixth book of Virgil’s Æneid represents some of the dramatic exhibitions of the Eleusinian Mysteries; but, at the same time, has utterly failed in attempting to unfold their latent meaning, and obscure though important end. By the assistance, however, of the Platonic philosophy, I have been enabled to correct his errors, and to vindicate the wisdom of antiquity from his aspersions
by a genuine account of this sublime institution; of which the following observations are designed as a comprehensive view.
In the first place, then, I shall present the reader with two superior authorities, who perfectly demonstrate that a part of the shows (or dramas) consisted in a representation of the infernal regions; authorities which, though of the last consequence, were unknown to Dr. Warburton himself. The first of these is no less a person than the immortal Pindar, in a fragment preserved by Clemens Alexandrinus: “Ἀλλα και Πινδαρος περι των εν Ελευσινι μυστηριων λεγων επιφερει. Ολβιος, οστις ιδων εκεινα, κοινα εις ὑποχϑονια, οιδεν μεν βιον τελευταν, οιδεν δε διος δοτον αρχαν.”i. e. “But Pindar, speaking of the Eleusinian Mysteries, says: Blessed is he who, having
seen those common concerns in the underworld, knows both the end of life and its divine origin from Jupiter.” The other of these is from Proclus in his Commentary on Plato’s Politicus, who, speaking concerning the sacerdotal and symbolical mythology, observes, that from this mythology Plato himself establishes many of his own peculiar doctrines, “since in the Phædo he venerates, with a becoming silence, the assertion delivered in the arcane discourses, that men are placed in the body as in a prison, secured by a guard, and testifies, according to the mystic ceremonies, the different allotments of purified and unpurified souls in Hades, their severed conditions, and the three-forked path from the peculiar places where they were; and this was shown according to traditionary institutions; every part of which is full of a symbolical representation, as in a dream, and of a description which treated of the ascending and descending ways, of the tragedies of Dionysus (Bacchus or Zagreus), the crimes of the Titans, the three ways in Hades, and
the wandering of everything of a similar kind.”—“Δηλοι δε εν Φαιδωνι τον τε εν απρῥοητοις λεγομενον, ὡς εντινι φρουρᾳ εσμεν ὁι ανϑρωποι, σιγῃ τῃ τρεπουση σεβων, και τας τελετας (lege και κατα τας τελετα) μαρτυρομενος των διαφορων ληξεων της ψυχης κεκαϑαρμενης τε και ακαϑαρτου εις ᾁδου απιουσης, και τας τε σχεσεις αυ, και τας τριοδους απο των ουσιων και των (lege καί κατα των), πατρικων ϑεσμων τεκμαιρομενος. α δη της συμβολικης ἁπαντα ϑεωριας εστι μεστα, και των παρα τοις ποιηταις ϑρυλλουμενων ανοδων τε και καϑοδων, των τε διονυσιακων συνϑηματων, και των τιτανικων ἁμαρτηματων λεγομενων, και των εν ᾁδου τριοδων, και της πλανης, και των τοιουτων ἁπαντων.” Having premised thus much, I now proceed to prove that the dramatic spectacles of the Lesser Mysteries were designed by the ancient theologists, their founders, to signify occultly the condition of the unpurified soul
invested with an earthly body, and enveloped in a material and physical nature; or, in other words, to signify that such a soul in the present life might be said to die, as far as it is possible for a soul to die, and that on the dissolution of the present body, while in this state of impurity, it would experience a death still more permanent and profound. That the soul, indeed, till purified by philosophy, suffers death through its union with the body was obvious to the philologist Macrobius, who, not penetrating the secret meaning of the ancients, concluded from hence that they signified nothing more than the present body, by their descriptions of the infernal abodes. But this is manifestly absurd; since it is universally agreed, that all the ancient theological poets and philosophers inculcated the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments in the most full and decisive terms; at the same time occultly intimating that the death of the soul was nothing more than a profound union with the ruinous bonds of the body.
[paragraph continues] Indeed, if these wise men believed in a future state of retribution, and at the same time considered a connection with the body as death of the soul, it necessarily follows, that the soul’s punishment and existence hereafter are nothing more than a continuation of its state at present, and a transmigration, as it were, from sleep to sleep, and from dream to dream. But let us attend to the assertions of these divine men concerning the soul’s union with a material nature. And to begin with the obscure and profound Heracleitus, speaking of souls unembodied: “We live their death, and we die their life.” Ζωμεν τον εκεινων ϑανατον, τεϑνηκαμεν δε τον εκεινων βιον. And Empedocles, deprecating the condition termed “generation,” beautifully says of her:
The aspect changing with destruction dread,
She makes the living pass into the dead.
Εκ μεν γαρ ζωων ετιϑει νεκρα ειδε αμειβων.
And again, lamenting his connection with this corporeal world, he pathetically exclaims:
For this I weep, for this indulge my woe,
That e’er my soul such novel realms should know.
Κλαυσα τε και κωκυσα, ῶων ασυνηϑεα χωρον.
Plato, too, it is well known, considered the body as the sepulchre of the soul, and in the Cratylus concurs with the doctrine of Orpheus, that the soul is punished through its union with body. This was likewise the opinion of the celebrated Pythagorean, Philolaus, as is evident from the following remarkable passage in the Doric dialect, preserved by Clemens Alexandrinus in Stromat. book iii. “Μαρτυρεοντα δε και οι παλαιοι ϑεολογοι τε και μαντιες, ὡς δια τινας τιμωριας, ἁ ψυχα τῳ σωματι συνεζευκται, και καϑαπερ εν σωματι τομτῳ τεϑαπται.” i. e. “The ancient theologists and priests also testify that the soul is united with the body as if for the sake of punishment; and so is buried in body as in a sepulchre.” And, lastly, Pythagoras
himself confirms the above sentiments, when he beautifully observes, according to Clemens in the same book, “that whatever we see when awake is death; and when asleep, a dream.” θανατος εστιν, οκοσα εγερϑεντες ορεομεν· οκοσα δε ευδοντες, ὑπνος.
But that the mysteries occultly signified this sublime truth, that the soul by being merged in matter resides among the dead both here and hereafter, though it follows by a necessary sequence from the preceding observations, yet it is indisputably confirmed, by the testimony of the great and truly divine Plotinus, in Ennead I., book viii. “When the soul,” says he, “has descended into generation (from its first divine condition) she partakes of evil, and is carried a great way into a state the opposite of her first purity and integrity, to be entirely merged in which, is nothing more than to fall into dark mire.” And again, soon after: “The soul therefore dies as much as it is possible for the soul to die: and the death to her is while baptized or immersed in the present
body, to descend into matter, and be wholly subjected by it; and after departing thence to lie there till it shall arise and turn its face away from the abhorrent filth. This is what is meant by the falling asleep in Hades, of those who have come there.”
[paragraph continues] Γινομενῳ δε ἡ μεταληψις αυτου. Γιψνεται γαρ πανταπασιν εν τῳ της ανομοιοτητος τοπῳ, ενϑα δυς εις αυτην εις βορβορον σκοτεινον εσται πεσων.—Αποϑνησκει ουν, ως ψυχη αν ϑανοι· και ὁ ϑανατος αυτῃ, και ετι εν τω σωματι βεβαπτισμενη, εν ὑλῃ εστι καταδυναι, και πλησϑηναι αυτης. Και εξελϑουσης εκει κεισϑαι, εως αναδραμῃ και αφελῃ πως την οψιν εκ του βορβορου. Και τουτο εστι το εν ᾁδου ελϑοντα επικατα δαρϑειν. Here the
reader may observe that the obscure doctrine of the Mysteries mentioned by Plato in the Phædo, that the unpurified soul in a future state lies immerged in mire, is beautifully explained; at the same time that our assertion concerning their secret meaning is not less substantially confirmed. In a similar manner the same divine philosopher, in his book on the Beautiful, Ennead, I., book vi., explains the fable of Narcissus as an emblem of one who rushes to the contemplation of sensible (phenomenal) forms as if they were perfect realities, when at the same time they are nothing more than like beautiful images appearing in water, fallacious and vain. “Hence,” says he, “as Narcissus, by catching at the shadow, plunged himself in the stream and disappeared, so he who is captivated by beautiful bodies, and does not depart from their embrace, is precipitated, not with his body, but with
his soul, into a darkness profound and repugnant to intellect (the higher soul), through which, remaining blind both here and in Hades, he associates with shadows.” Τον αυτον δη τροπον ὁ εχομενος των καλων σωμα των, και μη αφιεις, ου τῳ σωματι, τῃ δε ψυχῃ καταδυσεται, εις σκοτεινα και ατερπη τῳ νῳ βαϑη, ενϑα τυφλος εν ᾁδου μενων, και ενταυϑα κᾳκει σκιαις συνεστι. And what still farther confirms our exposition is that matter was considered by the Egyptians as a certain mire or mud. “The Egyptians,” says Simplicius, “called matter, which they symbolically denominated water, the dregs or sediment of the first life; matter being, as it were, a certain mire or mud. Διο και Αιγυπτιοι την της πρωτης ζωης, ἡν ὑδωρ συμβολικως εκαλουν, ὑποσταϑμην την ὑλην ελεγον, ὁιον ιλον τινα ουσαν. So that from all
that has been said we may safely conclude with Ficinus, whose words are as express to our purpose as possible. “Lastly,” says he, “that I may comprehend the opinion of the ancient theologists, on the state of the soul after death, in a few words: they considered, as we have elsewhere asserted, things divine as the only realities, and that all others were only the images and shadows of truth. Hence they asserted that prudent men, who earnestly employed themselves in divine concerns, were above all others in a vigilant state. But that imprudent [i. e. without foresight] men, who pursued objects of a different nature, being laid asleep, as it were, were only engaged in the delusions of dreams; and that if they happened to die in this sleep, before they were roused, they would be afflicted with similar and still more dazzling visions in a future state. And that as he who in this life pursued realities, would, after death, enjoy the highest truth, so he who pursued deceptions would hereafter be tormented with fallacies and delusions in the extreme: as the one
would be delighted with true objects of enjoyment, so the other would be tormented with delusive semblances of reality.”—Denique ut priscorum theologorum sententiam de statu animæ post mortem paucis comprehendam: sola divina (ut alias diximus) arbitrantur res veras existere, reliqua esse rerum verarum imagines atque umbras. Ideo prudentes homines, qui divinis incumbunt, præ ceteris vigilare. Imprudentes autem, qui sectantur alia, insomniis omnino quasi dormientes illudi, ac si in hoc somno priusquam expergefacti fuerint moriantur similibus post discessum et acrioribus visionibus angi. Et sicut eum qui in vita veris incubuit, post mortem summa veritate potiri, sic eum qui falsa sectatus est, fallacia extrema torqueri, ut ille rebus veris oblectetur, hic falsis vexetur simulachris.” But notwithstanding this important truth was obscurely hinted by the Lesser Mysteries, we must not suppose that it was generally
known even to the initiated persons themselves: for as individuals of almost all descriptions were admitted to these rites, it would have been a ridiculous prostitution to disclose to the multitude a theory so abstracted and sublime. It was sufficient to instruct these in the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, and in the means of returning to the principles from which they originally fell: for this
last piece of information was, according to Plato in the Phædo, the ultimate design of the Mysteries; and the former is necessarily inferred from the present discourse. Hence the reason why it was obvious to none but the Pythagorean and Platonic philosophers, who derived their theology from Orpheus himself, the original founder of these sacred institutions; and why we meet with no information in this particular in any writer prior to Plotinus; as he was the first who, having penetrated the profound interior wisdom of antiquity, delivered it to posterity without the concealments of mystic symbols and fabulous narratives.
VIRGIL NOT A PLATONIST.
Hence too, I think, we may infer, with the greatest probability, that this recondite meaning of the Mysteries was not known
even to Virgil himself, who has so elegantly described their external form; for notwithstanding the traces of Platonism which are to be found in the Æneid, nothing of any great depth occurs throughout the whole, except what a superficial reading of Plato and the dramas of the Mysteries might easily afford. But this is not perceived by modern readers, who, entirely unskilled themselves in Platonism, and fascinated by the charms of his poetry, imagine him to be deeply knowing in a subject with which he was most likely but slightly acquainted. This opinion is still farther strengthened by considering that the doctrine delivered in his Eclogues is perfectly Epicurean, which was the fashionable philosophy of the Augustan age; and that there is no trace of Platonism in any other part of his works but the present book, which, containing a representation of the Mysteries, was necessarily obliged to display some of the principal tenets of this philosophy, so far as they illustrated and made a part of these mystic exhibitions. However, on the supposition that this book presents us with
a faithful view of some part of these sacred rites, and this accompanied with the utmost elegance, harmony, and purity of versification, it ought to be considered as an invaluable relic of antiquity, and a precious monument of venerable mysticism, recondite wisdom, and theological information. This will be sufficiently evident from what has been already delivered, by considering some of the beautiful descriptions of this book in their natural order; at the same time that the descriptions themselves will corroborate the present elucidations.
In the first place, then, when he says,
─────facilis descensus Averno.
Noctes atque dies patet atra janua ditis:
Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hic labor est. Pauci quos æquus amavit
Jupiter, aut ardens evexit ad æthera virtus,
Dis geniti potuere. Tenent media omnia silvæ,
Cocytusque sinu labens, circumvenit atro────†
[† Davidson’s Translation.—“Easy is the path that leads down to hell; grim Pluto’s gate stands open night and day: but to retrace one’s steps, and escape to the upper regions, this is a work, this is a task. Some few, whom favoring Jove loved, or illustrious virtue advanced to heaven, the sons of the gods, have effected it. Woods cover all the intervening space, and Cocytus, gliding with his black, winding flood, surrounds it.”]
is it not obvious, from the preceding explanation, that by Avernus, in this place, and the dark gates of Pluto, we must understand a corporeal or external nature, the descent into which is, indeed, at all times obvious and easy, but to recall our steps, and ascend into the upper regions, or, in other words, to separate the soul from the body by the purifying discipline, is indeed a mighty work, and a laborious task? For a few only, the favorites of heaven, that is, born with the true philosophic genius, and whom ardent virtue has elevated to a disposition and capacity for divine contemplation, have been enabled to accomplish the arduous design. But when he says that all the middle regions are covered with woods, this likewise plainly intimates a material nature; the word silva, as is well known, being used by ancient writers to signify matter, and implies nothing more than that the passage leading to the
barathrum [abyss] of body, i. e. into profound darkness and oblivion, is through the medium of a material nature; and this medium is surrounded by the black bosom of Cocytus, that is, by bitter weeping and lamentations, the necessary consequence of the soul’s union with a nature entirely foreign to her own. So that the poet in this particular perfectly corresponds with Empedocles in the line we have cited above, where he exclaims, alluding to this union,
For this I weep, for this indulge my woe,
That e’er my soul such novel realms should know.
In the next place, he thus describes the cave, through which Æneas descended to the infernal regions:
Spelunca alta fuit, vastoque immanis hiatu,
Scrupea, tuta lacu nigro, memorumque tenebris:
Quam super hand ullæ poterant impune volantes
Tendere iter pennis: talis sese halitus atris
Faucicus effundens supera ad convexa ferebat:
Unde locum Graii dixerunt nomine Aornum──†
[† Davidson’s Translation.—“There was a cave profound and hideous, with wide yawning mouth, stony, fenced by a black lake, and the gloom of woods; over which none of the flying kind were able to wing their way unhurt; such exhalations issuing from its grim jaws ascended to the vaulted skies; for which reason the Greeks called the place by the name of Aornos” (without birds).]
Does it not afford a beautiful representation of a corporeal nature, of which a cave, defended with a black lake, and dark woods, is an obvious emblem? For it occultly reminds us of the ever-flowing and obscure condition of such a nature, which may be said
To roll incessant with impetuous speed,
Like some dark river, into Matter’s sea.
Nor is it with less propriety denominated Aornus, i. e. destitute of birds, or a winged nature; for on account of its native sluggishness and inactivity, and its merged condition,
being situated in the outmost extremity of things, it is perfectly debile and languid, incapable of ascending into the regions of reality, and exchanging its obscure and degraded station for one every way splendid and divine. The propriety too of sacrificing, previous to his entrance, to Night and Earth, is obvious, as both these are emblems of a corporeal nature.
In the verses which immediately follow,—
Ecce autem, primi sub limina solis et ortus,
Sub pedibus mugire solum, et juga cæpta movere
Silvarum, visaque canes ululare per umbram,
[* “So, now, at the first beams and rising of the sun, the earth under the feet begins to rumble, the wooded hills to quake, and dogs were seen howling through the shade, as the goddess came hither──”]
we may perceive an evident allusion to the earthquakes, etc., attending the descent of the soul into body, mentioned by Plato in the tenth book of his Republic; since the
lapse of the soul, as we shall see more fully hereafter, was one of the important truths which these Mysteries were intended to reveal. And the howling dogs are symbols of material demons, who are thus denominated by the Magian Oracles of Zoroaster, on account of their ferocious and malevolent dispositions, ever baneful to the felicity of the human soul. And hence Matter herself is represented by Synesius in his first Hymn, with great propriety and beauty, as barking at the soul with devouring rage: for thus he sings, addressing himself to the Deity:
Μακαρ ὁς τις βορον ὑλας
Προφυγων ὑλαγμα, και γας
Αναδυς, ἁλματι κουφῳ
Ιχνος ες ϑεον τιταινει.
Which may be thus paraphrased:
Blessed! thrice blessed! who, with wingéd speed,
From Hylé’s dread voracious barking flies,
And, leaving Earth’s obscurity behind,
By a light leap, directs his steps to thee.
And that material demons actually appeared to the initiated previous to the lucid visions of the gods themselves, is evident from the following passage of Proclus in his manuscript Commentary on the first Alcibiades: εν ταις ἁγιοταταις των τελετων τρο της θεου παρουσιας δαιμονων χϑονιων εκβολαι προφαινονται, και απο των αχραντων αγαϑων εις την ὑλην προκαλουμεναι. I. e. “In the most interior sanctities of the Mysteries, before the presence of the god, the rushing forms of earthly demons appear, and call the attention from the immaculate good to matter.” And Pletho (on the Oracles), expressly asserts, that these spectres appeared in the shape of dogs.
After this, Æneas is described as proceeding to the infernal regions, through profound night and darkness:
Ibant obscuri sola sub nocte per umbram.
Perque domos Ditis vacuas, et inania regna.
Quale per incertam lunam sub luce maligna
Est iter in silvis: ubi cælum condidit umbra
Jupiter, et rebus nox abstulit atra colorem.*
[* “They went along, amid the gloom under the solitary night, through the shade, and through the desolate halls, and empty realms of Dis [Pluto or Hades]. Such is a journey in the woods beneath the unsteady moon with her niggard light, when Jupiter has enveloped the sky in shade, and the black Night has taken from all objects their color.”]
And this with the greatest propriety; for the Mysteries, as is well known, were celebrated by night; and in the Republic of Plato, as cited above, souls are described as falling into the estate of generation at midnight; this period being peculiarly accommodated to the darkness and oblivion of a corporeal nature; and to this circumstance the nocturnal celebration of the Mysteries doubtless alluded.
In the next place, the following vivid description presents itself to our view:
Vestibulum ante ipsum, primisque in faucibus Orci
Luctus, et ultrices posuere cubilia Curæ:
Pallentesque habitant morbi, tristisque senectus,
Et Metus, et mala suada Fames, ac turpis egestas;
Terribiles visu formæ; Lethumque Laborque;
Tum consanguineus Lethi Sopor et mala mentis
Gaudia, mortiferumque adverso in limine bellum
Ferreique Eumenidum thalami et Discordia demens,
Vipereum crinem vittis innexa cruentis.
In medio ramos annosaque brachia pandit
Ulmus opaca ingens: quam sedem somnia vulgo
Vana tenere ferunt, foliisque sub omnibus hærent.
Multaque præterea variarum monstra ferarum:
Centauri in foribus stabulant, Scyllæque biformes,
Et centumgeminus Briareus, ac bellua Lernæ,
Horrendum stridens, flammisque armata Chimæra,
Gorgones Harpyiæque, et formo tricorporis umbræ.*
[* “Before the entrance itself, and in the first jaws of Hell, Grief and vengeful Cares have placed their couches; pale Diseases inhabit there, and sad Old Age, and Fear, and Want, evil goddess of persuasion, and unsightly Poverty—forms terrible to contemplate! and there, too, are Death and Toil; then Sleep, akin to Death, and evil Delights of mind; and upon the opposite threshold are seen death-bringing War, and the iron marriage-couches of the Furies, and raving Discord, with her viper-hair bound with gory wreaths. In the midst, an Elm dark and huge expands its boughs and aged limbs; making an abode which vain Dreams are said to haunt, and under whose every leaf they dwell. Besides all these, are many monstrous apparitions of various wild beasts. The Centaurs harbor at the gates, and double-formed Scyllas, the hundred-fold Briareus, the Snake of Lerna, hissing dreadfully, and Chimæra armed with flames, the Gorgons and the Harpies, and the shades of three-bodied form.”]
And surely it is impossible to draw a more lively picture of the maladies with which a
material nature is connected; of the soul’s dormant condition through its union with body; and of the various mental diseases to which, through such a conjunction, it becomes unavoidably subject; for this description contains a threefold division; representing, in the first place, the external evil with which this material region is replete; in the second place, intimating that the life of the soul when merged in the body is nothing but a dream; and, in the third place, under the disguise of multiform and terrific monsters, exhibiting the various vices of our irrational and sensuous part. Hence Empedocles, in perfect conformity with the first part of this description, calls this material abode, or the realms of generation,—ατερπεα χωρον, a “joyless region.”
“Where slaughter, rage, and countless ills reside;
Ενϑα φονος τε κοτος τε και αλλων εθνεα κηρων—
and into which those who fall,
“Through Até’s meads and dreadful darkness stray.”
──ανα λειμωνα τε και σκοτος ηλασκουσιν.
And hence he justly says to such a soul, that
“She flies from deity and heav’nly light,
To serve mad Discord in the realms of night.”
────φυγας ϑεοϑεν, και αλητης,
Νεικεϊ μαινομενῳ πισυνος.───
Where too we may observe that the Discordia demens of Virgil is an exact translation of the Νεικεϊ μαινομενῳ of Empedocles.
In the lines, too, which immediately succeed, the sorrows and mournful miseries attending the soul’s union with a material nature, are beautifully described.
Hinc via, Tartarei quæ fert Acherontis ad undas;
Turbidus hic cæno vastaque voragine gurges
Æstuat, atque omnem Cocyto eructat arenam.*
[* “Here is the way which leads to the surging billows of Hell [Acheron]; here an abyss turbid boils up with loathsome mud and vast whirlpools; and vomits all its quicksand into Cocytus.”]
And when Charon calls out to Æneas to
desist from entering any farther, and tells him,
“Here to reside delusive shades delight;
“For nought dwells here but sleep and drowsy night.”
Umbrarum hic locus est, Somni Noctisque soporæ—
nothing can more aptly express the condition of the dark regions of body, into which the soul, when descending, meets with nothing but shadows and drowsy night: and by persisting in her course, is at length lulled into profound sleep, and becomes a true inhabitant of the phantom-abodes of the dead.
Æneas having now passed over the Stygian lake, meets with the three-headed monster Cerberus, the guardian of these infernal abodes:
Tandem trans fluvium incolumis vatemque virumque
Informi limo glaucaque exponit in ulva.
Cerberus hæc ingens latratu regna trifauci
Personat, adverso recubans immanis in antro.*
[* “At length across the river safe, the prophetess and the man, he lands upon the slimy strand, upon the blue sedge. Huge Cerberus makes these realms [of death] resound with barking from his threefold throat, as he lies stretched at prodigious length in the opposite cave.”]
By Cerberus we must understand the discriminative part of the soul, of which a dog, on account of its sagacity, is an emblem; and the three heads signify the triple distinction of this part, into the intellective [or intuitional], cogitative [or rational], and opinionative powers.—With respect to the three kinds of persons described as situated on the borders of the infernal realms, the poet doubtless intended by this enumeration to represent to us the three most remarkable
characters, who, though not apparently deserving of punishment, are yet each of them similarly immerged in matter, and consequently require a similar degree of purification. The persons described are, as is well known, first, the souls of infants snatched away by untimely ends; secondly, such as are condemned to death unjustly; and, thirdly, those who, weary of their lives, become guilty of suicide. And with respect to the first of these, or infants, their connection with a material nature is obvious. The second sort, too, who are condemned to death unjustly, must be supposed to represent the souls of men who, though innocent of one crime for which they were wrongfully punished, have, notwithstanding, been guilty of many crimes, for which they are receiving proper chastisement in Hades, i. e. through a profound union with a material nature. And the third sort, or suicides, though
apparently separated from the body, have only exchanged one place for another of similar nature; since conduct of this kind, according to the arcana of divine philosophy, instead of separating the soul from its body, only restores it to a condition perfectly correspondent to its former inclinations and habits, lamentations and woes. But if we examine this affair more profoundly, we shall find that these three characters are justly placed in the same situation, because the reason of punishment is in each equally obscure. For is it not a just matter of doubt why the souls of infants should be punished? And is it not equally dubious and wonderful why those who have been unjustly condemned to death in one period of existence should be punished in another? And as to suicides, Plato in his Phædo says that the prohibition of this crime in the απορῥητα (aporrheta) is a profound doctrine, and not easy to be
understood. Indeed, the true cause why the two first of these characters are in Hades, can only be ascertained from the fact of a prior state of existence, in surveying which, the latent justice of punishment will be manifestly revealed; the apparent inconsistencies in the administration of Providence fully reconciled; and the doubts concerning the wisdom of its proceedings entirely dissolved. And as to the last of these, or suicides, since the reason of their punishment, and why an action of this kind is in general highly atrocious, is extremely mystical and obscure, the following solution of this difficulty will, no doubt, be gratefully received by the Platonic reader, as the whole of it is no where else to be found but in manuscript.
[paragraph continues] Olympiodorus, then, a most learned and excellent commentator on Plato, in his commentary on that part of the Phædo where Plato speaks of the prohibition of suicide in the aporrheta, observes as follows: “The argument which Plato employs in this place against suicide is derived from the Orphic mythology, in which four kingdoms are celebrated; the first of Uranus [Ouranos] (Heaven), whom Kronos or Saturn assaulted, cutting off the genitals of his father. But after Saturn, Zeus or Jupiter succeeded to the government of the world, having hurled his father into Tartarus. And after Jupiter, Dionysus or Bacchus rose to light, who, according to report, was, through the insidious treachery of Hera or Juno, torn in pieces by the Titans, by whom he was surrounded, and who afterwards tasted his flesh: but Jupiter, enraged at the deed, hurled his thunder at the guilty offenders and consumed them to ashes. Hence a certain matter
being formed from the ashes or sooty vapor of the smoke ascending from their burning bodies, out of this mankind were produced. It is unlawful, therefore, to destroy ourselves, not as the words of Plato seem to import, because we are in the body, as in prison, secured by a guard (for this is evident, and Plato would not have called such an assertion arcane), but because our body is Dionysiacal, or of the nature of Bacchus: for we are a part of him, since we are composed from the ashes, or sooty vapor of the Titans who tasted his flesh. Socrates, therefore, as if fearful of disclosing the arcane part of this narration, relates nothing more of the fable than that we are placed as in a prison secured by a guard: but the interpreters relate the fable openly.” Και εςτι το μυϑικον επιχειρημα τοιουτον. Παρα τῳ Ορφει τεσσαρες βασιλειαι παραδιδονται. Πρωτη μεν, ἡ του Ουρανου, ἡν ὁ Κρονος διεδεξατο, εκτεμων τα αιδοια του πατρος. Μετα δη τον Κρονον, ὁ
[paragraph continues] Ζευς εβασιλευσεν καταταρταρώσας τὸν πατερα. Ειτα τον Δια διεδεξατο ὁ Διονυσος, ὁν φασι κατ’ επιβουλην της Ἥρας τους περι αυτου Τιτανας σπαραττειν, και των σαρκων αυτου απογευεσϑαι. Και τουτους οργισϑεις ὁ Ζευς εκεραυνωσε, και εκ της αιϑαλης των ατμων των αναδοϑεντων εξ αυτων, ὑλης γενομενης γενεσϑαι τους ανϑρωπους. Ου δει ουν εξαγαγειν ἡμας εαυτους, ουχ οτι ως δοκει λεγειν ἡ λεξις, διοτι εν τινι δεςμῳ εσμεν τῳ σωματι· τουτο γαρ δηλον εςτι, και ουκ αν τουτο απορῥμτον ελεγε, αλλ’ οτι ου δει εξαγαγειν ἡμας ἑαυτους ως του σωματος ἡμων διονυσιακου οντος· μερος γαρ αυτου εσμεν, ειγε εκ της αιϑαλης των Τιτανων συγκειμεϑα γευσαμενων των σαρκων τουτου. Ὁ μεν ουν Σωκρατης εργῳ το απορῥητον δεικνος, του μυϑου ουδεν πλεον προστιϑμσι του ως εν τινι φρουρα εσμεν. Ὁι δε εξηγηται τον μυϑον προστιϑεασιν εξωϑεν. After this he beautifully observes, “That these four governments signify the different gradations of virtues, according to which our soul contains the symbols of all the qualities, both contemplative and purifying, social and ethical; for it either
operates according to the theoretic or contemplative virtues, the model of which is the government of Uranus or Heaven, that we may begin from on high; and on this account Uranus (Heaven) is so called παρα του τα ανω ὁρᾳν, from beholding the things above: Or it lives purely, the exemplar of which is the Kronian or Saturnian kingdom; and on this account Kronos is named as Koro-nous, one who perceives through himself. Hence he is said to devour his own offspring, signifying the conversion of himself into his own substance:—or it operates according to the social virtues, the symbol of which is the government of Jupiter. Hence, Jupiter is styled the Demiurgus
• SECRET RITES & SOCIETIES •
The Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries
The Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries explain a lost fundament, on which an important part of the ancient pagan and occult tradition in Europe was built. These mysteries once represented the spiritual life of Greece, and were considered for two thousand years and more, the appointed means for regeneration through an interior union with the Divine Essence. However absurd, or even offensive or obscene, they may seem to modern spirituality, we should be careful not to condemn what the ancient Greek – and Romans – have esteemed holy. The Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries focus on life, death and rebirth in the present, identical with the living nature, which was regarded as the converging of past and future. In this context the mystae, or initiates, learned the aporrheta, or secret meaning of the rites, and were thenceforth denominated ephori, or epoptæ (seers). Sacred orgies were celebrated on every fifth year; and began on the 15th of the month Boëdromian or September.
This work offers a thrilling and invaluable body of reference and insight to the student of the occult, as well as to academics and micro-historians focused on the deeper layers of Greek religion.
About the author
Thomas Taylor (15 May 1758 – 1 November 1835) was an English translator and Neoplatonist, the first to translate into English the complete works of Aristotle and of Plato, as well as the Orphic fragments. He was born in the City of London, the son of a staymaker, Joseph Taylor and his wife Mary (born Summers).
He received his education at St. Paul’s School, and devoted himself to the study of the classics and of mathematics. After first working as a clerk in Lubbock’s Bank, he was appointed Assistant Secretary to the Society for the Encouragement of Art (a precursor to the Royal Society of Arts), in which capacity he made many influential friends, who furnished the means for publishing his various translations, which besides Plato and Aristotle, include Proclus, Porphyry, Apuleius, Ocellus Lucanus and other Neoplatonists and Pythagoreans. His ambitious aim was the translation of all the un-translated writings of the ancient Greek philosophers. The texts that he used had been edited since the 16th century, but were interrupted by lacunae; Taylor’s understanding of the Platonists informed his suggested emendations. His translations were influential on William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Wordsworth. In American editions they were read by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and G. R. S. Mead, secretary to Helena Blavatsky of the Theosophical Society.
Read more about Thomas Taylor in the Post Scriptum of The Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries.