THEOSOPHY, Vol. 46, No. 5, March, 1958
(Pages 223-229; Size: 20K)

SOME WORDS ON THE MYSTERIES(1)

THE reason why in every age so little has been generally known of the mysteries of initiation, is twofold. The first has already 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 of 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 term Initiation comes from the Latin initia, which means the basic or first principles of any Science. It was practiced in every old national religion. This practice of initiation or admission into the sacred Mysteries was taught by the Hierophants and learned priests of the Temples, and is one of the most ancient customs. In Europe it was abolished only with the fall of the last pagan temple. The Hierophant -- a title belonging to the highest Adepts in the temples of antiquity -- was the teacher and expounder of the Mysteries and the Initiator into the final great Mysteries. He represented the Demiurge, and explained to the postulants for Initiation the various phenomena of Creation that were produced for their tuition. "It was forbidden even to pronounce the name of the Hierophant before an uninitiated person. He sat in the East, and wore as a symbol of authority a golden globe suspended from the neck. He was also called Mystagogus." In Hebrew and Chaldaic the term was Peter, the opener, discloser; hence the Pope as the successor to the hierophant of the ancient Mysteries, sits in the Pagan chair of St. Peter.

In the palmy days of old, the Mysteries, according to the greatest Greek and Roman philosophers, were the most sacred of all solemnities as well as the most beneficent, and greatly promoted virtue. They represented the passage from mortal life into finite death, and the experiences of the disembodied Spirit and Soul in the world of subjectivity. In our own day, as the secret is lost, the candidate passes through sundry meaningless ceremonies and is initiated into the solar allegory of Hiram Abiff, the "Widow's Son." We are told also why the sublimer scenes in the Mysteries were always in the night. The life of the interior spirit is the death of the external nature; and the night of the physical world denotes the day of the spiritual. Dionysus, the night-sun, is therefore worshipped rather than Helios, orb of day. In the Mysteries were symbolized the pre-existent condition of the spirit and soul, and the lapse of the latter into earth-life and Hades, the miseries of that after life, the purification of the soul, and its relation to divine bliss or reunion with spirit.

If we believe in tradition at all, we have to credit the story that from the intermarrying of the progeny of the hierophants of the sacred island and the descendants of the Atlantean Noah, sprang up a mixed race of righteous and wicked. On the one side the world had its Enochs, Moseses, Gautama-Buddhas, its numerous "Saviours," and the great hierophants. On the other hand, its "natural" magicians who, through lack of the restraining power of proper spiritual enlightenment, and because of the weakness of physical and mental organizations, unintentionally perverted their gifts to evil purposes. Moses had no word of rebuke for those adepts in prophecy and other powers who had been instructed in the colleges of esoteric wisdom mentioned in the Bible. His denunciations were reserved for such as either unwittingly or otherwise debased the powers inherited from their Atlantean ancestors to the service of evil spirits, to the injury of humanity. His wrath was kindled against the spirit of Ob, not that of OD.

Have the Western Orientalists tried to find out the connection between all the "Dragons" and "Serpents" of antiquity? Between the "powers of Evil" in the cycles of epic legends, the Persian and the Indian, the Greek and the Jewish? Between the contests of Indra and the giant; the Aryan Nagas and the Iranian Aji Dahaka; the Guatemalan Dragon and the Serpent of Genesis, etc., etc.? Thus the Involute, the hidden or shrouded gods, the Consentes, Complices, and Novensiles, are all disguised relics of the Atlanteans. The Thevetatas -- the evil, mischievous gods that have survived in the Etruscan Pantheon -- are mentioned in Hindu works along with the "sons of God" or Brahman Pitris. The Etruscan arts of soothsaying, their Disciplina revealed by Tages, comes direct and in undisguised form from the Atlantean king Thevetat, the "invisible" Dragon, whose name survives to this day among the Siamese and Burmese, as also in the Jataka allegorical stories of the Buddhists as the opposing power under the name of Devadat.

The class of hierophants was divided into two distinct categories; those who were instructed by the "Sons of God" of the Island, and who were initiated in the divine doctrine of pure revelation, and others who inhabited the lost Atlantis, if such must be its name -- and who, being of another race, were born with a sight which embraced all hidden things, and was independent of both distance and material obstacle. In short, they were the fourth race of men mentioned in the Popol-Vuh, "whose sight was unlimited and who knew all things at once." They were, perhaps, what we would now term "natural-born mediums," who neither struggled nor suffered to obtain their knowledge, nor did they acquire it at the price of sacrifice. Therefore, while the former walked in the path of their divine instructors, and acquiring their knowledge by degrees, learned at the same time to discern the evil from the good, the born adepts of the Atlantis blindly followed the insinuations of the great and invisible "Dragon," the King Thevetat (the Serpent of Genesis?). Thevetat had neither learned nor acquired knowledge, but to borrow an expression of Dr. Wilder in relation to the tempting Serpent, he was "a sort of Socrates who knew without being initiated."

Thus, under the evil insinuations of their demon, Thevetat, the Atlantis-race became a nation of wicked magicians. In consequence of this, war was declared, the story of which would be too long to narrate. Its substance may be found in the disfigured allegories of the race of Cain, the giants, and that of Noah and his righteous family. The conflict came to an end by the submersion of the Atlantis; which finds its imitation in the stories of the Babylonian and Mosaic flood: The giants and magicians "... and all flesh died ... and every man." All except Xisuthrus and Noah, who are substantially identical with the great Father of the Thlinkithians in the Popul-Vuh -- the sacred books of the Guatemalans -- which tells also of his escaping in a large boat, like the Hindu Noah -- Vaivaswata.

Apart from natural "mediumship" there has existed, from the beginning of time, a mysterious science, discussed by many, but known only to the few. The use of "magical evocation," which formed part of the sacerdotal office, and was believed in by all antiquity -- is a longing toward our only true and real home -- the after-life, and a desire to cling more closely to our parent spirit; abuse of it is sorcery, witchcraft, black magic. Between the two is placed natural "mediumship": a soul clothed with imperfect matter, a ready agent for either the one or the other, and utterly dependent on its surroundings of life, constitutional heredity -- physical as well as mental -- and on the nature of the "spirits" it attracts around itself. A blessing or a curse, as fate will have it, unless the medium is purified of earthly dross.

How dangerous may often become untrained Mediumship, and how thoroughly it was understood and provided against by the ancient sages, is perfectly exemplified in the case of Socrates. The old Grecian philosopher was a "medium"; hence he had never been initiated into the Mysteries, for such was the rigorous law. But he had his "familiar spirit" as they call it, his daimonion. And this invisible counsellor became the cause of his death. It is generally believed that if Socrates was not initiated into Mysteries it was because he himself neglected to become so. But the Secret Records teach us that it was because he could not be admitted to participate in the sacred rites, and precisely, as we state, on account of his mediumship. There was a law against the admission, not only of such as were convicted of deliberate witchcraft (e.g., the causing of certain wicked and dangerous results to be obtained through the mesmeric power of a so-called sorcerer, who misuses his potential fluid); but even of those who were known to have a "familiar spirit." The law was just and logical, because a genuine medium is more or less irresponsible, and the eccentricities of Socrates are thus accounted for in some degree. ... The old sage, in unguarded moments of "spiritual inspiration," revealed that which he had never learned; and was therefore put to death as an atheist.

The Essenes had their "greater" and "minor" Mysteries at least two centuries before our era. They were the Isarim or Initiates, the descendants of the Egyptian hierophants, in whose country they had been settled for several centuries before they were converted to Buddhistic monasticism by the missionaries of King Asoka, and amalgamated later with the earliest Christians. And they existed, probably, before the old Egyptian temples were desecrated and ruined in the incessant invasions of Persians, Greeks, and other conquering hordes. The hierophants had their atonement enacted in the Mystery of Initiation ages before the Gnostics, or even the Essenes, had appeared. It was known among the hierophants as the BAPTISM OF BLOOD, and was considered not as an atonement for the "fall of man" in Eden, but simply as an expiation for the past, present, and future sins of ignorant but nevertheless polluted mankind. The hierophant had the option of either offering his pure and sinless life as a sacrifice for his race to the gods whom he hoped to rejoin, or an animal victim. The former depended entirely on their own will. At the last moment of the solemn "new birth," the Initiator passed "the word" to the initiated, and immediately after that the latter had a weapon placed in his right hand, and was ordered to strike. This is the true origin of the Christian dogma of atonement.

If the study of Hermetic philosophy held out no other hopes of reward, it would be more than enough to know that by it we may learn with what perfection of justice the world is governed. A sermon upon this text is preached by every page of history. Among all there is not one that conveys a deeper moral than the case of the Roman Church. The divine law of compensation was never more strikingly exemplified than in the fact that by her own act she had deprived herself of the only possible key to her own religious mysteries. The assumption of Godfrey Higgins that there are two doctrines maintained in the Roman Church, one for the masses and the other -- the esoteric for the "perfect," or the initiates, as in the ancient Mysteries, appears to us unwarranted and fantastic. They have lost the key, we repeat; otherwise no terrestrial power could have prostrated her, and except a superficial knowledge of the means of producing "miracles," her clergy can in no way be compared in their wisdom with the hierophants of old.

In burning the works of the theurgists; in proscribing those who affect their study; in affixing the stigma of demonolatry to magic in general, Rome has left her exoteric shell and Bible to be helplessly riddled by every free-thinker, her sexual emblems to be identified with coarseness, and her priests to unwittingly turn magicians and even sorcerers in their exorcisms, which are but necromantic evocations. Thus retribution, by the exquisite adjustment of divine law, is made to overtake this scheme of cruelty, injustice, and bigotry, through her own suicidal acts.

True philosophy and divine truth are convertible terms. A religion which dreads the light cannot be a religion based on either truth or philosophy -- hence, it must be false. The ancient Mysteries were mysteries to the profane only, whom the hierophants never sought nor would accept as proselytes. To the initiates the Mysteries became explained as soon as the final veil was withdrawn. No mind like that of Pythagoras or Plato would have contented itself with an unfathomable and incomprehensible mystery, like that of the Christian dogma. There can be but one truth, for two small truths on the same subject can but constitute one great error. Among thousands of exoteric or popular conflicting religions which have been propagated since the days when the first men were enabled to interchange their ideas, not a nation, not a people, nor the most abject tribe, but after their own fashion has believed in an Unseen God, the First Cause of unerring and immutable laws, and in the immortality of our spirit. No creed, no false philosophy, no religious exaggerations, could ever destroy that feeling. It must, therefore, be based upon an absolute truth. On the other hand, every one of the numberless religions and religious sects views the Deity after its own fashion. And, fathering on the unknown its speculations, it enforces these purely human outgrowths of overheated imagination on the ignorant masses, and calls them "revelations." As the dogmas of every religion and sect often differ radically, they cannot be true. And if untrue, what are they?

If the spirit, or the divine portion of the soul, is pre-existent as a distinct being from all eternity, as Origen, Synesius, and other Christian fathers taught, and if it is the same, and nothing more than the metaphysically objective soul, how can it be otherwise than eternal? And what matters it in such case, whether man leads an animal or a pure life, if, do what he may, he can never lose his individuality? This doctrine is as pernicious in its consequences as that of vicarious atonement. Had the latter dogma, in company with the false idea that we are all immortal, been demonstrated to the world in its true light, humanity would have been bettered by its propagation. Crime and sin would be avoided, not for fear of earthly punishment, or of a ridiculous hell, but for the sake of that which lies the most deeply rooted in our inner nature -- the desire of an individual and distinct life in the hereafter, the positive assurance that we cannot win it unless we "take the kingdom of heaven by violence," and the conviction that neither human prayers nor the blood of another man will save us from individual destruction after death, unless we firmly link ourselves during our terrestrial life with our own immortal spirit -- our GOD.

The doctrine of the possibility of losing one's soul, and hence, individuality, militates with the ideal theories and progressive ideas of some spiritualists. They will never accept the kabalistic doctrine which teaches that it is only through observing the law of harmony that individual life hereafter can be obtained. And that the farther the inner and outer man deviates from this fount of harmony, whose source lies in our divine spirit, the more difficult it is to regain the ground. But while the spiritualists and other adherents of Christianity have little if any perception of this fact of the possible death and obliteration of the human personality by separation of the immortal part from the perishable, the Swedenborgians fully comprehend it. "Physical death, or the death of the body, was a provision of the divine economy for the benefit of man, a provision by means of which he attained the higher ends of his being. But there is another death which is the interruption of the divine order and the destruction of every human element in man's nature, and every possibility of human happiness. This is the spiritual death, which takes place before the dissolution of the body. There may be a vast development of man's natural mind without that development being accompanied by a particle of love of God, or of unselfish love of man."


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

THE ONE GREAT DRAMA

Whether the hero be ridiculous or sublime, Greek or barbarian, gentile or Jew, his journey varies little in essential plan. Popular tales represent the heroic action as physical; the higher religions show the deed to be moral; nevertheless, there will be found astonishingly little variation in the morphology of the adventure, the character roles involved, the victories gained. If one or another of the basic elements of the archetypal pattern is omitted from a given fairy tale, legend, ritual, or myth, it is bound to be somehow or other implied -- and the omission itself can speak volumes for the history and pathology of the example, as we shall presently see. ... The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world. The torrent pours from an invisible source, the point of entry being the center of the symbolic circle of the universe, the Immovable Spot of the Buddha legend, around which the world may be said to revolve. 


--JOSEPH CAMPBELL

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THE SOUL'S PILGRIMAGE

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(1) NOTE.--Collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky.
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