28. Evocation

The festival had faded like a dream; the evening had come. The dances, songs and prayers had vanished in the pink mist. Orpheus and his disciple descended through an underground passage into the sacred crypt, extending into the heart of the mountain, to which the hierophant alone had access. It was here that the inspired of the gods devoted themselves to solitary meditation or with the adepts pursued the great arts of magic and theurgy.

Around them spread a vast cavern. Two torches placed upon the ground only dimly lighted the creviced walls and the shadowy depths. A few steps away a dark fissure opened upward into the sunlight. A warm wind came from it, and extending downward, the crevice seemed to descend into the bowels of the earth. A small altar where a fire of dry laurel burned, and a porphyry sphinx guarded the edge of the opening. Far above at a great height, the cavern opened to the starry sky through a slanting fissure. This pale ray of bluish light seemed like the eye of the firmament itself, plunging into this abyss.

"You have drunk from the streams of holy light," said Orpheus, "you have entered with a pure heart into the heart of the Mysteries. The solemn hour has come when I shall cause you to penetrate to the sources of life and light. Those who have not lifted the thick veil which conceals the invisible wonders from the eyes of men, have not become the sons of the gods.

"Listen, therefore, to the truths which must be kept from the crowd, and which are the strength of the sanctuaries:

"God is One, and always resembles Himself. He reigns everywhere. But the gods are myriad and varied, for Divinity is eternal and infinite. The greatest are the souls of the stars. Suns, stars, earths and moons -- each star has its own soul, and all have come out of the celestial fire of Zeus, the Primal Light. Semiconscious, inaccessible, unchanging, they rule the great Whole with their regular movements. And into its ethereal sphere each revolving star leads hosts of demigods or shining souls who once were men, and who, having descended the ladder of the kingdoms, gloriously ascended through the cycles once again, finally to leave the circle of births. It is through these divine spirits that God breathes, moves, appears. They are the breath of His living Soul, the rays of His eternal consciousness. They command the hosts of lesser spirits, which bestir the lower elements; they direct the worlds. Far and near, they surround us and although immortal in essence, they clothe themselves in eternally changing forms according to the people, the age and the region. The impious who deny them, fear them; the devout man worships them without knowing them; the initiate knows them, attracts them and sees them. If I have fought to find them, if I have braved death, if, as is said, I descended into hell, it was to subdue the demons of the abyss, to call the gods from on high to my beloved Greece so that the lofty heaven might become wedded to earth, and the spellbound earth listen to the divine voices! Celestial beauty will become incarnate in the flesh of women, the fire of Zeus will flow in the blood of heroes, and long before returning to the stars, the sons of the gods will be resplendent like the Immortals!

"Do you know what the Lyre of Orpheus is? It is the sound of inspired temples. They have the gods as strings. At their music Greece will become attuned like a lyre, and the marble itself will sing in brilliant cadences and celestial harmonies.

"And now I shall call forth my gods, so that in living form they may appear before you, and may show you, in a prophetic vision, the mystical marriage which I am preparing for the world and which the initiates will witness.

"Lie down in the shelter of this rock. Fear nothing. A magic sleep will close your eyelids. You will tremble at first, and you will see terrible things. But afterward a pleasant light, an unknown happiness, will flood your senses and your being!"

The disciple had already crouched in the niche cut in the form of a couch in the rock. Orpheus threw some aromatics on the altar fire. Then he seized his rod of ebony, tipped with a flashing crystal, placed himself near the sphinx and in a deep voice began the evocation:

"Cybele! Cybele! Great Mother, hear me! Original light, agile ethereal flame, forever bounding through space, embracing the echoes and images of all things! I call upon your flaming chargers of light! O, Universal Soul, Creator of Abysses, Sower of Suns, who let your starry mantle trail in the ether, subtle, hidden light, invisible to the eyes of flesh, Great Mother of Worlds and gods, you who embody eternal archetypes! Ancient Cybele, come to me! Come to me! By my magic rod, by my pact with the Powerful, by the soul of Eurydice, I call you forth, many-bodied wife, gentle and vibrant beneath the fire of the everlasting Male! From the highest of spaces, from the deepest abysses, from all directions, come, make haste! Fill this cavern with your effluvia! Surround the son of the Mysteries with a diamond rampart, and make him see in your deep breast the Spirits of the Abyss, of Earth and of the Heavens!"

At these words, underground thunder shook the depths of the cavern and the whole mountain trembled. A cold sweat froze the body of the disciple. He saw Orpheus through a thickening smoke. At one moment he tried to fight against the dread power which felled him, but his brain was overcome, his will annihilated ... He suffered the agonies of a drowning man who swallows water by the mouthful, and whose horrible convulsion ends in the darkness of unconsciousness ...

When he regained consciousness, night surrounded him, a night mixed with a dreadful twilight, yellowish and foul. For a long time he stared before him without seeing anything. Frequently he felt his skin brushed as by invisible bats. Finally, dimly, he thought he saw monstrous forms of centaurs, hydras and gorgons move in the shadows. But the first thing he saw distinctly was the huge figure of a woman sitting upon a throne. She was enveloped in a long veil with funereal folds, sewn with dim stars, and was wearing a crown of poppies.

Her great open eyes watched motionless. Hosts of human phantoms moved around her like tired birds, whispering in a low voice, "Queen of the dead, Soul of earth, O Persephone! We are the daughters of heaven. Why are we in exile in this dark kingdom? O Harvester of Heaven, why have you prisoned our souls, which once flew happily among their sisters in the light, in the fields of ether?"

Persephone answered, "I have gathered the narcissus; I have entered the nuptial bed. I drank death with life. Like you, I groan in darkness."

"When shall we be delivered?" asked the groaning souls. "When my celestial husband, the divine liberator, comes," answered Persephone.

Then terrible women appeared. Their eyes were blood-shot, their heads crowned with poisonous plants. Around their arms and half-naked bodies coiled serpents which they handled like whips. "Souls, specters, larvae!" they hissed, "do not believe the crazy queen of the dead! We are the priestesses of dark life, servants of the elements and of the monsters below, Bacchantes on earth, Furies in Tartarus! We are your eternal queens, unfortunate souls! You shall not leave the cursed circle of births; we shall make you return with our whips! Writhe forever between the hissing coils of our serpents, in the knots of desire, of hate, of remorse!" And dishevelled, they rushed upon the group of bewitched souls, who began to whirl about in the air beneath their whip lashes like a tempest of dry leaves, uttering long groans.

At this sight, Persephone became pale; she seemed no more than a lunar phantom. She murmured, "Heaven, Light . . . gods . . . a dream! Sleep, eternal sleep!" Her crown of poppies withered, her eyes closed in anguish. The queen of the dead fell into a lethargy upon her throne, and everything disappeared into the darkness.

The vision changed. The disciple of Delphi saw himself in a beautiful green valley. Mount Olympus arose at the end of it. Before a dark cave, beautiful Persephone was sleeping on a bed of flowers. In her hair a crown of narcissus replaced the crown of funereal poppies, while the dawn of a new life spread an ambrosial hue over her cheeks. Her dark tresses fell upon her shoulders of sparkling whiteness, and the roses of her gently lifted breasts seemed to summon the kisses of the winds. Nymphs danced upon the field; small white clouds wandered in the azure. A lyre resounded in a temple . . .

In its golden voice, its sacred rhythms the disciple heard the secret music of things. For from the leaves, waves and caverns came a formless, tender melody, and the distant voices of choruses of initiated women in the mountains reached his ear in broken cadences. Some, bewildered, called upon the gods; others thought they saw them as they fell at the edge of the forests, half-dead with fatigue.

At last the blue opened to the zenith, giving birth to a sparkling cloud out of its breast. Like a bird which hovers a moment, then sinks to earth, the god who holds the thyrsus descended and stood before Persephone. He was radiant; in his eyes beamed the divine delirium of worlds about to be born. For a long time he held her with his gaze; then he lifted his thyrsus over her. The thyrsus brushed her breast; she began to smile. He touched her forehead; she opened her eyes, sat up slowly and looked at her husband. Those eyes, still filled with the sleep of Erebus, began to shine like two stars. "Do you recognize me?" asked the god. "O Dionysus," cried Persephone, "Divine Spirit, Word of Jupiter, Celestial Light which shines in the form of man! Each time you awaken me I think that I am living for the first time; worlds are reborn in my memory; the past and future again become the immortal present, and I feel the universe in my heart!"

At the same time, above the mountains, on the edge of the silver clouds, the gods appeared, leaning curiously toward the earth.

Below, groups of men, women and children coming out of valleys and caves, looked at the Immortals with a celestial rapture. Ardent hymns ascended from the temples, along with waves of incense. Between earth and heaven was being prepared one of those marriages which make mothers conceive heroes and gods. Already a pink hue had spread over the entire countryside; already the Queen of the Dead, the Divine Harvester, again ascended to heaven, borne in the arms of her husband. A purple cloud surrounded them, and the lips of Dionysus were placed upon Persephone's mouth . . . Then a tremendous cry of love came from heaven and earth, as if the holy tremor of the gods passing over the Great Lyre wished to tear all the cords and cast the sounds to the four winds. At the same time, from the divine couple burst a fulguration, a hurricane of blinding light . . . And everything disappeared . . .

For a single moment the disciple of Orpheus felt as if swallowed up in the very Source of all lives, immersed in the Sun of Being. But, plunging into its incandescent furnace, he reappeared with celestial wings and like a flash of light he traversed worlds, at their boundaries finding the ecstatic sleep of Infinity.

When he regained his corporeal senses, he was plunged into black night. A luminous lyre alone shone in the deep shadows. It moved away rapidly, like a star. Then only did the disciple recognize that he was in the crypt of evocation, and that this luminous point was the distant cleft in the cavern, opening to the firmament.

A great form was standing near him. He recognized Orpheus by his long curls and the flashing crystal of his staff.

"Child of Delphi, where are you coming from?" asked the hierophant.

"O Master of Initiates, Celestial Charmer, Wondrous Orpheus, I had a divine dream! Was it perhaps a magic charm, a gift of the gods? What happened? Has the world changed? Where am I now?"

"You have gained the crown of initiation; you have lived my dream. Greece will be immortal! -- But let us leave here, for in order for the dream to be fulfilled, I must die and you must live."


29. The Death of Orpheus

The Great Initiates