37. The Mysteries of Eleusis

The Mysteries of Eleusis were the object of special veneration in Greek and Latin antiquity. The very authors who ridiculed the mythological fables did not dare touch the cult of the "great goddesses." Their reign, quieter than that of the Olympians, proved itself more certain and more effective. At a very early time, a Greek colony coming from Egypt had brought into the quiet Bay of Eleusis the cult of the great Isis under the name of Demeter, the universal Mother. Since then, Eleusis had continued to be a center of initiation.

Demeter and her daughter Persephone presided over the minor and major Mysteries, hence the prestige they attained.

In Ceres the people worshipped the Earth Mother and goddess of agriculture; the initiates saw in her the celestial Light-Mother of souls and divine Intelligence, Mother of the cosmogonic gods. Her cult was officiated over by priests belonging to the most ancient sacerdotal family of Attica. They called themselves the sons of the moon, that is, those born to be mediators between earth and heaven, coming out of the sphere where the bridge is thrown between the two regions through which souls descend and ascend. From the beginning their function had been "to extol in this abyss of miseries, the pleasures of the heavenly dwelling and to teach the means of finding the path again." Hence their name, Eumolpides, or "singers of gracious melodies," gentle regenerators of men. The priests of Eleusis always taught the great esoteric doctrine which came to them from Egypt, but in the course of ages they clothed it in all the charm of a plastic, captivating mythology. By means of a subtle and profound art, these charmers knew how to use earthly passions to express celestial ideas. They put to good use the appeal of the senses, the pomp of ceremonies, the seductions of art, in order to lead the soul into a better life, and the intelligence to the understanding of divine truths. Nowhere did the Mysteries appear in such human, living, colorful form.

The myth of Ceres and her daughter, Proserpine, form the heart of the cult of Eleusis. Like a shining procession, all Eleusian initiation revolves and develops around this luminous center. And, in its esoteric sense, this myth is the symbolic representation of the story of the soul, of its descent into matter, of its sufferings in the darkness of forgetfulness, then of its reascent, its return to divine life. In other words, it is the drama of the Fall and Redemption in its Hellenic form.

For the cultivated and initiated Athenian of Plato's time the Mysteries of Eleusis offered the explanatory complement, the radiant counterpart to the performance of tragedies in Athens. There in the Theatre of Bacchus, before the public audience, the terrible incantations of Melpomene evoked earthly man, blinded by his passions, pursued by the Nemesis of his crimes, crushed by an implacable and often incomprehensible Destiny. There also were heard the Promethean struggles, the curses of the Erynnies, the despairing cries of Oedipus and the Furies of Orestes. There gloomy Terror and lamentable Pity reigned.

At Eleusis, on the other hand, in the sanctuary of Ceres, everything was bright. The vision widened for those initiates who had become seers. For each soul the story of Psyche-Persephone was a surprising revelation. Life was explained as an expiation or a test. Above and beyond his earthly present, man discovered the starry regions of a divine past and future. After the agonies of death came the hopes, the liberations, the Elysian joys. Through the portals of the open temple came the songs of the happy, the all-encompassing light of a glorious Beyond.

Thus the Mysteries, in comparison with Tragedy, were the divine drama of the soul, completing and explaining the earthly drama of man.

The Lesser Mysteries were celebrated in the month of February at Agrae, a town near Eleusis. The aspirants who had taken a preliminary examination and provided proof of their birth, education and respectability, were received at the entrance of the enclosure by the priest of Eleusis called the hieroceryx, or sacred herald, resembling Hermes, and like him wearing the petasus and carrying the caduceus. He was the guide, the mediator, the interpreter of the Mysteries. He led the aspirants to a small temple with Ionic columns, dedicated to Kore, the great Virgin, Persephone. The gracious sanctuary of the goddess was hidden at the end of a quiet valley in the midst of a sacred grove, surrounded by yews and white poplars. Then the priestesses of Proserpine, the hierophants, left the temple, wearing immaculate peplos, with bare arms, and crowned with narcissus wreaths. They formed a line at the top of the steps, and began a solemn chant in the Dorian mode. Accompanying their words with broad gestures, they intoned,

"O, neophytes of the Mysteries, here you stand at the threshold of Proserpine! What you are about to see will surprise you. You will learn that your present life is but a tapestry of false, confused dreams. The sleep which throws around you a mantle of darkness, bears your dreams and your days on its stream like floating debris, which disappears from sight. But there beyond, a world of eternal Light spreads itself! May Proserpine be kind to you, and teach you to cross the river of darkness, to penetrate the celestial Demeter!"

Then the prophantid or prophetess who led the chorus, descended three steps and spoke this curse in a solemn voice, with a look of dread: "But woe to those who may have come here to desecrate the Mysteries! -- For the goddess will pursue these perverse hearts through their entire lifetime, and in the kingdom of the Shades she will not release her prey!"

Then several days were spent in ablutions, fasts, prayers and instruction.

On the evening of the last day, the neophytes met in the most secret part of the sacred grove to attend the Rape of Persephone. The scene was played in the open air by the priestesses of the temple. This custom was derived from very early times, and the basis of this performance, the dominant idea always remained the same, although the form varied greatly in the course of the ages. From Plato's time, thanks to the then recent development of tragedy, the former hieratic severity gave place to a more humane and refined taste and to a more passionate rendition. Directed by the hierophant, the anonymous poets of Eleusis had made of this scene a little drama which was approximately as follows:

(The neophytes arrive by twos, entering a clearing. At the side one sees rocks and a grotto surrounded by a wood of myrtle and a few poplar trees. In the foreground is a meadow, where Nymphs are lying beside a stream. At the back of the grotto one perceives Persephone seated. Naked to the waist like a Psyche, her light, graceful breasts chastely emerge from delicate gauze which falls about her like a vapor of blue. She seems to be happy, unaware of her beauty, and is embroidering a long veil of multicolored threads. Demeter, her mother, is standing near her, wearing the kalathos, her scepter in her hand.)

HERMES (The herald of the Mysteries, to the spectators): Demeter gives us two excellent things: fruit, so that we do not live like beasts, and initiation, which gives a gentler hope to those who take part in it, both for the end of this life and for all eternity. Listen carefully to the words you are about to hear, to the things you are about to see!

DEMETER (In a serious voice): Beloved daughter of the gods, remain in this grotto until my return, and embroider my veil. Heaven is your homeland; the universe is yours. You see the gods; they come at your call. But do not listen to the voice of the wily Eros, with his soft glances, his treacherous counsels. Do not leave the grotto, and never pick the seductive flowers of earth; their deadly perfume will cause you to lose the light of heaven, and even the memory of it! Weave my veil and live happily with the nymphs, your companions, until my return. Then, on my chariot of fire drawn by serpents, I will bear you once again into the splendors of ether, beyond the Milky Way!

PERSEPHONE: Yes, august and fearful mother. By this light which surrounds you and which is dear to me, I promise. May the gods punish me if I do not keep my word! (Exit, Demeter)

THE CHORUS OF NYMPHS: O Persephone! O Virgin, O chaste Bride of Heaven, who embroiders the face of the gods in your veil, may you never know the vain illusions, the innumerable misfortunes of earth! Eternal Truth smiles upon you! Your heavenly husband, Dionysus, is waiting for you in the Empyrean. Sometimes he appears to you in the form of the distant sun; his rays kiss you, he breathes your breath, you drink his light . . . You possess each other . . . O Virgin, who then is happier than you?

PERSEPHONE: On this veil of blue with endless folds, I embroider the numberless faces of beings and forms with my ivory needle. I have completed the history of the gods; I have embroidered frightful Chaos with his hundred heads and thousand arms. From him mortals are supposed to come. Who then causes them to be born? The Father of the gods told me that it is Eros. But I have never seen him; I do not know his face. Who then will paint his countenance for me?

THE NYMPHS: Do not think of that! Why this vain question?

PERSEPHONE (Arising and throwing aside her veil): Eros, the oldest and the youngest of the gods, inexhaustible source of joys and tears! Thus they spoke of you to me. Terrible god, quite unknown, alone of all the Immortals invisible, the only desirable one, mysterious Eros! What ecstasy, what trembling overcomes me at your name!

THE CHORUS: Do not seek to know morel Dangerous questions have destroyed men and even gods!

PERSEPHONE (Gazing into the Abyss, her eyes filled with fear): Is it a memory? Is it a dreadful foreboding? Chaos ... Man ... The Abyss of generations, the cry of births, the furious tumult of hate and war ... the gulf of Death! I hear, I see all this, and this Abyss draws me, overwhelms me! I must descend! Eros with his burning torch makes me descend! I am about to die! Away from me, terrible dream! (She covers her face with her hands, and sobs.)

THE CHORUS: O divine Virgin, it is as yet but a dream. Nevertheless it will take form, it will become fateful reality and your heaven will disappear like an empty dream if you yield to your guilty desire! Obey this warning! Take up your needle; weave your veil! Forget the cunning, impudent, criminal Eros!

PERSEPHONE (Takes her hands from her face, which has changed expression; she smiles through her tears): Fool that you are! Insensate that I was! I remember now; I heard it said in the Olympian Mysteries: Eros is the handsomest of gods; on winged chariot he presides at the evolutions of the Immortals, at the blending of archetypal essences. He it is who leads bold men, the heroes, from the depths of Chaos to the heights of ether. He knows all. Like the Fire-principle, he transcends all worlds; he holds the keys of earth and heaven! I wish to see him!

THE CHORUS: Rash one, Stop!

EROS (Emerging from the grove in the form of a winged youth): You called me, Persephone? Here I am!

PERSEPHONE (Sitting down): They called you cunning, but your face is innocence itself! They said you were all-powerful, and you seem a frail child. They say you are a traitor, but the more I look at your eyes, the more my heart opens, the more I put confidence in you, lovely playful youth! -- They said you were wise and clever. Can you help me to embroider this veil?

EROS: Willingly! Here I am near you, at your feet! What a marvelous veil! It seems dipped in the blue of your eyes. What admirable forms your hand has embroidered -- less beautiful, however, than the divine embroiderer, who has never seen herself in a mirror! (He smiles mischievously.)

PERSEPHONE: See myself! Would that be possible? (She blushes) But do you recognize these faces?

EROS: Yes, I know them! -- The story of the gods. But why do you stop with Chaos? It is there that the fight begins! Will you not weave the War of the Titans, the birth of men and their loves?

PERSEPHONE: My knowledge stops here, my memory fails. Will you not help me embroider the rest?

EROS (Throwing her an ardent glance): Yes, Persephone, but on one condition. First you must come and pick a flower with me on the meadow; the most beautiful flower of all!

PERSEPHONE (Seriously): My august, wise mother forbade me. "Do not listen to the voice of Eros," she told me, "Do not pick the flowers of the meadow. Otherwise you will be the most miserable of Immortals!"

EROS: I understand. Your mother does not want you to know the secrets of earth and hell. If you smelled the flowers of the meadow, the secrets would be revealed to you!

PERSEPHONE: Do you know them?

EROS: All of them. And, you see, I am only the younger and more agile for it! O daughter of the gods, the Abyss has terrors and tremors that heaven does not know! He does not understand heaven who has not traversed earth and hell!

PERSEPHONE: Can you make me understand them?

EROS: Yes, Look! (He touches the earth with the point of his bow; a large narcissus springs up.)

PERSEPHONE: O, what a lovely flower! It makes my heart tremble; a divine recollection surges up in me! Sometimes, sleeping on my beloved star which an everlasting sunset gilds, upon awakening, on the deep red of the horizon I have seen a star of silver floating in the pearly depth of the pale green sky. It seemed to me that it was the torch of the immortal bridegroom, the promise of the gods, of divine Dionysus. But the star kept descending . . . and the torch died out in the distance ... This marvelous flower resembles that star.

EROS: I who transform and unite everything, I who make the small in the image of the great, from the depth of the mirror of heaven, I who mix heaven and hell on earth, who create all forms in the deep ocean, have brought your star to life again from the Abyss, in the form of a flower so that you can touch it, pick it, smell it!

THE CHORUS: Take care that this magic is not a trap!

PERSEPHONE: What do you call this flower?

EROS: Men call it Narcissus; I call it Desire. See how it looks at you, how it turns to you! Its white petals tremble as if they were alive. From its golden heart comes a perfume, filling all the air with pleasure. As soon as you bring this magic flower close to your eyes, in a great and marvelous tableau you will see the monsters of the Abyss, the earth-depths and the heart of men. Nothing will be hidden from you.

PERSEPHONE: O wonderful flower! My heart is beating with your intoxicating perfume! My fingers burn from touching you! I want to breathe your aroma, to press you to my lips, to place you upon my heart, even if I must die for it!

(The earth opens beside her. Out of a gaping, dark crevice one sees Pluto on a chariot drawn by two black horses, slowly arising. He seizes Persephone at the moment she picks the flower, pulling her violently to him. She struggles vainly in his arms, screaming loudly. Immediately the chariot sinks and disappears. Its rumbling dies in the distance, like subterranean thunder. Moaning, the Nymphs dart about the grove. Eros flees with a burst of laughter.)

THE VOICE OF PERSEPHONE (underground): My Mother! Help! Mother!

HERMES: O Neophytes of the Mysteries, whose life is still clouded by the fumes of evil life, this is your story. Remember and meditate upon this saying of Empedocles: "Generation is a terrible destruction, which causes the living to pass among the dead. Once you lived the true life, and then, drawn by magic, you fell into the earthly Abyss, subjugated by the body. Your present is but a fatal dream; only the past and future really exist. Learn to remember; learn to foresee."

During this scene, night has fallen. Mournful torches are lighted between the black cypresses beside the little temple, and the spectators move away in silence, followed by the pleading chants of the priestesses, calling: "Persephone! Persephone!" --  The Lesser Mysteries have ended. The neophytes have become mystics, the veiled ones. They will return to their customary occupations, but the great veil of the Mysteries has been spread over their eyes. Between them and the external world, a cloud has been introduced. At the same time, an inner eye has opened within them, by which they dimly see another world, filled with attractive forms which move in depths of alternating light and darkness.

The Great Mysteries which followed the Lesser Mysteries, and which were also called the Sacred Orgies, were celebrated at Eleusis only every five years, in the month of September.

These festivals, all of them symbolic, lasted nine days. On the eighth, the insignia of initiation were distributed to the mystics: the thyrsis and a basket called a cistus, surrounded with branches of ivy. The latter contained mysterious objects. To understand the latter would give one the secret of life. But the basket was carefully sealed. One was not permitted to open it until the end of the initiation and then only in the presence of the hierophant.

Then they were filled with exultant joy; torches were waved, and were passed from one to another; shouts of joy were heard. On that day a procession bore from Athens to Eleusis the statue of Dionysus, which was called Iacchos, crowned with myrtle. His coming to Eleusis announced the great rebirth, for he represented the divine spirit permeating everything, the regenerator of souls, the mediator between earth and heaven.

Then they entered the temple by the mystic door in order to spend the sacred night, the night of initiation there.

They entered first beneath a vast portico in the outer enclosure. There the herald with terrible threats and the cry Eskato Bebeloi, Go Back, Profane Ones, dispersed the intruders who sometimes succeeded in slipping into the enclosure unobserved. He made the latter swear, under penalty of death to reveal nothing of what they were about to see, adding, "Here you stand at the subterranean threshold of Persephone. In order to understand the future life and your present condition, it is necessary that you traverse the kingdom of death; this is the test of the initiates. You must know how to brave the darkness in order to enjoy the light!" Then they dressed themselves in the faun's skin, the picture of the laceration and tearing of the soul, as it plunged into corporeal life. After this they extinguished the torches and lamps and entered the subterranean labyrinth.

At first the mystics groped in the darkness. Soon they heard noises, groans and dreadful voices. Lightning flashes, accompanied by thunder, split the darkness. By this light frightful visions could be seen: sometimes a monster, a chimera or a dragon; sometimes a man, torn by the claws of a sphinx; sometimes a human larva. These appearances were so sudden that there was no time to distinguish the means which produced them, while the total obscurity which followed, redoubled the horror. Plutarch compares the terror caused by these visions, to the state of a man on his death bed.

The strangest scene, bordering upon real magic, took place in a crypt where a Phrygian priest, dressed in a flowing Asiatic robe with red and black vertical stripes, was standing before a copper brazier, which dimly lighted the room by its fitful light. With a gesture which tolerated no denial, he forced the arrivals to sit down at the entrance, throwing into the fire large handfuls of narcotic perfumes. Immediately the room was filled with thick, swirling smoke, and soon one could see a confused array of changing animal and human forms. At times long serpents stretched themselves out, only to become sirens, finally to roll themselves up endlessly; at other times busts of voluptuously poised Nymphs with outstretched arms changed into bats. Charming heads of youths were transformed into muzzles of dogs. And all these monsters, beautiful and ugly in turn, fluid, airy, deceiving, unreal, vanishing as quickly as they appeared, turned, glistened, intoxicated, surrounded the fascinated visitors as though to block their way. At times the priest of Cybele raised his short staff amidst the vapors, and the outpouring of his will seemed to impress a whirling movement and a disturbing vitality upon the multiformed circles. "Come," said the Phrygian. The neophytes arose and entered the circle. Then the majority of them felt gently touched by something, others were grasped quickly by invisible hands and thrown to the ground. Some withdrew in fright and returned the way they had come. The more courageous passed only after several attempts, but a truly firm determination made a quick end to the sorcery.66

Then they reach a large circular room, poorly lighted by a few torches. In the center is a single column, a bronze tree, whose metallic foliage spreads over the whole ceiling.67 In this foliage are seen chimera, gorgons, harpies, owls, sphinxes and vampires -- images of all earthly evils, of all the demons which fasten upon man. These monsters, reproduced in shining metals, are entwined in the branches, apparently awaiting their prey. Beneath the tree on a magnificent throne sits Pluto-Aidoneus, wearing a cloak of velvet. He is seated on a fawn-skin, his hand holds the trident, his countenance reveals anxiety. Beside the King of the Underworld, who never smiles, is his wife, the tall, slender Persephone. The neophytes recognize in her the features of the hierophant who has already played the role of the goddess in the Lesser Mysteries. She is still beautiful, more beautiful, perhaps, in her sorrow, but how changed she is in her robe of mourning, strewn with silver tears, wearing her crown of gold! She is no longer the Virgin of the Grotto; now she knows the life of the depths, and she suffers. She reigns over the lower powers, she is sovereign among the dead, but is an alien to her own kingdom. A wan smile lights her face, darkened by the shadow of hell. In that smile is the knowledge of Good and Evil, the inexpressible charm of experienced, silent pain! Suffering teaches pity. With a look of compassion she welcomes the neophytes, who kneel and place crowns of narcissus at her feet. Then in her eyes shines a dying flame, a lost hope, a distant remembrance of heaven!

Suddenly at the end of an ascending gallery, torches shine and, like a trumpet blast, a voice exclaims, "Enter, neophytes! Iacchos has returned! Demeter awaits her daughter! Evohe!" The sonorous echoes from underground repeat this cry. Persephone rises from her throne as though suddenly awakened from a long sleep, filled with an electrifying thought: "Light! Mother! Iacchos!" She tries to move forward, but Aidonee holds her back by the hem of her robe. She falls back upon her throne as if dead. Then the torches are suddenly extinguished, and a voice shouts, "To die is to be born again!" But the neophytes hasten through the gallery of heroes and demigods toward the opening of the tunnel where Hermes and the torchbearer await them. Their fawn's skin is taken off, they are sprinkled with lustral water, are clothed in fresh linen and are led into the splendidly lighted temple where the hierophant -- the High Priest of Eleusis, the majestic elder, clothed in velvet, receives them.

This is how Porphyrus described the highest initiation of Eleusis:

"Crowned with myrtle, along with the other initiates we enter the entrance hall of the temple, still blind, but the hierophant who is within will soon open our eyes. But first, for nothing is to be done in haste, let us wash in the holy water. We are led before the hierophant. From a book of stone, he reads to us things which we must not divulge, under penalty of death. Let us say only that they are in harmony with the place and circumstance. You would laugh, perhaps, if you heard them outside the temple, but here you have no desire to laugh as you listen to the words of the elder (for he is always old) and as you look at the exposed symbols.68 And you are far from laughing when, by her special language and signs, by vivid sparkling of light and clouds piled upon clouds, Demeter confirms everything that we have seen and heard from her holy priest. Then, finally, the light of a serene wonder fills the temple; we see the pure Elysian fields; we hear the chorus of the blessed ones. Now it is not merely through an external appearance or through a philosophical interpretation, but in fact and in reality that the hierophant becomes the creator and the revelator of all things; the sun is but his torchbearer, the moon, his helper at the altar, and Hermes, his mystical messenger. But the last word has been uttered: Knox Om Pax.69

The ritual has been consummated, and we are seers forever."

What then did the great hierophant say? What were the sacred words, what was that supreme revelation?

The initiates learned that the divine Persephone whom they had seen in the midst of the terrors and tortures of hell, was the human soul, bound to matter in this life or subjected, in the next, to illusions and ever greater torments if it lived a slave to its passions. The soul's earthly life is an expiation or a test of preceding existences. But the soul can be purified by discipline; it can remember and have forebodings through the combined effort of intuition, reason and will, and can share beforehand in the great truths of which it must take full and complete possession in the vast Beyond. Then only will Persephone again become the pure, luminous, ineffable Virgin, the dispenser of love and joy. As for her mother Ceres, in the Mysteries she was the symbol of the divine Intelligence and the spiritual principle of man, to which the soul must reunite itself if it is to attain its perfection.

If one is to believe Plato, Iamblicus, Proclus and all the Alexandrian philosophers, within the temple the elite of the initiates experienced visions of an ecstatic and marvelous nature.

I have quoted the testimony of Porphyrus. Here is that of Proclus: "In all the initiations and Mysteries, the gods (here this word means all orders of spirits) manifest themselves in many forms, assuming a great variety of guises; sometimes they appear in a formless light, again in quite different form." This is the passage from Apuleus: "I approached the confines of death, and having reached the threshold of Proserpine, I returned, having been carried across all the elements (the elemental spirits of earth, water, air and fire). In the depths of midnight I saw the sun shining with a glorious light, and at the same time I saw the lower gods and the higher gods. Drawing near to these divinities, I paid them the tribute of devout adoration."

However vague these testimonies may be, they seem to refer to esoteric phenomena. According to the doctrine of the Mysteries, the ecstatic visions of the temple were produced in the purest of elements, in spiritual light akin to celestial Isis. The oracles of Zoroaster call it 'nature speaking through herself,' that is, an element by means of which the Magus gives a visible, instantaneous expression to thought, and which serves as both body and clothing for souls, which in reality are the most beautiful thoughts of God. This is why the hierophant, if he was able to produce this phenomenon of bringing the initiates into contact with the souls of heroes and gods (Angels and Archangels), was likened at that moment to the Creator, to the Demiurge, the torch bearer, or to the Sun, that is, to supersensible Light, and Hermes, to the divine Word, which is his interpreter. Whatever value these visions may have had, antiquity is unanimous in describing the happy exaltation which the highest revelations of Eleusis produced. A new happiness, a superhuman peace descended into the heart of the initiates. Life seemed conquered, the soul delivered, the fearful cycle of existences fulfilled. With clear joy and an ineffable certainty everyone again found themselves in the pure ether of the universal Soul.

We have just relived the drama of Eleusis in its intimate, hidden meaning. I have indicated the main thread which guides one through this labyrinth; I have shown the great unity dominating its richness and complexity. With a wise and sovereign harmony, the various ceremonies were linked to the divine drama which formed the ideal center, the luminous focal point of these religious festivals. Thus the initiates gradually were identified with the action. At first only simple spectators, later they became actors, and finally they recognized that the drama of Persephone really took place within themselves. And what surprise, what joy they experienced in this discovery! If they suffered, if they fought with her in this present life, like her they had the hope of again finding divine felicity, the light of the great Intelligence. The words of the hierophant, the scenes and revelations of the temple, gave them a foretaste of what was to come.

It seems unnecessary to say that each one understood these things according to his degree of education and his intellectual capacity. For as Plato says (and this is true for all time) many people carry the thyrsus and rod, but are little inspired. After the age of Alexander, the Eleusians were affected in a certain measure by pagan decadence, but their exalted foundation remained, saving them from the decay which struck other temples. Through the depth of their sacred doctrine, as well as through the splendor of their presentation, the Mysteries stood their ground for three centuries in the face of a rising Christianity. Then they joined the elite company, who, without denying that Jesus was a revelation of an heroic and divine nature, did not wish to forget, as the Church of that time already was forgetting, the old science and the sacred doctrine. An edict of Theodosius was required, forbidding the ceremonies of the temple of Eleusis, in order to put an end to this august cult, in which the magic of Greek art had delighted in incorporating the highest doctrines of Orpheus, of Pythagoras and of Plato.

Today the refuge of ancient Demeter has disappeared without a trace beside the silent Bay of Eleusis, and only the butterfly, Psyche's insect, crossing the blue gulf on spring days, remembers that here the great exile, the human soul, once evoked the gods, and that here it recognized its eternal home.


Notes for this chapter:

66. Contemporary science would see in these facts only simple hallucinations or suggestions. The science of ancient esoterism attributed both a subjective and objective value to this kind of phenomenon, which was frequently produced in the Mysteries. It believed in the existence of elemental spirits without an individualized soul and without reason. Half-conscious, they fill the earthly atmosphere and are in some way the souls of the elements. Magic, which is will put into action in the manipulation of secret powers, makes these beings visible at times. Heraclitus speaks of them when he says, "Nature, in all places is full of daemons." Plato calls them daemons of the elements, Paracelsus names them elementals. According to Paracelsus they are attracted by the magnetic atmosphere of man, are electrified and are capable of assuming all imaginable human forms. The more man is given over to his passions, the more he becomes their prey without being aware of it. The magus alone subdues them and uses them. But they constitute a sphere of deceiving illusions and follies which it is necessary to master and pass upon one's entrance into the spiritual world. Bulwer Lytton calls them "the guardian of the threshold" in his unusual novel, Zanoni.

67. This is the tree of dreams mentioned by Virgil in the descent of Aeneus into hell, in the sixth book of the Aeneid, which reproduces the main scenes of the Mysteries of Eleusis with poetic amplifications.

68. The gold objects contained in the cist were the pine cone (symbol of fertility and generation), the spiral serpent (universal evolution of the soul; fall into matter and redemption by the spirit); the egg (recalling the sphere of divine perfection, the goal of man.)

69. These mysterious words have no meaning in Greek. This proves that they are very ancient, and come from the Orient. Wilford gives them a Sanscrit origin. Knox would come from Kansha, meaning object of the greatest desire; Om from Urn, the soul of Brahma, and Pax from Pasha, tour, exchange, cycle. The supreme blessing of the hierophant of Eleusis means therefore: "May your desires be fulfilled; return to the universal Soul!"


JESUS: The Mission of Christ

The Great Initiates