High Character of Ancient Mysteries

In these celebrated rites, although persons of both sexes and all classes were allowed to take a part, and a participation in them was even obligatory, very few indeed attained the higher and final initiation. The gradation of the Mysteries is given us by Proclus in the fourth book of his Theology of Plato. "The perfective rite teleth , precedes in order the initiation — Muesis — and the initiation, Epopteia, or the final apocalypse (revelation)." Theon of Smyrna, in Mathematica, also divides the mystic rites into five parts: "the first of which is the previous purification; for neither are the Mysteries communicated to all who are willing to receive them; . . . there are certain persons who are prevented by the voice of the crier ( Khrux ) . . . since it is necessary that such as are not expelled from the Mysteries should first be refined by certain purifications which the reception of the sacred rites succeeds. The third part is denominated epopteia or reception. And the fourth, which is the end and design of the revelation, is the binding of the head and fixing of the crowns} . . . whether after this he (the initiated person) becomes . . . an hierophant or sustains some other part of the sacerdotal office. But the fifth, which is produced from all these, is friendship and interior

J This expression must not be understood literally; for as in the initiation of certain Brotherhoods it has a secret meaning, hinted at by Pythagoras, when he describes his feelings after the initiation and tells that he was crowned by the gods in whose presence he had drunk "the waters of life" — in Hindu, a-bi-hayat, fount of life.

communion with God." And this was the last and most awful of all the Mysteries.

There are writers who have often wondered at the meaning of this claim to a "friendship and interior communion with God." Christian authors have denied the pretensions of the "Pagans" to such "communion," affirming that only Christian saints were and are capable of enjoying it; materialistic skeptics have altogether scoffed at the idea of both. After long ages of religious materialism and spiritual stagnation, it has most certainly become difficult if not altogether impossible to substantiate the claims of either party. The old Greeks, who had once crowded around the Agora of Athens, with its altar to the "Unknown God," are no more; and their descendants firmly believe that they have found the "Unknown" in the Jewish Jehova. The divine ecstasies of the early Christians have made room for visions of a more modern character, in perfect keeping with progress and civilization. The "Son of man" appearing to the rapt vision of the ancient Christian as coming from the seventh heaven, in a cloud of glory, and surrounded with angels and winged seraphim, has made room for a more prosaic and at the same time more business-like Jesus. The latter is now shown as making morning calls upon Mary and Martha in Bethany; as seating himself on "the ottoman" with the younger sister, a lover of "ethics," while Martha goes off to the kitchen to cook. Anon the heated fancy of a blasphemous Brooklyn preacher and harlequin, the Reverend Dr. Talmage, makes us see her rushing back "with besweated brow, a pitcher in one hand and the tongs in the other . . . into the presence of Christ," and blowing him up for not caring that her sister hath left her "to serve alone."*

From the birth of the solemn and majestic conception of the unrevealed Deity of the ancient adepts to such caricatured descriptions of him who died on the Cross for his philanthropic devotion to humanity, long centuries have intervened, and their heavy tread seems to have almost entirely obliterated all sense of a spiritual religion from the hearts of his professed followers. No wonder then, that the sentence of Proclus is no longer understood by the Christians, and is rejected as a "vaglary" by the materialists, who, in their negation, are less blasphemous and atheistical than many of the reverends and members of the churches. But, although the Greek epoptai are no more, we have now, in our own age, a people far more ancient than the oldest Hellenes, who

* This original and very long sermon was preached in a church at Brooklyn, N. Y., on the 15th day of April, 1877. On the following morning, the reverend orator was called in the "Sun" a gibbering charlatan; but this deserved epithet will not prevent other reverend buffoons doing the same and even worse. And this is the religion of Christ! Far better disbelieve in him altogether than caricature one's God in such a manner. We heartily applaud the "Sun" for the following views: "And then when Talmage makes Christ say to Martha in the tantrums: 'Don't worry, but sit down on this ottoman,' he adds the climax to a scene that the inspired writers had nothing to say about. Talmage's buffoonery is going too far. If he were the worst heretic in the land, instead of being straight in his orthodoxy, he would not do so much evil to religion as he does by his familiar blasphemies."

practice the so-called "preterhuman" gifts to the same extent as did their ancestors far earlier than the days of Troy. It is to this people that we draw the attention of the psychologist and philosopher.

One need not go very deep into the literature of the Orientalists to become convinced that in most cases they do not even suspect that in the arcane philosophy of India there are depths which they have not sounded, and cannot sound, for they pass on without perceiving them. There is a pervading tone of conscious superiority, a ring of contempt in the treatment of Hindu metaphysics, as though the European mind is alone enlightened enough to polish the rough diamond of the old Sanscrit writers, and separate right from wrong for the benefit of their descendants. We see them disputing over the external forms of expression without a conception of the great vital truths these hide from the profane view.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment