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HERMES AND PLATO


HERMES AND PLATO

BV

EDOUARD SCHURE

TRANSLATED BY F.

ROTHWELL,

B.A.

LONDON WILLIAM RIDER & SON, 8

PATERNOSTER ROW, 1919

Limited

E.G. 4


UBRA,\

mmo,

.

UTAH


CONTENTS HERMES (the mysteries of Egypt) CHAP I.

II.

PAGE

The Sphinx Hermes

lO

The

III. Isis

IV. Osiris.

V.

3

The

Initiation

—The

Tests

20

Death and Resurrection

Vision of

Hermes

'

35

.

44

PLATO (the mysteries of eleusis) I.

The Youth of Plato and the Death of Socrates

II.

The

....

.

63

Initiation of Plato and the Platonic

Philosophy III.

.

The Mysteries of

78

Eleusis

.

.

.

-91


HERMES (THE MYSTERIES OF EGYPT)


!

Blind soul! Arm thyself with the torch of the Mysteries, in the night of earth shalt thou uncover thy luminous Double, thy celestial Soul. Follow this divine guide and let him be thy Genius, for he holds the key of thy lives, both past

and

and to come. Appeal

to the Initiates

Listen within yourselves

(from the Book of the Dead).

and look into the

infinitude

of

There can be heard the songs of the Conthe voices of the Numbers, and the harmonies of

Space and Time. stellations,

the Spheres.

a thought of God and each planet a mode of that thought. To know divine thought, O souls, you descend and painfully ascend the path of the seven planets and of their seven heavens. What do the Constellations ? What say the Numbers ? What revolve the Spheres ? O lost or saved souls, they speak, your destinies they sing, they roll Fragment (from Hermes).

Each sun

is

.

.

.


,

HERMES CHAPTER

I

THE SPHINX In the ancient world, Egypt was a veritable citadel

most

of sacred science, a school for its

illustrious

prophets and a refuge for the noblest traditions of

mankind.

Thanks to the immense excavations and

investigations of recent years, the people of

are better

any

known

Egypt

to us at the present time than

of the civiUsations that preceded Greece

history spite,

is

revealed, written

its

;

on pages of stone.

however, of the fact that

its

In

monuments

have been cleared of the accumulations of ages,

and

its

we have not

hieroglyphs deciphered,

suc-

ceeded in penetrating to the deepest secrets of thought, the occult teachings of teaching, scientifically

its priests.

expounded

in

its

This

the temples

and prudently veiled beneath the mysteries, shows us at a glance the soul of Egypt, the secret of politics,

and the important part

world's history.

it

its

has played in the .


;

HERMES

4

Our

historians speak in the

same breath

of the

Pharaohs as they do of the despots of Nineveh and

To them Egypt

Babylon.

monarchy,

quering

Do

years more.

Assyria,

like

merely in that

differs

it

of

it,

ciplined royalty

make an

instru-

Egypt the priesthood

whilst in

it

that in Assyria royalty

utterly crushed the priesthood to

ment

from which

has lasted a few thousand

know

they

an absolute and con-

is

dis-

and never abdicated even at the

worst times, imposing

itself

on the kings, driving

out the despots, never ceasing to govern the nation

and

all this

by means

of an intellectual superiority,

a profound and secret wisdom which no teaching

body has ever equalled period

I scarcely

?

in

any country or at any

think they do, for instead of

drawing innumerable conclusions from fact,

this essential

our historians have scarcely noticed

it

and

appear to attach no importance whatever to

And

yet,

it.

one need be neither an archaeologist nor

a linguist to understand that the implacable hatred that existed between Assyria and Egypt comes

from the fact that these two nations represented

two opposing

principles,

nation was indebted for religious

and

scientific

and that the Egyptian its

long duration to a

hardening process stronger

than any revolution.

From

the

Aryan epoch

right through the

stormy


THE SPHINX

5

period following the Vedic times on to the Persian

conquest and the Alexandrine epoch,

more than

say, during

is

to

thousand years, Egypt

five

was the stronghold of those

that

lofty

and pure

doctrines,

the total of which constitutes the science of prin-

and may be

ciples

antiquity.

What

called the esoteric orthodoxy of

dynasties succeeded one

fifty

if

another and the Nile piled entire

cities

;

what

its

the

if

alluvial soil over

Phoenicians

in

turn

inundated and were driven out of the country;

through the ebb and flow of history, Egypt, beneath the apparent idolatry of her exterior polytheism,

ever retained

the

foundation of her occult

old

theogony and sacerdotal organisation.

She resisted

the flight of time as does the pyramid of Gizeh,

whole and intact, though half buried beneath the

Thanks to that

sand.

granite

that

it

Egypt became the

resistance,

round which rolled the as

secret sphinx-like immobility,

religious

thought of humanity

passed from Asia into Europe.

Etruria were so

many

different civihsations.

of

ancient

Judaea, Greece,

living souls

Egypt

if ?

not from the organic

Moses and Orpheus

founded two distinct and wonderful one distinguished by other

by a

which formed

But from what source did

they draw their root-ideas reserve

axis

its

fierce

dazzling polytheism.

religions, the

monotheism, the

Where did

the


— HERMES

6

one find the strength, the energy, and the boldness necessary to recast, like brass in a furnace, a half-

savage nation, and where did the other acquire the magical power of making the gods speak, like

a well-tuned barian races

lyre, to

the soul of

In the temples of

?

its

charmed bar-

Osiris, in ancient

Thebes, which the initiates called the city of the

sun or the solar Ark

—because

S5mthesis of divine science

and

it

contained the

all

the secrets of

initiation.

Every

year,

deluge of rain

changes

summer solstice, when a pours down in Abyssinia, the Nile

colour,

at

the

assuming the blood-red

The

which the Bible speaks. the

until

tint

river remains swollen

autumn equinox, bmying beneath

waves the horizon of

banks.

its

of

its

Standing on their

granite table-lands, beneath the blinding sun, the

temples cut out of the solid rock, the necropoles

and the pyramids the Nile,

reflect

now changed

their majestic ruins in

into a sea.

The Egyptian

priesthood has gone through the ages, taking with it

its

organisation

and

so long impenetrable

temples, crypts,

its

—of

symbols, the secrets

its science.

Within these

and pyramids was developed the

famous doctrine of the Logos-Light, the imiversal

Word which Moses was ark,

to enclose within his golden

and of which Christ was to be the

living torch.


THE SPHINX Truth

is

ever5rthing

form and

7

immutable

in itself

though

changes abode as well as

it

alone survives

it

;

Kght of Osiris " which formerly threw initiates

light for the

over the depths of nature and the vaults

of heaven,

is

extinguished for ever in the abandoned

The saying

crypts.

"The

revelations are intermittent.

its

been reaHsed

:

"

of

O

Hermes

Egypt

!

to Asclepius has

Egypt

There shall

!

remain for thee for future generations only fables that no one will believe, nothing of thee shall

endure except words cut out in stone." All the same,

we

shall try to bring

back to

life

one ray of this mysterious sun of the sanctuaries

by pursuing the

secret path of the

Egyptian

initia-

tion of foraier times so far as esoteric intuition will allow.

Before entering the temple, however,

before

us cast

mighty phases Egypt passed

a glance over the

through

let

the

times

the

of

Hyksos,

or

Shepherd dynasty.

The

first

Egyptian

civilisation,

almost as

old

as the very carcase of our continents, dates back

to the ancient red race.^ 1

The

colossal sphinx of

In an inscription of the fourth dynasty, mention

of the sphinx as being a

monument whose

origin

was

is

made

lost in the

night of time, and that it had been found by chance in this reign, buried by the desert sand beneath which it had been forgotten for long generations, Fr. Lenormant, Hist, d' Orient. The


HERMES

8

Gizeh, near the large pyramid,

when the Delta (formed

the time

its

is

At

work.

at a later period

by the alluvial deposits of the Nile) had not yet come into existence, this monstrous, symbolical animal was lying there on of the chain of the

the sea dash at

on the very spot where

now

stretches a waste of desert sand.

that

first

symbol,

creation of Egypt, has

its distinctive

human

all

head of a

mark.

and redoubtable

man

issues

its sides.

This

living unity of its

is

it,

an image

of

The

in its mystery.

from the body of a bull with

the claws of a lion, and presses to

The sphinx,

become its principal The most ancient of

priesthoods engraved

nature, calm

in front

hill,

Lybian mountains, watching feet

its

granite

its

its

eagle's

wings

terrestrial Isis, nature in the

reign.

For these immemorial

knew and taught that, in the mighty scheme of evolution, the human emerges from the animal nature. In this compound of the priesthoods even then

bull,

the lion, the eagle, and the

man

the four

animals of the vision of Ezekiel are also contained, representing

four

elements

that

the

constitute

microcosm and the macrocosm, water, earth,

and in

fire,

the basis of occult science.

succeeding centuries,

when

This

initiates

is

air,

why,

saw the

fourth dynasty carries us back to 4000 years before Christ. Judge, then, of the antiquity of the sphinx !


THE SPHINX

9

sacred animal, lying on the threshold of the temples or in the depths of the crypts, they could feel this

mystery

fold

back the wings of their

living within themselves spirit

and

silently

over the inner

truth.

For long before (Edipus, they were to

know

that the key to the enigma of the sphinx was

man, the microcosm, the divine agent, who sums

up in himself all the elements and powers of nature. The red race has left of itself no other witness than the sphinx of Gizeh, but this alone is an irrefutable proof that it had set itself and solved, in its

own way,

the mighty problem.


CHAPTER

II

HERMES

The

black race which succeeded the southern red

made its principal The name of Hermes-

race in the rule of the world

sanctuary in Upper Egypt.

Thoth, that mysterious,

first initiator

of

Egypt

the secret doctrines, doubtless refers to a

into

first

and

a pacific mingling of the white and the black races in the regions of Ethiopia

before like

Hermes

times.

Manou and Buddha.

time, a is

Aryan

the

caste,

it

is

It

is

a generic name,

means, at the same

As man, Hermes the mighty initiator of Egypt as

man, a first,

and Upper Egypt, long

caste,

and a god.

;

the

priesthood,

guardian

of

occult

traditions, whilst as god, it is the planet Mercury,

assimilated to initiators

;

in

a whole category of spirits, divine a word, Hermes presides over the

supraterrestrial region

of the

celestial

In the spiritual economy of the world,

initiation. all

these

boimd together by secret affinities as by an invisible thread. The name of Hermes is a talisman which sums them all up, a magic sound things are

xo


HERMES evoking them into existence. it

II

Hence the

prestige

The Greeks, disciples of the Egyptians, him Hermes Trismegistus, or Thrice-Greatest

possessed.

called

Hermes, because he was looked upon as king, lawgiver,

and

priest.

•

He

typifies

a period in which

the priesthood, the magistracy, and the kingship

were

united

a single

in

governing

Egyptian chronology of Manetho the reign of the gods.

papyrus

nor

phonetic

the-

There was then neither writing,

but

was inscribed

the

on into the

libraries

siderably strengthened,

sacred

the science

;

in hieroglyphs

columns and walls of the crypts.

later

The

period

calls this

ideography was already in existence of the priesthood

body.

on

It passed

of the temples,

and the Egyptians

conattri-

buted to Hermes forty-two books dealing with occult science.

The Greek book known

Trismegistus certainly contains true,

is

though

theogony, which

infinitely is like

the

relics,

Hermes

impaired,

precious, fiat lux,

as

of

it

ancient

whence Moses

and Orpheus received their first beams of light. The doctrine of the Fire-Principle and of the Word-Light, contained in the Vision will

of

Hermes,

remain the summit and centre of Egyptian

initiation.

We

shall shortly

endeavour to regain

of the masters, this mystic rose

this vision

which blooms only


HERMES

12

and

in the night of the sanctuary,

of the great religions.

in the secret

Certain sayings of Hermes,

taken from the ancient wisdom, are well calculated "

to prepare us for this.

None

of our thoughts,"

he said to his disciple Asclepius,

capable of

''is

conceiving God, nor any language of defining Him.

That

which

incorporeal,

is

formless,

cannot be grasped by our senses

God

time.

is

that which

;

by the

eternal cannot be measured

elect

is

short rules of

True,

accordingly ineffable.

communicate to certain

invisible,

He

can

the power to rise

above material concerns, to perceive some radiance of His

supreme perfection

;

but these

can

elect

find

no words to interpret into ordinary language

the

immaterial

inmost souls. secondary

vision

which has

They may explain

causes

of

the

thrilled

to

creations

their

humanity the which

pass

beneath their eyes as being images of universal life,

but the

first

we only when we

cause remains veiled and

shall succeed in understanding

it

have passed through the portals of death."

In

God at The disciples who

such terms Hermes spoke of the unknown the

entrance to the crypts.

penetrated with him into their depths, learnt to

know him

as a living being.^

1 Learned and esoteric theology, says M. Masp6ro, has been monotheistic ever since the times of the Ancient Empire. The


— HERMES

13

The book speaks of his death as of the departure " Hermes saw the totahty of things, of a god. and having seen, understood, and having underhad the power to manifest and

stood,

What he

reveal.

thought, he wrote, what he wrote he

most concealed, both wisely keeping

silent

and

speaking, so that the whole duration of the world to

come should seek these

commanded

the gods, his brothers, to follow in his

procession, he it

is

Thus, having

things.

possible

peoples,

but

religions

of

mounted

to the stars.''

to

isolate

not

their

Assyria,

If

need be,

the political history of religious

The

history.

Egypt, Judaea, and

Greece

can only be understood when their union with the ancient Indo- Aryan religion rately,

they are so

many

is

seen.

Taken sepa-

puzzles and enigmas

;

seen together and from above, they form a glorious affirmation of the fundamental unity of the Divine Being

may

be read in formal and energetic terms, in texts dating from this period. God is the only One, He who exists in essence, the only one living in substance, the sole generator in heaven and on earth who is not Himself engendered. At once Father, Mother, and Son, He engenders, brings to birth and is perpetually, and these three persons, far from dividing divine His attributes nature, work together to His infinite perfection. almighty will, boundindependence, eternity, immensity, are " members which His own are the creates He goodness. less *' of these secondary Each gods, say. texts old the Gods considered as identical with the one God, may form a new type, from which other inferior types emanate in turn and by the

same

process.

Histoire ancienne des peuples de

l'

Orient.


HERMES

14 evolution

which

in

everything

and explained.

trolled

mutually con-

is

In a word, the history of

a religion will always be narrow, superstitious, and false,

truth

history

to be found only in the religious

is

From these heights, which make the round of the

mankind.

of

those currents

can be

The Egyptian

felt.

pendent and exclusive of

people, the

all

years before our era, the light of

tion that enabled

Menes was the

it

first

own.

its

it

hood, that first

another

;

a

is,

many

king of justice, the

He

its

Ammon-Ra, constitu-

revolutions.

first

Pharaoh

took care not to remove

was to confirm and expand

new

social organisation.

the educational part of

chamber of

of

shed

former theology which was also his

All he did

adding to

to a

Rama

was such a

to brave so

to carry out this law.

from Egypt

It

most inde-

Five thousand

Egypt and became the law

the solar god of Thebes.

globe

to outside influences,

could not escape this universal law.

rays over

only

;

it,

it,

The priestwas assigned

the administration of justice to

government to the two

;

royalty was

conceived of as their delegation and under their control

;

the

relative

independence

of

laws

or

townships was placed as the comer-stone of the society. initiates.

sciences,

This It

we may

call

the government of the

had as key-stone a synthesis

known under

the

name

of the

of Osiris (0-Sir-Is),


HERMES the

intellectual

symbol as

is

The great pyramid the mathematical gnomon.

lord.

also

Pharaoh who received temple,

who

15

his initiation

its

is

The

name from

the

exercised the sacerdotal and royal art

on the throne, was quite a

different personage

from

the Assyrian despot whose arbitrary power was

based on crime and blood.

crowned

initiate,

instrument

of

The Pharaoh was the or at any rate the pupil and

the

initiates.

For

the

centuries

Pharaohs are to defend against despotic Asia and anarchist Europe the law of the

Ram

which then

represented the rights of justice and international arbitration.

About the year 2200 B.C. Egypt underwent the most redoubtable crisis any people can pass through :

that of foreign invasion and semi-conquest.

Phoenician invasion

itself

The

was the consequence

of

the great religious schism in Asia which had stirred

up the masses by sowing

dissension in the temples.

Led by the king-shepherds

called

Hyksos,

the

deluge of this invasion rolled over the Delta and

The schismatic kings brought with them a corrupted civilisation, Ionic effeminacy, and Asiatic luxury, the institution of the harem and The very existence of Egypt was gross idolatry. compromised, its intellectuality endangered and its world-wide mission threatened. Still it had a living Central Egypt.


HERMES

i6 soul, that

is

to say, an organised

body

of initiates,

guardians of the ancient science of Hermes and of

What became

Ammon-Ra.

drew into the depths

of this soul

It with-

?

of its sanctuaries,

concen-

trating its strength the better to resist the enemy.

To outward appearance, the priesthood bowed before

the

invasion

and openly recognised the

who introduced the law of the Bull and worship of Apis. And yet, concealed within

usurpers the

two councils guarded as a sacred

their temples, the

charge their science and traditions, the ancient and

and along with

undefiled religion,

it

the hope of

the restoration of the national dynasty. this period that the priests

the legend of of the latter

Isis

and

and

his

spread

It

among

Osiris, the

was at

the people

dismemberment

coming resurrection by his son

who found his scattered limbs which had been carried off by the Nile. The imagination of the people was stirred up by the pomp of public Horus,

ceremonies.

Their love for the old religion was

kept alive by representing to them the misfortunes of the goddess, her lamentations at the loss of her celestial spouse,

son Horus,

the

and the hope she placed divine

mediator.

At the same

time, however, the initiates considered

to

make

covering

in her

it

necessary

esoteric truth impossible to attack, it

over with a triple

veil.

The

by

inner,


HERMES

17

learned organisation of the lesser and the greater M5^teries corresponds

popular worship of girt

around

with

with the diffusion of the

and

Isis

Moral

insuperable barriers.

and

dangers

terrible

They were

Osiris.

almost

were invented,

tests

the oath of silence exacted, and the penalty of

death rigorously enforced against any divulged

Owing

the

slightest

to this strict

initiation

details

of

initiates

the

organisation,

who

Mysteries.

the Egyptian

became not merely the refuge

of esoteric

doctrine but also the crucible, the test of a national resurrection

and the school

of

future

religions.

Whilst crowned usurpers were reigning at Memphis,

Thebes was slowly preparing the regeneration of the country.

From

its

temple and solar ark sprang the

who

saviour of Egypt, Amos,

and restored to

their rights

expelled the Hyksos,

Egyptian science and

the male religion of Osiris.

In this

way

the Mysteries saved the soul of

Egypt, beneath a foreign tyranny, and that for the good of humanity.

might of their initiation, that

and

Such at that time was the

discipline

and the power

they consisted of the

of their

loftiest

moral

intellectual forces in the land.

Ancient initiation rested on a conception of at once grander

and

healthier than ours.

We

man have

separated the education of the body from that of

B


HERMES

i8

mind and

the

of the

spirit.

Our physical and

natural sciences, though advanced in themselves,

do not deal with the principle of the soul and its diffusion

throughout the universe

;

our religion

does not satisfy the needs of the intelligence

medicine will soul or spirit. for pleasure

science,

know

;

our

absolutely nothing of either

The men

day look

of the present

without happiness, happiness without

The ancients

and science without wisdom.

would not allow the things, in every

possibility of separating such

domain

of Ufe they took into account

the triple nature of man. training of the whole

Initiation

human

was a gradual

being to the lofty

the spirit whence the life could be dominated. " To attain to mastery," said the

heights

of

sages of the past, of

his

Now,

physical,

'^

moral,

needs a total remodelling

and

intellectual

this remodelling is possible only

taneous exercise of

By

man

will,

intuition,

by

nature.

the simul-

and reasoning.

the complete agreement of these three,

man

develop his faculties to incalculable limits.

can

The

soul possesses buried senses which initiation rouses

By profound study and constant man can place himself in conscious

to Ufe.

applica-

tion,

relation

with the hidden forces of the universe.

By

a

prodigious effort, he can attain to direct spiritual perception, open out for himself the paths of the


HERMES life

19

beyond the grave, and render himself capable

Then only can he say that he has conquered destiny and acquired his divine liberty even here below. Then only can the initiate become an initiator, prophet, and theurgist, i.e. a seer and creator of souls. For only he who of travelling along these paths.

rules himself

can rule others, only he who

can set others

free.'*

Such were the thoughts of the

and the greatest among them

is free

initiates of old,

lived

and acted

Real initiation accordingly was any-

accordingly.

empty dream or simple scientific was the creation of a soul by itself,

thing but an

teaching its

it

;

birth on a higher plane,

its

blossoming in the

divine world.

We

will

now imagine

the Rameses,

Orpheus

were

ourselves in the times of

about the time when Moses and the

Hving,

year

1300

B.C.,

and

endeavour to penetrate into the heart of Egyptian Figured

initiation.

monuments,

the

Hermes, and the Jewish and Greek enable us to revive idea of

its loftiest 1

its

books

of

traditions,^

main points and form some

revelations.

lAMBAIXOT,

Tepl Uv(rrrjpi<aif \6yoi.


CHAPTER ISIS

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; THE

INITIATION

III

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;THE

TESTS

In the time of the Rameses, Egj^tian civiUsation

had reached the acme

The Pharaohs

of its glory.

and sword-bearers

of the twentieth dynasty, pupils

of the sanctuaries, continued, like true heroes, the

struggle

against

Babylon.

Egyptian

archers

harassed the Lybians and Numidians, right to the

A fleet

very centre of Africa.

of four

hundred

sails

pursued the league of the schismatics to the mouth of the Indus.

her

allies,

The

better to oppose Assyria

and

the Rameses had marked out strategic

roads up to Lebanon

and

built

a chain of

between Mageddo and Karkemish.

fprts

Architectural

work continued without pause, keeping the work-

men

of three continents in constant

The hypostyle

hall of

Karnak, each

reaches the height of the repaired

;

the

temple

of

employment.

pillar of

which

Venddme column, was Abydos was enriched

with wonders in sculpture, and the valley of the kings with magnificent monuments. 30

At Memphis


ISIS

Ramesseum, surrounded with a

the

rose

21

of obelisks,

statues,

and monoliths

of

forest

enormous

size.

In the midst of this feverish activity

many

a

stranger from the distant shores of Asia Minor or

the mountains of Thrace had

come

to

initiated into her Mysteries, attracted

On

tion of her temples.

stood

by the reputa-

reaching Memphis, he

with wonderment and awe.

still

and pubUc

f^tes,

Monuments

everything gave him an impression

and grandeur.

of opulence

Egypt to be

After the ceremony of

the royal consecration, which took place in the secret places of the sanctuary, he

saw the Pharaoh

leave the temple in the presence of the crowd, and carried off staff.

by a dozen

fan-bearers, officers of his

In front of him, twelve young Levites held

the royal insignia on gold-embroidered cushions

:

the ram-headed sceptre of the arbiters, the sword, the ark,

and the mace.

king's household

lowed by

The

initiates

pontiffs

Behind him came the

and the sacerdotal colleges, folin the greater and lesser mysteries.

wore white

flashed with the dignitaries of the

fire

tiaras

and

of symbolical

their breasts

stones.

The

crown wore decorations of the

Lamb, the Ram, the Lion, the Lily, and the Bee, hanging down from massive chains of admirable workmanship.

City corporations closed the march.


HERMES

22

At

with emblems and banners unfolded.^ boats gaily decked with

on

flags, carried,

night,

artificial

whose midst could

lakes, the royal orchestras in

be seen female dancers, standing out in hieratic postures.

This crush and pomp, however, was not what he

sought;

it

was the

desire to penetrate the secret

of things, the thirst of

knowledge that had brought

him from such a distance. He had been told that magi and hierophants, possessed of divine wisdom, lived in the sanctuaries of Egypt,

and he too wished

A

to enter into the secret of the gods. his country

had spoken to him

Dead, of the mysterious

roll,

priest of

Book

of the

of the

placed beneath the

heads of mummies, to serve as a viaticum, and relating in symbolic

form the after-death journey

of the soul, according to the priests of

With eager

curiosity

Ammon-Ra.

and a certain inner trembling,

mingled with doubt, he had followed this long journey of the soul beyond the grave in a burning region

envelope,

its

;

;

its

the purification of

meeting of the

evil pilot,

averted, seated in a barque,

and

who

his

looks one in the face

;

the forty-two earthly judges

;

of the

expiation

its

sidereal

with face

good

pilot,

appearance before his justification

by

^ See the mural paintings in the temples of Thebes, reproduced in the book of Fran9ois Lenormant, and the chapter on Egypt in La Mission des Juifs by M. Saint- Yves d'Alveydre.


THE

INITIATION

23

Thoth, and finally his entry and transfiguration into

We

the light of Osiris. this

book and the

total revolution

which Egyptian

sometimes operated in the minds of men,

initiation

by the

can judge of the power of

following passage from the

Book

of the

was found at Hermopolis,

'*This chapter

Dead

:

in blue

writing on an alabaster slab, at the feet of the god

Thoth (Hermes) Prince Hastetef

Oh

when traveUing on an

He

the temples. temple.

,

in the time of king Menkara,

!

by

inspection of

carried the stone into the royal

mighty

secret

He

!

neither

saw nor

heard more, on reading this pure and holy chapter,

no longer did he approach any woman, neither did he eat

flesh or fish."^

What

truth was there in

these disturbing accounts, in these hieratic images

behind which sparkled the terrible mystery beyond

know they told him. But what were these gods who were only spoken It was to know this of in mysterious whispers ? the grave

?

Isis

and

Osiris

!

that the stranger knocked at the door of the mighty

temple of Thebes or of Memphis. Servants conducted him beneath the portico of

an inner court, whose enormous gigantic

lotus

pillars

resembled

blooms as they upheld by their

strength and purity the Solar Ark, the temple of Osiris.

The hierophant drew near the new-comer. 1

Booh

of the Dead, chap. Ixiv.


HERMES

24

His majestic features and tranquil countenance, the mystery of his dark, impenetrable eyes, glowing

with an inner

the stranger

whom

felt it

The

thing.

at once filled the candidate

That look pierced

with awe.

from

light,

like

a needle, and

man

himself in the presence of a

would be impossible to conceal anynew-

priest of Osiris questioned the

comer regarding

his native town, his family,

and

the temple in which he had received his instruction. in the course of this brief

If,

but searching exami-

he was judged to be unworthy of the

nation,

Mysteries,

he was shown to the door with a

but irrevocable gesture.

On

the other hand,

silent if

the

hierophant found in the aspirant a sincere yearning truth,

after

he requested him to

follow.

They

crossed porticoes and inner courts, then they pro-

ceeded along a rock-hewn avenue opened to the

sky and lined with many a stela and sphinx, until they reached a small temple leading to the subterranean crypts. Over the door was a Ufe-size

The goddess was seated attitude of peace and meditation, and with a book on her knee. Her face was veiled, and

statue

of

Isis.

foot of the statue could be read the words " â&#x20AC;˘'

the

This

My veil no

is

mortal hand hath raised.

in

an

closed at the

:

"

the door of the occult sanctuary," said

hierophant,

''

Look

at

these

two columns.


THE TESTS The red

25

represents the spirit ascending towards the

light of Osiris, the black signifies its captivity in

matter, and the

fall

may

go as far as utter anni-

Whosoever enters upon our science and doctrine risks his life. The weak or the evil-doer hilation.

find therein

madness or death

pure alone find

life

foolishly entered

out alive, for

it

by is

;

the strong and

Many have

and immortality. this

door and have never come

an abyss from whose depths

only the bold and fearless come back to the Reflect seriously on

what you are going

the dangers you are to run, and is

if

light.

to do,

on

your courage

not invincible, give up the enterprise, for once

this

door closes on you,

it

will

be too late to draw

back." If

the stranger persisted in his determination, the

hierophant took him into the outer court and gave

him up he was

to the servants of the temple, with

to spend a week, engaged in the humblest

of tasks, listening to tions.

whom

The most

hymns, and performing ablu-

rigorous silence

was imposed on

him. *

When

the trial evening had come, two attendants

conducted the aspirant after the mysteries to the door of the occult sanctuary. vestibule,

They entered a dark

without any apparent

exit.

On

either

side of this gloomy-looking hall, the light of torches


HERMES

26

enabled the stranger to see a row of statues with

human

bodies and heads of animals, lions, bulls,

birds of prey,

him

at

and serpents which seemed to mock

as he passed.

At the end

of this sinister

avenue which was crossed without a word being uttered, stood a

mummy and a human skeleton,

The two attendants pointed

to face.

in silence to a

hole in the wall in front of the novice. to a passage so low that

on

it

face

This led

could only be entered

all fours.

"

You

permitted to retrace your steps," " The door of the said one of the attendants. are

still

you do not wish this, you must proceed along this path, and there will be no return for you."

sanctuary

is

not yet closed.

If

" I will go forward," said the novice, screwing

up

all his

A

courage.

small lighted lamp was given to him, and the

attendants returned, noisily closing the sanctuary door. to

There could be no more hesitation

enter the passage.

;

he had

Scarcely had he crawled

forward a few feet than he heard a voice coming

from the depths of the subterranean cavern, and saying

:

" Here

perish

knowledge and power."

who foolishly covet Owing to the wonderful

all

acoustics of the spot, these words were repeated

seven times by distanced echoes.

He had

to go


THE TESTS

27

.

forward, for

all

that;

the passage widened out,

but the descent became ever more steep.

Finally

the bold traveller found himself in front of a shaft,

terminating in a hole through which passed an iron

This

ladder.

the

novice

On

descended.

reaching the last rung, his terrified glance plunged into

The poor naphtha

a hideous-looking well.

lamp, which he convulsively clutched in his trembling

hand, threw a vacillating light over the impenetrable

What was he

darkness.

him, return was impossible

In his

perceived a small crevice on his to the ladder with one hand,

Safety at last for

other, he !

saw

left.

?

Above fall

into

distress,

free

he

Hanging on

and extending

steps

He was now

do

below, a

;

the frightful blackness of night.

lamp with the

to

and a

his

staircase.

from the abyss,

he mounted the winding staircase which pierced

At

the rock like an enormous gimlet.

the

last

candidate found himself in front of some bronze rails

opening into an extensive gallery supported

by immense

caryatids.

walls could be seen

At

two rows

intervals

crystal

the

of symbolical frescoes.

There were eleven of these on each

by

along

side,

dimly

lit

lamps which the lovely caryatids held

aloft in their hands.

The gate was opened

by a magian, casket bearer) who

to the novice

called a pastophor (shrine

or


HERMES

28

kept guard over the sacred symbols.

welcomed him with a benevolent

him on having come

lating

the

smile, congratu-

successfully through

Then he conducted him through

test.

first

This latter

the gallery, explaining the meanings of the sacred

which was marked with a

pictures, each of

and a number. sented the

first

The twenty-two symbols repretwenty-two arcana and constituted

the alphabet of occult science, principles

the absolute

i.e.

and universal keys which, when applied

by the will, become the source and origin wisdom and power. These principles were

memory by

in the

letter

fixed

their correspondence with the

letters of the sacred

attached to these

of all

tongue and with the numbers

letters.

In this tongue each letter

and number expresses a ternary law, having repercussion

it

the intellectual

the divine world,

and the physical

world,

when

in

its

Just as a finger,

world.

touches the chord of a lyre makes one

note of the scale resound and vibrate, in the

templates

all

same way the

the

virtualities

all

spirit,

of

harmonics

its

which con-

a number, the

voice which utters a letter with the full consciousness of

its

meaning,

summon

forth a

power which

finds its repercussion in the three worlds.

Thus the

number

i,

letter

A,

which corresponds to the

expresses in the divine world, the absolute


;

THE TESTS Being whence emanate world, unity, the source

and in

the

relative

beings,

beings

all

Âąg ;

in the intellectual

and synthesis

physical worldy

of

numbers

man, the summit

by the expansion

who,

of

of his

faculties, raises himself into the concentric spheres

of

the

infinite.

arcanum in

I

The Egyptians represented the

by a white-robed Magian, with

hand and a golden crown on

white robe signified purity

command

and the golden crown, universal light. The novice was far from understanding strange and novel things he heard spectives, however,

unknown

per-

in the presence of those

impassive gravity of the gods.

them, as in a

Behind each of

he caught glimpses of whole

flash,

strings of thoughts

world,

the

all

which looked down on him with the

fine paintings

first

;

;

opened out before him, at the

words of the pastophor,

For the

The

his head.

the sceptre,

;

sceptre

and images suddenly evoked.

time, he suspected the within of the

through the mysterious chain of causes.

Thus, from letter to

letter,

and from number

to

number, the master explained to the pupil the

meaning of the arcana and to the chariot of Osiris, to the flaming star,

Magi.

" Learn

and

what

led

by the

him by

Urania

thunder-struck tower

finally to the

this

Isis

crown of the

crown means," said the

pastophor, " Every will which unites

itself to

God


HERMES

30 to

work

very

justice

and show forth

truth, enters, this

into participation of the divine

life,

power

over beings and things, the eternal recompense of

The neophyte

freed spirits/'

listened to the master

speaking with mingled feelings of

These were the

delight.

and

fear, surprise,

first lights

this faint glimpse of truth

and

of the sanctuary

seemed to him the

dawn of a divine remembrance. The tests, however, were not

When

at an end.

he had finished speaking, the pastophor opened a door leading to another long and narrow vault, at the end of which he heard the crackling of a fiery

" This

furnace.

is

death

!

"

exclaimed the

novice,

looking at his guide with a shudder of

fright.

''

affrights

My

son," repHed the pastophor, " Death

crossed that flame as though roses."

Long

none but abortive natures. it

As he spoke, the gate

were a

ago, I

field

of

closed behind the

candidate, who, on drawing near to the line of fire,

saw that the furnace melted away

optical illusion

interlaced

into an

formed by twigs of resinous wood,

and arranged

in

quincunx order.

footpath, traced through the midst of

it,

A

enabled him

The trial by fire by water. The candidate

to pass rapidly to the far side.

was followed by the

was forced to

by the

trial

cross a lake of stagnant black water,

light of

burning naphtha behind him in the


THE TESTS chamber

of

After

fire.

ducted him,

still

this,

trembling

31

two attendants conwith dread,

to

an

obscure grotto, where nothing could be seen beyond

a soft couch, over which a bronze lamp, hanging

from the vault, cast a mysterious, subdued

Then they dried him and anointed

his

and

left alone,

body with

was clothed

exquisite perfumes, after which he fine linen

light.

with the words

in

" Rest

:

and await the hierophant."

The novice stretched out his tired limbs on the sumptuous covering of his bed. After all these varied emotions, a moment's calm seemed sweet to him. The sacred paintings he had seen, all these strange figures, sphinxes, and caryatids, came back to him in imagination. But why was one of these paintings like a haunting hallucination

?

He

could not dispel the vision of the arcanum X, represented

between

by a wheel suspended on

two

columns.

On

the

one

its

side

axle rises

Hermanubis, the genius of Good, beautiful as a

youth on the threshold of manhood

Typhon, the genius of into the abyss.

sphinx,

Evil, plunges

;

on the other head foremost

Between the two was seated a

on the summit of the wheel, holding a

sword in her claw.

A

vague

seemed to

murmur issue

of

lascivious

music

which

from the depths of the grotto,


HÂŁRMES

p

These were Ught, indefinable

dispelled this image.

sounds,

languishing

sorrowful,

was caught by a metallic

His

strains.

tinkle,

ear

mingled with

the thrilling harmonies of a harp, the strains of a flute,

and panting

sighs

like

a burning breath.

Wrapped

in a

his eyes.

On

his couch,

an intoxicating vision of

dream

of

fire,

the stranger closed

opening them, he perceived close to

A

seductiveness.

life

Nubian woman, clad

and

infernal

in

gauze of

transparent purple, wearing a necklace of amulets

and charms

after the fashion of the priestesses of

the mysteries of Mylitta, stood there gazing at

him, holding in her

hand, a goblet crowned

She was of that Nubian type whose

with roses. intense

left

and intoxicating sensuality concentrates

the powers of the feminine animal cheek-bones, dilated nostrils,

sembling luscious, red

fruit.

brightly through the

dim

leapt to his feet

;

:

projecting

and thick

re-

lips

Her dark eyes light.

all

flashed

The novice had he instinctively

in his surprise

crossed his hands over his breast, not knowing

whether to tremble or

rejoice.

The

slave,

however,

murmured me, handsome

slowly drew near, and with downcast eyes in

low accents

stranger of pain

?

I

:

" Art thou afraid of

bring thee the victor's reward, oblivion

and sorrow, the goblet of

The novice

hesitated

;

happiness.'*

.

.

.

then the Nubian, apparently


THE TESTS overcome with

33

sank down on to the couch

fatigue,

and wrapped the stranger

in

a beseeching, capti-

vating glance, as with a long, moist flame.

be to him

if

he dares to accept the

offer

Woe

and brave

bending over that mouth and drinking in the

her,

intoxication of the

heavy perfumes which

from

Once he touches that

those bronzed shoulders.

hand, and sips from that goblet, he

lost

is

.

.

.

entwined in that burning

rolling over the couch,

embrace.

rise

Then, when his savage desire has been

appeased, the liquid he has drunk plunges him into profound sleep.

On

awaking, he finds himself

alone, tortured with anguish.

The lamp

funereal light over his disordered couch.

In front

him stands a man, the hierophant, who says

of

to

casts a

him

:

"

Thou hast shown thyself victor in tests. Thou hast triumphed over death,

the

first

fire,

and

water, but thou hast not been able to conquer thyself.

of

Thou, who aspirest after the lofty heights

knowledge and of the

the

first

spirit,

hast succumbed to

temptation of the senses, thou hast fallen

The man who is enslaved darkness. Thou hast pre-

into the abyss of matter.

to the senses, lives in

ferred darkness to light, remain therefore in darkness.

I

had warned thee

thou wert exposing

of the dangers to which

thyself.

Now

thou hast saved


HERMES

34

thy

life,

but

thy

lost

Under penalty

liberty.

of

death, thou shalt remain a slave of the temple." If,

on the other hand, the candidate had dashed

the goblet to the ground and thrust aside the temptress, twelve attendants,

armed with

torches,

surrounded him and led him away in triumph into the sanctuary of

Isis,

where a

full

assembly of

magi, arranged in a semicircle, awaited him.

At

the other end of the temple, which was splendidly illuminated, he perceived the colossal statue of Isis in

molten metal, a golden rose on her breast and

crowned with a diadem of seven rays.

arms she held her son Horus.

In her

There before the

goddess, the hierophant, clad in purple,

received

the new-comer, who, under the most terrible of penalties,

swore the oath of silence and submission.

Thereupon, he greeted him, in the name of the whole assembly, as a brother and a future

initiate.

Before

the august, calm-visaged masters, the disciple of Isis

believed himself to be in the presence of the

gods.

Nobler and greater than ever before, he

entered for the

first

time into the sphere of truth.


CHAPTER OSIRIS.

And

DEATH AND RESURRECTION

yet he had reached only the threshold of

truth, for

now

long years of study and apprentice-

ship were to begin. Isis

IV

Before rising to the celestial

he must know the

terrestrial Isis

and become

learned in physical and androgenic science.

His

time was spent in meditation within his

the

cell,

study of hieroglyphs in the halls and courts of the

immense temple, and the

He

lessons of the masters.

learned the science of minerals and plants, the

history of tecture,

mankind and

of nations, medicine, archi-

and sacred music.

This long apprentice-

ship was to end not only in knowing, but in becoming.

He was sages

to gain strength

by

renunciation.

of the past believed that

man came

possession of truth only on condition that

it

The into

became

a part of his inmost being, a spontaneous act of the soul.

In this profound task of assimilation,

however, the pupil was

gave him no help coldness

and

;

left

to himself.

often did he

indifference. 33

His masters

wonder at

Attentive

their

supervision


!

HERMES

36

was kept over him, he was bound down to observe inflexible rules, absolute obedience

him, but no revelation was

made

was exacted to

of

him beyond

The only reply he received to his " Wait and work." questionings was

certain limits.

uneasy

:

Then followed sudden regret,

and

and

bitter

to him.

Had

feelings of revolt

frightful suspicions

came

he become the slave of audacious impostors or of black magicians who, for some infamous purpose or other, were dominating his will

taken to

him

flight

Truth had

and the very gods were forsaking

he was alone, a prisoner

;

?

the temple.

in

Truth had appeared to him

in the

which now said to him

''I

am Doubt

its

impassive

the

winged

head and

beast,

with

claws,

lion's

:

form of a sphinx,

him

carried

!

And

''

woman's

off

to

the

burning sand of the desert, there to tear and rend him.

These nightmares were followed by hours of divine calm

and

foresight, during

which he under-

stood the symbolical meaning of the tests he had

gone through on entering the temple.

For, alas

the gloomy well into which he had almost fallen

was not so black truth

;

the

fire

as the abyss of unfathomable

he had passed through was

dreadful than the passions which flesh

;

and the murky,

still

consumed

ice-cold water into

less

his

which


OSIRIS.

DEATH AND RESURRECTION

he had had to plunge was

37

than the doubt

less cold

into which, in its evil hours, his spirit sank

and

was swamped. In one of the halls of the temple, he saw arranged

two rows the sacred paintings which had been explained to him as representing the twenty-two in

arcana, on the night of the tests. of which he

was permitted

to obtain a glimpse

on the very threshold of occult columns of theology

science,

had

were the

though to understand them,

;

he must pass through the whole of the masters

These arcana,

initiation.

them again

since mentioned

him he was permitted only and meditate on these a long, solitary hour.

down

to walk

;

None to

the hall

Here he spent many

signs.

By means

of these figures,

chaste as light and grave as eternity, the truth

that can neither be seen nor into the heart of the neophyte.

pany

of these silent

slowly filtered

felt

In the mute com-

and nameless

divinities,

one of

whom

of

he began to experience something new

life,

first,

each

seemed to preside over some sphere :

at

a descent to the very depths of his being, then

a kind of detachment from the world which caused

him

to soar

above

terrestrial objects.

would ask one of the magi

:

" Shall

At times he I

some day

be permitted to scent the rose of Isis and see the " That does The reply was light of Osiris ? " :


38

HERMES

not depend on us.

Truth

in oneself or not found at

not given

is

We

all.

it is

;

found

cannot make an

Long

adept of thee, thou must become one thyself.

does the lotus press upwards beneath the surface of the stream, before spreading out

petals to the

Hasten not the unfolding of the divine

light.

flower.

If it is to

come,

season.

Work and

pray."

With

feelings of

disciple

He

its

it

will

come

in its

due

mingled sadness and joy, the

returned to his studies and meditations.

experienced the austere though tender charm

of that solitude through which passes, as

a breath of the being of beings.

and years passed by. tion,

He

felt

it

were,

Thus months

a slow transforma-

a complete metamorphosis taking place in

himself.

The

passions which

vanished

like

shadows, and the thoughts which

had beset

his

youth

now surrounded him smiled on him like immortal What he felt from time to time was the friends. engulfing of his terrestrial ego and the birth of a

purer and more ethereal one.

he would

down Then all

fling himself

closed sanctuary.

even regret

left

With such

feelings

before the steps of the desire

and

revolt,

and

him, and there was only an absolute

yielding of his soul to the gods, a complete sur-

render to truth. " since my soul

" Oh, is

Isis

nothing

!

''

else

he said in his prayer, than a tear of thine


DEATH AND RESURRECTION

OSIRIS. ^yes,

grant that

souls,

and

that,

may

it

when

fume ascending to the

like

fall

I die, I

thee.

I

dew on

39

other

may feel their peram now ready for

sacrifice.*'

After one of these silent prayers, the disciple,

a state of semi-ecstasy, saw the hierophant,

in

warm

enveloped in the

of the setting sun,

light

standing by his side, like a vision that had issued

The master seemed

from the ground.

read

to

every single thought of the disciple, to penetrate the entire

"

My

drama

of his inner

life.

son," he said, " the hour draws nigh

when

truth shall be revealed to thee.

Already hast thou

by descending into own nature, and finding divine

the depths of thy

divined

it

life

Thou

therein.

art about to enter into the mighty, ineffable

munion

of the initiates,

for

com-

thou art worthy by

thy purity of heart, thy love of truth and power

No

abnegation.

of

one,

however,

the

crosses

threshold of Osiris, without passing through death

and

We

resurrection.

the crypt.

will

accompany thee

into

Fear not, for thou art already one of

our brethren."

At the with

torches

new adept pillars

twilight in

hour,

their

the

hands,

priests

of

accompanied

into a low crypt supported

which

themselves

Osiris,

rested

on

by

the four

statues

of


HERMES

40

In one corner was an open marble

the sphinx. sarcophagus.^

"

No man,"

said the hierophant, " escapes death

every living soul

is

destined to resurrection.

;

The

adept passes living through the tomb, and enters in this life into the light of Osiris.

fore

lie

Do thou

and await the

in this coffin

light.

there-

This,

night thou shalt cross the portals of Dread and attain to the threshold of Mastership."

The adept placed himself in the open sarcophagus, the hierophant stretched out his hand to bless him, and the procession the vault. still

A

of the initiates silently quitted

small lamp, placed on the ground,

casts a flickering light over the four statues of

the sphinx which support the stout columns of the crypt.

now

A

heard.

low, muffled chorus of deep voices

Whence comes

it ?

is

It is the funeral

1 Archaeologists have, long ago, seen in the sarcophagus of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh, the tomb of King Sesostris, if we may believe Herodotus, who was not an initiate, and to whom the Egyptian priests scarcely entrusted anything else than amusing popular tales. The kings of Egypt, however, had their tombs elsewhere. The strange inner structure of the pyramid proves that it must have been used in the initiation ceremonies and secret practices of the priests of Osiris. In it are found the Well of Truth we have described, the ascending staircase, The so-called Chamber of the King, the hall of the arcana. which contains the sarcophagus, was the one into which the adept was led on the eve of his great initiation. The same arrangements were reproduced in the large temples of C entral .

and Upper Egypt.

.

.


DEATH AND RESURRECTION

OSIRIS, chant

!

.

Now

.

.

and

for the last time

adept

away, the lamp

dies

it

faUing on him,

sepulchre,

He

every limb.

His

life

and

and he enters

What

is

chill

him

and

it

diffuse.

body melting

fluid part of his being is released

into a state of ecstasy.

.

.

.

that shining spot in the distance, scarcely

draws near,

as

the

in successive

perceptible through the black darkness

whose

all

his earthly con-

his

feels

through

into a lethargic

more vague and

proportion as he

away, the etheric,

falls

passes before

sciousness becomes ever in

a

casts

scenes, like something unreal,

But

The

the cold of the

;

passes gradually through

painful sensations of death, condition.

flickers

dies out completely.

alone in the darkness

is

41

increases in size

it

five rays

have

all

?

As he

and becomes a

star,

the colours of the rainbow

sends out into the blackness discharges of

electric or

magnetic

light.

Now

attracts

him by the whiteness

centre.

Is it the

produced

becomes

this visible

Or

;

;

and

is it

the portent of celestial

hope and immortality a bud opens

in its place

petals in the night, a flower that

is

like

a white rose

;

?

its

not of matter,

though sensitive and endowed with a opens before him

which now

the invisible

truth, the blazing star of It disappears

of its incandescent

magic of the masters which has

vision ?

a sun which

it is

soul.

it

For

it

spreads out


HERMES

42 petals

its

leaves,

come over its living blazing calyx grow redder than ever.

and he

and

its

sees a quiver

Is it the flower of Isis, the

which confines Love in

away

like

being

feels

mystic Rose of Wisdom

its

heart

?

Now

Then the

a cloud of perfumes.

it

fades

ecstatic

a warm, caressing breath flow over

it.

After assuming strange forms, the cloud condenses

and becomes a human the

the occult sanctuary, though younger,

Isis of

A

smiling and luminous. spirals

transparent veil twists in

around her and her body shines through

In her hand she holds a papyrus

draws near, leans over the

tomb and says sister, life.

form of a woman,

figure, the

thy divine

Some

to

him

soul,

:

and

scroll.

am

Softly she

lying in his

initiate

"I

it.

thy invisible

this is the

book of thy

of the pages are filled with records of

thy past existences, the blank pages are for thy

Some day, I will unroll them all Thou knowest me now, call me and

future lives.

before thee. I will

come

*' !

While she speaks, a ray of tender

love darts forth from her eyes.

presence of

my

... Oh

!

Thou

spiritual self, ineffable promise of

the divine, marvellous blending into the impalpable

beyond

!

.

.

And now effaced.

adept

A

feels

.

everything breaks up, the vision frightful rending takes place,

is

and the

himself precipitated into his body as


DEATH AND RESURRECTION

OSIRIS.

He

into a corpse.

lethargy

a

weight

terrible

awakes

.

returns to the state of conscious

seem to hold down

iron bands

;

.

.

and

43

crushes

into

his

his limbs

brain

;

;

he

standing before him the

finds

by the magi.

hierophant, accompanied

They

sur-

round him, give him a cordial to drink, and he rises to his feet.

"Thou prophet.

now returned to life,'* Come and celebrate with us

hast

said

"

the love-

the

feast of the initiates

and

the Ught of Osiris.

For henceforth, thou art one

tell

us of thy voyage into

of us."

Let us

now

transport ourselves along with the

hierophant and the newly-appointed initiate on to the observatory of the temple, in the of of

an Egyptian night.

It

warm splendour

was there that the

new adept him the vision

the temple gave the

revelation,

relating to

chief

the mighty of

Hermes.

This vision was written on no papyrus, but marked in symbolical signs

known

on the

to the prophet

stelas of the secret crypt,

alone.

Its

meaning was

transmitted orally from pontiff to pontiff. '* Listen," said the hierophant, " this

vision

contains the eternal history of the world and the circle of things.'*


CHAPTER V THE VISION OF HERMES^

One

day, Hermes, after reflecting on the origin of

things, of his

fell

body

benumbed,

A

asleep.

dull torpor took possession

but in proportion as the latter grew

;

Then

ascended into space.

his spirit

an immense being, of indeterminate form, seemed to call

" "

him by name.

Who I am

art

thou

?

" said the terrified Hermes.

Osiris, the sovereign Intelligence

able to unveil

What

things.

all

desirest

" To behold the source of beings,

O

who

thou

?

is

"

divine Osiris,

and to know God.'* "

Thou

Shalt be satisfied.''

Immediately Hermes delicious light.

In

ravishing forms of

its

all

felt

himself plunged in a

pellucid billows passed the

beings.

Suddenly, a terrifying

The Vision of Hermes is found at the beginning of the books Hermes Trismegistus, under the name of Poimandres. The ancient Egyptian tradition has come down to us only in a I have attempted to reslightly changed Alexandrian form. 1

of

constitute this important fragment of Hermetic doctrine in the sense of the lofty initiation and esoteric synthesis it represents. 44


THE

VISION OF

HERMES

45

encircling darkness descended

upon him.

Hermes

was

in a

humid

chaos, filled with

smoke and with

Then a voice rose from the abyss, the cry of light. At once a quick-leaping flame darted forth from the humid depths, reaching to the ethereal heights. Hermes ascended with it, and found himself again in the expanse of space. a heavy, rumbling sound.

Order began to clear up chaos in the abyss

above

of constellations spread

his

;

choruses

head and

the

voice of light filled infinity.

" Dost thou understand what thou hast seen

bound down in and suspended between earth and sky.

said Osiris to Hermes,

his

?

"

dream

" No," said Hermes.

"

Thou

exists is

wilt

from

now learn.

Thou hast just seen what The light thou didst first see

all eternity.

the divine intelligence which contains

potentiality, enclosing the

models of

all

all

things in

beings.

The

darkness in which thou wast afterwards plunged the material world on which the

But the

fire

the depths,

men

is

of earth live.

thou didst behold shooting forth from

is

the divine Word.

God

is

the Father,

Word is the son, and their union is Life." " What marvellous sense has opened out to I no longer see with the me ? " asked Hermes. the

''

eyes of the body, but with those of the spirit.

has that come to pass

?

"

How


HERMES

46 ii

the

Child of dust," replied Osiris, "it

Word is

and

acts

is

That

in thee.

the

Word

creative utterance

in thee

is

which hears,

the sacred

itself,

because sees,

the

fire,

" !

" Since things are so," said Heimes, " grant that I

may

see the light of the worlds

from which

man comes and

the path of souls

;

to which he returns."

"

Be it done according to thy desire." Hermes became heavier than a stone and through space the

summit

like

of

Finally he reached

a meteorite.

a mountain.

It

was

was gloomy and deserted, and

earth

seemed as heavy as

fell

the

night, his

limbs

iron.

" Raise thine eyes and look

!

" said the voice of

Osiris.

Then Hermes saw a wonderful

sight.

The starry

heavens, stretching through infinite space, enveloped

him with seven luminous spheres. In one glance, Hermes saw the seven heavens stretching above his head, tier upon tier, like seven transparent and concentric globes, the sidereal centre of which he

now

occupied.

of the last.

The Milky

Way

light.

girdle

In each sphere there rolled a planet

accompanied by a Genius of

and

formed the

different form, sign,

Whilst Hermes, dazzled by the sight,

was contemplating their wide-spread efflorescence and majestic movements, the voice said to him ;


THE " Look,

VISION OF

HERMES

47

Thou seest the seven spheres of all life. Through them is accomplished the fall and ascent of souls. The seven Genii are the seven rays of the Word-Light. Each of them commands one sphere of the Spirit, one phase of the life of souls. The one nearest to thee

listen,

and understand.

the Genius of the Moon, with his disquieting

is

He

smile and crown of silver sickle.

and deaths,

births

draws them into

sets free souls

from bodies and

Above him,

his ray.

presides over

pale Mercury

points out the path to ascending or descending souls with his caduceus,

Higher

ledge.

of Love, in

shining Venus holds the mirror

Above

loftier height,

holds

Know-

her, the

Genius of the Sim

triumphal torch of eternal Beauty.

raises the

Justice.

all

which souls forget and recognise them-

selves in turn.

a yet

still,

which contains

At

Mars brandishes the sword of

Enthroned on the azure sphere, Jupiter

the

sceptre

of

supreme power,

At

the

boundaries

which

is

the

divine

Intelligence.

world,

beneath the signs of the Zodiac, Saturn

bears the globe of universal wisdom.''

of

^

unnecessary to state that these Gods bore other names Egyptian tongue. The seven cosmogonic Gods, however, correspond with one another in all m3rthologies, in meaning and attributes. They have their common root in the ancient esoteric tradition. As the western tradition has adopted the Latin names, we keep to them for greater clearness. *

It is

in the


HERMES

48

" I see," said Hermes; " the seven regions which

comprise the visible and invisible world

the seven ra}^ of the Word-Light, of the one

who

traverses

rays.

Still,

through

all

" Dost

seed

fall

O

these worlds

thou

see,"

"

?

said

Osiris,

"a

luminous

Way

from the regions of the Milky

live like faint

gay and

free

happiness.

God

them and governs them by these master, how does mankind journey

the seventh sphere

They

see

I

;

souls.

vapours in the region of Saturn,

from

On

These are germs of

?

into

knowing not

care,

falling

from

sphere

their

to

own

sphere,

however, they put on increasingly heavier envelopes. In each incarnation they acquire a

new

corporeal

sense, in

harmony with the surroundings

they are

living.

Their vital energy increases, but

in proportion as

they enter into denser bodies they

lose the

memory

effected

the

fall

divine Ether.

of their celestial origin. of

souls

in

which

Thus

is

which come from the

Ever more and more captivated by

matter and intoxicated by selves like a rain of

fire,

life,

they

fling

them-

with quiverings of volup-

tuous delight, through the regions of Grief, Love,

and Death,

right into their earthly prison

thou thyself lamentest, held down by the of the earth,

and where divine

life

where

fiery centre

appears to thee

nothing more than an empty dream."


THE

HERMES

VISION OF

" Can souls die

?

" asked Hermes.

" Yes," replied the voice of Osiris, " in the fatal descent.

heaven, and

its

memory of its

49

The

journey

soul

a

is

many

perish

the daughter of

is

test.

If it loses the

origin, in its unbridled love of matter,

the divine spark which was in

have become more

and which might

than a

brilliant

the ethereal region, a

it

lifeless

star, returns to

atom, and the soul

disaggregates in the vortex of gross elements."

Hermes shuddered at these words, for a raging tempest enveloped him in a black mist. The seven spheres disappeared beneath dense vapours.

In

them he saw human spectres, uttering strange cries, carried off and torn by phantoms of monsters and animals, amidst nameless groans and blasphemies.

" Such

is

" of souls

the destiny," said Osiris,

irremediably base and

Their torture finishes

evil.

only with their destruction, which includes the loss

of all consciousness.

The vapours

are

now

dispersing, the seven spheres reappear beneath the

firmament.

swarm

.

Look on

this side.

of souls trying to

lunar regions

?

Some

Do you

see this

mount once more

to the

are beaten back to earth like

eddies of birds beneath the might of the tempest.

The

rest

with mighty wings reach the upper sphere,

which draws them with

have come to

it

this sphere,

as

it

rotates.

Once they

they recover their vision


HERMES

50 of divine things.

This time, however, they are not

content to reflect them in the dream of a powerless

happiness

;

they become impregnated thereby with

the lucidity of a grief-enlightened consciousness, the energy of a will acquired through struggle and

They become luminous, for they possess the divine in themselves and radiate it in their acts. Strengthen therefore thy soul, O Hermes calm thy darkened mind by contemplating these distant

strife.

!

flights of souls

which mount the seven spheres and

are scattered about therein like sheaves of sparks.

Thou

also canst follow

them, but a strong

will

it

Look how they swarm and form into divine choruses. Each places itself beneath its

needs to

rise.

favourite Genius. solar region

;

Some ascend

The most

the most powerful rise to Saturn. to

the

amidst the powers.

Father,

Splendour

!

' :

powers themselves

For where everything ends,

everything eternally begins

say together

beautiful dwell in the

;

and the seven spheres

Wisdom Love

Knowledge

!

!

!

Justice

Immortality

" This," said the hierophant, "

is

!

*

!

Beauty

!

"

what ancient

Hermes saw and what his successors have handed down to us. The words of the wise are like the seven notes of the lyre which contain

all

music,

along with the numbers and the laws of the universe.

The

vision of

Hermes resembles the

starry heaven.


THE

HERMES

VISION OF

51

whose unfathomable depths are strewn with conFor the child

stellations.

this is

nothing more than

a gold-studded vault, for the sage

it is

boundless

space in which worlds revolve, with their wonderful

rhythms and cadences.

This vision contains the

and magic keys.

eternal numbers, evoking signs

The more thou leamest stand

it,

for the

the farther thou shalt see

same organic law governs

The prophet

of the temple

He

sacred text.

the Word-Light condition,

in its

represents

and matter

spirit, soul,

life.

all

extend,

worlds."

commented on the

divinity in

perfect balance.

which

and

its limits

explained that the doctrine of

triple nature, ;

and under-

to contemplate

is

the static

He showed

its

at once intelligence, force,

and body

;

light,

word,

Essence, manifestation, and substance are

three terms which take each other for granted.

Their union constitutes the divine and intellectual principle par excellence, the law of the ternary unity

which governs creation from above downwards.

Having thus

led his disciple to the ideal centre

of the universe, the generating principle of Being,

the master spread in

him abroad

a multiple efflorescence.

in time

and space

For the second part

of

the vision represents divinity in the dynamic condition, i.e. in active evolution

visible

and

;

in other terms, the

invisible universe, the living heavens.


HERMES

$2

The seven spheres attached

to the seven planets

Âť

symbolise seven principles, seven different states of matter

each

and

man and

spirit,

seven different worlds which

each humanity are forced to

.pass

through in their evolution across A solar system. or the seven cosmogonic Gods

The seven Genii

signify the superior, directing spirits of all spheres,

the offspring themselves of inevitable evolution.

To an

initiate

of old, therefore, each great

was the sjmibol and patron of legions of which reproduced

his type in

and which, from

their

spirits

varieties,

sphere, could exercise

mankind and

their action over

The seven Genii

own

a thousand

God

terrestrial things.

of the vision of

Hermes

are the

seven Devas of India, the seven Amshapands of Persia,

the seven great Angels of Chaldaea, the

seven Sephiroths angels

of

the

^

of the Kabbala, the seven Arch-

Christian

septenary which

enfolds

Apocalypse. the

universe

The great does

vibrate in the seven colours of the rainbow

seven notes of the scale, only itself in

it

;

not

and the

also manifests

the constitution of man, which

is triple

in

essence, but sevenfold in its evolution.^ There are ten Sephiroths in the Kabbala. The first three represent the divine ternary, the seven others the evolution of the universe. ^ will here give the Egyptian terms of this septenary Chat, material body ; constitution of man, found in the Kabbala Anch, vital force ; Kan, etheric double or astral body ; Hati, 1

We

:


THE

VISION OF

HERMES

53

" Thus," said the hierophant in conclusion, " thou hast reached the very threshold of the great arcanum.

The divine life has appeared to thee beneath the phantoms of reaUty. Hermes has unfolded to thee the invisible heavens, the light of Osiris, the hidden

God souls

of the universe

who

breathes in millions of

and animates thereby the wandering globes

and working

bodies.

now

It is

thine to direct thy

path and choose the road leading to the pure Henceforth dost thou belong

Spirit.

have been brought back from death

to those

Remember

to life.

that there are two main keys to knowledge. is

the

things

first ;

"

:

The without

the small

is

is

;

One.

This

the within of there

is

only

In the divine

nothing either great or small." the second : " Men are mortal gods

economy, there this is

like

like the large

one law and he who works

And

is

who

is

and gods are immortal men."

Happy

man

the

who understands these words, for he holds the key Remember that the law of mystery to all things. veils

the great

revealed animal soul

only

;

divine spirit ; of the Greeks.

truth.

to

Total knowledge can be

our brethren

Bai, rational soul correspond to the

;

who have gone .

Cheyhi, spiritual soul

dalfiores, ^pu>4s

;

Kou,

or ^ux^* d'XP^^oi

The development of these fundamental ideas of the esoteric teaching will be found in the book of Orpheus, and more especially in that of Pythagoras,


HERMES

54

through the same

be measured according to intelligence veiled from the feeble,

whom

concealed from the wicked, seizing only its fragments,

weapons of destruction.

and

let

will

it

it

;

must be

would madden, and

who

capable of

are

which they would turn

into

it

Truth must

trials as ourselves.

Keep

it

in

thy heart

Knowledge

speak through thy work.

be thy might, faith thy sword, and silence thy

armour that cannot be broken."

The

revelations of the prophet of

which opened out to the new

Ammon-Ra,

initiate

such vast

horizons over himself and over the universe, doubtless

produced a profound impression, when uttered

from the observatory of a Theban temple, clear

calm of an Egyptian night.

The

in the

pylons, the

white roofs and terraces of the temples lay asleep at his feet between the dark clusters of nopals

Away

and

in the distance

were large

monolithic shrines, colossal statues of

the gods,

tamarind

trees.

seated like incorruptible judges on their silent lake.

Three pyramids, geometrical figures of the tetragram

and

of the sacred septenary, could be dimly seen

on the horizon,

their triangles clearly outlined in

The unfathomable firmament was studded with stars. With what a strange gaze the light grey

air.

he looked at those constellations which were depicted to

him

as future dwellings

!

When

finally the gold-


;

THE

VISION OF moon

tipped barque of the

rose

mirror of the Nile which died like

HERMES

55

above the dark

away on the

horizon,

a long bluish serpent, the neophyte believed

he saw the barque of of souls which

carries off

it

He remembered

Osiris.

the meaning of to his

Isis floating

mind

all

the

over the river

towards the sun of

Book

of the

the symbols was

Dead, and

now

unveiled

what he had seen and learned

after

he might believe himself to be in the crepuscular

kingdom

of the Amenti, the mysterious interregnum

between the earthly and the heavenly the departed,

who

are at

first

life,

where

without eyes and

power of utterance, by degrees regain sight and voice.

He

too was about to undertake the great

journey, the journey of the infinite, through worlds

Hermes had already absolved him and judged him to be worthy. He had given him " One only the explanation of the great enigma soul, the great soul of the All, by dividing itself and

existences.

:

out, has given birth to all the souls that struggle

throughout the universe." secret,

Armed with

he entered the barque of

into the ether,

The* broad

it

rays

of

a far-spreading dawn were azure

and the choir

Akhimou-Sekou,

Rising aloft

floated in the interstellar regions.

already piercing the horizons,

Isis.

the mighty

veils

of the celestial

of the glorious spirits, the

who have

attained

to

eternal


!

HERMES

56

was

repose,

chanting

Sun

of spirits

tion.

They

" Rise,

:

Ra Hermakouti,

Those in thy barque are in exalta-

!

exclamations in the barque of

raise

The great

millions of years.

divine cycle overflows

with joy when glorifying the mighty sacred barque. Rejoicing

is

taking place in the mysterious chapel.

Ammon-Ra Sim " And the Rise,

Hermakouti, thou self-creating

!

proudly

replied

initiate

have attained the country of truth and I rise

:

" I

justification.

from the dead as a living God, and shine

forth in the choir of the

Gods who dwell

in heaven,

for I belong to their race."

Such audacious thoughts and hopes might haunt the spirit of the adept during the night following

The

the mystic ceremony of resurrection.

following

morning, in the avenues of the temple, beneath the

bUnding

light,

that night seemed to

than a dream forget

and

.

.

.

.

that

invisible

was

raised,

though how impossible to

.

voyage into the intangible

first

Once again he read the

!

on the statue of hath raised."

.

Isis

:

All the

but only to

up on the earth

of

"

My

veil

fall

But

of the veil

back again, and he woke

tombs.

Ah, how !

had caught a

far

he was

For the voyage

the barque of millions of years is

at least he

inscription

no mortal hand

same a comer

from the goal he had dreamed of

on

him no more

a long one

faint glimpse of his


THE

VISION OF

HERMES

Even though

final destination.

57

his vision of the

other world were only a dream, a childish outline of his imagination,

he doubt that other consciousness he

earth, could

had

felt

being born in him, that mysterious double,

that celestial ego which astral

obscured by the mists of

still

beauty

in his sleep

like

?

had appeared

to

him

in its

a living form and spoken to him

Was

this

a

was

sister-soul,

his

it

Genius, or only a reflection of his inmost spirit, a vision of his future being dimly foreshadowed

wonder and a mystery

and

if

!

Surely

it

that soul was only his own,

one.

What would he

he to

live millions of years

was a it

A

?

reality,

was the true

not do to recover

it ?

Were

he would never forget

that divine hour in which he had seen his other self,

so pure

The

and

initiation

consecrated

as

radiant.^

was at an end, and the adept priest

of

Osiris.

If

he was an

Egyptian, he remained attached to the temple

;

if

a foreigner, he was permitted, from time to time, to return to his

own

country, therein to establish

the worship of Isis or to accomplish a mission. In the Egyptian teachings, man was considered in this life to have consciousness only of the animal and the rational soul, The higher part of his being, the spiritual called hatt and bat. soul and the divine being, cheyhi and kou, exist in him as un1

conscious germs and develop after this himself an Osiris:

life,

when he becomes


HERMES

58

Before leaving, however, he swore a formidable

oath that he would maintain absolute silence regard-

Never would he

ing the secrets of the temple.

betray to a single person what he had seen or heard, never would he reveal the doctrine of Osiris

except under the triple veil of the mythological

Were he to violate this oath, sudden death would come to him, sooner Silence, or later, however far away he might be. however, had become the buckler of his might. symbols or of the mysteries.

On

returning to

the shores

of

Ionia,

to

the

turbulent town in which he formerly lived, amidst that multitude of men, a prey to

who

mad

passions,

exist like fools in their ignorance of themselves,

his thoughts

often flew back to

pyramids, to the temple of

dream

of the crypt

Egypt and the

Ammon-Ra.

came back

to

Then the memory. And

just as the lotus, in that distant land, spreads out

petals

its

on the waves of the

vision floated this

life.

and

it

his

above the slimy, turbulent stream of

At chosen hours, he would hear

was the voice

of Hght.

"

The soul is a veiled light. flickers and dies out, but when

holy

:

oil of love, it

lamp.'*

its

voice,

Arousing throughout

being the strains of an inner music,

him it

Nile, so this white

it

said to

When neglected, it is

fed with the

shines forth like an immortal


PLATO (THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS)


;

Men have called Love Eros, because he has wings the Gods have called him Pteros, because he has the virtue of giving ;

wings. Plato

C^The Banquet").

In heaven, to learn

On

earth, it

Happy he who

He knows

is

is to see to remember.

has passed through the Mysteries the origin and the end of Ufe.

;

Pindar.


PLATO After attempting

revive

to

Pythagoras the

in

greatest of the initiates of Greece,

him the primordial and

and

miiversal basis of religious

we might dispense with who confined himself to

philosophical truth,

any mention

of

Plato,

giving this truth a

shall

more imaginative and popular

This, however,

form.

stop for a

and through

the very reason

is

moment

why we

to consider the noble

Athenian philosopher. Yes, there religions

is

a mother-doctrine, a synthesis of

and philosophies.

It develops

and deepens

as the ages roll along, but its foundation

remain the same.

We

lines of this doctrine,

we have its

still

different

is

that sufiicient

No

;

show the providential reasons for forms, according to race and time. chain of the great initiates,

the real initiators of humanity.

all

?

to

the might of each of that of

have gone over the main

but

We must re-establish the who were

and centre

them

will

Then,

be multiplied by,

the rest, and the unity of truth will

appear in the very diversity of 6x

its

expression.


PLATO

62

Like everything in nature,

dawn, the

Such

is

earths

full

Greece has had her

blaze of her sun, and her decline.

the law of days, of men, and nations, of

and heavens.

Orpheus

dawn, Pythagoras the

is

initiate of the full daylight,

and Plato that of the setting sun of glowing purple

the initiate of the

of Greece, a setting

which becomes the rose of a new

dawn, the dawn of humanity.

Plato follows Pytha-

goras, just as the torch-bearer followed the great

hierophant in the mysteries of Eleusis.

we

shall

now

With him

travel once more, along a fresh path,

through the avenues of the sanctuary, right to the heart of the temple,

there to behold the great

arcanum. Before proceeding to Eleusis, however, listen for

a

moment

let

us

to our guide, the divine Plato.

Let him show us his

own

natal horizon, relate to

us the story of his soul, and lead us to the feet of his

beloved master.


CHAPTER

I

THE YOUTH OF PLATO AND THE DEATH OF SOCRATES Plato was born

in Athens,

that city of beauty

and humanity.

His youthful vision encountered

no obstacle or

limit.

Attica,

exposed to every like the

prow

over the cycle of

isles,

wind; projects into the ^Egean Sea, of a vessel,

and queens

it

lying there like white sirens on the dark blue waves.

He grew up

at the feet of the Acropolis, beneath

the guardianship of Pallas Athena, in that wide plain enclosed within violet mountains

and enve-

loped in a luminous azure, a plain situated between

marble-flanked Pentelichus, pine-crested Hymettus, the sweet-smelling

bay

home

of bees,

and the peaceful

of Eleusis.

Park and

troubled, in contrast,

was the

political

horizon during Plato's childhood and youth.

This

was the period of that implacable Peloponnesian war, the fratricidal struggle between Athens and

The

Sparta which led to the overthrow of Greece.

mighty days of the Medic wars had vanished Sims of Marathon and Salamis had 63

set.

;

the

The year


PLATO

64 of

birth

Plato's

marked that

(429 B.C.)

of

the

death of Pericles, the greatest statesman of Greece,

and as able

as upright as Aristides

as Themistocles,

the most perfect representative of Hellenic tion,

civilisa-

capable of swaying and guiding that turbulent

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;an ardent patriot, demi-godâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;in the midst of a

democracy

Plato's

though calm as a popular upheaval.

mother must have related to her son a

scene at which she had certainly been present, two years before the birth of the future philosopher.

The Spartans had invaded Attica Athens, whose national existence was already threatened, had ;

struggled a whole winter, Pericles being the soul

In the course of that gloomy year,

of its defence.

an imposing ceremony took place at the Ceramicus.

The

the warriors

coffins of

who had

died for their

country were placed on funeral chariots, and the people

summoned

to the

monumental tomb destined

This mausoleum seemed to be the

to receive them.

magnificent though sinister symbol of the

tomb

Greece was digging for herself, in her criminal struggle.

It

was then that

Pericles

pronounced

the finest speech antiquity has preserved for us.

Thucydides transcribed as brass, like

it

on

his tablets, as enduring

and the following sentence shines forth

a shield on the pediment of a temple

whole universe

is

the

tomb

:

" The

of heroes, not columns


PLATO AND SOCRATES covered with pompous inscriptions." sentiment, do

we not

sciousness of Greece

But when ancient

and

of her

her

in

In such a

see breathing the very con-

immortaUty

what remained

Pericles died,

Greece

65

men

of

action

Athens, the discord of a demagogy at bay

?

alive of

Inside

? ;

outside,

the Lacedaemonian invasion ever at the gates, war

by land and sea, and all the time the gold of the King of Persia circulating hke a corrupting poison in the hands of the tribunes and magistrates. Alcibiades had replaced Pericles in popular favour. This type of the gilded youth of Athens had become the

man

Rash

of the hour.

politician

and seductive

intriguer as he was, he led his country to ruin,

with a smile on his carefully, for later

lips.

Plato had observed

on he gave a masterly psycho-

logical description of his character.

the

mad

desire for

him

power which

He compared

filled

the soul of

Alcibiades to a large-winged hornet-drone, " round

which the passions, crowned with

flowers,

perfumed

with essences and intoxicated with wine and aU those

unbridled pleasures which

train,

come buzzing, nourishing and

and

finally

Then

arming

it

in

their

rearing

it,

with the spur of ambition.

this tyrant of the soul,

escort, stirs

follow

about furiously

;

with madness as his if

he finds about him

honest thoughts and sentiments

still

capable of


PLATO

66 feeling

imtil

and

shame, he drives them away and

he has cleansed the soul of

filled it

all

kills

them,

temperance

with the madness he has brought/*

So we see that the sky of Athens was considerably clouded during the youth of Plato. twenty-five, he

At the age

was present at the capture

of

Athens

by the Spartans, after the disastrous naval battle iEgospotami. Then he witnessed the entrance Lysander into

his native town, indicating the

Athenian independence.

of

He saw

of

of of

end

the long walls

by Themistocles thrown down to the sound of festival music, and the enemy literally dancing in triumph over the ruins of his country. Then came

built

the Thirty Tyrants and their proscriptions.

These sights saddened the youthful soul of Plato,

though they could not unsettle clear

it,

for it

was

as

and open as the vault of heaven above the

Acropolis.

was a

Plato

tall,

broad-shouldered

young man, grave and reserved, scarcely ever

when he did open

speaking, though

his

mouth,

an exquisite, charming gentleness seemed to characterise his words.

extravagant in him.

There was nothing striking or His various aptitudes were

concealed, as though they

had dissolved

into the

harmony of his being. The serious bent of mind was hidden by a winged. grace and natural

higher his

modesty,

whilst

an

almost

feminine

tenderness


PLATO AND SOCRATES

67

served to veil the firmness of his character.

him, virtue clothed

itself

with an ingenuous

with a smile and pleasure

chastity.

But what formed

the dominant, the extraordinary, acteristic of this soul it

In

was the

and unique char-

fact that, at birth,

seemed to have concluded a mysterious pact with

Only things that were eternal seemed

Eternity.

living in the depths of his great eyes, other things

passed by like unsubstantial forms in a profound

Behind the

mirror.

visible,

changing,

imperfect

forms of the world and of the beings in

appeared to him the

invisible, perfect

shining forth, of these sees

same

forms eternally

beings, which the spirit

and which are the eternal models

And

we

so

there

it,

of the others.

see that the youthful Plato, without

formulating his

doctrine

or

even knowing that

some day he would be a philosopher, was already conscious of the divine reality of the Ideal and of its

omnipresence.

As he saw the women, the

funeral chariots, the armies ing, his looks

to ask

:

"

?

They

believe they are

Why

cannot

which

born,

to

can

I

bom

and the mournelse

do they weep, why do they

are not. is

fetes

seemed to behold something

Why

shouts of joy

and

I

and yet they

?

Wherefore

love nothing but the Invisible, which dies,

raise

attach myself to that

that which dies

and which never

and

is

but which always

never is ?

'^


PLATO

68

Love and Harmony are the foundation

of Plato's

but his Love and Beauty are eternal, his

soul,

Harmony, that which

enfolds the universe.

more mighty and profound a takes to

know

itself.

His

soul,

the longer

it

outbursts of enthu-

first

siasm spent themselves in

The

art.

lineage, for his father alleged that

He was

of noble

he was descended

from King Codrus, and his mother from Solon. Consequently his youthful days were those of a

by every luxiuy and

rich Athenian, surrounded

the seductions of a period of decadence.

all

He gave

them without either excess or prudishness, living the same life as his companions, in the noble enjoyment of a fine inheritance, and surrounded and f^ted by numerous friends. In his himself

up

to

PhcedruSy he has too well described the passion of

love in

enced

all its

its

have a

phases, not to have personally experi-

keen transports and cruel

single line of poetry

as a line

by Sappho, and

on the sea of the Cyclades itself

;

all eyes,

disillusions.

We

from him, as passionate

radiant as a starry night

"

:

to behold thee

Would I were Heaven !

''

Searching for the

supremely beautiful through every mode and form of beauty, in turn.

he studied painting, music, and poetry

The

last of these

would respond to mine

his

desires.

all his

seemed as though

it

needs and finally deter-

Plato had a wonderful facility


PLATO AND SOCRATES for every

kind of poetry

and

amorous tragedy,

Why

;

he

felt

dithyrambic

and comedy even

69

with equal intensity the

poetry, in its

epopee,

subtlest

form.

should he not become a second Sophocles

and rescue the theatre of Athens from imminent downfall

?

This ambition tempted him, and his

friends encouraged

him

in the idea.

At the age

of

twenty-seven he had written several tragedies and

was about to

offer

was about

It

who was

this

time that Plato met Socrates,

discussing with

Academy.

of the

one for competition.

some youths

He was

in the gardens

speaking about the Just

and the Unjust, the Beautiful, the Good, and the

The poet drew near

True.

listened to him, for several

to

the philosopher,

and returned on the morrow and

days afterwards.

At the end

of a few

weeks, his mind had undergone a complete revolu-

happy youth, the poet full of illusions, no longer recognised himself. Not only the trend of his ideas, but the very object of his life had changed. Another Plato had been bom in him, as tion

the

;

he listened to the words of the one who called himself " the one

who

had happened

By what spell had this

?

brings souls to birth."

satyr-faced

reasoner torn the handsome, talented Plato

from

his voluptuous luxury

verted

him

What away

and poetry, and con-

to wisdom's great renunciation

?


PLATO

70

This good-natured Socrates was a simple fellow,

Son

though very eccentric.

a

of

sculptured the three Graces in his youth

away

flung

his chisel, saying that

carve his soul

rather

moment, he gave up of

He might

wisdom.

whole

;

then he

he preferred to

From

than marble.

his

he

statuary,

that

to the search

life

be met with in the gymnasia,

on the public square, at the theatre, talking to

young men,

philosophers, asking

artists,

them the reason

whatever he affirmed.

for

a cloud of locusts.

like

For

had beaten down

several years past, the sophists

on Athens

each of

The

sophist

is

the counterfeit and living negation of the philosopher, just as the

demagogue

is

the counterfeit

of the statesman, the hypocrite of the priest,

and

the black magician the infernal counterfeit of the

The Greek type of the sophist is more more reasoning and corrosive than the rest,

real initiate.

subtle,

but as a tions.

class

they belong to

all

Here sophists swarm, as

in a

body

they

call

decadent

do worms

fatally as

Whether

in a state of decomposition.

themselves atheists,

nihilists,

civilisa-

or pessimists,

sophists of all times resemble one another.

always deny God and the Soul, that

supreme

Truth

and

Life.

Those

is

They to say,

contemporary

with Socrates, like Gorgias, Prodicus, and Protagoras, said that there

was no

difference

between


PLATO AND SOCRATES

They prided themselves on proving

truth and error.

any idea whatsoever and that there

is

71

no other

contrary,

its

justice

affirming

than might, no other

truth than the opinion of the subject. this

they were

self-satisfied, lovers of

and charged very high

They

also incited the

intrigue,

prices

for

With

all

good cheer,

their

lessons.

youth of Athens to debauchery,

and tyranny.

Socrates gentleness

approached sophists with insinuating

and innocence,

as though he were

ignorant man, desirous of learning.

what they had

first

them

affirmed,

that they did not even

His eyes shone

Then, from question

with benevolent intelligence. to question he forced

an

to say the contrary of

and actually to confess

know

that of which they

Then he demonstrated that the sophists knew the cause and origin of nothing, though they pretended to be in possession of universal knowledge. After silencing them in this way, he did spoke.

not triumph in his victory, but smilingly thanked his

opponents for the information he had obtained

from their

wisdom

replies,

consists in

adding that the beginning of true

knowing that one knows nothing.

What did Socrates himself believe and affirm ? He did not deny the gods he even worshipped ;

them

like the rest of his fellow-citizens,

said that their nature

was impenetrable.

though he

He

con-


PLATO

72 fessed

he understood nothing of the

that

also

physics and metaphysics

taught in the schools.

The important thing, he said, was to believe in the Just and the True, and to apply them to Ufe. His arguments were very powerful, for he was a living

example of them

a bold

:

an irreproachable

an upright judge, a

soldier,

faithful,

and absolutely master

interested friend,

citizen,

dis-

of every

passion.

Thus do the

tactics of

moral education change

according to time and environment.

Pythagoras,

in the presence of initiate disciples, brought ethics

home

them

to

in his teaching of

cosmogony, whilst

in the public square at Athens, before

men

like

Cleon and Gorgias, Socrates spoke of the innate

sentiment of the Just and the True, in order to reconstruct order.

the

Both

of them, the one in the descending,

the other in afSGinned

world and the shattered social

the

ascending order of principles,

the same truth.

Pythagoras represents

the principles and method of the loftiest initiation Socrates proclaims the era of open science.

he might

still

;

Tha#

preserve his rdle as popular exponent,

he refused to become initiated into the mysteries of Eleusis.

None the

less,

sessed of the signification

however, was he pos-

and

faith of the total,

supreme truth taught by the great Mysteries.

When


PLATO AND SOCRATES

73

speaking of them, his face changed in expression like that of

an

Faun.

inspired, god-possessed

His

eyes flashed, his countenance became transfigured,

and from

his lips there fell

luminous

sentences

which

one of those simple reveal

the

bases

of

things.

Why

was Plato

man

jugated by this

charmed and sub-

irresistibly ?

When

he saw him, he

understood the superiority of the Good over the

For the Beautiful

Beautiful.

only in the mirage of Art, whilst the plished

powerful part in

the

in is

Good

depths of the soul.

is

True

accom-

Rare and

the fascination, for the senses have no

The

it.

the

realises

sight of a really just

man

caused

the dazzling splendours of visible art to pale

away

in Plato's soul, there to give place to a diviner

dream. This

man showed him

the inferiority of beauty

and glory as he had conceived them

hitherto, in

comparison with the beauty and glory of the soul

which

in action, its

truth

;

attracts, for ever, other souls to

whilst the

pomp

of Art succeeds only

in causing a deceptive truth to

an

illusive

veil.

This

be reflected beneath

radiant,

eternal

Beauty,

" the Shining of the True," killed the changing,

deceptive beauty which was in Plato's soul. is

the reason Plato, forgetting and leaving

This all

he


PLATO

74

had hitherto loved, gave himself with

all

the poetry

of his soul to Socrates in the flower of his youth.

A

great victory of Truth over Beauty, big with

incalculable

consequences in the history of the

human mind. Plato's

friends,

him make

He all

|

the same, expected to see

his debut in poetry

them were amazed

such a time, for

on the tragic

stage.

to a great feast at his house,

invited

after

all

at his desire to give this it

and

fete

at

was the custom to give one only

having obtained the prize and when the

winning tragedy had been played.

No one, however,

by this rich youth, in whose home the Muses and the Graces met together in the company of Eros. His house had refused an invitation sent out

long served as a meeting-place for the elegant youth of Athens.

The

table

Plato spent a fortune on this feast.

was

laid out in the garden, whilst youths,

torch in hand, afforded hght for the guests.

most beautiful courtezans

of

The

Athens were present,

and feasting was carried on throughout the night. H3nims were chanted to Love and Bacchus. Female flute-players

danced their most voluptuous dances.

Finally, they requested Plato to recite one of his

own dithyrambs. he said you.

:

Rising to his feet with a smile,

" This feast

From

this

day

is

the last I shall ever give

onward,

I

renounce

the


PLATO AND SOCRATES pleasures of

life

wisdom and Be it known

to consecrate myself to

to follow the teachings of Socrates. to all of

you that

recognised I

am

but

how

even renounce poetry, for

I

powerless

following after.

will

75

now burn

it is

I will

I

have

to express the truth

not write another

in your presence all I

posed."

A

test rose

from every one round the

line,

have com-

cry of mingled astonishment and protable,

where

the guests, crowned with roses, were reclining on

sumptuous couches. Some expressed surprise, others indignation, written clearly on countenances flushed

with wine and gay conversation. present and the of incredulity

as both

men about town

and

mad and

to withdraw

scorn.

The

indulged in laughs

Plato's idea

sacrilegious,

what he had

sophists

was regarded

and he was requested

He

said.

repeated his

determination, however, in tones of calm assurance

which permitted of no reply, and concluded with the words

:

" I thank

enough to join keep by

my

my new

life.

forth be

my

all

of

you who have been good

in this farewell

fete,

but

now

side only such as are willing to share

The friends

friends of Socrates shall hence-

and those only."

passed like a bUghting frost over a flowers.

I shall

They suddenly gave

these

These words

meadow

of

ruddy ex-

pansive coimtenances the sad, embarrassed looks of

men

present

at

a

funeral

ceremony.

The


!

PLATO

76

courtezans rose to their

and, with looks of

feet,

vexation at the master of the house, were carried their

in

off

litters.

The

and elegant

sophists

fops slunk away, saying in tones of mingled irony

and

sprightliness

Thou well

!

wilt

:

" Farewell, Plato

come back

to us

!

Farewell

Two serious-minded youths

''

Those

behind.

Be happy

!

!

Fare-

alone remained

friends he took

faithful

!

by the

hand, and, leaving the half-emptied anaphoras of wine, the roses with their leaves scattered about,

and the

lyres

and

flutes lying in disorder

among

way

to the

goblets filled with wine, Plato led the

There, piled on a small

inner court of the house. altar,

they saw a pyramid of papyrus

rolls.

These

consisted of the whole of the poetical works of Plato.

Taking up a torch, the poet set as he uttered the words

Plato hath need of thee."

When

the

He was

who was

left alone,

:

did not weep,

filled

thinking of Socrates

his entire

whom

he was

of the complete works of Plato, preserved under " Plato burning his poems."

Fragment title

hither

^

wonderful peace and serenity

being.

come

bade farewell to their future master.

Plato, however,

1

" Vulcan,

:

over, the friends, with tears in their

eyes, silently

for

to them, smiUng

the flames had died away, and the last

was

flicker

fire


PLATO AND SOCRATES going to see.

The

rising

dawn

cast

vits

77 radiance

over the terraces of the houses, the colonnades and

pediments of the temples

;

and soon the helmet

Minerva shone with the sun's of the Acropolis.

first

beam on

of

the top


CHAPTER

II

THE INITIATION OF PLATO AND THE PLATONIC PHILOSOPHY

Three

years after Plato had become the disciple of

Socrates, the latter

Areopagus,

and died by drinking the hemlock,

surrounded by his

Few

was condemned to death by the

disciples,

i

historical events are so well

known

as this,

and there are few whose causes and effects have been so badly understood. At the present day it is

held that the Areopagus was in the right to con-

demn

enemy

Socrates as an

of the State religion,

because, in denying the gods, he was undermining

We

the foundations of the Athenian Republic. shall shortly

profound

show that

errors.

this assertion contains

Let us

first

call to

two

mind what

Victor Cousin has had the courage to write at the

head of the Apology tion of Plato's works

was

a

citizen

of Socrates, in his fine transla:

" Anytus,

worthy

of

it

must be

stated,

commendation

Areopagus, a just and dispassionate tribunal 78

the

;

;

and


THE

INITIATION OF PLATO

the only thing one

was accused so

may wonder

at, is

that Socrates

and that he was not

late in the day,

The

condemned by a larger majority."

philosopher,

a Minister of Education, did not see that, right,

and

if

he was

they should also have condemned philosophy

religion, solely for the

sake of the glorification

and absolutism.

of a policy of lying, violence, if

79

For

philosophy necessarily overthrows the fotmda-

tions

of

the social condition,

pompous madness, and

if

it

is

religion

nothing but

cannot exist

except by suppressing the search after truth,

nothing

less

than a

it is

Let us try to

fatal tyranny.

be more just towards both Greek religion and Greek philosophy.

There

is

one important and striking fact which

has escaped the notice of most

and philosophers. against

modem

historians

Persecution in Greece, very rare

was

philosophers,

temples, but was always the Hellenic civilisation has

begun

never

work

in

the

of politicians.

known nothing

of that

war

between priests and philosophers, which has played so great a part in our civilisation, ever since the

destruction of Christian esotericism in the second

century of our era.

Thales might quietly state

that the world comes from water it

springs from

sun

is

fire

;

;

Heraclitus that

Anaxagoras might say that the

a mass of incandescent

fire,

and Democritus


PLATO

8o

from atoms

claim that ever5rthing springs

temple suffered uneasiness.

knew knew

no

:

In the temples they

much more

They also that the would-be philosophers who denied the gods could not destroy them in the national all

that and

consciousness,

and that

beside.

real philosophers believed

them after the fashion of the initiates, and saw them the symbols of the mighty categories of the

in in

spiritual hierarchy, of the Divine all

which penetrates

Nature, and of the Invisible which governs the

Visible.

as a

This

The

esoteric doctrine accordingly served

bond between true philosophy and true is

religion.

the profound, the primordial and final fact

which explains their secret meaning in Hellenic civilisation.

Who Eleusis,

had

then

accused Socrates

who had

stirred

?

The

priests

uttered maledictions on those

of

who

up the Peloponnesian War, shaking the

dust of their robes towards the west, did not utter

a single word against him.

gave him the

finest

The temple

of Delphi

testimony that could be paid

The Pythoness, on being consulted as to what ApoUo thought of Socrates, replied " There is no man living who is more reasonable, The two main accusations therefree, or just.*'^

to any man.

:

fore

brought against Socrates ^

Xenophon

:

:

Apology of

that he corrupted Socrates,


OF PLATO

ITHE INITIATION

8i

the youth, and did not believe in the gods, were

On

only a pretext.

the second charge, the accused

victoriously answered his judges

my

"I

:

believe

in

how much more then must I believe in the gods, who are the great spirits of the universe ? " Then why was there such implacable hatred against the sage ? He had comfamiHar spirit;

bated

unmasked hypocrisy, exposed the

injustice,

many

falsehood of so

vain claims.

Men

excuse

all

and atheisms except those which unmask

vices

This was

themselves.

why

the real atheists, sitting

at the Areopagus, brought about the death of the just

and innocent man, by accusing him

crime they were committing.

of the

In his admirable de-

reproduced by Plato, Socrates explains this

fence,

himself with perfect simplicity

:

"It

is

my

fruitless

men amongst the Athenians, that against me so much dangerous hostility

search for wise

has roused

hence

the slanders spread abroad regarding me,

all

for those

;

who hear me

believe that I

things regarding which I others.

... An

intriguers,

active

speaking

know

all

those

unmask the ignorance and numerous body

about

me

according

to

of

of

an

arranged plan and with the most seductive eloquence, have long perfidious their

reports

system

of

filled

your ears with the most

and unceasingly calumny.

To-day,

followed

they

up

have F


PLATO

82

weaned from me

Anytus, and

Melitus,

Lycon.

Melitus represents the poets, Anytus the politicians

and

artists,

A

and Lycon the orators."

devoid of talent, a wicked fanatical

tragic poet,

man

of wealth,

and a shameless demagogue, succeeded

in obtaining

sentence of death

man

the best

against

He could proudly

This death has immortalised him.

say to his judges

my

do any of

alone knows."

It is

I to

the better,

God

is

^

religion

and

Could

them.

strength and stay.

humanity

;

his

martyr

of for

its

greatest

murderers,

sages

for

and became

the

whole

of

he represents the definite advent

of individual initiation

The serene

possible

Like Jesus, he died uttering

words of pardon on

model

national

country have

his

understood him, he would have been

the

its

had done everything

Socrates

strengthen

to

in the gods than

time to depart,

Which

live.

Far from shattering true symbols,

more

believe

accusers.

and you to

die,

"I

:

living.

and open

science.

spectacle of Socrates dying for the

sake of truth, and spending his last hour in conversing with his disciples on the immortality of the soul,

sank deep into Plato's heart.

To him

it

the most beautiful and holy of mysteries, his great initiation. ^

Later in Plato

:

life,

was first

he was to study

Apology of Socrates,


THE

INITIATION OF PLATO

physics, metaphysics,

and many other

83

sciences,

but

He

has

latter

by

he ever remained the disciple of Socrates.

bequeathed us the living image of the

own thought

putting the treasures of his

mouth makes

of of

his

This

master.

him the

flower

of

into the

modesty

disciple's ideal, just as the fire of

enthusiasm shows him to us as the poet of philosophers.

It

avails

us nothing to

founded his school only when died at the age of eighty

fifty

know

that he

years old, and

we cannot imagine him

:

as anything else than young, for eternal youth

the

portion

of

those

souls

is

which unite divine

candour with profundity of thought. Plato had received from Socrates the great impulse, the active

in

justice

science

and

male principle of

and substance

into the Mysteries,

new

He was

truth.

his

life,

his faith

indebted for the

of his ideas to his initiation

and

his genius consists in the

form, at once poetic and dialectic, he was

enabled to give to them. initiation

He

from Eleusis alone, but sought

from every accessible source. Socrates,

did not receive this

he

travelled

about.

for

After the death of

He

attended

lessons of several philosophers in Asia Minor.

and go through the

initiation of Isis.

the

Then

he went to Egypt, to come into touch with priests

it

its

He

did not reach, as did Pythagoras, the highest stage,


PLATO

84 at which one effective

and

becomes an adept and acquires an direct vision

of divine

with

truth,

supernatural powers, from an earthly standpoint.

He

stopped at the third stage, which confers perfect

intellectual clearness, along

with the dominion of

Then he went

the intellect over soul and body.

to

southern Italy to enter into communication with the

followers

of

Pythagoras,

well

knowing that

Pythagoras had been the greatest sage of Greece.

He

paid an enormous price for one of the master's

manuscripts.

After thus obtaining from

its

very

source the esoteric tradition of Socrates, he borrowed

from

this

philosopher

framework of

On

his

main

ideas,

and the

his system.^

returning to Athens, Plato founded his school,

which remained so famous under the name of the Academy. Truth must be spread abroad if he wished to continue the work of Socrates. however,

could

not

publicly

Pythagoreans covered with a 1

"

What Orpheus promulgated

Proclus,

" Pythagoras taught,

meaning

of the Mysteries.

teach

triple veil.

Plato,

what

the

Prudence,

in obscure allegories," says

being initiated into the Orphic mysteries, and Plato had full knowledge of it from Orphic and Pythagorean writings." This opinion of the Alexandrian School regarding the filiation of the Platonic ideas, is fully confirmed by the comparative study of the Orphic and Pythagorean traditions, and the writings of Plato. This filiation, kept secret for centuries, was revealed only by the Alexandrian philosophers, for they were the first to make known the esoteric after


THE his oaths,

bade

INITIATION OF PLATO

and the very end he had

view

indeed the esoteric doctrine

It is

this.

in

in his Dialogues,

85 all for-

we

find

though dissembled and mitigated,

travestied in legends,

myths or

Here

parables.

it

no longer appears with that imposing ensemble Pythagoras gave to

it,

and which we have attempted

to reconstitute, an edifice founded on an immutable basis,

and

together,

all

of

whose parts are firmly cemented

though in analytical fragments.

like Socrates, places himself

as the

on the same territory

gay youths of Athens, the rhetoricians and

sophists.

He

His genius

them with

fights

is

eagle, to

their

own weapons.

never absent, however,

moment he breaks an

Plato,

for

every

the network of dialectics, like

mount, in bold

flight,

to those sublime

truths which form his native atmosphere and his real

These dialogues have a piquant

fatherland.

charm,

all

their

own

;

in

them

are found not only

the enthusiasm of Delphi and Eleusis, but also

wonderful clearness and Attic wit, the archness of the simple-minded Socrates,

and the

delicate,

winged irony of the sage. Nothing

is

easier

than to recognise the different

parts of the esoteric doctrine in Plato

same time

and at the

to discover the sources from which he

has obtained them. of things, as set

The doctrine

of the idea -types

forth in Pkcedrus,

is

a corollary


!

PLATO

86

to the doctrine of the Sacred

Numbers

of Pytha-

goras.^

The Timceus

gives a very confused

obscure

account

esoteric

of

doctrine of the soul, traverses the whole

does

and

in

The Republic. but

The

cosmogony.

migrations and evolution,

its

work

of Plato,

though nowhere

appear so clearly as in The Banquet, in

it

Phcedo,

and

how

The Legend

We

touching

of

Er

book

in the last

perceive Psyche under a

is

her beauty, with

its

it

Kosmos, the secret of

is

veil,

exquisite

form and divine grace, as she shines through In Pythagoras,

of

it

seen that the key of the

its

constitution throughout,

found in the principle of

is

the three worlds, reflected

by the microcosm and the macrocosm in the human and divine ternary. Pythagoras had formulated and summed up this doctrine in masterly fashion under

tlie

symbol

of

the

doctrine of the living eternal

Sacred

Tetrad,

Word, constituted the

great arcanum, the source of magic, the

temple of the

initiate, his

the ocean of things.

This

diamond

impregnable citadel above

In his public teaching, Plato

neither could nor would reveal this arcanum.

First,

the oath of the mysteries closed his mouth, and secondly, all would not have understood; the

common

people would unworthily have profaned this theogonic mystery, which contains the generation of the *

See a fuller exposition of this doctrine in Pythagoras,


THE

INITIATION OF PLATO

Something

worlds.

else

was needed

corruption of morals and the political

passions.

soon about to

The gate

close,

unbridling of

beyond was

of the

with the great

combat the

to

mad

87

initiation, that

gate which brings light only to mighty prophets, to real initiates.

Plato replaced the doctrine of the three worlds

by

three concepts which, in the absence of organised

initiation,

remained for two thousand years, three

paths leading to the same final goal. concepts refer alike to the

world

;

they

possess

human and

the divine

advantage

of

the

them, though in abstract fashion. fested Plato.

the

popularising

He shed

These three

and

Here

creative

uniting is

mani-

genius

of

torrents of light over the world,

setting the ideas of the True, the Beautiful,

and the

Good on the same line. Throwing light on one by means of the other, he showed that they are three rays starting from the same centre, and that the same rays, when they meet one another, reconstitute this

very centre, that

is

to say, God.

In following after the Good, that Just, the soul

Truth. dition

This of

its

is is

is

to say, the

purified, it prepares itself to

the

first,

progress.

the indispensable con-

In

following

enlarging the idea of the Beautiful, intellectually Beautiful,

know

it

after

and

attains to the

that intelligible light, the


PLATO

88

mother of

animating

things,

stance and organ of God. the

soul of the world,

True,

it

to

attains

-contained

forms, the sub-

it

plunges into the

As

human

soul acquires

for

In following after the idea of the

wings.

itself

all

pure

in

pure Essence, the principles Spirit.

recognises

It

mortality through the identity of the divine principle, Perfection

;

its

its

im-

principle with

the epiphany of

the soul.

When he opened up human mind,

these great paths to the

Plato defined and created, outside of

narrow systems and particular

which was to replace

of the Idealy still

religions, the category

for centuries,

does, a complete organic initiation.

He

and pre-

pared the three sacred paths which lead to God, just as the sacred

way

of

Athens led to Eleusis through

the gate of Ceramicus.

Having penetrated

interior of the temple with

Pythagoras,

we

into the

Hermes, Orpheus, and

are better enabled to judge as to

the solidity and the soundness of these wide roads laid

down by the

divine

engineer,

knowledge of Initiation gives us the

and the raison Idealism

is

d'etre of

Plato.

The

justification

Idealism.

the bold affirmation of divine truths

by the -soul, which questions and judges

of celestial realities

and inner

voices.

itself in its solitude

by

its

inmost faculties

Initiation is the penetration of


THE these truths

INITIATION OF PLATO by the experience

89

of the soul,

the

direct vision of the spirit, the inner resurrection.

In the highest degree,

the bringing of the soul

it is

into communication with the divine world.

The Ideal is a morality, a poetry, and a philosophy; Initiation

an action, a

is

The

of Truth.

Ideal

vision, the sublime presence

the dream and the regret

is

of the divine father-land

of the elect,

is

Initiation, that

;

its distinct

remembrance

;

temple its

very

possession.

Plato, accordingly,

when

building

up the category

of the Ideal, created a refuge,

opened up a way of

salvation to millions of souls

who

lifetime,

cannot, in this

attain to direct initiation, but painfully

aspire after truth.

He

thus

made philosophy

the

vestibule of a future sanctuary, inviting thereto

all

The idealism

of

such as were seriously minded. his

numerous pagan or Christian sons appears

to us

the waiting-room, so to speak, of the great initiation.

This explains the immense popularity and the far-reaching influence of Plato's ideas. lies in their esoteric basis.

This

Academy

of Athens, founded

centuries

and extended

Alexandria

;

this is

by

into the

why

the

is

the reason the

Plato, lasted for

mighty school of

first

Church paid homage to Plato

Their power

Fathers of the

and why Saint

Augustine took from him two-thirds of his theology.


PLATO

90

Two thousand of Socrates

shadow

years had passed since the disciple

had breathed

his last sigh

of the Acropolis.

Christianity, barbarian

had passed over the

invasions, the Middle Ages

world.

beneath the

Antiquity, however, was rising again from

her ashes.

In Florence the Medicis wished to found

an Academy, and summoned a Greek servant, an exile

from Constantinople,

organise

to

what name did Marsile Ficin give the Platonic Academy. so

many

philosophic

Even

its

systems,

final

He

And

called

it

in these days, after

another, have crumbled to dust,

reduced matter to

it ?

it.

built

upon one

when

science has

transformations and

finds itself face to face with the inexplicable

the invisible, Plato has again returned to us.

and Ever

simple and modest, though radiant with eternal youth, he holds out to us the sacred branch of the Mysteries,

the branch of myrtle and of cypress

along with the narcissus

:

promises divine rebirth in a

the soul-flower which

new

Eleusis.


CHAPTER

III

THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS and Latin antiquity,

Greek

Iisf

the

Eleusinian

mysteries formed the object of special veneration.

Those very authors who turned into

ridicule the

mythological fables dared not attack the cult of " great

the

boisterous itself

to be

Their reign, whilst

goddesses."

than that of the Olympians, showed

more

immemorial,

a

and

certain

Greek

of Eleusis, under the

universal mother.

remained a centre of

efficacious.

colony

brought the cult of the great

bay

less

Isis into

name

From

from

In times

Egypt had the peaceful

of Demeter, or the

that time,

Eleusis

had

initiation.

Demeter and her daughter Persephone presided over the lesser and the greater mysteries

;

hence

the prestige they acquired.

Whilst the people revered in Ceres the mother earth and the goddess of agriculture, the initiates

saw

in her, celestial light, the

mother

of souls

;

and

divine Intelligence, the mother of the cosmogonic gods.

Her

cult

was served by 91

priests belonging to


PLATO

92

They

the most ancient sacerdotal family in Attica. called themselves sons of the

Moon, that

is

to say,

born to be mediators between Earth and Heaven,

and sprung from the sphere where the bridge

is

projected between the two regions, the bridge along

which souls ascend and descend. it

had been

their function

''

From

the

first,

to sing, or chant, in

that abyss of misery, the delights of the heavenly

abode, and to teach the methods enabling one to regain the path." ''

chanters

of

Hence

beneficent

generators of men.

The

their

name, Eimiolpidae,

melodies,"

gentle

re-

priests of Eleusis always

taught the great esoteric doctrine which came to

them from Egypt. As time passed, they invested it with all the charm of a ravishing, plastic mythology.

With

subtle,

profound

art,

those enchanters

were able to make use of earthly passions, in order

They put to profit, sense attraction, ceremonial pomp, and the seductiveness of art, to bring the soul to a better life and the mind to a knowledge of divine truth. Nowhere did the mysteries appear beneath a form so human, so to express celestial ideas.

living

and coloured.

The myth

of Ceres

and

of her daughter Proserpine

formed the heart of the cult of

Eleusis.^

of the Eleusinian initiation turns 1

See the Homeric

hymn

The whole

and develops,

to Demeter.

like


THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS

93

a shining procession, around this luminous

circle.

Now,

in its

inmost

signification, this

symbolical representation

the

of

myth

history

the

is

the

of

soul, its descent into matter, its sufferings in the

darkness of forgetfulness, and then return to divine

drama

of

its

ascent and

In other words,

life.

it

the

is

the Fall and the Redemption, in

its

Hellenic form. It

may accordingly be affirmed, on the other hand,

that, to the cultured

Athenian

initiate of the

time

of Plato, the mysteries of Eleusis offered the ex-

planatory complement, the luminous coimterpart of the tragic performances in Athens.

There, in

the theatre of Bacchus, before the roaring masses of people, the terrible incantations of

Melpomene

summoned forth the inhabitant of earth, blinded by his passions, pursued by the Nemesis of his crimes, and overwhelmed by an implacable and often incomprehensible Destiny. And there, too, could be seen and heard the Promethean struggles,

imprecations

the

of

the

the

Furies,

(Edipus, and the madness of Orestes.

was the abode

At

of

gloomy

terror

despair

This also

and rueful

Eleusis, in the hall of Ceres, everything

filled

with light

the initiates

;

of

pity.

was

the circle of things extended for

who had become

seers.

For each

soul,

the history of Psyche-Persephone was a surprising


PLATO

94 revelation.

Life

was explained

of his earthly present,

man

this side

discovered the starry

zones of a divine future and past.

came hope and

an ex-

as

Both beyond and on

piation or as a test.

of death

either

After the terrors

liberation, Elysian joys

;

through the porticoes of the wide-open temple passed the chants of the blessed, the submerging

a marvellous beyond.

light of

Such were the Mysteries Tragedy

:

the divine

and explaining the

drama

in

the

terrestrial

drama

of

man. in the

at Agrae, near Athens.

who had passed a

of

of the soul completing

The Lesser Mysteries were celebrated of February,

presence

month

Candidates

preliminary examination, and

given proofs of their birth, education, and honour,

were received at the entrance to the sacred enclosure

or

by the

sacred

priest of Eleusis

herald,

named

resembling

the hieroceryx,

Hermes,

with

the

petasus on his head and the caduceus in his hand.

He was

the guide, the mediator, and interpreter of

the Mysteries, and conducted the new-comers to a

small

temple, with

Ionic

columns, dedicated

Kore, the great Virgin, Persephone.

The

to

graceful

sanctuary of the goddess lay hidden in the depths of a peaceful vale, surrounded

by a sacred wood

between groups of yew-trees and white poplars.

Then the

priestesses

of

Proserpine,

the

hiero-


:

THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS

95

phantids, left the temple, each wearing an

imma-

culate peplus, with bare arms in narcissus blooms.

top of the

stairs,

and heads wreathed

They stood

in a line at the

and struck up a solemn chant

in

Doric fashion "

Oh

now are

candidates of the Mysteries, you have

!

All

you

You

will

reached the threshold of Proserpine.

now about

to see will surprise you.

learn that your present of lying

life is

nothing but a tissue

The

and confused dreams.

sleep,

which

surrounds you with a zone of darkness, carries

your dreams and days in

its

which vanish before human

pitious to

flow like floating debris sight.

May

of eternal light extends.

off

Beyond, a zone

Proserpine be pro-

you and teach you,

herself, to cross the

and advance

right to the celestial

river of darkness

Demeter.''

Then the prophantid, choir,

or prophetess

who

led the

descended three steps of the staircase and

uttered the following malediction in solemn tones and with terrifying look " Woe be to such as have :

come

to profane the Mysteries

!

The goddess

will

pursue such perverse hearts during the whole of their lifetime, will

not

let

and

in the

go her prey

kingdom

of the shades she

" !

Afterwards, several days were spent in fasting, ablutions,

and prayers.


y

PLAl'O

96

On

the evening of the j&nal day, the neophytes

assembled in the most secret part of the sacred

wood, there to

at

assist

The scene was played priestesses

from

far back,

as well

as

same, though

This

and the basis of

main

its

of Persephone.

the open

in

temple.

the

of

rape

the

idea,

by the

air,

custom dated

this performance,

remained always the

form varied greatly throughout

its

the course of the ages.

In Plato's time, owing

to the recent development of tragedy, the former

had given place

hieratic severity

and

to a

more humane

and to a tendency

refined taste

passion played a large part.

which

in

Guided by the hiero-

phant, the anonymous poets of Eleusis had of this scene a short

follows

drama which ran somewhat

y

in couples^ reach

background may be seen rocks and a by a

wood of myrtles and poplars.

with

nymphs

girdky

grotto^

is

In

the

surrounded

In fronty a meadow

reclining about a fountain.

the grotto like

a glade.

At

the

far

seated Persephone, naked to the

a Psychcy her graceful bust chastely emerging

from flowing draperyy wrapped round her vapour.

as

:

(TA^ neophytes

end of

made

She seems

her beautyy and coloured threads. side, sceptre in

is

to

an azure

be happy^ quite unconscious

embroidering a long

Demeter her mother

hand and

like

veil

of

of many-

stands by her

kalathos on her headJ)


!

THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS Hermes

{the

herald

Demeter

spectators).

Mysteries

the

of

us

offers

two

the fruits of the earth, that

gifts

:

live

like

the beasts of the

fields,

97 the

to

excellent

we may not

and

initiation,

which gives a sweeter hope to those who participate in

both for the end of

it

and

this life

for all eternity.

Give heed to the words you are about to hear and the things you are

now

Demeter {in solemn

to see.

Beloved daughter of

accents).

my

the gods, remain in this grotto and embroider veil until I return.

the universe

come

is

Heaven

thine.

to thy call.

is

Thou

thy father-land and

seest the gods

they

;

Listen not to the voice of Eros,

the cunning one, with his mild eyes and treacherous counsel.

Beware

of leaving the grotto or gathering

the seductive flowers of earth

perfume would make thee

and even the memory of

;

their fatal distracting

lose the light of

Weave my

it.

heaven

veil

and

happily with thy companions, the nymphs,

live

my

until

chariot of

return. fire,

Then

drawn by

will

I

take thee in

my

serpents, right into the

splendour of the Ether, above the Milky Way. Persephone. August and redoubtable mother, this

May

surrounding light so dear to me, the gods punish me,

if

I

I

promise

my

keep not

by it.

oath.

{Exit Demeter.)

Chorus

of

Nymphs.

O

Persephone

!

Virgin


â&#x20AC;&#x201D; PLATO

98

who

Chaste bride of Heaven, thou faces of the gods

on thy

know

illusions

the

and countless

his rays play

;

of

to thee in the form of a distant

about thee

breath and thou drinkest in his

;

happier than thou

On

Persephone.

minable

folds,

beings and of

I all

he breathes thy

light.

do ye possess one another ... is

evils

Empyrean.

celestial spouse, awaits thee in the

At times he appears sun

mayst thou never

Eternal Truth smiles on thee and Dionysus,

earth.

thy

empty

veil,

embroiderest the

O

.

.

Already

.

Virgin

!

Who

?

azure

this

veil,

with

its

inter-

work the innumerable forms

my

things with

ivory needle.

of I

have finished the history of the gods and embroidered horrible Chaos, with his hundred heads

and thousand arms, whence mortal beings must

Then who has given them birth ? The Father of the Gods told me that it was Eros, though I know not his appearance. I have never seen him

issue.

;

Who

will depict

me

his face

?

The Nymphs. Think not of vain question

that.

Wherefore

this

?

Persephone {rising and

flinging

aside

the

veil).

The most ancient and yet the youngest of the gods, inexhaustible spring of joys and tears Eros

!

for this

alone

have

I

been told of thee

unknown and

invisible

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;thou terrible god, of Immortals,

and


!

THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS alone desirable, mysterious Eros

giddy terror thy name

The Chorus,

fills

me

99

With what a

!

!

Seek not to learn more.

Dangerous

men and

questions have proved the downfall of

even of gods. Persephone {her terror-stricken the

Is

void).

presentiment cries .

.

Chaos

?

mad

the

.

past memory, .

and the deep

see

I

!

I

am

dying

!

.

the birth-

.

and hear

must descend.

with his flaming torch, plunges I

a frightful

or .

into

clamour of hatred and war

me.

calls to

men

.

.

the abyss of death

.

.

.

a

it

gazing

eyes

Away from me,

me

{Covering her face with her hands,

she

all,

Eros,

therein.

this horrible

it

Ah

dream

!

hursts into

sobs.)

The Chorus. dream, though

Oh it

inevitable reality, like

!

Divine virgin, this

is

yet but a

would take on a body and become

and thy heaven would disappear

an empty dream, wert thou to yield to thy

Obey this salutary warning, take up once more and weave thy veil. Forget

guilty desire.

thy needle

cunning Eros, impudent, criminal Eros Persephone

{removes

her

hands

!

from her

face,

which has changed expression; she smiles through her tears). I

was

!

How mad

Now,

I

remember,

Mysteries that Eros .J.

you

is

are, I

and how insensate

heard in the Olympian

the most beautiful of the


;

PLATO

loo

gods

;

seated on a winged chariot he presides over

the evolutions of the Immortals, over the blending of the initial essences.

It is

he who conducts the

bold and heroic from the depths of Chaos to the

He knows

heights of the Ether.

all

like

;

Fire-Principle, he passes through all worlds

keeps the keys of earth and heaven

The Chorus. Unhappy maiden Eros (issues from the wood in

Dost thou

youth). I

call

Stop

!

the

me,

and he

I will see

!

form

the

him

!

!

a winged

of

Persephone

Here

?

am. Persephone

thee,

and yet the more

my

knowing and

skilful

broider this veil

wonderful veil

thereon

I

;

child.

They say thou

canst thou help

I will sit

;

me

to

art

em-

It

!

appears as though of

shapes

thine

hand

though

less

thine

it

a

had been

eyes.

What

embroidered

has

beautiful than

who has never

What

at thy feet.

azure

embroiderer

;

look into thine eyes,

the

into

!

itself

?

Eros. Willingly

wonderful

innocence

heart overflows with confidence in

thou pretty, playful

plunged

is

though thou resemblest a feeble child

all-powerful,

the more

They say thou

again).

though thy face

art cunning,

treacherous,

down

[sitting

the divine

seen herself in a mirror.

{He smiles roguishly.) Persephone.

See myself

!

Would

that be pos-

'


!

THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS forms

Dost thou recognise these

{She blushes.)

sible ? ?

Eros. Recognise

them

It is the history of the

!

But wherefore stop

gods.

where the struggle begins.

at

Chaos

is

men and

their

?

Persephone. fails.

Eros

My knowledge stops here, my memory

Wilt thou help {gives her

me

to embroider the rest

a burning glance).

to gather a flower in

beautiful of

them

Persephone

has forbidden

My

meadow.

venerable, wise mother

to do that.

"

voice of Eros," she said. in the

Perse-

all

{serious).

me

I will,

?

Thou must come with the meadow, the most

phone, on one condition.

me

That

?

Wilt thou not weave

the war with the Titans, the birth of loves

loi

If

"

Do

not listen to the

Do not gather

the flowers

thou disobeyest me, thou wilt

be the most wretched of Immortals Eros. I understand.

" !

Thy mother

thee learn the secrets of earth and to breathe the flowers of the

will

hell.

not have

Wert thou

meadow, they would

be revealed to thee. Persephone. Dost thou Eros. I

know them

know them

all,

?

and, as thou seest, I

am

only the more youthful and active in consequence. O, daughter of the gods, the abyss has terrors and horrors which heaven

knows nothing

of,

but he


PLATO

102

cannot understand heaven

through earth and

who has not passed

hell.

Persephone. Wilt thou enable

them

to understand

?

Look!

Eros. Yes. the

me

end

how

of his

;

{He touches

ground with

a large narcissus appears.)

What

Persephone.

the

a beautiful flower

It brings

!

back a divine memory, trembling and

stirring in

my heart. Sometimes when asleep on a peak of my beloved star, gilded with the glory of an eternal sunset, on

awaking

have seen, above the purple

I

horizon, a silvery star floating in the pearly

To me

of the pale green sky.

it

bosom

then seemed as the

torch of the immortal spouse, the promise of the gods, divine Dionysus. .

...

down

.

.

But the

and the

star

light

went down

died

away

in

This wonderful flower resembles that

the distance. star.

Eros. I

make

who transform and

unite

all things,

the small in the likeness of the great, and of

the watery deep the mirror of heaven,

heaven and

hell

life

all

forms

have brought back

thy star from the abyss in the form of a

flower, that

as pluck

The

who mingle

on earth and work out

in the depths of the ocean, I

to

who

thou mayst touch and smell as well

it.

Chort^s.

Beware

lest this

magic be a snare

!


!

;

THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS What

Persephone,

Men

Eros.

the

is

name

of this flower

the narcissus

call it

103 ?

I call it Desire.

;

See

how

Its

white petals quiver as though they were alive

from

it

golden

its

which

fills

pleasure.

looks at

you and turns

your direction.

in

perfume

heart there escapes a

the whole atmosphere with voluptuous

When

thou

raisest

to thy face, in one wonderful

magical flower

this

and immense picture

thou wilt behold the monsters of the abyss, the depths of the earth, and the hearts of men. will

be hidden from thee.

Persephone.

O

marvellous flower, of enrapturing

odour,

how my

I seize

hold of thee.

heart

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;though

I

my fingers

heart beats and

will press thee to

my

dark,

gaping

and place thee on

lips

were to die for

fissure,

seated in a chariot

moment

Pluto

violently

does she writhe in his

The

wheels die

rolling

terranean

nymphs

From

makes

about

his escape.)

slowly

seen

the

flower,

his

side.

the

The

he

seizes

In vain

a loud

cry.

and disappears.

The

distance,

like

sub-

wailing,

the

the

Groaning the

my

rising,

black horses.

arms, raising

away in

thunder. scatter

is

to

chariot immediately sinks

I

it

drawn by two

Persephone plucks

and pulls her

burn as

breathe thy perfume,

I will

{The ground by her side half opens.

her

Nothing

wood.

and

Eros laughingly


PLATO

104

The Voice

Persephone (under the

of

earth).

O

!

Mother! Help! Help!

O

Hermes.

Candidates of the Mysteries, whose

lives are still

evil

clouded over with the fumes of an

such

life,

is

your history.

Remember and

meditate on what Empedocles says is

:

" Generation

a terrible destruction which causes the living to

pass into the dead. life,

drawn by a charm, you

then

abyss,

terrestrial

present

is

Formerly you lived the true

Your

nothing but a fatal dream, the past and

Learn to remember

to see ahead."

During were

into the

subdued by the body.

the future alone really exist.

and

fell

this scene, night

had

fallen, funeral torches

between the black cypresses, near the

lit

entrance to the small temple, and the spectators silently departed,

by the

followed

of the hierophantids, calling

:

wailing chants

" Persephone

!

Per-

"

The Lesser Mysteries were at an end. The neophytes had become mustai, that is to say, They were going to return to their veiled ones. sephone

!

usual occupations, but the great veil of the Mysteries

was spread over

their eyes.

A cloud had

between them and the outer world.

intervened

At the same

time there had opened in their mind an inner eye

through which they dimly perceived another world


THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS filled

105

with attractive forms, which moved about in

the abysmal depths of alternate light and darkness.

The

Greater Mysteries which followed,

and which

were also called the Sacred Orgies, were only

cele-

brated once every five years, at Eleusis.

The symbolical

fetes

lasted nine days

on the

;

eighth, the tokens of initiation were distributed to

the mustai

;

these consisted of the thyrsus

basket called a

cist,

and a

surrounded with ivy leaves.

This latter contained mysterious objects, the knowledge of which was to give the secret of

basket

itself

was carefully sealed

;

it

The

life.

could be opened

only at the end of the initiation and in the presence of the hierophant.

Then they abandoned themselves to a state of exultant joy, waved flaming torches in the air, and handed them to one another. That same day, the statue of Dionysus, wreathed with myrtle-leaves,

and which was cession

called lacchos,

was carried

from Athens to Eleusis.

Its

in pro-

arrival

Eleusis proclaimed the great renascence, for

presented the divine spirit penetrating the regenerator of souls,

the

at

it re-

all things,

mediator between

earth and heaven.

This time they entered the temple through the

mystic door, there to spend the sacred night, or the night of initiation.


PLATO

io6

they totered a large portico in the outer

First,

There the herald, with

enclosure.

and crying aloud profane

!

:

terrible threats

" Eskato Bebeloi

!

Away, ye

" drove from the spot such intruders as

succeeded sometimes in stealthily gliding into the

The

enclosure along with the mustai.

made

latter

were

to swear, under penalty of death, that they

He added

would reveal nothing they saw.

"

:

You

have now come to the subterranean threshold Persephone.

your present

of

To understand the future life and condition, the kingdom of death must

have been traversed

;

that

is

the

test

of

the

To enjoy the light, you must be able to brave the darkness." Then they put on the fawn initiates.

skin,

symbol

of the tearing asunder

tion of the soul, life.

and the

lacera-

which has been plunged into bodily

Finally they extinguished the

torches

and

lamps and entered the subterranean labyrinth.

At

first

the mustai groped about in the darkness.

Soon dreadful sounds were heard, noises and groans.

The blackness was pierced by

flashes of lightning

accompanied with thunderclaps. horrible visions were seen

;

By

their

light

sometimes a monster, a

chimaera or a dragon, then a

claws of a sphinx, or again a

man writhing human larva.

in the

These

apparitions were so sudden that there was not time to distinguish

by what

artifice

they were produced,


THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS

107

and the utter darkness which followed doubled the horror of the situation.

Plutarch likens the terror

caused by these visions to the condition of a

on

man

his deathbed.

The

strangest scene of

real magic, took place in

all,

the one bordering on

a crypt where a Phrygian

an Asiatic robe, with

priest, clad in

vertical stripes,

red and black in colour, stood before a copper brazier, the flickering light

With commanding

the room. to sit

from which dimly

down

at the entrance, and flung into the

room was soon

filled

The

with thick clouds of smoke,

and a disordered array

of changing forms,

both

animal, could soon be distinguished.

At times long serpents could be into sirens,

up

gesture, he forced all

brazier large handfuls of narcotic perfumes.

human and

lit

seen, stretching out

entangled in endless windings,

then

again voluptuously arched busts of nymphs, with outstretched arms, changed into bats

;

charming

heads of youths melted away into dogs' muzzles. All these monsters, in turn beautiful fluid

and

aereal, deceptive

and

and hideous,

unreal, vanishing

no

sooner than they appeared, turned about in changing hues with vertiginous

movements and crowded

round the fascinated mustai as though to prevent

From time to time the Cybele extended his short wand right in

their passage.

priest of

the midst


^

PLATO

io8 of the vapours,

and the effluvium

of his will

seemed

to give the multiform circles a whirling motion

disturbed

Phrygian.

Most of

" Pass

vitality.

along

!

"

and

said

the

The mustai rose and entered the circle. them felt strange rustlings, others were

by invisible hands or violently flung the ground. Some drew back in terror and re-

rapidly touched to

turned in the direction from which they had come.

Only the boldest passed on, for

after several attempts,

•••••«

a strong determination cut short the charm. •

Then they reached a

large circular hall through

^ Contemporary science would see in these facts nothing but simple hallucinations or suggestions. The science of antique esoterism, however, attributed to this kind of phenomenon, which frequently happened in the Mysteries, a value at once It believed in the existence of subjective and objective. elementary spirits devoid of either reason or an individualised soul, semi-conscious, filling the terrestrial atmosphere, the souls Magic, which is really will power of the elements, so to speak. acting in the control of occult forces, makes them visible at times. It is of them that Heraclitus speaks when he says : '* Plato calls them Nature is everywhere full of demons." " demons of the elements " Paracelsus, " elementals." Accordsixteenth this theosophist the century, doctor of they are ing to attracted by the magnetic atmosphere of man, become electrified, and are then capable of assuming every shape imaginable. The more enslaved a man is to his passions, the more completely does he become their prey, without any suspicion of the The magus alone tames and makes use of them. They fact. constitute, however, a sphere of deceptive illusion and folly which must be mastered and overcome on one's entrance into the occult world. Bulwer Lytton called them "guardians of the threshold," in his curious novel, Zanoni, ;


THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS which a few torches shed a ghastly

109

In the

light.

centre stood a single column, a bronze tree whose metallic foliage extended over the whole ceiling.^ this foliage

were inlaid figures of the chimaera and

of the sphinx, owls

and harpies and gorgons, speak-

ing images of every terrestrial

attacks

that

duced

mankind.

of every

demon

monsters,

repro-

ill,

These

about the branches

in shining metal, twine

and seem to be watching

On

from above.

their prey

a magnificent throne at the foot of the tree

Pluto- Aidoneus, clad in a purple mantle.

hand

a trident

is

By

brow.

Regions, tall

and

who never smiles, graceful.

sits his bride,

Persephone,

The mustai recognise

who had

in her the

already re-

in

her

sadness,

She

perhaps even more

as beautiful as ever,

beautiful

his

the side of the king of the Infernal

presented the goddess in the Lesser Mysteries. still

sits

In his

an anxious look overcasts

;

features of the hierophantid,

is

In

though

how

greatly

changed beneath her golden diadem, in her mourning robe, with its silver tears.

virgin of the Grotto life

;

now

No she

is

longer

is

she the

acquainted with

below, and suffers in consequence.

over the infernal powers, she

is

She reigns

queen over the dead,

the tree of dreams mentioned by Virgil in the descent the infernal regions in the Sixth Book of the into of the principal scenes of the Mysteries reproduces which Mneid, amplifications. poetical with Eleusis, of 1

This

is

^neas


!

PLATO

no

though a stranger in her own empire.

A

pale smile

by the shadow of Hell. Ah in that smile lies the knowledge of Good and of Evil, the inexpressible charm of a grief that has been felt and is now dumb. Suffering teaches pity illumines her face, overcast !

;

so she welcomes

who

mustai,

with looks

of

compassion the

kneel before her and lay wreaths of

narcissus at her feet.

Then

there flashes from her

eyes a dying flame, a lost hope, the distant of

memory

heaven Suddenly, at the end of an ascending passage,

torches shine forth, and in trumpet tones a voice

exclaims

turned

" Welcome,

lacchos has reDemeter awaits her daughter. Evoh6 "

:

mustai

!

!

!

The sonorous subterranean echoes repeat the Persephone

sits

upright on her throne, as though

suddenly starting from a long pulse of a dazzling thought

lacchos

!

"

falls

:

sleep,

under the im-

" Light

!

Mother

She makes a forward movement

Aidoneus gently touches the

and she

cry.

hem

of her

;

!

but

garment

back, like a corpse, on to the throne.

Then the torches suddenly flicker away and expire " and a voice exclaims "To die is to be bom again The mustai press along the gallery of the heroes and :

!

the demi-gods, to the opening of the subterranean

Hermes and the torch-bearer clad Their fawn skins are removed

passage, where the

await them.

;


THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS

iii

in fresh linen, they are sprinkled with lustral water,

and conducted into the splendidly

lit

temple, where

the hierophant, the high priest of Eleusis, a majestic old

man, clothed

And now

in purple, receives

them.

us listen to Porphyrus, as he relates

let

the supreme initiation of Eleusis " Wreathed in myrtle,

we

:

enter, along with the

other initiates, into the vestibule of the temple, still

blind,

though the hierophant within

open our eyes.

First,

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

nothing hurriedly sacred water, for

heart that

we

let

it is

however us

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;

lave

for

will

soon

we must do

ourselves in the

with clean hands and a pure

are invited to enter the sacred spot.

Led before the hierophant, he reads to us from a stone book, things we must not divulge under the penalty of death.

I

may

only say that they are

harmony with the

in perfect

place

You would perhaps

stances.

and the circum-

smile were

you

to

hear them outside the temple, but here you have

no inclination to smile as you of the old

And you

man and

*

when Demeter

con-

language and her signals, by

The golden

apple (the

words

look at the symbols revealed.^

are far from smiUng

firms, in her special

listen to the

objects contained in the cist were symbol of fecundity and of generation)

;

:

the pinethe spiral

fall into matter and serpent (universal evolution of the soul redemption by the spirit) ; the egg, recalling the divine sphere or perfection, the aim and end of man. :


PLATO

112

vivid sparkling lights and clouds piled

everything priest

we have

we

temple,

clouds,

seen and heard from her sacred

a serene wonder

finally the light of

;

upon

see the shining Elysian fields

fills

the

then

;

it

not only by an external appearance or a philo-

is

sophical interpretation, but in fact

the hierophant becomes

and revealer

of

torch-bearer, the

all

the

things

Moon,

;

and

creator

Sun

the

reality that (hrnjuiovp^o^) is

his officiating priest before

the altar, and Hermes, his mystic herald. final

rite is

now

over,

But the

Konx Om Pax.^ and we are Seers (eVoTrrafc)

word has been uttered

The

only his

:

for ever.

And then, what did the chief hierophant say ? What sacred, supreme revelation had he to give ? The

whom

initiates

learned

they had seen in

of the infernal regions, soul,

all

that

Persephone,

divine

the terror and punishment

was the image

chained to matter in this

life,

the next to even greater torments,

of the

human

or given if

it

up

in

has been

These mysterious words have no meaning in Greek, proving rate that they are very ancient and come from the East. any at Wilford gives them a Sanscrit origin. Konx, from Kansha, Om, from Oum, the signifies the object of the strongest desire from Pasha, turn, change, cycle. Pax and Brahma soul of of Eleusis hierophant accordingly of the benediction The final fulfilled return the be to desires universal meant May thy 1

;

;

:

soul

I

;


THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS living a slave to its passions.

may

purify

remember and

foresee

and

reason, intuition,

the great truths of

discipline

The

soul,

it

may

;

by the combined

will,

effort of

and share beforehand

which

it

must take

in

and

full

Then

immense beyond.

possession in the

entire

by

itself

an

Its earth life is

expiation or a test of former existences.

however,

113

only will Persephone become once more the ineffable

and

Virgin, pure joy.

Ceres, her

light-giving, distributor of love

mother

in the Mysteries,

S5niibol of divine Intelligence

and

was the

of the intellectual

man, which the soul must

principle in

and

rejoin,

in

order to attain to perfection. If

lamblichus,

Plato,

Proclus,

and

the

all

Alexandrian philosophers are to be believed, the elite

of the initiates

and

ecstatic

had

visions of a marvellous

nature inside the

temple.

already quoted the testimony of Porphyry

now

to that of Proclus

:

"In

mysteries, the gods (here this of spirits)

all

of

;

listen

and

initiations

word means

show many forms

have

I

all

orders

themselves and

appear in a great variety of shapes, sometimes in a formless

human the

light,

then again the light assumes a

form, and at times a different one."

passage

following *

Proclus

:

from

Commentary on

Apuleius

:

Hear

^

"I

the Republic of Plato,

H

ap-


;

PLATO

114

proached the confines of death, and after reaching the threshold of Proserpine, I returned, borne along

through water,

elements (elementary spirits of earth,

all

and

air,

In the midnight darkness

fire).

saw the sun beaming with radiant

light

same time the lower and higher gods. near these divinities,

I

I

and at the

As

I

drew

paid them the tribute of

pious adoration."

Although such witness

is

vague and

indefinite,

appears to refer to occult phenomena.

it

According

to the doctrine of the Mysteries the ecstatic visions

temple were produced through the purest

of the

of elements

The

Isis.

ing

by

Magus

:

spiritual light assimilated to celestial

oracles of Zoroaster call

itself,

that

is

gives visible

to say,

it.

Nature speak-

an element by which the

and instantaneous expression to

thought and which serves alike as body and raiment for the souls

This

is

which are the

finest

the reason the hierophant,

produce

this

thoughts of God. if

he had power to

phenomenon, the bringing

of initiates

into relation with the souls of heroes (angels

and archangels), was at

to the Creator, the

Demiurgus

this time likened

the Torch-bearer

to say, to superph5^ical light

to the Sun, that

is

and the Hermes

to the divine

interpreter.

;

and gods

Whatever these

word which

visions

is

his

might have


THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS been, antiquity

of one voice regarding the serene

produced by the

exaltation

A

Eleusis.

is

115

happiness

revelations

final

unknown,

hitherto

of

peace

beyond human power to bestow, entered the hearts of the initiates.

Life

quered, the soul set existences

of

seemed to have been con-

free,

brought

and the redoubtable cycle completion.

to

All

met

again with unalloyed joy and ineffable certainty in the pure ether of the universal soul.

We

have just revived the drama of

giving

inner,

its

some indication

secret

meaning.

the

of

Eleusis,

have given

I

thread

guiding

leading

through this labyrinth, and shown the great unity

which

dominates

its

complexity.

In

wise

and

sovereign harmony, a strict bond united the varied

ceremonies the

ideal

to

centre,

religious files.

identified

the

drama, which formed

divine

the

In this

themselves

luminous

way

centre

of

these

the initiates gradually

with

action.

From

being

simple spectators, they became actors, finally recognising that the

drama

of

What

enacted within themselves. there

was

in this discovery

Persephone was being

!

If

struggled with her in this present also

had the hope

joy and surprise

they suffered and life,

like her

they

of regaining divine felicity, the

light of the great Intelligence.

The words

of the


PLATO

ii6

hierophant, the scenes and revelations of the temple,

had given them a goes

It

foretaste of

it all.

without sa5dng that each understood

these things according to his degree of culture and intellectual capacity.

true for

is

many

all

time

For, as Plato says

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;few

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and

this

are the inspired, though

bear the thyrsus and the wand.

After the

time of Alexander, the Eleusinia were, to a certain extent, subjected to

sublime basis

pagan decadence, but

remained,

saving

their

them from the

downfall which came over the other temples. their profoundly sacred doctrines

and the splendour

of their presentation, the Mysteries held their for

By own

three centuries against a rising Christianity.

Then they brought together an

of disciples,

elite

who, though not denying that Jesus was a manifestation of heroic

and divine

to forget, as the

Church of the day was already

doing,

An

the

ancient

science

order, were unwilling

and sacred

edict of Theodosius the Great,

doctrine.

commanding that

the temple of Eleusis be razed to the ground, was

needed to bring to an end

this

august

cult, in

which

the magic of Greek art had incorporated the loftiest

teaching of Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Plato.

Nowadays, the refuge

of

Demeter

of

old has

disappeared, leaving no trace behind, in the silent


THE MYSTERIES OF ELEUSIS Bay

of Eleusis,

winged the

and the butterfly

insect, as it

warm days

flits

Psyche's

across the azure gulf in

of spring, calls

here, in former times, the Exile,

alone,

117

back to memory that

human

Soul, the great

evoked the gods and recognised her eternal

home.

THE END

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY NEILL AND

CO., LTD.,

EDINBURGH.


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Edouard Schuré - Hermes and Plato, 1919