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Christianity as Mystical Fact
GA 8

V. The Wisdom of the Mysteries and the Myth

The mystic sought forces and beings within himself which are unknown to the human being as long as he clings to the ordinary attitude towards life. The mystic puts the great question about his own spiritual forces and laws that transcend the lower nature. A man of ordinary views of life, bounded by the senses and logic, creates gods for himself; or when he realizes that he has made them, he repudiates them. The mystic knows that he creates gods, he knows why he creates them, he has discovered the natural law that makes man create them. It is as though a plant suddenly became conscious and learned the laws of its own growth and development. As it is now, it develops in serene unconsciousness. If it knew about the laws of its own being, its relation to itself would be completely changed. What the lyric poet feels when he sings of a plant, what the botanist thinks when he investigates its laws, would hover about a conscious plant as an ideal of itself.

This is the case of the mystic with regard to his laws, to the forces working within him. As one who knew, he was forced to create something divine beyond himself. And that is the attitude the initiates: took toward that which the people had created beyond nature; that is, toward the world of popular gods and myths. They wanted to penetrate the laws of this world of gods and myths. Where the people beheld the form of a god, or conceived a myth, they looked for a higher truth.

Let us take an example. The Athenians had been forced by the Cretan king Minos to deliver up to him every eight years seven boys and seven girls. These Were thrown as food to a terrible monster, the Minotaur, When the mournful tribute was to be paid for the third time, the king's son Theseus accompanied it to Crete. On his arrival there, Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, became interested in him. The Minotaur dwelt in the labyrinth, a maze from which no one could extricate himself once he was within it. Theseus Was anxious to deliver his native city from the shameful tribute. For this purpose he had to enter the labyrinth into which the Minotaur’s booty was usually thrown, and kill the monster. He undertook the task, OVercame the formidable foe, and succeeded in regaining the open air with the aid of a ball of thread which Ariadne had given him.

The mystic had to discover how the creative human mind comes to weave such a story. Just as the botanist watches the growth of plants in order to discover its laws, so did the mystic watch the creative spirit. He sought for a truth, a nucleus of wisdom, where the people had invented a myth.

Sallust discloses to us the attitude of a mystical sage towards a myth of this kind. “We might call the whole world a myth,” he says, “which contains bodies and things visibly, and souls and spirits in a hidden manner. If the truth about the gods were taught to all, the unintelligent would disdain it, because of not understanding it, and the more capable would make light of it. But if the truth is given, veiled in a myth, it is assured against contempt and serves as a stimulus t0 philosophic thinking.”

When the truth contained in a myth was sought by an initiate, the latter was conscious of adding something to what existed in the consciousness of the people. He was aware of being above that consciousness, as a botanist is above a growing plant. Something was expressed which was different from what was present in the myth-consciousness, but it was looked upon as a deeper truth, symbolically expressed in the myth. Man is confronted with his own sense-nature in the form of a hostile monster. He sacrifices to it the fruits of his personality, and the monster devours them and continues to do so till the conqueror (Theseus) awakes in man. His knowledge spins the thread by means of which he finds his way again when he repairs to the maze of sensuality in order to slay his enemy. The mystery of human cognition itself is expressed in this conquering of sensuality. The initiate knows that mystery. It points to a force in human personality unknown to ordinary consciousness, but nevertheless active within it. It creates the myth, Which has the same structure as mystic truth. This truth finds its symbol in the myth.

What, then, is to be found in the myths? In them is a creation of the spirit, of the unconsciously creative soul. The soul follows well-defined laws. In order to create beyond herself she must work in a certain direction, At the mythological stage she does this in images, but these are built up according to the laws of the soul. We might also say that when the soul advances beyond the stage of mythological consciousness to deeper truths these bear the same stamp as did the myths, for one and the same force was at work in their formation.

Plotinus, the philosopher of the Neo-Platonic school (204–269 A.D.), speaks of this relation of mythical representation to higher knowledge in reference to the priest-sages of Egypt. “Whether as the result of rigorous researches, or whether instinctively when imparting their wisdom, the Egyptian sages do not use for expressing their teaching and precepts written signs which are imitations of voice and speech, but they draw pictures, and in the outlines of these they record in their temples the thought contained in each thing so that every picture comprises knowledge and wisdom and is a definite truth and a complete whole, although there is no explanation nor discussion. Afterwards the contents of the picture are extracted from it and expressed in words, and the cause is found why it is as it is, and not otherwise.”

If we wish to find out the relation between mysticism and mythical narratives we must see what attitude there is toward the latter in the views of those who knew their wisdom to be in harmony with the methods of the Mysteries. We find such harmony in Plato to the fullest degree. His explanations of myths and his application of them in his teaching may be taken as authoritative (cf. p. 65 et seq.). In the Phedrus, a dialogue on the soul, the myth of Boreas is introduced. This divine being, who was seen in the rushing wind, one day saw the fair Orithya, daughter of the Attic king Erechtheus, gathering flowers with her companions. Seized with love for her, he carried her off to his grotto. Plato, through the mouth of Socrates, rejects a merely rationalist interpretation of this myth. According to such an explanation, an outward, natural occurrence is poetically symbolized in the narrative. A hurricane seized the king's daughter and hurled her from the rock. “Interpretations of this sort,” says Socrates, “are learned sophistries, however popular and usual they may be... For anyone who has pulled to pieces one of these mythological forms must, to be consistent, elucidate sceptically and explain naturally all the rest in the same way... But even if such a task could be accomplished, it would in any case be no proof of Superior talents in the one carrying it out, but only of facile wit, boorish wisdom, and snap judgment... Therefore, I leave on one side all such inquiries, and believe what is generally thought about the myths. I do not examine them, as I have just said, but I ex@mine myself to see whether I too may perhaps be a monster, more complicated and therefore more disordered than the chimara, more savage than Typhon, or whether I represent a more docile and simple being, to whom some particle of a virtuous and divine nature has been given.”

We see from this that Plato does not approve of a rationalistic and merely intellectual interpretation of myths, This attitude must be taken in conjunction with the way in which he himself uses myths as a means of expression. When he speaks of the life of the soul, when he leaves the paths of the transitory and seeks the Eternal in the soul where images borrowed from sense-perception and reasoning thought can no longer be found, then Plato has recourse to the myth. Phedrus treats of the Eternal in the soul, and the latter is portrayed as a car drawn by two horses winged all over, and driven by a charioteer. One horse is patient and wise, the other wild and stubborn. If an obstacle comes in the way of the team, the troublesome horse takes the opportunity to impede the docile one and defy the driver. When the car arrives where it has to follow the gods up the celestial steep, the intractable horse throws the team into confusion. Upon the strength or weakness of the stubborn horse depends the possibility of the good horse conquering it, and of the team overcoming the obstacle and reaching the supersensible realm. So the soul can never ascend without difficulties into the kingdom of the Divine: Some souls rise more to the vision of Eternity, some less. The soul that has seen the world beyond remains unscathed until the next journey. One that, on account of the intractable horse, has seen nothing must try again on the next journey. These journeys signify the various incarnations of the soul. One journey signifies the life of the soul in one personality. The wild horse represents the lower nature, the wise horse the higher nature; the driver, the soul longing for union with the Divine.

Plato resorts to the myth in order to describe the course of the eternal soul through her various transformations. In the same way he has recourse, in other writings, to the myth, to symbolical narrative, in order to portray the inner nature of man which is not perceptible to the senses.

Plato is here in complete harmony with the mythical and allegorical manner of expression used by others. For instance, there is in ancient Hindu literaturc a Parable attributed to Buddha:

A man very much attached to life, who seeks senSuous pleasures and would not die under any circumStance, is pursued by four serpents. He hears a voice commanding him to feed and bathe the serpents from time to time. The man runs away, fearing the serpents. Again he hears a voice, warning him that he is pursued by five murderers. Once more he escapes. A voice calls his attention to a sixth murderer who is about to behead him with a sword. Again he flees. He comes to a deserted village. There he hears a voice telling him that robbers are shortly going to plunder the village. Continuing to flee he comes to a great expanse of water. He feels his position very unsafe, so out of straws, sticks, and leaves he weaves a basket in which he is able to reach the other shore. Now he is safe, he is a Brahmin.

The meaning of this parable is that the human being has to pass through the most various conditions before attaining to the Divine. The four serpents represent the four elements, fire, water, earth, and air. The five murderers are the five senses. The deserted village is the soul that has escaped from sense-impressions, but is not yet safe when alone with herself; for if her lower nature takes hold of her, she must perish. Man must construct for himself the boat which is to carry him from one shore, the sense-nature, over the flood of the transitory to the other, the eternal, divine world.

Let us look at the Egyptian mystery of Osiris in this light. Osiris had gradually become one of the most important Egyptian divinities; he supplanted other gods in certain parts of the country; and a significant cycle of myths formed round him and his consort Isis.

Osiris was the son of the Sun-god, his brother was Typhon-Set, and his sister, Isis. Osiris married his sister, and together they reigned over Egypt. The wicked brother, Typhon, sought to kill Osiris. He had a chest made which was exactly the length of Osiris' body. At a banquet this chest was offered to the person whom it exactly fitted. This was Osiris and none other. He lay down in the chest. Typhon and his confederates rushed upon him, closed the chest, and threw it into the river. When Isis heard the terrible news she wandered far and wide in despair, seeking her husband’s body. When she found it, Typhon again took possession of it, and dismembered it into fourteen pieces which were scattered in many and various places. Numerous tombs of Osiris were shown in Egypt. In many Places, up and down the country, parts of the god, Osiris, were said to be buried. Osiris himself, however, @me forth from the nether-world and vanquished Typhon. A beam shone from him upon Isis, who in consequence bore a son, Harpocrates or Horus.

And now let us compare this myth with the view of the universe taken by the Greek philosopher, EmPedocles (490–430 B.C.). He assumes that the one Primordial being was once divided into the four eleMents, fire, water, earth, and air, or into the multiplicity of being. He presents two opposing forces, love and Strife, which within this world of existence bring about 8towth and decay. Empedocles says of the elements:

They remain ever the same, yet by uniting their forces
Become transformed into men and the numberless beings besides.
These are now joined into one, love binding the many together;
Now once again they are scattered, dispersed through hatred and strife.

What, then, are the objects in the world from Empedocles' point of view? They are the elements in various combinations. They could only come into being through the breaking up of primeval unity into the four natures. This primordial unity was thus poured into the elements. Anything confronting Us is part of the outpoured Divinity. But this Divinity is hidden in the object; it had first to die that objects might come into being. And what are these objects? Mixtures of divine constituents effectuated by love and hatred. Empedocles says this distinctly:

See, for a clear demonstration, how the limbs of a man are constructed,
All that the body possesses, in beauty and bloom of existence,
All joined together by love are the elements there forming one.
Hatred and conflict come after, and fatally tear them asunder,
Once more they wander alone, on the desolate confines of life.
So it is with the bushes and trees, and the water-inhabiting fishes,
Wild animals roaming the mountains, and birds swiftly borne by their wings.

Clearly it was Empedocles’ belief that the sage finds again the divine primordial unity, hidden in the world by a spell, and entangled in the meshes of love and hate. But if man finds the Divine he must himself be divine, for Empedocles takes the point of view that only like recognizes like. This conviction of his is expressed in Goethe’s lines: “If the eye were not of the nature of the sun, how could we behold light? If divine force were not at work in us, how could divine things delight us?”

These thoughts about the world and man, transcending sense-experience, were found by the mystic I the myth of Osiris. Divine creative force has been Poured out into the world; it appears as the four elements; God (Osiris) is killed. Man is to raise him from the dead with his cognition, which is of divine Nature, He is to find him again as Horus (the Son of God, the Logos, wisdom), in the opposition between strife (Typhon) and Love (Isis). In Greek form Empedocles expresses even his fundamental conviction by means of thoughts that suggest myth. Love is Aphrodite and Strife is Neikos. They bind and unbind the elements.

The portrayal of the content of a myth in the manner followed here must not be confused with a merely symbolical interpretation of myths, and still less with an allegorical one. This is not intended. The symbols forming the content of a myth are not invented symbols of abstract truths, but actual soul-experiences of the initiate. He experiences the images with his spiritual organs of perception just as the normal man experiences the mental images of physical things with his eyes and ears. But just as a mental image is nothing in itself, if it is not aroused in perception by an outer object, so the mythical image is nothing unless it is excited by real facts of the spiritual world. Only, in regard to the physical world man is at first outside the stimulating causes, whereas he can experience the images of myths only if he is within the corresponding spiritual occurrences. In order, however, to be within them, he must have gone through initiation, as the ancient mystics had always believed. Then the spiritual occurrences within which he is perceiving are, as it were, illustrated by the myth-images. Anyone who cannot take the mythical element as an illustration of real spiritual occurrences has not yet attained to the understanding of it. For the spiritual events themselves are supersensible, and images reminiscent of the physical world are not themselves of a spiritual nature, but only an illustration of spiritual things. One who lives merely in the images lives in a dream. Only the one who has come to the point of sensing the spiritual element in the image just as he senses a rose in the physical world through the conception of a rose, really lives in spiritual perceptions. This is the reason why the images of myths cannot be unequivocal. On account of their illustrative character the same myths may express several spiritual facts. It is therefore not a contradiction when interpreters of myths sometimes connect a myth with one spiritual fact and sometimes with another. From this standpoint we are able to find a thread to conduct us through the labyrinth of Greek myths. Let us consider the legend of Heracles. The twelve labors imposed upon Heracles appear in a higher light when We remember that before the last and most difficult of these he seeks initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries. He is commissioned by King Eurystheus of Mycenæ to bring the hell-hound Cerberus from the infernal regions and take it back there again. In order to undertake the descent into hell, Heracles had to be initiated. The Mysteries conducted the neophite through the death of perishable things, that is, into the nether world; and through initiation they rescued his eternal principle from perdition. As an initiate he could vanquish death; as an initiate he overcomes the dangers of the nether-world. This justifies us in interpreting his other ordeals as stages in the inner development of the soul, He overcomes the Nemæan lion and brings him 1o Mycenæ. This means that he becomes master of purely physical force in man; he tames it. Afterwards he slays the nine-headed Hydra. He overcomes it with firebrands and dips his arrows in its gall, so that they become deadly. This means that he overcomes lower knowledge derived through the senses. He does this through the fire of the spirit, and from what he had gained through the lower knowledge he draws the power to look at lower things in the light that belongs to spiritual sight. Heracles captures the hind of Artemis, goddess of the chase: everything nature offers the human soul Heracles makes his own: His other labors may be interpreted in the same way. We cannot here trace out every detail and only wish to show how the general sense of the myth points to inner development.

A similar interpretation is possible of the expedition of the Argonauts. Phrixus and his sister Helle, children of a Bœotian king, suffered much at the hands of their stepmother. The gods sent them a ram with a golden fleece, which bore them through the air. When they passed over the straits between Europe and Asia, Helle was drowned. Hence the strait is called the Hellespont. Phrixus came to Æetes, King of Colchis, on the east shore of the Black Sea. He sacrificed the ram to the gods and gave its fleece to the King, who had it hung up in a grove and guarded by a terrible dragon. The Greek hero Jason undertook to fetch the fleece from Colchis in company with other heroes, Heracles, Theseus, and Orpheus. Æetes laid heavy tasks upon Jason in his effort to obtain the treasure, but the king’s daughter Medea, who was versed in magic, aided him. He subdued two fire-breathing bulls. He ploughed a field and sowed it with dragon’s teeth from which armed men grew up out of the earth. On Medea’s advice he threw a stone into their midst, whereupon they killed each other. Jason lulls the dragon to sleep with a charm given him by Medea and is then able to obtain the fleece. He leaves with it to return to Greece, Medea accompanying him as his wife. The king pursues the fugitives. In order 1o detain him, Medea slays her little brother Absyrtus and scatters his severed limbs into the sea. Æetes stops to collect them, and thus the pair are able to reach Jason’s home with the flece.

Each of these incidents requires a deep elucidation. The fleece is something belonging to man, and infinitely precious to him. It is something from which he was sundered in times of yore, and for the recovery of which he has to overcome terrible forces. This is true of the Eternal in the human soul. It belongs to man, but man is separated from it by his lower nature. Only by overcoming the latter, by lulling it to sleep, can he recover the Eternal. This becomes possible when his own consciousness (Medea) comes to his aid with its magic power. Medea is to Jason what Diotima, as a teacher of love, was to Socrates, (cf. p. 72). Man’s own wisdom has the magic power necessary to attain the Divine after having overcome the transitory. From the lower nature there can only arise a lower human principle, the armed men who are overcome by spiritual force, the counsel of Medea. Even when man has found his Eternal, the fleece, he is not yet safe. He must sacrifice part of his consciousness (Absyrtus). This is exacted by the physical world which we can only apprehend as a multiple (dismembered) world. We might go still deeper into the description of the spiritual events underlying the images, but it is only intended here to indicate the principle according to which myths originate.

Of special interest, when interpreted in this way, is the legend of Prometheus. He and his brother Epimetheus are sons of the Titan Iapetus. The Titans are the offspring of the oldest generation of gods, Uranus (Heaven) and Gæ (Earth). Kronos, the youngest of the Titans, dethroned his father and seized control of the world. In return, he and the other Titans were overpowered by his son Zeus, who became the chief of the gods. In the struggle with the Titans, Prometheus was on the side of Zeus. By his advice, Zeus banished the Titans to the nether-world. But in Prometheus there still lived the Titan spirit: he was only half a friend to Zeus. When the latter wished to exterminate men on account of their arrogance, Prometheus espoused their cause, taught them the art of numbers writing, and other things that lead to culture, especially the use of fire. This aroused the wrath of Zeus against Prometheus. Hephaistos, the son of Zeus, was commissioned to create a female form of great beauty whom the gods adorned with every possible gift. She was called Pandora, the all-gifted one. Hermes, messenger of the gods, took her to Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus. She brought him a casket as a present from the gods. Epimetheus accepted the present although Prometheus had warned him against receiving any gift from the gods. When the casket was opened all sorts of human ills flew out. Hope alone remained, and this because Pandora quickly closed the box. Hope has, therefore, been left to man as a doubtful gift of the gods. By order of Zeus, Prometheus, on account of his relation to man, was chained to a rock in the Caucasus. An eagle perpetually gnaws his liver, which is constantly renewed. He has to pass his life in agonizing loneliness till one of the gods voluntarily sacrifices himself, that is, gives himself up to death. The tormented Prometheus bears his sufferings steadfastly. He had been told that Zeus would be dethroned by the son of a mortal woman unless Zeus consented to wed her. It was important for Zeus to know this secret. He sent the messenger Hermes to Prometheus in order to learn something about it. Prometheus refused to divulge anything.—The legend oF Heracles is connected with that of Prometheus. In the course of his wanderings Heracles comes to the Caucasus. He slays the eagle that was devouring the liver of Prometheus. The centaur Chiron who cannot die, although suffering from an incurable wound, sacrifices himself for Prometheus, who is thereupon reconciled with the gods.

The Titans are the force of will, proceeding as nature (Kronos) from the original universal spirit (Uranus). Here we must think not merely of will-forces in an abstract form, but of actual will-beings. Prometheus is one of them, and this characterizes his nature. But he is not altogether a Titan. In a certain sense he is on the side of Zeus, the Spirit who enters upon the rulership of the world after the unbridled force of nature (Kronos) has been subdued. Prometheus is thus the representative of those worlds that have given man the progressive urge, half nature-force, half spiritual force: will. The will points on the one side towards good, on the other towards evil. Its fate is decided according as it leans toward the spiritual or the perishable. This fate is that of man himself. He is chained to the perishable, the eagle gnaws him, he has to suffer. He can reach the highest only by seeking his destiny in solitude. He has a secret, which is that the Divine (Zeus) must marry a mortal woman (human consciousness bound up with the physical body), in order to beget a son, human wisdom (the Logos) that will deliver the deity. By this means consciousness becomes immortal. He must not betray this secret until an initiate (Heracles) comes to him and eliminates the power that was perpetually threatening him with death. A being half animal, half human, a centaur, is obliged to sacrifice itself to redeem man. The centaur is man himself, half animal, half spiritual. He must die in order that the purely spiritual man may be delivered. That which is disdained by Prometheus (human will) is accepted by Epimetheus (mind, intelligence). But the gifts offered to Epimetheus are only troubles and sorrows, for the mind clings to the transitory and perishable. Only one thing is left—the hope that even out of the perishable the Eternal may Some day be born.

The thread running through the legends of the Argonauts, of Heracles, and Prometheus, holds good in Homer’s Odyssey. The method of interpretation here may seem forced; but on closer consideration of everything which has to be taken into account, even the sturdiest skeptic must cease to doubt. Most startling of all must seem Odysseus’ report that he, too, descended into the nether-world. Whatever we may think about the author of the Odyssey in other respects, it is impossible to imagine his representing a mortal descending to the infernal regions without bringing him into relation with what the journey into the nether-world meant to the Greek world conception. It meant the conquest of the perishable and the awakening of the Eternal in the soul. It must therefore be conceded that Odysseus accomplished this, and thereby his experiences and those of Heracles acquire a deeper significance. They become a delineation of the non-sensuous, of the soul’s progress of development. Furthermore, the narrative in the Odyssey iS not in the manner demanded by a series of outer events. The hero makes voyages in enchanted ships. Actual geographical distances are dealt with in most arbitrary fashion. It is not in the least a question of what is physically real. This becomes comprehensible if the physically real events are only related for the sake of illustrating a spiritual development. Moreover the poet himself says at the opening of the book that it deals with a search for the soul: “O Muse, sing to me of the man full of resource, who wandered very much after he had destroyed the sacred city of Troy, and saw the cities of many men, and learned their manners. Many griefs also in his mind did he suffer on the sea, although seeking to preserve his own soul, and the return of his companions.”

We have before us a man seeking for the soul, for the Divine, and his wanderings during this search are narrated. He comes to the land of the Cyclops. These are uncouth giants with only one eye, and that in the centre of the forehead. The most terrible, Polyphemus, devours several of Odysseus’ companions. Odysseus himself escapes by blinding the Cyclops. Here we have to do with the first stage of life’s pilgrimage. Physical force or the lower nature has to be overcome. It devours any one who does not wrest from it its power, who does not blind it. Odysseus next comes to the island of the enchantress Circe. She changes some of his companions into grunting pigs. She also is subdued by Odysseus. Circe is the lower mind-force that cleaves to the transitory. If misused, it may thrust men down even deeper into bestiality. Odysseus has to overcome it. Then he is able to descend into the nether-world. He becomes a mystic. Now he is exposed to the dangers that beset the mystic on his progress from the lower to the higher degrees of initiation. He comes to the Sirens Who lure the passer-by to death by sweet magic sounds. These are the forms of the lower imagination, which are at first pursued by one who has freed himself from the power of the senses. He has achieved freedom of Action for his spirit, but not initiation. He pursues illusions from the power of which he must break loose. Odysseus has to accomplish the awful passage between Scylla and Charybdis. The neophite wavers between spirit and sensuousness. He cannot yet grasp the full significance of spirit, yet sensuousness has already lost its former value. All Odysseus’ companions perish in a shipwreck; he alone escapes and comes to the nymph Calypso, who receives him kindly and takes care of him for seven years. At length, by order of Zeus, she dismisses him to his home. The mystic has arrived at a stage at which all his fellow-aspirants fail; he alone, Odysseus, is worthy. He enjoys for a time, which is defined by the mystically symbolical number seven, the tranquility of gradual initiation. Before Odysseus arrives at his home he comes to the isle of the Phaaces, where he meets with a hospitable reception. The king's daughter gives him sympathy, and the king himself, Alcinous, entertains and honors him. Once more does Odysseus approach the world and its joys, and the spirit that is attached to the world, Nausicaa, awakes within him. But he finds the way home, to the Divine. At first, nothing good awaits him at home. His wife: Penelope, is surrounded by numerous suitors. Each one she promises to marry when she will have finished weaving a certain piece of fabric. She avoids keeping her promise by undoing every night what she has woven by day. Odysseus is obliged to vanquish the suitors before he can be reunited with his wife it peace. The goddess Athene changes him into # beggar so that he may not be recognized on his entrance to his home; he then overcomes the suitors: Odysseus is seeking his own deeper consciousness, the divine powers of the soul. He wishes to be united with them. Before the mystic can find them he must overcome everything which sues for the favor of that consciousness. The band of suitors springs from the world of lower reality, from perishable nature. The logic applied to them is a spinning of fabric which is always undone again after it has been spun. Wisdom (the goddess Athene) is the sure guide to the deepest forces of the soul. It changes man into a beggar, that is, it divests him of everything of a transitory nature. Wholly steeped in Mystery wisdom were the Eleusinian Festivals, celebrated in Greece in honor of Demeter and Dionysos. A sacred road led from Athens to Eleusis. It was bordered with mysterious signs intended to bring the soul into an exalted mood. In Eleusis there were mysterious temples served by families of priests. The dignity and the wisdom bound up With this dignity were inherited in these families from 8eneration to generation.1Instructive information about the organization of these sanctuaries will be found in Karl Bötticher's Erginzungen zu den letzten Untersuchungen auf der Akropolis in Athen, Philologus, Supplement, vol. III, part 3. The wisdom that qualified for service was the wisdom of the Greek Mysteries. The festivals, which were celebrated twice a year, presented the great world-drama of the destiny of the Divine in the world, and of that of the human soul. The lesser Mysteries were observed in February, the greater in September. With the festivals, initiations were connected. The symbolical presentation of the cosmic and human drama formed the final act of the initiations of the mystics that took place here.

The Eleusinian temples had been erected in honor of the goddess Demeter. She was a daughter of Kronos. She had given Zeus a daughter, Persephone, before his marriage with Hera. Once while at play, Persephone was carried away by Pluto, god of the nether-world. Demeter wandered far and wide over the earth, seeking her with lamentations. Sitting on a stone in Eleusis, she was found by the daughters of Keleus, ruler of the place. In the form of an old woman she entered the service of his family, as nurse to the queen’s son. She wished to endow this boy with immortality, and for this purpose hid him in the fire every night. When his mother discovered this she wept and lamented. Henceforth the bestowal of immortality was impossible. Demeter left the house. Keleus then built a temple. The grief of Demeter for Persephone was limitless. She spread sterility over the earth. The gods had to appease her in order to prevent a great catastrophe. Thus Zeus induced Pluto to release Persephone into the upper world, but before letting her go he gave her a pomegranate to eat. This obliged her to return periodically to the nether-worldHenceforward she spent a third of the year there, and two-thirds in the world above. Demeter was appeased and returned to Olympus; but at Eleusis, the place of her suffering, she founded the cult which should keep her fate in remembrance.

It is not difficult to discover the meaning of the myth of Demeter and Persephone. That which lives alternately above and below is the soul. The immortality of the soul and her perpetually recurring transformation by birth and death are presented in pictures. The soul derives from the immortal—Demeter. But she is led astray by the transitory and is even condemned to share its destiny. She has partaken of the fruits of the nether-world: the human soul is satisfied by the transitory, therefore she cannot permanently live in the heights of the Divine. She has always to return to the realm of the perishable. Demeter is the representative of the being out of which human consciousness arose; but we must think of it as the consciousness capable of coming into being through the spiritual forces of the earth, Thus Demeter is the primordial essence of the earth, and her endowment of the earth with the Seed-forces of the fruits of the fields points to a still deeper aspect of her being. This being wishes to give man immortality. Demeter hides her nursling in the fire by night. But man cannot bear the pure force of fire (the spirit) . Demeter is obliged to abandon the idea. All she can do is to found a temple service through which man can participate in the Divine to the extent of his ability.

The Eleusinian Festivals were an eloquent confession of the belief in the immortality of the human soul. This confession found pictorial expression in the Perscphone myth. Together with Demeter and Persephone, Dionysos was commemorated in Eleusis. Just as Demeter was worshipped as the divine creatress of the Eternal in man, so in Dionysos the ever-changing Divine in the world was venerated. Dionysos, the god, poured into the world and torn to pieces in order t0 be spiritually reborn, (cf. p. 74) had to be worshipped together with Demeter.2A brilliant description of the spirit of the Eleusinian Mysteries is found in Edouard Schuré’s book, Sanctuaires d’Orient. Paris, 1898.