THE ORIGIN AND OBJECT OF THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES





Along with the popular traditions and public cults of ancient times, there existed an inner organization of religion--the Mystery Institution--which was the channel of secret traditions.
While our knowledge of the Mysteries is not so extensive as we could desire, owing to the fact that they were anciently guarded with the greatest care -- the slightest violation of the oath of secrecy being punishable by death--we know that the mystery-side of religion, a knowledge of its highest cult and doctrines, was only attained through initiation. Every great Teacher of antiquity passed through these portals. This one fact in itself makes the study of the Mysteries of the utmost importance to Masons.The Institution of the Mysteries was to be found in all
parts of the world. There were the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris in Egypt, the Mithraic Mysteries of the Persians, the Orphic and Bacchic and the later Eleusinian semi-Mysteries of Greece, the Mysteries of Samothrace and Chaldea, the Mysteries of India, the Druidical Mysteries, the Gothic Mysteries, and many others.Thus it follows that the key to antiquity is a knowledge of its Mysteries. The late Gen. Albert Pike, formerly Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme
Council, Southern Jurisdiction, A.A.S.R. illustrates this by saying: "Through the veil of all the hieratic and mystic allegories of the ancient dogmas, under the seal of all the sacred writings, in the ruins of Nineveh or Thebes, on the worn stones of the ancient temples, and on the blackened face of the sphinx of Assyria or Egypt, in the monstrous or marvellous pictures which the sacred pages of the Vedas translate for the believers of India, in the strange emblems of our old books of Alchemy, in the ceremonies of reception practiced by all the mysterious Societies, we find traces of a doctrine everywhere the same, and everywhere carefully concealed. The occult philosophy
seems to have been the nurse or godmother of all religions, the secret lever of all the intellectual
forces, the key of all divine obscurities, and the Absolute Queen of Society, in the ages when it was exclusively reserved for the education of the Priests and Kings." (Morals and Dogma, p.729.)

THE ORIGIN OF THE MYSTERIES

The Mysteries had their origin in the first great Teachers and Guides of humanity. These are called the "Sons of Venus," they formed the! "Nursery of Adepts"-- the nucleus of the first Great White Lodge. The Chief of these is known by many mystic names in the old writings--the "Root Base of the Occult Hierarchy," the "Kumara," etc. Surrounding the Chief there was a small
band of Beings who came to earth to labour for the evolution of young humanity. Another class of Beings who aided in this work was called Agnishvattas. Many of these, we are told in the "Stanzas of Dzyan," became Arhats. Thus was established upon earth, according to tradition, the first Great Occult Hierarchy.In the early ages occult knowledge was taught openly, as the sciences are taught in our colleges to-day. But in the course of time many allowed their selfishness to rule and so abused their power that it became necessary to withhold such knowledge from the unworthy. This was the condition of religious affairs when the Mysteries
were necessarily established by the King-Priests of the Divine Dynasties, in the days of Atlantis.
There were many already in possession of occult knowledge who were so engrossed in selfishness that they could not be brought into the divine path; and their abuse of this power over the forces of nature made them giants of evil. They rebelled against the White Emperor, and became Black Magicians, this caused a long and fierce struggle. At last the cup of evil was
full; the forces of nature were turned against the land, until the great continent, together with all
followers of their own selfish practice, sank beneath the waters of the ocean. Before the storm broke, however, the men of the "Good Law" heeding the summons to escape, migrated to a place of safety.Before the overthrow of Atlantis the Mysteries were well established in ancient Chaldea and Egypt --the two great Fourth race nations being offshoots of the great Atlantean civilization. The Indian Mysteries came from her own Priest King, the Manu, who gave to the first
branch of the Aryan stock its religious teaching. From this fount of the Aryan race the Mystery-teaching in after years flowed westward, and mingling with the older tradition, derived from Ancient Atlantis, gave to, it new life and power. The Greeks received their Mysteries from Orpheus, who introduced them direct from India. But from whatever source the various nations
received their mystic instruction, the meaning was ever the same--all Initiates were members of the one Great Brotherhood. In these early days the Mystery-Institutions were conducted by Great Adepts whose knowledge was the fruitage of a prior system of evolution; but as time went on and our humanity developed, the great Masters gradually withdrew, and the Mysteries were committed to the advanced pupils of our present system of evolution.






THE SOURCE OF RELIGIONS.

There are two schools of thought in the modern world-- Comparative Mythologists and Comparative Religionists. The answers given by these two schools to the question of the source of religion are diametrically opposed, but both base their arguments upon the same common
facts. These facts are of marked similarity, not only in the teaching, character, and power of the Founders of religions, but also of the main outlines of their lives. The stories of these Saviour-Gods and their teachings antedate, some of them by many centuries, the birth of the Christian Saviour. This similarity amounting in many cases to practical identity, denotes, according to
both schools, a common origin. The Comparative Mythologists contend that the common
origin is one of common ignorance, that the universal natural phenomena and the personification of these powers of nature, resulted in similar ideas. This school maintains that the loftiest religious sentiments and doctrines are merely the refined feeling and expression of the barbarous guesses of primitive men; that Animalism, Fetishism and Nature-worship are the
soil out of which the highest forms of religious flowers have blossomed and that the founders of the great religions are the highly developed but lineal descendants of the "whirling medicine man." On the other hand, the Comparative Religionists maintain that the common origin is one of Divine Wisdom, or Gnosis. All religions, they say, originate from the teachings of Divine Men, who constitute a great Brotherhood of Spiritual Teachers, and give out from time to time, to different races and nations of the world, such parts of the fundamental truths of religion as are suited to the needs of the people. They contend that Animalism, Fetishism, and Nature-worship are the distorted and dwarfed descendants of true religious belief, and that the founders of great religions are men who have advanced beyond normal humanity, thus becoming the spiritual
guardians of the race. We have no hesitancy in saying that we accept the view of the Comparative Religionists, for the Scriptures of the various religions furnish abundant evidence that the founders were advanced men, and their teachings are not surpassed (or often equalled) by later writers in the same religions. The Sacred Books of the East give ample evidence of this fact; while the alleged refining process of the Mythologists is without adequate support.
We also find among savages many traces of lofty ideas which are entirely beyond their capacity to originate. When we remember that the savage tribes of to-day are not our ancestral types, but rather the degenerate offspring of past great nations, we begin to understand
how they came to possess these lofty ideas--they are the faint remaining vestiges of the Wisdom long ago imparted by a great religious Teacher.- (Esoteric Christianity, Besant, Ch. I.)
It is evident that man in his infancy was not left to grow up unaided. There have always been Elders or Sages from whom the less advanced brethren received direction and training; such ever stood beside the earliest cradle of humanity, and gave to the race the needed guidance and impulse toward a higher ideal of civilization.
The first great Teachers were advanced souls from other and still earlier systems of evolution. They were the Adepts of the early races who established upon this earth the first great Occult Fraternity. These lofty Beings watched over and guided early mankind; and as men advanced and became fitted for higher knowledge they were instructed in the nature of the gods, the
human soul, the mysteries of the unseen world, and the processes of the world's continual evolution. Such-are the persistent and uncontradictory facts in connection with the Mysteries.
Religions, then, have their source in the Occult Hierarchy--the qualified guardians of the spiritual growth of the human family.

REASONS FOR ESOTERICISM.

History has noted the disastrous results of spreading occult knowledge indiscriminately, and since the sad experiences of Atlantis, the Initiates have carefully guarded from the unpurified that knowledge which is power. Therefore, the most rigid conditions regarding purity, unselfishness and self-control are imposed on all who seek the higher knowledge. The temptation to use power for selfish ends is too great to entrust such knowledge to men of uncontrolled desires. Another reason for esotericism is the fact that religions were given for the purpose of quickening human evolution. Men are at such various stages of development, that what will be understood by the philosopher is unintelligible to another, and in order to reach and help all, it is evident that instruction must be adapted to the peculiar needs of each individual. The religious teachings must be as graded as evolution itself--each must be met on their own level and helped on and on, from that plain to greater heights and broader views, all in a fashion that appeals to their unfolding intellects. It is due to this fact that all the great Teachers have reserved the
greater truths for those capable of receiving and understanding them.

SECRECY OF INITIATES.

This has been the method of all great instructors. Initiates of all ages have maintained a profound silence concerning the truths learned in the Mysteries. From Orpheus, the first Initiate, of whom history catches a glimpse, to Pythagoras, Confucius, Buddha, Apollonius, Jesus, Saccus, no Teacher ever committed anything to writing for indiscriminate public use. Herodotus, in speaking of the reasons why animals were worshipped, says: "If I were to explain these reasons, I should be led to the disclosure of these holy matters, which I particularly wish to avoid," and again in other matters, "Concerning these, at the same time that I confess myself sufficiently informed, I feel myself compelled to be silent. Of the ceremonies also in honour of Ceres, I may not venture to speak, further than the obligations of religion will allow me."
Jesus charged his disciples that they tell no man that he was the Christ, also saying, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine; lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you." He surely had good reason for his secrecy. Many have learned the wisdom of these words when too late; Anaxagoras, Pythagoras, and Socrates, are notable examples. The great Teachers instructed their chosen disciples in
the higher knowledge and propagated these truths in allegories and parables. "All that can be said concerning the Gods," says Strabo, "must be by exposition of old opinions and fables; it being the custom of the ancients to wrap up in images and allegory their thoughts and discoveries concerning nature." Pythagoras, the great mathematical Mason, divided his
classes into the exoteric and esoteric, and his secrets were forbidden to be committed to writing.
The Society of the Essenes, among whom were St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, made similar distinctions; dividing their adherents into Neophytes, Brethren, and Perfect, while Ammonius Saccus obliged his disciples by oath not to divulge his doctrines, except to those who had been thoroughly instructed and prepared.
In Egypt we find the same method in practice, for Clement says, "The Egyptians did not entrust the mysteries they possessed to all and sundry, and did not divulge the knowledge of divine things to the profane." He also informs us that the sphinxes erected in front of the temples and places of Initiation denoted silence and secrecy--that all sacred truth is enfolded in symbolical fables and allegories--and he says of the Mysteries, "Those who instituted the Mysteries, being
philosophers, buried their doctrines in myths, so as not to be obvious to all." . (The Stromata, Book V, Ch.VII, Ch. IX.)The Sages of Greece, according to Pausanias, "Never wrote otherwise than in an enigmatical manner." They concealed their knowledge under the veil of fiction and
so taught that the vulgar might not comprehend. The typical Hermes assembled his disciples in a holy place or shrine where strict secrecy was imposed. In the Perfect Sermon he says, "And ye, O Tat, Asclepius and Ammon, in silence hide the mysteries divine within the secret places of your hearts, and breathe no word of their concealment." This was the universal procedure. Says Wm. R. Singleton, 33d degree, Past Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia:
"The wisdom of the Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Jews of Zoroaster, Sanconiathon, Pherecydes, Syrus, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato; of all the ancients, that is come to our hand, is symbolic. .. . In the method explaining the various symbols, religion and philosophy were veiled in allegoric representations ... These symbols were displayed openly in the temples ... to the
profane altogether obscure, but streaming with beams of light to the Initiated." (History of Freemasonry and Concordant Orders, p. 83.)

OCCULT SYSTEMS OF WRITING.

There were various methods employed by the teachers to convey and yet conceal the truths of the Mysteries. The three main Kabbalistic systems are the Gematria, which is based on the numerical value of words--applying to the letters of a word the sense they bear as numbers;
the Temura, by which a word yields its mystery by anagram --the transposition of the letters--and the Notaricon, which may be compared to stenography. The system of number-letters was derived from Chaldea by the Hebrews during and subsequent to their captivity. The Chaldeans worked out their cosmogonies and anthropogeneses in numbers, their sacred books were
written with this object in view; Pythagoras had a number-philosophy, which in all probability held many resemblances to the numberbooks of Chaldea; this method was developed to a great extent by the Hellenising tendencies of the cultured Rabbis of Alexandria. The Gnostics also made much use of this number-symbolism-- the system of Marcus being quite elaborate, and the books of Hermes are probably the oldest repositories of number-symbolism in western civilization.Closely connected with this was Geometrical symbolism, which was also used by Pythagoras-- the square,triangle, point within the circle, cube, double triangle, 47th. problem of Euclid, etc., the geometrical figures representing the numbers objectively. In every cosmology from the earliest times we find the basic idea combining numerical geometrical figures.
There is also the allegorical method--a setting forth of truth in the form of myths, or parables, and furthermore, the secret sacerdotal tongue, the Senzar,which was known to the Initiates of every nation. Then to rightly read the world's Scriptures one must have the keys to all these various systems.

OBJECT OF THE MYSTERIES.

The object of the Mysteries was the instruction and development of man. They were the work of genius employing the sciences and a profound knowledge of the human heart in the task of purifying the soul, and seeking man's felicity by the means of virtue. Great emphasis was laid upon man's immortality, and the object and purpose of the Mysteries was to fit him for
a blessed state beyond. Thus these mysteries taught the condition of the postmortem state, and strove to develop in the candidate the powers that would enable him to verify the instruction for himself.Antiquity had held that there was a science of the soul, a knowledge of things unseen, a Gnosis; and now that the possibility of extending the bounds of consciousness beyond the physical plane has been proven by many experiments in psychism, the claim of the Mysteries is not beyond rational belief. That the ego may transcend the limits of the body and become
conscious on the higher planes of nature verifies the truth of the mysteries of all ages and proves that nature's God, in infinite wisdom, through the constant progress or development of his children, is initiating them from every field of labour to aid in his mighty work.The higher instruction was not only given by perfected Initiates who could function on the higher planes, but
the assistance of angelic hierarchies was also invoked and those exalted Beings came to teach and elevate by their presence. Iamblichus, the great Theurgist of the third and fourth centuries A.D. says, "The Gods [these Beings are not Gods in the Western sense of the term but Angels, or Devas; Plato calls them the 'Minor Gods' to distinguish them from the Supreme] "being benevolent and propitious, impart their light to Theurgists in unvarying abundance, calling up ward their souls to themselves, procuring for them a union with themselves,and accustoming them, while they are yet in body, to be separate from bodies, and to be led around to their
eternal and intelligible principle." For "the soul having a twofold life, one being in conjunction with body but the other being separate from all body," it is most necessary to learn to separate from the body, that thus it may unite with the Gods and learn the truths of the intelligible world. (Esoteric Christianity, p. 24,25.)
The consummation of all this was to make the Initiate a God, either by union with a Divine Being without or by the realization of the Divine Self within.Sallust says that the object of the ceremonies of Initiation was to unite man with the world and Deity. The Initiate claimed that the soul purified from all stain, could see the Gods in this life-- that is, could attain the beatific vision, and hold communion with the Immortals. Prof. Harnick remarks that deification was the idea of salvation taught in the Mysteries.The Greek Neo-platonists called, this state"Theophany," which means either communication between the Gods or God and those Initiated mortals who are
spiritually fit to enjoy such intercourse; or the presence of a God in man, an incarnation or blending of the personal Deity; the Higher self with the lower self--its representative on earth.
Plotinus defines this state as "The liberation of the mind from its finite consciousness, becoming one and identified with the Infinite." The length and frequency of this sublime condition depends upon the spiritual development. Proclus claims to have experienced this ecstasy six times during his mystic life; Plotinus states that he had reached this state "but three times as yet ;" Porphyry asserts that Appolonius attained this state four times, while he experienced it but once, and that after he was sixty years of age. This illumination may come and go as a flash, or it may last
for hours. With the high Initiates, the Word is really made flesh, the union complete, and its duration continuous throughout life. The Mysteries were as a training school to this end. Philo in speaking of the Divine Vision says, "It is the special gift of those who dedicate themselves to the service of That-which-is.... to ascend by means of their rational faculties to the height of the aether, setting before themselves 'Moses'--the Race that is the friend of God (The Race of the Logos) as the leader of the way ... . the work of philosophy is naught else than the striving
clearly to see these things." Proclus also says, "In all the Initiations and Mysteries, the Gods exhibit many forms of themselves, and appear in a variety of shapes; and sometimes,
indeed a formless light of themselves is held forth to the view; sometimes this light is according to a human form and sometimes it proceeds into a different shape." (Quoted in Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, Taylor, p.66.)
Taylor too, correctly infers, "The most sublime part of the epopteia or final revealing, consisted in beholding the Gods [high planetary spirits] themselves, invested with a resplendent light." (Ibid, or same book, p. 65.)
In Plato's Phaedo, Socrates is made to say, "Those who instituted the Mysteries for us appear to have been by no means contemptible, but in reality to have intimated long since that whoever shall arrive in Hades unexpiated and uninitiated shall lie in mud [a symbol of the gloomy surroundings of the lowest region of the astral world], but he that arrives there purified and Initiated, shall dwell with the gods." (Plato, Cary's Translation, Vol. I, p. 68.) Again in Phaedrus, Plato says, "Initiated into that which may be rightly called the most blessed of all Mysteries. which we celebrated when we were whole and unaffected by the evils that
awaited us in time to come, and moreover when we were initiated in, and beheld in the pure light, perfect,simple, calm, and blessed visions, being ourselves pure, and as yet unmasked with this which we now carry about with us and call the body, fettered to it like an oyster to its shell." (Ibid, p. 326.)
If we admit the existence of faculties in man capable of piercing the veil of matter, we shall find no reason for rejecting the plain evidence of ancient writers that the Mysteries were associated with a psychic and spiritual revelation. Hermes in his sermons has much to say on the Gnosis.
Gnosis of God is the science of sciences. In "The Key" he tells us that "The distinctive feature of Good (God)is that it should be known." This is the "Vision Glorious." As stated by Mead in his commentary, "This consummation of Ecstasis (the extension of consciousness), we are told, was a transcending of the limitations of body, and was a faculty possessed by the forbears of the 'race' into which Hermes and now Tat are being born." ( Thrice Greatest Hermes, Vol. II, p.162.) The nature of Ecstasy is further explained as the fruit of meditation and contemplation. "The Gnosis of the Good is holy silence and a giving holiday to every sense." This is in accord with the Yoga of the Upanishads, which shows identity of thought of those who have had first hand experience. Hermes proceeds, "For it is possible, my son, that a man's soul should be made like to God, e'en while it still is in a body, if it doth contemplate the Beauty of the Good." This is the true deification or apotheosis--Man is like God in that he becomes a God. The result of the evolution of the soul was the attainment unto the "first steps of deathlessness," spoken of by Paul as the "resurrection of the dead." "The soul's vice," says Hermes, "is ignorance . . . . But on the other hand, the virtue of the soul is Gnosis. For he who knows, he good and pious is, and still while on the earth divine." Here we have the attainment of the divine state, that of Adeptship while still in the body. Proclus held that Initiation elevated the soul, from a material, sensual, and purely human life, to a communion and celestial intercourse with the Gods; and that a variety of things, forms, and species were shown to Initiates, representing the first generation of the Gods.
In speaking of Petosiris, Proclus tells us that this Egyptian Philosopher had an intimate knowledge of every order of the Gods and Angels, and refers to a hieratic formula of theurgic invocation to the greatest of the goddesses (Necessity), for inducing the vision of this power. Valens tells us of Nechepso who attained to direct knowledge of the Inner Way. Vettius, in the
first half of the first century A. D. laments that he did not live in those days of Initiate Kings, Rulers and Sages who occupied themselves with the Sacred Science. In those days so great was their love for the holy mysteries, so high their virtue, that they left the earth below them, and in their deathless souls became "heaven walkers" and knowers of things divine. Vettius also quotes a Greek apocalyptic treatise of Nechepso where the king tells us that he had remained
in contemplation all night gazing into the aether; and so in ecstasy he left his body and had then heard a heavenly Voice addressing him. This Voice was not merely a sound, but appeared as a substantial presence, who guided Nechepso on his way through the heavenly space. (ThriceGreatest Hermes, Vol. I, p. 101.)
Cicero considered the establishment of the Eleusinian Mysteries to be the greatest of all benefits conferred by Athens on other commonwealths; their effect having been to civilize men, soften savage ferocious manners, and teach them the true principles of morality, which initiate man into the only kind of life worthy of him. (Cicero cited in Morals and Dogma, p. 380.) The Mysteries procured for man a real felicity on earth by means of virtue. He was taught the immortality of the soul and the inflexible laws of divine justice, and the great moral precepts were made known not only to the Initiates but also to the profane. The Mysteries pointed out to men the way to "live better and die happier;" but, as we have seen, the object of the Mysteries was not merely to teach morality, for as Gen. Pike well says, "Had moral truths alone been taught the Initiates, the Mysteries could never have deserved nor received the magnificent eulogiums of the most
enlightened men of Antiquity--of Pindar, Plutarch, Isocrates, Diodorus, Plato, Euripides, Socrates,Aristophanes, Cicero, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and others: philosophers hostile to the Sacredotal Spirit,or historians devoted to the investigation of Truth.
The object of the Mysteries, then, was to instruct men in the real science of being, and to lead them up the stairway to perfection--to the superhuman stage--to the Christ and that which transcends even perfect Masterhood.
In this way they sought to purify the soul, holding that the true home of the soul was in the higher spheres, the earth a place of exile, and that to return to its birthplace the soul must free itself from the power of the world--must be emancipated from the passions and the hindrances of the senses. The Mysteries taught men how to attain the dominion of the soul, which was absolutely necessary as "We must flee from everything sensual," says Porphyry, "that the soul
may with ease reunite itself with God."Thus the Mysteries sought to sanctify men, to illuminate their souls and fit them to return consciously to union with the Deity. The Gnostics all
claimed that a man could so perfect himself that he would become a conscious worker with the Logos. The object of the Mysteries, then, was not only to teach the unity of God and the immortality of the soul, as Warburton, Mackey and other Masonic writers contend,but to enable each man to verify these great spiritual facts for himself.These citations from the ancient classic writers and philosophers regarding the Mysteries might be greatly extended, but this will suffice to show the reverence and admiration in which the Mysteries were held. Would these Mysteries have received such high praise had they not known them to be of divine origin? As has been well
said, "When men like Pythagoras, Plato, and Iamblichus, renowned for their severe morality, took part in the Mysteries and spoke of them with veneration it ill behooves our modern critics to judge them upon their merely external aspects." Many have accepted without question certain derogatory statements of the early Christian Apologists concerning the Mysteries, without taking into consideration the fact that the writers were animated by the spirit of bitter controversy. Due allowance should be made for this, placing such statements in the same category as those of the Pagans, when they charge the Christians with being Atheists,
and practicing shameful rites.To suppose that the Mysteries were the invention of charlatanism is the height of absurdity. True, they degenerated in the lapse of time as did the Christian
Agape but in the beginning and for long ages they were pure and noble, and the wisest and best men of antiquity were not wiIful falsifiers. The Mysteries were truIy the greatest institutions of ancient times. They contained all that was most profound in philosophy and most spiritual in religion.Such were the Ancient Mysteries of which Masonry is the successor.

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