THEOSOPHY, Vol. 11, No. 7, May, 1923
(Pages 301-304; Size: 13K)
INITIATES AND INITIATION(1)
[Part 6 of an 8-part series]
WHETHER the visions and objective phenomena claimed by both the fathers of the desert and the hierophants of the sanctuary are to be discredited or accepted as facts, the splendid imagery employed by Proclus and Apuleius in narrating the small portion of the final initiation that they dared reveal, throws completely into the shade the plagiaristic tales of the Christian ascetics, faithful copies though they were intended to be. The story of the temptation of St. Anthony in the desert by the female demon, is a parody upon the preliminary trials of the neophyte during the Mikra, or minor Mysteries of Agrae -- those rites at the thought of which Clemens railed so bitterly, and which represented the bereaved Demeter in search of her child, and her good-natured hostess Baubo.
The episode of the Matron Baubo -- whose rather eccentric method of consolation was immortalized in the minor Mysteries -- is explained by impartial mystagogues quite naturally. Ceres-Demeter and her earthly wanderings in search of her daughter are the euphemerized descriptions of one of the most metaphysico-psychological subjects ever treated of by the human mind. It is a mask for the transcendent narrative of the initiated seers; the celestial vision of the freed soul of the initiate of the last hour describing the process by which the soul that has not yet been incarnated descends for the first time into matter. "Blessed is he who has seen those common concerns of the underworld; he knows both the end of life and its divine origin from Jupiter," says Pindar. Taylor shows on the authority of more than one initiate, that the "dramatic performances of the Lesser Mysteries were designed by their founders to signify occultly the condition of the unpurified soul invested with an earthly body, and enveloped in a material and physical nature ... that the soul, indeed, till purified by philosophy, suffers death through its union with the body." The body is the sepulchre, the prison of the soul, and many Christian fathers held with Plato that the soul is punished through its union with the body. Such is the fundamental doctrine of the Buddhists and of many Brahmanists too.
The Candidate for Initiation always personified the God of the Temple he belonged to, as the High Priest personified the God at all times; just as the Pope now personates Peter and even Jesus Christ upon entering the inner sanctuary -- the Christian "Holy of Holies."
The "King's Chamber" in Cheops' Pyramid is thus an Egyptian "Holy of Holies." On the days of the Mysteries of Initiation, the Candidate, representing the Solar God, had to descend into the Sarcophagus, and represent the energising ray, entering into the fecund womb of Nature. Emerging from it on the following morning, he typified the resurrection of Life after the change called Death. In the Great Mysteries his figurative "death" lasted two days, when with the Sun he arose on the third morning, after a last night of the most cruel trials. While the Postulant represented the Sun -- the all-vivifying orb that "resurrects" every morning but to impart life to all -- the Sarcophagus was symbolic of the female principle. This in Egypt; its form and shape changed with every country, provided it remained a vessel, a symbolic "navis" or boat-shaped vehicle, and a "container," symbolically, of germs or the germ of life. In India it is the "Golden" Cow through which the Candidate for Brahmanism has to pass if he desires to be a Brahman, and to become Dvi-ja, "born a second time." The crescent-form Argha of the Greeks was the type of the Queen of Heaven -- Diana, or the Moon. She was the Great Mother of all Existences, as the Sun was the Father. The Jews, previous to, as well as after, their metamorphosis of Jehovah into a male God, worshipped Astoreth, which made Isaiah declare: "Your new moons and ... feasts my soul hateth:" in saying which he was evidently unjust. Astoreth and the New Moon (the crescent Argha) Festivals, had no worse significance as a form of public worship than had the hidden meaning of the Moon in general, which was Kabalistically connected directly with, and sacred to, Jehovah, as is well known; with the sole difference, however, that one was the female and the other the male aspect of the Moon, and of the star Venus.
Soma is the Moon astronomically; but in mystical phraseology it is also the name of the sacred beverage drunk by the Brahmans and the Initiates during their mysteries and sacrificial rites. The Soma plant is the asclepias acida, which yields a juice from which that mystic beverage, the Soma drink is made. Alone the descendants of the Rishis, the Agnihotris, or Fire-priests, of the great Mysteries knew all its powers. But the real property of the true Soma was (and is) to make a "new man" of the Initiate, after he is "reborn," namely, once that he begins to live in his Astral Body; for, his spiritual nature overcoming the physical, he would soon snap it off and part even from the etherealized form.
The partaker of Soma finds himself both linked to his external body, and yet away from it in his Spiritual Form. Freed from the former, he soars for the time being in the ethereal higher regions, becoming virtually "as one of the Gods," and yet preserving in his physical brain the memory of what he sees and learns. Plainly speaking, Soma is the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge forbidden by the jealous Elohim to Adam and Eve or Yah-ve, "lest man should become as one of us." Soma was never given in days of old to the non-initiated Brahman -- the simple Grihastra, or priest of the exoteric ritual.
At Byblos the neophytes as well as the hierophants were, after participating in the Mysteries, obliged to fast and remain in solitude for some time. There was strict fasting and preparation before as well as after the Bacchic, Adonian, and Eleusinian orgies; and Herodotus hints, with fear and veneration about the LAKE of Bacchus, in which "they (the priests) made at night exhibitions of his life and sufferings." (Herodotus, 11, p. 170). In the Mithraic sacrifices, during the initiation, a preliminary scene of death was simulated by the neophyte, and it preceded the scene showing him himself "being born again by the rite of baptism." A portion of this ceremony is still enacted in the present day by the Masons, when the neophyte, as the Grand Master Hiram Abiff, lies dead, and is raised by the strong grip of the lion's paw.
The priests were circumcised. The neophyte could not be initiated without having been present at the solemn Mysteries of the LAKE. The Nazarenes were baptized in the Jordan; and could not be baptized elsewhere; they were also circumcised, and had to fast before as well as after the purification by baptism. Jesus is said to have fasted in the wilderness for forty days, immediately after his baptism. To the present day, there is outside every temple in India, a lake, stream, or a reservoir full of holy water, in which the Brahmans and the Hindu devotees bathe daily.
The hierophants had their atonement enacted in the Mystery of Initiation ages before the Gnostics, or even the Essenes, had appeared. It was known among the hierophants as the BAPTISM OF BLOOD, and was considered not as an atonement for the "fall of man" in Eden, but simply as an expiation for the past, present, and future sins of ignorant but nevertheless polluted mankind. The hierophant had the option of offering either his pure and sinless life as a sacrifice for his race to the gods whom he hoped to rejoin, or an animal victim. The former depended entirely on their own will. At the last moment of the solemn "new birth" the initiator passed "the word" to the initiated and immediately after that the latter had a weapon placed in his right hand, and was ordered to strike. This is the true origin of the Christian dogma of atonement.
The ancients never entertained the sacrilegious thought that such perfected entities were incarnations of the One Supreme and forever invisible God. No such profanation of the awful Majesty entered into their conceptions. Moses and his antitypes and types were to them but complete men, gods on earth, for their gods (divine spirits) had entered into their hallowed tabernacles, the purified physical bodies. The disembodied spirits of the heroes and sages were termed gods by the ancients. Hence, the accusation of polytheism and idolatry on the part of those who were the first to anthropomorphize the holiest and purest abstractions of their forefathers.
The real and hidden sense of this doctrine was known to all the initiates. The Tanaim imparted it to their elect ones, the Isarim, in the solemn solitude of crypts and deserted places. It was one of the most esoteric and jealously guarded, for human nature was the same then as it is now, and the sacerdotal caste as confident as now in the supremacy of its knowledge, and ambitious of ascendancy over the weaker masses; with the difference, perhaps, that its hierophants could prove the legitimacy of their claims and the plausibility of their doctrines, whereas now, believers must be content with blind faith.
There are four grades of Initiation mentioned in exoteric works, which are known respectively in Sanskrit as Srotapanna, Sakridagamin, Anagamin and Arhan; the Four Paths to Nirvana, in this our Fourth Round, bearing the same appellations. The Arhan, though he can see the Past, the Present, and the Future, is not yet the highest Initiate; for the Adept himself, the initiated candidate, becomes Chela (Pupil) to a higher Initiate. Three higher grades have still to be conquered by the Arhan who would reach the apex of the ladder of Arhatship. There are those who have reached it even in this Fifth Race of ours, but the faculties necessary for the attainment of these higher grades will be fully developed, in the average ascetic, only at the end of this Root-Race, and in the Sixth and Seventh. Thus, there will always be Initiates and the Profane until the end of this minor Manvantara, the present Life-Cycle. The Arhats of the "Fire-Mist," of the Seventh Rung, are but one removed from the Root-Base of their Hierarchy, the highest on Earth and our Terrestrial Chain.
"The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." Many are the candidates at the doors of those who are supposed to know the path that leads to the secret brotherhoods. The great majority are refused admittance, and these turn away interpreting the refusal as an evidence of the non-existence of any such secret society. Of the minority accepted more than two-thirds fail upon trial. The seventh rule of the ancient Rosicrucian brotherhoods, which is universal among all secret societies: "the Rosy-Crux becomes and is not made," is more than the generality of men can bear to have applied to them.
(To be Continued)
INITIATES AND INITIATION
[Part 7 of an 8-part series]
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(1) Collated from Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine.
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