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What did the Eleusinia mean? Per- Then there are the Sophists and their haps, reader, you think the question of young disciples, and the vast crowd of little interest. “ The Eleusinia! Why, the Athenian people. Some of the oldLobeck made that little matter clear long est among them may have seen and heard ago; and there was Porphyry, who told the · Prometheus Vinctus ”; certainly us that the whole thing was only an illus- very many of them have seen “ Antigotration of the Platonic philosophy. St. ne,” and “ (Edipus,” and “ Electra”; and Croix, too,- he made the affair as clear all of them have heard the Rhapsodists. as day!”
Great wonders have they seen and heard, But the question is not so easily settled, which, in their appeal to the heart, tranmy friend; and I insist upon it that you scend all the wonders of this nineteenth have an interest in it. Were I to ask
Not more fatal to the poor you the meaning of Freemasonry, you Indian was modern civilization, bringwould think that of importance; you ing swift ruin to his wigwam and transcould not utter the name without won- formning his hunting-grounds into the sites der; and it may be that there is even of populous cities, than modern improvemore wonder in it than you suspect, ments would have been to the Greek. — though you be an arch-mason your- Modern strategy! What a subject for self. But in sight of Eleusis, freemason- Homer would the siege of Troy have ry sinks into insignificance. For, of all been, had it consisted of a series of races, the Grecian was the most myste- pitched battles with rifles! Railways, rious; and, of all Grecian mysteries, the steamboats, and telegraphs, annihilating Eleusinia were the mysteries par excel- space and time, would also have annihilence. They must certainly have meant lated the Argonautic expedition and the something to Greece, — something more wanderings of Ulysses. There would than can ever be adequately known to have been little fear, in a modern steamus. A farce is soon over; but the Eleu- ship, of the Sirens' song; one whistle sinia reached from the mythic Eumolpus would have broken the charın. A modto Theodosius the Great, — nearly two ern steamship might have borne Ulysses thousand years. Think you that all Ath- to Hades, but it would never have ens, every tifth year, for more than sixty brought him back, as his own ship did. generations, went to Eleusis to witness And how do you think a ride to Eleusis and take part in a sham ?
by railway to-day would strike this AthenBut, reader, let us go to Eleusis, and ian populace, to say nothing of the phisee, for ourselves, this great festival. losophers and poets we have along with Suppose it to be the 15th of September,
us ? B. C. 411, Anno Mundi 3593 (though But they are thinking of Eleusis, and we would not make oath to that). It is a not of the way to Eleusis; so that we may fine morning at Athens, and every one as well keep our suggestion to ourselves, is astir, for it is the day of assembling - also those pious admonitions which we together at Eleusis. Then, for
company, were just about to administer to our comwe shall have Plato, now eighteen years panions on heathenish superstitions. A old, Sophocles, an old man of eighty-four, strange fascination these Athenians have; Euripides, at sixty-nine, and Aristopha- and before we are aware, our thoughts, nes, at forty-five. Socrates, who has his too, are centred in Eleusis, whither are peculiar notions about things, is not one tending, not Athens only, but vast multiof the initiated, but will go with us, if we tudes from all Greece. Their movement ask him. These are the élite of Athens. is tumultuous; but it is a tumult of natural enthusiasm, and not of Bacchic fren- that a year ago we were initiated into zy. If Athens be, as Milton calls her, the Lesser Mysteries at Agræ. (“Cer“the eye of Greece,” surely Eleusis must tamen enim, - et præludium certaminis ; be its heart!
et mysteria sunt quæ præcedunt mysteThere are nine days of the festival. ria.") We must have been mystä (veilThis first is the day of the agurmos, ed) before we can become e popla (seers); (ayupuós.) or assembling together the flux in plain English, we must have shut our of Grecian life into the secret chambers eyes to all else before we can behold the of its Eleusinian heart. To-morrow is the mysteries. Crowned with myrtle, we enday of purification ; then, “ To the sea, all ter with the other mystc into the vestiye that are initiated!” ('Αλαδε, μύσται ! ) bule of the temple, – blind as yet, but lest any come with the stain of impurity the Hierophant within will soon open to the mysteries of God. The third day
our eyes. is the day of sacrifices, that the heart also But first,- for here we must do nothing may be made pure, when are offered bar- rashly,— first we must wash in this holy ley from the fields of Eleusis and a mul- water; for it is with pure hands and a let. All other sacrifices may be tasted; pure heart that we are bidden to enter but this is for Demeter alone, and not to the most sacred inclosure. Then, led be touched by mortal lips. On the fourth into the presence of the Ilierophant, he day, we join the procession bearing the reads to us, from a book of stone, things sacred basket of the goddess, filled with which we must not divulge on pain of curious symbols, grains of salt, carded death. Let it suffice that they fit the wool, sesame, pomegranates, and pop- place and the occasion; and though you pies, – symbols of the gifts of our Great might laugh at them, if they were spoken Mother and of her mighty sorrow. On outside, still you seem very far from that the night of the fifth, we are lost in mood now, as you hear the words of the the hurrying tumult of the torch-light old man (for old he always was) and look processions. Then there is the sixth upon the revealed symbols. And very day, the great day of all, when from far indeed are you from ridicule, when Athens the statue of lacchus (Bacchus) Demeter seals, by her own peculiar utteris borne, crowned with myrtle, tumultu- ances and signals, by vivid coruscations ously through the sacred gate, along the of light, and cloud piled upon cloud, all sacred way, halting by the sacred tig- that we have seen and heard from her tree, (all sacred, mark you, from Eleu- sacred priest ; and when, finally, the light sinian associations,) where the procession of a serene wonder fills the temple, and rests, and then moves on to the bridge we see the pure fields of Elysium and over the Cephissus, where again it rests, hear the choirs of the Blessed ; — then, and where the expression of the wildest not merely by external seeming or phigrief gives place to the trifling farce, losophic interpretation, but in real fact, even as Demeter, in the midst of her does the Hierophant become the Creator grief, smiled at the levity of lambe in and Revealer of all things; the Sun is the palace of Celeus. Through the “ mys- but his torch-bearer, the Moon his attendtical entrance" we enter Eleusis. On the ant at the altar, and Hermes his mystic seventh day, games are celebrated; and herald. But the final word has been utto the victor is given a measure of bar- tered : “Conx Ompar.” The rite is conley, — as it were a gift direct from the summated, and we are epoplæ forever! hand of the goddess. The eighth is sa- One day more, and the Eleusinia themcred to Æsculapius, the Divine Physician, selves are completed. As in the beginwho heals all diseases; and in the evening ning by lustration and sacrifices we conis performed the initiatory ritual. ciliated the favor of the gods, so now by
Let us enter the mystic temple and be libation we finally commend ourselves to initiated, -- though it must be supposed their care. Thus did the Greeks begin all things with lustration and end with light, has been snatched by ruthless Pluto libation, each day, each feast,- all their to the realm of the Invisible. Then by solemn treaties, their ceremonies, and sa- the procession of lacchus we learn that cred festivals. But, like all else Eleu- divine aid has come to the despairing sinian, this libation must be sui generis, Demeter; by the coming of Æsculapius emptied from two bowls, – the one to shall all her wounds be healed; and the ward the East, the other toward the West. change in the evening from the mystæ to Thus is finished this Epos, or, as Clemens epopta is because that now to Demeter, Alexandrinus calls it, the “ mystical dra- the cycle of her grief being accomplishma” of the Eleusinia.
ed, the ways of Jove are made plain,Now, reader, you have seen the Mys- even his permission of violence from unteries. And what do they mean? Let seen hands; to her also is the final libaus take care lest we deceive ourselves, as tion. many before us have done, by merely But the story of the stolen Proserpina looking at the Eleusinia.
is itself an afterthought, a fable invented Oh, this everlasting staring! This it to explain the Mysteries; and, however is that leads us astray. That old star- much it may have modified them in degazer, with whom Æsop has made us ac- tail, certainly could not have been their quainted, deserved, indeed, to fall into ground. Nor is the sorrowing Demeter the well, no less for his profanity than herself adequate to the solution. For his stupidity. Yet this same star-gazing the Eleusinia are older than Eleusis, — it is that we miscall reflection. Thus, in older than Demeter, even the Demeour blank wonder at Nature, — in our ter of Thrace, -certainly as old as Isis, naked analysis of her life, expressed who was to Egypt what Demeter was to through long lists of genera and species Greece, — the Great Mother* of a thouand mathematical calculations, as if we sand names, who also had her endlessly were calling off the roll of creation, or repeated sorrow for the loss of Osiris, and as if her depth of meaning rested in in honor of whom the Egyptians held an her vast orbs and incalculable velocities, annual festival. Thus we only remove - in all this we fail of her real mys- the mystery back to the very verge of tery.
myth itself; and we must either give up To mere external seeming, the Eleusi- the solution or take a different course. nia point to Demeter for their interpre- But perhaps Isis will reveal herself, and tation. To her are they consecrated, - at the same time unveil the Mysteries. of her grief are they conmemorative; out Let us read her tablet: “I am all that of reverence to her do the mysto purify has been, all that is, all that is to be; themselves by lustration and by the sacrifice that may not be tasted; she it is who
* The worship of this Grent Mother is not
more wonderful for its antiquity in time than is symbolized, in the procession of the
for its preralence as regards space. To the basket, as our Great Mother, through the Hindu she was the Lady Isani. She was the salt, wool, and sesame, which point to Ceres of Roman mythology, the Cybele of her bountiful gifts, while by the poppies Phrygia and Lydia, and the Disa of the North. and pomegranates it is hinted that she According to Tacitus, (Germania, c. 9,) she nourishes in her heart some profound sor
was worshipped by the ancient Suevi. She
was worshipped by the Muscovite, and reprerow: by the former, that she seeks to
sentations of her are found upon the sacred bury this sorrow in eternal oblivion, - drums of the Laplanders. She swayed the by the latter, that it must be eternally ancient world, from its southeast corner in reiterated. The procession of the torch
India to Scandinavia in the north west; and es defines the sorrow; and by this wild, everywhere she is the “ Mater Dolorosa."
And who is it, reader, that in the Christian despairing search in the darkness do
world struggles for life and power under the we know that her daughter Proser- name of the Holy Virgin, and through the sad pine, plucking flowers in the fields of features of the Madonna?
and the veil which is over my face no of Winter wastes the fair fruit of Summortal hand hath ever raised !” Now, mer, and Death walks in the ways of reader, would it not be strange, if, in Life with inexorable claims. But at the solving her mystery, we should also solve last, through Him, my First-begotten and the Sphinx's riddle ? But so it is. This my Best-beloved, who also died and deis the Sphinx in her eldest shape, — this scended into Hades, and the third day Isis of a thousand names ; and the an- rose again, — through lim, having ceasswer to her ever-recurring riddle is al- ed from wandering, I shall triumph in ways the same. In the Human Spirit Infinite Joy!” is infolded whatsoever has been, is, or That, reader, is not so difficult to transshall be; and mortality cannot reveal late into human language. Thus, from it!
the beginning to the end of the world, Not to Demeter, then, nor even to Isis, do these Mysteries, under various names, do the Eleusinia primarily point, but to shadow forth the great problem of huthe human heart. We no longer look at man life, which problem, as being fundathem ; henceforth they are within us. mental, must be religious, the same that Long has this mystic mother, the won
is shadowed forth in Nature and Revelader of the world, waited for the rev- tion, namely: man's sin, and his redempelation of her face. Let us draw aside tion from sin, — his great loss, his infinite the veil, (not by mortal hand, - it moves error, and his final salvation. at your will,) and listen :
Sorrow, so strong a sense of which “ I am the First and the Last,- moth- pervaded these Mysteries that it was the er of gods and men. As deep as is my name (Achtheia) by which Demeter was mystery, so deep is my sorrow. For, lo! known to her mystic worshippers,—huall generations are mine. But the fairest man sorrow it was which veiled the eyefruit of my Holy Garden was plucked by lids; toward which veiling (or muesis) my mortal children ; since which, Apol- the lotus about the head of Isis and the lo among men and Artemis among wom- poppy in the hand of Demeter distinctly en have raged with their fearful arrows. point. Hence the mystce, whom the readMy fairest children, whom I have brought er must suppose to have closed their eyes forth and nourished in the light, have to all without them,-- even to Nature, erbeen stolen by the children of darkness. cept as in sympathy she mirrors forth By the Flood they were taken ; and I the central sorrow of their hearts. But wandered forty days and forty nights up- this same sorrow and its mighty work, on the waters, ere again I saw the face veiled from all mortal vision, shut out by of the earth. Then, wherever I went, I very necessity from any sympathy save brought joy; at Cyprus the grasses sprang
that of God, is a preparation for a purer up beneath my feet, the golden-filleted vision,- a second initiation, in which the Horæ crowned me with a wreath of gold eyes shall be reopened and the myslæ and clothed me in immortal robes. Then, become epoptæ ; and of such significance also, was renewed my grief; for Adonis, was this higher vision to the Greek, that whom I had chosen, was slain in the it was a synonyme for the highest earthchase and carried to Hades. Six months ly happiness and a foretaste of ElysI
wept his loss, when he rose again and I ium. triumphed. Thus in Egypt I mourned As this vision of the epople was the for Osiris, for Atys in Phrygia, and for vision of real faith, so the muesis, or veilProserpina at Eleusis, — all of whom ing of the mystæ, was no mere affectation passed to the underworld, were restored of mysticism. Not so easily could be set for a season, and then retaken. Thus aside this weight of sorrow upon the eyeis my sorrow repeated without end. All lids, which, notwithstanding that, leading things are taken from me. Night treads to self, it leads to wandering, leads also upon the heels of Day, the desolation through Divine aid to that peace which passeth all understanding. Thus were as its visible symbol; and sleep, " the the Hebrews led out of Egyptian bond- minor mystery of death,” (ύπνος τα μικρά age through wanderings in the Wilder- ToŨ Javátov potípia, *) has a deeper signess to the Promised Land. Even thus, nificance than is revealed in any exterthrough rites and ceremonies which to nal token. So what is sneeringly called us are hieroglyphics hard to be decipher the credulity of human nature is its holy ed, which are known only as shrouded faith, and, in spite of all the hard facts in infinite sorrow, — as dimly shadowing which you may charge upon it, is the forth some wild search in darkness and glory of man. It introduces us into that some final resurrection into light, - region where “nothing is unexpected, through these, many from Egypt and nothing impossible.” † It was the glory India and Scythia, from Scandinavia and of our childhood, and by it childhood is from the aboriginal forests of America, made immortal. Myth herself is ever a have for unnumbered ages passed from child, a genuine child of the earth, ina world of bewildering error to the heav- deed, — but received among men as the en of their hopes. To the eye of sense child of Heaven. and to shallow infidelity, this may seem Upon the slightest material basis have absurd ; but the foolishness of man is the been constructed myths and miracles and wisdom of God to the salvation of His fairy-tales without number; and so it must erring children. Happy, indeed, are the ever be. Thus man asserts his own ininitiated! Blessed are the poor in spir- herent strength of imagination and faith it, the Pariah, and the slave,- all they over against the external fact. Whatsowhose eyes are veiled with overshadow- ever is facile to Imagination is also facile ing sorrow! for only thus is revealed the to Faith. Easy, therefore, in our thoughts, glory of human life!
is the transition from the Cinder-wench There are many things, kind reader, in the ashes to the Cinderella of the palwhich, in our senseless staring, we may ace; easy the apotheosis of the slave, and call the signs of human weakness, but the passage from the weary earth to the which, by a higher interpretation, become fields of Elysium and the Isles of the revelations of human power. The gross Blessed. and pitiable features of the world are dis- This flight of the Imagination, this vissolved and clarified, when by an impas- ion of Faith,—these, reader, are only for sioned sympathy we can penetrate to the the epoptæ. It matters not, that, by naked heart of things. We are about to pity analysis, you can prove that the palaces the ragged vesture, the feeble knees, and of our fancy and the temples of our faith the beseeching hand of poverty, and the are but the baseless fabric of a dream. cries of the oppressed and the weary; It may be that the greater part of life is but, at a thought, Pity is slain by Rev- made up of dreams, and that wakefulness erence. We are ready to cry out against is merely incidental as a relief to the picthe sluggish movement of the world and ture. It may be, indeed, in the last anits lazy flux of life; but before the satire alysis, that the ideal is the highest, if not is spoken, we are fascinated by an under the only real. current of this same world, earnest and For the sensible, palpable fact can, by full toward its sure goal, — of which, in- the nature of things, exist for us only in deed, we only dream; but " the dream is the Present. But, my dear reader, it is just from God,”* and surer than sight. There here, in this Present, that the tenure by is a profounder calm than appears to which we have hold upon life is the most the eye, in the quiet cottages scattered frail and shadowy. For, by the strictest up and down among the peaceful val- analysis, there is no Present. The formula, leys; the rest of death is more untroub- It is, even before we can give it utterled than the marble face which it leaves ance, by some subtile chemistry of logic, * Iliad, I. 63.
* Euripides. † Archilochus.