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Mysteries




MYSTERIES. This name was applied to certain ceremonies in Greek religion which were esteemed peculiarly sacred and might not be freely spoken about. The subject is one of great difficulty on account of the absolute silence maintained with regard to it by many writers, and the guarded terms in which the few references to it are couched. The obligation to silence was not felt by the Christian writers, and it is to them that we owe most of our knowledge. Their testimony is of doubtful value, and it has been keenly debated whether any trust can be placed in it; but it is in such perfect accord with the few references in pagan authors that this skepticism is unjustifiable. The Christian writers on whom we have to depend were arguing against pagan opponents, and their arguments would have lost all force if it had been possible to retort that the descriptions and facts were inaccurate. The Mysteries were the chief stronghold of those pagan controversialists who maintained that all the truths and the morality advocated by the Christian writers were contained in the Greek religion, and therefore the Christians directed their arguments chiefly against this strongest part of their opponents’ case. It results from a study of the evidence that, on the whole, they stated the case in favour of the Mysteries with much clearness and fairness, admitting the good points, but directing their polemic against the weak side.

Of the many Mysteries which existed in different parts of Greece, the Eleusinian were the most famous, the most widely popular, the most representative in every way. In several parts of Greece – e.g., at Phlius – there were Mysteries directly adopted from Eleusis; in other places, such as Lerna, Andania, &c., a genuine old mystic cultus was greatly modified by the same example. The Christian writers therefore direct their polemic mainly against the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the material for study is far less scanty in their case than in any other. The following remarks, accordingly, will be almost entirely confined to them. Any discussion of the subject must be founded on Lobeck’s great work Aglaophamus (1829), in which, with equal learning and acuteness, he destroyed once for all the a priori theories current before his time, that the Mysteries enshrined a primitive revelation of divine truth made to mankind, or contained a philosophic doctrine borrowed by the Greeks from the wisdom of the East and handed down unmodified from generation to generation. As a constructive work, Lobeck’s treatise is not so perfect. What we are in search of is not so much the objective facts of the Mysteries as the place which they held in the Greek mind. The effect of a religious institution like the Mysteries depends chiefly on subjective considerations; actions and rites in themselves quite commonplace may bear to the eye of faith the most sacred and impressive character. This point of view is not taken into account by Lobeck. Again, the polemical character detracts from the value of his work as a final statement of the question; he is sometimes satisfied with proving that ancient evidence does not bear out the theories which he combats, but he does not estimate duly its actual worth. Finally, additional evidence has been accumulated since his time; inscriptions and works of art have afforded important corroborative evidence, and it is certain that statements which Lobeck set aside as not referring to the Eleusinian religion do really relate to it.

There is no ancient authority to show that the ritual of the Mysteries differed essentially from that of the general religion of Greece. All ancient testimony tends to prove that the ritual was based on religious myths, similar to those which were common in Greece, and that the difference between mystic and exoteric rites lay chiefly in the accompaniments. Athenaeus says that the Mysteries were distinguished from the ordinary festivals by their peculiar magnificence and expense, and by the "mystic paradosis" which took place at them, i.e., certain sacred things were exposed in a peculiarly impressive manner to the worship of the participants. Their magnificence must have been very great. Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, dancing, &c., were combined with lavish skill to form one grand and impressive spectacle. Other great festivals were displays of Attic splendor, but the mysteries were intended, in the Periclean scheme, to be the great religious ceremony of all Greece; the allies were required, and the other Greeks requested, to pay homage and first-fruits to the two goddesses of Eleusis.

The strictest secrecy was enjoined and observed in regard to the Mysteries and everything connected with them; but this secrecy was not that of a narrow cult, confined to a small number of participants. The Eleusinian Mysteries were open as early as the time of Herodotus to any of the Greeks who wished to be initiated. There was, therefore, no secret to keep inviolate from the uninitiated. Just as in the actual representation of the Mysteries a silence so strict as to be proverbial was maintained, so it was a condition of their good effect that they should not hereafter be lightly spoken of. Those who believed in the Mysteries kept in their heart, as a saving and sacred possession, the knowledge of what they had seen and heard and kissed and handled; the thought was too holy to be rashly spoken of, even to the initiated. Numerous references prove that this mystic silence was generally very carefully observed. In the poets we sometimes find an affectation of observing silence about myths which are quite common property; and writers of religious or superstitious character frequently make a mystic secret of matters that less scrupulous writers speak freely about. The degree to which silence was observed depended entirely on the individual conscience, and the fact that it was in general so strictly maintained is the best proof of the vitality and power of the Mysteries over the popular mind.

The saving and healthy effect of the Eleusinian Mysteries was believed in not only by the mass of the people but by many of the most thoughtful and educated intellects, Pindar, Sophocles, isocrates, Plutarch, &c. Plato, who finds no language too strong to stigmatize the demoralizing effect of the Orphic Mysteries, speaks of the Eleusinia with great respect; he compares the contemplation of the "ideas" by the disembodied souls to the contemplation of the "phasmata" revealed in the Mysteries. This saving power is expressly connected with the future life; he that has been initiated has learned what will ensure his happiness hereafter. This point, which is ridiculed by Lobeck (pp. 70-1), must be examined carefully. The words of the Homeric Hymn (1.480) that the initiated have peculiar advantages in the future world, and many other passages are equally clear and distinct. Lobeck maintains that they have no special meaning, inasmuch as Isocrates says the same about all men who live an upright life. Thus argument misses the most important religious question with regard to the subject, - Is the salvation in the future life, which is assured by initiation, attained by mere ritualistic observances, or does it depend on the effect produced by initiation on the life and character of the initiated person. Plato condemns in the strongest terms the Orphic Mysteries, which promise salvation in return for mere ritualistic acts of purification and initiation; if he respects the Eleusinian Mysteries, which also promise salvation as the reward of initiation, this can be only because he believes that they promise it on different grounds. The reason is explained by Isocrates, who expressly says that this salvation in the future life, the reward of the initiated is gained by all who live a pious and just life, In like manner, Diodorus says that the initiated are said to grow better; and Andocides makes a similar remark about the object of the Mysteries. According to Sopater, initiation established a kinship of the soul with the divine nature; and Theon Smyrnaeus says that the final stage of initiation is the state of bliss and divine favour which results from it.

These quotations prove the general belief that the aim of the Eleusinian Mysteries was high, and that a lasting effect was produced by them on the initiated. This implies a high stage of religious thought, such as no other ancient faith, except that of the Hebrews, attained; but a passage in a Rhodian inscription of the 5th century, B.C. shows that this idea was not wholly unfamiliar in Greek religion. The first and most important condition required of those who would enter the temple at Lindus is that they be pure in heart, and not conscious of any crime; conditions of ceremonial purity are enumerated as secondary matters. Now, with regard to the profanation of the Mysteries by those persons who ridiculed who them, it is easy to understand that the very simple character of the rites, the commonplace nature of the sacred things which were exposed as the crowning ceremony of the Mysteries to the adoration of the people, lent themselves readily to ridicule when contrasted with the solemn preparation that led up to the crowning act, and the great effects that were expected from the initiation. The people who had been initiated, who believed in the salutary effect of the admission to handle and kiss the sacred objects, were naturally both shocked and indignant at the ridicule thus cast on their holy sacrament by the pitiless analysis of a cold disbelieving intellect. They felt that more than met the eye existed in these sacred things. The Mysteries occupied a place among the ancients analogous to that of the Holy sacrament in the Christian church. The intention was to admit all that were not notoriously wicked; the disqualifying crime was unexpiated murder. The belief was entertained that the solemnity and impressiveness of the ceremony tended to produce a strong effect on the character of the initiated.





There is overwhelming proof in ancient writers that the effect of the Mysteries was not dependent on any dogmatic instruction. Even the doctrine of a future life, which is always associated in the old writers with the Mysteries, was not expressly inculcated in them, but left to the spectators to gather for themselves from the spectacle presented to them. On the other hand, ancient testimony shows a striking unanimity in describing the manner in which the Mysteries were believed to educate the people. One of the most important passages is that where Galen maintains that the study of nature, if prosecuted with the concentrated attention given to the Mysteries is even more fitted than they are to reveal the power and wisdom of God, inasmuch as these truths are more obscurely expressed in the Mysteries than in nature. Plato compares the contemplation of the "ideas" with that of the Mysteries; Chrysippus calls the discussion on the nature of the gods, which forms the last section of the Stoic physic. From these passages we may infer the belief of the writers that important truths were enigmatically expressed in the Mysteries, and that the intellect which could penetrate beneath the surface was able to apprehend them. Plutarch says that it required a philosophic training and a reverent religious frame of mind to comprehend the Mysteries. Similarly Aristotle expressly says that no instruction was given to the __, but that, while in a suitable state of receptivity, their emotions and character were acted upon. The testimony of the Christian writers is entirely to the same effect; while stigmatizing the impure character of some of the rites, they always admit that the Mysteries were intended to lead the people up to a knowledge of religious truth. It is obvious that the essential point on which the effect of the ceremony depended was that the mind of the initiated should be wrought up to a pitch of eager, rapt expectancy and breathless attention. the attentive silence of the spectators at the Mysteries was proverbial. Many means contributed to produce this state. A certain amount of previous training and instruction was imparted by the __ to the candidates. It is true that all who had been initiated had the right to act as __, that they were left legally free to introduce any one whom they thought fit, that the amount of instruction they could impart varied according to their character and education. Lobeck has emphasized all these elements which tended to impair the character and lessen the effect of the Mysteries. But though this point is incapable of proof, the general character of the Mysteries suggests that custom may have modified to some degree the freedom allowed by law, and that the Eleusinian officials tried to regulate the instruction given. Moreover, the lesser Mysteries were a kind of preparation for the greater and Clement mentions that in them, and in them alone, a certain amount of instruction was given to the ___. These circumstances combined with the general belief of the people in the holiness and power of the Mysteries to produce in the mind of the ___- an expectant feeling and a disposition to look for some meaning in the spectacle.

The grades of admission to the Mysteries tended to produce the same impression. The process of initiations was not a momentary one, completed in one act; it extended over an elaborate series of stages, and the ancients certainly associated these successive steps with a gradual increase of knowledge and insight. The candidate was initiated in the lesser Mysteries in Anthesterion (February) at Athens; he was admitted as a __ at Eleusis in the following Boedromion (September), but he could not attain the higher initiation as __ till at least one year more had elapsed. It was also believed that a higher order of initiation was reserved for those who were qualified for the offices of __ and __, in which the last knowledge of the cultus was imparted to them.

Finally, the physical circumstances of the initiation were such as to produce an excited and high-strung nervous condition. The nine days’ fast, very strictly observed, the long march from Athens to Eleusis and the frequent religious ceremonies with which it was marked, the wandering by night around the shores and plain of Eleusis with torches in search of the lost Cora, - all tended to produce a strained enthusiastic state. And the season of the year and of the month – for the nights were dark – co-operated; Boedromion fell about the end of the hot season, when the bodily strength is usually low. Then came the actual Mysteries: the __ were admitted to the holy building; the splendid illumination seemed dazzling bright after the darkness outside; the strange apparitions, the impressive voices, the gorgeous dresses of the actors, the magnificence of the sacred drama, to which the highly suggestive and symbolic art of Greece no doubt contributed largely, - all these they saw and heard in awestruck silence. Then came the crowning act of the ceremony; they had perhaps before this drunk the sacred draught with which the goddess had refreshed herself after her long fast, but now the holy things which the goddess had herself shown to the daughters of Celeus were revealed to them. They were admitted one by one to touch, to kiss the holy things, to lift them from the cist, to put them, into the basket, to taste them, to replace them in the cist, and to pronounce the sacred formula. The scene that takes place in every modern Greek church on the eve of Easter Sunday gives some faint idea of the character of this __.

This state of enthusiasm was common to all Mysteries, especially to the Phrygian. It was susceptible of great abuses, e.g., the self-mutilation and the immorality of the Phrygian rites. But the spirit of Hellenism toned down the excesses, while it tried to preserve the fervour and self-forgetfulness of the Phrygian and Bacchic orgies. The relation of the state to the Mysteries contributed to regulate the excited fervour of the celebrants. While it never interfered with the established ritual, the state was the last judge in cases of misdemeanor; it appointed officials to control the expenditure and conduct the public part of the ceremony. Inscriptions have thrown much light on this point, but it is not possible here to dwell on it. The Mysteries of Eleusis were the one great attempt made by the Hellenic genius to construct for itself a religion that should keep pace with the growth of thought and civilization in Greece. The strained enthusiasm attendant upon them seems at first strange and unhellenic to a mind accustomed to the moderated chastened tone of Greek art and literature, and to the spectacular character of Greek exoteric religion with its utter want of vitality and religious fervour. The public religion either became, like the Panathenaia, a purely political display of the power and splendor of Athens, or else, like much of the old ceremonial of the acropolis, was performed perfunctorily. It had no hold on the mindof the people; its simple antique ceremonies told nothing of the subjects which troubled men’s minds, the thoughts of sin, of a future life, and of punishment for guilt. But the Mysteries concerned themselves precisely with these subjects: they provided a series of preliminary purifications for their votaries; they turned men’s minds to the deeper problems of life and death, and gave them new vies; they made some attempt to reach and touch the individual mind. Thus, while the public Hellenic religion sank into disrepute, the Mysteries became more and more important as time elapsed.

It is impossible to reconstruct the mystic ceremonial, but sufficient indications are given for us to understand its general character. It consisted of acts and words, __ and _- , which supplemented one another, and were both required to make an intelligible whole. The __ were obscurely-worded phrases and traditional songs, whose sanctity was due to their antiquity. They had no didactic character, and were hardly intelligible without preparatory instruction. They were chanted by the hierophant, and that a fine voice was one of the requisites for this office several epigrams and inscriptions bear witness. The mythic ancestor of the family, in whom are embodied the requirements for the office, was called Eunolpus. The _- appear to have been a dramatic representation of the life of the deities by whom the Mysteries had been instituted. These deities were presented on the stage in appropriate dresses, the parts being played by the ministers of the cultus. At Andania this is known to have been the case, and Porphyry enumerates the parts played by the chief officials of Eleusis at one point in the mystic drama. It is also certain that figures, probably of great size, were introduced by machinery. The terms __, __,__,__, are applied to the mystic sights.

The Homeric Hymn to Demeter is a religious, not an historical myth. It does not relate the origin of agriculture, for the gift with which the goddess rewards her Eleuisinian hosts is not the art of agriculture but the knowledge of the Mysteries (1. 273, 474). It springs directly from the cultus of Eleusis, and contains the __, the fortunes of the two goddesses, mother and daughter, the periodical representation of which formed the basis of the ritual. It is, of course, not a complete description of the ritual; it is an exoteric and poetic statement, in which the most holy of the rites and the most mysterious of the personages are alluded to only in an indirect way. The express statement of Clement, that the whole myth of Cora was represented a Eleusis, confirms the inference drawn from the Hymn. Many writers refer to the appearance presented by the shores and bay of Eleusis on the dies lampadum, when the worshippers wandered in the darkness with torches searching for the lost Cora. This ceremony took place in the open country, and was therefore not a part of the mystic ritual revealed to the __ in the _-. It probably took place on Boedromion 21, on the night before the mystic rites proper began. The __ waited outside the sacred enclosure imperfect darkness on the moonless eye of Boedromion 22. Suddenly the __ were thrown open, and he light was seen streaming through the __ in the roof of the _- and through the open door in which stood the __ holding up the sacred torches. This scene is frequently alluded to. The scenes inside the _- are mentioned less frequently, but the few references point to episodes in the myth of Demeter and Cora. The hymn refers in guarded terms to the __ __, the central act of the mystic ritual. Clement enumerates the simple objects that were displayed, and gives the formula in which each __ replied as he received from the hierophant the holy objects: "I have fasted, and I have drunk the __; I have taken from the __; after tasting I have deposited in the __, and from the __ in the _-. In these words he professed that he had fulfilled the sacred duties.

This whole myth bears most evidently the character of having been acted continuously at one time. It could not have been divided without losing its power over the attention and emotions of the __. But it seems almost certain that there were two nights of mystic ceremonial, 22 and 23 Boedromion. It is probable, therefore, that another play with a distinct subject was acted on one of these nights, and as the play described is certainly the original and central point in the Eleusinian ritual it was probably acted on the first night. again, it is certain that there was a distinction between _- and __ at Eleusis. As the _- were not admitted to witness the ritual of _-, it is highly probable that the second night was devoted to the higher ceremonial. It would be exceedingly difficult to effect a change in the middle of the night from the __ to the __, and the good order and regularity for which the Eleusinia were famed could hardly have been maintained. The Hymn refers in covert terms to the holy child Iccahus, to his death and resurrection (262-4). There seems no place for Iacchus in the ritual as yet described. It is therefore a plausible conjecture that the __ was devoted more especially to the mystic child; and further examination will make this conjecture almost a certainty.





The development of the Eleusinian religion is a matter of speculation, but cannot be wholly passed over. Several elements must be distinguished.

1. Demeter always represents the productive and nourishing power of the earth. (a) In the simplest form of her cultus the act by which the earth-goddess is fertilized is conceived as an outrage and a deed of violence. The goddess, enraged, hides herself in a cave; winter and death reign in the world. At last she is appeased; she bathes in the sacred stream; her child is born, and the life of spring blooms on the earth. This cultus is most distinctly seen in Arcadia. (b) The worship of Demeter Thesmophorus is the religion of a more educated race; the goddess is the giver of all law, especially of the law of marriage, on which all society is founded. The worship of Demeter Thesmophorus is restricted more or less completely to women. It appears to have been the national religion of the Cadmeones, and the house of Cadmus at Thebes was the first temple of the goddess; but it spread early into Attica. The Argotic Demeter is very similar, but her cultus has been affected by Eleusinian influence. The Thesmophoric rites are so obscure that no sure idea can be gained of the relation between them and the simpler Arcadian cultus. The anger of Demeter Achea or Achaia formed part of them, and the ritual has, as A. Mommsen observes, an Oriental character of vehement mourning; but we know not an how the wrath of the goddess was kindled and allayed, how the alternation of winter and summer was conceived. (c) Eleusis was apparently the original seat of a modified form of this cultus, in which Demeter was associated with Cora. The modification perhaps arose through the fusion of the religions of two races which united in the fertile Eleusinian plain.

2. The marriage of Cora is a form of the widespread idea that the marriage of the god and goddess each spring is the pledge and cause of the fertility of earth. The "holy marriage" was celebrated in Samos, Argos, &c., with the rites of an earthly marriage, and vestiges of the primitive custom of marriage by capture can be traced in the ceremony. According to the __ of Eleusis, the rape of Cora takes place in the spring (Hymn, 1.6, 425); it is the holy marriage by capture. But the Eleusinian myth is marked as composite and not original by an important fact; it does not explain the vicissit6ude of winter and summer. the abduction takes place once in the spring; winter arises from the anger of Demeter; but ever afterwards Cora goes to her husband in the autumn with her mother’s consent and returns in the spring. The myth has ceased to be closely and obviously connected with the life of nature. The two cults each lost something when they were amalgamated. The annual Theogamia, a central point in the original worship of Cora, becomes a mere disagreeable episode in the life of the two goddesses. Demeter ceases to be directly connected with the life of the year, and affects it only through the fortunes of her daughter. It is an important point that the vehement self-forgetting enthusiasm characterizing devotees who feel their complete dependence on their deities can be traced from the beginning in the worship of the mother of all earthly life. This enthusiasm was increased by the next stage in the development of the Mysteries, the fusion of the cults of Demeter-Persephone and of Dionysus. It is uncertain how and when this fusion began; it is certain that it was not completed till after the union of Eleusis and Athens.

3. The worship of Dionysus can be traced in two phases. The cultus of the wine-god with simple rural character, rude and gross symbolism, was the religion of uneducated peasants, its chief seat being in the borderland of Attica and Boeotia. Another form of the religion of Dionysis with its orgiastic enthusiasm and its mystic character penetrated into Greece from Thrace, was accepted at Delphi alongside of the Apolline worship, and established itself at Eleutherae and on Mount Parnassus, where the women of Phocis and Africa united in the rites and revels of the god every second winter. The Dionysus of Eleutherae was carried to Athens when the places were united, and the worship of Dionysus Eleutereus was one of the most splendid and most impressive in the state; under its shelter grew the Attic drama.

The unification of the attic land required as its pledge and completion the unification of the attic religion. A common religion bound together every association in Greece; a people united politically, yet divided religiously, was an unintelligible idea to the ancient mind. When, through the decay of the Megarian power, the Eleusinian valley was incorporated in the attic state, the worship of the Eleusinian goddess was established under the Athenian acropolis, and the whole land united in her worship. Eleusis always occupied a peculiarly independent position in Attica; it retained its own cultus in its own hands, and it had, like Salamis, the right of issuing coins. It seems to have been only at a late date that the religious fusion was completed, and the relation between the Eleusinian and Attic religious was conceived in a very different style from the crude fictions by which at an earlier time Poseidon and Apollo had been incorporated in the Attic state religion. The political and religious system which produced peace among the warning sections of the Attic people was due to Solon. His friendship with the mystic Epimenides, an historical fact encrusted with much legend, shows the tone in which the religious part of the task was executed. But the work of Solon would not have proved efficient if it had done more than formulated and legalize the actual tendencies of the country. Especially in religion the system was growing before Solon and continued to grow after him. To this period – i.e., the 6th century B.C. – and to the spirit of mysticism which was so strong in Attica and in Greece generally at this time we must attribute the final moulding of the Eleusinian ritual.

According to the mystic theory, the multitude of deities are merely forms of the ultimate single divine nature dividing itself into male and female to become the origin of life on the earth. This theory was that of the Orphic theology, and many facts show that the Orphic theology moulded the Eleusinian ritual. Dionysus, under the mystic name Iacchus, was identified with the son of Demeter, Plutus, the prosperity that she bestows on the world. Eleusis and Athens were united in one mystic ritual, part of which was performed in Athens, part on the road from Athens to Eleusis, and the most important rites in Eleusis. The process by which the shrines along the Sacred Way became connected with the religion of Demeter and Iacchus was doubtless gradual; but the outlines of the system were certainly complete before the battle of Salamis (Herod., viii. 65). Not only in the Eleusinian ritual, but throughout Attic religion, a tendency to mix the cut of Athena with that of Demeter can be traced. They are very often enshrined in the same temple. In the autumn the holy ploughings were performed in the Rharian plain, at Sciron, and under the acropolis by the __. Demeter in her anger wears the __ on her breast; she was so represented in the colossal statue at Eleusis, a fragment of which is now in Cambridge. The religious thought which expressed itself in this way obviously identified Demeter with Athena. Again, we find through Attic art and literature in the 5th century B.C. a tendency to mix Apollo and Dionysus, to show an Apollo Cisseus, a Dionysus Melpomenus, to invoke __ _. Apollo and Dionysus shared the presidency of Delphi. The tendency which Gerhard has proved to represent Demeter and Cora undistinguishable springs from the same mystic system. The identification of Artemis and Persephone, which Aescgylus makes, was probably taught at Eleusis (Hymn, 1. 440).

If material existed to study the ritual of the shrines along the Sacred Way, we should find abundant examples of the working of the mystic system. Pausanias tells that the cultus of Apollo in the pass of Dafni grew into a worship of Demeter Cora, Athena, and Apollo. Again, in reference to the worship of the hero Cyanites on the Sacred Way, he says that those who have been initiated at Eleusis, or who have read the Orphic books, will understand his religious silence. The same writer mentions that Orphic hymns were used in the Eleusinian ritual, and Preller has conclusively proved the great influence exerted by Orphic teaching at Eleusis. Through this close connection of Orphism with the Eleusinian Mysteries, we understand how, when the family of the Dadouchi died out in the 4th century B.C., the office was not filled up from the closely related family of the Ceryces, but given to the Lycomidae, who held in their hands the orphizing mystic cultus of Phlya. If there had not been a great similarity between the ritual of Eleusis and of Phlya, it is inconceivable that the high office of __ should have been given to a family unconnected with Eleusis. It is easy to trace the same mystic tendency in later time. In the Alexandrine period it was usable to identify Isis with Demeter, and even to maintain that the Eleusinian Mysteries were derived from Egypt. In later times the Neo-Platonic philosophy acquired influence at Eleusis, and hence we find that, according to Porphyry, the hierophant represented the "demiurgos."

There is every reason to believe that the Bacchic rites can be traced through Thrace to Phrygian influence, and that the spirit of Orphism was that of the Oriental Phrygian cultus. Moreover, the most holy and perfect rite in the Eleusinian Mysteries was to show an ear of corn moved down in silence, and this was symbol of the Phrygian Atys. Now Clement describes in great detail a mystic ceremony, some parts of which he attributed to Phrygia, though the general tone of the passage rather refers it to Eleusis;omeof the grosses details of this ceremony are expressly referred to Eleusis by other Christian writers. These facts lead to the belief. (1) that Clement purposely mixes up two ceremonies which were similar to one another, Phrygian an Eleusinian Mysteries; (2) that this scene was acted at Eleusis on the eve of Boedr. 234; (3) that it was intro duced under the influence of the Orphic mystic philosophy. Knowing that the Phrygian rites were decried by many who praised the Eleusinian, Clement delights to emphasize points of resemblance between them. The details given in the long account of Clement fully justify the invectives of the Christian writers. It is, however, easy to understand the answer that the Neo-Platonic philosophers who admired the Mysteries would make to their assailants. Religion places men face to with the actual of life; when the mind is exalted and ennobled by intense religious enthusiasm it is able to look with pure insight at phenomena of life in which the vulgar unpurified mind sees nothing but gross materialism. The language of religion is plainer and more direct than the language of common life. Those who distinguished between the character of the Eleusinian and Phrygian rites might say that the same symbolism can be looked at with gross eyes or with idealized eyes, and might quote the contrast between the Aphrodite of Praxiteles and its rude Phoenician prototype; the attitude, the position of the hands is the same, but the whole meaning is changed.

It is unnecessary to enter into the question whether the Mysteries go back a primitive "Pelasgic" religion, or are borrowed from Oriental religion. All that gives elevation and ideality to them was added by the Hellenic genius. But that spirit of enthusiastic self-abandonment which made the __ forget themselves in the divine nature never belonged to the true Hellenic temperament; the Mysteries were an attempt of the Hellenic genius to take into its service the spirit of Oriental religion.

It is impossible here to speak of the other Mysteries; subjects of similar nature are referred to under MITHRAS, ORPHEUS, PHRYGIA. The Eleusinian Mysteries were the most perfect example of the type in Greece; but our scanty information leads to the belief that all Hellenic Mysteries tried more or less successfully to attain the same results. Those non-Hellenic Mysteries which found their way into Greece from the 5th century B.C. onwards are of course excluded from this statement. ( W. M. RA.)



The above article was written by: William M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL.D.; Professor of Humanity, Aberdeen, from 1886; author of The Church in the Roman Empire, etc.



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