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fear, even upon inexorable fate itself, and not less defying the roar of the insatiable Acheron."* And if the descent of his hero into the shades, denote his initiation, the very same might be said of the intention of Homer in respect to Ulysses. In the eleventh book of the Odyssey he enters the Cimmerian cave, visits the dark abodes where he finds heroines and heroes, until at length, scared by the cries of the lost, he hurries to his ships. It is an episode in both poems. But could Homer, in his age, have dared thus to unveil the mysteries, if his descriptions were intended to represent them? Or if Virgil, from the country and period in which he lived, ran not the same hazard, how after his publication could the mysteries be mysteries any longer ? Yet he can speak of the “mystica vannus Iacchi,”—an inferior institute to that of Ceres. But they continued about four hundred years after the Christian æra, and Julian was initiated in them, repairing to Eleusis for the express purpose, and afterwards inviting the supreme pontiff of that worship into Gaul. Nothing sooner dissolves the charm of poetic composition than the bare suspicion that the bard has never felt the fine enthusiasm, that he is only taking advantage of excited feeling to impress particular opinions, that he is setting politics to verse, that he is a Machiavel with a laurel on his brow and a lyre in his hand. The mysteries could not have contained those particular revelations and apparitions which were disclosed to the hero, unless arranged for the occasion : and the apostrophe to Marcellus, so exquisite on the supposed reality of this vision, is quite destroyed when it occurs in the midst of such ceremonies. The horn and ivory doors are borrowed from Homer, who ascribes similar language to Penelope : and as the ivory door opens to the dreams which are only imaginary, Æneas, on that principle, by coming out of it and not the gate of horn, would represent the whole secret, if initiation were intended, to be fabulous and nugatory. As it is, it forms a delicate key which the poet puts into the hand of his reader.
* “ Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,
Atque metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
It is natural, then, to ask how did the Mysteries commence? What is the foundation on which they rest ? I will briefly state my opinion: I must leave others to weigh it.
I think, then, that it was not an immediate invention of any man, or class of men ; but that the institute arose, and accidentally, from the change in writing. The symbol was left on the temples and in the sacred books: but an arbitrary character was introduced in every other connection. In a few generations the symbolic became the sacred character exclusively: and was understood only by sacred persons. Signs, like these, would soon strike the multitude with an obscure blind awe, and only the priests could interpret them. Then occurred the double temptation, avarice to make gain of them, and ambition to turn them into means of influence. As the most wealthy and intellectual would be the most curious to pry into them, so it became necessary to support the claim to superior insight by the gloss of sophistry and plausibility. There was little difficulty in the preservation of secresy; for on its violation, the mystagogues lost their spell, and the initiated their distinction. And then as priesthoods were wanted for the more popular rites, and governments found the influence to be great exerted by them over the populace,-statesmen and kings thought favourably of the Mythic institute, because it kept the inferior religious functionaries in check. I therefore conclude, whatever of deception there was in it, it was not the effect of an original plan to deceive, but of a yielding to circumstance and a compliance with temptation. Nor is it probable that in the Greater Mysteries there was any low debauchery. Being sanctioned by the public magistrate and the virtuous philosopher, this would be an unreasonable suspicion. The symbols, however, were of the grossest kind. And in the ordinary services of Isis,—the constant ministry of her various temples, - we have the strongest proofs of the most profligate excesses and cruel seductions taking place.
The impression produced by the Mysteries on different minds would be as different. The vivant portrait, the tableaux, would to some appear as glimpses and visions of a supernatural
power and a spiritual world : to others they would appear illustrations only, cleverly managed. Some would be confirmed in their belief, others would be disabused of it.
What was the inducement to initiation ? Various motives may be assigned. The inquisitiveness of the mind, goaded by any obstacle to its gratification.— The contemptuous spirit of caste, which is always greedy of distinction.—The scorn of the many, which this indulged. — The tendency to incorporation and sodalities, which have been always strong civil passions.The intercourse it facilitated between the brotherhood throughout the world would not be overlooked.
What was taught in these hidden schools ? I may answer this question by another. Why has this Essay been so necessarily defective ? Why has it omitted certain facts essential to a full understanding of the subject--facts which it would have required little ingenuity to collect ? Because the highest sacred emblems were of such a loathsome character that the most passing allusion could not be endured to them. The scenes from which profligacy turns away, were the deepest type, and the holy ground, of Paganism.* It is of these mysteries in their former state that we speak : there is a sequel of a still darker character to their history.—Never was there a more unfounded assumption than that they taught the Unity of the Divine power, the first chief cause. Taylor, the translator of Plato, than whom Plato never had a stauncher and more loyal disciple, maintains that it is evident that he was a real believer in his country's gods. Socrates would surely never have refused to be initiated had he expected this doctrine as the result. Cicero, in his Natura Deorum, though he had been educated at Athens, never clearly concludes it. It would have been the loud boast of the philosophers who thronged the court and camp of the Apostate, when he had blotted the cross from the
* Need I speak of the Phallus worship ? Taylor preserves an extract of Psellus on Demons. Unblushingly he quotes it to prove how innocent were the Eleusinic rites. Did abomination ever go farther ? « Επειδη δε εμελλον και αφροδις ιοι επι τη μυηςι γινεσθαι συμπλοκαι...... κ. τ. λ. Εφοις η βαυβω τους μηρους ανα. συρομενη, και ο γυναικας κτις, ουω γαρ ονομαζους, την αιδώ αισχυνομινοι. Και ουν; εν αις χρω την τιλιζην καλαλυουσιν."
Roman labarum, had this dogma ever lain dormant in Paganism. The precious doctrine would have been dug into light, to overthrow their Christian adversaries. But a Maximus had not the hardihood to assert it, nor Iamblichus the ingenuity to intimate it, nor Julian the credulity to receive it. He took other views, indulged other dreams, and only sought the restoration of the whole of his gods. It was an error of some of the first Christian writers to affirm such an opinion. Clemens Alexandrinus, Augustine, and Eusebius, were of this number. Their motive appears to be, that they might the better attack the character of the Pagan philosophers, as concealing their knowledge and hiding their light. But the worship and reverence of the gods was a principal admonition in the conduct of these rites. And yet Warburton asserts that the Mystæ were taught, " the whole delusion of polytheism”! He adds, with his nice consistency,—that this was “done under the most tremendous seal of secresy,” for they were informed, that “the gods themselres punished the revealers of the secret”! Was there ever such barefaced suicide in logic? This self-violence is not imposed on him by bringing distant sentences together. Can it be believed that these are consecutive sentences ? - And most unsatisfactory was every sentiment concerning the immortality of man. They could not strengthen the popular impression of this,-for they only reflected the creed current among all, but they impaired it. The acute and intelligent would rather diffide in that which asked such auxiliaries. The very terms of the poet are far from the manner of assurance. omnis moriar,” is but an author's vanity. “Pulvis et umbra," promise but an equal fragility to both. Cicero's phlegm is characteristic: “Et si non ero, sensu omnino carebo.” Plato's sentiment of the soul's reabsorption seemed to destroy its identity and self-recollection.—The cypress, because when that tree is cut down it never recovers, was the shade,- and the asphodel the flower, -of their grave.
Their urn could not quicken its ashes. Their epicedium was seldom more than a faltering of desire, generally a wail of despair.
And even on the concession that the initiated were admitted
to purer information, on what does their claim to benevolence depend ? Became they possessed of a higher and more holy knowledge ? They were sacramentally pledged never to make others happier by it. Or is it pleaded that they sheltered the lamps in the recesses of the sanctuary, until an opportunity should arise when they might venture to place them aloft to guide and save ? The answer is, that eighteen ages saw this system in existence, and no attempt was made to turn it to the benefit of half-a-hundred generations. Nay, more, the system itself became increasingly more corrupt. Juvenal did not spare the ministers and the shrines. Josephus describes such inconceivable abuse even of the Isiac rites, then observed at Rome, that Tiberius commanded the crucifixion of her priests, the demo. lition of her temple, and the contumelious flinging of her statue into the Tiber. Suetonius relates the same fact, only he adds, that the exiles were permitted to return on the condition and pledge that they would no more celebrate their evil art.* The Isiac ministers in the later centuries very generally practised the Goetic and Theurgic arts of Egypt; and called themselves Mathematicians. When the work of Constantine was for a time apparently undone by his successor, astrology and divination were avowed by them. We must recollect that Rome always claimed a purer mythology than Greece. Dionysius Halicarnassensis, speaking in his Roman Antiquities, remarks of Romulus, t “He established temples, and courts, and altars, and shrines, and images, and badges, and ranks, and all the means by which the gods bless our nature: and the festive days which it is proper that we keep to each one of the gods and genii, and the sacrifices in which they delight to be worshipped by us, and the feasts, and the celebrations, and the remissions of toil, and all such things, following the most approved solemnities of Greece: but he rejected all the traditions respecting them, in which the charges of crime are cast upon them, deeming them too gross, not only for gods, but too base for wretched men. He taught his citizens to speak and think in the most exalted manner of them, and to ascribe Lib. iii., cap. 36.
+ Lib. i., sect. 16.