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OCTOBER TO MAY. The day that brightens half the earth Is night to half. Ah, sweet!
The breeze which wakes the folded flower
What did the Eleusinia mean? Perhaps, reader, you think the question of little interest "The Eleusinia! Why, Lobcck made that little matter clear long ago; and there was Porphyry, who told us that the whole thing was only an illustration of the Platonic philosophy. St. Croix, too, — he made the affair as clear as day!" But the question is not so easily settled,. mv friend; and I insist upon it that you have an interest in it. Were I to ask you the meaning of Freemasonry, you would think that of importance; you could not utter the name without wonder; and it may be that there is even more wonder in it than you suspect, — though you be an arch-mason yourself. But in sight of Eleusis, freemasonry sinks into insignificance. For, of all races, the Grecian was the most mysterious; and, of all Grecian mysteries, the Eleusinia were the mysteries par excellence. They must certainly have meant something to Greece,—something more than can ever be adequately known to us. A farce is soon over; but the Eleusinia reached from the mythic Eumolpus to Theodosius the Great, — nearly two thousand years. Think you that all Athens, every tifth year, for more than sixty generations, went to Eleusis to witness and take part in a sham?
But reader, let us go to Eleusis, and see, for ourselves, this great festival. Suppose it to be the 15th of September, B. C. 411, Anno Mundi 3593 (though we would not make oath to that). It is a fine morning at Athens, and even' one is astir, for it is the day of assembling together at Eleusis. Then, for company, we shall have Plato, now eighteen years old, Sophocles, an old man of eighty-four, Euripides, at sixty-nine, and Aristophanes, at Ibrty-fiie. Sot-rates, who has his peculiar notions about things, is not one of the initiated, but will go with us, if we ask him. These are the elite of Athens. Then there are the Sophists and their young disciples, and the vast crowd of the Athenian people. Some of the oldest among them may have seen and heard the "Prometheus Vinctus"; certainly very many of them have seen "Antigone," and " GEdipus," and " Electra "; and all of them have heard the Khapsodists. Great wonders have they seen and heard, which, in their appeal to the heart, transcend all the wonders of this nineteenth century. Not more fatal to the poor Indian was modern civilization, bringing swift ruin to his wigwam and transforming his hunting-grounds into the sites of populous cities, than modern improvements would have been to the Greek. Modern strategy! What a subject for Homer would the siege of Troy have been, had it consisted of a series of pitched battles with rifles! Railways, steamboats, and telegraphs, annihilating space and time, would also have annihilated the Argonautic expedition and the wanderings of Ulysses. There would have been little fear, in a modern steamship, of the Sirens' song; one whistle would have broken the charm. A modern steamship might have borne Ulysses to Hades, — but it would never have brought him back, as his own ship did. And how do you think a ride to Eleusis by railway to-day would strike this Athenian populace, to say nothing of the philosophers and poets we ha\e along with us?
But they are thinking of Eleusis, and not of the way to Eleusis; so that we may as well keep our suggestion to oui-selves, — also those pious admonitions which we were just about to administer to our companions on heathenish superstitions. A strange fascination these Athenians have; and before we are aware, our thoughts, too, are centred in Eleusis, whither are tending, not Athens only, but vast multitudes from all Greece. Their movement is tumultuous; but it is a tumult of nat
ural enthusiasm, and not of Bacchic frenzy. If Athens be, as Milton calls her, "the eye of Greece," surely Eleusis must be its heart!
There are nine days of the festival. This first is the day of the agurmos, (ayvp/ioc) or assembling together the flux of Grecian life into the secret chambers of its Eleusinian heart. To-morrow is the day of purification ; then, " To the sea, all ye that are initiated!" ('A?.a<5r, fivorai!) lest any come with the stain of impurity to the mysteries of God. The third day is the day of sacrifices, that the heart also may be made pure, when are offered barley from the fields of Eleusis and a mullet All other sacrifices may be tasted; but this is for Demeter alone, and not to be touched by mortal lips. On the tburth day, we join the procession bearing the sacred basket of the goddess, filled with curious symbols, grains of salt, carded wool, sesame, pomegranates, and poppies,— symbols of the gifts of our Great Mother and of her mighty sorrow. On the night of the fifth, we are lost in the hurrying tumult of the torch-light processions. Then there is the sixth day, the great day of all, when from Athens the statue of Iacchus (Bacchus) is borne, crowned with myrtle, tumultuously through the sacred gate, along the sacred way, halting by the sacred ligtree, (all sacred, mark you, from Eleusinian associations,) where the procession rests, and then moves on to the bridge over the Cephissus, where again it rests, and where the expression of the wildest grief gives place to the trifling farce,— even as Demeter, in the midst of her grief, smiled at the levity of Iambe in the palace of Celeus. Through the " mystical entrance" we enter Eleusis. On the seventh day, games are celebrated; and to the victor is given a measure of barley,— as it were a gift direct from the hand of the goddess. The eighth is sacred to .Escul.ipius, the Divine Physician, ■who heals all diseases; and in the evening is peilbrined the initiatory ritual.
Let us enter the mystic temple and be initiated, — though it must be supposed
that a year ago we were initiated into the Lesser Mysteries at Agra;. ("Certamen enim,— et praluriivm cerlaminU; el mysteria sunt qucc pracedunt mysteria") We must have been w/y.sto (veiled) before we can become epopta (seers); in plain English, we must have shut our eyes to all else before we can behold the mysteries. Crowned with myrtle, we enter with the other mysttz into the vestibule of the temple,— blind as yet, but the Ilierophant within will soon open our eyes.
But first,— for here we must do nothing rashly, — first we must wash in this holy water; for it is with pure hands and a pure heart that we are bidden to enter the most sacred inclosure. Then, led into the presence of the Ilierophant, he reads to us, from a book of stone, things which we must not divulge on pain of death. Let it suffice that they fit the place and the occasion; and though you might laugh at them, if they were spoken outside, still you seem very far from that mood now, as you hear the words of the old man (for old he always w;is) and look upon the revealed symbols. And very far indeed are you from ridicule, when Demeter seals, by her own peculiar utterances anil signals, by vivid coruscations of light, and cloud piled upon cloud, all that we have seen and heard from her sacred priest; and when, finally, the light of a serene wonder fills the temple, and we see the pure fields of Elysium and hear the choirs of the Blessed; — then, not merely by external seeming or philosophic interpretation, but in real fact, does the Ilierophant become the Creator and Revealer of all things; the Sun is but his torch-bearer, the Moon his attendant at the altar, and Hermes his mystic herald. But the final word has been uttered: "Conx Ompax." The rite is consummated, and we are ejmpta forever!
One day more, and the Eleusinia themselves are completed. As in the beginning by lustration and sacrifices we eonciliated the favor of the gods, so now by libation we finally commend ourselves to their care. Thus did the Greeks bejrin all things with lustration and end with libation, each day, each feast,— all their solemn treaties, their ceremonies, and sacred festivals. Hut, like all else Eleusinian, this libation must be sui generis, emptied from two bowls, — the one toward the East, the. other toward the West. Thus is finished this Epos, or, as Clemens Alexandrinus calls it, the "mystical drama" of the Eleusinia.
Now, reader, you have seen the Mysteries. And what do they mean? Let us take care lest we deceive ourselves, as many before us have done, by merely looking at the Eleusinia.
Oh, this everlasting staring! This it is that leads us astray. That old stargazer, with whom iE<op has made us acquainted, deserved, indeed, to fall into the well, no less for his profanity than his stupidity. Yet this same star-gazing it is that we miscall reflection. Thus, in our blank wonder at Nature, — in our naked analysis of her life, expressed through long lists of genera and species and mathematical calculations, as if we were calling olF the roll of creation, or as if her depth of meaning rested in her vast orbs and incalculable velocities, — in all this we fail of her real mystery.
To mere external seeming, the Eleusinia point to Demeter for their interpretation. To her are they consecrated,— of her grief are they commemorative; out of reverence to her do the mystrc purify themselves by lustration and by the sacrifice that may not be tasted ; she it is who is symbolized, in the procession of the basket, as our Great Mother, through the salt, wool, and sesame, which point to her lKHintiful gifls,— while by the poppies and pomegranates it is hinted that she nourishes in her heart some profound sorrow: by the former, that she seeks to bury this sorrow in eternal oblivion,— by the latter, that it must be eternally reiterated. The procession of the torches defines the sorrow; and by this wild, despairing search in the darkness do wo know that her daughter Proserpine, plucking flowers in the fields of
light, has been snatched by ruthless Pluto to the realm of the Invisible. Then by the procession of lacehus we learn that divine aid has come to the despairing Demeter; by the coming of .Xsculapius shall all her wounds be healed; and the change in the evening from the mysla to epopUe is because that now to Demeter, the cycle of her grief being accomplished, the ways of Jove are made plain,— even his permission of violence from unseen hands', to her also is the final libation.
But the story oC the stolen Proserpina is itself an afterthought, a fable invented to explain the Mysteries; and, however much it may have modified them in detail, certainly could not have been their ground. Nor is the sorrowing Demeter herself adequate to the solution. For the Eleusinia are older than Eleusis,— older than Demeter, even the Demeter of Thrace, — certainly as old as Isis, who was to Egypt what Demeter was to Greece, — the Great Mother* of a thousand names, who also had her endlessly repeated sorrow for the loss of Osiris, and in honor of whom the Egyptians held an annual festival. Thus we only remove the mystery back to the very verge of myth itself; and we must either give up the solution or take a different course. But perhaps Isis will reveal herself, and at the same time unveil the Mysteries. Let us read her tablet: "I am all that has been, all that is, all that is to be;
* The worship of this Grout Mother is not more wonderful for its antiquity in time than for its prcvnlenco as regards space. To the Hindu she was the Lady Isani. She was the Cere9 of Roman mythology, the Cybele of Phrygia and I.ydia, and the Dwi of the North. According to Tacitus, (Gtrmmiia, c. 0,) she was worshipped by the ancient Suevi. She was worshipped by the Muscovite, and representations of her are found upon the sacred drums of the Laplanders. Sho swayed the ancient world, from its southeast corner in India to Scandinavia in the northwest; and everywhere she Is the "Mater Dolorosa." And who is it, reader, that in the Christian world struggles for life and power under the name of the Holy Virgin, and through the sad features of the Madonna?
and the veil which is over my face no mortal hand hath ever raised!" Now, reader, would it not be strange, if, in solving her mystery, we should also solve the Sphinx's riddle? But so it is. This is the Sphinx in her eldest shape,—this Isis of a thousand names; and the answer to her ever-recurring riddle is always the same. In the Human Spirit is infolded whatsoever has been, is, or shall be; and mortality cannot reveal it! Not to Demeter, then, nor even to Isis, do the Eleusinia primarily point, but to the human heart. We no longer look at them; henceforth they are within us. Long has this mystic mother, the wonder of the world, waited for the revelation of her face. Let us draw aside the veil, (not by mortal hand, — it moves at your will,) and listen :—
"I am the First and the Last, — mother of gods and men. As deep as is my mystery, so deep is my sorrow. For, lo! all generations are mine. But the fairest fruit of my Holy Garden was plucked by my mortal children; since which, Apollo among men and Artemis among women have raged with their fearful arrows. My fairest children, whom I have brought forth and nourished in the light, have been stolen by the children of darkness. By the Flood they were taken; and I wandered forty days and forty nights upon the waters, ere again I saw the face of the earth. Then, wherever I went, I brought joy; at Cyprus the grasses sprang up beneath my feet, the golden-filleted Horae crowned me with a wreath of gold and clothed me in immortal robes. Then, also, was renewed my grief; for Adonis, whom I had chosen, was slain in the chase and carried to Hades. Six months I wept his loss, when he rose again and I triumphed. Thus in Egypt I mourned for Osiris, for Atys in Phrygia, and for Proserpina at Eleusis, — all of whom passed to the underworld, were restored for a season, and then retaken. Thus is my sorrow repeated without end. All things are taken from me. Night treads upon the heels ot Day, the desolation of Winter wastes the fair fruit of Summer, and Death walks in the ways of Life with inexorable claims. But at the last, through Him, my First-begotten and my Best-beloved, who also died and descended into Hades, and the third day rose again, — through Him, having ceased from wandering, I shall triumph in Infinite Joy!"
That, reader, is not so difficult to translate into human language. Thus, from the beginning to the end of the world, do these Mysteries, under various names, shadow forth the great problem of human life, which problem, as being fundamental, must be religious, the same that is shadowed forth in Nature and Revelation, namely: man's sin, and his redemption from sin, — his great loss, his infinite error, and his final salvation. Sorrow, so strong a sense of which pervaded these Mysteries that it was the name (Aehtheia) by which Demeter was known to her mystic worshippers,—human sorrow it was which veiled the eyelids; toward which veiling (or muesis) the lotus about the head of Isis and the poppy in the hand of Demeter distinctly point. Hence the mysta, whom the reader must suppose to have closed their eyes to all without them,— even to Nature, except as in sympathy she mirrors forth the central sorrow of their hearts. But this same sorrow and its mighty work, veiled from all mortal vision, shut out by very necessity from any sympathy save that of God, is a preparation for a purer vision,— a second initiation, in which the eyes shall be reopened and the myaloe become epopta; and of such significance was this higher vision to the Greek, that it was a synonyme for the highest earthly happiness and a foretaste of Elysium. As this vision of the epoplm was the vision of real faith, so the muesis, or veiling of the mysla, was no mere affectation of mysticism. Not so easily could be set aside this weight of sorrow upon the eyelids, which, notwithstanding that, leading to self, it leads to wandering, leads also through Divine aid to that peace which