Page images
PDF
EPUB

- They continued long in religious reverence: some were more famous and more extensive than others; to which

many

accidents concurred. The most noted were the ORPHIC, the BACCHIC, the ELEUSINIAN, the SAMOTHRACIAN, the CABIRIC, and the Mi

THRIAC.

Euripides makes Bacchus say, in his tragedy of that name*, that the Orgies were celebrated by all foreign nations, and that he came to introduce them amongst the Greeks. And it is not improbable, but several barbarous nations might have learned them of the Egyptians long before they came into Greece. The Druids of Britain, who had, as well as the Brachmans of India, divers of their religious rites from thence, celebrated the Orgies of Bacchus, as we learn from Dionysius the African. And Strabo having quoted Artemidorus for a fabulous story, subjoins, “ But what “ he says of Ceres and Proserpine is more credible,

namely, that there is an island near Britain, where

they perform the same rites to those two God“ desses as are used in Samothrace t." But, of all the MYSTERIES, those which bore that name, by way of eminence, the ELEUSINIAN, celebrated at Athens in honour of Ceres, were by far the most renowned ; and, in course of time, eclipsed, and almost swallowed up the rest. Their neighbours round about very early practised these Mysteries to the neglect of their own: in a little time all Greece and Asia Minor were initiated into them : and at length they spread over the whole Roman empire, and even beyond the limits of it. “I insist not,” says Tully, '“ on those sacred “ and august rites of ELEUSIS, where, from the re“ motest regions, men came to be initiated *.” And we are told in Zosimus, that “these most holy rites

in that nothing very heterodox was taught in the mysteries concerning a future state, I collect from the answer Origen makes to Celsus, who had preferred what was taught in the Mysteries of Bacchus on that point, to what the Christian Religion revealed concerning it-σερί μεν έν των Βακχικών τελών είτε τις ετι πιθανός λόγΘ-, είτε μηδείς τοιύτΘ----lib. iv. p. 167.

* Act. II, •* Περί δε της Δήμητρα και της κόρης σιρότερα" ότι φησίν είναι νήσον προς τη Βρετανική, καθ' ην όμοια τούς έν Σαμοθράκη σερί την Δήμητρας By Thy Kógnu ispomontiran. Strabonis Geogr. lib. iv. p. 137. lin. 26. Edit. Casaub. The nature of these Samothracian riteş is explained afterwards,

i

were then so extensive, as to take in the whole

race of mankind t.” Aristides calls Eleusis, the common temple of the earth . And Pausanias says, the rites performed there for the promotion of piety and yirtue, as much excelled all other rites, as the Gods excelled the Heroes g.

How this happened, the nature and turn of the People, who introduced these Mysteries, will account for. Athens was a city the most devoted to Religion of any upon the face of the earth. On this account their poet Sophocles calls it the sacred building of the Gods ||, his figure of speech alluding to its fabulous

* Omitto ELEUSINAM sanctam illam & augustam : ubi initiantụr gentes orarum ultimæ. Nat. Deor. Įib. i. c. 42. Edit. Ox. 4°. T. ii. p. 432.

+ Τα συνίχουλο το ανθρώπειον μένΦ- αγιώταία μυσήρια. lib. iv.

1 “Όσις και κοινόν τι της γης τίμινΘ- την Ελευσίνα ηγείτο. Aristidis Eleusinia, in initio.

και οι γαρ αρχαιότεροι των Ελλήνων τελετήν την Ελευσινίων σάλων επόσα ές ευσέβειαν ήκει, τοσύτω ήγον έντιμότερων, όσο και τις θεές επιπροσθεν ngówx. Phocica, l. x. c. 31. p. 876. In this elegant similitude he seems plainly to allude to the secret of the mysteries ; which, as we shall see, consisted in an explanation of the origin of hero-worship, and the nature of the deity. #Electra, act. ii. sc. 1. ΑΘΗΝΩΝ ΤΩΝ ΘΕΟΔΜΗΤΩΝ.

foundation,

1

foundation. Nor was it a less compliment St. Paul intended to pay the Athenians, when he said, "Aydpes 'Αθηναίοι, κατά σάνα ως δεισιδαιμονεςέρες υμάς θεωρώ *. And Josephus tells us, that they were universally esteemed the most religious people of Greece t. Hence, in these matters, Athens became the pattern and standard to the rest of the world.

In discoursing, therefore, of the MYSTERIES in general, we shall be forced to take our ideas of them chiefly from what we find practised in the Eleusinian. Nor need we fear to be mistaken ; the END of all being the same, and all having their common ORIGINAL from Egypt.

To begin with the general purpose and design of their Institution. This will be understood, by shewing what they communicated promiscuously to all.

To support the doctrine of a PROVIDENCE, which, they taught, governed the world I, they inforced the belief of a FUTURE STATE of rewards and punishments ę, by every sort of contrivance. But as this did not quite clear up the intricate ways of Providence, they added the doctrine of a METEMPSYCHOSIS, or the belief of a prior state : as we learn from Cicero, and Porphyry ||; the latter of whom informs us, that it was taught in the Llysteries of the Persian Mithras.

* Act. A post. xvii. 22,

1 –ευσεβεγάτες των Ελλήνων απαλες λέγεσινι. Cont. Αp. lib. ii. t. ΙΙ. edit. Oxon. folio, 1720. cap. 15. pag. 1373. lin. 12,

| Plutarch, de Is. & Osir,

Ś [Mysteriis] neque solum, &c.—Sed etiam cum SPE MELIORE YORIENDI. Tull. de Legg. lib. ii. c. 14. Edit. Ox. 4°. t. III. p. 148.

Η Και γάρ δόλμα πάνων επί των πρώτων, την ΜΕΤΕΜΨΥΧΩΣΙΝ είναι δ και εμφαίνειν έοίκασιν εν τοίς τ8 Μίθρα μυτηρίοις. De Abst. lib. iv. §. 16. Edit. Cantabr. 1655. 8vo.

B4

This

This was an ingenious solution, invented by the Egyptian Lawgivers, to remove all doubts concerning the moral attributes of God *; and so, by adding a prior to a future state, to establish the firm belief of his Providence. For the Lawgiver well knew how precarious that belief was, while the moral attributes of God remained doubtful and uncertain.

In cultivating the doctrine of a future life, it was taught, that the Initiated should be happier in that state than all other mortals : that while the souls of the profane, at their leaving the body, stuck fast in mire and filth, and remained in darkness, the souls of the Initiated winged their flight directly to the happy islands, and the habitations of the Gods t. This doctrine was as necessary for the support of the Mysteries, as the Mysteries were for the support of the doctrine. But now, lest it should be mistaken, that initiation alone, or any other means than a virtuous life, intitled men to this future happiness, the Mysteries openly proclaimed it as their chief business, to restore the soul to its original purity. “ It

was the end and design of initiation,says Plato,

to restore the soul to that state, from whence it fell, “ as from its native seat of perfection 1." They

* So Tully. Ex quibus humanæ vitæ erroribus & ærumnis sit, ut interdum veteres illi sive vates, sive in sacris INITIISQUE tradendis divinæ mentis interpretes, qui nos ob aliqua scelera suscepta in vitâ superiore, pænarum luendarum caussa, natos esse dixerunt, aliquid vidisse videantur. fragm. ex. lib. de Philosophia.

+ Plato in Phædune, p. 69. C. p. 81. A. t. I. Edit. Henr. Stephani. Aristides Eleusiniâ, t. I. p. 454. Edit. Centeri, 8vo. & apud Stobæum, Serm. 119, &c. Schol. Arist. iu Ranis. Diog. Laert. in vita Diog. Cynici.

1 Σκοπός των τελετών έσι, είς τέλος αναβαγείν τας ψυχάς εκείνο αφ' 3 την πρώτην εποιήσαύλο κάθοδον, ώς απ' αρχής. Ιn Paedone.

contrived

contrived that every thing should tend to shew the necessity of virtue; as appears from Epictetus “ Thus the Mysteries become useful; thus we seize “ the true spirit of them; when we begin to ap

prehend that every thing therein was instituted by “ the Ancients, for instruction and amendment of “ life.” Porphyry gives us some of those moral precepts, which were inforced in the Mysteries, as to honour their parents, to offer up fruits to the Gods, and to forbear cruelty towards animals t. For the accomplishment of this purpose, it was required in the Aspirant to the Mysteries, that he should be of a clear and unblemished Character, and free even from the suspicion of any notorious crime 5. To come at the truth of his Character, he was severely interrogated by the Priest or Hierophant, impressing on him the same sense of obligation to conceal nothing, as is now done at the Roman Confessional g. Hence it was, that when Nero, after the murder of

his Ούτως ώφέλιμα γίνεται τα μυσήρια" έτως εις φαντασίαν έρχόμεθα ότι επί παιδία και επανορθώσει τη βία καλεσάθη σάλα ταύτα από των wanaswr. Apud Arrian. Dissert. lib. iii. cap. 21. My reason for translating eis Qurlaciar in this manner, was, because I imagined the author, in this obscure expression, alluded to the custom in the Mysteries of calling those who were initiated only in the lesser, Músan; but those, in the greater, 'Etónlar.

+ Γονείς τιμάν, Θεός καρπούς αγάλλει», ζώα μη σύνεσθαι. De Abst. lib. iv. §. 22. Edit. Cant. 1655. 8vo.

1 Ούτοι γάρ τά τ' άλλα καθαρούς είναι τους μύσαις ένα κοινό προαγορεύασιν, οίον τας χείρας την ψυχην-είναι.

Libanius Decl. xix. p. 495. D. Edit. Morelli, fol. 1606.

$ As appears from the repartee which Plutarch records, in his Laconic apophthegms of Lysander, Edit. Francof. 1599. t. II. p. 229. D. when he went to be initiated into the Samothracian mysteries ; 'Εν δε Σαμοθράκη χρησηριαζομένων αυτω ο ιερεύς εκέλευσεν είπείν ό, τι ανομώτατου έργον αυτώ εν τω βίω πέπρακίαι; σότερον εν σε

Tăre

« EelmineJätka »