W. Bro. D. McLaren, P.P.G.D. (Ches.).

Part 2

Transactions of the Manchester Association for Masonic Research - 1929

After the expulsion of the Shepherd Kings, Egypt reached the zenith of her power. Her armies fought successful wars not only in Africa, but extended their victories to Asia and Europe, while her navy is said to have reached India. But her success was the cause of her undoing. Luxuriousness and indolence took hold of her peoples, and she had to submit to oppression under Ethiopia, until the priests elected to be king one of their own number, Sethos, who brought back peace to the land. On his death the land was divided into several states; over the province at the mouth of the Nile was a ruler, Psammetichus by name, who engaged Greek mercenaries in his armies, and was sympathetic to Greek emigrants, and the Greek language, which resulted in Egypt becoming more and more under the sway of Greece.

After a short period of Persian domination, Alexander the Great added Egypt to his immense dominion and founded Alexandria 330 B.C. This became the focus of Hellenistic, Egyptian, and Eastern ideas. Here was established the famous library which was burnt down by the order of Caliph Omar in 642 A.D. The Greeks ransacked the scientific, literary, and mystical treasures of the East and South and with the accession of numerous Jews fleeing from the powers of Syria, Alexander developed a mystical kabbalism that penetrated the whole eastern Mediterranean and was known to St. Paul. What is more important than the employment of Greek mercenaries in the armies of Egypt is the fact that, in order to receive further learning, Egypt was visited by so many of Greece's greatest teachers and philosophers, either, like Thales, who had no other teachers and was the first Greek to go to Egypt for instruction from the priests, or, like Pythagorus, Democrates, Anaxagorus, Eudoxus, Plato, Euclid, Archimedes, to add to their learning by becoming pupils of the priests.

But gradually Rome became in the ascendant. In 200 B.C. Egypt first entered the arena of Roman politics. Speaking of this period Livy makes use of a peculiar expression when he says he feels as though he were carried into a bottomless sea. Some see in this a reference to the fact that the sun entered the Sign of Pisces a little before 200 B.C. Moreover, at this date (i.e. about 250 B.C.), civilisation began to hide itself in symbolism and secret societies and that is why some of the knowledge enshrined in the Greek mysteria and Roman Collegia passed into the Christian Church and the New Testament, so quietly, and is still so little recognised there. St. Paul says that he was " a Stewart of the Mysteries." About 30 B.C. Augustus imposed Rome's Imperium on the fertile province of Cleopatra.

This knowledge acquired in Egypt became the common possession of the pupils who sat at the feet of these doctors of Egyptian philosophy. Facts show clearly a contact between Egypt and Greece lasting some 1500 years.

In addition, Greek tradition fixes the foundation of Tyre and Sidon by Phoenix from Thebes, in Egypt, the foundation of Athens by Cecrops, from Sais, in Egypt, of Thebes in Central Greece by Cadmus, from Egyptian Thebes, and of Argos by Danaus from Libya about 1582 B.C.

Tradition refers the institution of the Greek Mysteries to Orpheus or Dionysus whose legendary date I believe to be 1600 B.C. The chief of these, the Eleusinian Mysteries in Attica, was said to have been imported by King Erechtheus, who in a time of scarcity, like Jacob's sons, sought corn for his country in Egypt, and to have been instituted according to the writers, Diodorus and Isocrates, by order of Demeter, the Great Mother, herself.

Historically, it would seem that the mysteries were re-established, consequent upon the invasion of Greece, about 1000 years B.C., by fierce Dorian tribes from the north. Greek and Phoenician colonies began to intermingle as early as 700 B.C., perhaps earlier, and Greece's great struggle against Persia at Marathon, 490 B.C., is evidence of much connection with the East via the Ionian Islands and Asia Minor. Certainly from the fifth century B.C., the Egyptian Trinity of Isis, Osiris and Horus, were represented in Greece by Demeter, Dionysus and Apollo respectively.

It is not to be assumed that Greek initiates, though they took vows of secrecy, were as uncommunicative, in their best period, to the educated world, as were the Egyptians. Such a babbling race, as gave democratic ideas to Europe, was well able to throw out hints, before the dark hand of pagan Rome made secret societies dangerous; and as a matter of fact, the Eleusinian schools were open to all free men, indiscriminately, and included the most distinguished statesmen and philosophers of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. Egypt is almost certainly the home of mysteries, but the Greeks imparted to their representations a measure of art and beauty.

The public observances of the initiates consisted of sacrificial ceremonies (orgia) and purifications to avoid some calamity in this life ; but private and personal purifications were enioined. against danger in a life to come. At Athens, violation of the mysteries was indictable under the jurisdiction of the Archon or chief magistrate with a jury of initiates. The mysteries celebrated were those of Zeus in Crete, Hera in Argolis, Athene and Dionysus (i.e. Bacchus) in Athens, Artemis (i.e. Diana) in Arcadia, Hecate in AEgina ; and those of the Cabiri in Samothrace. But by far the most famous, and the only ones with which I shall deal, were those at Attica in honour of Demeter and Persephone, mother and daughter. These were considered most holy and venerable throughout Greece, and laid hold on the popular imagination as did no worship of the Olympians. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter tells us that Demeter, sister and wife of Zeus, had a daughter Persephone, whom Hades (God of the Unseen) carried off while she gathered flowers in the Nvsian Plains in Asia Minor. Demeter, Mother of Earth, and Goddess of the Seedtime and Harvest, now cut off fruits from men till Zeus sent Mercury, his winged messenger, to Hades, to recover Persephone on condition that she had eaten nothing in the Kingdom of Hades. But Hades, that very morning, had caused her to eat some grains of a pomegranate. Hence, she still spends one half of the year with Hades and one half only in the upper air.

Latin poets placed the seizure of Persephone in the Ashphodel Meadows of Sicilian Enna.

This legend has a wonderful fascination, and if it can be said to enshrine any divine truth it would be that of a divine mother and daughter, a feminine counterpart of the Christian father and son; the daughter also "descending into hell" till rescued by the son in the form of the word (Mercury). Now I think that all religions, anciently, were based on prophecy of a divine feminine revelation. To the ancients, a goddess mother was no difficulty. Demeter, Cybele, Isis, Magna Mater, and the Virgin Mother are all akin : and only Protestants in cold Latitudes would see anything strange in a "Jerusalem, Mother of us all." However that may be, the worship of Demeter and Persephone was of Catholic acceptance in Greece and by numerous testimonies was of a moralising and uplifting nature. This is borne witness to by the Greek writers, Pindar, Sophocles, Isocrates, Plutarch, and Plato. The mysteries were of two kinds, the Lesser and the Greater. Both kinds included spectacles as grand and impressive as painting, sculpture, music, and dancing could make them. The priests were called kerukes or heralds. The lesser Eleusinia were held at Agrae, on the Ilissus Stream, in honour of the daughter, Persephone, alone.

Only Barbarians were excluded. The initiated were named Mystae and they had to wait a year before admittance to the greater mysteries. The candidate took and washed a sow, then sacrificed it, symbolising that he purposed not to " return like a sow to his wallowing in the mire." He was then sprinkled with water by a priest (Hydranos) and a Mystagogus, (Hierophant or Prophet) administered an oath of secrecy. He was not admitted at once to Demeter's Shrine, but remained during subsequent instruction in the porch or vestibule. Aristotle, however, asserts that no instruction was given to the Mystae but that while in a state of receptivity-a psychic state-their emotions and character were acted upon, The rape of Persephone having taken place in the winter, the lesser mysteries were held in February.

The greater mysteries were held annually for nine days in September, Athens being thronged with visitors from all parts. The first day was that of assembling. On the second, a solemn "Pomp" or procession wended its way to the coast with the cry "Mystae, to the sea," and purificatory rites were performed. The third day was a day of fasting. In the evening a frugal meal was taken of sesame and honey, and sacrifices offered of fish and barley. Some maintain that there was a nine days' fast. On the fourth a procession displayed the "Sacred Things of Demeter," including pomegranates and poppy seeds in a basket. The fifth day became famous. The Mystae, led by torch bearer, went in , the dark evening with torches to the Temple of Demeter at Eleusis to search (in imitation of her) for Persephone. Claudian gives a poetic picture of the shores and Bay of Eleusis, lit up by a myriad lamps in the gloom. They remained all night. The sixth day was sacred to Iacchus, son of Demeter, the Bacchus or Dionysus "Lord of Earth." His statue was carried along the sacred road amid joyous shouts : 30,000 spectators was nothing uncommon. In the night of the sixth and seventh the Mystae were initiated into the greater mysteries and became " Seers " (Epoptae), " Seers of Future Things," as St. Paul says, using the same word. In the lighted sanctuary they were shown (Autopsy) what none but Epoptae ever saw - a dramatic representation to the accompaniment of ancient hymns of the death and resurrection of the Holy Child, Iacchus and of the life of the gods. These mystic sights are described as divinely ineffable. On the same night, they performed a sacrament with the words, " I have fasted and I have drunk the Kukeon. I have taken from the chest. After tasting I have deposited in the basket and from the basket into the chest." The words of dismissal were "konx ompax." On the seventh day they returned to Athens with happy jests, in imitation of those with which the sorrows of Demeter had been lightened. " A mystical drama," says Clement of Alexandria. Athletic games were held, the prize being a full corn in the ear. On the eighth were initiated those who were unable to be present on the sixth. The ninth was the day of full cups. Two cups were filled with water or wine and the contents were thrown, one to the east, and one to the west. These Eleusinian mysteries long survived the independence of Greece. The general belief of the ancients was that they opened a comforting prospect of a future life. The most Holy and perfect of the rites was to show an ear of corn mowed down in silence. One can not but think of the text, " Except a corn of wheat fall to the ground and die." In my opinion it is certain that the mysteries were, in a measure, a "praeparatio evangelica" for had I time I could indicate very much mystery phraseology in the Epistles and Book of Revelations.

Gradually, the Egyptian gods, notwithstanding fierce persecution raged for a time against their worshippers, ousted the old religion of Rome, until its Emperors were found filling their houses with the Egyptian Gods and building temples to them in the public parks of Rome, while soldiers of the Sixth Legion indulged in Isiac worship in York.

And so it comes, as Dill, in his " Roman Society " says: "The scenes which were so common at Rome, or Pompeii, or Corinth, the procession of shaven, white-robed priests and acolytes marching to the sound of chants and barbaric music, with the sacred images and symbols of a worship which had been cradled on the Nile ages before the time of Romulus . . . . . . were reproduced in the remote villages on the edge of the Sahara and the Atlantic, in the valleys of the Alps or the Yorkshire dales."


I highly venerate the Masonic Institution, under the fullest persuasion that, when its principles are acknowledged and its laws and precepts obeyed, it comes nearest to the Christian religion, in its moral effects and influence, of any institution with which I am acquainted. - REV. FRED. DALCHO.