A Personal Endowment, The Descent, Journey & Ascent Motif Throughout Time

The Ancient Mysteries were mystical sets of information and experience, both esoteric and exoteric that were contained within myths, rituals and dramas beginning around the time of the ancient Egyptians (ca. 2,500 BCE) and descended from them to the
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   A Personal Endowment, The Descent, Journey & Ascent Motif Throughout Time Page 1  A Personal Endowment The Descent, Journey & Ascent Motif Throughout Time The Meaning Behind the  Ancient Egyptian & Eleusinian Mysteries by Richard A. Ware   Copyright © 2019 Richard A. Ware Section I Overview of the Ancient Mysteries The Ancient Mysteries were mystical   sets of information and   experience, both esoteric and exoteric that were contained within myths, rituals and dramas beginning around the time of the ancient Egyptians (ca. 2,500  BCE ) and descended from them to the Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece and to different nations in various formats. The Mysteries presented symbolic information relative to one’s life on earth , his descent, journey and ascent  , his relationship with nature and with the Goddess, the idea that man continues to live after death, and what the process was of knowing the Gods and of living with them after death. Collectively these, and other associated concepts, were called the Ancient Mysteries.  The information given in rituals to ancient initiates was considered sacred, with some of it kept secret from the uninitiated. The Mysteries contained metaphors, sym-bols and allegories that both hid and revealed their meaning, depending upon the level of the initiate. Parts of the rituals “of becoming”  were given outside the sanctuary and other parts were given within. Some parts of the rituals and myths were recorded on the inside of Egyptian temple walls (paintings) and some were written on scrolls. West stated: “The Temple tells, in stone, in its proportions and harmonies, its art and sculp -ture, the story of the creation of man; it signals his development, stage by stage, and it recreates in artistic form man’s relationship to the universe.” (West, 1993, 152-153).   “The purpose of this [exterior] complex relief is the depiction of the battle between the forces of light and darkness. Having vanquished the enemy, the king can enter the Temple; to enter the Temple, all obstacles in the external world must be overcome. This is why the battle scenes are all on the exterior of the Temple walls.” (West, 1993, 161-162). Yet “…it is also the temple in which the primordial struggle takes place between the essential antagonists: light and dark, Yin and Yang, gravity and levity, Ormuzd and Ahriman [good and evil, light and dark], Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, Horas and Seth.” (West, 1993, x).   In ancient Egypt there were both gods and goddesses, each having their role to   A Personal Endowment, The Descent, Journey & Ascent Motif Throughout Time Page 2 play and each of them representing and symbolizing certain literal aspects that occur or exist within nature, such as Geb the earth God, and Nut the Sky Goddess. The Egypt-ian Mysteries centered around the myth of the God Osiris and Goddess Isis, while in Eleusis the Mysteries centered around the myth of Demeter and Persephone, two God-desses. The rituals consisted of both the Lesser   and Greater Mysteries. The conclusion reached by most researchers today is that the Mystery rites began in Egypt and were later taken to Eleusis along with “…the philosophical teaching that infused them.” (Baring, 1991, 413) . These mystery rituals  srcinated in ancient Egypt ca. 2,500 BCE  and in Eleusis ca. 1600 BCE . General Aspects of the Ancient Mysteries   The ancient mysteries  tell the story, in symbolic format, of the descent, journey and ascent   of each human. The story always involves a Goddess (  Zoe, always eternal, never changing ) such as Demeter and Isis, and a godman ( Bios, the dying and resurrect-ing godman or goddess, annually renewing ) such as Persephone and Osiris. In the Egyptian drama story, Osiris was killed and dismembered by his brother Set/Seth. Isis wandered looking for the parts of his body and having found them re-assembled him. Osiris then became the God of the Dead. In the drama story of Demeter and Persephone, it was the Goddess Persephone who was raped and dragged into Hades and who was rescued and brought back into the arms of Demeter. The symbolism remains intact with Persephone representing Bios,  the annual living and dying aspect of her mother Goddess, Demeter (Zoe) . The godman Bios  annually died and was resurrected 3 days later during the time of the vernal equinox, celebrated at Easter, which symbolized the “death” or end of winter, and the rebirth or resurrection of new life and fertility upon the land. The 3 days between the death of winter and the resurrection of life are 1) the last day of winter (the day prior to the vernal or spring equinox), 2) the day of the vernal equinox (the day of transition when all stands still), and 3) the day after, which is the first day of new life, growth and fertility. The ancient mystery drama rituals always involved a descent   from light to darkness, followed by a wandering, searching or  journey   in darkness, and an ascent   from darkness into light. The crowning event of the ancient rituals was entering the presence of the Gods/ Goddesses and realizing he or she would live among them in the afterlife. These aspects are among the core elements  of the ancient mystery rites. Today, they are also found within the Masonic and LDS endowment. The portrayal of the descent, journey and ascent   can be found within the biblical stories of Adam and Eve, of Moses and the Exodus, the life and death of the “ Gnostic ”  Jesus written by the Essenes, the Good Samaritan, as well as the Grail legends and fairy tales such as Cinderella. In this manner, and in several other ways, the mysteries  were passed on to posterity throughout the centuries of silence in order to keep the know-   A Personal Endowment, The Descent, Journey & Ascent Motif Throughout Time Page 3 ledge of the mysteries alive. Prior to the establishment of the mystery rituals in ancient Egypt and Eleusis, annual sacrifices were performed during Easter as an act of propitiation and thanks-giving, which symbolized Bios , the death of the “old” and the birth of the “new.” With the passing of time, bulls, rams and other scapegoats were sacrificed in the place of men which also represented Bios . “ W ith the [ancient] Mysteries [however], we move into a totally new concept of sacrifice . [***] The initiate himself becomes the son-lover [  the “old”  godman, Bios] , whose old beliefs and way of life are sacrificed to his or her new understanding of the Mysteries, and who is ‘reborn’ from the death -like state of his former level of understanding . The ‘Day of Blood’ symbolized the death or sacrifice of the former state  [and] the Hilaria , or day of rejoicing, celebrated the return or ascent of the soul to its source . The child ‘born’ of the sacred marriage between the initiate and the goddess was at once the image of regenerated life on earth and the initiate’s own spiritual regeneration” (Baring, 1991, 413-414, italics added) . The mystery    rites that enacted the ‘death’ of the initiate also brought him back   to life, reborn and released from the fear of death. Initiates saw themselves as eternal rather than mortal beings. The Orphic initiate proclaimed “‘I am a child of Earth and Starry Heaven; But my race is of Heaven alone.’” (Baring, 1991, 414) . The initiates of the mysteries came to know that they were both human and divine. “Immortality was certain because humanity, like all creation, was divine. They had ‘fallen from’ or forgotten this knowledge, but thro ugh the rituals of the mysteries they could remember it  . [***] It seems that the initiation involved a symbolic descent into the underworld into the sacred cave or crypt beneath or beside the temple of [the Goddess] Cybele, and here the ceremony of the sacred marriage took place, and from here the initiate was ‘reborn’ as a ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ of the goddess.” (Baring, 1991, 415) . The mystery dramas and rituals were not about historical events!   They were designed to teach people concepts relating to their own personal existence, mortal and eternal, their descent into a world of darkness, and their journey back into the light. They learned that  personal knowledge and spiritual preparation were needed if they wished to be embraced or touched by the Egyptian and Eleusinian Gods or Goddesses.  Once the embrace occurred they were assured of their salvation and that they would live among the Gods in the afterlife .  The different nations created their own variations of the ancient drama rituals. There was never any right or wrong way to present the mysteries as long as the   core elements and correct philosophical teachings were included  . Modern Freemasonry is a form of the ancient mysteries, and “ the actual form of words employed was (and still always is) the least important element about the Ceremony” (Wilmshurst, 1932, 3). The ancient Egyptian Mysteries were successfully transmitted by temple Priests and Priestesses to initiates like Pythagoras who spent several decades in Egypt learn-ing the myths and teachings of the Mysteries, as well as their sciences and philosophy.   A Personal Endowment, The Descent, Journey & Ascent Motif Throughout Time Page 4 He later returned and endowed groups of initiates throughout Greece. The core concepts of the Mysteries spread to other countries and infiltrated Gnostic sects. “The Mysteries were the root of the Gnostic sects that came to prom -inence before and after the beginning of the C hristian era” (Baring, 1991, 413) . Candidates had to first meet a level of worthiness.   Kephalas s tated that “…per -sons of illegitimate birth, slaves, immoral persons, degenerates, traitors, deserters, and those indifferent to the good of society were prevented by their intrinsic unworthiness from becoming candidates…” for the Mysteries. (Nicholas Kephalas, The Wisdom of the Sages: The Eleusinian Mysteries, p xviii). It is important to note, that to qualify for the Mysteries, whether Egyptian or Eleusinian, no one needed to be a member of any organized religion or group . The Mys-teries were for all worthy persons who desired them, and once endowed, the person could then live his or her life according to the elevated experiences and knowledge gained in the rituals without any oversight by an external organization . After all, the purpose of the rituals was to emphasize the importance of inner self awakening and self-actual-ization, culminating in a personal experience with the Divine, all of which could only be performed and experienced by each person, individually and independently. Although the ancient mythic stories and mystery rituals varied between nations, they all contained certain core or common elements. “… the common elements in the Mysteries [were] the descent into darkness and then the light, or the death and re- birth” (N icholas Kephalas, “The Wisdom of the Sages: The Eleusinian Mysteries” , p 12 ). Also included in the core elements was the drama story that was told. In the mysteries the story was told of a Goddess (  Zoe: Isis, Demeter  ) who was eternal, and a godman ( Bios: Osiris, Persephone ) who died and resurrected each year. The drama included a doe-skin garment, passwords, an embrace and the descent, journey and ascent motif. Comparatively, Jesus is the godman Bios  and his Father is  Zoe . Catholic tradition states that the Father and Son are one entity, just as the ancient Goddess  Zoe  is one entity with her son or daughter Bios . In both instances Bios  is forever being born at the Winter Solstice (December 21-23, set by decree to Dec 25) and forever dying and resurrecting yearly at the Spring Equinox at Easter. The Winter Solstice is the moment in nature when the Sun ceases its movement southward and begins its re-ascent northward. It is the moment at which death in nature stops and the birth of a new cycle commences. Hence the birth of the baby godman ( Bios ) is always celebrated at the Winter Solstice at Christmas time. Three months after his birth, the vernal (spring) equinox occurs. The day before the equinox is the last day of barrenness and sterility in nature. The day of the equinox is the day of transition between the two cycles, and the first day after the Equinox is the first day of new life, fertility and new growth. Hence, the “old” cycle passes away and a “new” cycle begins. This very a ncient event was celebrated with the death of the godman (Bios, the previous year)  and his resurrection to new life 3 days later, and a new year. Today, Christians celebrate this time of year with the death and   A Personal Endowment, The Descent, Journey & Ascent Motif Throughout Time Page 5 resurrection of their Bios  (Jesus) although the godman in this case is considered to be a real person by Christians rather than how Bios  was viewed anciently. These drama rituals were celebrated from ca. 2,500 BCE  until ca. 392 CE  when efforts were begun by Emperor Theodosius I to destroy the temples of the Goddess and the initiation rites contained within them and to replace all of it with Catholic beliefs and rituals. All centers of the Mysteries were eventually destroyed, causing the mys-teries to move out of public sight and into various secret organizations and groups that kept them alive, such as the Manicheans, Valentinians, Pagans, Gnostics, Bogomils, Cathars, Knights Templars, and Troubadours. Gnostic works like the stories of Jesus written by the Essenes; the  Zohar   which was a part of the Kabbalistic writings of mystic Judaism; and games such as the major arcana  of the Tarot all contained aspects of the ancient Mysteries, which taught the descent, journey and ascent in symbol and myth. Wright stated: “About the beginning of the fifth century Theodosius the Great prohibited and almost totally extinguished the pagan theology in the Roman Empire, and the Eleusinian Mysteries suffered in the general destruction. It is probable, how-ever, that the Mysteries were celebrated secretly in spite of the severe edicts of Theo-dosius and that they were partly continued through the dark ages, though stripped of their [previous] splendor. It is certain that many rites of the pagan religion were performed under the dissembled name of convivial meetings, long after the publication of the Emperor’s edicts, and Psellius informs us that the Mysteries of Ceres [Demeter] existed in Athens until the eighth century of the Christian era and were never totally suppressed.” (Wright, 1919, 22). The Ancient Egyptian Mysteries   “The initiatic and mystical character of ancient Egypt is attested from the time of the Pyramid Texts (Old Kingdom –  ca. 2350 BCE ) through the Greco-Roman era. Ancient authors consistently considered Egypt the font of ancient wisdom, and described the Mysteries and initiatic character of the Egyptians.” (Rosicrucian Digest No. 1, 2007, Ancient Texts on the Egyptian Mysteries, p 14). “It is still affirmed, … that Egypt was the main cradle of contemporary esotericism.”    (Max Guilmot, An Initiatory Drama in Ancient Egypt, p 1 ). It was in Egypt that the ancient drama, myth and rituals were given to initiates by the temple Priests and Priestesses. The sacred texts of Egypt are part of an initiatic religion, and are compre-hensible only within that context. The aim of all initiatic religions is the same the world over and has always been: to guide man from his natural state of consciousness (which is called 'illusion' or 'sleep') to a higher state (called 'illumination' or 'the kingdom').  This higher state, his destiny and birthright, is, within the context of the natural world, 'unnatural'. It is impossible to construct a rational argument to compel the unwilling and the immune into acknowledging either the existence or the importance of this higher state. It is impossible to 'prove' to the skeptic that this has any direct bearing
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