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Vicki Davies

The mystery schools were much like today's New Age programs in which spiritual training was given.

It was as organised as any modern college today. The programs gave learning in a series of trials or ordeals using psychodrama which amounted to shock treatment and mind development in order to set the higher bodies up for re-imprinting. The end result was to produce a superman-type much like the self-actualised person of today. But that was not the final goal. The final goal was always deliberately misrepresented as this superman-type with special spiritual powers. Initiates were referred to as telestes - those who seek the goal - and the telos (goal) was two fold - deification and the high work of co-creation.

These ideas were and are still held to be too dangerous to be made generally accessible. The graduates of the Mystery Schools were evolved to Man and remained in society to inform and direct the life activity of its members through successive stages of historical development. The Mysteries were very specialised and diverse in character, each school tailored to the culture, race and even climate.

The Mystery teachings held that there are but a few mature minds in the world; and it was that the philosophic-religious doctrines of the Schools were divided to meet the needs of these two fundamental groups of intellect - one philosophic, the other incapable of appreciating the deeper mysteries of life. To the discerning few were revealed the esoteric, or spiritual teachings, while the unqualified many received only the literal or exoteric interpretations. In order to make simple the great truths of Nature and the abstract principles of natural law, the vital forces of the universe were personified becoming the gods and goddesses of the ancient mythologies.

While the ignorant multitudes brought their offerings to the altars of Priapus and Pan (deities representing the procreative energies), the wise recognised in these marble statues only symbolic concretions of abstract truths. In all cities of the ancient world were temples for public worship and offering. In every community also were philosophers and mystics deeply versed in Nature's lore. These individuals were usually banded together forming seclusive philosophic and religious schools. The more important of these groups were known as the Mysteries. Alexander Wilder defines the Mysteries as "Sacred dramas performed at stated periods. The most celebrated were those of Isis, Sabazius, Cybele, and Eleusis". After being admitted, the initiates were instructed in the secret wisdom which had been preserved for ages.

Robert Maycoy, in his 'General History of Freemasonry' pays a tribute to the part played by the ancient Mysteries in the rearing of the edifice of human culture. He says, in part: "It appears that all the perfection of civilisation, and all the advancement made in philosophy, science and art among the ancients are due to those institutions which under the veil of mystery sought to illustrate the sublimest truths of religion, morality and virtue and impress them on the hearts of their disciples. Their chief object was to teach the doctrine of one God, the resurrection of man to eternal life, the dignity of the human soul, and to lead people to see the shadow of the deity in the beauty, magnificence and splendour of the universe.'

The ancient Mystery School philosophers believed that no man could live intelligently who did not have a fundamental knowledge of Nature and her laws. Before man can obey, he must understand and the Mysteries were devoted to instructing man concerning the operation of divine law in the terrestrial sphere. Man was taught to use his faculties intelligently, to be patient in the face of adversity, to be courageous when confronted by danger, to be true in the midst of temptation, and to view a worthy life as the most acceptable sacrifice to God and his body as an altar sacred to the Deity. The Mysteries were organised for the purpose of assisting the struggling human creature to reawaken the spiritual powers which, surrounded by the flaming ring of lust and degeneracy lay asleep within his soul. In other words, man was offered a way by which he could regain his lost estate.

The Mysteries of Egypt attracted the wisest and most spiritual souls from all nations who carried the Egyptian wisdom back to their own lands.

The Egyptian mysteries embraced the doctrine of cosmogony. They also included astronomy, the arts, sciences and religion which led toward the immortality of the soul. Through impressive rites and ceremonies they led their neophytes from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, from knowledge to wisdom. Even in those early days, the Mysteries were divided. The Lesser were offered to the multitudes, the Greater only to the candidates for the priesthood. Realising many neophytes could never attain the Greater, the priesthood used symbols adapted to that purpose. Thus there evolved a symbolic language in which the priesthood concealed the real truths of the Mysteries.

The drama of the Mysteries presented the tragic death of Osiris and the search of his body by Isis. It revolved around the discovery of the body of Osiris by Isis and its restoration to life and power. This drama reveals the truth of the initiation at the moment of death. The dramas of the Lesser Mysteries represented a mystical death and descent into the infernal regions where sin was purged by the elements and the initiate was regenerated and restored to a life of light and purity. The Greater Mysteries involved actually placing the initiate in a state of symbolic death for a period of three days during which his or her spirit soared aloft to gain wisdom of the actual death transition. The early mysteries were celebrated once a year when candidates were initiated into three degrees - Isis, Serapis and Osiris.

The Druidic Mysteries of Britain and Gaul. The Druids were initiates of a secret school that existed in their midst. This school, which closely resembled the Bacchic and Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece and the Egyptian mysteries was called the Druidic Mysteries. Their secret teachings were never written. They communicated orally to specially prepared candidates. The school was divided into three distinct parts and the secret teachings were practically the same as the mysteries concealed under the allegories of the Blue Lodge of Masonry. The lowest of the three divisions was that of Ovate (Ovydd). This was an honorary degree. They dressed in green, the colour of learning and were expected to know something about medicine, astronomy, and perhaps some poetry and music.

The second division was that of Bard (Beirdd). Its members were robed in sky blue to represent harmony and truth and to them was assigned the labour of memorising at least in part, the twenty thousand verses of Druidic sacred poetry. The third division was that of Druid. Its task was to minister to the religious needs of the people. They dressed in white.

James Freeman Clarke in his Ten Great Religions, describes the beliefs of the Druids as follows: The Druids believed in three worlds and in transmigration from one to the other. In a world above this in which happiness predominated; a world below of misery and this present state. This transmigration was to punish and reward and also to purify the soul.

The neophytes were instructed on the creation of the universe, the personalities of the gods, the laws of Nature, the secrets of occult medicine, the mysteries of the celestial bodies and the rudiments of magic and sorcery. The chief deities were reducible to two - a male and a female - Hu and Ceridwen - distinguished by the same characteristics as Osiris and Isis.

There were Mystery Schools in all parts of the Eastern and Western worlds: - The Rites of Mithras - the Persian Mysteries that immigrated into Southern Europe and became popular with the Romans; the Odinic Mysteries of Scandinavia; the Eleusian Mysteries in Greece; the Orphic Mysteries of Greece.

It is said that the emperors of Rome caused the downfall of the Mysteries in order to establish the growth of Christianity. In our time, the truths and secrets of the Mysteries are again coming into birth either through established Christianity or outside the framework of its doctrines. The reborn initiate will seek again a higher form of initiation than that experienced in the Mysteries of antiquity to reach a higher state of attainment than that which is now available.