Last week the Supreme Court legalized marriage for gay couples with all the rights of hetero couples. HOO-RAH! It is well past time. In some “religious” strongholds people are resisting saying that the tradition of marriage between one man and one woman goes back to the Bible. Adam and Eve, they say, created the template which makes only hetero marriage acceptable. Actually, this is not the case. The name Adam means “red earth” and the name Eve mean “life.” So the template of marriage is actually between the earth and life itself. In other words creation.
In ancient times there was the teaching of hieros gamos which meant sacred marriage. These teachings often occurred within the ancient mystery schools. This was not an external marriage but an internal one that each human – each human with a divine spirit – needed to experience to live a complete life. It is the marriage of opposites within ourselves. The marriage of the aspects of ourselves which we identify as feminine with the aspects of ourselves which we identify as masculine. The marriage of the light and dark WITHIN ourselves. The marriage of heaven and earth WITHIN ourselves. The marriage of spirit and matter WITHIN ourselves.
The secret sacred lesson is that all things which may appear to be opposites are in truth, different aspects of ONENESS.
The serpent is an excellent symbol of oneness because it can be seen as both earthly and heavenly, as well as male and female.
Notice that in the sacred marriage there is not the dysfunctional focus that we stress in our own culture of the shape of one’s genitals and the performance of the sexual act. True, sex is the foundation of human creation, the coming together of opposites. But the true lessons is that the coming together of opposites has many forms and functions and that is part of the Great Mystery of our lives.
Bet the Supreme Court didn’t take any of that into consideration in their decision!
There are clues in the Bible that Moses had knowledge of mystery school teachings:
The first clue comes from Delphi at Apollo’s temple (photo above). Inscribed at the temple were the words “know thyself.” This is a hallmark of mystery school teachings. A crucial part of “knowing thyself” is recognizing and honoring ones ancestors. Moses was adopted by the pharaoh and so, presumably, did not grow up knowing his earthly lineage. But as a member of the pharaoh’s household he would have had access to the finest education available in his day. That would have certainly included both military and spiritual training. But then one day, he went out to learn of his ancestry . . .And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. Exodus 2:11-12
What happened “after Moses had grown up”? What changed his outlook? Why did he suddenly yearn to “know thyself” so urgently that, with no prior inducement, he went “out unto his brethren”? And when he did, he was filled with so much emotion that he actually ended up slaying an Egyptian in defense of his ancestral kin.
Egypt was known for having the most renowned and ancient mystery schools in the world, existing from long before the time of Moses. How could their spiritual message not be an integral part of its culture and thusly a part of Moses’ education? This story was set in motion because Moses, at some point in his life, felt a burning desire to “know thyself” and set off to learn of his ancestry. This is a primary lesson of mystery schools.
Another clue to Moses and his possible knowledge of the mystery school is his use of the Mystery Play. The mystery play is a tool of mystery schools used to ripen the initiate for the transformational experience.
Performing one or even viewing one is designed to be just such a transformational experience. Experiencing a mystery play entrains one to grasp knowledge not only with the mind, but with the heart. Their themes deal with issues of life, death, rebirth, and the potential of seeds. Perhaps the most famous of the ancient world is the Greek story of Persephone traveling to the underworld. Her story was enacted at the mystery school in Eleusis. The crux of the story lies in the fact that Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds while in the underworld. The result is the mythic foundation of the cycles of the seasons stressing the themes of cycles and fertility.
Egypt, too, had its mystery plays, often involving the story of Osiris, his journey to the underworld and ultimate resurrection which was enacted by the raising of a sacred pillar called a Djet column. I discuss one such play in my book ONE GODS: The Mystic Pagan’s Guide to the Bile.
And lest you think this is an older paradigm that is no longer applicable today, ponder this. There is one special mystery play that is still regularly performed in modern times, in spring, the season of rebirth. It is the familiar passion play of Christianity that relives in detail the life story and final days of Christ. The themes are familiar mystery school themes; life, death, and rebirth.
And turning back to the Bible, Moses performed a play, a mystery play, “in the sight of the people.” Although some of the underlying themes are different on the surface, it was performed so the people witnessing it would experience a transformation. The phrase that the King James bible translates to “did the signs” is often translated as “performed,” linking Moses’s and Aaron’s actions to the mystery play.And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel: And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. Exodus 4:29-30
Next up: What mysteries was Moses performing and why they are so important and so unique to history.
What are the Mystery School lessons? Below are the words of those who experienced it for themselves, witnessed the initiations, or heard about them from first-hand accounts.
What does it mean to experience the lessons of a mystery school? As I discussed in my last blog, one of the primary lessons is to overcome fear. Below are the words of those had personal experience with a Mystery School, witnessed the initiations, or heard about them from first-hand accounts.For among the many excellent and indeed divine institutions which your Athens has brought forth and contributed to human life, none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries. For by their means we have been brought out of our barbarous and savage mode of life and educated and refined to a state of civilization; and as the rites are called “initiations,” so in very truth we have learned from them the beginnings of life, and have gained the power not only to live happily, but also to die with a better hope. Cicero Laws II xiv, 36[i] Thrice happy are those of mortals, who having seen those rites depart for Hades; for to them alone is granted to have a true life there; to the rest, all there is evil Sophocles, Frag 719[ii]
Beautiful indeed is the Mystery given us by the blessed gods: death is for mortals no longer an evil, but a blessing. Inscription found at Eleusis[iii]
The soul at the point of death has the same experience as those who are being initiated in great mysteries. Plutarch[iv]
The Great Mysteries focus on experiences of life and death and how we as mortal beings perceive them. Notice also that initiates who have experienced the mysteries, speak about knowing a peace that is presumably not possible otherwise. As described above, the mysteries involve gaining a fuller, happier life by living without fear of one’s inevitable death.
The image used for this post is at the entrance to Machu Picchu. Next up: How some of the mystery school teachings were experienced and where they show up in the Bible.
[i] http://www.san.beck.org/Eleusis-Intro.html consulted March 2013, quoted by Sanderson Beck in The Divine Mother and the Veil of Death The Mysteries of Eleusis.
[ii] Eliade, Primitives; 300.
[iv] Naydler; 54.