“The most famous of the ancient religious mysteries were the Eleusinian, whose rites were celebrated every five years in the city of Eleusis. … The initiates f the Eleusinian school were famous throughout Greece for the beauty of their philosophical concepts and the high standards of morality which they demonstrated in their daily lives. …
“The rites of Eleusis, with their Mystic interpretations of Nature’s most precious secrets, overshadowed the civilizations of their time and gradually absorbed many smaller schools. …
“Through indirect channels, some of their secrets have been preserved. The teachings given to the neophytes were substantially as follows:
“The Soul of man—often called psyche, and in the Eleusinian mysteries symbolized by Persephone—is essentially a spiritual thing. Its true home is in the higher worlds, where, free from the bondage of material form and material concepts, it is said to be truly alive and self-expressive.” ~Manly P. Hall
The ancient Greek group know as Eleusinian truly was Gnostic in nature. According to Wikipedia, the mysteries were based on the myth of the abduction of Persephone by Hades and featured a cycle of three phases: the descent, the search, and the ascent. The Eleusinian rites may have been derived from those of the Mycenean people. The city of Eleusis, where these mysteries were centered, is said to have had a “well-spring” covered by a “navel-stone”. Recent discoveries have shown that many mysterious ancient sites, especially those used for prophecy, were locate over springs. The name of the city was said to mean “Ascend” to the Greeks. Appropriate for a center of spiritual development.
Standard of Morality
It is not something people generally think of when they talk about mystery schools, but they should. You can appreciate their high standards of morality, Even if you think the religious and spiritual beliefs of these groups were rubbish, even if you think the religious and spiritual beliefs of these groups were rubbish. In truth, whether the anti-religion crowd likes it or not, the whole concept of morality was primarily developed by religions. It was also, of course, part of the basic teachings of any spiritual school. I think it is reasonable to assume that a student who did not show proper morality would not pass his trial membership.
The Tale of Persephone
Most people today are somewhat familiar with the tale of Persephone. A variation of it, anyway. It was in the first Percy Jackson movie and book: The Lightning Thief. Not being a spiritual writer, however, Rick Riordan doesn’t mention the importance of the three phases of her journey.
The tale represents the journey of the human soul. In a common tradition of meaningful Myth, the soul is personified as Persephone. Her abduction and descent into hell represents Mans descent from spirit into matter. Her search for a way to escape from Hades represents our search for a way to return to the spiritual realms we fell from. The ascent is when we find that path, awaken our souls, and return to those higher realms of spirit.
According to the Eleusian myths and ceremonies, the soul is spiritual. I couldn’t agree more. The soul is not “essentially spiritual,” it is all spirit. It is the link between our physical and mental bodies and the higher realms of spirit. The Eleusian rites recognized this.