“In The Obelisk in Freemasonry, John A. Weisse describes the officiating personages of the Eleusinian Mysteries as consisting of a male and a female hierophant who directed the initiations; a male and a female torchbearer; a male herald; and a male and a female altar attendant. He states that, according to Porphyry, the hierophant represents Plato’s Demiurgus or Creator of the World; the torch bearer, the Sun; the altar man, the moon; the herald, Hermes or Mercury, and the other officials, minor stars.
“From the records available, a number of strange and apparently supernatural phenomena accompanied the rituals. Many initiates claim to have actually seen the living gods themselves. Whether this was the result of religious ecstasy or the actual cooperation of invisible powers with the visible priests must remain a mystery. …
“Women and children were admitted to the Eleusinian Mysteries, and at one time there were literally thousands of initiates. Because this vast host was not prepared for the highest spiritual and mystical doctrines, a division necessarily took place within the society itself. The higher teachings were given to only a limited number of initiates.” ~Manly P. Hall
The Eleusinian school of Greece was probably typical of the ancient mystery schools. While details differed, the main teachings of most of them was identical. Certain other facts were also common. First, initiates who were accepted into the school took an oath of secrecy. The teaching were not to bee shared with the general public. Second, the initiate was accepted on a trial basis, and probably had to be recommended by someone who was already in the school. Third, in most schools, the initiate had to turn over all his material wealth to the treasurer of the school. If he failed the trial period and was asked to leave, hi money was returned to him. If he stayed with the school, his money was used, along with all the other students, for the benefit of the entire school.
Male and Female
In the available histories of mystery schools, you don’t find many mentions of women. Usually these schools were exclusively for men. At least that is what we were led to believe. In actual fact, however, many such schools did have both men and women in them. We see in the above quote that the Eleusinian school not only allowed women, but that in their initiations and other ceremonies, women played an important part. Most mystic schools recognized that women and men are different, but that doesn’t make one sex better than the other. Both sexes have their strengths and weaknesses, and the best schools accounted for those differences, while still treating all as equals.
Some histories of the Essenes, one of the best known of the spiritual groups and schools, indicate that only men were allowed within their communities. But what some Essene groups actually did is separate men and women into separate camps. They accepted both, but in different places. Other Essene groups, however, had men and women together. The Essenes were also known to adopt unwanted children in whom they saw spiritual potential, and raise them within their communities.
Torch of the Sun
Hall says that the two torch bearers at an Eleusinian initiation represented the sun. He doesn’t place any particular importance on this, but he should. While the details of what happened in these initiations is not known, enough is known about some mystery for us to be sure that the sun was key to much of it. The Essenes rose early, took a ritual bath, then climbed to the top of a mountain or hill to “watch the sunrise.” We can be sure they were doing more that simply watching.
They were practicing spiritual solar techniques similar to what is called sun gazing today. There is also evidence that the Pythagorean school also held sunrise ceremonies. The image shown is a group of Pythagorean students at sunrise practicing their techniques and using spiritual music as an aid.
Hall says that some Eleusinian school initiates claimed to see actual gods during their initiation. This may have been hallucination or wishful thinking in some cases. In other cases, however, it was real. We have to understand that what they called “gods” are what we today call angels and Light Beings. In these ceremonies, the barriers between dimensions sometimes weaken and it is possible for some to see into higher realms.
Hall says that when the Eleusinian school was at it’s height, they had thousands of initiates. That may be an exaggeration, but we may never know. In any case, he says this resulted in the initiates being divided into various levels. Some teachings were for all, some teachings only for the higher levels, some for only the highest.
Many spiritual students of today don’t like this idea. They think the idea of separating students int different grades is a secular idea that should not be copied by spiritual schools. They can easily find schools of today that agree with them. Those schools let every student have access to all of their teachings. What the students of those schools don’t understand is that the teachings of such schools are limited to the most basic levels anyway. They simply do not have access to the most advanced teachings. We accept that secular schools need to have different classes. We should accept the same for spiritual schools.
One final point Hall says the hierophant in the initiation represented “Plato’s Demiurgus.” This may give some the false idea that Plato invented the idea of a Demiurge, a lesser god who created the fallen realm of matter. This Demiurge was well known in mystery schools long before Plato, and Gnostic schools after Plato. He is not a man-made fantasy, but reality. The Demiurge is correctly credited with the creation of the realm of matter. This is a defective realm of death, disease, and constant change. It is not part of God’s creation, except in an indirect way.
Some will argue that if God created the Demiurge and the Demiurge created the realm of matter, than God created it indirectly. That’s like saying if I sell a video camera to a person who uses it to make porn, then I am making porn. No, I’m not making porn and God did not make matter. The initiates of the Eleusinian school knew that.