“Let us enter the mystic temple and be initiated,—though it must be supposed that, a year ago, we were initiated into the Lesser Mysteries at Agræ. We must have been mystæ (veiled), before we can become epoptæ (seers); in plain English, we must have shut our eyes to all else before we can behold the mysteries. Crowned with myrtle, we enter with the other initiates into the vestibule of the temple,—blind as yet, but the Hierophant within will soon open our eyes. “But first,—for here we must do nothing rashly,—first we must wash in this holy water; for it is with pure hands and a pure heart that we are bidden to enter the most sacred enclosure . Then, led into the presence of the Hierophant, he reads to us, from a book of stone, things which we must not divulge on pain of death. Let it suffice that they fit the place and the occasion; and though you might laugh at them, if they were spoken outside, still you seem very far from that mood now, as you hear the words of the old man (for old he he always was), and look upon the revealed symbols. And very far, indeed, are you from ridicule, when Demeter seals, by her own peculiar utterance and signals, by vivid coruscations of light, and cloud piled upon cloud, all that we have seen and heard from her sacred priest; and then, finally, the light of a serene wonder fills the temple, and we see the pure fields of Elysium, and hear the chorus of the Blessed.” ~Thomas Taylor
What constituted a mystic temple in the ancient world varied depending on several factors. One factor was the standards of those who founded the temple. Another was the acceptance of the area for mystics. Where they were not only allowed, but encourages, they may have had open temples like that of King Solomon. In other places, they may have been hidden caves that few knew about. In some cases, the temple may not have been a structure of any kind, but simply a group of like-minded mystics working together.
As with many buildings today, what you used it for defined it more than the architecture itself. Yet there were things that most of the mystic temples had in common. One was some form of chamber or maze where initiation was performed. Another was the entrance that had two pillars by it, one to the left, one to the right. It is said that in some of these temples, once you passed between the pillars, there was no turning around. That is why new students were not simply allowed to enter and wander around. They entered only when they had been prepared for initiation. That preparation part alone may have taken a year or two.
Shut Our Eyes
The students of the mystic temples did not literally shut there eyes in order to prepare for the knowledge of the mysteries. They certainly didn’t blind themselves. They shut their eyes allegorically. They stopped blindly accepting the material world as exactly what it appears to be and as the only reality. They at least accepted the possibility that the world of matter was an illusion. They could not have moved outside of those limitations without accepting that more existed. Their eyes were shut to illusion, not reality.
Wash in Holy Water
Having initiates “wash in holy water” in the mystic temple may be why many churches started the idea of using holy water for one ceremony or another. I really don’t know who started it, but I remember reading that the first known vending machine was in a religious temple and dispensed a few drops of holy water when a coin was dropped into the slot. But water that is made holy simply by being blessed by a priest isn’t the real holy water. It is an allegory, much like the “shut your eyes” above. The real holy water is the flowing light of the spiritual sun that awakens the spirit and soul. It is this that prepares one to enter the mystic temple and complete the initiation.
Book of Stone
Did mystic temples really have a book made of stone from which the Hierophant read? Perhaps. But whether it was literally real or not doesn’t matter. It is the symbolism that matters. The idea of using a book of stone is to say that what as being revealed was eternal truths, indestructible truths. It wasn’t the opinions and interpretations of men found in most written books of paper. If you have never done so, read a few books that are two or three hundred years old. Not spiritual books, but others. See how things that were accepted as normal or true would be laughed at today.
Light of Wonder
It may start with short bursts of light, that spark of light called “ vivid coruscations of light,” in the quote. But eventually, you are filled with that light and you begin to understand the truth. This is not truth in a sense of human history. It is eternal truth, ultimate truth. It is wisdom. The mystic temple could just as easily be called a wisdom temple. Today, many confuse education with wisdom, They are not the same. And real truth and wisdom never come from reading books. They must be experienced by each of us individually. That light of wonder does that for us. That light that originates with God and reaches us through the spiritual sun.
For more on the mystic temples, read this earlier post.