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Old and New Initiatory Mysteries
The secret of the Sphinx
From the secrets of the Sphinx to the initiation to the Mysteries of Isis
up to the Mysteries of Hiram
by Roberta Giammaria
The Sphinx is the supreme symbol of any initiation and it holds all the teachings of the past. The myth says that it was born from the wisdom of the Red race (atlantides) in order to transmit the teaching: «Man, in order to overcome his inferior nature must dare, want, know and keep silent.»
Only the initiate understands what the Sphinx says: « Look at me! I am the intelligent strength that sheds from the Great All. Observe me! I have the body of a lion! Because once upon a time I was an animal, a blind force of nature. But light arrived inside me and I dared and wanted to understand what makes man different from animals: the beaming Intelligence that sleeps in the mind. Nevertheless I didn't disown my origins; I kept the body of the lion and I have become the Sphinx with the man's head. The passerby who questions me must know, then, that the head is the holy Ark, where Intelligence fell asleep dimmed by the heavy vapors of the matter. May the Goddess of Intelligence wake up, to give man the means to tame the Snake of Desire. Only then, master of his lion's body, he will become a thinking head and his lips, like mine, will be smiling at Life. Like me he will impassively gaze both at the gold of the sunset and at the black whirl of the desert crossed by lightening, because if his body belongs to the Earth, his mind belongs to the Sky.
Now that you know, keep quiet! Follow my example, be enigmatic, because the Strength is in the silence and the Truth only generates the folly in minds too weak to understand it. On the other hand, what else are men if not roaring lions with insatiable hunger of egoism? What else can the Royal Science become in their hands but cursed thunderbolt that destroys everything? They would use it to destroy themselves, as they did in older times.
May science be kept in the precious Tabernacle of Initiation, then, because it is better to stay in ignorance than to know and oppress the others.
Keep quiet, then, keep quiet. That the age of gold is not here yet. We are in the age of silver and, slowly, only the most valiant are walking towards the glorious era where everyone, master of his own lion's body, will be so advanced to receive Wisdom and use it without danger. Until that day Initiation is necessary and an abyss must stay between Initiate and passerby. »
The mysteries of Isis
In order to be introduced to the mysteries of Isis it was necessary to show proof of courage, will and sense of moral. There was a long series of terrible trials to be undertaken. The candidate had to be able to win his own flesh, to die for the sensual pleasures of the earth and resurrect in the light of the Rising Sun.*
*the legend of the Egyptian triad « Osiris-Isis-Horus » tells the story of Osiris (kingdom of Ram, or of the Lamb, that is the Era of Aries) ripped by the bad genie Typhon-Set, who scattered the pieces of the dead God. Isis, his wife (Intelligence [the Sophia of Gnostics] in love with Light) leaves in order to find these pieces and re-build his body. But this reveals to be impossible and her only consolation is to generate their son, Horus (represented by the Sun that rises).
In a night of full moon, the aspirant went on his own in the plane of Giza, where the great Pyramid was, (this was considered the symbol of the union between sky and earth, between infinite and definite, with his vertex in the Air element, the intellect; its base – square – in the Earth element, physicality). Here, dominating emotions, he would go up to the sixteenth degree where on the North side, symbol of Ignorance, a small window opened on a low vaulted tunnel.
A lamp was burning at the entrance. The candidate had to take it and crawl on all fours in a humid corridor in the shape of a funnel. The tunnel lead to a well from which arose a dense and black smoke, almost suffocating; this was often enough to make the irresolute candidate go back on his steps. On the other hand the man who persisted staying on the edge of the abyss, was able to see suddenly an Initiate who waved at him to follow. Afterwards, they both went down a stair and reached an opening that lead on a path carved in stone. At the end of it there was a bronze door that silently opened when the candidate pushed it. After his passage, the door closed on his back, leaving him prisoner of the Temple and the Trials.
Once in, the aspirant didn't have a choice. He could only advance overcoming the trials or die. He was walled up and already a corpse; if he wanted to see the light he had to resuscitate.
He was asked to make a will. Then, without the help of a safe guide, he adventured towards a dark tunnel in which the shadows looked like ghosts around him. That darkness with its shadows evoked the kingdom of the trespassed in the imagination. A terrible racket, sobs, wailing and creaking of bones reached his ears. But this wasn't all. Once curbed his bewilderment the neophyte had to carry on his way; after a while, this was blocked by three men who grabbed him by the throat shouting: « Come, if you dare! »
The neophyte had to fight against his enemies and if he won he would start walking again. His way was then blocked by a furnace. This wasn't the last obstacle, though. Others appeared to stop his journey and he stumbled, fell, gasped for breath, desperately clinging to life, without stopping.*
* Freemasonry has kept the memory of the ancient initiatory trials in the metaphor of the 4 symbolic Journeys that the neophyte faces during the Ceremony of initiation to the degree of Apprentice.
On the other hand, religious morals state the existence of seven deadly sins and seven virtues, seven temptations and seven resurrections that correspond to the sense given to the probational journeys of the Initiate in ancient times.
The man who completed the journey reached a big room decorated with the statues of Osiris, Isis and Horus. On the wall there was a flaming Triangle that held a shining Eye made up by a big diamond. Suddenly some priests appeared, dressed in ritual paraments that greeted him in this way: « You've won the rough nature: glory to you! Thank Isis so she makes you stronger for the Trials that await you. Confess your sins in front of this eye that is the Eye of God » .
Three Initiates dressed in red would then appear. They were the three infernal Judges Minos, Aeacus and Rhadamanthus , come to receive the confession of the aspirant and to absolve him after giving him three cups. The first contained the drink of Oblivion, the second the drink of Memory and the third that of Eternal Truth. He had to drink a bitter liquid followed by a honeyed drink to make him forget the disgusting taste of the first one.
After this trial, the neophyte started again his mysterious journey where he was stopped by men that asked him for a toll; it consisted in filling with pebbles bottomless barrels and rolling uphill heavy stone cylinders.
During these labors some women appeared to rip his dress and whip him with sticks. In this trial it was demonstrated the uselessness of many efforts made in the earthly world and at the same time it showed the control he was able to exercise on anger and passion.
Once he had overcome this furies, a Senior lead him up and introduced him into a Temple, where he could see the daylight once again. But when every trial seemed to have been passed, there appeared some graceful women who, wearing only light veils, offered him cups of wine. If he tried to escape them, they would block his way inviting him to follow them. Like for the torment of Tantalus, voluptuous bodies surrounded him with sensuality and ardor and Intelligence started its fight with desire. The soul faced the body and the immortal wanted to get away from the mortal embrace!
The fight was decisive and if the neophyte was defeated he would stay slave in the Temple and expelled from the Light forever. If he won his passion, on the other hand, he demonstrated to have died to earthly seductions and resurrected to the Way of inner life. Only this made him “accepted” among the other Initiates.
He was triumphantly taken into a crypt on whose walls were drawn the eternal Symbols. This marked the beginning of his probationary age that lasted twenty-two years. Every year he was introduced to a new science that referred to a major Arcane (of the Book of Thoth-Hermes, divine scriber of the Gods). Every Major Arcane was represented in a symbolical image that, synthesizing a teaching, took the name of Lama and was carved in gold.
Every golden Lama was a page of the Book of Hermes, compiler of the science of the Universe, and the Initiate reached the supreme degree of Hierophant only after having conquered the teaching kept in each of them.
The memory of the ancient shadows represented in the 22 Lamas turned into the Tarots that, even if handled by profane hands, will keep hidden the wisdom of the old Initiates under the veils of an invisible allegory.
After the Acceptance he was initiated to the minor Mysteries through a Ceremony that would mark indelibly his profane soul, sealing the holy Alliance with the solar spirit in his chest (therefore called solar plexus). He would then die as Osiris to be reborn as Horus.
During the Ceremony the candidate was taken in a sepulcher where an empty sarcophagus was placed in the shadow. He would lie in it and the bystanders would mourn his death. Since his flesh was nothing but filth, his soul descended on earth started its painful journey in the world of Shadows.
The Hierophant (the Initiator) made him drink a potion of Soma (an extract from a psychotropic plant, Note of the Writer) that made him fall into a deep sleep (alteration of conscience) for three days. In the “astral emission” that followed, the initiating perceived what could be found beyond the common awakened conscience: the concept of super-sensitive would inspire other subtle feelings to him, such as the presence of the soul.
When he woke up, transmuted by the contact with mental images so far away from those produced in the ordinary physicality, he ended up by appreciating life through deeper feelings and observing it with different eyes from before.
This caused a different and more detached point of view towards life. A new life enlightened by the light of Horus, the Sun that rises, by Osiris brought back to life by Isis and by intelligence in love with Truth (the saint Sophia of the Gnostics). As a symbol of his new destiny he was assigned a new name that only the Brothers would recognize. Then, the procession of the Brothers of the Light ritually left the Pyramid through the South door with songs of praise to Isis.
The aim of the initiation to the minor Mysteries wasn't to reveal the Eternal wisdom to the initiate, but only to show him the way towards it.
Through trials, still only physical ones, the candidates were selected and those who were irresolute, weak or fearful were sent back to the profane world. Those who stayed were taught that being silent was the best way to resurrect the Lamb (symbol of Ram and sign of Aries) and to preserve the purity of the Eternal wisdom.
On the example of the small Mysteries (Of Isis) and the major Mysteries (of Osiris) other Initiates erected Temples in all the countries (for example the school of Pythagoras in Magna Graecia) where, in memory of Ram's* teachings, women as well were accepted as priestesses.
Initiated men and women could get married and their children would grow in the love for Science. In this case they were dedicated to the celestial Trinity and they were called: Children of God.
Their education lasted until they were thirty years old and only at forty they could access the Major Mysteries.
Some of them, in order to spread love for the Eternal wisdom amongst other peoples, would join the daughters of those peoples; their children would then become their guides.
Popular tradition has always called orphans the great inspirers of humankind and widows their mothers, because their fathers and husbands had deliberately hidden in an appearance similar to that of any other man; the consequence was that their presence didn't match the myth that followed them.
*Ram recognized an initiatory role for women who, in a patriarchal model, were relegated to positions of social unconsciousness and familiar subjection.
The new model that Ram (in the East Rama) supported was that of a woman who “freely” chose to become the companion of a man in the body, heart and mind and to live and fight with him. From this ideal model originated a Home inspired to the Temple of the Pyramid; it originated an earthly Trinity, a Love triangle made up by Father, Mother and Son, to the image of the holy Cosmic Trinity (in the East Trimurti), Symbol of the unchangeable celestial Unity.
From Ram to Hiram, the story of a symbolic messiah
The metaphorical teaching at the basis of the degree of Master Builder tells about the immoral conduct of three bad Fellows who, for their own advantage, killed their Master, called Hiram.
Hiram ( Hi : alive, Ram* : high), himself son of a widow , is the ideal ancestor and the spiritual messiah for all the Builders of Temples.
According to the chosen path, the ancient mysteries provided trials of different nature for the postulant. Every initiatory journey revealed a Mystery and every mystery expressed a school and its elected Temple.
Like in old times, also the initiatory ceremony to Master Freemasons (3 rd degree of the initiatory Pyramid made up by 33 steps) represents the spiritual re-birth that occurs at the moment of the elevation to master. Every initiatory re-birth is connected to the resurrection of the spirit of the Master in the heart of the initiate. It is a spiritual resurrection symbolically represented in the psycho-drama of the initiatory ceremony to the 3 rd degree.
In order to go back to the origins of the myth, though, we must consider that every initiatory School (mysteriosophical and religious were two inseparable entities) used to express the sacredness of their origins with a prodigious advent that was the exoterical and anthropomorphic representation of the passage to a new stage of human progress.
The most commonly used advent was that of a divinity become man to bring new ideals to a certain human group. God or semi-god, he would always be born from a woman but without a father. The reason for this is that in the archaic and patriarchal system the lack of a male figure highlighted, in the common imagination, the fact that he didn't have the earthly influence that a father would have given him. That would make him more suitable to become a guide with extraordinary qualities, come to educate, cleanse and initiate humankind.
His spiritual example, though, was betrayed by the passion of his beneficiaries who ended up by sacrificing him, killing him because scared of the difference he had.
Every tradition testifies the cyclic passage of a savior, restoring and divulging a unique, joining and perennial spiritual model.
Master Hiram represents a spirit taking part in the Work of the universe. He dispensed wisdom and was a Master of Art; he promulgates the secrets of the cosmic and universal construction to “Workers, Fellows and Masters”. The master masons as well will be able to gain the same wisdom by “reading” the stones of the holy representations.
Hiram is the spiritual master of the Builders that engrave the image of the sacred in the stone. He is also betrayed and killed by the ignorance of bad disciples; he becomes the messiah of an inner reality that is transmitted to the forms of a Temple created on image and likeness of Jerusalem, in order to build forgotten celestial virtues on earth.
Saunier describes Freemasons as initiates who are careful to remember, in their art, the old science of symbols; people who, inspired by the legend of Osiris, modeled a psycho-drama that testified the spirituality that moved the Builders of Temples. Master Hiram was born, guide for all the builders that with Rule, Square and Compass contributed to the erection of the great Pyramid.
He was killed by three bad Fellows that represent the depravation of the masonry art. Death, though, is for the initiate only an illusion of the matter, because no essence dies, but it transforms and resurrects. The white acacia flowers that appeared on his grave are the sign of his spiritual immortality. Therefore Acacia is the emblem of the initiate that resurrect from the sarcophagus, like Osiris resurrects from Horus.
During the initiation the new master must swear on the bleeding coffin of his Master that he hasn't participated to the filthy murder; otherwise he would have stained forever the spirit that revives and brings together every master.
In the symbology of the initiatory tradition the image of Ram is remembered in the sign of Renewal (the Age of Aries) used to realize a project for the benefit of humankind. The project was to apply to social ethics the principles of the great Pyramid that up to that point was only a grand mathematical theorem and symbol of a cosmic Religion whose meanings were the prerogative of a privileged and restricted class of power.
In this way Ram, in his idea of renewal, tried to establish an equal social distribution of the old wisdom.
At the beginning, the Pyramid was the representation of a mathematical hierarchy that contained the geometrical matrixes of all forms: starting from the Point and reaching the several paradigmatic Stars , signs of the old wisdom.
From the metaphysical Point at the apex of the Pyramid the Corner starts; its diverging lines represent the masculine and feminine principles of the Unity. These two lines would go towards infinite without forming any shape if another line wouldn't intersect them turning the Corner into a Triangle.
The metaphysical Point, then, is the representation of the eternal Unity, where Three sensitive elements co-exist and make it manifest: the Spirit-Father , the Matter-Mother and the Motion-Son.
By correspondence, the apex of the Pyramid is the Great Builder of the Universe, its body is its Temple (in the expression of its creative hierarchy) and the square base is the world of sensitive shapes; its form includes the Cross that develops and becomes a twelve-pointed Star.
Many scientific-religious meanings found a concretization in the application of a social hierarchization characterized by a well defined geometricity of its divisions.
In order for the people to easily access knowledge, Ram symbolically cut out the Pyramid, translating its meanings into myth inscribed in the sky. The wonderful shapes that covered every myth with mystery aimed to impress the imagination of minds too weak to get hold of concepts expressed in forms and principles too advanced for common rationality.
The Sky was the mirror of an elusive inner reality and became the holy book of the people. It also became the object of any poetic contemplation of the myths survived to time and ages. Their metaphors, though, contain the same old meanings which can't escape an eye able to penetrate their symbolical forms.
Among the corporations that constituted the pyramidal hierarchy of Ram, the Builders of Temples became soon prominent. Building a Temple according to the old symbols was a work of science placed under the protection of an ideal of Beauty. For this reason the Architects and the Master Masons were initiates (see Moses, himself Builder of the Pyramid) keen on science, art and cosmogony. They were important members of society, whose exoterical mission was to realize sacred works that could teach the crowds that needed a guide. In this way, although staying in the field of social and exoterical competence, they joined in an independent Association with special rituals, ceremonies and prerogatives.
They used the Cup as symbol; it represented the Triangle of the Pyramid and they called it Hiram, that meant “to build according to the teaching of Ram”.
Work instruments as well originated from the Triangle. The Compass represented the two lines that from the Point go towards Infinite. In order for the Compass to generate a form, a line is needed to turn it into a Square; the horizontal line is the Rule, whose degree defines the Corner, whilst in the Plumb-line was represented the principle of the gravity that affects and directs the force in every form.
In this way the Masons, using the symbols of their art, built a container where the science of the Pyramid is still kept.