The Virgin of the World

To this eloquent exposition of Taylor’s, it is well to add the description given in Homer’s Hymn to Ceres. Persephone herself speaks:

“We were plucking the pleasant flowers, the beautiful crocus, the iris, the hyacinth, and the narcissus, which, like the crocus, the wide earth produced. With joy I was plucking them, when the earth yawned beneath, and out leaped the strong King, the Many-Receiver, and went bearing me, deeply sorrowing, under the earth in his golden chariot, and I cried aloud.”

Compare with this Hermetic allegory of the lapse of Persephone and the manner of it, the Kabbalistic story of the “fall” of Eve.

“And she saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold; and she took of the fruit thereof and did eat. . . . And to the woman He said: I will multiply thy sorrows and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee.”

In a note appended to Taylor’s Dissertations, Dr. Wilder quotes from Cocker’s Greek Philosophy the following excellent reflections:

“The allegory of the Chariot and Winged Steeds, in Plato’s Phaedrus, represents the lower or inferior part of man’s nature (Adam or the body) as dragging the Soul down to the earth, and subjecting it to the slavery of corporeal conditions. Out of these conditions arise numerous evils that disorder the mind and becloud the reason, for evil is inherent to the condition of finite and multiform existence into which we have fallen. The earthly life is a fall. The soul is now dwelling in the grave which we call the body We resemble those captives chained in a subterraneous cave,’ so poetically described in the seventh book of ‘The Republic’; their backs turned to the light, so that they see but the shadows of the objects which pass behind them, and ‘to these shadows they attribute a perfect reality.’ Their sojourn upon earth is thus a dark imprisonment in the body, a dreamy exile from their proper home.”

Similarly we read, in the “Kore Kosmou,” that the souls on


[p. xxiv]

learning that they were about to be imprisoned in material bodies, sighed and lamented, lilting to heaven glances of sorrow, and crying piteously, “O woe and heartrending grief to quit these vast splendors, this sacred sphere, and all the glories of the blessed republic of the Gods to be precipitated into these vile and miserable abodes! No longer shall we behold the divine and luminous heavens!”

Who, in reading this, is not reminded of the pathetic lament of Eve on quitting the fair “ambrosial bowers” of Paradise? [*1]

From the sad and woful state into which the Virgin thus falls, she is finally rescued and restored to the supernal abodes. But not until the coming of the Saviour, represented in the allegory before us under the name of Osiris–the Man Regenerate. This Redeemer, himself of divine origin, is in other allegories represented under other names, but the idea is always luminously defined, and the intention obvious. Osiris is the Iesous of our Christian doctrine, the supreme Initiate or “Captain of Salvation.” He is represented, together with his Spouse, as in all things “instructed” and directed by HERMES, famed as the celestial conductor of souls from the “dark abodes;” the wise and ubiquitous God in whom the initiate recognises the Genius of the Understanding or Divine Reason–the nous of Platonic doctrine, and the mystic “Spirit of Christ.” Therefore, as the understanding of holy things and the faculty of their interpretation are the gift of HERMES, the name of this God is given to all science and revelation of an occult and divine nature. A “Divine” is, in fact, one who knows the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; hence S. John the seer, or the “divine,” is especially the “beloved” of Christ. HERMES was regarded as the Messenger or Angel of the Gods, descending alike to the depths of the Hadean world, to bring up souls from thence, and ascending up beyond all heavens that he might fill all things. For the Understanding must search alike the deeps and the heights; there can be nothing hidden from it, nor can it attain the fulness of supernal and secret knowledge unless it first explore the phenomenal and terrestrial. “For that he ascended, what is it but because he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?”

With the splendid joyousness and light-hearted humour which characterised the Greeks, mingling laughter and mirth even with the mysteries of Religion, and making their sacred allegories


[p. xxv]

human and musical as no others of any nation or time, HERMES, the Diviner and Revealer, was also playfully styled a Thief, and the patron of thieves. But thereby was secretly indicated the power and skill of the Understanding in making everything intellectually its own. Wherefore, in charging HERMES with filching the girdle of Venus, the tongs of Vulcan, and the thunder of Jove, as well as with stealing and driving off the cattle of Apollo, it was signified that all good and noble gifts, even the attributes of the high Gods themselves, are accessible to the Understanding, and that nothing is withheld from man’s intelligence, if only man have the skill to seek aright.

As the immediate companion of the sun, HERMES is the opener of the gates of the highest heaven, the revealer of spiritual light and life, the Mediator between the inner and outer spheres of existence, and the Initiator into those sacred mysteries, the knowledge of which is life eternal.

The panoply with which Greek art invests HERMES, is symbolical of the functions of the Understanding. He has four implements–the rod, the wings, the sword, and the cap, denoting respectively the science of the magian, the courage of the adventurer, the will of the hero, and the discretion of the adept. The initiates of HERMES acknowledge no authority but the Understanding; they call no man king or master upon earth; they are true Free-Thinkers and Republicans. “For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” [*1] Hence Lactantius, in his “Divine Institutions,” says:–“Hermes affirms that those who know God are safe from the attacks of the demon, and that they, are not even subjected to Fate.” Now, the powers of Fate reside in the stars–that is, in the astral sphere, whether Kosmic or micro-Kosmic. And the astral power was, in Greek fable, typified by Argos, the hundred-eyed genius of the starry zone, Panoptes, the all-seeing giant, whom it was the glory of HERMES to have outwitted and slain. Of which allegory the meaning is, that they who have the Hermetic secret are not subject to Fate, but have passed beyond the thrall of metempsychosis, and have freed themselves from “ceaseless whirling on the wheel” of Destiny. To know God is to have overcome death, and the power of death. To know the origin and secret of delusion is to transcend delusion.


[p. xxvi] [paragraph continues] The spheres of delusion, dominated by the sevenfold astral Powers, lie between the Soul and God. Beyond these spheres are the celestial “Nine Abodes,” wherein, say the Mysteries, Demeter vainly sought the lost Persephone. For from these abodes she had lapsed into a mundane and material state, and thereby had fallen under the power of the planetary rulers; that is, of Fate, personified by Hekate. On the tenth day, therefore, the divine Drama shows Demeter meeting the Goddess of Doom and Retribution, the terrible Hekate Triformis–personification of Karma–by whom the “Mother” is told of Persephone’s abduction and detention in the Hadean world. And–we learn–Hekate becomes thereafter the constant attendant of Persephone. All this is, of course, pregnant with the deepest significance. Until the Soul falls into Matter, she has no Fate, or Karma. Fate is the appanage and result of Time and of Manifestation. In the sevenfold astral spheres the Moon is representative of Fate, and presents two aspects, the benign and the malignant. Under the benign aspect the Moon is Artemis, reflecting to the Soul the divine light of Phoebos; under the malignant aspect she is Hekate the Avenger, dark of countenance; and three beaded, being swift as a horse, sure as a dog, and as a lion implacable. She it is who, fleet, sagacious, and pitiless, hunts guilty souls from birth to birth, and outwits death itself with unerring justice. To the innocent and chaste soul, therefore, the lunar power is favorable. Artemis is the patron and protectress of virgins–that is, of souls undefiled with the traffic of Matter. In this aspect the Moon is the Initiatrix, Isis the Enlightener, because through a beneficent Karma, or fate, the soul receives interior illumination, and the dark recesses of her chamber are lit up by sacred reminiscences. Hence, in subsequent births, such a soul becomes prophetic and “divine.” But to the corrupt and the evil-hearted the influence of the Moon is malignant, for to such she assumes the aspect of Hekate, smiting by night, and terrifying with ghostly omens of misfortune. These souls fear the lunar power, and in this instinctive dread may be discerned their secret recognition of the evil fate which they are preparing for themselves in existences to come. The Tree of Good and Evil, says the Kabbala, has its root in Malchuth–the Moon.

It has been sometime asserted that the doctrine of Karma is peculiar to Hindu theology. On the contrary, it is clearly exhibited alike in the Hebrew, Hellenic, and Christian Mysteries. The Greeks called it Fate; the Christians know it


[p. xxvii]

as Original Sin. With which sin all mortal men come into the world, and on account of which all pass under condemnation. Only the “Mother of God” is exempt from it, the “virgin immaculate,” through whose Seed the world shall be redeemed.

“As the lily among the thorns,” sings the Church in the “Office of the Immaculate Conception,” “so is the Beloved among the Daughters of Adam. Thou art all fair, O Beloved, and the original stain is not in thee: Thy name, O Mary, is as oil poured out; therefore, the virgins love thee exceedingly.”

If, then, by Persephone or Kore, the “Virgin of the World,” we are thus plainly taught to understand the Soul, we are no less plainly taught to see in Isis, the Initiatrix or Enlightener. Herself, equally with Kore, virgin and mother, the Egyptian Isis is, in her philosophical aspect, identical with the Ephesian Artemis, the Greek personification of the fructifying and all-nourishing power of Nature. She was regarded as the “inviolable and perpetual Maid of heaven;” her priests were eunuchs, and her image in the magnificent temple of Ephesus represented her with many breasts–polymastos. [*1] In works of art Artemis appears variously, as the huntress, accompanied by hounds, and carrying the implements of the chase; as the Goddess of the Moon, covered with a long veil reaching to her feet, and her head adorned with a crescent; or as the many-breasted Mother-Maid, holding a lighted torch in her hand. The Latins worshipped her under the name of Diana, and it is as Diana that the Ephesian Artemis is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Isis had all the attributes ascribed to the lunar divinity of the Greeks and Romans; and hence, like Artemis and Diana, she was identified with the occult principle of Nature–that is, Fate, which in its various aspects and relations was severally viewed as Fortune, Retribution, Doom, or Destiny; a principle represented, as we have already seen, by the Kabbalists, under the figure of Malchuth, or the Moon; and by the Hindu theosophists under the more abstract conception of Karma. The hounds of Artemis, or


[p. xxviii] [paragraph continues] Diana, are the occult powers which hunt down and pursue the soul from birth to birth; the inevitable, implacable forces of Nature which, following evermore on the steps of every ego, compel it into the conditions successively engendered by its actions, as effect by cause. Hence Actaeon, presuming upon Fate, and oblivious of the sanctity and inviolability of this unchanging law of Karmic Destiny, is torn in pieces by his own dogs, to wit, his own deeds, which by the decree of the implacable Goddess, turn upon and rend him. So also, in accordance with this philosophical idea, those who were initiated into the mysteries of Isis, wore in the public processions masks representing the heads of dogs. So intimately was the abstract conception of the moon associated by the ancients with that of the secret influence and power of Destiny in Nature, that Proclos in his Commentary upon the Timaeus says of Diana:–“She presides over the whole of the generation into natural existence, leads forth into light all natural reasons, and extends a prolific power from on high even to the subterranean realms.” These words completely describe the Egyptian Isis, and show us how the moon, occultly viewed as the Karmic power, was regarded as the cause of continued generation in natural conditions, pursuing souls even into the Hadean or purgatorial spheres and visiting upon them the fruition of their past. Hence, too, in the Orphic Hymn to Nature, that Goddess is identified with Fortune, and represented as standing with her feet upon a wheel which she continually turns,–“moving with rapid motion on an eternal wheel.” [*1] And again, in another Orphic Hymn, Fortune herself is invoked as Diana. Proclos, in the Commentary to which reference has already been made, declares that “the moon is the cause of Nature to mortals, and the self-revealing image of the Fountain of Nature.” “If,” says Thomas Taylor, “the reader is desirous of knowing what we are to understand by the fountain of Nature of which the moon is the image, let him attend to the following information, derived from a long and deep study of the ancient theology, for from hence I have learned that there are many divine fountains contained in the essence of the Demiurgus of the world; and that among these there are three of a very distinguished rank, namely, the fountain of souls, or Juno (Hera), the fountain of virtues, or Minerva (Athena), and the fountain of nature, or Diana (Artemis). . . . And this information will enable us to explain the meaning

[ing of

[p. xxix]

of the following passages in Apuleius, the first of which is in the beginning of the eleventh book of his Metamorphoses, wherein the divinity of the moon is represented as addressing him in this sublime manner:–‘Behold, Lucius, moved with thy supplications, I am present; I, who am Nature, the parent of things, mistress of all the elements, initial progeny of the ages, the highest of the divinities, queen of departed spirits, the first of the celestials, of Gods and Goddesses the sole likeness of all; who rule by my nod the luminous heights of the heavens, the salubrious breezes of the sea, and the woful silences of the infernal regions, and whose divinity, in itself but one, is venerated by all the earth, in many characters, various rites, and different appellations. . . Those who are enlightened by the emerging rays of the rising sun, the Aethiopians and Aryans, and likewise the Egyptians, powerful in ancient learning, who reverence my divinity with ceremonies perfectly appropriate, call me by my true appellation Queen Isis.’ And again, in another place of the same book, he says of the moon:–‘The supernal Gods reverence thee, and those in the realms beneath do homage to thy divinity. Thou dost make the world to revolve, and the sun to illumine, thou rulest the universe and treadest on Tartarus. To thee the stars respond, the deities rejoice, time returns by thee, the elements give thee service.’ For all this easily follows if we consider it as spoken of the fountain-deity of Nature subsisting in the Demiurgus, and which is the exemplar of that nature which flourishes in the lunar orb and throughout the material world.”

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