This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
or pantomimic show. But as we have hitherto been enabled to regard the minor celebrations from an esoteric point of view, showing their relationship to more modern experience and the Hermetic art, we hope to continue on our adventure, being not without precedent either or guiding authority over the same ground. For it is not absurd to suppose that men should have philosophized and composed so many excellent and sublime discourses from the contemplation of shadows only? But setting aside such a notion, neither do we conceive that by Hades, or that profound Lethe, the ancients understood a corporeal nature, or this fleshly existence of ours, or anything in fact with which the whole allusion is to a state of vital submersion in the Mysteries, when the consciousness is artificially drawn about the penetralia of its first life. Nor, if we may credit accounts, is the descent difficult, or so far off, but the infernal gates lie open to mortal men on earth; but because of the arduous nature of the re-ascent and for the sake of securing it, lest unprepared souls, presuming to enter, should be taken captive by deluding and fatal desires, and work irremediable evil there, every precaution has been instituted to keep the way a secret from the world, as well for its own sake as for the cause of justice and divine wisdom about to be revealed; wherefore the Sybil warns Aeneas of the danger of his undertaking in those memorable lines. Facilis descensus Averni; Noctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis: Sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras, Hoc opus, hic labor est. Pauci quos aequus amavit Jupiter, aut ardens evexit ad aethea virtus, Diis geniti potuere (4). The grand requirement of the Mysteries after the first purificative rites (the inclination being already freed from the dominion and all the superficial progeny of sense), was that the will should conceive within itself a motive purely rational to withstand the temptations of its next including sphere; that it might be enabled to follow the true path upward, penetrating through darkness, and defilements, and dissolution even, to the discovery of Wisdom in her light abode. To this Aeneas accordingly directed by the Sybil, whom we follow, after her warning already given, to search for that well-distinguished, most mysterious golden bough. Aurus et foliis et lento vimine ramus, Junoni infernae sacer (5). Without which as a propitiation he may not venture on the subterranean research. But it may be asked, why this myrtle branch was represented to be of gold. Not merely for the sake of the marvelous, Warburton tells us, we may be assured. A golden bough was literally part of the sacred equipage in the shows, a burden which the Ass, who carried the mysteries, we may believe, was proud of. But of what kind this branch was, Apuleius partly indicates in his procession of the Initiated into the Mysteries of Isis, where we find it connected with the Mercurial caduceus and treated as a most important symbol in initiatory rites (6); which we therefore understand ontologically, as a ray of living light, golden and flexible, the true Brancha Spiritualis of Raymond Lully. Intellectus naturam habens subtilem ad intellignedum res intellibiles (7); --- insinuating by rational penetration alone through the murky circumference of the chloric ether into its own congenial life, which is Proserpine, and that lapsed soul of ours, seated in her dark hypostasis unknown; whose vapor is so subtle and transient that nothing but the glance of its proper intellect by faith can arrest it. And those doves that lead the way too, are they not known to our Alchemists and those chosen seats? But to be brief; it is only by exceeding zeal and piety of intention, such as is ascribed to Aeneas in search of his father, and a prevailing reason, that the seeking mind becomes fitted for establishment in her essence and percipient of her final duty to separate the good and reject the evil therein by birth allied; that she may know to what she ought to aspire, dismissing every other consideration, where Desires are Images and Will their Act. Thus Plato says, --- It is necessary that a man should have his