Wisdom, the Mysteries and the Esoteric Quest:
Sophia, Mysteria, Psyche
Leonard George, Ph.D.
This talk introduces the interrelated themes of the conference: Philosophy (Philia and Sophia) is the Love of Wisdom. What did the ancients mean by Wisdom? How did it relate to the spiritual movements known as the Mysteries that arose in Eleusis, Samothrace and other places? Both Philosophy and the Mysteries were quests of the soul, a theme reflected for instance in the tale of Eros and Psyche recounted by Apuleius (an initiate of the Mysteries of Isis).
The Samothracian Mysteries
The Samothracian Mysteries of the Kabiri are among the most ancient whose traces are still available to us. Predating the Greek mysteries, reaching back into pre-history, with echoes in Hermetic Egypt and the revelation of ancient Zoroaster, they provide a meditative bridge between the primordial cosmological wisdom of humankind and its transmission into modern Western esotericism. They allow us to begin to understand and interpret the deeper meaning of the Western path. We shall contemplate the Samothracian mysteries, meditating on the archeological, mythological and historical evidence, as well as on the interpretations placed upon it by such figures as the philosopher Schelling, the spiritual scientist Rudolf Steiner and the alchemist René Alleau.
The Ancient Oracles
Crystal Addey, M.A.
For at least a thousand years, Greeks, Romans and other ancient peoples turned to oracles, often located in ancient temples, for spiritual, personal and civic advice and guidance. The most famous ancient oracle was that of Delphi, but there were many other oracle centers, such as the oracles of Didyma and Claros in Asia Minor. Oracular gods and goddesses include Apollo, Asclepius, Sarapis, Hekate and Hermes. This talk shows how oracles were linked with philosophy, and how both were considered to provide access to divine truth and wisdom. Oracles were also connected with the Mysteries: both lie at the heart of traditional Greco-Roman pagan religion.
Decoding the Meaning of the Ancient Greek Mysteries
Centered upon the Greek language and its esoteric meaning, this talk will examine the ancient Mysteries, the divine oracular Revelations, and the worship practices of the faithful. It will also address the interpretation of the Eleusinian and Kabirian (Samothracian) Mysteries, as well as the role of Pythia, the Oracle at Delphi, and the sacrifices to Apollo that took place there. All of these will be drawn together to illustrate the glory of the ancient Greek language, the codes and meanings within it, and the way in which its interpretation can answer profound questions regarding the human being, nature and the divine.
Plato, Geometry and the ‘Ever-True’
This presentation will revisit the implications inherent in Plato's Timaeus dialogue - that our universe is made up of “Sameness”, “Difference” and their amalgam “Being”. From this extraordinary, simple, yet profound, beginning, the world soul is made up of proportions of numerical ratios which echo musical proportions and reflect a seven-ness that unites the soul of human beings to the soul of the world. The physical elements are associations in regular geometrical forms of molecules. Thus our, as well as the universal, Being is made up of the self-evident subjects of Arithmetic, Geometry, Harmony and Astronomy – the “ever-true”.
The Birth of the Soul:
Hellenistic Sources of Western Esotericism
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, D.Phil.
The roots of esotericism lie far back in Classical antiquity in the patterns of thinking about the cosmos, man and divinity found in the teachings of Plato and Aristotle. Above all, Plato’s concept of the soul, amplified by Neo-Platonists like Plotinus and Iamblichus, fed into Christianity (via St. Augustine) and the Hermetic wisdom traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus the Western Esoteric tradition represents a marriage of the Greek rational mind with the mystery religions of the late pagan world. Transmitted to the Latin West first in the twelfth-century and then in a second wave in the late fifteenth century, Greek notions of the beauty of the soul entered into the Western imagination and stimulated a flowering of philosophical, literary and artistic endeavor.
The Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries are simultaneously the best-known, yet they are also those which in some ways we know least about. This presentation will address the underlying myth as described in Homer’s Hymn to Demeter which describes the procession of those initiated in the Minor Mysteries at Agra towards the entrance of the Great Mysteries at Eleusis. As well we will explore the historical and archaeological knowledge of these mysteries - fragments from ancient texts and the initiation of Heracles. We shall also attempt an interpretation of the mysteries approaching the trinity which was common to most ancient mysteries, both Eleusinian and Kabeirian. The Eleusinian Mysteries convey the archetypal story of The Mother Goddess and her child and also transform a seasonal drama into a sacred drama, elements of which have been preserved in folktales and traditions, and kept alive until the present day.
The Mystery of the Divine Proportion
Scott Olsen, Ph.D.
The Divine Proportion or Golden Section may well be the most beautiful ratio in Nature, and the very bond that holds everything together through ratio, resonance and self-similar harmony at all levels. This talk demonstrates the beauty, wisdom and pervasiveness of the golden section in everything from DNA, plants, animals, humans and the solar system, to music, quarks, pyramids and hurricanes. Known to Plato and the initiates of classical Greece, the Golden Section’s ubiquitous presence in all things provides the means for our progressive unfoldment into higher states of consciousness, in what the ancients referred to as initiation into the mysteries.
Aristotle’s Concept of God
Stanley Sfekas, Ph.D.
Aristotle conceived of God as outside of the world, as the final cause of all motion in Nature, as Prime Mover and Unmoved Mover of the universe. He was the crowning objective of all dynamic development in the cosmos from matter to form and from potentiality to actuality. He stood outside the Great Chain of Being yet was the source of all motion and development. Aristotle did not attribute mercy, love, sympathy and providence to God, but rather eternal self-contemplation. Yet Aquinas and the medieval theologians achieved a synthesis of Aristotle’s God and Christianity. For Aristotle, metaphysics ultimately culminates in theology.
Plato and the Soul
This talk centers around Plato’s conception of the Good as the absolute purpose of the world and the final cause of its existence. It will also address Plato’s understanding of the soul and the relationship of his philosophy to the mysticism of Pythagoras and Orpheus. We will ponder the Good as the first principle of knowledge of eternal beings beyond sensory things, and contemplate the divine origin of the soul and its habitation of the human body, culminating in liberation after death. There the soul faces the judgment of the dead and the purification necessary for entry into the Kingdom of Immortal Existence.