A detail part from the standing facade
of Celsus’ Library in Ephesus, Türkiye.
Another sharing for the day from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA-following our publication of ‘The Story Of Orpheus & Eurydice’: an excerpt from the archives of Eugène Dupré related to ‘The Initiations and Principles of the Ephesus School, as transmitted by the Brethren of the East‘. From the archives of the Brethren of the East in its Via-HYGEIA dedicated repository.
‘…There used to be a great Temple in Ephesus dedicated to Zeus. The priests (hierophants) of the Temple were members of an Initiatic College of a very great importance. The Temple itself was used for both the performance of rites and as a school. From the ruins saved up to our own days, we see that the Temple was of large dimensions, surrounded by a very high wall that deterred all intrusion from the east, north and south. The western side was protected by a river.
A number of trials preceded the Initiation. Contrary to what has been written by certain writers of antiquity, these trials or ordeals were of an educational nature. If the novice happened to fail in any one of them, he was given the right to repeat it until his final success allowed him to proceed to the next one.
These tests were a series of physical activities demanding considerable strength, agility, daring and courage, all of which an individual grew to acquire by constant practice. When the time came for the test concerning sex, failure was very rare, for by then the novice in question had already learned to be cautious. The various initiatory tests – often described by historians without any personal experience, however – were not a mere test of the physical and moral strength of the novice but were a means of training and development of these very powers.
In their first encounter with the Temple of Initiation, the novices underwent a transformation through such tests, some of which are the following:
In the dark of night, two Initiators would lead the novice to an open space near the Temple. One of the Initiators would say, “You now have to cross an area that is intersected every 10-12 steps by very deep wells. These wells are filled with water, yet not enough to drown you in, were you to slip and fall. They are connected underground by corridors or canals. On their walls there are crossed iron bars to help you ascend if you so desire. There are ten such wells. We shall be waiting for you at the top and bottom of the last one, to note your success. If at any point in your exercise, you feel your strength failing you, you need only shout ‘Help me brethren!’ and help will come at once. If you do not utter these words, you are on your own and will have to rely on your own powers only“.
Another test for the novice was combat with animals. The novice had to develop astuteness and prudence in order to mislead the enemy, the wild beast, in its own territory. These specially trained animals attacked any stranger but once the latter called for help, tamers would immediately appear on the spot to relieve the victim, who was spared from this trial.
One of the most terrifying tests was the crossing of a deep ravine. This required utmost caution, daring and courage. At the back of the Temple of Zeus, there was – and still is – a steep ravine 200 meters long, 8 meters wide and 70 meters deep, where a strong current flowed all year round. This ravine had to be crossed on a log joining the two upper banks. The log was solid enough but not very firm. The novice was warned of the danger, which was quite obvious by the terrible sound of the foaming waters below. Yet it is certain that were a novice to slip and fall, there were nets 20 meters below to save him from certain death. This of course the novice was unaware of.
After the successful completion of all these physical trials, the novice, a person of good intent, then turned his steps towards the Temple, ready to face the spiritual trials. The previous trials had transformed his physical state by strengthening his nervous system and developing the major nervous centers of his body. By now, the individual was familiar with danger, had acquired rhythm of breathing and had had the opportunity to master the regularity of his heartbeats. In sum, these ordeals made the person in question able to stand motionless without in any way revealing any motion within him.
These tests of physical training differ from ‘sports’ in that their purpose was to prepare the body and transform it in just the way a teaching transforms the spirit. As an example, the person who was tested by crossing the ravine could not possibly accomplish this with success, however great his athletic ability, strength or courage.
It is true that we see acrobats today who perform feats of extraordinary difficulty and there are rope dancers too. These worthy professionals undoubtedly go through some hard training, but it is quite different from the one imposed on the novice-initiates. The training that these last had to undergo entailed a constant danger of their lives, whereas the training of professionals takes place in closed halls with safety nets that they are well aware of.
Last in the series of physical trials was that of fasting and of silence. For a period of 40 days and under strict surveillance, the novice’s nourishment consisted of a handful of breadcrumbs and a glassful of water daily. During this whole period he was also to keep absolute silence. The physical training was now complete and his transformation quite evident.
Then came the mental training, again with the purpose of transforming the individual into the archetype of his origin. Before the traditional teaching, an overall outline of its principles was expounded upon. These precepts varied from School to School. The one at Ephesus gave the following:
1) Before proceeding onwards, ponder on your recent steps.
2) Let the past be of use to you.
3) Avoid the Future.
1) Your fellow-persons are your betters.
2) Your fellow-persons’ shortcomings are used as a veil to cover up your own.
3) Love your fellow-persons more than yourself and your neighbour as yourself.
1) Think this: when you are alone, there are two of you.
2) Victory in one’s internal struggle is of greater value than victory in one’s external struggle.
3) Have no fear but of those demented and of your own self.
1) Think of God so that God may think of you.
2) Respect God, for you can love or fear only human beings.
3) The distance between you and God is smaller than that which separates you from your neighbour.’
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