Be there any so shrouded in mystery as the rites at Eleusis? It is only this...sincere and profound reverence for the same that has sealed the lips of the Wise Ones. Silence is the guarding of the tongue that the sacred mysteries be not profaned:
"But of what he is doing a man might be ignorant, as for instance people say, 'It slipped out of their mouths as they were speaking,' or 'They did not know it was a secret,' as Aeschylus said of the mysteries."
(Nicomachaean Ethics III, I, 17)
"There is a sure reward for trusty silence, too. I will forbid the man who has divulged the sacred rites of mystic Ceres, to abide beneath the same roof or to unmoor with me the fragile bark."
(Horace Odes III, ii)
Of the Lesser Mysteries:
"Demeter instituted the Lesser Mysteries in honor of Heracles, that she might purify him of the guilt he had incurred in the slaughter of the Centaurs."
(Diodorus, IV, 14)
Of the Greater Mysteries:
"The Greater Mysteries were Demeter's and the Lesser Persephone's."
(Mylonas Eleusis p. 240)
Of the Sacred Announcement:
Hekas Hekas este bebeloi...
"All evil thoughts and profane be still: far hence, far hence from our choirs depart,
Who knows not well what the Mystics tell, or is not holy and pure of heart.
I charge them once, I charge them twice, charge them thrice, that they draw not nigh
To the sacred dance of the Mystic choir."
(Aristophanes The Frogs 346-347, 361-362)
Of the Participants:
"When he (Nero) was in Greece, he durst not attend the celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries, at the initiation of which, impious and wicked persons are warned by the voice of the herald from approaching the rites."
(Suetonius Nero XXXIV)
"But if there is an absolute necessity for their mention, a chosen few might hear them in a mystery, and they should sacrifice not a common (Eleusinian) pig, but some huge and unprocurable victim; and then the number of the hearers will be very few indeed."
(Socrates, Plato's Republic II, 378)
'Iphigenia: My purpose is to cleanse them first by purification.
Thoas: In fresh spring water or salt sea-spray?
Iphigenia: The sea washes away from man all that is ill.
Thoas: True, they would then be holier victims for the goddess."
(Iphigenia Among the Tauri 1191-1194)
Of the procession of singing and dancing:
"...O Lord of the frolic and dance,
Iacchus, beside me advance!...
Chorus: Now wheel your sacred dance through the glade with flowers bedight,
All ye who are partakers of the holy festal rite;
And I will with the women and the holy maidens go
Where they keep the nightly vigil, an auspicious light to show.
Now haste we to the roses,
And the meadows full of posies,
Now haste we to the meadow
In our own old way,
In choral dances blending,
In dances never ending,
Which only for the holy
The Destinies array.
O, happy mystic chorus,
The blessed sunshine o'er us
On us alone is smiling,
In its soft sweet light:
On us who strove forever
With holy, pure endeavor
Alike by friend and stranger
To guide our steps aright."
(Aristophanes The Frogs 317-318, 323-413, 440-459)
Of the Kykeon:
"As she was about to pass within the lowly dwelling, she plucked a smooth, a slumberous poppy that grew on the waste ground; and as she plucked, 'tis said she tasted it forgetfully, and so unwitting stayed her long hunger. Hence, because she broke her fast at nightfall, the initiates time their meal by the appearance of the stars."
(Fasti IV ca. 530)
Of the Inititation Rite:
"But their procedure is like Bacchic frenzy - like the leap of a man mad, or possessed - the attainment of a goal without running the race, a passing beyond reason without the previous exercise of reasoning. For the sacred matter (contemplation) is not like attention belonging to knowledge, or an outlet of mind, nor is it like one thing in one place and another in another. On the contrary - to compare small and greater - it is like Aristotle's view that men being initiated have not a lesson to learn, but an experience to undergo and a condition into which they must be brought, while they are becoming fit (for revelation)."
(Synesius Dio 1133)
"Within this hall, the mystics were made to experience the most bloodcurdling sensations of horror and the most enthusiastic ecstasy of joy."
"In the most sacred Mysteries before the scene of the mystic visions, there is terror infused over the minds of the initiated."
(Ibid. p. 111)
Of the reception of the Mysteries at Athens (Isocrates):
"When Demeter came to our land, in her wandering after the rape of Kore, and, being moved to kindness towards our ancestors by services which may not be told save to her initiates, gave these two gifts, the greatest in the world - the fruits of the earth, which have enabled us to rise above the life of the beasts, and the holy rite which inspires in those who partake of it sweeter hopes regarding both the end of life and all eternity, - our city was not only so beloved of the gods but also so devoted to mankind that, having been endowed with these great blessings, she did not begrudge them to the rest of the world, but shared with all men what she had received. The mystic rite we continue even now, each year, to reveal to the initiates; and as for the fruits of the earth, our city has, in a word, instructed the world, in their uses, their cultivation, and the benefits derived from them."
Hippolytus' description of the Eleusinian Mysteries as told to him by a Naasene:
"The Phrygians, however assert, he says, that he is likewise "a green ear of corn reaped." And after the Phrygians, the Athenians, while initiating people into the Eleusinian rites, likewise display to those who are being admitted to the highest grade at these mysteries, the might, and marvelous, and most perfect secret suitable for one initiated into the highest mystic truths: (I allude to) an ear of corn in silence reaped. But this ear of corn is also (considered) among the Athenians to constitute the perfect enormous illumination (that has descended) from the unportrayable one, just as the Hierophant himself (declares); not, indeed, emasculated like Attis, but made a eunuch by means of hemlock, and despising all carnal generation. (Now) by night in Eleusis, beneath a huge fire, (the Celebrant,) enacting the great and secret mysteries, vociferates and cries aloud, saying, "August Brimo has brought forth a consecrated son, Brimus;" that is, a potent (mother has been delivered of) a potent child. But revered, he says, is the generation that is spiritual, heavenly, from above, and potent is he that is so born. For the mystery is called "Eleusin" and "Anactorium." "Eleusin," because, he says, we who are spiritual come flowing down from Adam above; for the word "eleusesthai" is, he says, of the same import with the expression "to come." But "Anactorium" is of the same import with the expression "to ascend upward." This, he says, is what they affirm who have been initiated in the mysteries of the Eleusinians. It is, however, a regulation of law, that those who have been admitted into the lesser should again be initiated into the Great Mysteries. For greater destinies obtain greater portions. But the inferior mysteries, he says are those of Proserpine below; in regard of which mysteries, and the path which leads there, which is wide and spacious, and conducts those that are perishing to Proserpine, the poet likewise says: -
"But under her a fearful path extends,
Hollow, miry, yet best guide to
Highly-honored Aphrodite's lovely grove."
These, he says, are the inferior mysteries those appertaining to carnal generation. Now, those men who are initiated into these inferior (mysteries) ought to pause, and (then) be admitted into the great (and) heavenly (ones). For they, he says, who obtain their shares (in this mystery), receive greater portions. For this, he says, is the gate of heaven; and this a house of God, where the Good Deity dwells alone.
And into this (gate), he says, no unclean person shall enter, nor one that is natural or carnal; but it is reserved for the spiritual only."
(Hippolytus The Refutation of All Heresies V, 3)
An Orphic Hymn:
"To the Terrestrial Hermes
O Bacchic Hermes, progeny divine
Of Dionysus, parent of the vine,
And of celestial Venus, Paphian queen,
Dark-eyelash'd Goddess of a lovely mien:
Who constant wand'rest thro' the sacred seats
Where Hell's dread empress, Proserpine, retreats;
To wretched souls the leader of the way,
When Fate decrees, to regions void of day.
Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly,
Or lulls to slumb'rous rest the weary eye;
For Proserpine, thro' Tart'rus dark and wide,
Gave the for ever flowing souls to guide,
Come, blessed pow'r, the sacrifice attend,
And grant thy mystics' works a happy end."
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus )
Seneca on the Mysteries at Eleusis:
"There are holy things that are not communicated all at once: Eleusis always keeps something back to show those who come again."
(Quaestiones Naturalis VII, 30:6)
Oedipus on the Mysteries:
"But for your mysteries which speech may not profane, you shall mark them for yourself, when you come to that place alone; and when you are coming to the end of life, disclose them to your heir alone; let him teach his heir; and so thenceforth."
(Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 1526-1534)
Of the Blessings conferred at Eleusis on an inscription:
"Beautiful indeed is the Mystery given us by the blessed gods: death is for mortals no longer an evil, but a blessing."
"Blessed is he who has seen these things before he goes beneath the earth; for he understands the end of mortal life, and the beginning (of a new life) given of god."
(Pindar, Fragment 102)
The Gnosis of Jesus:
"And Jesus answers them saying, "The hour has come so that the human son may be glorified. Amen, amen, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falling into the earth dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."
(Gospel of John 12:20-24)