What About the Ancient Mysteries?

By Rudra Shivananda

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Recently, there have been a spate of novels and non-fiction works extolling the ancient mysteries or trying to make them even more mysterious. What are these ancient mysteries and what is their relevance to spiritual seekers nowadays?

The spiritual teachings of ancient Egypt, Greece and eventually Rome were mostly kept among an elite group and not disseminated to the masses. These elite groups met in secret not because they had any fear but because these teachings were sacred. These mystery schools sought to instill their acolytes with spiritual truths through enactments and ceremonies that caused deep transformations among them. They were effective precisely because their teachings and ceremonies were kept secret and the seekers had no preconceptions – for instance if they were blindfolded and threatened with all manner of weapons, they really feared for their lives and if they were put into a casket for three days, they had no idea whether anyone was going to let them out.

With the rise and dominance of Christianity, these mystery schools became illegal and were suppressed. Those that survived to preserve their ancient wisdom now kept secret out of fear of persecution. From the sixteenth to the seventeenth centuries, some of these surviving schools were able to come out of the closet and the most influential of them apparently were the Masons, who set up strongholds in American colonies. Some of the founding fathers were Master Masons such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. The Masonic influence has been well-documented and re-introduced
into some major movies and books in the last few years. Unfortunately their effectiveness as a mystery school has been undermined by the public documentations of most of their ceremonies in the twentieth century and the transformation may no longer
occur since people know a lot about the ceremonies.

What about their teachings? These have also been disseminated widely and we are now awash with all the sacred teachings from the past – just go to the world-wide-web. Additionally, the teachings from the sacred land of India have also now been made available to the West. Where-in lies the mysteries of life and death that have not been revealed to one and all – the obstacle is not the knowledge, but the realization.

It is said that the goal of the mystery schools was a form of apotheosis or the transformation of human to Divine. This is the very goal of Yoga – of the many varieties of Yoga- which is replete with all the tools necessary to achieve Self-Realization. It is not enough to read about the ancient mysteries, it is necessary to transform oneself and that can only be done reliably by the practices of Yoga.

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