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For though it was a sentence of great truth and dignity, it was very uselessly preached amongst those to whom there was no room for pardon or remission.
Even the ridiculous Scarron, who has employed all his poor talents in abusing the most useful Poem that ever was written, hath not neglected to urge this objection against it:
"Cette sentence est bonne et belle,
"Mais en enfer de quoi sert-elle ?"
And it must be confessed that, according to the common ideas, of Aeneas's Descent into Hell, Virgil hath put Theseus on a very impertinent office.
But nothing could be juster, or more useful than this continued. admonition, if we suppose Virgil to be here giving a representation of what was said during the celebration of the Shews of the Mysteries: for then it was addressed to the vast Multitude of living Spectators. But that this admonitory circumstance made part of the representations is not a bare supposition. Aristides expressly tells us, that no where was more astonishing words sung than in these Mysteries; the reason for such practice was, that the sounds and sights might mutually assist each other in making an impression on the minds of the initiated. But, from a passage in Pindar I conclude, that in the Shews of the Mysteries (from whence men took their ideas of the infernal regions) it was customary for each offender, represented under punishment, to make his admonition against his own crime, as he passed by in machinery. "It is reported," says Pindar," that Ixion, while he is incessantly turning round "his rapid wheel, calls out to this effect to MORTALS, that "they should be always at hand to repay a benefactor for the "kindnesses he had done them." Where the word BPOTOI, living men, seems plainly to shew that the speech was first made before men in this world.
The Poet closes his catalogue of the damned with these words:
"Ausi omnes immane nefas, AUSOQUE POTITI."
For the ancients had generally a notion that an action was sanctified by success which they esteemed a mark of the favour and approbation of Heaven. As this was a very pernicious opinion, it was necessary to teach that the imperial villain who
r Ιξίονα φαντὶ ταῦτα
Βροτοῖς λέγειν, ἐν πτερόεντι τροχῷ
Τὸν εὐργέταν ἀγαναῖς ἀμοιβαῖς
enslaved his country, and the baffled plotter who died on a gibbet, were equally the objects of Divine justice.
Aeneas, now passed Tartarus, comes to the borders of Elysium. Here he undergoes the Lustration:
Occupat Aeneas aditum, corpusque recenti
Spargit aquâ, ramumque adverso in limine figit."
And thus ends the lesser Mysteries. Being now about to undergo the lustrations (says Sopater) which immediately precede initiation into the greater Mysteries, they called me happy. The hero now enters on the greater Mysteries, and comes to the abodes of the blessed:
"Devenere lacos laetos, et amoena vireta
The initiated were now called Ἐπόπλαι as before, Μύσαι, and this representation 'Aurovia. The 'Aurovia, or the beholding with their own eyes, (says Psellus) is when he who is initiated beholds the divine Lights".
In the very same manner Themistius describes the initiated just entered upon this scene.-It being thoroughly purified, he now discloses to the initiated, a region all over illuminated, and shining with a divine splendour. The cloud and thick darkness are dispersed; and the mind emerges, as it were, into day, full of light and cheerfulness, as before, of disconsolate obscurity".
8 Μέλλων δὲ τοῖς καθαρσίοις, τοῖς πρὸ τῆς τελετῆς, ἐντυγχάνειν, ἐκάλεν εὐδαίμονα ἐμαυτον· In Divis. Quaest.
t ̓Αυτοψία ἐσὶν, ὅταν ἀυτὸς ὁ τελέμενος τὰ θεῖα φῶτα ὁρᾷ. In Schol. in Orac. Zoroast. "This which was all over illuminated, and which the Priest had thoroughly purified, was ayaλμa, an image. The reason of my transferring what is said of its illumination to the Region is, because this image represented the appearances of the Divine Being. Thus Jamblicus de Mysteriis: Merà on TauTα Tüv auToαvāv ΑΓΑΛΜΑΤΩΝ λόγες ἀφορισώμεθα. ἐκῶν ἐν μὲν ταῖς τῶν θεῶν ΑΥΤΟΨΙΑΙΣ ἐνεργέτερα καὶ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας ὁρᾶται τὰ θεάματα, ἀκριβῶς τε διαλάμπει, καὶ διηρθρωμένα λαμπρῶς εκφαίνεται.—And again Ωσαύτως τοίνυν καὶ ἐπὶ τῷ ΦΩΤΟΣ· τὰ μὲν τῶν θεῶν ΑΓΑΛΜΑΤΑ Qaròs wλéov ȧsgánru. Sect. 2. c. 4. Hence it appears that these mystical images were only a great light which illuminated all around. To this, the following lines in the oracles of Zoroaster allude:
Μὴ φύσεως καλέσῃς ΑΥΤΟΠΤΟΝ ΑΓΑΛΜΑ,
Οὐ γαρ χρὴ κείνες σε βλέπειν πρὶν σῶμα ΤΕΛΕΣΘΗ ́.
Invoke not the self-conspicuous image of nature, for thou must not behold these things before thy body be purified by initiation. This auTórtov yaλμa was only a diffusive shining light, as the name partly declares, thus described presently after in the same oracles.
Ηνίκα βλέψῃς μορφῆς ἄτες ἐυΐερον τοῦς,
Λαμπόμενον σκιρτηδὸν ὅλὲ κατὰ βένθεα κόσμε,
"Largior hic campos aether, et lumine vestit
Purpureo; Solemque suum, sua sidera norunt,"
are in the very language of those, who profess to tell us what they saw at their initiation into the greater Mysteries. "Nocte "media vidi solem candido coruscantem lumine," says Apuleius (Met. Lib. XI.) on that occasion; for "candido" and " pureo lumine" mean the very same thing.
Here Virgil, by forsaking Homer, and following the representations of the Mysteries, in their amiable paintings of Elysium, hath avoided a terrible fault his master fell into; who hath given so unamiable and joyless a picture of the "fortunata "nemora," that they can raise no desire or appetite for them; defeating thereby the intent of the legislator in propagating the belief of them. He makes even his favourite hero himself, who possessed them, tell Ulysses, that he had rather be a daylabourer above, than command the regions of the dead: and all his heroes in general are described as in an unhappy state: nay, to mortify every excitement to great and virtuous actions, he makes reputation, fame, and glory, the great spurs to welldoing in the Pagan world, and which in no world should be entirely taken off, to be visionary and impertinent. On the contrary, Virgil, whose sole aim, in this Poem, was the good of society, makes fame and love of glory so strong passions in the other world, that the Sibyl's promise to Palinurus, only that his name should be perpetuated, rejoices his shade even in the regions of the unhappy:
"Aeternumqne locus Palinuri nomen habebit:
It was this ungracious description of the other world, and the licentious stories of the Gods, both so pernicious to society, that made Plato banish Homer out of his Republic.
But to return.-The Poet having described the climate of the happy regions, speaks next of the amusements of its inhabitants.
"Pars in gramineis exercent membra palaestris;
Besides the obvious allusion, in these lines, to the philosophy
was that, in the disposition of his work, his fifth book is employed in the Games, as a prelude to the Descent in the sixth. I. The first place, in the happy regions, the poet gives to the legislators, and those who brought mankind from a state of nature into society:
Magnanimi Heroës, nati melioribus annis."
At the head of these is Orpheus, the most renowned of the European legislators; but better known under the character of Poet: for the first laws being written in measure, to allure men to learn them, and when learnt, to retain them; the fable would have it, that Orpheus softened the savages of Thrace by the force of harmony:
Threïcius longâ cum veste sacerdos
"Obloquitur numeris septem discrimina vocum."
But he has the first place, because he was not only a lawgiver, but the bringer of the Mysteries into that part of Europe.
2. The next place is allotted to patriots, and those who died for the service of their country:
"Hic manus, ob patriam pugnando vulnera passi.”
3. The third to virtuous and pious priests:
Quique sacerdotes casti, dum vita manebat;
For it was of principal use to society, that religious men should lead holy lives, and teach nothing of the Gods but what was agreeable to the Divine Nature.
4. The last place is given to the inventors of arts mechanical and liberal:
"Inventas aut qui vitam excoluere per artes;
Quique sui memores alios fecere merendo."
The order is exact and beautiful. The first class consists of the founders of society, heroes, and lawgivers: the second, of its supporters, patriots and holy priests: and the third of those who adorned it, the inventors of the arts of life, and recorders of worthy actions.
Virgil has here all along closely followed the teachers in the Mysteries, who incessantly inculcated that virtue only could entitle men to happiness; and that rites, ceremonies, lustrations, and sacrifices could not supply the want of it.
But now, notwithstanding the entire conformity between all these scenes and those represented in the Mysteries, something is still wanting to give the last conviction to the truth of our
interpretation; and that is, the famous SECRET of the Mysteries, of which so much hath been said in the last Section; where we have endeavoured to bring it to light, and shew it to have been the doctrine of the Unity of the Godhead. Had Virgil neglected to give us this principal circumstance, though we must needs have said his intention was to represent an Initiation, we had been forced to own he had done it imperfectly. But he was too good a painter, to leave any thing ambiguous in his drawings; and hath therefore concluded his hero's initiation, as was the custom, with instructing him in the AПOPPHTA, or the doctrine of the Unity. Till this was done, the initiated was not arrived to the highest stage of perfection; nor was in the fullest sense entitled to the appellation of ΕΠΟΠΤΗΣ.
Musaeus, therefore, who had been hierophant at Athens, is made to conduct him to the place, where his father's shade opens to him this hidden doctrine of perfection, in these sublime words:
"Principio coelum, ac terras, camposque liquentes, "Lucentemque globum Lunae, Titaniaque astra "SPIRITUS INTUS ALIT, totamque infusa per artus MENS agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet. "Inde hominum pecudumque genus, vitaeque volantum, "Et quae marmoreo fert monstra sub aequore pontus." This was no other than the doctrine of the old Egyptians, as we are assured by Plato, who says (in Cratylo), they taught that Jupiter was the "Spirit which pervadeth all things."
We shall shew how easily the Greek philosophy corrupted this principle into (what is now called) Spinozism (Book 3. Sect. 4.) Here Virgil has approved his judgment to great advantage. Nothing was more abhorrent from the Mysteries than Spinozism, as it overturned the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, which the Mysteries so diligently inculcated; and yet the principle itself, of which Spinozism was the abuse, was cherished there, as it was the consequence of the doctrine of the Unity, the grand secret of the Mysteries. Virgil, therefore, delivers the principle with great caution, and pure and free of the abuse; though he understood the nature of Spinozism, and, by the following lines in his Fourth Georgic, appears to have been infected with it:
"Deum namque ire per omnes
"Terrasque tractusque maris, coelumque profundum