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Chapter IV.—Further Use Made of the System of the Phrygians; Mode of Celebrating the Mysteries; The Mystery of the “Great Mother;” These Mysteries Have a Joint Object of Worship with the Naasseni; The Naasseni Allegorize the Scriptural Account of the Garden of Eden; The Allegory Applied to the Life of Jesus.

The Phrygians, however, further assert that the father of the universe is “Amygdalus,” not a tree, he says, but that he is “Amygdalus” who previously existed; and he having in himself the perfect fruit, as it were, throbbing and moving in the depth, rent his breasts, and produced his now invisible, and nameless, and ineffable child, respecting whom we shall speak.  For the word “Amyxai” signifies, as it were, to burst and sever through, as he says (happens) in the case of inflamed bodies, and which have in themselves any tumour; and when doctors have cut this, they call it “Amychai.” In this way, he says, the Phrygians call him “Amygdalus,” from which proceeded and was born the Invisible (One), “by whom all things were made, and nothing was made without Him.”435435    John i. 3. And the Phrygians say that what has been thence produced is “Syrictas” (piper), because the Spirit that is born is harmonious. “For God,” he says, “is Spirit; wherefore,” he affirms, “neither in this mountain do the true worshippers worship, nor in Jerusalem, but in spirit. For the adoration of the perfect ones,” he says, “is spiritual, not carnal.”436436    John iv. 21. The Spirit, however, he says, is there where likewise the Father is named, and the Son is there born from this Father. This, he says, is the many-named, thousand-eyed Incomprehensible One, of whom every nature—each, however, differently—is desirous. This, he says, is the word of God, which, he says, is a word of revelation of the Great Power.  Wherefore it will be sealed, and hid, and concealed, lying in the habitation where lies the basis of the root of the universe, viz. Æons, Powers, Intelligences, Gods, Angels, delegated Spirits, Entities, Nonentities, Generables, Ingenerables, Incomprehensibles, Comprehensibles, Years, Months, Days, Hours, (and) Invisible Point from which437437    ἐξ ἧς or ἑξῆς, i.e., next. what is least begins to increase gradually. That which is, he says, nothing, and which consists of nothing, inasmuch as it is indivisible—(I mean) a point—will become through its own reflective power a certain incomprehensible magnitude. This, he says, is the kingdom of heaven, the grain of mustard seed,438438    Matt. xiii. 31, 32; Mark iv. 31, 32; Luke xiii. 19. the point which is indivisible in the body; and, he says, no one knows this (point) save the spiritual only. This, he says, is what has been spoken: “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.”439439    Ps. xix. 3.

They rashly assume in this manner, that whatsoever things have been said and done by all men, (may be made to harmonize) with their own particular mental view, alleging that all things become spiritual. Whence likewise they assert, that those exhibiting themselves in theatres,—not even these say or do anything without premeditation. Therefore, he says, when, on the people assembling in the theatres, any one enters clad in a remarkable robe, carrying a harp and playing a tune (upon it, accompanying it) with a song of the great mysteries, he speaks as follows, not knowing what he says:  “Whether (thou art) the race of Saturn or happy Jupiter,440440    The passage following obviously was in verse originally. It has been restored to its poetic form by Schneidewin. or mighty Rhea, Hail, Attis, gloomy mutilation of Rhea. Assyrians style thee thrice-longed-for Adonis, and the whole of Egypt (calls thee) Osiris, celestial horn of the moon; Greeks denominate (thee) Wisdom; Samothracians, venerable Adam; Hæmonians, Corybas; and them Phrygians (name thee) at one time Papa, at another time Corpse, or God, or Fruitless, or Aipolos, or green Ear of Corn that has been reaped, or whom the very fertile Amygdalus produced—a man, a musician.” This, he says, is multiform Attis, whom while they celebrate in a hymn, they utter these words: “I will hymn Attis, son of Rhea, not with the buzzing sounds of trumpets, or of Idæan pipers, which accord with (the voices of) the Curetes; 57but I will mingle (my song) with Apollo’s music of harps, ‘evoe, evan,’ inasmuch as thou art Pan, as thou art Bacchus, as thou art shepherd of brilliant stars.”

On account of these and such like reasons, these constantly attend the mysteries called those of the “Great Mother,” supposing especially that they behold by means of the ceremonies performed there the entire mystery. For these have nothing more than the ceremonies that are performed there, except that they are not emasculated: they merely complete the work of the emasculated. For with the utmost severity and vigilance they enjoin (on their votaries) to abstain, as if they were emasculated, from intercourse with a woman. The rest, however, of the proceeding (observed in these mysteries), as we have declared at some length, (they follow) just as (if they were) emasculated persons.  And they do not worship any other object but Naas, (from thence) being styled Naasseni. But Naas is the serpent from whom, i.e., from the word Naas, (the Naassene) says, are all that under heaven are denominated temples (Naous). And (he states) that to him alone—that is, Naas—is dedicated every shrine and every initiatory rite, and every mystery; and, in general, that a religious ceremony could not be discovered under heaven, in which a temple (Naos) has no existence; and in the temple itself is Naas, from whom it has received its denomination of temple (Naos). And these affirm that the serpent is a moist substance, just as Thales also, the Milesian, (spoke of water as an originating principle,) and that nothing of existing things, immortal or mortal, animate or inanimate, could consist at all without him. And that all things are subject unto him, and that he is good, and that he has all things in himself, as in the horn of the one-horned bull;441441    Deut. xxxiii. 17. so as that he imparts beauty and bloom to all things that exist according to their own nature and peculiarity, as if passing through all, just as (“the river) proceeding forth from Edem, and dividing itself into four heads.”442442    Gen. ii. 10.

They assert, however, that Edem is the brain, as it were, bound and tightly fastened in encircling robes, as if (in) heaven. But they suppose that man, as far as the head only, is Paradise, therefore that “this river, which proceeds out of Edem,” that is, from the brain, “is divided into four heads,443443    Gen. ii. 11–14. and that the name of the first river is called Phison; this is that which encompasseth all the land of Havilath: there is gold, and the gold of that land is excellent, and there is bdellium and the onyx stone.” This, he says, is the eye, which, by its honour (among the rest of the bodily organs), and its colours, furnishes testimony to what is spoken. “But the name of the second river is Gihon: this is that which compasseth the land of Ethiopia.” This, he says, is hearing, since Gihon is (a tortuous stream), resembling a sort of labyrinth. “And the name of the third is Tigris. This is that which floweth over against (the country of) the Assyrians.” This, he says,444444    Or, “they say.” is smelling, employing the exceedingly rapid current of the stream (as an analogy of this sense). But it flows over against (the country of) the Assyrians, because in every act of respiration following upon expiration, the breath drawn in from the external atmosphere enters with swifter motion and greater force. For this, he says, is the nature of respiration. “But the fourth river is Euphrates.” This, they assert, is the mouth, through which are the passage outwards of prayer, and the passage inwards of nourishment. (The mouth) makes glad, and nurtures and fashions the Spiritual Perfect Man. This, he says, is “the water that is above the firmament,”445445    Gen. i. 7. concerning which, he says, the Saviour has declared, “If thou knewest who it is that asks, thou wouldst have asked from Him, and He would have given you to drink living, bubbling water.”446446    John iv. 10. Into this water, he says, every nature enters, choosing its own substances; and its peculiar quality comes to each nature from this water, he says, more than iron does to the magnet, and the gold to the backbone447447    κερκίς. This word literally means the rod; or, in later times, the comb fixed into the ἱστός (i.e., the upright loom), for the purpose of driving the threads of the woof home, thus making the web even and close. It is, among other significations, applied to bones in the leg or arm. Cruice and Schneidewin translate κερκίς by spina, a rendering adopted above. The allusion is made again in chap. xii. and chap. xvi. In the last passage, κέντρον (spur) is used instead of κερκίς of the sea falcon, and the chaff to the amber.

But if any one, he says, is blind from birth, and has never beheld the true light, “which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world,”448448    John i. 9; ix. 1. by us let him recover his sight, and behold, as it were, through some paradise planted with every description of tree, and supplied with abundance of fruits, water coursing its way through all the trees and fruits; and he will see that from one and the same water the olive chooses for itself and draws the oil, and the vine the wine; and (so is it with) the rest of plants, according to each genus. That Man, however, he says, is of no reputation in the world, but of illustrious fame in heaven, being betrayed by those who are ignorant (of his perfections) to those who know him not, being accounted as a drop from a cask.449449    Isa. xl. 15. We, however, he says, are spiritual, who, from the life-giving water of Eu58phrates, which flows through the midst of Babylon, choose our own peculiar quality as we pass through the true gate, which is the blessed Jesus. And of all men, we Christians alone are those who in the third gate celebrate the mystery, and are anointed there with the unspeakable chrism from a horn, as David (was anointed), not from an earthen vessel,450450    1 Sam. x. 1; xvi. 13. he says, as (was) Saul, who held converse with the evil demon451451    1 Sam. xvi. 14. of carnal concupiscence.


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