The Seed and the Fruit[1]

© 2014, John Opsopaus



I.             Theurgy

Theurgy is a very ancient practice, but the best documentation we have of it comes from the Neoplatonists, especially Iamblichus (c.245–c.325 CE) and Proclus (412–485 CE). It involves a number of operations intended to facilitate direct communication with the Gods. The most important operation is the sustasis (plural: sustaseis), which is a meeting, negotiation, and subsequent pact with a God or attendant spirit. This may be facilitated by another theurgical operation, telestikź, the animation or ensoulment of an icon, which “tunes” the image as an instrument for divine communication and divination.

In this chapter I will present and interpret two sustaseis with Demeter (conducted in 2000 and 2013), which will give, I hope, some insight into the meaning of the Eleusinian Mysteries in ancient times and for our time. It is natural and reasonable to be skeptical about such colloquies with the Gods. How can someone distinguish a genuine communication relevant to everyone from insights (or even fantasies!) peculiar to their reporter? Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own knowledge, and we must draw our own critical conclusions, even when reading the conclusions of eminent scientists and scholars. Therefore, especially in the case of theurgy, we must consider whether the report of a sustasis is consistent with our personal knowledge of a deity and with the reports of other theurgists and scholars. (Of course, you can conduct your own theurgical operations as well.) Ultimately, you must decide if it rings true.

For the first theurgical operation (marked as “A” texts in the rest of this chapter), I closed my eyes and in my imagination descended by 55 steps the ten-level stairway into the Abaton of a temple. The number ten was chosen for Pythagorean reasons: it is a symbol of completeness, connecting unity at one level to unity at another (because 1+0 = 1). Each deeper level was progressively longer, so I made one step (timed with the breath) on the first level, two on the next level down, and so on, making ten steps on the deepest level. (55 is the tenth triangular number: 55 = 1 + 2 + 3 + … + 10.)

For the second operation (“B” texts), conducted in 2013, I began by intoning Orphic Hymn #40 “To Eleusinian Demeter” (Athanassakis transl.). In my imagination I descended only eight steps into a ground-level cave-temple of Demeter. (Pythagoreans identify Rhea with Two and with its threefold power: Eight; see Liddell, Scott & Jones, s.v. Rhea) Opening my eyes, I invoked Demeter into an image, so this operation included animation. I invoked Her under the name “Deo” and asked Her what I should say about Her. I witnessed signs of successful animation including motion in the icon and sudden wind, breaking waves, and bursting sunlight (the operation was conducted out of doors).

II.          The Daughter’s Descent

In the first sustasis that I will describe, I invoked the Goddess to reveal to me the Logos Mystikos, the Holy Myth of Eleusis, not for curiosity, but for a planned group celebration of the Greater Mysteries. (I have explicit permission from the Goddess to present the material herein.)

The story starts with My father. Hades you call Him.

He came to Me as a snake; We coupled, as I wished. (A1)

This text implies that Hades is both the father and mate of Demeter, which is similar to the Orphic myths, but differs in several key respects. Orphic sources tell us that Zeus mated with Rhea, the Mother of the Gods (and His own mother) as snakes in a cave (West, pp. 73–4, 220). In some versions She gave birth to Demeter; in others She became Demeter (West, p. 217). We are also told that Zeus and Demeter mated as snakes, engendering Persephone, and that Zeus and Persephone mated as snakes, engendering Chthonic Dionysos (West, pp. 73–4, 220–1, 252). In the triad Rhea-Demeter-Persephone we really have three aspects of a Great Goddess (Crone-Mother-Maiden, if you like), for Rhea and Demeter are often identified in Orphism, and Demeter and Persephone are often identified in the Eleusinian Mysteries (West, pp. 93, 217; Kerényi, pp. 32–3). Here, however, it is not Zeus but Hades who mates with the Goddess. However, we will see that Zeus and Hades (often called “Chthonic Zeus”) are often dual aspects of the God in the Mysteries (West, p. 95). Second, our traditional sources imply that Zeus pursued Rhea-Demeter-Persephone, who had changed Herself into a snake, and forced Himself on Her. Here, however, the Goddess asserts that this mating was Her intention, as we would expect from the Great Mother (see also B25–6 in Sec. XIII below).

The Goddess acknowledged the connection to the Orphic myth, and continued:

We came and coupled. There, beginning joined

with end, and just as in the Ouroboros. (A2)

Then I bore the daughter — Persephone.

She too was destined for Hades. That’s the cycle. (A3)

Here She states explicitly the cycle of eternal life, which is the heart of the Eleusinian Mysteries. She presents the “rape” as follows:

Then She was placed upon the Rharian Plain,

the field that’s called the Plain of Dionysos,

waiting for the Dark Lord to come.

He came. He took Her away as prearranged.

She knew this would happen, but she had to resist

as we all do. It’s part of life.

She had to experience the reluctance to die. (A4)

In the Homeric Hymn, Persephone is abducted from the Nysan Plain (Nysion pedion), which is associated with Mt. Nysa, where Dionysos (Dio-nysos) was born; the name is also associated with Dionysian cult sites (Kerényi, pp. 34–5). Here, however, the Goddess places the event on Rharian Plain, where the gift of agriculture was celebrated in the Mysteries (Kerényi, p. 127). She also makes clear that the Two Goddesses both understood the cosmic necessity of the Underworld Marriage. I remarked that the story of the daughter's resistance and reluctance to die — Her willing sacrifice — reminded me a little of Jesus, and Demeter replied:

The Christians stole the story from us for

they knew a little of the Mysteries. (A5)

The Mother proceeded to describe Her daughter’s descent as follows:

And in this manner was She taken down,

led by the Dark Prince, into the ground,

the Chasm. And the pigs went with Her,

sacrificed for the marriage feast.

And Eubouleus — he saw them go,

he who is himself the Dark Prince. (A6a)

In the Hymn, Eubouleus is the swineherd whose pigs disappear underground with Hades and Persephone and who shows Demeter and Hekate the way into the Underworld (thus establishing the precedent for the pig sacrifice in the Thesmophoria, a festival for Demeter and Persephone). However, there is much more going on here, as the Goddess implies. “Eubouleus” means “He of Good Council” or “The Prudent One”; it is also an epithet of Zeus, Hades, Plouton (= Hades), Ploutos (Wealth), Child Dionysos, and perhaps Adonis (Kerényi, pp. 160–71). Perhaps we can interpret Eubouleus as a younger aspect of Hades, the Dark Prince. His name alludes also to the Boulź (council, decision, will) of Zeus

to lure Persephone into a marriage which was so like death that all dying began with it, though through it life lost none of its radiance but, on the contrary, was enriched. (Kerényi, p. 170)

Eubouleus leads the way to a better way of life, as revealed in the Mysteries (174).

In Her willing sacrifice She still cried out,

and when Her mother — I — had heard it,

She knew the deed was done.

Just as I cried out when Dionysos took Me. (A6b)

I think this is an important point: the sacrifice, though voluntary, is still traumatic. The mystical process of “dying before you die” is nevertheless a death. However, I do not understand the Goddess’ reference to Dionysos taking Her, unless it is playing on the Parent-Child aspects (Demeter-Persephone / Zeus-Dionysos) and refers to Her mating with Zeus.

She went down to the Underworld to wed the Dark Lord.

It all was prearranged. She veiled Herself.

And later, on the wedding night,

unveiled Herself to the initiates.

For Dionysos was also an initiate into the mystery.

Oh holy daughter, You have initiated us all!

That is the true mystery! (A6c)

An important part of the wedding ritual is the Unveiling (anakaluptźria), when the bride removes her maiden veil and reveals herself to her groom and the wedding party, and so also the Maiden would have unveiled Herself to the Unseen One and His host of shades. This text connects the Unveiling to the revelation or epiphany of the Goddess before the initiates at the climax of the Mysteries. It also states that Dionysos Himself was an initiate, perhaps as His alter ego, Eubouleus. (It might even refer to Hades in His youthful aspect, implying that the bride initiated the groom.) Finally, the Mother Goddess acknowledges that She Herself has been initiated by the Maiden, which is crucial for understanding the Mysteries, for the initiates imitate the Mother in Her quest for and recovery of Her child.

She, the Mediator, shows us all the way.

She had to do it though We prearranged it.

That was Her own destiny. (A7)

As I understand it, the Father and Mother have arranged the Daughter’s marriage to Death so that She can be a Mediator for us, arranging for initiates a better relationship to death and mortality; that is Her role in the divine bureaucracy. (Later, in A33–4, the Mother distinguishes Herself as Mediator from Her Daughter as Initiator, but in that context She is referring to Her mediation of Heaven and Earth.)

III.       One and Many

I was quite confused by the various names and epithets that seemed to refer to the same Deities or to the same Deities in different aspects or generations, so I asked the Goddess for clarification.

These Deities are all the same.

All manifestations of the All in different ways,

splitting and recombining like clouds.

We split so we can work against each other,

create distinctions for the dynamism. (A8)

In Neoplatonism, the Inexpressible One (To Arrhźton Hen) is the ultimate principle of unity beyond all duality, beyond Existence and Non-existence, beyond even Being and Non-being. As such, it is beyond verbal description or conceptualization, and can be known only through a theurgical processes of Union (Henôsis). The individual Gods are understood as articulations of this ineffable Unity, as Beings radiating from The One, unified by Sameness and distinguished by Difference (the Monad and the Indefinite Dyad, according to Pythagoreans). The Maiden made a similar point in my theurgical meetings with Her (Opsopaus 2012, secs. X, B1; XII, B3, B11). Here, however, the Mother tells a much more dynamic story, in which the Gods and Goddesses are continually forming new constellations of attributes and functions in order to govern the cosmos. Indeed, She points out that this differentiation of one God from another permits disagreement and strife among the Gods, which fuels the dynamism of existence (else everything would be a bland and static uniform plenum). As Heraclitus says, “opposition is fitting, and from differences comes the most beautiful harmony, and all things come to be through strife” (DK 22B8). Empedocles also understood that an organized cosmos requires two opposed forces: Love (Philia) and Strife (Neikos), the forces of union and separation. The Goddess explained Her own origin:

I come from the bisexual being,

matter and spirit, joined in chaotic swirling darkness.

Undifferentiated life: that

is the beginning, that the Ur-mother.

But this beginning was required to change,

so the separation into dark and light,

male and female, wet and dry, cool and hot,

all these opposites, then came about.

But they had to be rejoined again

as the Ouroboros is rejoined. (A9)

This is similar to Orphic cosmogonies, in which a bisexual God has an important role. For example, in the Orphic Rhapsodies the serpent Time encircles and squeezes the Cosmic Egg, which cracks (West, pp. 70, 86–7, 104–5, pp. 198–208). From it emerges bisexual Phanes (“the One Who Appears”), also called Protogonos (First Born). He mates with Himself and gives birth to Ouranos (Heaven) and Gź (Gaia, Earth). In myth and ritual, Gź and Demeter are often identified (Dźmźtźr is a dialectical variant of Gź-Mźtźr = Earth-Mother). Earth and Heaven may be compared with “matter and spirit” in our text. The Egg itself is created by Time in Aither and Chaos, which it also created (West, pp. 198–200, 230–1). Other cosmogonies, including the Orphic theogony of Eudemus, make Night the first principle, or Night and Air, as Epimenides taught (Kirk, Raven & Schofield, pp. 17–18). Aither, Air, Night, Chaos: they are similar to the “chaotic swirling darkness” mentioned here, which the Goddess identifies with undifferentiated Life and calls the Ur-mother. From this unity emerge all the opposites, including male and female, and the two pairs of opposed powers possessed by the elements (wet and dry, cool and hot). Empedocles also described a separation into opposites during the reign of Strife alternating cyclically with a reunification under the reign of Love. In Neoplatonism, we have the procession of The One into Multiplicity and Matter, and their return to The One in an eternal (timeless) cycle (here symbolized by the Ouroboros Serpent).

Some days before my sustasis with the Goddess, I had an inspiration about the Mysteries, which I had written down:

This is the Secret:

The One becomes Two,

and the Two, by mediation of the Three,

becomes One.

(You may recognize this as a variation of the alchemical Axiom of Maria the Jewess.) My understanding was that The One divides into all these dualities (male-female, mother-daughter, father-son, etc.), but they are reunited by the mediation of the Goddess. I asked Demeter if my insight was correct.

Your version is a little too neat and schematic.

It’s all a continuous flow.

We are the same and different at the same time.

It’s not sequential, all exist at once.

That’s the secret and the mystery.

It’s beyond all rational understanding. (A10)

So we must avoid slipping into a temporal picture of emanation, or of cyclic procession and return. The theogony is timeless. I asked Her if this ineffable mystery was like The Inexpressible One of the Platonists.

They left out matter. That’s part of the All too.

That’s part of the mystery at Eleusis. (A11)

I interpret this to mean that the physical embodiment of life is essential to the Eleusinian Mysteries. I asked Her who understood the Mysteries, and whom I could read.

Psellos knows some, and Kerényi; they are good.

Aristotle knew some, also Plutarch.

But you need to reconstruct it since

no one of them ever wrote it down

(in anything that you can get).

So continue reading and talking to Me. (A12)

Your mysteries will evolve like the ancient ones.

The first enactments will be good for a start. (A13)

IV.        Hierosgamos

The Goddess continued Her narration of the Sacred Myth:

They’re married and go to the marriage bed.

Aphrodite does this; Eros helps. (A14)

To be sure I understood, I asked if She meant that Persephone and Dionysos/Hades went to the bed. She clarified:

Hades is a place, and Dionysos the God.

Hades is the unseen place, the unconscious. (A15)

“Hades” (Grk. Haidźs) is derived from aidźs, which means “unseen.” By equating it to the unconscious, She has moved to a more psychological explanation of the Mysteries. Eros enables the union in the unconscious:

That is where the marriage must take place

and where all such marriages take place. (A16)

It is a rejoining of the disjoined parts

(as Jung saw).

We each must do it, as initiates.

The vision helps the process, as a catalyst. (A17)

Here She has moved from the process of psychological integration (which Jung called individuation, from Latin individuus, which means “undivided”) to the psycho-integrative effect of the epiphany of the Maiden at the climax of the Mysteries. I asked how such an epiphany might be achieved today.

Bring it to pass by trance and invitation.

If you are sincere, then I will help,

but you all must be sincere.

Then it will come to each — or not — as they need.

That is the way it works — for you too. (A18)

There are two important points here. First, an epiphany of a Goddess is not something that can be engineered; rather it is granted as a gift. Second, it is granted as a function of need; some people might not need it at a particular time or ever.

The Goddess continued Her narration of the Eleusinian Myth:

The Goddess returns and gives birth from the fire. (A20)

This alludes to the great eruption of light and fire at the climax of the Mysteries in which the Daughter appears. I mentioned to the Goddess that Carl Kerényi (pp. 101–2) associates the Maiden with fire, and the Goddess said that both he and Peter Kingsley are correct, which confused me, since Kingsley argues that Empedocles associates Her with Water, which is significant for understanding Her as the Lady of Dissolution (Opsopaus 2012, Sec. V). She replied:

Both correspondences can be correct,

for She is paradoxical.

The opposites are joined in the Underworld.

Recall the Fire and Water in the rivers. (A21)

The rivers in the underworld are fiery, thus combining the opposites Water and Fire (Kingsley, pp. 73–4, 96–102). However, each of the four rivers is associated with an element, and in a sustasis with the Maiden, She said that She sits beside the Pyriphlegethon (the River of Fire) with Hekate, who is associated with Fire (Opsopaus 2012, sec. XIII). She said, “We are Fire and Water. / So we are the Opposites who are not opposites” (Opsopaus 2012, A17) which reflects the paradoxical obscurity of the Underworld.

She brings the Water to the Fire of Hades.

But Dionysos also is Water,

and She brings the Fire to Him.

Dionysos is like Zeus.

The opposites are joined in the marriage. (A22)

Hades is also associated with Fire because He is ruler of the Central Fire, as argued by Kingsley (pp. 47–53, 71–8). Water is associated with Dionysos because He is Lord of Moist Nature (Otto, ch. 14), that is, moist green vegetation, and of Wine (liquid spirits, “fire water”). Likewise Zeus is the God who brings the fertilizing rain, who is invoked on the Rharian Plain to fertilize Earth. However, in my sustaseis with the Maiden, She associated both Dionysos and Zeus with Air (Opsopaus 2012, secs. II, VII). (Kingsley argues that Empedocles also associates Zeus with Air, in which the dominant quality is moistness.) However, these associations have more to do with the alchemical Rotation of the Elements. The significance of the symbolism of the conjunction of opposites in the Underworld is that initiation is achieved though this unification:

So also all the opposites must be rejoined,

rejoined in all initiates.

By joining them all, the initiate enters

into a unitary state with the All. (A23)

I asked Her if She was referring to the Neoplatonic Union (Henôsis) with the ineffable and paradoxical One:

It is the same as the mysteries, but done individually. (A24)

That is, the Neoplatonic practice of Henôsis is a solitary exercise, whereas the Mysteries achieved a kind of collective experience of union.

V.           Flow and Blood

I began to ask the Mother Goddess to tell me more of Her Mysteries, but She interrupted me:

Correction! My daughter’s Mysteries! (A25)

That is, Persephone has created the Mysteries, and Demeter merely provides the model for all initiates. The Goddess continued:

The story is about the grain too,

the seed, the sperma, the form-giving element.

The seed goes through the process too. (A26a)

In Ancient Greek, sperma means seed, specifically the seed of plants, but more generally the sperm of animals (Liddell, Scott & Jones, s.v.). Metaphorically, sperma refers to the origin and species of a living thing, its form. The Goddess tells us that seed goes through the initiation process: it is put in the Earth, where it rots, which breaks down its rigid shell, but then it sprouts, drawing sustenance from Earth, to manifest new life above ground. The form of life comes from the seed; its substance is from Earth.

The essence of life is in plant life: Zôź.

You must learn to reconnect with plant life.

That’s where immortality’s achieved.

Immortality will flow through you.

You are the vessel. That is how

immortality is achieved by you.

You must come to know this. (A26b)

Ancient Greek has two words for “life”: zôź and bios. The feminine noun zôź has more the sense of the force of life itself and of existence in the universe; it is related to a verb , meaning “to live.” Masculine bios, in contrast, refers to a manner of living, or to a specific life; we may speak of your bios or my bios; it is related to the verb biô, meaning “to pass one’s life.” Here the Goddess tells us that immortality is a matter of the Life Force flowing through everyone rather than of the continuity of individual life. I think that what we are supposed to discover — experientially — in the Mysteries is that just as each seed of grain has its individual life, but Grain lives forever, so also are our individual lives in relation to Human Life. The Goddess confirms this interpretation as follows:

Forget ego! That is the mistake.

That’s what you must learn in the Mysteries.

The Life Force flows through you. It’s never-ending,

but your ego is just a temporary vessel.

That is what you must see in the Vision. (A26c)

That is, our individual egos or personalities do not achieve immortality; they perish like individual grain sprouts. Rather, we are the husks or vessels through which the immortal Life Force ever flows. We overvalue our egos and imagine there is some great value in the survival of our individual personalities and memories.

In the last line above, the Goddess says that this lesson is what we learn in the Vision that is the climax of the Mysteries in the Telesterion. Kerényi (p. 94) speculates that the head of the Maiden appeared in the midst of the enormous fire. I asked the Goddess if we experience Eternal Life in the head of Korź (the Maiden).

Not in the head of Korź;

in the flow, the infinite roaring flow.

Remember Rhea.

She is both the Flow and Pomegranate. (A27a)

The image is in the roaring fire from the Underworld, which continues to exist so long as there is fuel for the flame. She connects this eternal flux of Life with Rhea (Rhea, Rheź), whose name was connected both with “flow” (rheô = to flow; rhoź, rhoá = river, flowing, flux) and with “pomegranate” (rhóa), differing only in a shift in accent.

She is the Húźs too. Flow and blood.

When the blood flows, there is life.

That is the meaning of the blood

flowing on the ground creating life.

It’s the spirit becoming embodied in matter. (A27b)

Húźs is an epithet of both Zeus and Dionysos as Gods of the Fertilizing Rain (which also reinforces Their association with Water). It comes from the verb huô, which means “to rain.” In the aftermath of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the initiates went into the Rharian Field, where they repeatedly invoked Hue! Kue! (Rain! Conceive!). It was called the Mystical Formula (Rhźsis Mystikź), and the Neoplatonist Proclus reports that the priest looked to the Heavens when calling the first word and toward the Earth when calling the second (Kerényi, p. 141). In this way the Sky Father and Earth Mother ensure the continuation of corporeal Life (spirit embodied in matter).

However, this passage refers to blood, not rain, and I wondered where the flowing of blood on the ground occurs in the Eleusinian Myth, and She replied:

It doesn’t.

It’s in the story of Dionysos as the Child,

which follows on the Mysteries,

but also comes in a form with Korź’s death

and shedding Hymenal blood, the blood of marriage.

As virgins are deflowered on the stone in Rome,

she sheds her Hymenal blood on the Omphalos,

itself, a vehicle of the spirit,

from the mother to the child,

from earth to heaven and vice versa. (A28)

The Goddess has used fertilizing blood flowing on the Earth to make a connection with the Orphic myth of Dionysos: how He was torn apart by the Titans, who were then incinerated by Zeus’s lightning bolt. Humans were created from the ash, which combines divine Olympic and earthly Titanic elements. Blood flowing in the Earth, as a symbol of death and rebirth (cf. also the myths of Attis and Adonis) is then connected with the hymenal blood shed by the Daughter after Her descent into the Underworld. This seems to be mentioned as a precedent for the practice in Rome by which betrothed maidens deflowered themselves on a sacred stone, here called an Omphalos (navel stone). The Omphalos is described as a vehicle of the spirit, by which it is transmitted from the mother to the fetus; blood established the connection. By extension, the Cosmic Omphalos is the channel by which spirit descends from Heaven to Earth and ascends again from Earth back to Heaven. To be sure, I asked whether the flux was from Heaven to Earth or Earth to Heaven. She said:


Remember the fire and water in the Hierosgamos.

This is another mystery.

They are both masculine and feminine.

Don’t worry too much about the genders. (A29)

The Hierosgamos (sacred wedding) is between the opposites, Fire and Water. Traditionally Fire is masculine and Water is feminine, and this could be the union of Hades and Persephone (Opsopaus 2012). However, Dionysos, who is a youthful double of Hades, is associated with Water and the fertilizing fluid, as is Zeus. So it is unclear who is bride and who is groom in the Hierosgamos, and I think the Goddess is warning us not to be too concerned about the genders. The mystery, as She will explain, is that the Child is reborn from a Union of Opposites (Coniunctio Oppositorum).

VI.        The Child Reborn

The Goddess continues the Sacred Myth:

The Child returns, reborn, restarts the story.

That’s the essence of the Ouroboros Cycle.

(You are too concerned with making it a story.) (A30)

The rebirth of the Divine Child (whether Dionysos or Persephone) starts a new cycle. This the Ouroboros Cycle: the Cosmic Serpent consuming itself, fertilizing and giving birth to Itself, which the Goddess alluded to earlier in Her narration (A2, A9). She chides me for falling into the error of thinking of the Myth as a linear story rather than an eternal cycle. She continues:

The child, like all initiates, is reborn from fire.

That’s what initiation means.

He sees the light of day for the first time like a baby.

Earth hands Him to Me, and I nurture Him.

So I, a nurturing mother, care for all initiates,

as I tried to care for young Demóphoön. (A31)

The Maiden is reborn through Her union with Hades, ruler of the Central Fire, and is led up out of the Earth by Hekate, also associated with Fire (Opsopaus 1998, “Fire”). Likewise, Dionysos is reborn in fire when Semele (also called Huź) is incinerated by Zeus’s fiery brilliance. The Fire brings about the illumination of the Reborn One. (See Opsopaus 2012 for the Alchemical Rotation: Earth through Fire leading to rebirth in Air.) As initiates, we follow the lead of the Mother, and She cares for us as spiritual newborns. I asked Her the meaning of the Demophoön episode.

It shows how foolishness aborts the process.

It shows the necessity of surrender —

both the initiate-child’s and the mother’s.

We must let go of the old. That is the lesson.

We must die to it to earn new life.

Korź’s death was painful, but chosen willingly.

Christ’s too, who knew the initiation process,

but he didn’t know the fire and water. (A32)

I think this passage speaks for itself. The Christian version is lopsided, unbalanced, for it doesn’t unify the opposites.

VII.     Initiator and Mediator

As I reached the limits of my ability to sustain the sustasis, I asked the Goddess what else was important to say about the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Only this.

The Daughter must return, which is Her destiny,

part of the cycle. She is the cycle,

a wheel — yes — but a wheel in life,

everlasting life. The vision shows the wheel.

Like a flock of birds, the vision is of life en masse. (A33a)

That is, the Daughter teaches us the universal cycle of life, not just the agricultural cycle, which is only one aspect of the greater cycle. A flock of birds illustrates the idea in that it has a life and behavior of its own, largely independent of the individual birds in the flock, who may move within the flock, take the lead or be a follower, or even die and leave the flock, which goes on without them. Eternal life continues, independent of individual births and deaths, but sustained by them.

Ask My Daughter for the vision.

Open to Her and She will give it.

She is the Initiator.

I am just the Mediator. (A33b)

We follow the path of the Mother in order to be initiated by the Daughter. I expressed surprise at Her statement, since being a mediator seemed too small a role for Demeter, an Earth Goddess, but She explained that Her mediation is alchemical:

The Earth must be a Mediator, both

between the fire and water, and

between the Heavens and the Underworld. (A34a)

Earth mediates between fire and water because it is cool and dry; it has dryness in common with fire, which is warm and dry, and coolness in common with water, which is cool and moist. But Earth also resides between the Heavens above and the Underworld below. The Mother says of Her Daughter:

She is the Ghost, the Spirit, that must live inside.

Let Her come. I will show the way,

open the way, allowing Her to meet you.

You must both move, both meet in the middle,

in the fire and the water.

That is what you must do.

That is what we did after Hekáte

showed the way; we met in the middle. (A34b)

As Queen of the Underworld, She may be called a ghost, but a ghost who lives within the world, but also perhaps in us. The Mother shows us the way to the Maiden, who ascends from the Underworld to reveal the Mystery to us. The reunion of the Mother and the Daughter was arranged by torch-bearing Hekate, and Hermes, the preeminent boundary-crosser, Psychopomp, guide of souls to the Nether Regions, is there too. However, as fire symbolizes Hekate, perhaps water symbolizes Dionysos, for the Goddess continues:

Dionysos stays behind; He comes another time.

That is another mystery. Listen!

Each God must come in His own time. That is the rule.

Invite each when it is time. Don’t rush it.

Now is the time for Persephone and for Me.

It is right. Now is the time for Matter —

Mźtźr — it is overdue.

We will do this, bring it about.

That is all for now. I wish you well. (A34c)

This seems very important to me: each age has needs for particular Gods and Goddesses. While Dionysos must be honored as a God, and deserves our devotion, our relation with the Two Goddesses is more relevant now. This relevance is grounded in the importance of matter (derived from Mźtźr, Mother), that is, in the immanent divinity of Nature. I explore this in Section IX below.

This completed the first sustasis with the Goddess.

VIII.  Living on Earth

In a second theurgical operation the Goddess began by focusing on environmental issues. When I asked what I should write about, She replied:

You should focus on the Earth — the climate.

That is most important, for I am Gaia too.

I live in Her, beneath the soil.

This is My realm, and My daughter’s too.

This you know. (B1–2)

The Goddess explicitly identifies Herself with Gaia, which was implicit in the previous sustasis (A34a in Sec. VII above). I asked if She had an environmental message, and She answered:

The crops will fail unless the environment

is fixed. I’m suffocating. This must be fixed.

Too much air — of the wrong kind — can kill.

But you know all of this. (B6)

By “air of the wrong kind” I assume She means pollution or greenhouse gasses. I asked if there is a spiritual aspect to our environmental problems.

Is there a spiritual part? There always is!

For you must do the practices: restraint [in all things].

And this is the beginning. Spread the word. (B7)

Most of the ancient philosophies taught some form of restraint and simple living (e.g., Stoicism and Epicureanism). However, I objected that people in our culture will not listen, and in any case the message of restraint has been preached for many years.

The message of restraint was often pitched,

but now it’s different. Now it’s critical. (B8)

Now the life of Earth itself’s at stake.

Now it all just might collapse, and not

just humans. (B9)

I asked how this was possible, and She replied:

 [Collapse] by poisoning of everything. (B10)

I continued to express concern that writing about this would just sound like an environmental rant, and asked Her about the spiritual perspective.

People must talk to Me to learn My ways.

My ways are green, for sure, but they are also

deeply spiritual, and about rebirth. (B11)

This is an argument for theurgic communication with Demeter in general, but more specifically about the Eleusinian Mysteries, which are explored in the following sections.

IX.        Alchemical Rebirth

I asked the Goddess what to say about the Mysteries of the Mother and Daughter.

Rebirth is the key.

Rebirth of the Earth as well.

For that is how all humans will survive.

I taught the secrets at Eleusis. (B3)

That is, the Eleusinian Mysteries were concerned with the rebirth of the Earth, not just the rebirth of individuals, discussed above. I asked about the secrets and whether it would be permissible to tell them.

Not all of them.

I will tell you what you need to know.

For it’s about environment and crops.

For that is what you all now need to know. (B4a)

That is, I think, the relevant information has to do with the agricultural cycle and the turning of the seasons (the most superficial meaning of the Eleusinian Mysteries).

The crops — they are My children — the father is

Triptolemos: a secret you can tell.

We’re in the field, and we give birth to crops.

For also We are Iason and Myself. (B4b)

In the Homeric Hymn, after the Daughter is returned to the Mother, and They are reconciled to the New Order, Demeter teaches Her rites and mysteries to Triptolemos, who made them available to all mortals. His name means Triple-warrior (Kerényi, p. 126; see also Sec. X below). She goes on to identify him with Iason (Iasion), with whom She mated in the thrice-plowed field, according to Cretan myth, for He is the Great Hunter Zagreus, the Dark Lord who captures all mortals just as He seized the Maiden (Kerényi, p. 30). This suggests a union between the Earth Goddess and this Threefold Power.

We are the two who bring this all to pass —

alchemically. The birth of spirit — of life —

in matter, and materialized spirit too.

The Seed — the alchemical Egg — embodies this.

It is the Vessel of Birth.

This is what I showed in the Mysteries. (B4c)

The union of the Mother and the Dark Lord is a union of spirit or life with dark primordial matter, that is, spirit materialized (embodied) and matter spiritualized (animated), which is the alchemical Coniunctio Oppositorum. This mystical union takes place in the Alchemical Egg, which is the Seed, both literally and figuratively.

My daughter showed these Mysteries with me,

for She is Soror Mystica as well.

We are both one, and two sides of the coin;

and as you know Hekáte makes the third.

She does the Magic making it all work.

For She’s the Artificer! That’s Her role.

What more? (B4d)

The Soror Mystica is the female partner of the male Alchemist. The Great Work cannot be accomplished without their close collaboration, and their union on the physical level mirrors and foreshadows the union on the spiritual level of the complementary Elements or Principles. By calling Her Artificer and connecting Her with Magic, Demeter reminds us that Hekate is a Witch, whose magic enables the alchemical operation. The Daughter, Mother, and Witch (or Crone) are a trinity.

I asked the Goddess what people should do with this information.

They can have a practice of their own:

to do themselves the alchemy of Nature, 

see the spirit hid in matter and

materialize the spirit, for this means

that all is living and must be seen this way. (B5)

I asked Her to be more specific, and She offered this exercise (see also Sec. XII):

Get down to the earth. Look at it. Smell it.

See its life. It’s the living flesh,

which holds the Seed, the Vessel. Come to know it.

It may be dry, but it’s the Root of Growth,

the Medium, the Matrix, the Womb of Birth,

beginning small but then becoming large.

It’s My Rule, My Way.

This is the process of growth, and I am Growth.

This is My name too. (B13)

We have already seen the Seed as the Alchemical Egg (B4c), and will learn more of it in Section X. Here the focus is on the soil, which nurtures the rebirth taking place in the seed. Since She called Herself “Growth,” I asked if She meant that She is Φύσις (Phusis), which is the ancient Greek word for Nature, but comes from a root (phuô) that means to produce, to beget, to cause to grow. She answered:

Φύσις too: Growth and Nature. (B14)

Are You above us as the World Soul, I asked Her, or Nature here, or below the Earth?

I am everywhere: above, below, and here.

I am Growth wherever it takes place.

For that’s My Nature and My Name. (B15)

That is, She is a Threefold Power of Growth, ruling in the Three Realms, like Hekate.

X.           Seed and Fruit

I asked the Goddess how to explain the Seed.

The Seed is My teachings, My teachings about rebirth.

They are the Key, the Key to the Kingdom.

This is what you must say to them:

The wisdom of rebirth — of renewal —

environmental as well as personal.

Call upon them to become

green inside, become organic,

to become integral and functional,

assist the whole in its survival.

This is the Key — to survival. And thriving. (B12)

To rephrase, the key to both environmental and personal renewal is the teaching of the Goddess; this is the vessel by which we may be reborn more integrated and whole. We must become as the green, living kernel within the seed’s shell, so that through our individual rebirth we may facilitate cultural and environmental renewal.

I asked the Goddess to relate Her teachings back to the Eleusinian Mysteries.

My daughter is Rebirth. She is the means

of rebirth and She is the instrument.

She’s also Rebirth itself. She shows the Way.

As She goes, so may each of you go too. (B16a)

In one sense, the Mother shows the way, by Her seeking of the Maiden, but in another way, the Daughter is the model for us, for She descends into the Underworld and becomes the Bride of Death. She undergoes the alchemical rotation (Opsopaus 2012).

Then follow Her upon the Path to Hades.

Partake the Pomegranate. Then return.

For Putrefaction must precede Rebirth.

This is my lesson. I give birth to Her,

but She must go the Way, and do the Process.

That’s the way with all things that are born. (B16b)

One way of partaking the pomegranate is described in Section XII below. Putrefaction is the first stage in the alchemical Magnum Opus, for things must be reduced to Prime Matter before they can be reconstituted in a better form (to create the Lapis Philosophorum). (See Opsopaus 2012 for Persephone as the Lady of Dissolution.)

You too. For you have birth from Me; My daughter

leads the Way, away from the world of life,

to the World of Eternity and Shades,

but then She leads you back into this world. (B16c)

The Daughter makes this journey between the worlds, and by Her grace, we can too. What is the objective?

There are Fruits — for you — for everyone.

That’s what my gift of agriculture means.

Triptolemos is still the Child with Three

Powers who can bring this to fruition. (B16d)

They’re Life and Power and Intelligence. (B17)

Although these three are reminiscent of the Life-Being-Intellect triad of Neoplatonism, during the sustasis they reminded me of Plato’s tripartite soul, which might be interpreted as Life (the appetitive soul), Will (the spirited soul), and Intelligence (the rational soul), so I asked Her if by “Power” She meant Will.

Will’s part of it, but also the Potential

to be all things. Unmanifest Potential.

The Medium. Infinite Flexibility. The Malleable.

The Medium of Life and Intellect,

which give it Form. It is the Will to be changed —

to allow your self to be formed, to be informed,

to be transformed — by what’s outside of you.

Humility to be the Form of Higher

Powers that work through you. Thus you must

become an agent of the Goddess — of Me.

For know that you’re all subject to the Earth —

that is your Nature — born of Titanic Ash.

That is your Destiny. You’re the Dionysos —

the Son of God — continually reborn.

That’s human nature; you must actualize it,

make it real, fulfill your destiny.

It’s what the Mysteries teach, and show the Way. (B18)

It is clear from the foregoing that by “Power” the Goddess means something akin to Latin Poetentia and Greek Dunamis: that is, Potential, and in particular the infinite potential to be anything, as determined by Life and Intellect. This is Will in the sense that it is the willingness and also the intention to manifest the forms bestowed by Life and Intellect. She translates this from the metaphysical level to the personal level by saying that it is the humility to be an agent of the Gods, and in particular, of Her. This is indeed one of the powers of Triptolemos, for he was a willing agent of the Goddess, promulgating Her Mysteries. This is no weakness, but the power of realizing whatever is required by the Gods. As the Goddess explains, we are all semidivine, born of the Titans but also of the Gods. As Earth Goddess, She rules us through the Titanic Ash — the matter — of which we’re made. But, like Dionysos, we’re also descended from the Olympian Gods, and by living willingly our dual nature we fulfill our destinies.

XI.        Contemplation

I asked the Goddess what we should do in this age, when we no longer have the Eleusinian Mysteries.

The Mysteries can be created anew, but that

is a conversation for another time. (B19)

Here is what you all must do:

Study the Mysteries. Study My Myth. (B20)

I asked if She meant the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.

The Homeric Hymn and other versions.

See the hidden thread. For you will know it better

if you see it rather than if I tell it.

This is a prescription for rebirth,

but do not follow it too literally.

Don’t act it out. It’s not a play.

That’s not the best way. It’s interior.

The Way of the Gods. (B21a)

Read Homer and Hesiod: that is primary.

Homer and Hesiod knew the Mysteries. Wait,

and insight will come. That is enough for now. (B27)

To paraphrase, we should learn Her Mysteries by reading the ancient sources: Hesiod, Homer, and especially the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. But we should not read these literally, and instead seek the hidden prescription for rebirth. A dramatic reenactment of the myth is not what’s called for. Rather, we should seek a series of introspective, contemplative exercises based on the Myth and the Mystery. I think She is also telling us to be humble, and to be willing to wait for inspiration from the Goddess, which She will grant us when it fits Her purposes.

XII.     The Pomegranate Ritual

The Goddess offered this specific ritual:

Do this: Take a pomegranate. Eat it.

Imagine eating each seed as a life.

You're stocking up these many lives from Earth.

Repeat My name with each one that you eat.

Then think of Me and of My daughter too,

of the Eternal Bond between Us twain,

the Bond that never breaks. The Seed and the Fruit. (B21a)

As She said this I received an image of the two ends of a dumbbell shape.

We alternate, and that’s the Mystery.

We alternate in power, as you can too.

Above and below, living and dying. (B21b)

That is, as the Mother and Daughter are complements, and as They each mate their opposites, so we alternate between living while we live and dying before we die, alternately above the earth and below it, fully conscious in each state. The ritual continues:

When it’s eaten, contemplate Our Mystery.

Replay the Myth in your mind. Take each part.

Be sure to feel yourself as each of Us.

Not just Me and My daughter. Be Hekáte

too, and Hades, and the Sun, and Zeus,

but most especially be ye Dionysos,

as He is born of Chthonic Zeus and of

My daughter, only to be born again,

many times. This will be you as well. (B22)

In other words, after eating the pomegranate has transported you to a contemplative state, visualize the Eleusinian Myth, imagining yourself as one or the other of the characters, for they all have important roles to play. In this way you will get at its essence from all these sides. However, She has told us a key fact: the role of Dionysos is the most important one for us.

XIII.  Darkness

I asked the Goddess if She were referring to reincarnation at the end of B22 (Sec. XII).

This is a notion of reincarnation — true! —

but not as you conceive it — very different!

Your idea is much too egotistic.

The ego does not need to be reborn.

The ego is ephemeral — as it should be —

of a day — for it’s a Creature of Light. (B23a)

This will be a hard idea for many reincarnationists to accept: the ego is not reincarnated; it does not survive. In the end, all our individual memories, thoughts, and personality traits are of little importance, though we cling to them as our essence, what defines us as individuals. But they are Bios not Zôź (recall Sec. V), and only Zôź, the Life Force, is eternal; this is our eternal life, our immortality. Our egos are ephemeral, which literally means “of a day” (epi hźmera).

But learn: the Seed’s a Creature of the Dark.

The Seed must germinate within the Dark.

It later seeks the Light, but only when

the alchemy is done, and then it seeks

new Form, in order to be fruitful too.

Be fruitful now, I say, but be prepared

to give that up and rot within the Earth. (B23b)

I understand this to mean that the inmost kernel of the Life Force (the “Highest Flower of the Soul” in Neoplatonism, the “Golden Flower” of Chinese alchemy) must develop outside of the light of consciousness, hidden in the alchemical vessel, whence it will emerge transformed, the life-enhancing Stone of the Wise. But the first stage of alchemical transformation is putrefaction, the reduction to unformed matter, pure potentiality, and so She says that after we live upon the earth, we must rot within it. I asked Her if She were saying we should be buried rather than cremated.

That doesn’t matter. You’re being too literal.

The Earth — My Element — is cool and moist.

It’s nurturing. All things may transform in the Dark,

and in this Darkness is My Magic done.

Within the Dark all things dissolve, which means

they can re-form into a newer form —

a transformation, self-transcending change.

This is My Way: a germination in

the Earth, so you are able to ascend. (B24)

Traditionally, of course, the element Earth is cool and dry, so I think She is making a different point: that the Underworld is the realm of cool dissolution, of loss of form, which is the effect of the moist power (Opsopaus 2012, secs. III, V) and the precondition for the growth of new form. Obviously the seed germinates under the earth in the dark, but more importantly the dark Underworld is the place where magical and alchemical transformations can take place (Opsopaus 2012, sec. IX). The Dark-robed Goddess and the Unseen God reign there. I remarked that Her account was poetic, but not too specific.

Specific! That is all you ever want!

You must let the poetry sink in.

Read and contemplate. And memorize

some parts if you would learn the Mysteries.

For they cannot be told, but only lived!

For this is My Realm — the living Mystery. (B25a)

Here the Goddess expands on the practice that She described in B22 (Sec. XII above). We are to read, and reread, and remember the myths relevant to to the Eleusinian Mysteries, and in our contemplations we are to imagine ourselves in the roles of the various protagonists. By living the myths in our minds, we will come to understand them. She continued:

Indeed, this Mystery of Mine is why

I gave My daughter to the Underworld. (B25b)

To be sure I understood, I asked Her if She willed Her daughter’s descent.

Of course I willed it, for it had to be!

My daughter and I are one — two sides, two aspects.

I waited for Zeus in the Cave, became a Snake,

and He transformed into a Snake as well:

underworld souls that in the Underworld mate

engendering in mysterious ways a Child,

whether Persephone or Dionysos —

Daughter or Son — it doesn’t really matter;

We are all the same beneath the Symbols.

Our Names are Our Functions.

We have many things to do in this world. (B26)

Thus it seems that the underworld Mother and Father — Demeter and Zeus Chthonios — mate and give birth to the alchemical Child, either (or both) Persephone and Chthonic Dionysos. As She explained previously (A8, A10, Sec. III), the Gods emerge variously from The Ineffable One in order to accomplish Their various purposes, in this case to show us the way to eternal life by means of the Eleusinian Mysteries.


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[1] Published in Potnia: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Demeter, edited by Melitta Benu & Rebecca Buchanan, pp. 209–256. Neos Alexandria, 2014.