Secret Societies of All Ages - Charles Heckethorn

V. — Crata Repoa, Or Highest Degree of Egyptian Initiation

59. Preparation.—But there was a still higher degree into which Egyptian kings and priests only were initiated. It was known by the above title. Whoso wished to enter this degree had to be specially recommended by one of the initiated. This was usually done by the king himself introducing the aspirant to the priests. These first directed him from Heliopolis to the priests at Memphis; thence he was sent to Thebes; eventually he was circumcised; then he was forbidden to eat pulse or fish and to drink wine, though in the higher degrees leave to do so was occasionally granted. He was then left for several months together in a subterranean cave to his own reflections, which he was invited to write down. Afterwards he was led into a passage, supported by Hermes' pillars, on which were graven moral sentences he had to learn by heart. As soon as he knew them, the Thesmophorus, or introducer, came to him, carrying in his hand a stout whip, to keep away the profane from the gate through which the aspirant was to pass. He was blindfolded, and his hands tied with cords.

60. First Degree.—The candidate having been led to the "Gate of Men," the Thesmophorus touched the shoulder of a Portophorus, or apprentice, who guarded the gate, which latter thereupon knocked at the gate, which was opened. On the aspirant's entrance he was questioned on various matters by the Hierophant, after which he was led about the Birantha in an artificial storm of wind, rain, thunder and lightning, and if he showed no signs of fear, Monies, the expounder, explained the laws of the Grata Repoa, to which he had to give his assent. He was then led before the Hierophant, before whom he had to kneel down on his bare knees, and, with a sword pointed at his throat, had to vow fidelity and secrecy, calling sun, moon, and stars to witness. His eyes were then unbandaged, and he was placed between two spare pillars, called Betilies, where lay a ladder of seven steps, behind which were eight doors of different metals, of gradually increasing purity. The Hierophant then addressing those present as Mene Musae, or Children of the Work of Celestial Investigation, exhorted them to govern their passions, and fix their thoughts upon God. The candidate was then instructed that the ladder, whose steps he had to ascend, was the symbol of the wanderings of the soul; he was told the causes of wind, thunder, and lightning; he was also instructed in anatomy and medicine, in the symbolical language, and the ordinary hieroglyphic writing. The Hierophant further gave him the password by which the initiated recognised one another, and which was Amoun, signifying secrecy; and with it was given the grip, a cap shaped like a pyramid, and an apron called Xylon. Around his neck he wore a kind of collar, fitting closely to the chest. He wore no other clothes, and it was his duty to guard the Gate of Men, whenever it came to his turn.

61. Second Degree.—The Portophorus having given proofs of proficiency, he was, after a long fast, taken into a dark chamber, called Endimion, meaning an invitation grotto. He now was raised to the degree of Neocoris. Handsome women brought him dainty food; they were the wives of the priests, who endeavoured to excite his love. If he resisted the temptation, the Thesmophorus again visited, and, having catechised him, led him into the assembly, where the Stolista, or water-bearer, poured water over him. Then the Thesmophorus threw a living serpent on him, and drew it away again from under the apron. The whole room was, moreover, full of serpents, to test the courage of the Neocoris. He was then led to two high pillars, between which stood a griffin, driving a wheel before him. The pillars symbolised east and west, the griffin the sun, and the wheel with four spokes the four seasons. He was taught the use of the level, and instructed in geometry and architecture. He received a rod, entwined by serpents, and the password Heve, meaning serpent, and was told the story of the fall of man. The sign consisted in crossing the arms over the chest. His duty was to wash the pillars.

62. Third Degree, or The Gate of Death.—On being initiated into this degree, the Neocoris received the name of Melanophoris; he was led into an anteroom, over the entrance to which was written: "Gate of Death." The room itself was full of representations of embalmed bodies and coffins. And as it was the places where corpses were received, the Melanophoris here found the Paraskistes, or persons who dissected the bodies, and the Heroi, or persons who embalmed them, at their work. In the centre stood the coffin of Osiris. The Melanophoris was asked if he had had a hand in the assassination of his master. On his denying the question, he was seized by two Tapixeites, or men who buried the dead, and led into a hall, where he found all the other Melanophores clothed in black. The king himself, who always was present on these occasions, addressed him, in an apparently friendly way, begging him, if he did not feel courage enough to undergo the test now to be applied to him, to accept the golden crown he was offering him.

But the new Melanophoris had previously been instructed to reject the crown and tread it under his feet. The king immediately exclaimed, "Insult! Revenge!" and raising his sacrificial axe, slightly touched the head of the Melanophoris. The two Tapixeites cast the Melanophoris on the ground, and the Pariskistes wrapped him up in mummy bandages. All present wept. Then he was led to a gate, over which was written, "Sanctuary of the Spirits." On its being opened, thunder and lightning struck the apparently dead man. Charon received him, as a spirit, into his boat, and carried him to the judges of Hades. Pluto sat on his judgment seat, while Rhadamanthus and Minos, as well as thon, Nycreus, Alaster, and Orpheus stood beside him. Very severe questions were put to him as to his former life, and finally he was sentenced to remain in these subterranean vaults. The bandages were taken off, and he was instructed never to thirst after blood, never to leave a corpse unburied, and to believe in the resurrection of the dead and in a judgment to come. He had then to learn painting, to be able to decorate coffins; was taught a peculiar writing, called a hierogrammatical, and in which the records of Egypt, and works on cosmography and astronomy were written. The sign was a particular kind of embrace to express the power of Death. The words were "Monarch caron mini" (I count the days of wrath). He remained in these subterranean chambers till he showed himself worthy of a higher degree.

63. Fourth Degree, or the Battle of the Shades.—The days of wrath, lasting generally a year and a half, being over, the Thesmophorus came to the Melanophoris, asking him to follow him, and giving him at the same time a sword and a shield. They passed through dark passages, until they met certain persons, presenting a frightful appearance, carrying torches and serpents, and attacking them, whilst crying "Panis!" The Thesmophorus encouraged him to defend himself bravely. At last he was taken prisoner by them, his eyes were bandaged, and a cord was put round his neck. Then they dragged him to the hall, where he was to be initiated into a new degree, and the spectres or shades disappeared. He was led into the assembly, his eyes were unbandaged, and he beheld a magnificent hall, hung round with fine paintings. The king and the demiurgos, or highest officer, were present. All wore their Alydei, an Egyptian order (Truth), consisting of a figure formed of sapphires. Around them were seated the Stolistes, the Hierostolista, or secretary, the Zacoris, or treasurer, and the Komastis, or master of feats. The Odos, or orator, then made a speech, congratulating the Christophorus—his new name—on his resolution. He was then given a drink, called Cyce (probably the same as the [*], a drink mixed of gruel, water, wine, milk, or honey), which he had to drink to the dregs. Then he was given the shield of Isis. He put on the boots of Anubis, and the cloak and cap of Orcus. He received a sword, with which he was to cut off the head of the person he was to meet in a cave, and to bring it to the king. Every member exclaimed, "Niobe, there is the cave of the enemy!"

In the cave there was an exceedingly beautiful woman, who seemed to be alive, but was artificially formed of fine skins. The Christophorus had to seize her by the hair, and cut off her head, which he brought to the king, who praised him for his daring, and said he had cut off the head of the Gorgon, the wife of Typhon, who had been the cause of the death of Osiris. He received permission always to wear the dress which had been given to him, and his name was entered in a book as one of the judges of the land. He could freely communicate with the king, and received his daily board from the court. He also was invested with an order, which, however, he could only wear at the initiation of a Christophorus, and which represented Isis in the shape of an owl. He was further told that the name of the great lawgiver was Joa, which was also the password. The Christophori held chapters called Pyxon, at which the password was Sasychis, the name of an ancient Egyptian priest. He had to study the Ammonite language, the secret language, because he was now very near acquiring the whole secret.

64. Fifth Degree: Balahate.—The Christophorus was entitled to this degree: it could not be refused him. He was led into a hall, where a theatrical representation took place, at which he was the only spectator. A Balahate, styled Orus, with other balahates, all carrying torches, went about the hall, as if seeking something. After a while Orus drew his sword. Typhon was seen sitting in a cave, surrounded with flames. Orus approached Typhon, who rose up; he had a hundred heads, and his body was covered with scales, and his arms were of extraordinary length. Nevertheless, Orus slew him. The new Balahate was then told that Typhon signified fire, one of the most terrible elements, without which, however, nothing could be done on earth. The password in this degree was Chymia, the instruction being in chemistry.

65. Sixth Degree: Astronomers at the Gate of the Gods.—The candidate, on entering the hall of assembly, was bound with cords or chains. The Thesmophorus then led him back to the Gate of Death, which had many steps, leading to a cave full of water. There he saw many corpses of traitors to the society. He was threatened with the same fate, and led back to take a fresh oath. He was then instructed in astronomy, and warned against astrology and horoscopy, which were detested as the sources of all idolatry and superstition. The professors of these false sciences had for their password the word Phoenix, at which the astronomers laughed. He was then conducted to the Gate of the Gods, which was opened, and he beheld all the gods painted on the walls. The Demiurgos told him their history, and showed him a list of all their members, scattered over the whole world. He was taught a priestly dance, symbolising the courses of the heavenly bodies. The word was Ibis, the symbol of watchfulness.

66. Seventh Degree: Propheta.—The last and highest degree, in which all the secrets were revealed. It could not be conferred without the consent of the king and of all the higher members of the order. Public processions were held, called Pamylach, the circumcision of Osiris, i.e., of the tongue. When these were over, the members secretly left the city at night, and retired to some houses built in a square, and surrounded by pillars, by the sides of which were placed alternately a shield and a coffin, whose rooms were painted with representations of human life. These houses were called maneras, for the people believed them to be visited by the manes of departed men. On their arrival at these houses, the new member, now called prophet, or Saphenath Pancah, i.e., a man who knows the secrets, was given a drink, called oimellas (probably consisting of wine and honey), and told that now all trials were over. He received a cross of peculiar significance, which he was always to wear. He was clothed in a wide, white-striped dress, called etangi. His head was shaved; he wore a square cap. The usual sign was crossing his arms in his wide sleeves. He could peruse all the sacred books written in the Ammonite language, to which he had the key, which was called the Eoyal Beam. His greatest privilege was his having a vote in the election of a king. The password was Adon.

67. Concluding Remarks.—Such is the fanciful account of the Grata Eepoa. I confess my ignorance of the meaning of these two mysterious words. The order itself seems not to have been known before the year 1785, when the account the reader has just been perusing was published in a German pamphlet of 32 pages (30 pages text) in 12mo, with no name of place or printer. Ragon, who gives a French translation of the above in his "Franc-Maonnerie: Eituel du grade de Maitre," Paris, N.D., calls his translation an extract from a pamphlet of 114 pages in 8vo, taken from a large German MS. by Brother Koppen, with an interlinear translation into French, which was purchased by Brother Antoine Boilleul, and in 1821 edited by Brother Ragon. But as Ragon's translation agrees word for word with the German pamphlet, published in 1785, the German MS. by Brother Koppen was either the original composition or a copy of it. Ragon supposes the Grata Eepoa to be a concoction by learned Germans of all that is to be found in ancient writers on initiations. And the authorities on which the statements in the German pamphlet of 1785 are founded are given therein, and are: Porphyry, Herodotus, Iamblichus, Apuleius, Cicero, Plutarch, Eusebius, Arnobius, Diodorus Siculus, Tertullian, Heliodorus, Lucian, Rufinus, and some others.