Greek mysteries

From Anthroposophy

The Greek Mystery School tradition includes the mysteries of

  • Ephesian Mysteries of Artemis
  • Eleusian Mysteries
  • Chthonic mysteries
  • Samothracian mysteries (Kabiri)


  • important personalities

Orphic Mysteries

  • see: Orpheus
  • ancient Greek mysteries of Orpheus: see 1910-12-27-GA126
    • pupils of these Mysteries had to live through in their own soul what is described in the myth of Dionysos Zagreus, who was dismembered by the Titans but whose body was carried away by Zeus into a higher life. A pupil of the Orphic Mysteries had to develop the inner strength of soul which would enable him, re-established as a self-based individuality, to triumph over the disintegration of his being in the external world. When all this had become an actual human experience, it represented in a certain sense one of the very highest secrets of Initiation. And many pupils of the Orphic Mysteries had undergone such experiences, had lived through this disintegration in the world and, as a kind of preparation for Christianity, had therewith attained the highest experience within reach in pre-Christian times.
  • an Individuality who had been both a pupil and teacher of these Orphic Mysteries was later reborn in Alexandria as Hypathia
    • the Individuality of Hypathia <-> Marie Steiner [KRI59]
    • a famous pupil of this Individuality in the earlier incarnation in the Orphic Mysteries is Pherecydes of Syros (also: Pherekydes) (ca 580-520 BC, teacher of Pythagoras).

Ephesian Mysteries of Artemis

Eleusian Mysteries

  • wikipedia: see Eleusinian Mysteries for background, and info on location and site at Eleusis
  • Eduard Schuré published 'Le drame sacré d'Eleusis' (1890 in FR in EN as 'The Mysteries Of Eleusis'), which was staged by Steiner at the Munich congress of the Theosophical Society in 1907.

Chthonic mysteries

  • wikipedia: Chthonic, in Greek; "in, under, or beneath the Earth", literally means "subterranean", but the word in English describes deities or spirits of the underworld in the ancient Greek religion; and refers to the manner and method of offering sacrifices to a specific deity or deities such as for example Persephone and Hades in classical mythology.

Samothracian mysteries (Kabiri)

  • evocation rituals
    • Northern Greek Mysteries, which placed three symbolic vessels on the altar before the pupil which were used for evocation of three deities representing the realities of Mercury, Mars and the Sun (Apollo). The evocation was done by uttering words in the incense smoke from the three vessels. Through speech, the priestly magician was able to swrite certain signs in the sacrificial smoke and these uttered the secrets of the universe. Thereby he felt his expiration as an organ of touch: he felt the smoke taking form and therein he felt these great Gods, the Kabiri, streaming towards him. He grasped the curves and angles that the smoke took through something that came from outside to the expiration of breath. (see Schema FMC00.351 and references 1923-12-21-GA232 and 1924-09-05-GA346).
  • location
    • see Schema FMC00.307
    • wikipedia: see Samothrace temple complex for map and pictures of the important religious temple on the Greek isle of Samothrace
  • Kabiri or Cabeiri
    • The Kabiri or Cabeiri are a term for Man's bodily principles. The first three being the physical, etheric, and astral bodies. The fourth 'I' was not developed at the time of the Samothracian mysteries. The three Cabeiri still to come are the spirit-self, life-spirit and spirit-man. (1919-01-25-GA188).
    • ancient greek names of four Cabeiri are given as Axieros, Axiokersos, Axiokersa, and Kadmillos (1915-10-10-GA254). In the Greek Mysteries, there were four Cabeiri and "three of them kill the fourth": Man's lower three bodily principles are transient and mortal in the sense they are dispersed after physical death in the journey between death and a new birth. If the I does not take part in the spiritual, it is killed and drawn into mortality by the three others (1921-06-28-GA205)
    • wikipedia: the Cabeiri or Cabiri (also transliterated Kabeiri or Kabiri), were a group of enigmatic chthonic deities. They were worshipped in a mystery cult closely associated with that of Hephaestus, centered in the north Aegean islands of Lemnos and possibly Samothrace, at the Samothrace temple complex, and at Thebes.

Mysteries of Apollo and Dionysos

  • see 1909-08-28-GA113
  • Dionysian Mysteries: see 1911-08-24-GA129


Schema FMC00.307 positions the Greek Mysteries and various ancient sites


Schema FMC00.351 is a drawing by Rudolf Steiner sketching the evocation of the kabiri deities in Samothracian mysteries (see 1923-12-21-GA232, also see 1924-09-05-GA346)


Lecture coverage and references

Coverage overview

The cycle 1923-12-GA233

  • Ephesian Mysteries of Artemis (1923-11-30-GA233?, 1923-12-02-GA323 also 1923-12-02-GA323)
    • extra on Mysteries Ephese in 1923-12-28-GA233
  • Mysteries of the Samothracian Kabiri (1923-12-21-GA232) - these are also covered in 1924-09-05-GA346
  • Chthonic and Eleusinian Mysteries (1923-12-14-GA323)

further also

Reference lecture extracts

Blavatsky - Secret Doctrine

the Kabiri (link are described in as a generic term for the gods or pitris that were the rulers and instructors of the primeval races, the benefactors of men that gave the very early impulses to civilizations.


see extract on: Archangel Michael#1909-08-28-GA113

.. we find a region of Postatlantean civilisation where those two kinds of mysteries existed contemporaneously:

  • a region where on the one side the so-called Apollonian culture and mysteries were developed,
  • and on the other the culture and mysteries of Dionysos.

There again we have a projection on the physical plane of earlier, more spiritual conditions. In the Orphic Mysteries of ancient Greece there was a wonderful personality, one who was initiated in the Mystery-secrets and was among the most loveable, most interesting pupils of these Mysteries, well prepared by a certain Celtic occult training undergone in earlier incarnations. This individuality sought with deepest fervour for the secrets of the Orphic Mysteries.

The pupils of these Mysteries had to live through in their own soul what is described in the myth of Dionysos Zagreus, who was dismembered by the Titans but whose body was carried away by Zeus into a higher life. How, as the result of a certain path taken in the Mysteries, man's life is surrendered to the outer world, how his whole being is torn in pieces so that he can no longer find his bearings within himself — this was to become an actual, individual experience in the pupils of the Orphic Mysteries.

[Orphic Mysteries]

When in the ordinary way we study animals, plants and minerals, what we learn is merely abstract knowledge because we remain outside them; but anyone who wishes to obtain knowledge in the occult sense must train himself to feel as if he were actually within the animals, plants and minerals, in air and water, in springs and mountains, in stones and stars, in other human beings — as if he were one with them all. Nevertheless, a pupil of the Orphic Mysteries had to develop the inner strength of soul which would enable him, re-established as a self-based individuality, to triumph over the disintegration of his being in the external world. When all this had become an actual human experience, it represented in a certain sense one of the very highest secrets of Initiation. And many pupils of the Orphic Mysteries had undergone such experiences, had lived through this disintegration in the world and, as a kind of preparation for Christianity, had therewith attained the highest experience within reach in pre-Christian times.

Among the pupils of the Orphic Mysteries was the loveable personality of whom I am speaking, whose earthly name has not come down to posterity, but who stands out clearly as a pupil of these Mysteries. Already in youth and then for many years, this person was closely connected with all the Greek Orphics during the period preceding that of Greek philosophy — a period of which no account is given in books an the history of philosophy. For what is recorded of Thales and Heraclitus is an echo of what the Mystery-pupils had accomplished in their way at an earlier period. And one of the pupils of the Orphic Mysteries was the individual of whom I have just spoken, whose pupil in turn was Pherecydes of Syros, referred to in the lecture-course given at Munich last year: The East in the light of the West

Investigation of the Akasha Chronicle reveals that the individuality of that pupil of the Orphic Mysteries was reincarnated in the 4th century A.D. We find this individuality amid the activity and life of those gathered together in Alexandria, the Orphic secrets now transformed into personal experiences of the loftiest kind. It is very remarkable how all the Orphic secrets were transformed into personal experiences in this new incarnation. At the end of the 4th century, A.D., we find this individuality reborn as the daughter of a great mathematician, Theon. We see how there flashes up in her soul all that could be experienced of the Orphic Mysteries through vision of the great mathematical, light-woven texture of the universe. All this was now personal talent, personal genius. These faculties had now to be of so personal a character that it was necessary even for this individuality to have a mathematician as father in order that something might be received from heredity.

Thus we look back to times when man was still in living connection with the spiritual worlds, as was this Orphic pupil; and we see the shadow-image of this pupil among those who taught in Alexandria at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century A.D. This individuality had as yet experienced nothing that enabled men at that time to see beyond the shadow-sides of Christianity at its beginning. For all that had remained in this soul as an echo of the Orphic Mysteries was still too powerful to enable any Illumination to be received from that other Light, the new Christ Event. What arose round about as Christianity, represented by men of the type of Theophilus and Cyril, was in truth of such a nature that this Orphic individuality, working now with personal faculties, had things far greater, far richer in wisdom to say and to give than those who represented Christianity in Alexandria at that time.

Theophilus and Cyril were both filled with the deepest hatred of everything that was not Christian in the narrow ecclesiastical sense in which these two bishops, in particular, understood it. Christianity had assumed in them such an entirely personal character that these two patriarchs levied hirelings in their service; men were collected from far and near to form bodyguards for them. Their aim was power in its most personal sense. They were utterly obsessed by hatred of what originated in ancient times and yet was so much greater than the new that was appearing in caricatured shape. The deepest hatred was directed by the dignitaries of Christianity in Alexandria against the individuality of the reborn Orphic pupil. The fact that she was branded as a black magician will not therefore surprise us. But that was enough to incite the whole mob of hirelings against the noble, unique figure of the reborn pupil of the Orphic Mysteries. She was still young, but in spite of her youth, in spite of the fact that she was obliged to undergo much that in those days, too, imposed great hardships an a woman during a long period of study, she found her way upwards to the light that outshone all the wisdom, all the knowledge existing in those days. And it was wonderful how in the lecture halls of Hypatia — for such was the name of this reincarnated Orphic pupil — the purest, most luminous wisdom in Alexandria was presented to the enraptured listeners. She drew to her feet not only the Pagans, bat also Christians of deep and penetrating insight, such as Synesius. She was an influence of outstanding significance, and the revival of the old Pagan wisdom of Orpheus transformed into personality could be experienced in Alexandria in the figure of Hypatia.

World-karma was working in the truest sense symbolically. What had constituted the secret of her Initiation was now projected, mirrored, on the physical plane. And here we come to an event that is symbolically significant in the case of many things that have taken place in historical times. We come to one of those events that is seemingly only a martyrdom, but is in reality a symbol in which spiritual forces, spiritual intimations are coming to expression.

On a day in March in the year 415 A.D., Hypatia fell victim to the fury of these who formed the entourage of the patriarch of Alexandria.

[in DE: Der Wut derer, die um den Erzbischof von Alexandrien waren, verfiel an einem Märztage des Jahres 415 Hypatia. See below on the Indivividuality of that bishop]

They resolved to rid themselves of her power, of her spiritual power. The utterly uncivilised, wild hordes were rushed in from the environs of Alexandria as well, and the chaste young sage was fetched away under false pretences. She mounted the chariot, and at a given sign the enflamed rabble fell upon her, tore off her clothing, dragged her into a church, and literally tore the flesh from her bones. The fragments of her body were then scattered around the city by these hordes, completely dehumanised by their rapacious passions. Such was the fate of the great woman philosopher, Hypatia.

Symbolically, so to say, there is indicated here something that is deeply connected with the founding of Alexandria by Alexander the Great — although it happened a long time after the actual founding of the city. In this event, important secrets of the 4th Post-Atlantean epoch are reflected. This epoch, destined as it was to represent the dissolution, the sweeping-away, of the old, contained so much that was great and significant, and with paradoxical grandeur placed before the world a most pregnant symbol in the slaughter — one can call it nothing else — of Hypatia, the outstanding woman at the turn of the 4th-5th centuries of our era.

Po2 (sourced from anthrolexus)

edition 1994, p 564:

Fra Bartolomeo di San Marco war ja auch ein bedeutender Dichter-Maler, der die Schule des Giotto fortführte und der jene Individualität ist, die damals in Alexandrien erstmalig abendländisches Gebiet betrat und jener Bischof war, der Hypatia töten ließ. Er kam aus mexikanischen Mysterienzusammenhängen und spielte eine große Rolle im Geschehen, das sich wie ein Gegenbild zu den Mysterien von Golgatha verhält. Auch dieser Strom mußte von uns aufgenommen werden und ist wie die Erdenbasis des Geistdreieckes im Pentagramm.

internet translation

Fra Bartolomeo di San Marco was also an important poet-painter who continued the school of Giotto and who is the individuality who first entered Western territory in Alexandria and was the bishop who had Hypatia killed.

He came from Mexican mystery contexts and played a major role in what is happened in this antithesis to the Mysteries of Golgotha.

This current also had to be absorbed by us and is like the earthly base of the spirit triangle in the pentagram.


covers 'The Dionysian Mysteries'

1914-GA018 Part 1 - Ch 2.

is called: 'The World Conception of the Greek Thinkers'

Pherekydes also speaks of three principles of the world: Of Chronos, of Zeus and of Chthon.

see also: Three mothers#1914-GA018 Part 1 - Ch 2.

In the civilizations of the different peoples this transition from the old picture-consciousness to the consciousness of thought experience took place at different times. In Greece we can intimately observe this transition if we focus our attention on the personality of Pherekydes of Syros. He lived in a world in which picture-consciousness and thought experience still had an equal share. His three principal ideas — Zeus, Chronos and Chthon — can only be understood in such a way that the soul, in experiencing them, feels itself as belonging to the events of the external world. We are dealing here with three inwardly experienced pictures and we find access to them only when we do not allow ourselves to be distracted by anything that the thought habits of our time are likely to imagine as their meaning.

Chronos is not time as we think of it today. Chronos is a being that in contemporary language can be called “spiritual” if one keeps in mind that one does not thereby exhaust its meaning. Chronos is alive and its activity is the devouring, the consumption of the life of another being, Chthon. Chronos rules in nature; Chronos rules in man; in nature and man Chronos consumes Chthon. It is of no importance whether one considers the consumption of Chthon through Chronos as inwardly experienced or as external events, for in both realms the same process goes on. Zeus is connected with these two beings. In the meaning of Pherekydes one must no more think of Zeus as a deity in the sense of our present day conception of mythology, than as of mere “space” in its present sense, although he is the being through whom the events that go on between Chronos and Chthon are transformed into spatial, extended form.

The cooperation of Chronos, Chthon and Zeus is felt directly as a picture content in the sense of Pherekydes, just as much as one is aware of the idea that one is eating, but it is also experienced as something in the external world, like the conception of the colors blue or red. This experience can be imagined in the following way. We turn our attention to fire as it consumes its fuel. Chronos lives in the activity of fire, of warmth. Whoever regards fire in its activity and keeps himself under the effect, not of independent thought but of image content, looks at Chronos. In the activity of fire, not in the sensually perceived fire, he experiences time simultaneously. Another conception of time does not exist before the birth of thought. What is called “time” in our present age is an idea that has been developed only in the age of intellectual world conception.

If we turn our attention to water, not as it is as water but as it changes into air or vapor, or to clouds that are in the process of dissolving, we experience as an image content the force of Zeus, the spatially active “spreader.” One could also say, the force of centrifugal extension. If we look on water as it becomes solid, or on the solid as it changes into fluid, we are watching Chthon. Chthon is something that later in the age of thought-ruled world conception becomes “matter,” the stuff “things are made of”; Zeus has become “ether” or “space,” Chronos changes into “time.”

In the view of Pherekydes the world is constituted through the cooperation of these three principles. Through the combination of their action the material world of sense perception — fire, air, water and earth — come into being on the one hand, and on the other, a certain number of invisible supersensible spirit beings who animate the four material worlds.

Zeus, Chronos and Chthon could be referred to as “spirit, soul and matter,” but their significance is only approximated by these terms. It is only through the fusion of these three original beings that the more material realms of the world of fire, air, water and earth, and the more soul-like and spirit-like (supersensible) beings come into existence. Using expressions of later world conceptions, one can call Zeus, space-ether; Chronos, time-creator; Chthon, matter-producer — the three “mothers of the world's origin.”

We can still catch a glimpse of them in Goethe's Faust, in the scene of the second part where Faust sets out on his journey to the “mothers.”

As these three primordial entities appear in Pherekydes, they remind us of conceptions of predecessors of this personality, the so-called Orphics.

[in DE: So wie bei Pherekydes diese drei Urwesen auftreten, weisen sie zurück auf Vorstellungen bei Vorgängern dieser Persönlichkeit, auf die sogenannten Orphiker.]

They represent a mode of conception that still lives completely in the old form of picture consciousness. In them we also find three original beings: Zeus, Chronos and Chaos. Compared to these “primeval mothers,” those of Pherekydes are somewhat less picture-like. This is so because Pherekydes attempts to seize, through the exertion of thought, what his Orphic predecessors still held completely as image-experience. For this reason we can say that he appears as a personality in whom the “birth of thought life” takes place. This is expressed not so much in the more thought-like conception of the Orphic ideas of Pherekydes, as in a certain dominating mood of his soul, which we later find again in several of his philosophizing successors in Greece. For Pherekydes feels that he is forced to see the origin of things in the “good” (Arizon). He could not combine this concept with the “world of mythological deities” of ancient times. The beings of this world had soul qualities that were not in agreement with this concept. Into his three “original causes” Pherekydes could only think the concept of the “good,” the perfect.


names of four Cabeiri are given as Axieros, Axiokersos, Axiokersa, and Kadmillos.



In Goethe's Faust, the Nereids and Tritons rush off to bring the Kabiri, which the Sirens comment on in this way:

Away they go in a flash! Straight to Samothrace, Gone with a fair wind.

What do they think to accomplish. In the realm of the high Kabiri?

Are gods! wondrously their own, Who are always making themselves, And never know what they are.

.. this is what the sirens say about the Kabiri.

Perhaps this is the easiest way to get close to the overall condition of these Kabiri, if you think of the passage in the Bible where it speaks of the Elohim, who actually only see after they have created their day's work that it was good, or actually, as it says there, that it was beautiful. Of course, it is somewhat difficult for humans to understand, because gods - the Kabiri - precisely those we are talking about here, do not have such a consciousness as humans or as certain later gods. The Kabiri are gods of first emergence, and they are absorbed in this emergence. Therefore, they are far too alive to have a fully developed consciousness. They also belong together in this respect.

There are four such Kabiri gods in Samothrace. Actually there are eight, but for Samothrace itself only the four come into consideration.

.. one may say, "Wondrously peculiar, who continually produce themselves, and never know what they are."

This can already be said of the three, of the three main gods who are the gods of generation: Axieros, Axiokersos and Axiokersa. Of them it can already be said that they do not know what they are. But as little as these three together know what they are, so well does the fourth know for the three.

So, if you think that Man consists of a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body and an I, and that the I 'performs consciousness', you must think that these Kabiri are four. Whereas in Man these four members hold together, these Kabiri are four separate beings.

And Axieros is the physical body, Axiokersos is the etheric body, Axiokersa is the astral body; so they have no consciousness. Kadmilos, on the other hand, who corresponds to the I, thinks for all three.

So that is the peculiarity of these gods, that the fourth is actually their consciousness at the same time. If you take the cycle where I spoke of the Elohim, it is also similar in that the seventh actually thinks for the six.


After a scene from Faust, the Cabeiri are explained as Man's bodily principles. The first three being the physical, etheric, and astral bodies. The fourth 'I' was not developed at the time of the Samothracian mysteries. The three Cabeiri still to come are the spirit-self, life-spirit and spirit-man.


explains that there are four Cabeiri and three of them kill the fourth, meaning that Man's lower three bodily principles are transient and mortal in the sense they are dispersed after physical death in the journey between death and a new birth. If the I does not take part in the spiritual, it is killed and drawn into mortality by the three others.

As an illustration of this, see also the 'state of avichi' on Eight sphere for an explanation of an illustrative case where this happens. In general, see also Human 'I' and Man's higher triad for schemas that show how the true spiritual Individuality starts with the spirit-self (also called 'causal body' or book of lives).



Let us recall the Samothracian mysteries to which Goethe alludes in the second part of his Faust, where he speaks of the Kabiri.

I tried to find out by visualisation what the Kabiri must have looked like within the Samothracian mysteries. And .. I got three jars, but jars with a plastic-artistic design. At first I was surprised myself, though Goethe also speaks of jars.

The matter only became clear to me when I realised that these jars stood on an altar, something similar to incense was brought into them, the sacrificial word was chanted, and from the power of the sacrificial word (which in ancient times still had a completely different vibration-generating power than today), the sacrificial smoke formed itself into the image of the divinity that was sought.


is on the mysteries of the Samothracian kabiri

Then after a majestic impulse was awakened in the pupils of the Northern Greek Mysteries through his gaze having been first directed towards the planetary orbits themselves, it was then deepened, in a human sense, so that his vision was taken possession of as it were by the heart; and he learnt to see psychically, with the soul.

  • Then the pupil understood why on the altar there were placed before him three symbolic vessels, pitchers. We once made use of a copy of these vessels here in an Eurhythmy presentation of Faust, and as you saw these three vessels, so they were seen in the Samothracian Mysteries, the Northern Greek Mysteries; but the essential thing was that through these vessels, these pitchers, in their whole symbolic form, a sacrificial ritual, a ritual of consecration took place.
  • A kind of incense was put into these three vessels, which was then kindled, and when the smoke poured out, three words of which we shall speak further tomorrow were uttered with mantric power by the celebrant. These words were uttered into the smoke which rose up above the vessels, and then there appeared the forms of the three Kabiri. They appeared because the human breath breathed out through the mantric words, fashioned itself, and then imparted its form to the rising smoke, the incense arising from the substance which was incorporated into these symbolic vessels.
  • While the pupil learnt to read in this way what was written in the smoke by his, own breathing, he learnt to read, at the same time, what the mysterious planets spoke to him from out of the great universe. Now he knew that the form assumed by the first of the Kabiri through the mantric word and its power represented the reality behind Mercury; in the form assumed by the second Kabiri he learnt the reality of Mars; and in that of the third Kabiri he learnt the reality of Apollo, the Sun.

Now when you look at those fashion-plate figures (and you must pardon me for using this strong expression) which are unfortunately mostly to be seen in picture galleries of the later Greek sculpture, and which are greatly valued because people have no idea from what these forms have arisen — if one considers these fashion-plate figures of Apollo, Mars and Mercury, one should look at them with, as it were, the gaze of Goethe, that gaze which Goethe applied during his Italian journey in order, through these fashion-plate forms, to get some idea of what Greek art really was in its freshness, that Greek art which was destroyed with so much else during the first few centuries after the foundation of Christianity. If one is able as it were to look through those later Greek plastic forms, which in one sense are rightly valued because they are signposts, but which being simply descendants from what lived before, should not be considered great — if one looks back to that from which they came, one sees that in the older Greek Art, copies were made of sacrificial revelations, revelations which arose in a much earlier epoch in a much more majestic and mighty way than we find them later in Samothrace, in these Mysteries of the Kabiri. One looks back to those times in which the mantric word was uttered into the sacrificial smoke, and the true form of Apollo, of Mars and of Mercury then appeared.

Those were times in which Man did not say abstractly: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and a God was the Word;” those were times when man could say something else, when he could say:

My out-breathing fashions itself, it takes form; and while this expiration takes form in a regular way, it reveals itself as an image of cosmic creation, because it creates for me from the sacrificial smoke forms which for me are a living script, a living writing; and this writing reveals to me what the planetary worlds desire to say to me.”

When the pupil of the Kabiri Mysteries in Samothrace approached the portals of these temples of initiation, then, because of the instruction he had gone through, he had this feeling: “Now at last I am entering something which reveals to me the magical deeds of the sacrificial Father;” for in these Mysteries the initiating Celebrant was called “Father.”

What did the magical powers of this celebrant Father reveal to the pupil?

Through that which the Gods laid down in Man (i.e. the power of speech) this priestly magician and sage, this Hierophant, was able to write certain signs in the sacrificial smoke) certain characteristics; and these uttered the secrets of the universe. Therefore the pupil, when he approached the temple of initiation, could say in his heart: “I am now entering something which reveals to me a mighty spirit, the great Gods, those great Gods who through these sacrificial rites, reveal on the earth the secrets of the cosmos.” That was a speech which was there spoken, a writing which was there written, which truly did not appeal to the intellect of Man, but which made a claim on the whole being of Man.

In the Samothracian Mysteries there still existed something of a knowledge which today has quite disappeared. Man is today capable of saying, with truth, what a quartz crystal feels like, what a hair feels like, what the human skin feels like, what the skin of an animal feels like, what silk or velvet feel like. Man is today capable of that. He can realize all these things vividly in his feeling.

In the Samothracian Mysteries something else existed by means of which Man could realize with truth how the Gods could be felt. For the sense of touch in these ancient times was still such that Man was capable of feeling, of contacting the Gods. The most marvelous thing is really the following, and one has to go back to these ancient times if one ventures to say that man could assert with truth: “I know through my finger tips how the Gods contact one another.”

In these Samothracian Mysteries there existed another method by which one could touch, contact the Gods, and this consisted in the following.

While the priestly magician spoke into this sacrificial smoke the mantric words, while he caused these words to resound forth in his expiration, he felt in his outgoing breath just as Man usually feels when he stretches out a hand to touch something; and just as we know the different feeling in our finger-tips when they are contacting say silk, to what they feel when they contact velvet or touch the fur of a cat or the skin of a human being, in the same way the Samothracian priestly magician felt with the air he breathed out, which went forth into the sacrificial smoke, an utterance of something which came from himself. He felt his expiration as an organ of touch, which went into the smoke. He felt the smoke; and in the smoke he felt these great Gods, the Kabiri, streaming towards him. He felt how the smoke took form and that those forms which developed in the smoke came from outside to the expiration of breath. These out-breathings formed here into curves, there into angles, while at times something as it were grasped him; thus the whole divine form of the Kabiri was experienced by means of the mantric words in which the breath was clothed. Through the words which came out of the heart the sacrificing Hierophant contacted these great Gods, the descending Kabiri, who came to him in the sacrificial smoke. There was a living interchange between the Logos in man and the Logos outside in the cosmic spaces.

Thus while the initiating Father led the pupil before the sacrificial altar and gradually instructed him in the way in which he learnt to feel while speaking, and while the pupil progressed more and more and learnt to feel himself in this element of speech, he finally came to that stage of inner experience in which he had a clear consciousness of how Hermes, or Mercury was fashioned, of how Apollo was fashioned, and of how Aries or Mars was fashioned. It was as though the entire consciousness of man was lifted out of his body and what the pupil formerly knew as the content of his head was lifted out and remained above it. It was as though the forces of his heart were pressed into a different place, as though the forces of the heart were driven into the head. And in this human being really transcending, going out of himself, there arose something which formed these words: “It is thus that the Kabiri, the great Gods desire you to be.” From that moment the pupil knew that Mercury lived in his limbs, the Sun in his heart, and Mars in his speech.

You see it is not only the processes and being of nature in the external world that were brought before the pupil in these ancient times; what was brought before him was neither one-sided naturalistically nor in a moral way. It was something in which morality and nature flowed together in unity; and that was just the secret of these Samothracian Mysteries, that the pupil received this consciousness directly: “Nature is spirit; spirit is nature.”

In the times which found their last echo in the Samothracian Kabiri service, arose the insight which can bring earthly substances into harmony with the entire heavens. In these ancient times a man could not say, when he looked at that reddish-brown material which has the shining appearance of copper, at that substance which we today call copper, he could not say as one does today: “That is copper; that is a constituent of the earth.” At that time such a thing would have been inconceivable. Copper was no constituent of the earth for these ancient peoples, but the deed of Venus in the earth which revealed itself as copper. The Earth only allows stones such as sandstone, chalk, to arise, in order to receive into her bosom what the heavens imprinted into the earth. Just as little as we today are able to say that the seed simply grows out of the earth, so little at that time could one say, in regard to the surface of the earth, and copper ore in the earth, “This copper ore is a constituent of the earth.” What one had to say then was: “The Earth here with its sandstone or other soil is simply the basis, the soil; and what exists by way of metal inside it has been placed in the earth by the planets.” This is a seed implanted in the earth by a planet, and everything which exists in this way on the earth was then seen as something impelled into the earth from the heavens.

We today describe the Earth with the substances in it, as we may see in any book on mineralogy or geology; but the ancient science would not have described things in the same way. At that time a Man could let his gaze roam over the earth, but when he saw the substances with it he had to take the heavens into consideration; and it was in the heavens that he saw the real beings of substances. It is only apparently that copper, tin, lead, etc., lie in the earth. In reality they are simply the seeds which have been implanted into the earth during the ancient Sun and Moon existence, implanted from the heavens into earthly existence.

Now this was still the teaching of the Kabiri in the Samothracian Mysteries, and that finally was something which gave at any rate the atmosphere of the knowledge in which Aristotle and Alexander the Great worked. And then the beginning was created for something quite different.


In this lecture the act of consecration is described as it evolved in various stages. It also shows how contemporary religious ceremonies are a remnant of the old mysteries.

Note: In the context of the Catholic mass, by the act of consecration, the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine, Christ is present in a real substantial manner.

See Schema FMC00.191 on Christ Module 7 - Cosmic dimension

Regarding "we are now at the beginning of a new mystery impulse", see also Schema FMC00.393 on Reverse ritual.


We will be able to explain many things if we tell ourselves that mysteries once existed, which I want to call the ancient mysteries. We don't want to take up time in this introduction with the giving of dates, so we will only describe four successive stages.

There were ancient mysteries, semi-ancient mysteries, half-new mysteries, and we are now at the beginning of a new mystery impulse.

Therewith we have four stages before us, four stages in the development of man's understanding of apocalypses and acts of consecration of Man.


[ re full lecture for an positioning and explanation of the below - an intermediate extract is added here as a bridge between introduction and the section on kabiri below]

... There were always holy times at the end of each year or at the end of a lunar cycle of 18 years or of other periods of time which indicated the difference or boundary between human intelligence and divine intelligence, and during which the priests in the mysteries could tell that gods can find the way to them and that men can find their way to the gods.

At such times priests tried to capture the activities of the sun and the moon in the substances with which they celebrated the act of consecration of man, so that they could extend what they had received during sacred times to the other times in which they had to celebrate. They preserved what the gods had made out of earthly substances and forces during the sacred times. They kept the water and its mercurial element, etc., from those times in order to celebrate the act of consecration of man during the rest of the year in such a way that it had a transubstantiation which was done in the same way it had been done by the gods in the services which had taken place during so-called dead times which, however, were sacred times.

During these times when cosmic language was more important than human language, the men in the ancient mysteries wanted to connect themselves with the gods who descended into the mysteries and who consecrated each religious service anew. The gods gave the human beings who carried, out or participated in these acts of consecration of man an understanding of apocalyptic things. This is how great truths were taught in ancient times, when an immersion in an act of consecration of man meant that one was permeated with apocalyptic substance. The act of consecration of man is a path of knowledge, and apocalypse is the object of this holy knowledge.

Then we come to the semi-ancient mysteries ... During this time the gods withdrew from men and sent their forces down into the mysteries, and no longer appeared there as beings. It was the time in which the act of consecration of Man acquired that radiance or divine glow which should always radiate above acts which consecrate human beings.

The secret behind transubstantiations was now sought in a different way. The substances and forces which were supposed to flow into the celebration of a transubstantiation were no longer determined by an astrological investigation of cosmic processes. Instead, one tried to arrive at an understanding of the inner nature of what ancient alchemists called ferments. A ferment is a substance which has attained a certain maturity, that is, it has passed through all of the preparatory stages of its material existence and activity. ... Try to imagine how ancient materials which had undergone inner events or a transubstantiation in the course of time were preserved in sacred vessels, which were greatly esteemed in the ancient and semi-ancient mysteries, and how they were taken out of these vessels after they had been transformed by very ancient and sacred processes.

Ferments were taken out of sacred vessels and they were used to transform substances through ancient and still sacred alchemical processes. The priest was an initiate who saw how the preserved substances and forces shone in the sacred crystalline vessels, and so he knew how the transubstantiation occurred. One looked upon these substances and forces as a cognitional organ for the people who were celebrating rituals, which enabled them to receive apocalyptic things.

... A priest passed his entrance exams, as it were, the moment he could stand before the sacred place or structure, and the old, fermenting substances in the sacred crystalline vessels became transformed for him in such a way that he saw a small sun or a natural small monstrance in the crystalline vessel, as the substances spread sunshine around them. This was something holy, and it can only be reproduced externally today. The moment he saw this he became a priest in an inner sense.

Today everyone who goes into a Catholic church sees a monstrance, but it is only a symbol for what it once was. In ancient times the only one who saw it was a true priest who saw a radiant sun appear in the preserved substances. At that moment his soul gained knowledge of apocalyptic things.


[paragraph on the Kabiri service]

During the time of the half-new mysteries human language and cultic language were two different things, and remnants of the latter are still present in individual religious confessions. In this cultic language everything depends upon rhythm, a deep understanding of sounds and an understanding of the way that sounds from the priest's mouth penetrate human hearts. The intonation of magical cultic words in sacred places enabled people to ascend to the forces of the gods for the first time.

  • The first human period — ancient mysteries — the gods descend.
  • Second human period — semi-ancient mysteries — the gods send their forces down.
  • Third human period — half new mysteries — Man learns a magical language and begins to ascend to the forces of the divine world through the intonation of magical words.


This is why words were intoned during the third period of acts of consecration of Man.

The Kabiri element lived in all religious cults which arose during this third period. For the Kabiri services and sacrifices which were celebrated in Samothrace were brought into all of the half-way new ceremonies in the act of consecration of Man and into all the ceremonies which belong to this.

Let's place the Kabiri altar at Samothrace before our souls.

  • The Kabirs who stood upon it as external relics were sacrificial urns that contained no ferments, but substances which men find if they can penetrate the inner spiritual aspect of matter. The sacrificial urns contained such substances.
  • The sacrificial substances in the urns were ignited, and smoke ascended.
  • The magical language created an Imagination of the intoned words in the rising smoke. Thus the way up to divine forces was outwardly visible in the sacrificial smoke.
  • The priests who were surrounded by this smoke knew that they were in the right atmosphere for carrying out a transubstantiation.


Related pages

References and further reading

  • Friedrich W.J. Schelling (1775-1854): On the Divinities of Samothrace (1815)
  • S.F. Dunlap (1825-1905): The Mysteries of Adoni (1861)
  • Dudley Wright: The Eleusian mysteries and rites (1919)
  • Walter Burkert: Greek Religion (1985)
    • chapter on 'The Kabeiroi and Samothrace'
  • Michael B. Cosmopoulos (editor): 'Greek Mysteries: The Archaeology and Ritual of Ancient Greek Secret Cults' (2003)
    • Albert Schachter: 'Evolutions of a Mystery Cult: The Theban Kabiroi'
  • Hans Gsänger
    • Mysterienstätten der Menschheit
      • Ephesos (1959)
      • Samothrake (1960)
      • Eleusis (1961)
      • Delphi (1962)
  • Hella Krause-Zimmer
    • 'Alles durchweben die Götter' - subtitle: Reisen durch die Kultwelt der Ägäis (1984)
    • as well as, related: 'Griechische Plastik, Rätsel und Offenbarung' (1994)
  • Guy Maclean Rogers: The Mysteries of Artemis of Ephesos (2012)
    • freely available online on