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Porphyry, On The Cave Of The Nymphs, 5-6

nanIt is necessary, therefore, that souls, whether they are corporeal or incorporeal, while they attract to themselves body, and especially such as are about to be bound to blood and moist bodies, should verge to humidity, and be corporalised, in consequence of being drenched in moisture. Hence the souls of the dead are evocated by the effusion of bile and blood; and souls that are lovers of body, by attracting a moist spirit, condense this humid vehicle like a cloud. For moisture condensed in the air constitutes a cloud. But the pneumatic vehicle being condensed in these souls, becomes visible through an excess of moisture. And among the number of these we must reckon those apparitions of images, which, from a spirit coloured by the influence of imagination, present themselves to mankind. But pure souls are averse from generation; so that, as Heraclitus says, "a dry soul is the wisest." Hence, here also the spirit becomes moist and more aqueous through the desire of generation, the soul thus attracting a humid vapour from verging to generation. Souls, therefore, proceeding |18 into generation are the nymphs called naiades. Hence it is usual to call those that are married nymphs, as being conjoined to generation, and to pour water into baths from fountains, or rivers, or perpetual rills.

nanThis world, then, is sacred and pleasant to souls wno nave now proceeded into nature, and to natal daemons, though it is essentially dark and obscure; from which some have suspected that souls also are of an obscure nature and essentially consist of air. Hence a cavern, which is both pleasant and dark, will be appropriately consecrated to souls on the earth, conformably to its similitude to the world, in which, as in the greatest of all temples, souls reside. To the nymphs likewise, who preside over waters, a cavern, in which there are perpetually flowing streams, is adapted. Let, therefore, this present cavern be consecrated to souls, and among the more partial powers, to nymphs that preside over streams and fountains, and who, on this account, are called fontal and naiades. Waat, therefore, are the different symbols, some of which are adapted to souls, but others to the aquatic powers, in order that we may apprehend that this cavern is consecrated in common to |19 both? Let the stony bowls, then, and the amphorae be symbols of the aquatic nymphs. For these are, indeed, the symbols of Bacchus, but their composition is fictile, i.e., consists of baked earth, and these are friendly to the vine, the gift of God; since the fruit of the vine is brought to a proper maturity by the celestial fire of the sun. But the stony bowls and amphorae are in the most eminent degree adapted to the nymphs who preside over the water that flows from rocks. And to souls that descend into generation and are occupied in corporeal energies, what symbol can be more appropriate than those instruments pertaining to weaving? Hence, also, the poet ventures to say, "that on these, the nymphs weave purple webs, admirable to the view." For the formation of the flesh is on and about the bones, which in the bodies of animals resemble stones. Hence these instruments of weaving consist of stone, and not of any other matter. But the purple webs will evidently be the flesh which is woven from the blood. For purple woollen garments are tinged from blood. and wool is dyed from animal juice. The generation of flesh, also, is through and from blood. Add, too, that |20 the body is a garment with which the soul is invested, a thing wonderful to the sight, whether this refers to the composition of the soul, or contributes to the colligation of the soul (to the whole of a visible essence). Thus, also, Proserpine, who is the inspective guardian of everything produced from seed, is represented by Orpheus as weaving a web (note 7), and the heavens are called by the ancients a veil, in consequence of being,as it were, the vestment of the celestial Gods.

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1. Origen, Against Celsus, 6.22 (3rd cent. CE - 3rd cent. CE)

6.22. After this, Celsus, desiring to exhibit his learning in his treatise against us, quotes also certain Persian mysteries, where he says: These things are obscurely hinted at in the accounts of the Persians, and especially in the mysteries of Mithras, which are celebrated among them. For in the latter there is a representation of the two heavenly revolutions - of the movement, viz., of the fixed stars, and of that which take place among the planets, and of the passage of the soul through these. The representation is of the following nature: There is a ladder with lofty gates, and on the top of it an eighth gate. The first gate consists of lead, the second of tin, the third of copper, the fourth of iron, the fifth of a mixture of metals, the sixth of silver, and the seventh of gold. The first gate they assign to Saturn, indicating by the 'lead' the slowness of this star; the second to Venus, comparing her to the splendour and softness of tin; the third to Jupiter, being firm and solid; the fourth to Mercury, for both Mercury and iron are fit to endure all things, and are money-making and laborious; the fifth to Mars, because, being composed of a mixture of metals, it is varied and unequal; the sixth, of silver, to the Moon; the seventh, of gold, to the Sun - thus imitating the different colors of the two latter. He next proceeds to examine the reason of the stars being arranged in this order, which is symbolized by the names of the rest of matter. Musical reasons, moreover, are added or quoted by the Persian theology; and to these, again, he strives to add a second explanation, connected also with musical considerations. But it seems to me, that to quote the language of Celsus upon these matters would be absurd, and similar to what he himself has done, when, in his accusations against Christians and Jews, he quoted, most inappropriately, not only the words of Plato; but, dissatisfied even with these, he adduced in addition the mysteries of the Persian Mithras, and the explanation of them. Now, whatever be the case with regard to these - whether the Persians and those who conduct the mysteries of Mithras give false or true accounts regarding them - why did he select these for quotation, rather than some of the other mysteries, with the explanation of them? For the mysteries of Mithras do not appear to be more famous among the Greeks than those of Eleusis, or than those in Ægina, where individuals are initiated in the rites of Hecate. But if he must introduce barbarian mysteries with their explanation, why not rather those of the Egyptians, which are highly regarded by many, or those of the Cappadocians regarding the Comanian Diana, or those of the Thracians, or even those of the Romans themselves, who initiate the noblest members of their senate? But if he deemed it inappropriate to institute a comparison with any of these, because they furnished no aid in the way of accusing Jews or Christians, why did it not also appear to him inappropriate to adduce the instance of the mysteries of Mithras?
2. Porphyry, On Abstinence, 4.16 (3rd cent. CE - 4th cent. CE)

4.16. 16.Among the Persians, indeed, those who are wise in divine concerns, and worship divinity, are called Magi; for this is the signification of Magus, in the Persian tongue. But so great and so venerable are these men thought to be by the Persians, that Darius, the son of Hystaspes, had among other things this engraved on his tomb, that he had been the master of the Magi. They are likewise divided into three genera, as we are informed by Eubulus, who wrote the history of Mithra, in a treatise consisting of many books. In this work he says, that the first and most learned class of the Magi neither eat nor slay any thing animated, but adhere to the ancient abstinence from animals. The second class use some animals indeed [for food], but do not slay any that are tame. Nor do those of the third class, similarly with other men, lay their hands on all animals. For the dogma with all of them which ranks as the first is this, that there is a transmigration of souls; and this they also appear to indicate in the mysteries of Mithra. For in these mysteries, obscurely signifying our having something in common with brutes, they are accustomed to call us by the names of different animals. Thus they denominate the males who participate in the same mysteries lions, but the females lionesses, and those who are ministrant to these rites crows. With respect to their fathers also, they adopt the same mode. For these are denominated by them eagles and hawks. And he who is initiated in the Leontic mysteries, is invested with all-various forms of animals 16; of which particulars, Pallas, in his treatise concerning Mithra, assigning the cause, says, that it is the common opinion that these things are to be referred to the circle of the zodiac, but that truly and accurately speaking, they obscurely signify some thing pertaining to human souls, which, according to the Persians, are invested with bodies of all-various forms. For the Latins also, says Eubulus, call some men, in their tongue, boars and scorpions, lizards, and blackbirds. After the same manner likewise the Persians denominate the Gods the demiurgic causes of these: for they call Diana a she-wolf; but the sun, a bull, a lion, a |128 dragon, and a hawk; and Hecate, a horse, a bull, a lioness, and a dog. But most theologists say that the name of Proserpine (της φερεφαττης) is derived from nourishing a ringdove, (παρα το φερβειν την φατταν) for the ringdove is sacred to this Goddess. Hence, also the priests of Maia dedicate to her a ringdove. And Maia is the same with Proserpine, as being obstetric, and a nurse 17. For this Goddess is terrestrial, and so likewise is Ceres. To this Goddess, also a cock is consecrated; and on this account those that are initiated in her mysteries abstain from domestic birds. In the Eleusinian mysteries, likewise, the initiated are ordered to abstain from domestic birds, from fishes and beans, pomegranates and apples; which fruits are as equally defiling to the touch, as a woman recently delivered, and a dead body. But whoever is acquainted with the nature of divinely-luminous appearances knows also on what account it is requisite to abstain from all birds, and especially for him who hastens to be liberated from terrestrial concerns, and to be established with the celestial Gods. Vice, however, as we have frequently said, is sufficiently able to patronize itself, and especially when it pleads its cause among the ignorant. Hence, among those that are moderately vicious, some think that a dehortation of this kind is vain babbling, and, according to the proverb, the nugacity of old women; and others are of opinion that it is superstition. But those who have made greater advances in improbity, are prepared, not only to blaspheme those who exhort to, and demonstrate the propriety of this abstinence, but calumniate purity itself as enchantment and pride. They, however, suffering the punishment of their sins, both from Gods and men, are, in the first place, sufficiently punished by a disposition [i.e. by a depravity] of this kind. We shall, therefore, still farther make mention of another foreign nation, renowned and just, and believed to be pious in divine concerns, and then pass on to other particulars. |129 SPAN
3. Porphyry, On The Cave of The Nymphs, 18, 20, 24, 6, 15 (3rd cent. CE - 4th cent. CE)

15. One particular, however, remains to be explained, and that is the symbol of the olive planted at the top of the cavern, since Homer appears to indicate something very admirable by giving it such a position. For he does not merely say that an olive grows in this place, but that it flourishes on the summit of the cavern. "High at the head a branching olive grows, Beneath, a gloomy grotto s cool recess.." But the growth of the olive in such a situation is not fortuitous, as some one may suspect, but contains the enigma of the cavern. For |37 since the world was not produced rashly and casually, but is the work of divine wisdom and an intellectual nature; hence an olive, the symbol of this wisdom flourishes near the present cavern, which is an image of the world. For the olive is the plant of Minerva, and Minerva is wisdom. But this Goddess being produced from the head of Jupiter, the theologist has discovered an appropriate place for the olive by consecrating it at the summit of the port; signifying by this that the universe is not the effect of a casual event and the work of irrational fortune, but that it is the offspring of an intellectual nature and divine wisdom, which is separated indeed from it (by a difference of essence), but yet is near to it, through being established on the summit of the whole port (i.e., from the dignity and excellence of its nature governing the whole with consummate wisdom). Since, however, an olive is ever-flourishing, it possesses a certain peculiarity in the highest degree adapted to the revolutions of souls in the world, for to such souls this cave (as we have said) is sacred. For in summer the white leaves of the olive tend upwards, but in winter the whiter leaves are bent downward. On |38 this account also in prayers and supplications, men extend the branches of an olive, ominating from this that they shall exchange the sorrowful darkness of danger for the fair light of security and peace. The olive, therefore being naturally ever-flourishing, bears fruit which is the auxiliary of labour (by being its reward, it is sacred to Minerva; supplies the victors in athletic labours with crowns and affords a friendly branch to the suppliant petitioner. Thus, too, the world is governed by an intellectual nature, and is conducted by a wisdom eternal and ever-flourishing; by which the rewards of victory are conferred on the conquerors in the athletic race of life, as the reward of severe toil and patient perseverance. And the Demiurgus who connects and contains the world (in ineffable comprehensions) invigorates miserable and suppliant souls.

Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
angels Waldner et al (2016) 212
animals,lion Waldner et al (2016) 212
aphrodite Waldner et al (2016) 212
astronomy Waldner et al (2016) 213
babylon Waldner et al (2016) 212
beck,roger Belayche and Massa (2021) 110
birds,eagle Waldner et al (2016) 212
birth Waldner et al (2016) 213
cosmos Waldner et al (2016) 213
creation Waldner et al (2016) 213
dualism,gnostic Esler (2000) 74
euboulos Waldner et al (2016) 212
fruits,vegetarian food Waldner et al (2016) 212
gnostic traditions Esler (2000) 74
helios Waldner et al (2016) 212
kelsos Waldner et al (2016) 212
metempsychosis Waldner et al (2016) 212
mithraea Esler (2000) 74
mithraic grades Belayche and Massa (2021) 110
mithras,grades Waldner et al (2016) 212
mithras,theology Waldner et al (2016) 212
mithras Belayche and Massa (2021) 110
mithrea,dieburg Waldner et al (2016) 212
mysteries,hellenistic Esler (2000) 74
mysteries,mithras Esler (2000) 74
numenios of apamea Waldner et al (2016) 212
ohrmazd Waldner et al (2016) 213
pallas,author Waldner et al (2016) 212
persia Waldner et al (2016) 212, 213
phaethon Waldner et al (2016) 212, 213
plato,platonic tradition Waldner et al (2016) 212, 213
porphyry Waldner et al (2016) 213
post-mortality belief,belief,mithras context Waldner et al (2016) 212, 213
purity Waldner et al (2016) 212
pythagoras,pythagoreans Waldner et al (2016) 212
religion,hellenistic religions Esler (2000) 74
sarcophagi Waldner et al (2016) 212, 213
seth Esler (2000) 74
soul' Waldner et al (2016) 212
soul Waldner et al (2016) 213