The Mystery Schools

Grace F. Knoche

A Sunrise Library Book

Second & Revised Edition copyright © 1999 by Theosophical University Press (print andPDF eBook versions also available). Originally published in 1940 by Theosophical University Press. Electronic version ISBN 978-1-55700-114-6 . All rights reserved. This edition may be downloaded free of charge for personal use. Except for brief excerpts, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial or other use in any form without the prior permission of Theosophical University Press. For ease of searching, words are not accented in this version.


Image of Grand Relief

Grand Relief of Eleusis: Demeter, Triptolemos, and Persephone, 5th century BCE

Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee, and knowing which thou shalt never again fall into error. . . . There is no purifier in this world to be compared to spiritual knowledge; and he who is perfected in devotion findeth spiritual knowledge springing up spontaneously in himself in the progress of time. — Bhagavad-Gita 4:34-5, 38 (Judge Recension)


A Mystery school is a university of the soul, a school for the study of the mysteries of the inner nature of man and of surrounding nature. By understanding these mysteries, the student perceives his intimate relationship with divinity, and strives through self-discipline and devotion to become at one with his inner god.

This book attempts to present certain fundamental lines of teaching which it is hoped will give a more or less clear picture of what a Mystery school really is. Full and specific knowledge of the Mystery schools — where they have been, where now they function, what are their chief characteristics — has not been given out. Modern historians of the Greek mystery centers, for example, marvel at how well the rule of secrecy imposed upon the candidates was kept. This does not pertain to the public aspect, such as the fourteen-mile procession along the Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusis in which men, women, and children participated. But "the rites of the Greater Mysteries . . . the true secrets of the teletai [initiation proper] and the epopteia [the culminating vision] have never been divulged.''

The student can find, however, a generous amount of information scattered here and there in the literatures of the past and can build up for himself a coherent picture of the pageantry of the Mystery schools, a picture which will turn into the reality of experience only as he becomes inwardly prepared through lifetimes of dedication and the study and practice of the ancient wisdom.

That which can be discovered by the sincere student may be likened to our knowledge of the atom. Who, for example, has ever seen the real atom? What microscope has penetrated the secret of its existence? Yet today we know more about the atom with its electrons than has been revealed for centuries. Although invisible to both eye and lens, scientists have detected the flash of its track, its "way of light"; through diligent and painstaking labor they have studied this way of light until, through inference and evidence, the structure of the atom and its components, its almost spiritual origin, has been revealed.

Thus with the Mysteries: as we look at the pages of history, and further into the mist of unrecorded time, we do not see the schools themselves, but through study and devotion we may glimpse the flash of their track, their way of light. From inference and spiritual testimony we can trace the pageantry of the light- bearers as they have passed from age to age, inaugurating the grand religions and philosophies of the human race. Some of these lights shine with immense glory, others with less strength, while still others are but fitful gleams of half-understood truth.

The physicist cannot point to the physical atom, yet he knows it exists as the basis, the foundation, of all matter; the student of theosophy cannot show you a Mystery school, yet he knows it exists as the heart or atomic center of the spiritual and intellectual life of the planet. Who then would dare assert the non- existence of the Mysteries, of this potent atom of esotericism, when luminous traces of spiritual power are seen scattered all over the world? If our physical bodies are rooted in invisible fiery lives, why should not our human spiritual, intellectual, and moral bodies likewise have their origin in the spiritual and intellectual fire-mist of the planet?

An uninterrupted history of the occult network of the human race is not available to us today, for such records are the guerdon of the pledged disciple, but with the powerful lens of the ancient wisdom we can study the way of light flashed forth by each lightbearer over the centuries; can recapture the atmosphere of the ancient temples; can discern the purpose of the schools, their methods of teaching; and, last but not least, can learn of the strong discipline imposed upon the candidates seeking initiation into the knowledge of their secret origin and their still more secret destiny.

The author's debt to theosophy as presented by H. P. Blavatsky cannot be measured. One can only hope that the present study will encourage those new to her writings to drink deep of the springs at their source. — G.F.K.

Pasadena, California
October 2, 1999


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