Chief Lord and Regent of Perpetual Night

The quarrels and divisions about religion were evils unknown to the heathen. The reason was because the religion of the heathen consisted rather in rites and ceremonies than in any constant belief; for you may imagine what kind of faith theirs was when the chief doctors and fathers of their church were the poets.

—Francis Bacon, ‘Of unity in religion’

Monarch of hell, under whose black survey
Great potentates do kneel with awful fear,
Upon whose altars thousand souls do lie…

—Christopher Marlowe, The Tragicall History of D. Faustus

If Mr. Taylor had been conversant with Hindu literature…

From Thomas Taylor’s Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, starting on page 222 of the 1891 edition edited and commented by Alexander Wilder:

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I shall conclude this treatise by presenting the reader with a valuable and most elegant hymn of Proclus to Minerva, which I have discovered in the British Museum ; and the existence of which appears to have been hitherto utterly unknown. This hymn is to be found among the Harleian Manuscripts, in a volume containing several of the Orphic hymns with which, through the ignorance of transcriber, it is indiscriminately ranked, as well as the other four hymns of Proclus, already printed in the Bibliotheca Grœca of Fabricius. Unfortunately too, it is transcribed in a character so obscure, and with such great inaccuracy, that, notwithstanding the pains I have taken to restore the text to its original purity, I have been obliged to omit two lines, and part of a third, as beyond my abilities to read or amend ; however, the greatest, and doubtless the most important part, is fortunately intelhgible, which I now present to the reader’s inspection, accompanied with some corrections, and an Enghsh paraphrased translation. The original is highly elegant and pious, and contains one mythological particular, which is no where else to be found. It has likewise an evident connection with the preceding fable of Bacchus, as will be obvious from the perusal; and on thi account principally it was inserted in the present discourse.




Daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, divine,
Propitious to thy votaries’ prayer incline ;
From thy great father’s fount supremely bright,
Like fire resounding, leaping into light.
Shield-bearing goddess, hear, to whom belong
A manly mind, and power to tame the strong!
Oh, sprung from matchless might, with joyful mind
Accept this hymn ; benevolent and kind !
The holy gates of wisdom, by thy hand
Are wide unfolded ; and the daring band
Of earth-born giants, that in impious fight
Strove with thy fire, were vanquished by thy might.
Once by thy care, as sacred poets sing.
The heart of Bacchus, swiftly-slaughtered king,
Was sav’d in ^ther, when, with fnry fired,
The Titans fell against his life conspired ;
And with relentless rage and thirst for gore,
Their hands his members into fragments tore :
But ever watchful of thy father’s will,
Thy power preserv’d him from succeeding ill.
Till from the secret counsels of his fire,
And born from Semele through heavenly sire,
Great Dionysus to the world at length
Again appeared with renovated strength.
Once, too, thy warlike ax, with matchless sway,
Lopped from their savage necks the heads away
Of furious beasts, and thus the pests destroyed

Which long all-seeing Hecate annoyed.
By thee benevolent great Juno’s might
Was roused, to furnish mortals with delight.
And thro’ life’s wide and various range, ‘t is thine
Each part to beautify with art divine :
Invigorated hence by thee, we find
A demiurgic impulse in the mind.
Towers proudly raised, and for protection strong.
To thee, dread guardian deity, belong.
As proper symbols of th’ exalted height
Thy series claims amidst the courts of light.
Lands are beloved by thee, to learning prone.
And Athens, Oh Athena, is thy own !
Great goddess, hear! and on my dark’ned mind
Pour thy pure light in measure unconfined ; —
That sacred light, Oh all-protecting queen.
Which beams eternal from thy face serene.
My soul, while wand’ring on the earth, inspire
With thy own blessed and impulsive fire :
And from thy fables, mystic and divine.
Give all her powers with holy light to shine.
Give love, give wisdom, and a power to love,
Incessant tending to the realms above ;
Such as unconscious of base earth’s control
Gently attracts the vice-subduing soul :
From night’s dark region aids her to retire,
And once more gain the palace of her sire.
O all-propitious to my prayer incline !
Nor let those horrid punishments be mine
Which guilty souls in Tartarus confine,
With fetters fast’ned to its brazen floors.
And lock’d by hell’s tremendous iron doors.
Hear me, and save (for power is all thine own)
A soul desirous to be thine alone.

It is very remarkable in this hymn, that the exploits of Minerva relative to cutting off the heads of wild beasts with an ax, etc., is mentioned by no writer whatever; nor can I find the least trace of a circumstance either in the history of Minerva or Hecate to which it alludes. †
[end quote]

Alexander Wilder, who had, during the course of the book, occasionally interjected to present a relation between the sanskrit origin of some words and their meanings (such as his mention of the Sanskrit origin of the name Hera, which he took to be an equivalent of the Latin domina), inserts the following comment right after, providing us with another plausible clue, and perhaps an interesting possibility for those of an active spiritual-intellectual disposition…

[begin quote]
† If Mr. Taylor had been conversant with Hindu literature, he would have perceived that these exploits of Minerva-Athene were taken from the buffalo-sacrifice of Durga or Bhavani. The whole Dionysiac legend is but a rendering of the Sivaic and Buddhistic legends into a Grecian dress.—A. W.
[end quote]

O Durgā, O thou that dwellest in inaccessible regions, thou art described as Swaha, and Swadha, as Kāla, as Kashta, and as Sarasvatī, as Savitra the mother of the Vedas, and as the science of Vedānta.
 Quoted in Gwendolyn Taunton’s Tantric Traditions: Gods, Rituals, & Esoteric Teachings in the Kali Yuga (2018)

The Fortunate Islands of the soul

This must not be understood as if the soul in the regions of felicity retained any affection for material concerns, or was engaged in the trifling pursuits of the everyday corporeal life ; but that when separated from generation, and the world’s life, she is constantly engagd in the emplyments proper to the higher spiritual nature ; either in divine contests of the most exalted wisdom ; in forming the responsive dance of refined imaginations ; in tuning the sacred lyre of mystic piety to strains of divine fury and ineffable delight ; in giving free scope to the splendid and winged powers of the soul; or in nourishing the higher intellect with the substantial banquets of intelligible [spiritual] food. Nor is it without reason that the river Eridanus is represented as flowing through these delightful abodes; and is at the same time denominated plurimus (greatest), because a great part of it was absorbed in the earth without emerging from thence: for a river is the symbol of life, and consequently signifies in this place the intellectual or spiritual life, proceeding from on high, that is, from divinity itself, and gliding with prolific energy through the hidden and profound recesses of the soul.

Thomas Taylor, Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries (1891), page 95

Archaic Techniques

From Gwendolyn Taunton’s Tantric Traditions: Gods, Rituals, & Esoteric Teachings in the Kali Yuga (2018), in page 42,

Tantric Buddhism is a syncretism of Buddhism, Tantric technique and an indigenous form of shamanism known as Bon. Within Tantric Buddhism, there are also rituals which are clearly derived from shamanic sources.

Then, further in the same place, Taunton cites the following block of text from Mirceda Eliade’s Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (2004), in page 436,

We cite some Tantric meditations whose object is the practitioner’s stripping his own body of flesh and contemplating his skeleton. The yogin is asked to imagine his body as a corpse and his mind as an angry goddess, with a face and two hands holding a knife and a skull. “Think that she severeth the head from the corpse …and cutteth the corpse into bits and flingeth them inside the skull as offerings to deities.” Another exercise consists in his seeing himself as “a radiant white skeleton of enormous size, whence isueth flames, so great that they fill the voidness of the Universe.” Finally, a third meditation sets the yogin the task of contemplating himself as transformed into the raging ḍākinī, stripping the skin from his own body …These few extracts suffice to show the transformation that a shamanic schema can undergo when it is incorporated into a complex philosophical system, such as Tantrism.