Notes on the history of the western esoteric tradition


Paper presented at the University of Indianapolis Phoenix Rising Conference: Death and Renaissance in Philosophy, Art, and Literature, November 7th 2009

My name is Iordanis Poulkouras, and my presence here is mainly related to my capacity as editorial consultant of AVATON publishing house, rather than my status as an author.

Over the course of many years, the viewpoint of our periodical has remained both consistent, as well as unique to the Greek market.. The study of Esoteric Traditions should and must  also pass through the filter of organized academic research, as has been the case for many years in numerous European countries and the U.S. It is a great pleasure to actively participate here in this first  attempt by Ms Chaitow to introduce these studies to Greece, honored by the presence of professors, postgraduate students, researchers and authors from the entire world; all under the hospitable aegis  of the University of Indianapolis, which has been supportive of this effort  from the very beginning.

It is significant that we are in Greece and more so, in Athens, since it is an oft-quoted fact that Philosophy was born here.

This is where legends have been narrated, histories recorded and it is here that the boundaries of two worlds have been laid; namely the world of gods and that of humans, while in between these two separate worlds, lies that of heroes.

The latter is a world of initiatory concepts, where the hero often goes about his everyday life in a simple or careless manner; like for instance Hercules, who, through his trials, nevertheless succeeds in  lifting on his shoulders not only his companions but his entire race, taking them a step forward, thus conquering yet another stretch of the unknown and forbidden, to their own benefit.

Hercules not only came out alive from Hades, but also freed Theseus who was entrapped there.

The ultimate  moment in the lives  of the heroes found in the Western Tradition occurs when they descend to Hades – to their Tomb – alive,  only to emerge triumphant, more alive and enriched by the knowledge and the memory of their journey that they kept alive in both worlds.

Our focus is the Tomb and the Theatre, and as you know, we Greeks are well-known as story-tellers among other things, and I am no different.

So, by narrating stories, I will try to very concisely look through the earliest mysteries from the beginning of mankind, to find the origin of the  symbolism related to our topic, and to outline some characteristic examples that have been passed down to us.

The Tomb and the Theatre!

Anyone who has attended religious and traditional rituals or initiatory ceremonies of any origin or tradition cannot have failed to notice these two elements.

There is always a theatrical procedure in which certain individuals would somehow enact a role, and there is always a passage through the absolute darkness of the tomb, the cavern, and the triumphant return.


The Eleusinian Mysteries
(trans. Sasha Chaitow)

Paper Presented at the 7th Esoteric Quest Conference on The Mysteries and Philosophies of Antiquity, Samothrace, September 2008

Our topic is the Eleusinian Mysteries, perhaps one of the best-known mystery cults of all time. They are rooted in a very ancient time, long before the city state of Athens or the official worship of the Olympian Gods ever existed. (περισσότερα…)