The Lost Art of Resurrection
Initiation, Secret Chambers and the Quest for the Otherworld Freddy Silva Inner Traditions 2017 Pb, 274pp, notes, bib, ind, $18.95, ISBN 9781620556368 This is a welcome reissue of a 2014 title. Given the recent rash of ‘recovering the ancient wisdom’ books, you could be forgiven for thinking it was yet another reimagining of the scientific legacy of alien gods in ancient myths. It may be, but not quite in the von Däniken way!
Silva’s world-spanning survey of ancient cultures brings together very specific accounts of what used to be the most secret ritual of the wisdom cults, often called Mysteries. The highest level of initiation, it is maintained, took the form of a metaphorical burial and resurrection. Throughout the Christian world, its practice was systematically stamped out because the ritual was deemed blasphemous.
Following Peter Kingsley’s radical re-examination of Parmenides, Silva shows how the early Greek tradition of a healing sleep (incubation) at many of the great hero shrines was far more than a simple therapeutic technique. He deconstructs its many evolved forms – from Gnostic symbolism and the Eastern influences, some involving altered states of consciousness through drugs, asceticism, dancing – back to the shamanic journey into the Otherworld. He also traces the different types of incubation chamber: caves, underground chambers, an animal lair, or mountain-top temples (the climb was but a preface to the rite itself).
Where Silva breaks from (or adds to) the Pythagorean tradition (that besides healing, the sleeper could, in dreams, talk directly with his muse or the gods and receive prophecies), is in his relatively modern argument that this profound rite not only effected an empowering spiritual awakening, but possibly added an out-of-body experience.
Nevertheless, this thoughtful study – which forms a useful supplement to Peter Kingsley’s subtle and sagacious In the Dark Places of Wisdom – should appeal to anyone genuinely treading the path to self-realisation.