The Lost Art of Res­ur­rec­tion

Fortean Times - - Reviews / Books -

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.

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