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Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

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Author Topic: Fragments of a Faith Forgotten  (Read 2268 times)
Peggie Welles
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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2009, 01:09:17 am »

who are seeking for solitude; nor are they far apart, because of the intercourse which is so dear to them, and also for mutual help in case of attack by robbers.

"In each dwelling is a sacred place, called a shrine or monastery [a small chamber, closet, or The Original Meaning of the Term Monastery. cell], in which in solitude they perform the mysteries of the holy life, taking into it neither drink, nor food, nor anything else requisite for the needs of the body, but only the laws and inspired sayings of prophets, and hymns, and the rest, whereby knowledge and devotion grow together and are perfected.

"Thus they preserve an unbroken memory of God, so that even in their dream-consciousness nothing is presented to their minds but the glories of the divine virtues and powers. Hence many of them give out the rhythmic doctrines of the sacred wisdom, which they have obtained in the visions of dream-life.

"Twice a day, at dawn and even, they are Their Prayers and Exercises. accustomed to offer up prayers; as the sun rises s. praying for the sunshine, the real sunshine, that their minds may be filled with heavenly Light, and as it sets praying that their soul, completely lightened of the lust of senses and sensations, may withdraw to its own congregation and council-chamber, there to track out truth.

"The whole interval from dawn to sunset they devote to their exercises. Taking the sacred writings they spend their time in study [lit. philosophise], interpreting their ancestral code allegorically, for

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they think that the words of the literal meaning are symbols of a hidden nature which is made plain [only] by the under-meaning.

"They have also works of ancient authors who were once heads of their school, and left behind The Nature of their Books. them many monuments of the method used in their allegorical works; taking these as patterns, as it were, they imitate the practice of their predecessors. They do not then spend their time in contemplation and nothing else, but they compose songs and hymns to God in all sorts of metres and melodies, outlined necessarily upon [a background of] the more solemn numbers [lit. rhythms].

"For six days on end every one remains apart in solitude with himself in his 'monastery,' as it Their Mode of Meeting. is called, engaged in study, never setting foot out of door, or even looking out of window. But every seventh day they come together as it were to a general assembly, and take their seats in order according to their 'age' [that is, the length of their membership in the order], in the prescribed attitude, with their hands palms downwards, the right between the breast and chin, the left by the side. Then he who is the senior most skilled in the doctrines comes forward and discourses, with steadfast eyes and steadfast voice, with reason and thoughtfulness, not making a display of word-cleverness, as the rhetoricians and sophists of today, but examining closely and explaining the precise meaning in the thoughts, a meaning which does not merely light on the tips of the ears, but pierces the ear and reaches the soul and steadfastly

p. 72

abides there. The rest all listen in silence, signifying their approval merely by a look in the eye or a nod of the head.

"Now this general sanctuary in which they assemble every seventh day consists of two The Sanctuary. enclosures: one separated off for men, and the other for women. For women too habitually form part of the audience, possessing the same eager desire and having made the same deliberate choice [as the men].

"The division, however, between the two halls is only partly built up, some three or four cubits from the floor, like a breast-work, the rest of it, to the roof, being left open, and this for two reasons: in the first place for the preservation of that modesty which so becomes woman's nature, and in the second that sitting within earshot they may hear easily, since there is nothing in the way of the speaker's voice.

"Now [our Therapeuts] first of all lay down continence as a foundation, as it were for the soul, and then proceed to build up the rest of the virtues upon it. Accordingly none of them would think of taking food or drink before sundown, for they consider that the practice of philosophy deserves the light, while the necessities of the body [may content themselves with] darkness; hence they assign the day to the former, and a brief portion of the night to the latter.

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