Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
“ A NEW SYSTEM; OR, AN ANALYSIS OF ANTIENT MYTHOLOGY” - BY JACOB BRYANT, ESQ. THE THIRD EDITION. IN SIX VOLUMES. 1807.
WORSHIP PAID AT CAVERNS; AND OF THE ADORATION OF FIRE IN THE FIRST AGES.
Among the Persians most of the temples were caverns in rocks, either formed by nature, or artificially produced. ……… in the antient province of Chusistan, called afterwards Persis, there are to be seen at this day many curious monuments of antiquity, ………. The chief building is manifestly a Puratheion; one of those open edifices called by the Greeks Ὑπαιθρα……... At a distance are some sacred grottos, hewn out of the rock; the same which he imagines to have been tombs. ………. In the front of these grottos are representations of various characters: and among others is figured, more than once, a princely personage, who is approaching the altar where the sacred fire is burning. Above all is the Sun, and the figure of a Deity in a cloud, with sometimes a sacred bandage, at other times a serpent entwined round his middle, similar to the Cnuphis of Egypt……………
In respect to the grottos I am persuaded, that they were temples, and not tombs. Nothing was more common among the Persians than to have their temples formed out of rocks. Mithras e Petrâ was in a manner a proverb. Porphyry assures us, that the Deity had always a rock or cavern for his temple: that people, in all places, where the name of Mithras was known, paid their worship at a cavern. ….There is therefore no reason to think that these grottos were tombs; or that the Persians ever made use of such places for the sepulture of their kings. The tombs of Cyrus, Nitocris, and other oriental princes, were within the precincts of their cities.
Thevenot also says, that he went into the caverns, and saw several stone ‘coffins’. But this merely conjectural: for the things, to which he alludes, were not in the shape of coffins, and had undoubtedly been placed there as cisterns for water, which the Persians used in their nocturnal lustrations. This we may, in great measure, learn from his own words: for he says, that these reservoirs were square, and had a near resemblance to the basons of a fountain.
The hills, where these grottos have been formed, are probably the same, which were of old famous for the strange echoes, and noises heard upon them. The circumstance is mentioned by Clemens Alexandrinus, who quotes it from the writers, who treated of the Persic history. It seems that there were some sacred hills in Persis, where, as people passed by, there were heard shouts, as of a multitude of people: also hymns and exultations, and other uncommon noises. These sounds undoubtedly proceeded from the priests at their midnight worship: whose voices at that season were reverberated by the mountains, and were accompanied with a reverential awe in those who heard them.
The country below was called Χωρα των Μαγων, the region of the Magi.
The reverence paid to caves and grottos arose from a notion that they were a representation of the world; and that the chief Deity whom the Persians worshipped proceeded from a cave. Such was the tradition which they had received, and which contained in it matter of importance. Porphyry attributes the original of the custom to Zoroaster, ….. and says, that he first consecrated a natural cavern in Persis to Mithras, the creator and father of all things. He was followed in this practice by others, who dedicated to the Deity places of this nature; either such as were originally hollowed by nature, or made so by the art of man. Those, of which we have specimens exhibited by the writers above, were probably enriched and ornamented by the Achaimenidæ of Persis, who succeeded to the throne of Cyrus. They are modern, if compared with the first introduction of the worship; yet of high antiquity in respect to us. They are noble relics of Persic architecture, and afford us matter of great curiosity.