Plutarch – The Vision of Aridæus 07
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
ECHOES FROM THE GNOSIS - VOL. III. BY G. R. S. MEAD
THE VISION OF ARIDÆUS - Plutarch
After this they turned back to see the punishments. And first of all nothing but distressing and pitiful sights met their eyes; till suddenly Thespesius, without at all expecting it, came across his own friends, kinsfolk and intimates in torment; and they in their terrible sufferings and unseemly and painful chastisements lamented and wept aloud to him.
And last of all he looked down upon his own father emerging from some sort of a pit, covered with marks and scars, stretching out his hands to him; he was no longer allowed to keep silence, but compelled by the authorities to confess that his hands were stained with the blood of some wealthy strangers he had poisoned. On earth he had completely succeeding in escaping detection, but in the after-state all was brought home to him; for part of his crimes he had already been punished, but for the rest he had still to suffer.
But so great were Thespesius’ consternation and terror, that he dared not intercede or entreat for his father. When, however, he would have turned and fled, he could no longer see his gentle and familiar guide, but was thrust forward by others of terrifying appearance, and as though there were no choice but to go through with the business.
Thus he had to see that the shades of those who were known to be bad and had been punished in earth-life, did not get such a dressing, as they had already done hard labour for their irrational and passionate natures; whereas those who had passed their lives in undetected vice, under cloak and show of virtue, were forced by those who surrounded them, to turn their souls inside out in throes of pain, wriggling in unnatural contortions, just as sea-polyps turn themselves inside out after swallowing the hook.
Some of these they flayed, and peeling off their skins showed them covered with spots and festering sores, owing to the diseased condition of their rational and ruling principle. Others, he said, he saw entwined like snakes, two, three, or more together, malevolently devouring one another in revenge for what they had suffered or done to each other while living.
There were further [three] lakes alongside one another: one of boiling-hot gold; one of lead, bitterly cold; another of iron, terribly hard. And there were dæmons on duty, who, just like smiths with tongs, put in and took out the souls of those who suffered from the vice of insatiable greed and avarice.
After they had been made red-hot and transparent by firing them in the gold lake, they thrust them into the lead one and gave them a bath in it; and after they had been frozen there and made as hard as hail, they further transferred them into the lake of iron; there they became terribly black, and after being smashed up by its hardness and crushed to atoms, they changed their shapes. They were then in this state taken back to the gold lake, suffering, he said, terrible agonies in their transformations.