Plutarch – The Vision of Aridæus 08
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
But the most pitiable sufferings of all, Thespesius declared, were those of the souls who, when they seemed to have at last got their discharge from Justice, were arrested again. These were the souls of those whose crimes had been visited on their children or descendants.
For whenever one of the latter happened to come up, he fell upon the criminal in a rage, crying out against him and showing him the marks of his sufferings, reproaching him and pursuing after him. And though he tried to get away and hide himself, he could not; for the chastizers speedily hunted them back to Justice and constrained them all over again, in spite of their pitiful cries for mercy owing to what they already knew of the punishments in store.
And to some of them, he said, many of the souls of their descendants attached themselves, just like bees or bats, crowding thick upon each other, and gibbering in anger at the memory of what they had suffered through them.
Last of all he saw the souls [of this class] who were returning to birth, being forcibly turned into all sorts of beasts, having their shapes changed by the shapers of animals, with blows of curious instruments. In some cases they hammered the whole of their parts together; in others they twisted them back, and some parts they planed off smooth, and got rid of them entirely, so that they might be fitted to other habits and modes of life.
Among them he saw the soul of Nero in a bad state generally and pierced with red-hot nails. The smiths had in hand for it the form of Pindar’s viper, in which it would be conceived and come to life by gnawing itself through its mother.
Hereupon, he said, a great light suddenly shone forth, and a voice from the light was heard giving orders to change it into a milder type, and devise a creature that croaks round marshes and lakes; he had been already punished for his crimes, and now some favour was due to him from the Gods for having freed Greece, the most excellent nation of his subjects and the one dearest to the Gods.
This was as far as Thespesius got in his vision. When, however, he was going to turn back, he had a most terrible fright; for a woman of amazing form and size seized hold of him, with the words: "Come thou to me so that thou mayest the better remember the details"; and she was just going to use on him a red-hot stylus, like [encaustic] painters, when another woman stopped her.
Then, as though he were suddenly sucked through a tube by a terribly strong and violent in-breath, he lit in his body, and woke up just as they were on the point of burying him.