The ceremonies of the ancient Greek-Pagan mysteries are a forerunner of the latter Gnostic and Christian Eucharist. With the onset of the Piscean Age, The Pagan mystery cults based their Eucharistic ceremonies on death and resurrection of the Solar God with the object enabling the initiate to vicariously or symbolically take part in this death and resurrection and so attain eternal life. Generally, an animal was selected to represent the Dying God and then ritually killed. Sometimes the animal’s blood was poured over the initiate(s) and in other cases, it was imbibed; a form of the Bloody Sacrifice. The flesh was also eaten in a ceremonial meal; all clearly suggesting the life force of the god being absorbed in the human body. The Master Therion delineates this quite well in MITP:
One of the simplest and most complete of Magick ceremonies is the Eucharist. It consists in taking common things, transmuting them into things divine, and consuming them. So far, it is a type of every magick ceremony, for the reabsorption of the force is a kind of consumption; but it has a more restricted application, as follows. Take a substance symbolic of the whole course of nature, make it God, and consume it.
Of the elements, the first is the break or Cake-of-Light in the Thelemic tradition. The Greek word for bread is ARTOS, which has a value in the Greek Qabalah of 671, which is equivalent to the Hebrew evaluation of the word Thora, the word for the Law and the Bride of God. As well, this is the principal number of the A.’.A.’. Initiation ritual, Liber Pyramidos. Thora is then the name of the third ‘person’ of the Supernal Triad, equivalent to the Christian Holy Ghost or feminine aspect of the Logos, which is why the Gnostic Mass is a celebration of the Goddess.
The Greek word for cup (used in the Gnostic Mass) is POTHRION, and it is numerically equal to 688, which is the diameter of a circle having a circumference of 2,162, the number of miles in the moon’s diameter. By this it may be supposed that the sublunary world is intended, from the four elements of which the body of the Logos was compounded, in the shape of a cross, the masculine emblem; suggesting the Sun. Then AIMA (blood) yields 52, the number of weeks in one solar journey through the Zodiac; connecting the idea of blood with the Sun and L.V.X.
By the Bread and the Cup, therefore masculine and feminine powers of the Universe are symbolically commingled together. This is then a formula of regeneration or resurrection; immortality, the formula of the White School of Magick and not the formula of the Black School (t be differentiated from the Black Lodge, which is an entirely different concept) as espoused by the Christianity that emerged from these ancient Gnostic schools. The idea of death is replaced by the devotion of the self to the ‘beloved’…Hadit to Nuit. The Master Therion says of this:
For all that, the idea is there. The Mass itself is essentially a typical White ritual. Its purpose is to transform crude matter directly into Godhead. It is thus a cardinal operation of Talismanic Magick. But the influence of the Black School has corroded the idea with theological accretions, metaphysical on the one hand, and superstitious on the other, so completely as to mask the Truth altogether.
The Pythagorean school taught about the Erotic Ascent, in which the power of Love and Desire (Erôs), directed toward beauty, raises the soul toward the Beauty of The One. Note that beauty is intrinsically tied to truth. The guides on this path are Aphrodite and Eros; ‘erotic madness’ being the vehicle of enlightenment that draws the lover and beloved together in divine union. (cf. Plato’s Symposium (209E-212C), where it is put into the mouth of the Priestess Diotima and also the writings of Ficino).
Spiritual growth then proceeds through three stages:
1. The Man of Earth: desire is aroused by the objectification of beauty in the body of the beloved, which is experienced through the senses. This ultimately expands into a love of physical beauty and evolves into a quest for truth.
2. The Lover: desire is aroused for the beauty of the soul, which manifests in the moral excellences (Light, Life, Love & Liberty) and the intellectual excellences (To Know, To Will, To Dare & To be Silent). This higher beauty is perceived by the rational mind rather than the senses.
3. The Hermit: one then comes to know ‘beauty absolute’ (or the truth) by merging into the ‘beloved’ and uniting with ‘It.’