CHAPTER EIGHT: TRINITY
THE CAPITOLINE HILL
THE SIBYLLINE BOOKS
A Trinitarian quality is displayed in the process of crossing any boundary, and in particular by the primordial crossing from the Void. Mathematically speaking, a veil is the distinction between an "outer" structure that embodies the "rules" of the structure next within; it is "crossed" when a more complex, embodying structure is devised, or "penetrated" when the relatively superficial strucure is analyzed in terms of the simpler, prior axioms, or "rules" by which it operates. Of course, the Buddhists also knew of the phenomenon, and of a deeper meaning for the phrase, "the Buddhas of the Three Times," with a mystical import like that of the Christian invocation of the Trinity.
The explanation of the Trinity in fact turns out to be simple enough. When you make a distinction of any kind whatever, the easiest way to represent its essential properties mathematically is by some sort of closed curve like a circle. Here the circumference distinguishes two sides, an inside and an outside. The two sides, like the circumference itself, which is neither the inside nor the outside, together make up three aspects of one distinction. Thus every distinction is a trinity. Hence the First Distinction is the First Trinity.
We can even go so far as to identify, in this mathematical representation, which aspect represents what. The inside represents the aspect where the Void or IHVH remains undisturbed and undistributed. It is, in other words, the aspect of the Godhead in the God, and is called, when considered as an aspect of the Trinity, God the Holy Ghost. It is thus the senior member of this colossal triple partnership....
Next we have the "line" of the distinction itself--the circumference of the circle in the mathematical representation. This line (it is only as line in mathematics, of course, not in reality: like a line that exists in a drawing but not in the thing drawn)--this line is actually the seeding of the densely-packed region, the embryonic outline of all things. In the Christian Trinity it is what is called God the Father: first in creation, second in seniority.
Finally we have the outside. The first distinction may be regarded as a cleft into and projected out of the Void, and this outer projective region, before it becomes further differentiated, as it does in the rest of creation, is the aspect known to western doctrine as the Word [Logos] or First Message. In the Trinity it is the junior partner, God the Son.
[Keys, Only Two, p. 126.]
In the past such ideas and speculations have been considered secret and mysterious, or even blasphemous and dangerous. They are deeply contemplative and, for the average citizen, may have the psychological effect of undermining all of the social and cultural motives that lead each of us to compete for power, glory, or prizes in the so-called real world. Oftentimes those who may themselves have a rather shaky grasp on that "reality," become annoyed when reading or hearing about the Void, or usettled by references to illusion, preferring to pursue the agglomeration of material accouterments along with the weighty mental baggage of belief and a propensity to avoid self-examination, as if driven to follow the tragic, linear path, forever outwards, toward utter dissipation and a slow, inevitable, entropic death. But a reorientation of consciousness allows the line to curve around toward closure, and sanity. Invoking Tadyatha, the Divine Mind, is a call to "lighten up," to turn toward the bodhi, toward the Idea of Enlightenment. For, as we learn from art and music as well as from mathematics and the spiritual traditions from either East or West, a
"Buddha," which is to say a fully awakened or Enlightened being,
knows that the heavens and all their contents, including the Triune God Himself, are illusions....A buddha in his years in the wilderness--communing only with animals, insects, plants, and inanimate things, and learning to know what it is they know--relearns to do what he was taught he couldn't do, and can then see again through the point of view of any person or thing. Thus the minds of all men are open to him, and he knows the awareness of trees, of grass, of earth, of water, of rock, each exactly of its kind, and so he knows that there is no thing living or dead in heaven or earth that is not fully aware of itself, with a proper view of its own. This is called the Wisdom of Great Discrimination, which knows all things because it is attached to no thing.
Thus the fully awakened one can travel in space because it is illusory, and he can also travel in time because it is even more illusory....It is because the whole of manifest existence is illusory that to "achieve" anything in manifest existence requires the greatest preparation and care. When an illusion aims to create yet another illusion in a substratum that is itself already an illusion, it is easy for something to go wrong. If we consider a buddha to be exactly what he is, a fully enlightened illusion, subject to all the laws, themselves illusory, determining the survival of such an illusion, we see with what great care the secret of all existence must be carried or it is lost.
For the great secret is like a fluid so corrosive that it dissolves any vessel that is used to contain it. A weaker vessel, irresponsibly charged with enlightenment, will be destroyed by it. Thus all awakened ones, before they become awakened, must first learn to protect themselves. They do this by learning to live in the form, which is the Wisdom of the Great Mirror, and is the only structure strong enough to contain the great secret without being dissolved by it. This is because, as even the doctrine tells us, the form--although not itself the secret--is itself the secretion of the secret, and thus constructed in the image of the secret, its apparent strength being its total lack of resistance to the secret, since what is secreted cannot resist what secretes it, but must forever be reformed and renewed by it.
[James Keys, "Coda on Enlightenment," manuscript, previously unpublished, pp. 1-4.]
THE CAPITOLINE HILL
The wanderings of the sacred solar king were epitomized for Romans by Virgil's account in the Aeneid of the epic escape from Troy. With Aeneas and the syncretic Virgilian myth of his wandering exilic path, the labyrinth suggests a connection with the "triumphs" of the Renaissance courts, such as the wedding celebrations of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti, or the triumphs of Battista Sforza and Federigo di Montefeltro in Urbino. These triumphs revived the idea of the ancient triumphal entry, although the Romans may have inherited the penchant for parades from the Etruscans, together with a taste for elaborate dinner parties and a knack for civil engineering projects such as street paving, bridges, aqueducts, sewers and sanitation facilities. The triumph thus belongs to the cycle of calendrical festivals, occurring at approximately the same times of the year when we still celebrate holidays with parades.
The historian of architecture James Ackerman has shown that Michelangelo's stunning pavement on the Capitoline Hill, its design featuring an interlaced twelve-pointed star, indicates a deliberate iconographic link with the temple of Apollo at Delphi. Each of the points corresponds with one of the zodiacal signs, following the pattern of the Greek geometrical, ecliptic system of astronomy. The pavement also swells in a subtle mound to indicate its nature as an omphalos, monumentally marking a "navel" or center of the world. The Capitoline Hill was the ancient site terminus of triumphal marches, which is why Michelangelo, in the spirit of renovatio, installed in the pavement's center the magnificent (and rare) surviving authentic Roman bronze imperial equestrian sculptural portrait: Marcus Aurelius. Never mind that Michelangelo and his contemporaries erroneously thought the emperor depicted was Antoninus Pious. The extraordinary setting of Michelangelo's Campidoglio was to serve a renewed Rome as
the site of solemn public ceremonies performed in the open air. The piazza was to be the chief locus of civic events, rather than the conference halls, prisons, and tribunal within the palaces. The average citizen would come to the hill only to witness some ritual that demanded an awesome and spectacular setting. Perhaps the project was visualized as a translation into permanent materials of those arches, gates, and faades of wood and canvas erected in the sixteenth century for the triumphal entries and processions of great princes. Indeed, an occasion of this kind prompted the renovation of the Capitol; when the Emperor Charles V entered Rome in 1536, the lack of a suitable access to the hill forced his cortge to detour around it, and frustrated the enactment of the traditional climax to an Imperial triumph. The Pope's determination to acquire the statue of Marcus Aurelius for the Campidoglio in 1537 appears to have been the initial reaction to the embarrassment of the previous year.
[Ackerman, Architecture of Michelangelo, p. 60.]
Professor Ackerman considers various sources for "the most intriguing and unique feature of Michelangelo's design, the central oval which supports Marcus Aurelius at the apex of a gentle domical mound." The twelve-pointed, interlaced figure bears obvious zodiacal symbolism; in antiquity it also suggested the Dome of Heaven and the idea of the Music of the Spheres. The Classical architect and theoretician Vitruvius advised the pavement of theater orchestras
be inscribed with four interlocking triangles forming a twelve-pointed star, since "in the number twelve the astronomy of the celestial signs is calculated from the musical concord of the stars."
[Ackerman, Architecture of Michelangelo, p. 71 f.]
These ideas had also been worked out in various medieval schemata --such as in De Natura Rerum by St. Isidore of Seville, later to appear as one of the earliest printed books--intended to coordinate the lunar cycle with the duodecimal solar periodicities such as the Hours of the Zodiac. Ackerman accepts the suggestion by Charles de Tolnay that "the design may be connected with medieval designation of the Campidoglio as the umbilicus or Caput Mundi," and its oval shape to a type of military shield also convex in shape, noting that
there was a type of ancient shield upon which the zodiac was represented. The legendary shield of Achilles was adorned with the celestial signs, and Alexander the Great adopted the Achillean type along with the epithet Kosmokrator--ruler of the Universe. The title, and the shield along with it, was transferred to Roman Emperors. Another attribute of certain Kosmokrator portraits is a corona simulating the rays of the sun, indicating the resplendent powers of Apollo; and armoured Imperial portraits where the corona is not used have images of Apollo on the breast-plate.
Usually the snake Python appears at the center of these shields, as it does in non-military representations of the zodiac. The myth of Python is associated with the shrine of Apollo at Delphi, where the snake reportedly dwelt under a moundlike stone known as the omphalos or umbilicus, which marked the center of the cosmos. (A fresco from the House of the Vetii, Pompeii, show[s] Python on an omphalos inscribed with intersecting bands forming lozenges like those of the Capitoline pavement)....The ancient Romans moved the umbilicus mundi figuratively from Delphi to the Forum, where it remained until medieval legend shifted it once more to the Campidoglio. Here it was permanently fixed in Michelangelo's pavement, which combined its zodiacal inferences with its moundlike form. Marcus Aurelius, mounted at the center, might have been a foreign element if iconic tradition had not permitted his association with the umbilicus. As Kosmokrator [much like the Christ Pantokrator, the central figure at Hosios Lucas], he succeeded to Apollo's position upon the mound, and since the ancient sculptor had not equipped him with the requisite attributes, Michelangelo placed around his base the corona of Apollo: the twelve pointed rays which also serve as the starting points of the zodiacal pattern.
[Ackerman, Architecture of Michelangelo, p. 73 f.]
Thus, there was a complex, nested rhythm for parades and triumphal processions, from the grand scale of the precession of the equinox, to the seventy-two years of the aion as a lifetime, to the nineteen-year cycle when lunations would synchronize with reckoning of the solar year, to the historic occasion of the moment. The Romans translated the omphalos from Delphi, which, as we have seen, came first from the thibbun or sokar from Egyptian "Thebes" (al-Wast) and Saqqara; medieval Rome identified the civic locus of the Campidoglio, which Michelangelo monumentalized in the Renaissance. And throughout all this time the process of renovatio was to be understood metaphorically--by some of the "initiated," anyway--as the renewal or rebirth of the integrated psyche, consciousness with real awareness, or what is called by some, Enlightenment.
The Capitoline Hill was not chosen willy-nilly by the medieval residents of Rome. It had been a sacred center, not only for the Roman Empire, but also for the Republic before it and, before the Romans came to town, for the Etruscans (or perhaps for the Sabines, since no one is certain about which of the city's seven famous hills they commanded.) There were three ascents to the summit of the Capitoline Hill. Only the gentlest of these, called the Clivus Asyli, could be by negotiated chariots, hence this became the route followed by triumphal processions and their cars containing conquering generals returning to Rome. Military commanders were prudently prohibited by patrician politicians from entering the city unless specifically awarded a Triumph. In Republican times, an exclusionary perimeter had been established by the Senate, with the Rubicon River defining the northEastern boundary of Italia proper. Now, at that time there were also three separate laws against gaming: Leges Titia, et Publicia, et Cornelia. These countermanded not only the playing of dice-- of which there were two kinds: six-sided tesserae, and tali rounded on two sides with the other four marked (named for Talus, the hero killed by Daedalus)--but also games of chance of any kind, except during the month of December when celebrating the Saturnalia. These circumstances lend a double importance to the often repeated quotation of Julius Caesar who (without having received a formal invitation) decided in 49 B.C. to cross the Rubicon, thus, by marching on Rome, in effect declaring war:
Iacta alea est!
"Let the die be cast!"
Where the triumphal path, in classical times, departed from the Arch of Septimus Severus and passed the ruined pillars of the Temple of Concord, the second way up the Capitoline Hill, called the Clivus Capitolium, began from the Arch of Tiberias and Temple of Saturn, before winding its way to the citadel. The steepest path ascended from the Forum in one hundred steps past the Tarpeian Rock. There were two summits on the hill: one to the north facing the Quirinal, and the other to the south facing the Tiber and over-looking the Forum, by the precipitous Tarpeian Rock from which the bodies of condemned traitors were flung. In between the crests was an area referred to as the Intermontium, sacred to Jupiter and the location of his temple.
[Harper's Dictionary, s.v. Capitolinus.]
The Mons Capitolinus was previously called Saturnius, after the ancient city of Saturnia, of which it was the citadel. Then,
we are told, the whole hill had been called the Tarpeian Mount, until the Etruscan kings of Rome--who were , in historical fact, the first Roman occupants of the hill during the sixth century BCE--changed its name to Capitolium. There is something of a mystery here, since Tarpeia proves to be an Etruscan word, akin to Tarquinius. What has happened, apparently, is that the Sabine families who settled at Rome...claimed the hill, which at that time was called "Tarquinius," as their own peculiar property. Consequently they changed its name to the Sabine form "Tarpeius" (since the Sabines used the letter "p" where the Etruscans and Romans said "q," e.g. "Pompilius" for "Quinquilius"). The name of the Tarpeian rock was not as Sabine as it looked, for it had first been Etruscan. And so, therefore, had the name of the maiden Tarpeia, though its Sabinisation had evidently taken place before the myths about her fate were concocted.
[Michael Grant, Roman Myths, Scribner's, New York (1971), p. 123.]
Very likely, we have here an explanation for the phrase "minding one's `p's and `q's," but the truth about the rock is not so easily determined. Tarpeia's fabricated legend--not truly a "myth"--supposedly recounts the aftermath of the Rape of the Sabine Women by the followers of Romulus. Despoiled of their women, the Sabine forces, under their monarch Titus Tatius, camped at the base of the Capitoline Hill, preparing to storm its heights. The Sabines were viewed from on high by Tarpeia, daughter of the chief defender appointed by Romulus, and some say that she conceived a brilliant stratagem by which to deprive the attacking warriors of their weapons by soliciting them with a ruse. Others maintain that she
conceived a desire for the bracelets which the men wore on their left arms and for their rings; for at that time the Sabines wore ornaments of gold and were no less luxurious in their habits than the Etruscans.
[Dionysius of Halicarnassus, cited by Grant, Roman Myths, p. 120 f.]
Using a secret stairway, she met with Tatius and promised to admit the Sabines under cover of night, provided they gave to her all that they wore on their left arms. It is debated whether or not she informed Romulus, who could pretend to flee but then ambush the Sabines. Some say her messenger defected, informing Tatius of the ploy. When she demanded payment, the warriors realizing their shields, too, were due in debt they all flung them at her as one, and she was buried under the burden of arms and gold.
At the base of the Capitoline Hill, near the gate named in her honor, was a temple dedicated to Carmenta, a Roman numina (immanent, non-personalized spirit conceived as a shining forth of Divine Will) sacred to springs and childbirth. Two attendants at her temple, the Carmentae, also considered to be her sisters, were named Postvorta and Antevorta, two aspects of Carmenta interpreted as a goddess of Fate, "she who looks both forward and backward." This related her to Cardea, and she may have lent this persona of dual temporality to Janus, since her festival, the Carmentalia, was celebrated in early January.
This helps us to understand the relationship at Rome of Janus and the White Goddess Cardea...as the Goddess of Hinges who came to Rome from Alba Longa. She was the hinge on which the year swung--the ancient Latin, not the Etruscan year--and her importance as such is recorded in the Latin adjective cardinalis--as we say in English "of cardinal importance"--which was also applied to the four main winds; for winds were considered as under the sole direction of the Great Goddess until Classical times. As Cardea she ruled over the Celestial Hinge at the back of the North Wind around which, as Varro explains in his De Re Rustica ["Concerning Country Matters"], the mill-stone of the Universe ["Hamlet's Mill"] revolves....Janus was perhaps not originally double-headed ...[since] a Janus with long hair and wings appears on an early stater [coin] of Mallos, a Cretan colony in Cilicia [Asia Minor]. He is identified with the solar hero Talus [from whose name is derived one of the Latin words for dice, talia], and a bull's head appears on the same coin. In similar coins of the late fifth century BCE he holds an eight-rayed disc in his hand and has a spiral of immortality sprouting from his double head.
[Graves, The White Goddess, p. 178 f.]
In the legends of early Rome, Carmenta became associated (either as his mother or as his wife) with the figure of Evander, a wandering stranger from Arcadia, the "good man" of Roman myth. Evander, founder of the Palatine Hill, was a culture-bringer, introducing the rude early Romans to writing, music and the other arts, although his entire legend, in fact, may have been a creation of the Greek poets. The historian Dionysus Periergetes says Carmenta gave oracles and lived for 110 years, the canonical number in Egypt for an ideal lifetime.
The 110 years were made up of twenty-two Etruscan lustra of five years each; and 110 years composed the "cycle" taken over from the Etruscans by the Romans. At the end of each cycle they corrected irregularities in the solar calendar by intercalation and held Saecular Games. The secret sense of 22--sacred numbers were never chosen haphazardly--is that it is the measure of the circumference of the circle when the diameter is 7. This proportion, now known as pi, is no longer a religious secret....
[Graves, The White Goddess, 228.]
THE SIBYLLINE BOOKS
The Classical name, Mons Capitolinus, goes back to the finding of a human skull (caput) on the site while laying foundations for the Temple of Jupiter. Tarquinius Priscus, third in the sequence of the ancient elected kings, and the first from whom we hear anything about the idea of hereditary succession, in 615 BCE vowed to build the temple, and may have begun construction soon after. A later successor named Tarquinius Superbus was responsible for completing the project in 533 BCE. The nave was sacred to Jupiter and the two aisles, or pos-ibly architectural wings in the original building, were dedicated to the other members of the Capitoline Trinity: the one on the right to Minerva, and the one on the left to Juno. It was not dedicated until 506 BCE, however, the third year after the expulsion of the kings.
The magnificence and richness of this temple are almost incredible. All the consuls successively made donations to the Capitol, and Augustus bestowed upon it at one time 2000 pounds weight of gold. The gilding of the whole arch of the Temple of Jupiter, which was undertaken after the destruction of Carthage, cost, according to Plutarch, 21,000 talents [about $50 million in 1992]....The interior was all of marble, and was adorned with vessels and shields of solid silver, with gilded chariots, etc.
[Harper's Dictionary, s.v. Capitolium.]
To this temple--probably the largest and most important in sixth century BCE Italy--the Sibylline Books, already centuries old at the time, were brought (pure legend, according to some) by Tarquinius Priscius (or, by Tarquinius Superbus). These were dour books of prophesy, nine in number and literally loose-leafed, since they were inscribed originally on palm leaves. Three of the Books were burned by the oracular incumbent at Cumae when the Roman king to whom they were offered for sale refused to pay the asking price; and then three more were burned after the king declined a second purchase option. Hence, the king (blinking) was only able to purchase the remaining three, but for those he was required to pay the full asking-price at first demanded for all nine, which he had then thought already too exorbitant.
[See also, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, edited by M. Cary, et. al., Oxford University Press (1949, 1961 reprint), s.v. Sibylla.]
The Sibylline Books were considered important secret documents of state, kept in a vault of the temple, entrusted to the care of a collegium, first composed of two patrician men, but after 367 BCE this was expanded to ten, half patrician and half plebian. In the first century BCE five more were added; they were usually former dignitaries, and held office for life while exempted from other civic duties. The Books themselves were lost in a fire of 82 BCE, said to have been caused by negligence on the part of those charged with the care of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. They had, however, become immensely important as secret, presumably authoritative, rites and documents for justifying affairs of state, in no small measure through associations that had been deliberately cultivated between the patron deity of divination, Apollo (who had shown great favor to Troy in the Iliad), and the Caesar/Emperor Octavian/Augustus. A vast project was initiated to reassemble their contents--or something like them--and the Senate dispatched envoys to collect any similar sayings from traditionally oracular places such as Samos, Erythrae, and especially from sites near ancient Troy. To this ersatz compilation were added prophesies of the local Tiburtine Sibyl and the sayings of the Marcii that had been discovered in 213 BCE, and so forth.
And then Augustus [as Pontifex Maximus] had the Books copied, that is to say edited to suit the requirements of the regime. This was done in 18 BC, the very year after Virgil had brought the Aeneid nearly to completion and had died. The urns containing the Books are shown on a coin of Augustus beneath a figure of his patron-god Apollo. For it was to his new Temple of Apollo on the Palatine, the religious center of the new order, that these records were now transferred.
[Grant, Roman Myths, p. 63.]
The Sibylline Books brought from Cumae had been a principal vehicle for introducing to Roman State worship the deities of Apollo, Magna Mater, and Ceres--according to the original forms found and rites practiced in the region around Troy--and provided a basis for amalgamating the system of Roman gods with those of Greek tradition. The Vandal general Stilicho burned all the remaining Books in 405 AD.
As Plutarch tells, their prophesies were of "many mirthless things...many revolutions and transportations of Greek cities, many appearances of barbarian armies and deaths of leading men." They seem also to have divided the history of the world into ages to which the various metals and deities were assigned. And, as we may judge from Virgil's celebrated words, the Sibylline round, declining to its end, was to be followed--as everywhere in such mythic cycles--by a golden age of rebeginning.
Now is come (he wrote) the last age of the Cumaean prophesy: the great cycle of periods is born anew. Now returns the Maid, returns the sign of Saturn: now from high heaven descends a new generation....the Iron Race shall begin to cease and the Golden to arise all over the world.
The poem...was taken in the Middle Ages to have been a prophecy of Christ, and Virgil was honored, therefore, as a kind of pagan prophet. His thought of the coming Golden Age somewhat resembles the eschatology of the Jewish Apocalyptic writers...however, in the gentle Roman poem there is no tumult of War and of the Last Days. The image is of a return of the Golden Age in the natural course of an ever- revolving cycle....
[Campbell, Occidental Mythology, p. 322.]
Nevertheless, these prophetic Books of the Cumaean Sibyl--or one of their central themes, particularly as transmitted through Virgil's Eclogue IV and the Aeneid--provide the principal Classical source for the motto on the Great Seal of the United States of America:
ANNUIT COEPTIS --NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM
Renewed as in the Beginning --the New Order of the Ages
The great cycles of time, perhaps quite naturally, came to be symbolized by the wheel, even among the Maya and the Tibetans, who had no occasion to use wheeled vehicles. The wheel of the chariot--first the Egyptian four-wheeled war cart, then (early in the second millennium BCE) the faster and more maneuverable two- wheeled chariots of the Hyksos--was at the leading edge of military technology. But by the Renaissance, the wheeled war vehicles of Roman triumphs had become "floats" of the Triumph celebrated as part of wedding festivities.
In the earlier Middle Ages the arts flourished in the service of collective needs; in the Renaissance, the "fine" arts were developed of which the prime function was the self-expression of the individual....Not loyalty or duty, but freedom was their justification....The upstart Doge Agnello of Pisa used to show himself at the window of his palace [in the words of Jacob Burckhardt] "as relics are shown"; man shared no longer in the Divine Passion, but in the Divine Transfiguration into glory. The triumph is the characteristic ceremony of the epoch, as the sacrament is of the Middle Ages.
[Joan Evans, Pattern: A Study of Ornament in Western Europe from 1180 to 1900, (First edition, Oxford 1931), Da Capo paperback edition (1976), Volume II, p. 14.]
To these triumphs, in turn, were related not only the calendrical traditions going back to cosmic identifications of Mesopotamian deities, but also the Tarot cards that had evolved from throws of the dice, and the age-old idea of the Wheel of Fortune. The prevailing medieval tradition of heavenly structure was based on extremely influential writings by an astounding mystical writer who has been given the name Pseudo-Dionysus, or Dionysus the Areopagite. The presumed identification, since proven erroneous, was with the companion of St. Paul and first Bishop of Athens, who was called "the Areopagite." Actually, the author of texts such as The Divine Names was a fifth or sixth-century AD Greek mystic, in whose confidently meticulous scheme of Heaven the wheel--as in Ezekiel's Old Testament vision--was associated with the third Order of Angels, the Ophanim, who ranked just after Seraphim and Cherubim.
Ezekiel's vision was that of an Enthroned Man [the Divine Human Prototype], surrounded by a rainbow, its seven colors corresponding with the seven heavenly bodies that ruled the week [according to the Mesopotamian tradition]. Four of these bodies were symbolized by the four spokes of the chariot-wheels: Ninib (Saturn) by the midwinter spoke, Marduk (Jupiter) by the Spring equinox spoke, Nergal (Mars) by the midsummer spoke, Nabu (Mercury) by the Autumn equinox spoke. But what of the three other heavenly bodies--the Sun, the Moon and the planet Ishtar (Venus)--corresponding with the Capitoline Trinity and with the Trinity worshipped at Elephantine and at Hieropolis....[T]he metaphysical explanation of this type of Trinity, brought to Rome by the Orphics, was that Juno was physical nature (Ishtar), Juppiter was the impregnating or animating principle (the Sun) and Minerva was the directing wisdom behind the Universe (the Moon)....The vision cannot be fully explained without revealing the mystery of the Holy Trinity. It must be remembered that in ancient religions every "mystery" implied a mystagogue who orally explained its logic to initiates: he may often have given a false or iconotropic explanation but at least it was a full one.... [T]he early Church had certain mysteries explained only to a small circle of elders....But unless the College of Cardinals has been remarkably discreet throughout all the intervening centuries, the original explanation of the mysteries, which makes the Credo quia absurdam needless, has long been lost.
[Graves, The White Goddess, p. 463.]
In contrast, the vision reported by Dionysius the Areopagite in De Divinis Nominibus (On The Divine Names) was crystalline in its certainty, and efulgent with enthusiasm, describing the universe as
an inexhaustible irradiation of beauty, a grandiose expression of the ubiquity of the first Beauty, a dazzling cascade of splendours....None of the commentators on Dionysius could resist this fascinating vision....Quite a number of concepts were constructed in order to give philosophical expression to this aesthetic vision of the universe. But they all derived ultimately from the triad of terms given in the Book of Wisdom: number (numerus), weight (pondus), and measure (mensura). Thus we find triads such as dimension, form and order (modus, forma, ordo); substance, nature, and power (substantia, species, virtus); that which determines, that which proportions, and that which distinguishes (quod constat, quod congruit, quod discernit); and so on and so forth....There was not a single medieval writer who did not turn to this theme of the polyphony of the universe; and we find that often enough, along with the calm and control of philosophical language, there sounded a cry of ecstatic joy: "When you consider the order and magnificence of the universe...you will find it to be like a most beautiful canticle...and the wondrous variety of its creatures to be a symphony of joy and harmony to very excess." [William of Auvergne, De Anima, V, 18.]
[Umbereto Eco, Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages, translated by Hugh Bredin, Yale University Press, New Haven (1986), p. 18 f.]
So, perhaps the secret was only lost on some--individuals or institutions--who therefore came to rely on the problematical principle of "believing it just because it IS absurd." Yet, it is the very nature of such "secrets," described objectively as ways of understanding formal relationships, that they are essentially not OF time. As Dionysius the Areopagite understood, they are of Eternity, yet they can be represented (for those people who are intellectually capable of basic abstract thought) as orders of Being not "yet" so complex as to require the notion of time. Space, if understood with rigorous clarity, will do. Of such relationships it may be truly said: "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end."