[Türkçe çeviri için yorum bölümüne bkz.]
Characters: Noumenios, Porphyry, Cheremon, Tat, Origen, Valentinus
In 3 parts ( Arranged by us for conveniency reasons)
Noumenios: All the expected guests have arrived. I knew that Porphyry and Origen would preserve ‘religiously’ the memory of he who was their Masters and mine and that they wouldn’t fail the invitation, but I thank Tat, Valentinus and Cheremon who didn’t know Ammonios, to have also come to take part to this memorial meal. Without doubt, Plotinus is at the same moment celebrating in Rome, like us in Alexandria, the anniversary of the death of Ammonios or, rather his liberation; as the body is the prison of the soul, and us, Philosophy’s initiates, we know well that there is no eternal separations. That the blissful soul of our friend is chairing our banquet and may it lead among us those of our already departed friends on the great journey and amongst them, Origen’s second Master, Clement of Alexandria.
Origen: I am grateful to you for this souvenir, Noumenios; this is what we call the communion of saints.
Cheremon: In the midst of every home is erected the sacred stone, the domestic altar. It is the center of the family, image of this static center of the world that our fathers called Histie. Homer teaches us that it must receive the first libation. Without associating Origen and Valentinus to a rite that is foreign to their tradition, I will spill the beginning of the banquet on the flame that will carry them to the divine ether. He is the source of life, and as we have nothing to offer that belong to us, we are giving him back a part of his blessings.
Origen: We cannot take part to your sacrifice, Cheremon, but nothing forbids us to recognize the sacred character of the flame; our prophets call the Eternal One a devouring fire, and He revealed Himself in the burning bush to Moses.
Valentinus: It is also that light was the first emanation of the divine thought and it is for us the most perfect image of the invisible.
Tat: This flame, that the Greeks call Hephaestus, my ancestors worshiped it under the name of Phta, and placed it on top of the Memphis trinity.
Porphyry: I fill this cup of wine from Greece. In the painting on the side of the amphora, I see Dionysos bringing back Hephaestus to Olympus. It is the symbol of the libation spread over the flame and going with it towards the Gods.
Noumenios: As you are referring to this antic tale, I ask you, Porphyry, while the wine is been poured in the cups, to explain to those of our guests that may ignore it, why our fathers linked the sacrifice to the worship of the fire and of the wine.
Porphyry: I will gladly do so, but perhaps Cheremon would find my explanations too subtle. Let him propose first his, and if they are not enough, I will seek to complete them.
Cheremon: I said, it is true, Porphyry, that in your ‘Cave of the nymphs’, that you have credited Homer with intentions that I believe he was foreign. We can differ from each other on some points in Hellenism, like Valentinus and Origen differ sometimes on Christian symbols.
Tat: As well, very few Egyptians understand today the sacred writing of the ancient priests, the meaning of mythology that is the religious language of the first ages, which must have been lost throughout the centuries. But its very own obscurity awakes the curiosity of the mind, and the more the tales are against reason, the more we want to penetrate their meaning.
Cheremon: You are speaking the truth, Tat; we shouldn’t guess that the ancients, who left behind them so many works, were inferior to us in wisdom; but the images they enveloped their thoughts often seen to us like enigmas.
For instance, the mythology of fire is difficult to understand because of its great antiquity, as the invention of fire is liked with the origin of human societies. Perhaps they were “two feet animals” – without feathers – as Plato calls them, but the social animal only exists as for foresight and industry; this is why Prometheus is regarded as the creator of Men. The Athenians associate him with Athena and Hephaestus and celebrate in their honor the festival of lights. Athena is the sky’s clarity revealed in the lightning, which the ancients expressed in saying that she is born out of the head of Zeus hit by Hephaestus or Prometheus’s ax. Hephaestus is the flame that burns on the altar; Prometheus is the fire that light before him, the foresighted.
Homer’s stories about Hephaestus, Hesiod’s about Prometheus are also related to the very nature of fire. The bowlegged god, thrown out of Olympus, it is the lightning falling from the sky in winding lines. The Titan chained to a column where Zeus’s eagle devour his bowels always recovering, it is the captive fire on the altar, always devoured by the winds of the sky.
As for the part of Hesiod’s story about Pandora is a moral allegory. Without industry, man would take his female like the other animals, but it is civilization that created the woman; therefore the poet mixes them both in the charming virgin, entrusted with all blessings by the Gods and sentencing Man to work, because she likes luxury and despises poverty. Her curiosity made her open a sealed vase from which all evils of civilized life escaped; evils unknown to the barbarian nations. This is how Zeus trades a good against an evil, because Pandora’s birth was a punishment for the conquest of fire. The reason for this punishment and Prometheus’s ordeal is industry, is a struggle against the cosmic Powers, and there is no struggle for Man without pain. He must conquer through work his food that earth provides freely to the other beings, because the Gods have hidden the sources of life since Prometheus stole the fire from Heaven.
Porphyry: It seems to me, Cheremon, that not only Pandora’s story embodies a moral tale, but is also related to the descent and ascension of the souls; therefore, it is found a lot on sarcophagi. We can see on one side, Prometheus shaping human beings bodies, and Athena, the divine intelligence animates them by laying on their heads a butterfly. In the middle, we see Prometheus’s ordeal, symbol of terrestrial life, and on the other side, his deliverance by Herakles. Man is a sparkle of the divine fire put into a lamp made of clay, a God exiled from heaven, chained by the binders of necessity on the Caucasus of life, where he is devoured by always reborn worries. But the effort of the heroic virtues breaks his chains and delivers him from the beak and claws of the vultures; Herakles brings Prometheus back in Olympus and reconciles earth with heaven.
To be continued
Source: ‘The Alexandrian Banquet’, by Louis Ménard
From ‘Les rêveries d’un paien mystique’. Paris- George Cres- 1911.
More about the amazing Louis Ménard here for the French biography
and here for the (more incomplete) English version 😉