What is the ancient temple like?
From a Lecture by noted Historian Hugh Nibley:
In ancient times the world was covered with temples. What was done in them? Surprisingly, all followed the same general pattern. Over sixty years ago I wrote a paper on the subject, comparing a score of temple rites at the great ceremonial centers throughout the world from the remotest times to the present. They were astonishingly alike; many scholars had to check over the lists of their common traits again and again to realize that we may be dealing with one single worldwide institution. Thus Samuel Hooke listed five main elements that “constitute the underlying skeleton . . . not only of such seasonal rituals as the great New Year Festivals, but also of coronation rituals, [and] initiation ceremonies.” “In extremely diverse cultural contexts we always find the same cosmological pattern and the same ritual scenario,” writes Eliade, and as “man progressively occupies increasingly vast areas of the planet, . . . all he seems to do is to repeat indefinitely the same archetypal gesture.” He pointedly observes that “man would not know these tales if they were not revealed to him. Consequently, a myth is the story of what happened . . . at the beginning of time.”Hugh Nibley Abraham’s Temple Drama
He further goes on to write:
The Temple Drama
The ancient state or nation was hierocentric, focused on one sacred place of power and authority; such places were sometimes referred to as “places of emergence,” that is, of contact between the Upper and the Lower Worlds, where at the New Year all the people met to rehearse the creation. Regarding this practice, Mircea Eliade writes, “It was the . . . sacred place, . . . the celestial prototype, . . . the act of creation which . . . brought the ordered cosmos out of chaos, . . . the sacred marriage, . . . the ritual confrontation with evil as the dragon and the victory of the King, whose triumphant coronation inaugurates the new age of the world and the cosmos.” There is an “atoning sacrifice” to “restore the primal unity between God and man and enable the latter to regain the Divine presence.” In this, “Reality is conferred through participation in the ‘symbolism of the Center’: cities, temples, houses become real by the fact of being assimilated to the ‘center of the world.’ . . . The temple in particular—preeminently the sacred place—had a celestial prototype,”39 the holy mountain, “the mountain of the Lord’s house” (Isaiah 2:2).
But does all this singing, dancing, dramatizing, and preaching really make it happen? The performance at the temple was a preparation, a training, a school, and a theater, teaching by precept and example. They knew it was not the real thing. Shakespeare apologizes repeatedly in his great superspectacular Henry V, begging the pardon of the audience, “Can this cockpit hold / The vasty fields of France? Or may we cram / Within this wooden O the very casques / That did affright the air at Agincourt? / O, pardon!”43 He excuses himself for the sheer gall of daring to stage a great battle with “four or five most vile and ragged foils / (Right ill dispos’d, in brawl ridiculous).”44 Still, he is performing a service as he concludes, “Yet sit and see, / Minding true things by what their mock’ries be.”45 The whole thing is just a mockup, as a stage is, a make-believe, frankly, a mockery. But still it will give you an idea of the “true things” it is supposed to represent.Hugh Nibley Abrahams Temple Drama (Archived Here)
Sacred theater about the creation of the world . This type of reenactment can be found in most ancient cultures, but largely forgotten in ours. I was struck by the presence and mask artistry of the Noh Japanese sacred theater:
Dance Prayer Circle
From Greece to Korea, from North America to Israel the sacred circle dance was a vital part of ancient ceremony, the early Christian temple Ceremony had a prayer dance circle
The nature of the early Christian prayer circle may be described by letting the oldest documents speak for themselves, beginning with the latest and moving backwards to the earliest. The rite was depicted for the last time in a document read to the assembled churchmen of the Second Council of Nicaea in ad 787 and condemned by them to the flames. Their objection was to parts of the text that proclaimed the gnostic doctrine of the total immateriality of Christ; on the subject of the prayer circle, which was strange to them, they preserved a discreet silence (see sidebar on facing page).1 Actually that part of it was an excerpt taken from a much older writing, the Acts of John, being the earliest apocryphal Christian Acta, dating at least to the early third century. In reading this and other accounts of the prayer circles, we seem to enter, as Max Pulver expressed it, into “a strange space, a strange world—unlike ours—a world above the world that opens before us when we enter into the round dance of the disciples, led by Christ.” The passage from the Acts of John reads as follows, after a notice on the extreme secrecy in which these things were guarded:
Before he was seized by wicked men and by the wicked serpent of the Jewish authorities (lawgivers, nomothetoumenoi), he called us all together and said: “Before I am given over to those men, let us sing a hymn (of praise) to the Father and so go forth ready to face whatever lies ahead.” Then he commanded us to form a circle, taking hold of each other’s hand; And he himself taking up a position in the middle uttered the Amen (formula) and “pay attention to me (epakouete mou—follow my instructions).” Then he began a hymn, saying,
“Praise (glory, doxa) to thee, Father,” and we standing in the circle, followed him with the Amen.Hugh Nibley – The Early Christian Prayer Circle
“Glory to thee Logos, glory to thee grace (charis, love). Amen.
Glory to thee spirit, glory to thee Holy One; praise to thy glory. Amen (or be praised [doxasou] with glory. Amen).
We praise thee Father; we thank thee Light in which there is no darkness. Amen.
And while we (all) give thanks, I say (explain): I wish to be saved and I wish to save. Amen.
I wish to be delivered, and I wish to deliver. Amen.
I wish to bear wounds (titrōskō) and I wish to inflict them. Amen.
Circle Dance as Part of Warrior Culture – Knights of the Temple
Armenian Kochari in front of ancient Christian Church – Warriors
Yarkhushta – Sevak Amroyan (again featuring an ancient Christian Church)