Mysticism via Cultural Vehicles: Shakespeare and Sophocles

The work of the mystery schools is to spiritually uplift humanity from its current state of spiritual darkness caused by our obsession with materialism. Religion is one means to this end but cultural vehicles such as arts and sciences are also important. One of the beautiful things about cultural vehicles is that individuals, such as artists, develop their divine creative natures while simultaneously serving humanity. The cultural vehicles chose by the speaker who offered these talks are dramas by Shakespeare and Sophocles.


Please read this very carefully to avoid misunderstanding.

Richard Koepsel does not consider himself an authority on Shakespeare, neither does he consider himself a Shakespeare scholar. There is some scholarship in these talks which will probably not be found anywhere else and some statements are made authoritatively from spiritual conviction so it might be easy to misunderstand the purpose of these talks. The purpose of these talks is to share Christian mystical philosophy. That philosophy may or may not have been in the mind of Shakespeare or whoever wrote the plays. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate in these talks what is Shakespeare and what is Richard Koepsel so listen carefully. Please judge the talks as entities in themselves and not in terms of scholarship or literary merit.

The speaker is not trying to put words into the mouth of Shakespeare but he more than willing to believe that Shakespeare did see many of these things as a mystic would. There is irony in doing things this way because it amounts to making a cultural vehicle of what is already a cultural vehicle.

The presentation of these talks is far from smooth, in fact it is ragged. As with the mythology talks, the speaker didn't know how to do what he wanted to do. The talks were presented in a participatory classroom setting and, after a shaky start, we grew up together and had a great time doing so.

The presentation is twofold. First there is mystical free association on things that came up while reading the text. Shakespeare presents what jazz musicians call releases, i.e. places where one can leave the melody line and solo on an idea. Fun. The second part of the presentations is the arranging of the plays according to mystical themes. The themes are not chronological nor are they based exclusively on the subject matter of the plays. They are based on mystical themes which are almost certainly not in an order that was the intention of Shakespeare though they are very handy for expressing mysticism. There are the three major themes and one singleton play which are explained below. The plays are given in the order harmonious to the development of the theme. The links are to playlists for each play. They are also given in the order that they were presented.

The Cycles of Christ and Persephone

The cycle of Persephone is the cycle of the seasons. The etheric life force bursts forth and withdraws into the earth every year, though oppositely in the northern and southern hemispheres. It is a nature cycle though the Eleusinian mysteries are based on it. In recent earth history the cycle of the Christ spirit entering and leaving the earth has been superimposed on the cycle of Persephone as seen from the northern hemisphere. The following four plays are dedicated to both cycles:

The Winter's Tale
Julius Caesar
A Midsummer Night's Dream

Magic, Black and White

We humans are divine creative beings. We are capable of wielding the finer, more creative forces of nature behind the gross, external physical world which is more a world of effects than causes. When we exercise our divine creative privilege, it seems to those in materialistic blindness as though the laws of nature have been superseded. Such activities are called supernatural or magical. The following plays explore magic, especially the ethical aspects of it:

The Tempest

Star Profiles and more

Throughout these talks there are references to the astrologically archetypal nature of various characters. In this series there is more of that than usual but the real reason the series was given was that the speaker loved this play but couldn't fit it into a theme of several plays so it was taken by itself:

Antony and Cleopatra

Love and the Law

The speaker who offered these talks is a moralist at heart though he sometimes finds it difficult to live out his moralism. St. Paul says “The end of the law is love” which succinctly states the relationship between love and the law that is also hard to live out. The following talks explores this dichotomy which sometimes seems antagonistic:

Romeo and Juliet
Measure for Measure
King Lear
The Merchant of Venice


Sophocles was an initiate into the Eleusinian mysteries and perhaps some of the other contemporary mystery schools in Athens (belonging to several schools was possible in those times.) Some mystics say he was reborn two lives later as Richard Wagner who wrote both the libretti and the music to his operas. If this rumor is true, his blending of music and words may have been prompted by the struggles between the Athenian playwrights, who were Ionians, and the musicians who were Dorians. In any case, his clear dramatic writing moved audiences even though they already knew the story being enacted. This clarity and dramatic skill provided the inspiration for any success these talks may have had. Each of the plays studied has a theme of its own.

Oedipus Rex

The theme chosen for this play was initiation. The myth is not a myth used by any mystery school but the trials Oedipus passes through are akin to the trials of a candidate for initation. This is a non-standard way of looking at it but it is not invalid. The Oedipus myth was treated in a different manner in The Oedipus Triangle in the mythology subsection of myths portraying triangles.


Human self-governance will ultimately be congruent with divine principles but since the fall of humanity, we have set ourselves apart from the divine plan as much as we can. Consequently, human law is artificial and different from divine law and sometimes they clash. That is the theme of this play and of this series of talks.

Oedipus at Colonus

It is a joy when one gets a glimpse of our ultimate, divine destiny. However, that same realization makes our laboring under the burden of sin from our past deeds more onerous. We long for redemption. The redemption of Oedipus is the theme of this play and redemption is the theme of these talks.

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