Our Journey to Greece was inspired by a great healer named Asclepius who lived in Ancient Greece over 3000 years ago. His wholistic approach to healing included drama and dreams, laughter and song, dance, spirituality. “Asclepius,” writes Jean Houston, “demonstrated how full well-being can be created by energizing and balancing the body, heart, intuition, dreams, faith and spirit of a person.”
Today we set out from Athens, travelling 22 miles northeast to visit a sanctuary and oracular healing center. Founded in the 5th century BCE and flourishing until the 4th century CE , the site was dedicated to the god-hero Amphiaraus. Healing at the Amphiareion came through dreams and their interpretation. The Greek travel writer Pausanias described the process in the 2nd century CE:
…the first thing is to purify oneself, when someone comes to consult Amphiaraus, and the purification ritual is to sacrifice to the god, and people sacrifice to him and to all those whose names are on (the altar), and — when these things are finished—they sacrifice a ram and spreading out its skin under themselves, lie down waiting for the revelation of a dream.
We approach the Amphiareion as pilgrims, as well as time travellers, for we have come to an ancient ruin seeking a spiritual power that lingers. Here, nestled in a plain among mountains, there were once baths, a theatre, the god’s temple, staff residences, shops, inns, the agora and a water clock. Today there are only stone remnants of pedestals and sleeping benches. Yet the peace of this place envelops us with its natural beauty, its quiet strength.
First we purify ourselves, washing our hands in a bowl that holds water infused with herbs. We have been asked to bring a non-physical sacrifice, something in our lives we are ready to release….I have been wondering what this might be.
Inviting us to find places to sit among the tumbled stones, Jean tells us: “Sacrifice is about making holy. What aspect of your life do you wish to make holy?”
We ponder this in silence. What rises for me is an old fear, one that emerges now and then with renewed ferocity. It is about home, about belonging: where do I belong? with whom? I feel drawn to sacrifice this fear, handing it over to the Sacred Presence to whom my life is dedicated, trusting Love to care for me… I sit looking into a grove of trees, then across to the distant mountains, breathing in peace and trust.
After a time, Jean calls us back together. Now her invitation to us is to close our eyes, to imagine ourselves back to the 5th century BCE. Within our minds the Amphiareion reappears as a glimmer of white marble buildings, with throngs of hope-filled seekers, moving gracefully in their draped linen garments, speaking, gesturing, laughing, even singing… the scene moves in our imaginations like a documentary film.
“Now, open your eyes,” Jean invites. “What do you see?”
There are people who have a gift for seeing with open eyes something long vanished. It does not happen here, today. Yet, for a while longer, we move back and forth in time in our imagination.
My eyes are still closed, so this is no vision. But I do sense a presence. A tall man in the flowing white robes of Ancient Greece is standing, facing me. He looks directly at me with wisdom and kindness in his expression: “Why have you come? What healing do you seek?” I hear him speak in the silence of my heart.
Startled, I show him my questions, though I form no words.
He grasps at once what is in my heart, then he speaks to me: “You have your home within you.”
I believe I have encountered an oracular healer, one who heals with words from the Sacred Presence.
Later, we walk the grounds, eat fresh figs straight from the trees, climb the steep stone steps that lead to the ruins of the ancient theatre. There some of our companions speak to us, sing to us. Aingeal proclaims the call of our time crying out, “Now is the time to banish fear from our lives”, the call to each to live that fullness of life that will be our gift to the evolution so needed, so longed for. Dick sings an “Alleluia” moving Leonard Cohen’s words into a celebration of newness of life.
What have we experienced? Something more than an archaeological site, more than a history lesson. It is a wrinkle in time; it is a taste of healing power that nourishes each of us in our own way, in our own need.
We board our bus, re-enter the crowded, vibrant, noisy, streets of 21st century Athens. We pass a car dealership. It offers to us its own version of “oracular healing”, loudly proclaiming in a huge red-lettered sign: FIND NEW ROADS.