Chaldean Order of Optimists
Initiation Ritual Second Degree – Prince of Babylon


Cast of characters

Belshazzar – King of Babylon.
Arioch – Captain of the Babylonian Guards.
Ashpenaz – Overseer of the Captives.
Daniel – The Prophet and Governor of Babylon.
Darius – King of the Medes and Persians.

Princes and Princesses of the Chaldean Order of Optimists, it is the desire of the Commander of the Faithful, whom we honor and obey, communicated to me by his Vizier, that the members of the Chaldean Order of Optimists do now assemble for the purpose of conferring the degree of Prince of Babylon, and I enjoin upon each of you perfect silence.
Gong sounds twelve times.
Eminent Prince Satrap of the Host, how goes the hour?
Eminent Prince Viceroy, 'tis the hour of twelve.
'Tis the hour of midnight-the hour when man should be nearest to his God. Yet at this hour it was that Belshazzar maintained his highest revelry, while the Medes and Persians, as the instruments of God, thundered at the gates of His city and even at the door of His palace. It is the order of the Commander of the Faithful that we live over that night once more so that its lessons may be ever present in our mind. And when the new day shall dawn for us, may it find us with a clearer, better and brighter understanding of man and men.
Eminent Satrap of the Host, you will inform the Vizier to the Commander of the Faithful that we await hi further pleasure.
Enter Arioch, preceded by trumpeter, and stations himself directly in front of royal dais.
Make ready, ye Princes of Babylon, and all ye captives for as light cometh from darkness, so comes the King of Babylon to shed his radiance upon his loyal subjects. Make ready, for in his beneficience Belshazzar has prepared a feast for you, and will make merry with you all. Arise and make ready, for the King approaches.
Trumpet sounds, and the royal train comes to the sound of music. As Belshazzar enters the room all at a signal from Arioch cry:
Hail, Belshazzar, hail! Hail, Belshazzar, hail! Hail Belshazzar, hail!
All remain standing until Belshazzar seats himself.
My Princes and people, it gives your King great joy to behold this noble assemblage, whose loyal greeting shows the spirit that does much to sustain the dignity of the throne. Be seated, my lords all seated; you will now partake of the feast that will be set forth, to show the haughty Darius that we fear him not ....
And now, Ashpenaz, that the feast may be. fitting to the glory of my name, you will take a sufficient number of the captives and bring forth the golden and silver vessels of the Jewish people, even the vessels which my father Nebuchadnezzar did take out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, that I and my Princes may drink therein.
But the vessel, O King, are the sacred vessels of the Jewish people, which none may touch but those whose hands are consecrated in their faith.
Nevertheless, shall they be brought forth, for the vessels are but gold and silver, and none shall say that the vessels of any people are too sacred for the Princes of Babylon. Ashpenaz, go; and return not without them.
Ashpenaz retires with three candidates, and they bring back a service of grape juice for six of the principal officers and ladies. After performing the service, they retire to their places. During the intermission a dance may be performed by a girl or girls. At the conclusion of the dance, Belshazzar raises his glass.
Arise, my Princes, and all my people. Let us laugh defiance at our enemies from Persia and let joy and mirth reign supreme. For I have ordered the children of Judah to appear before us; their fools and jesters will serve us with their merriment, so raise your cups, my Princes and people, and drink to the supremacy of our kingdom.
Noticing Daniel, who is seated dejectedly opposite him and across the hall.
But what evil mood possesses Daniel, that his brow is dark, while merriment is the order? Has Daniel, the Governor of Babylon, drifted back into the spirit of Daniel the Prophet – to dream morbid dreams and see unlovely visions? Come, my Lord, be a Prince and a man among us-
Nay, nay.
What! you will not? By the beard of my father, no other man in the kingdom could so defy Belshazzar and go unscathed! Come! The wine will start your sluggish blood! I command you – partake.
O King, live forever! An evil mood does in truth possess your servant. Sorrow and shame lie heavy on my soul – and grim foreboding oppresses my spirit.
For the spectre of rampant wickedness stalks even in our temples, and seems to stretch forth its icy fingers to clutch our throats and strangle us.
Enough. We want no evil prophesies this night! And your icy-fingered spirits – bah! I'll hear no more of it.
O King, hear me. I am commanded to drink wine from those holy vessels-
Chorus, sarcastically:
Holy vessels! Ha! ha! ha!
Yes, my lords, I say holy vessels. Did not Arioch protest against their defilement in this ill-timed revelry? O King, have you forgotten the chastisement of Nebuchadnezzar who bade us forsake the God of our fathers? Your Daniel never served his master more faithfully than when he showed to Nebuchadnezzar his punishment. For when Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said: "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty," then, even while the word was in the king's mouth there fell a voice from heaven, saying: "O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is
spoken: "The kingdom is departed from thee." Now, O King, I know not what awaits us. I cannot yet see a vision, and say, "This thing shall come to pass."
Therefore, am I sore troubled. Methinks the gifts of the prophet have fallen into such disuse under pressure of my duties as governor that the divine hand will no longer impress me with its potency. And woe be unto Babylon if there be no one to interpret the Divine will! Even now the cohorts of Darius are at our gates! His battering rams are shaking the city walls. The Medes and the Persians are upon us in overwhelming numbers – they may at this moment be choking our streets with loyal Chaldean bodies! And do you, Sovereign Master, so despite the strength of Darius that you can make merry at such a crisis?
Belshazzar, pounds the table:
Now, Daniel-
Nay, my King, you shall hear me through, even though my life pays forfeit! It matters not whether Arioch leads me to execution at your command, or Darius puts me to death by torture. I say the shame is yours, O King, and yours the punishment Can I drink and be merry, while these my brethren of Judah are doing menial service, and are to play the parts of fools and jesters? They are in birth and attainments equal to ourselves. Yet they are driven to desecrate their holy vessels – to dishonor the God of their fathers!
'Tis true, O King, we have forgotten that thy servants who will give thee pleasure tonight are Chaldeans only by adoption. They are of the Children of Israel, who were carried away captive by Nebuchadnezzar!
And do I not know that? By heaven, 'tis the life of the feast that they can see their holy vessels put to common use! Holy vessels (sarcastically)!
Where is the God they worshipped – that he has suffered them to remain in captivity and amuse us with their Jests? Oh, Daniel, you are surely passing into your dotage. But you shall not preach treason to the princes of my household. You have stirred even my faithful Arioch with your vaporings and I will hear no more! If 'twere any but Daniel, be should go to the fiery furnace! But I am lenient with you my lord governor. I will give you this night to wrestle with your warped spirit, and in the morning you may come to me for pardon; the sunlight will be wholesome for you.
Daniel, passionately – kneeling:
O King-
No more, I say! Go hence, lest I pass out of my mood for mercy. I command you-go! And come not to me till morning.
Daniel retires slowly and dejectedly, but before reaching the door is stopped by Belshazzar saying:
Stay, Daniel, I meant not to make a show of spleen; although thou vexeth me sorely with thy ghastly vision of unclean spectres, polluting our temples, and even grinning like bleached skulls in mockery of our feast. Thou knowest the sting in thy condemnation of Nebuchadnezzar; and thou hast some strange power to stir within me an apprehension of evil; …. Thou knowest that I have taken many weary vigils, when sleep refused me solace, when some accursed law did make me endure most fiendish torture, and all for the sins of my father. Even when I would make merry – when my princes, assemble at my feast – I must still see Nebuchadnezzar driven from the sons of men and fed with grass like oxen; his hairs grown like eagle's feathers .... Yea, I could send forth a salvo of welcome to that Persian fiend, Darius, if he would but strike off the shackles that are my birthright.
And then thou flauntest in my face the God of Israel! Thou – Daniel – Governor of Babylon – with rank, power, wealth – thou dost nurse and coddle the delusion of my slaves. Thou dost prate concerning some mighty God – thou dost invoke woe upon Babylon, if there be none to interpret his will; and yet thou seest his children, weak as crawling things, doing my bidding…. Where didst thou get thy power and rank and wealth – from that God?
Daniel, passionately:
Yea, O King.
Nay, all thou art did Nebuchadnezzar make thee. And in thy gratitude dost thou point thy finger and tell my princes of my shame, and prophesy my punishment. Give me some sign – some token – by which l may see that there is a God in whose hand I am and then will I believe. But now – I will not yield to these gloomy presentiments. Thou shalt not cast thy spell upon my household. Let thy words this night be thy last upon this matter, until thy God hath wrought some miracle by which thou showest proof.
Now, go to thy apartment, and open thy window – that thou canst hear the laughter – the revelry – of thy brethren from Jerusalem. It is now my orders. O Ashpenaz, that you bring forth the captive and slaves, as the night draws on, that they may give pleasure to the Princes of Babylon, some by their· joyous feats of daring and of skill, and others with song and jest.
First section of candidates wait on table during banquet, which now proceeds. Second section performs stunts. Tables are cleared before Part II begins.

Part II
Handwriting appears on the wall behind and above Belshazzar. It is first observed by Arioch and Ashpenaz, who whisper and point to it. Silence falls upon the banqueters and consternation is in their faces. Belshazzar observes the change in the atmosphere, and glances around in surprise just as Arioch points to the strange writing and stammers:
Sovereign Master!
What – what is this?
I know not, O King – 'tis a strange writing.
Is there none among the princes who can read it?
Bring hither the astrologers.
Astrologers brought in.
Come forward, sons of the veil, and read me these strange words. And if that spectral hand which we did see be the hand of an enemy, I look to you for the power to divert its sorcery. But (looking at the words) mayhap it is friendly – what say you?
First Astrologer: O King, live forever! 'Tis in truth a strange writing; in characters that come not within our learning. But we may consult our scrolls, O King.
Are ye wise men, or are ye children at breast? If such a thing lay in your scrolls, would not one of you mark the likeness? Did you spend your time in gaining wisdom, or do you coddle your magic into impotence? Go to your scrolls, then. Now, look you, all ye Chaldeans, bestir your sluggish wits; and whosoever shall read this writing, and show me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.
Silence for several minutes.
O King, live forever; let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed. There is a man in thy kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him, whom the king, Nebuchadnezzar, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans and soothsayers. Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge and understanding and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.
It may be so. Prince Arioch, go to the apartment of Daniel and bring him hither.
Daniel enters and gazes a moment at the writing.
Daniel, thy brother of Judah tells me that the spirit of the gods is in thee; that thou canst make interpretations and dissolve doubts. Now, if thou canst read the writing and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and be the third ruler in the kingdom.
Sovereign Master, let thy gifts be thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will, on one condition, read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. Know thou, O King, that these, my brethren from Jerusalem, have been steadfast in their faith and have served the God of their fathers. They have guarded the mysteries as ordained by King Solomon, and now, O King, if thou wilt liberate these slaves from menial duties and seat them in the council, as becomes their birth and attainments, I will verily show thee the meaning of that writing.
'Tis a hard condition, Daniel; but even so it shall be done.
O King, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar, thy father, a kingdom, and majesty, and glory and honor. All peoples and nations feared and trembled before him. Whom he would, he slew, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he set up, and whom he would, he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him. And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses; and his body was wet with the clew of heaven; they fed him with grass like oxen till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointed over it whomsoever he would. And thou, his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thy heart, though thou knewest all this. But thou has lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven. Thy people have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou and thy lords have drunk wine in them: and thou has praised the gods of silver and gold, which see not, nor hear, nor know. The God in whose hand thou art, and who knows all thy ways, hast thou not glorified. Therefore was the part of the hand sent from him. and this writing appeared: M. M. T. U. This is the interpretation of the thing: M.-God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. T.-Thou are weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. P.-Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
Belhazzar staggers to his feet, clutching at his clothing and taring widly; then recovers himself and speaks.
Princes, ye have heard. God hath numbered my kingdom and finished it? I, Belshazzar, weighed in the balances and found wanting? My kingdom divided-
Writing disappears.

The writing is gone. Was it real, or was it a spectre – conjured up by our imaginations? Was it the wine? Daniel, what sorcery is this? Is my very household arrayed against me? Arioch – Ashpenaz - are ye in conspiracy to do by indirection what all our enemies cannot do by force of arms? Speak, Arioch, my trusted captain.
Nay. Sire: the thing was real: and we will prove our loyalty. My life is naught, O King, if it serves any master but Belshazzar.
Thou speakest fairly. Daniel, dost thou believe those words?
They are the words of God, Sovereign Master; 'twas with sorrow, not with anger, that I read them to thee.
Yea, the words of Goel. And is the fate of my father Nebuchadnezzar to be visited upon me? Am I to be driven from the sons of men – to be feel with grass like oxen? – Daniel, thou didst read aright. Truly, Divine wisdom is in the children of Judah, and thou shalt have thy reward. Arioch, clothe Daniel in a robe of scarlet and a golden chain. And ye slaves, behold, in this hour of trial Belshazzar's promise is become the law. Henceforth ye are Princes
of Babylon.
As Arioch clothes Daniel in the robe of scarlet, distant shouting is heard, which becomes louder and more insistent each minute. The shouting should not be loud enough, however, to keep the voice of the officers from being heard. As Arioch places the golden chain around the neck of Daniel, Belshazzar exclaims:
What do I hear – the Medes and Persians – have they come?
Ashpena, from door:
The Medes and Persians. Arioch, the Guard.
Guards, to the city gates.
The Guards rush to the door, which is thrown open, and the soldiers of Darius appear. The battle commences with the soldiers of Belshazzar gradually falling back.
And are there none but Mede and Persians in our city? Where are my soldiers? Do thy melt away before Darius like now before the noonday sun? They are nearer. Arioch, give me thy sword. I will lead my own guard – no man can rule a kingdom and shrink from battle. Take off crown and descend from throne. No more shall that crown rest upon the head of Belshazzar until Darius is driven from Babylon.
Belshazzar rushes into battle, Belshazzar wounded.
Arioch and Daniel:
Hold, the King is wounded.
Fight ceases. Belshazzar staggers, supported by Daniel.
Nay, 'tis but a light hurt. Rises with sword and starts forward. Darius, show thyself. Be not a coward.
Darius, advancing:
Yea, thou ungodly King: meet thee on thine own threshold for combat, if thou desire-
Nay, the King hath a grievous wound.
Belshazzar weakens and drops sword.
'Tis the word of God. My kingdom is divided – and given – and given – recovers and is Belshazzar driven from the sons of men? Kay, Belshazzar is your King. Arioch, the crown – victory.
Belshazzar falls dead. Darius, standing in the center, his body guards near him. Daniel, kneeling, bowed over the dead Belshazzar.
Darius stops, sees Belshazzar:
Stay, have we slain our royal foe?
Even so, O King! The great Belshazzar hath paid tribute to the God of our fathers, mightier than earthly kings.
And who art thou, to speak thus boldly thou who art clothed with habiliments of princely rank?
I am but Daniel, Sire-
Daniel, Thy fame hath long since reached my ears. And I did learn from one of my trusted emissaries, who sat disguised at this impious feast, that thou didst raise thy voice to chicle Belshazzar for his sacrilege. It was reported, too, how thou didst read the strange handwriting on the wall. But thy King was a brave and stalwart monarch! Let his body be given royal interment; and let my people bow in awe and reverence before the mighty dead!
Body conveyed without the hall. The funeral procession passe once a round the hall, and as Darius passes his station, he leaves the procession and takes his place. Daniel leaves the procession when passing his place on the opposite side of the hall from Darius. As the last of the procession passes from the hall, Darius speaks to Daniel.
Daniel, I have need of thee. Thou shalt continue to be the third ruler in the kingdom, if thou wilt swear thy fealty.
Oh, King of the Medes and Persians, the throne of Belshazzar has become thy footstool. The proud kingdom of Babylon is but a memory. Know thou, O King, that Belshazzar did erect yonder sarcophagus as a repository for the royal body when his spirit should have departed; and as the shadow of his final catastrophe did envelop his last hours in darkness, so may the light of divine truth shed its radiance upon thy accession through the medium of that royal tomb!
Thou, O Belshazzar, art now at peace! The angel of death hath touched thy brow, closed thine eyes and stilled thy voice, and thy spirit is gone to the land which no man knoweth. Yet the visitation of God's messenger hath given thy majesty a grandeur that reflects the heroism of thy last hour among men, and turns thy defeat into victory. Oh, Belshazzar, thou hast transgressed the holy laws! Thou didst set thy self up against the God of thy fathers and cruelly misuse these, the children of the faith. Yet when the hand of God did show before thee that warning of thy punishment, the good that was in thee did overmatch the evil. Thou didst rise above all fear of thy impending chastisement, and thy kingly honor did carry thee to the height of sublime self-sacrifice, for even as thy earthly majesty departed in the tragedy of this night, so with thy last decree didst thou keep thy word and elevate thy captives to princely rank.
My brethren of Judah, forget the wrong you have suffered. Remember only the last deed of the great Belshazzar, and shed your tears for a king who was a man! A king who fulfilled his promise to you the lowliest of his subjects, and made you princes – in the very hour that the Medes and the Persians were to cast him to earth, inanimate clay. So did the great Belshazzar die! And, dying, did bring to the children of Judah that price less gift-liberty. Shall Darius be less magnanimous – less just? Shall the augmented kingdom of the Medes and Persian continue in idolatry and wickedness, or shall the dying atonement of the great Belshazzar be made effective by thy decree Sire, thou dost demand of us fealty to thy scepter. Thou boldest our temporal bodies in the hollow of thy hand. Thy power hath waxed great and mighty in the walks of men. Thou canst force us, on pain of death, to kneel before thee in appearance of loyalty. But, O King, our souls belong to the King of Kings, whose omnipotence may make even Darius a slave. Know, if thou wilt decree the execution of Belshazzar's dying command, bestow liberty upon these my brethren, and annoint them prince in the new Chaldea, with all the freedom of our faith, then will we serve thee loyally and steadfastly: to the honor and glory of the kingdom. We live or die together, Sire.
If this thing be not done, then I humbly lay aside this scarlet robe and golden chain and join my brethren in the fate that holds no terrors for the children of God.
Brief silence, Darius considers.
Daniel, thou shalt keep thy insignia of royal favor; for even a thou dost ask, so it shall be done.
Thy generosity, O Belshazzar, shall not be for naught: and upon the foundation of thy dying command I shall build the edifice of a new Chaldea.
And now as eternal darkness shrouds the royal tomb, and Belshazzar's spirit passes to the realms of light, so shall these dark clays of Babylon give place to an era of enlightened reason.
And for the guidance of future generations, I do now create the Chaldean Order of Optimists, and I do now proclaim these, by people, even the children of Judah as Princes of Babylon. And l do decree that in perpetuating this order, none shall be admitted but those who have labored as humbly as these children of Judah, and have passed as bravely through the trial by tire.
And now, my Princes and Captains, you will go about your duties and assist in the upbuilding of a new Chaldea.
Part III
Vizier resumes station and command of Royal Palace.
Princes, is there anything further to be brought before the Phalanx?
At this point the Vizier may introduce distinguished visitors or trans act such business as he may deem necessary.
Eminent Prince Captain of the Guards, you will make due proclamation that by virtue of the authority vested in me by the commander of the Faithful, I now declare this Royal Palace closed.
Captain advances to center and raise sword Prince, by the order of the Vizier to the Commander of the Faithful, I proclaim this Phalanx closed until again convened by law or royal summons.